Strategic Planning
Jul 15, 2010

As the world careens toward an uncertain future, strategic analysts are only now attempting to focus on a number of new potential future strategic trends that will likely impact on our future defence planning. These “new” considerations have been necessitated by the emergence of innovative technologies that can be easily militarized; the ever-increasing awareness of the impact of global climate change; and the continuing rise of state-sponsored (or shielded) criminal activities as a result of national and international fragilities.

While the crystal ball is far from clear, it is certain that these influences will play a major role in shaping world events. Inherent in this reshaping will be a major shift in current defence policy and logistics to meet the new world “reality” that is being created by these fluid changes.
Up to now, at least from the 19th century forward, developed nations’ military forces have conducted operations to meet two distinct objectives. First of all, they were formed to act as a means of asserting its power in defence of its sovereignty (alone or as part of a coalition). The second major role was to act as a government agency which was capable of defending that nation’s laws; to assert the government’s power in the face of civil insurrection or criminal threats.
In the 20th century, that vision had changed to include the possibility of an alliance between a small nation and its neighbours, as well as other nations, to enforce international laws that afforded protection to all nations. Armed forces were raised and deployed to win and secure international peace and order, and thus deter international conflict.
However, the contribution of a nation’s warfighting or peacekeeping capabilities waxed and waned upon a nation’s belief that diplomacy and mediation could solve potential or real problems with other nations. But others, regardless of international beliefs, chose to retain sizeable forces to buttress their nation’s status in the world.
Similarly, small, neutral or non-aligned “Third World” nations retained, for the most part, small military forces such as a small fleet of littoral coastal naval vessels that were mainly intended to provide deterrence to criminal activities or to defend sovereign interest over offshore resources, and ground forces to act as border police forces and internal security agencies. Some “Second World” nations, on the other hand, possessed larger fleets of warfighting vessels and larger standing ground and air forces to maintain their influence. For the most part, these nations also use their forces as border and internal security forces.
However, the central question arises as to why we have to consider these new strategic considerations. Are they of importance as a strategic imperative or simply as a factor to be considered? While one might argue that all nations in the past have had to be cognizant of these factors in their planning, they have not previously faced them at the radical levels of change imposed by each of these “new” factors.    
Take, for example, the sobering news that the Earth’s climate is warming significantly and that we have not yet precisely measured long term implications on our various climates. Although the initial estimates of these effects were decidedly alarmist, the world scientific community has come to agree that the Earth is on a warming cycle and their assessment of the impact has been cautionary.
The results of this warming trend are not fully understood. However, the data suggests that many areas that now experience a moderate climate may no longer be able to sustain their current agricultural output, possibly resulting in the loss of economic output at all levels if they cannot adapt quickly enough.
Sociologists and anthropologists have suggested, using prehistoric civilizations as their model, that a modern nation/civilization may, in similar circumstances, emulate the prehistoric model to become migratory in a search of secure food production. If these predictions are even remotely accurate, this may cause currently peaceful nations to become predatory and war-like especially if they are a homogeneous society.
Why is this of importance to Canada? Both NATO and the United Nations have assessed that Canada, Russia, and the Scandinavian countries would be the least climate-affected nations. However, if Canada and these other countries are the major source of foodstuffs in the world, there is no doubt that they would all become targets of aggression by other nations that could suffer greatly.
In keeping with this theorem, one could also postulate that many nations would attempt to provide their populations with sufficient food and resources by any means necessary. We are currently witnessing the re-emergence of the 18th century plague of piracy in a number of areas. National authorities claim they are unable to stop this practice because they do not have the necessary resources to do so. However, a number of police, security and intelligence sources have countered that in many cases, rather than discouraging, the practice of piracy is actually protected by the government, and that these organizations receive a substantial cut of the ransom funds as well as any high value cargo items such as electronics, medical supplies, military goods and even vehicles. It is suspected that much of the “booty” is also used to fund off-shore terrorist attacks against North America, Europe, as well as Asian and African states.
Surveillance and Asset Protection
All this has led to speculation that a major component of all new defence forces will be devoted to surveillance and asset protection. Without a doubt, all concerned nations will have to spend a significant amount of their defence funds on Uninhabited Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) equipped with the latest surveillance equipment and armed with stand off weapons to provide immediate on-site military support to attacks on commercial vessels.
“Future Concepts” planners have also envisioned the development of extra long range maritime patrol aircraft that will function as an advance Airborne Warning and Control System for multiple UAVs within an assigned area and which could have airborne attack UAVs in “cab rank,” awaiting targeting information from the AWACS. Each aircraft would remain over the patrol area for a designated period and would be replaced by other aircraft guaranteeing full coverage over a target area.
The final issue that is driving strategic thinking to new levels is the meteoric rise in the quality and availability of new technologies, and the international internet access to a wide source of scientific information, world affairs and even tactical information.
A number of defence communications specialists have suggested that, in the very near future, the Western military will be forced to build a series of separate highly encrypted networks that will change encryption so quickly that it will be impossible for anyone without the necessary software key, hardware and computer support to collect or decipher government information.
This also applies to the World Wide Web where commercial network providers have recently stated that there will soon be a series of new, specialist networks that will be similarly protected by commercial encryption devices and on-line monitoring services. The current internet services will remain but without major commercial support they would be fully restricted and monitored.
Futurist Electronics planners also suggest that all Western nations seeking protection from electronic espionage or sabotage will need to go on the offensive, developping a lethal arsenal of malware that will not only completely invade and fully disassemble all existing networks within hostile nations but will hinder its ability to utilize the internet for military purposes.
The Digital Threat
The internet aside, there is a growing awareness of the lethality of a wide range of digital equipment, software and hardware. They point to the Hamas and Hezbollah’s use of the telemetric systems that can be found in sophisticated “model kits” used by rocket hobby enthusiasts. The adaptation has enabled these terrorist agencies to build increasingly lethal rockets for use against Israel and in other locations within the Middle East.
Using even the simplest technology that is readily available around the world, the modular cell telephone has provided terrorists with simple, effective long distance firing mechanisms for rocket launches, vehicle borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) as well as implanted roadside improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
From these devices, terrorists have devised new water borne variations of the successful IEDs – unmanned assault boats – with which to attack shipping.
May 2010 Kandahar – Sapper Aaron Phillips of 2 Combat Engineer Regiment (2CER) checks for Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) in the village of Haji Baba.
Experts have long been calling for the development of new methods of controlling or interfering with cell phone technology. Most of the current IEDs and rocket attacks used in terrorist acts are triggered with cell phone technology. This enables terrorists and criminals to plant these devices well in advance of their intended use. Some countermeasures have been developped, however, truly effective dampening remains elusive.
These “strategic factors” are not as new as the technologies arising out of research, such as the various quests for non-persistent weapons of mass destruction, or the perfect assault weapon. However, they are factors that must be considered in current and future strategic planning. Failing to cater to their potential impact on any future battlefield could be a recipe for a major military disaster.
Importance of Planning
History is replete with examples where the factor of weather was not considered in the planning. Napoleon and Hitler’s campaigns in Russia are an excellent example of not being prepared. History of the 18th and 19th century demonstrates what it takes to restrain determined governments who foster criminal acts such as piracy. It was fully 70 years before the European nations solved their problems with the pirates of North Africa and then it was only by conquest and occupation that the pirates were quelled.
U.S. Forces only recently began to realize that their best source of information for future dealing with insurgents may be in their own archives about various wars with the American natives.
There is often a lack of understanding about the importance of current and commonly available technology to the modern battlefield. Defining what is strategic is a major problem because, as Churchill once said, a button is a strategic item “because it holds up a soldier’s pants.”
Will common sense prevail? Legislation to criminalize the sale of sophisticated items such as high pressure computer controlled valves, rocket telemetry kits and any new high-power computing software and platforms will help stem the tide. As well, imposing major penalties for any resale of these technologies to third party nations will most definitely have some positive effect for our safety and security.
Enjoy the 21st Century!
Rob Day is a former Air Force Logistics Officer and Strategic Planner currently doing research on strategic issues.
© FrontLine Defence 2010