Editorial Comment – Our last MS&T was published at the end of February. Although we were already in the shadow of COVID-19 we could not know how the world would change in just a few weeks and its impact on military S&T. Military recruitment centres closed, travel restricted, and training events, from drills to large-scale exercises postponed or scaled back. Training centres have been affected by contractors moving off site and working remotely. The disruption of families and friends has also impacted on day to day life. What are the emerging themes of COVID-19 for the S&T community?
Skill fade. Not all military activity has ceased, and much is focused on support to civilian authorities, however, many day-to-day tasks are not being done or have ceased. This will inevitably lead to some skill fade and vital skills will need to be identified, prioritised and trained for whilst restrictions are in place.
Remote training and working. Where military training is normally delivered through training centres some individual training can be delivered remotely, but critical team and interoperability-focused training are more difficult to deliver. The immediate shift to working from home (WFH) appears to be functioning and S&T companies are reaching out to the community through webinars. WFH seems to here to stay and managers must decide in future what tasks must be done in office, for example where security concerns are paramount.
Building and maintaining resilience. Almost overnight organisations and individuals have had to make very significant changes to ways of working often under considerable financial and personal stress. COVID-19 is hopefully an extreme event but there will inevitably be more focus on building and maintaining resilience in organisations and the individuals who work in them. Enhancing their ability to anticipate, absorb and adapt to the kinds of challenges and changes that can destabilise such as COVID-19.
Preparing for recovery. We are in the middle of a crisis but one day the worst will be behind us and we need to be prepared for that time. The pre-COVID-19 world will never return and there will be a “new normal” which we will need to face with opportunities and challenges. Organizations will have to reimagine the future and prepare their workforces to face and embrace it.
Modelling uncertainties. The modelling of the pandemic is a reminder of the balance of political and scientific judgment and bias that surrounds the use of models. It has also stressed the need for timely quality data to validate the models but also the challenges of the many variables behind the modelling. There is much to learn from the current crises and its (mis)use of models for the S&T and beyond.
Defence priorities. Politicians and populations may call for reprioritization of resources towards civil defences against such pandemics and greater integration of civil and defence operations. Wargaming and training can play a significant role in improving such integration and interoperability.
Innovation. The pandemic has already swept away many certainties and convictions and innovations that would in other circumstances take years have been brought in overnight. The S&T community should look to come out stronger, more innovative, and more resilient.
These are some of the themes that the military S&T community is facing. At MS&T we will continue to deliver the latest news and developments to inform and inspire and look to a future when the worst is behind us. Please tell us your stories and best wishes from the Halldale team at this momentous time.