x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

GCC armed forces must share more intelligence

Call for new systems to allow Arabian Gulf countries to react better to any security threat.

ABU DHABI // Defence and security experts have joined the GCC secretary general in voicing their support for the region to develop its military strategies on information collection and analysis.

Earlier this year, Dr Abdullatif Al Zayani said the GCC was politically united and called for the military to follow suit to achieve an advanced level of command and control, communications, cyber defence, intelligence gathering and surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.

"GCC countries have to be able to be integrated to share intelligence and information and be ready to work together at a higher and more complete level," he said.

Experts from the strategic advisory firm, Booz & Company, who are working with various GCC armed forces, say a paradigm shift in how information is collected and used in the GCC is needed to enable "information superiority".

"The ability to gain, analyse, share and act on information that is trusted, timely and relevant has become vital to modern combat," said Andrew Suddards, security expert at Booz & Company.

"Many nations have responded by recognising that it is crucial to improve their armed forces ability to gain and retain the information advantage'," he added. "It means having the right information, at the right time, so the right decision can be made faster than any adversary."

Mr Suddards said there was a need to continuously review military structures to meet the ever-changing nature of threats.

"The importance of gaining information superiority has never been so great and so a new approach needs to be adopted to meet modern day challenges," he said.

GCC forces have invested in technology to gain information superiority, the experts said. However, a strategy and mode of governance of the information is lacking and so they are not reaping all the potential benefits.

"We do not know the exact status of specific GCC capabilities but we do know that there has been significant investments in information gathering, command and control, situational awareness and other information superiority tools," said retired Col Christopher Ford, a strategic change manager for information and communications technology.

He added that there was much anecdotal evidence that these systems were often not inter-operable and information could not be shared between countries and even forces.

"GCC countries could significantly improve their operational capabilities and chances of success by taking such an information superiority approach, which includes doctrine, training and the other elements that make up an effective capability," he said.

Abdulkader Lamaa, defence and security expert at Booz & Company, called for a position of a Chief Information Officer within GCC military structures. "Information must be under centralised governance," he said.

And Col Ford added:"Nato's operations in Afghanistan have benefited greatly from nations improving their information capabilities through interoperable multi-national command and control networks.

"GCC countries could also greatly benefit from such an approach."

amustafa@thenational.a