Attaining the Knowledege Edge

    - ADBR Feature Article -

    February 17th, 1999

    By Trevor Thomas
    Managing Editor
    Australian Defence Business Review

    Release of Australia's Strategic Policy (ASP'97) 2 December 1997 elevated achievement of the 'Knowledge Edge' as the highest priority of the Australian Defence Force. Similar to 'competitor analysis' in the commercial sphere, ASP'97 argued that, in modern warfare, "the business of winning will increasingly begin by knowing as much as possible about an adversary and their intentions".

    Aiming to develop a force capability structure in the next millennium that combines technology, doctrine and geography, ASP'97 pitched the Knowledge Edge (KE) as requiring "the effective exploitation of information technologies to allow Australia to use its relatively small force to maximum effectiveness."

    The importance of the KE initiative was later underlined in the Government's 1998 Defence election policy, 'Building Combat Capability'. That document stressed the impact that the so-called 'Revolution in Military Affairs' (RMA) is likely to have on strategic affairs, and laid out several related initiatives to be progressed in the near term.

    The most significant of these is the creation of a joint 'Office of the RMA' within the Australian Defence Organisation, and establishment of a mechanism by which RMA outputs will feed into force development and major capital acquisition processes.

    In the Australian context - and whilst major technological innovations are likely to remain sourced from the US - the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) is undertaking a series of significant technology integration initiatives through its 'Takari' project. Other projects are being advanced through work in the Canberra CCISIL laboratory, the C3I Research Forum and via current and future CTDs.

    Some 10 new CTD proposals were presented to Defence's Capability Forum in November 1998 for assessment of priority and funding allocations. Of these ten, two were initiated by industry, three were substantially driven by industry, and five are Defence-led but contracted out to industry.

    Supplementing this work, from an Army perspective, will be an ongoing program of attachments of units to the US to participate in RMA/Battlelab activities at both the US Army's National Training Centre and the Joint Readiness Training Centre, at Fort Polk in Louisiana. These activities will undoubtedly assist the Army in setting up its own Battlelab Process at Puckapunyal (State of Victoria), and with DSTO's assistance, to undertake further research into those aspects of the KE/RMA that are most applicable to Australia's land environment.

    KE Command & Control Centre

    Understanding the KE

    ASP'97 sketched the defence of Australia in the era of KE as being based on superior intelligence systems (such as JISE), improved command arrangements and command support systems (JCSE and BCSS), and more effective surveillance of Australia's maritime approaches, using satellites, JORN and AEW&C aircraft.

    In a paper to a Strategic & Defence Studies Centre Conference on 'The Defence of Australia in 2015', Professor Paul Dibb argued that Defence had been emphasising such technologies for years before they came to be described as KE and RMA. Dibb felt that Defence had adopted too narrow a view of KE in ASP 97, saying that Australian Defence planning needed 'a more complete concept'.

    Accepting the key elements of intelligence, surveillance and command and control systems, Dibb thought they must be given appropriate emphasis compared with the ADF's more traditional concerns with acquiring new or replacement platforms.

    "As important as C4ISR capabilities are to the ADF, they will not provide Australia with the advantage it seeks - even when accompanied by enhanced combat platforms - if a more overarching approach is not taken to the entire question of the knowledge edge," he said.

    Clearly the KE/RMA is a rare growth-area in Defence and considerable resources are associated with it. A major goal is the integration of intelligence, C3 systems and surveillance into a single system. And it is here that Dibb has estimated that something in the order of 30-35% of the ADF's future investment expenditure of $50 billion between 1999 and 2015 will be dedicated to acquiring appropriate enabling technologies.

    Project SPHINX

    The thrust of Dibb's messages appears to have found favour in the open spaces of the new Russell 1 building in Canberra, where a project to redefine and characterise the KE is now underway. The Head Strategic Policy and Plans (HSPP), Air Vice Marshal Peter Nicholson, has been allocated responsibility for formulating strategic policy and direction for the development and employment of the defence capability best suited to Australia's strategic circumstances.

    As many RMA commentators have noted, however, the problem for Defence forces embracing the RMA is that they must have a system that is capable of bringing all the information together, into a comprehensive battlespace awareness picture that allows the warfighter to access that knowledge and turn it into a tactical or strategic advantage.

    For this reason, and similar to Dibb, Nicholson considers new organisational and operational concepts will he central to the effective exploitation of the KE by the ADF. But before this can be achieved, considerable intellectual work must be undertaken. To that end Nicholson has initiated Project 'Sphinx' with the aim of developing a uniquely Australian conceptual framework for understanding and exploiting the KE.

    B-2 Stealth Bomber

    KE Interoperability

    Nicholson told ADBR that while the resulting KE framework would be Australian in character, it might have to he adjusted to allow external interoperability between the ADF, British and US staffs. Clearly interoperability with the US - and the need to maintain contact with its 'Joint Vision 2010' is a major priority in the Government's defence policy.

    According to Commander Ray Griggs - Nicholson's Director of Future Warfare - the methodology selected for Project 'Sphinx' was based on an 'alternative futures' technique. He said, "several potential 'futures' some 30 years out from the present have been described. Commonalties across these alternative futures are then to be drawn out so as to develop a picture of what the strategic environment might look like in 2025."

    Griggs saw the next step as being the development of the military strategies that will cope with the 2025 environment. Finally, the appropriate warfighting concepts will be developed. Almost certainly those concepts will stress the primacy of the C4ISR system, the need for timely delivery of 'decisionable information', and the selection of ap-propriate combat sensors and precision weapons aligned to the overall architecture and demands of the C4ISR system.

    Office of the RMA

    At the 11th hour of the 1998 Federal election campaign, former Defence Minister McLachlan released 29 September the Coalition's defence policy which stated that an Office of the RMA (ORMA) was to be set up under a one-star officer. Further, the policy indicated the ORMA would report directly to the Secretary and CDF and through them to the Minister. Other prescriptions saw key functions being to review technological developments, develop a strategy for adopting ORMA recommendations, and scope-out co-operative activities with the United States in this area.

    Moreover, the ORMA was charged with preparing for new Defence Minister Moore a public paper to be released in 1999 on 'the ADF, the RMA and 'information warfare', setting out policy options and issues. Despite the criticality of the KE to the total defence concept outlined in ASP'97, a year down the track ADBR understands no firm plans arc yet in place to create the Office of the RMA.

    While outputs from Project 'Sphinx' are not expected until mid-1999, Nicholson and Griggs said that it was intended that those outputs could shortly begin to influence capability development decisions. Analysis of Dibb's initial listing of KE-related acquisitions by ADBR indicates a concentration of KE projects will emerge in 2000/01, con-sideration of which will be undertaken by higher Defence committees at a similar time to when initial 'Sphinx' outputs will begin to emerge.

    Summary of Key Points

  • Australia's Strategic Policy (ASP 97) has set attainment of a 'Knowledge Edge' (KE) in future warfare as the primary Defence capability goal

  • Work has started within the Defence headquarters on the development of a uniquely Australian KE based warfare doctrine under the name of Project 'Sphinx'.

  • A series of KE related projects under DSTO research programs, including a group of capability and technology demonstrators (CTDS), are giving effect to Defence's aim to harness KE technology

  • A classified 'Defence Future Directions' paper pulling together KE developments since A5P'97 is in its very early stages of development.

  • The 'Defence Future Directions' paper will feed into a new Defence White Paper for release in 2000, to underpin debate for an increase in Defence funding.

  • Analysis of the 1998-2003 schedule of defence major capital equipment proposals suggests a concentration of 'KE' projects in 2000/01.

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