Britain’s Chief of Defence Intelligence, Lt Gen Jim Hockenhull, in the service’s first-ever media briefing, warned that the nation’s adversaries are developing new operational methods, backed up by cutting-edge military capabilities that leverage advanced technologies. This shifting global picture has changed the character of warfare in ways that will challenge the West to keep pace with adversaries who do not play by the rules, he believes.
Global players such as Russia and China continually challenge the existing order without prompting direct conflict, operating in the expanding ‘grey zone’ between war and peacetime. Conflict is bleeding into new domains, such as cyber and space, threatening national cohesion, resilience and global interests.
“Whilst conventional threats remain, we have seen our adversaries invest in Artificial Intelligence, machine learning and other ground-breaking technologies, whilst also supercharging more traditional techniques of influence and leverage […] As we have seen in Salisbury, hostile states are willing to take incredible risks. We must make sure that we have both the intent and the capability to ensure that such wanton acts of irresponsibility will not go unpunished,” he observed.
Traditionally more comfortable in the shadows, Defence Intelligence (DI) has been brought to the fore by recent developments. Tasked with watching for global instability, tracking threats to the UK and monitoring human rights violations, amongst other things, analysts at DI provide advice to senior officials, shaping the government’s approach to emerging threats and supporting UK forces deployed across the globe. DI is already well placed to make this shift. Operating the world’s only fully integrated TOP SECRET collaboration centre, it is already working closely with 5 Eyes partners and other allied intelligence agencies.
Moreover, in its support to the Coronavirus response, DI has already proved its agility and adaptability when faced with new challenges. Possessing the UK’s sole strategic medical intelligence capability, it rapidly shifted focus to the Covid Assessment Team, or CAT. This moved its analysts from tasks such as assessing the UK’s overseas medical capabilities and understanding bio-hacking, to assessing the current and future threat posed by COVID-19.