Not Just for Specialists Anymore: Digital Data and the Building the Force of the Future

In April, the British Army revealed its inaugural Digital and Data Plan for 2023 – 2025.

The document offers a force-wide roadmap for transitioning not just British Army equipment and practices but also its approach to recruiting, training, and upskilling the Army’s “workforce” to keep pace with technological advancement and the changing nature of conflict.

According to Chief of the General Staff General Sir Patrick Sanders, “to remain competitive, the British Army must capitalize on the most recent advances in data and digital technology. This is not just the business of specialists. Our ability to exploit data, compete and protect ourselves in the electromagnetic spectrum is the responsibility of the whole force—down to the very lowest levels.

A key focus of the document is the need to adapt to an environment in which data has become so prominent that dealing with data is essential to all components of the force. Again according to General Sanders, modern conflict as reflected in the Ukraine war involves “a heavily contested electromagnetic spectrum, the centrality of data, the exponential increase in the speed and volume of targeting, and the battlefield rendered virtually transparent.”

As a result, the Army and Ministry of Defence must create a digital culture in which new processes are developed to enable all personnel to developed increased levels of competence in engaging with digital data and systems.

Combining multiple complex digital data streams effectively and being able to process and interpret this information rapidly is essential for success in future conflict.

The plan focuses on three main ends or outcomes: a more competitive army, modernized processes, and enhanced enabling resources, including a “digitally fit workforce”.

It also articulates the ways, means, and enablers of achieving these overarching objectives and includes a timeline of activities and milestones in developing people, new processes, and enhanced data and technology required to create the foundations of an effective digital culture over the next two-plus years.

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