QinetiQ report flags unconventional threats, new defence priorities

Canada and Western allies need to accelerate the deployment of emerging technologies and use them to adapt conventional capabilities so they can mitigate the growing threat of “grey zone” conflict. That’s according to the new “Confidence in Chaos” report from global integrated defence and security company QinetiQ. Grey zone attacks exploit the widest range of social, political, economic and military instruments available to achieve maximum effect. They do not, however, usually provoke a conventional military response and are sometimes not recognized as formal acts of aggression.


Mike Sewart, Group CTO, QinetiQ, said, “Grey zone tactics are today’s reality and the West and its allies have no option but to adapt. Simply doing what we’ve always done is neither recommended nor possible, given broader budget challenges facing nations impacted by COVID and economic hardship. Policy makers need to drive an integrated approach, reassess defence budgets, and ensure allocated resource to new information and emerging technologies that can prepare them to manage in this new context.”

The report, which looks at the shifts from traditional open warfare to grey zone or sub-threshold tactics, provides six strategic defence and security recommendations. This guidance aims to help governments significantly review defence spending and priorities if the West is to keep pace with the changing nature of warfare and the increase in grey zone attacks. These underpinning principles include:

  • The integration of defence and security at a strategic level – grey zone conflicts don’t discriminate between these types of operations so an effective response shouldn’t either;
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  • Innovation must be mission-led, ensuring all new ideas are driven solely by mission outcomes;
  • Practice ‘positive experimentation’ that stimulates a more systemic approach to introducing innovation – promoting a continuous cycle of learning development and adoption;
  • Adopting a more dynamic process in testing and evaluation to relentlessly improve performance, safety and operational effect;
  • Encourage open architecture to provide the ability to plug and play with new innovation, delivering quick adaptability and asset modification; and
  • Moving training on from a set piece activity to a process that continuously adapts to changes in the environment and the development of new skills.

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