ABCD 2014

Technology Race and Defence: The future of Western technological dominance in military affairs

Technology, as one of the dimensions of security and defence strategy, represents a significant challenge to defence policymakers. The speed of its development, ever growing complexity and rapid diffusion often mean that policy is constantly racing to catch up with technology and with its impact on the character of armed conflict. Most of its development is driven by innovation in the civilian sector, which poses the challenge of anticipating, understanding, capturing and exploiting that innovation for defence purposes. The rewards are considerable to those able to maintain technological edge in military operations, which is already leading to bouts of arms race in the domain of cyberwarfare or in acquisition of advanced remotely piloted aerial systems. At the same time, certain emerging technologies such as autonomous decision-making systems pose many political, ethical, legal and doctrinal challenges to the military. Also, growing dependence of our armed forces, and societies at large, on sophisticated technological systems opens up new vulnerabilities which can be exploited by adversaries, state and non-state actors alike. Low cost technical and tactical countermeasures are often effective in negating Western technological superiority, usually achieved at a great financial expense. The ongoing crisis in Ukraine amply demonstrates that pursuit of technological superiority does not necessarily translate into the West's ability to deter aggression by assertive powers.

With defence budgets shrinking across NATO and the EU, a serious discussion is needed on the future of the technology-centric defence. ABCD 2014 will seek to address a range of relevant questions such as whether the posture of maintaining technological edge and superiority of Western defence is still feasible in the age of asymmetric strategies and fast diffusion of new technologies; whether our defence strategies and policies properly reflect new technological trends, challenges and opportunities, and do so quickly enough; how our armed forces have to change in order to reflect the rapidly evolving technological context; and whether our defence capability development paradigms are adequate in the new strategic, technological and financial contexts.