UK MoD – Future of Command and Control

This week we continue our look at the UK MoD’s Joint Concept Notes.

We’re looking at the Future of Command and Control this time. It’s a fascinating look into how leadership, battle management, and personnel management will function in the highly-complex futures we imagine.

Here’s what we thought:

This fascinating paper gives an insight into the MoD’s position on modern-day Command and Control and the challenges faced in the new operating environment. As with other of these papers we have looked at for TTAC, the emphasis here really is on flexibility and on greater understanding of the challenges. In particular the report emphasises the need to adjust Command and Control to a given mission and situation. While technology clearly provides many benefits to defence operations, the report also highlights the vulnerabilities that technologies bring about. Especially significant here in my view is the need to ‘maintain reversionary “off-line” modes and practices as a matter of course’ (46). 

Mike Ryder, Lancaster University 


The first thing to strike me in this concept note is the clear belief that interstate relations are going to return to an age of persistent competition. From a hard-IR-Realist perspective we’ve never left this situation, of course. However to think that states will move from an era of cooperation to an era of confrontation presents a significant change to the status quo. AS anyone with a basic understanding of IR knows, this could be really dangerous. Although I suppose thinking about dangers and being a bit paranoid is one of the jobs our defence industry has, to think the worst and plan for it so we can all hope for the best. 

What seemed to come through in this note is that the MoD know that they need to make massive changes to how they command and control their forces particularly in complex battlespaces and confrontations below the level of armed conflict. However, it also felt as though the MoD don’t really want to do this. Also, I get the impression that rather than trying to innovate and be ahead of conflict trends, the MoD is reacting to how conflicts have changed. Of course, one must take into account how conflicts progress, and the enemy gets a say in how conflicts roll, but it does not seem as though the MoD are trying to dominate situations and set the tone for conflicts. 

I also get the impression that command and control has taken a lot of information from management studies. If one swapped some words around, I think this document could be equally applicable for commanders as MBA students. That is not necessarily a bad thing, leadership and management are key skills in both battle and business. But I can’t help thinking that the note didn’t seem to have victory in battle as its major focus. 

Joshua Hughes, Lancaster University 

What do you think?

One thought on “UK MoD – Future of Command and Control

  1. Not sure I necessarily agree on battle-as-business being a good thing – – at least not all the time. Vietnam is the perfect example of management systems gone completely wrong.

    On a separate note, I think one of the challenges of ‘defense’, and trying to stay ahead of the curve is that it is by definition a paradox, as defense is for the most part reactive – – it’s up to the attacker to overcome the deterrence measures in place.


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