Strategic Foresight Analysis
Strategic Foresight is responsible to develop and promote long-term understanding and awareness of the future security environment that informs military decision-makers on the abilities that NATO may require.
Strategic Foresight conducts operational framing to identify trends and the associated implications; it also serves as an enabler for the Warfighting Development Agenda to develop a shared “futures baseline” and align future scanning across associated futures projects.
NATO Innovation Podcasts: Strategic Foresight: Trends and Adjacent Futures
Representatives from NATO nations, partners and contributing nations gathered in Berlin, Germany at the start of November 2022 to discuss future trends and the new realities facing the Alliance. This event showcased the importance of NATO’s Allied Command Transformation Strategic Foresight in an age of uncertainty. The event demonstrated the effectiveness of pluralistic foresight initiatives, and that NATO Allies are stronger together.
The series of Strategic Foresight Workshops within the new Strategic Foresight Cycle focused on new realities which include substantial changes to world order that have taken place in recent months. For the first time ever, the workshop’s first order of business was addressing climate change, which may induce disruptive changes like climate terrorism or geoengineering.
The thesis from NATO experts emphasized that the most important drivers of future trends will be climate change, technology and their impact on societies, states and armed forces. Societies are increasingly central platforms for innovation and resilience, but they have to be protected, employing human security.
States need to step up to inspire and utilize innovation, while the armed forces have to keep transforming to continue to be prepared for dynamic future developments. Future war will take place within multi-domain settings with space and cyber as decisive factors, but the centre of gravity for future conflicts will be society, which has increasingly been targeted with violence.
The key for success in future conflicts is adaptation, resilience, deterrence, and the will to fight, if called upon to do so. Without these crucial factors aligning with the ability of the Alliance to fight and win as a team, success will be challenging.
The revived NATO strategic foresight community opens up new opportunities to improve our understanding of future scenarios and trends, to support development of Allied capabilities. These capabilities will allow the Alliance to remain fit for purpose even under disruptive changes and strategic shocks. NATO’s Allied Command Transformation serves as a platform to foster knowledge within this diverse community, including planners, futurists, think-tanks and industry experts.
Strategic Foresight was re-established by NATO Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, General Philippe Lavigne in July 2022 and has since concluded 10 intensive workshops. The 2023 Strategic Foresight Analysis stands as a collaborative effort that incorporates the insights of over 800 Allied experts. This extensive collaboration ensures a multifaceted view of the future, considering diverse perspectives and expertise. The result is a holistic understanding that addresses fundamental trends shaping our world and potential strategic shocks.
The Strategic Foresight Analysis aims to inspire thinking on existing as well as novel problem sets and enable the Allied defence planning, warfare development and concept development communities in their long-term considerations. While the report is decidedly risk oriented, and therefore it portrays a bleak picture, it serves a crucial purpose. By presenting a most demanding future scenario, the analysis allows us to assess the force requirements and challenges integral to transforming the Military Instrument of Power. It acts as a stark alert, prompting strategic thinkers and decision-makers to confront potential obstacles head-on.
The 2023 Report, released January 2024, builds upon the previous Strategic Foresight Analysis Reports in 2017, 2015, and 2013.
The aim of the Strategic Foresight Analysis Report is to identify trends that will shape the future strategic context and derive implications for the Alliance out to 2035 and beyond.
The Strategic Foresight Analysis does not attempt to predict the future, for the future is neither predictable nor predetermined.
It provides an iterative assessment of trends and their implications to understand and visualise the nature of the dynamic and complex security environment.
The Strategic Foresight Analysis Report examines the main trends of global change and the resultant defence and security implications for NATO, highlighting challenges as well as opportunities. It is structured along the following themes: political, human, technology, economics/resources and environment.
The Strategic Foresight Analysis 2023 Report is available here.
Strategic Foresight Analysis Regional Reports and Papers
In 2018, the Strategic Foresight Branch started conducting strategic foresight analysis of specific regions of importance to the Alliance. The purpose of these reports is to contribute to a better visualization and understanding of the future security environment in regions relevant to NATO and Euro-Atlantic security and inform the development of the next versions of the Strategic Foresight Analysis.
In 2020, the Strategic Foresight team updated its programme of work to support the NATO Warfighting Capstone Concept and Warfare Development Agenda development timeline. Accordingly, the development of Regional Perspectives Reports contributes to the understanding of the Allied future operating environment.
Strategic Foresight Analysis Regional Perspectives Report on North Africa and the Sahel
North Africa and the Sahel, increasingly recognised as a crucial region influencing the current and future security perspective of Europe and the NATO Alliance as a whole, have demonstrated the potential to alter the political and economic status quo of the European continent. While there are positive trends in North Africa and the Sahel economically, socially, and technologically, they will not overcome the inertia of more challenging and longer-term problems, leaving the region struggling with instability and stagnation over the next two decades.
Not only are there significant differences between each country across the region, there are significant differences between North Africa and the Sahel, which makes forming collective conclusions about the two sub-regions difficult. North Africa will likely continue its current trajectory of closer integration with more developed countries. In most areas, the Sahel will continue to lag behind the countries in North Africa in terms of modernization, integration, security and stability, and economic development. However, as a whole and not entirely driven by negative circumstances or events, North Africa and the Sahel will require continuing focus and attention from Europe and NATO for the next 20 years and beyond.
Overall, the most significant trends affecting all other trends in North Africa and the Sahel are expected population growth, climate change, and challenges in politics and governance. The confluence of these trends could significantly challenge governments, economies, societies, and food and water resources, contributing to instability and uncertainty in certain countries in the region for at least the next two decades.
The glossy print version is available by clicking the report image above, and the text version with footnotes is available here.
Regional Perspectives Report on Russia
The end of the Cold War marked a great success for the West, although it resulted in an increasingly complex relationship with Russia. Russia’s aggressive actions and assertive rhetoric over the last two decades, such as the use of military power for illegal annexation of Crimea, increased and sometimes provoked military activities in the Euro-Atlantic area.
Russia’s continued involvement in Libya, Syria and the wider Middle East to reclaim its status as a global power broker has generated greater concern. The resurgence of Russia should be considered with the redistribution of geostrategic power from the West to the East and the continued rise of China with increasing political and military influence over global affairs. Thus, the trends affecting and emanating from Russia cannot be analysed in isolation. Russia’s relationships with China, the United States, India, and Europe, are expected to be key for understanding the global strategic context over the next two decades.
Immediately following the Cold War, Russia attempted to build an alliance with the United States and became involved in European affairs. Russia hoped that partnerships and cooperation would result in resources and capital to preserve its own economic and political standing. Owing to domestic developments and other external factors, Russia ultimately abandoned this strategy when leadership realized that Russia would not receive the economic and political privileges they had hoped to gain from the West, and that NATO would continue to expand and strengthen its presence in Central and Eastern Europe. Increasing Western/NATO soft power further challenged the Russian regime. These developments led to the deterioration of Russia-NATO/West relations.
The glossy print version is available by clicking the report image above.
Regional Perspectives Report on the Arctic
The Strategic Foresight branch has released the third in a series of foresight reports – The SFA Regional Perspectives Report on the Arctic. At a time of significant global transformation, this latest report analyses the strategic importance of the Arctic to the Alliance. While NATO Allies among the Arctic littoral states hold different views on whether or not there should be a role for the Alliance to play with respects to security of the region, this report finds that geopolitical completion, accelerated climate change impacts, and economic imperatives in the region require that NATO, at the very least, have the capacity and resources to monitor and consider developments in the Arctic. As the strategic relevance of the High North increases in the future, the Arctic littoral states of the Alliance, and indeed all Allies, can ill afford to postpone an evaluation of NATO’s approach to the region indefinitely. Russia is already expanding its military footprint in the Arctic by establishing infrastructure along the Northern Sea Route and non-littoral countries like the People’s Republic of China are becoming more engaged. The behaviour of China and Russia in the Arctic should be of concern to the Alliance.
The accelerated pace of climate change has transformed Arctic societies. The prospect of surging commercial activity and rapid technological advancement, combined with growing extra-regional interest and the proliferation of the knowledge, experience and capabilities needed to operate in the Arctic, means that the region is becoming more connected and integral to global life. As this process unfolds, the Arctic will make itself felt in ways that could significantly alter the global balance of power and the terms of great power rivalry and competition.
While the trends outlined in this report may unfold peacefully, the potential for sudden and rapid change, as well as unpredictable shocks, do not guarantee stability. The Arctic should, therefore, be included within the Warfighting Development Agenda and as a potential topic of importance for future Chief/Head of Defence discussions. Aspects of this report undoubtedly will be included within the development of the next NWCC Future Operating Environment.
The glossy print version is available by clicking the report image above.
Strategic Foresight Analysis Perspectives Paper: The Indo-Pacific
In line with NATO’s effort to comprehend the future strategic and military environment, the Strategic Foresight Regional Perspectives Report on the Indo-Pacific represents a brilliant resource, together with the on-going series of Regional Perspectives Reports. The initial research on the Indo-Pacific region involved NATO nations, NATO entities, academia, think tanks and a talented group of 15 Subject Matter Experts from around the world who presented their findings to nearly 100 participants.
Key amongst the findings set up within the Indo-Pacific Perspectives Report is that China is not the only challenge facing the region, but it will likely remain the dominant influencer for the foreseeable future. Politically, the Indo-Pacific landscape is likely to convert into a predominant Chinese attempt to federate or potentially constrain split countries through economic, diplomatic, cultural and military levers putting at risk the rule of law, international order, democratic values, maritime freedom, sovereignty and territorial integrity. Vis-à-vis China, the region is likely to become an increasingly competitive space in terms of sovereign territory claims, resource exploitation, infrastructure development and free maritime access. The increasing militarization of the area is obviously the main concern for the Alliance, because it makes direct confrontation with dramatic economic and geopolitical consequences possible. Maritime capabilities are likely to continue to grow, especially for China, putting at risk freedom of navigation. The militarization of disputed islands, nuclear proliferation, a possible invasion of Taiwan, the positioning of an emerging India, the use of Cyber, Space and cognitive warfare will create increased possibilities for tension, escalation, and even direct or indirect conflict. Before that, the increasing number of defense partnerships and the constant rising of defense budget will convert the Indo-Pacific into the most militarized area of the world.
Strategic Foresight Analysis Perspectives Paper: The Black Sea
Development and publication are planned.
Improving NATO’s Strategic Understanding of China
In 2020, Supreme Allied Commander Transformation directed the Headquarters to continue the focus and enhance the ability to do future assessments on China.
In 2021, the Strategic Foresight Branch published a bi-weekly China Newsletter and a monthly China report. The Newsletter was a review of relevant tailored articles from military journals and think tanks, providing insights on China’s military activities and strategy. The Report contained a monthly Bottom Line/Up Front assessment on China relevant to Allied Command Transformation and an update on other works across NATO related to China.
Strategic Foresight is delivering cross-function analytic support within Allied Command Transformation regarding China-related matters with a special emphasis on trends and implications.
ACT Workshop Report – Assuring Credible Deterrence: Balancing Offensive and Defensive Approaches
On behalf of Supreme Allied Commander Transformation (SACT), the Strategic Foresight (SF) Branch hosted two virtual Workshops titled “Assuring Credible Deterrence: Balancing Offensive vs Defensive Approaches“. The first workshop on 22 June 2021 was unclassified while the following workshop, on 7 July 2021, covered classified aspects of the subject.
The unclassified workshop was attended by 160 participants from 21 Nations, including NATO HQ, NATO Commands and Agencies, Centres of Excellence, the European Union, think tanks, academia and industry. The following keynote speaker, panellists were contributing to the workshop: USAF retired General Frank Gorenc, Dr. David Killcullen, Dr. Brad Roberts and Mr. Stephan de Spiegeleire. The workshop was moderated by Mr. Bruno Tertrais.
The aim of the workshops was to develop an understanding of the issues related to balancing offensive and defensive approaches and how the resultant balance of capabilities contribute to NATO’s defence and deterrence.
The unclassified workshop was attended by 160 participants coming from 21 Nations and including several organizations such as NATO HQ, NATO Commands and Agencies, Centres of Excellence, the European Union, think tanks, academia and industry. USAF(retired) General Frank Gorenc introduced the discussions as a keynote speaker, giving the floor to Dr. Bruno Tertrais (moderator, FRA) and the three following subject matter experts: Dr. David Killcullen (AUST), Dr. Brad Roberts (US) and Mr. Stephan de Spiegeleire (BEL).
Many points were discussed, among which were the actual balance of Offense and Defence capabilities; NATO’s predictability; NATO’s lengthy decision-making process; budget constraints; escalation management; and integration of Emerging Disruptive Technologies in deterrence. Based on the viewpoints from the panellists, the audience had the opportunity to further discuss those topics in small virtual groups, providing their additive inputs and remarks. The classified workshop was smaller due to the nature of the topics discussed and the difficulty for participants to have access to NATO secured means of communication. A group of 35 representatives from eight Nations and seven NATO organizations participated. This event was an opportunity for those entities to share comments or concerns about the findings of the 22 June workshop.
After the workshops, the Military Implications Section of the SF Branch released a workshop report. The unclassified part of the report is available here. The findings of both workshops will contribute to inform the 2022 Chiefs’ of Defence strategic military conversation on Offence and Defence convergence.
Strategic Foresight Analysis Webinar – Indo-Pacific: A Future Perspective
The Strategic Plans & Policy – Strategic Foresight team ran a very successful webinar event on 29-30 June 2021 in support of the validation of drafting the Strategic Foresight Analysis Perspective Paper on the Indo-Pacific.
On behalf of the Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, we would like to thank all of the panelists who shared their expertise and the attendees who contributed to the robust and fruitful discussion.
Contributor and panelist Professor Adrian Kendry noted “the thorough, meticulous preparations over many months were translated into a smooth, highly professional and enjoyable set of presentations over the two days. Cleo Paskal’s moderating of the entire event was marvelous with knowledge, energy and engagement beautifully combined! All of the presenters were extremely informative, provocative and insightful. The panelists outlined, in imaginative and convincing contributions, different perspectives on the range of security challenges and opportunities confronting NATO and NATO allies and partners during the next two decades. As the unfolding events accompanying CCP100 and the US and Japan military exercises in the South China Sea demonstrate, the geopolitical and strategic environment for NATO allies and partners is becoming more complex, intense and threatening.”
We were pleased to have 109 registered attendees from nations and organizations not only across the alliance, but from many nations within the Indo-Pacific region as well. We were especially fortunate to have Ms. Cleo Paskal, an Associate Fellow in the Asia-Pacific program at Chatham House and Non-resident Senior Fellow for the Indo-Pacific at the Center on Military and Political Power at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies moderate the GoToWebinar.
This discussion came at an opportune time, soon after the 14 June NATO summit in Brussels, a summit, which reaffirmed NATO unity and solidarity against global concerns including China’s challenges to alliance security interests. Long-term challenges such as the effects of climate change, the accelerating development of artificial intelligence, the potential weaponisation of outer space, nuclear proliferation, and cyber issues all confirm why NATO has strong geostrategic interest in the Indo-Pacific region.
The wide variety of topics and perspectives on issues facing NATO in relation to the Indo-Pacific region that were presented and discussed over the course of the webinar will be important to the continued development and refinement of the SFA Indo-Pacific Perspectives Paper. In coming weeks and months, the Strategic Foresight team will be analysing key points from the webinar discussions and comments in order to release the final Strategic Foresight Analysis Perspective Paper on the Indo-Pacific in mid-October 2021.
Our distinguished group of panelists and contributors on the first day of the webinar included Professor Jonathan Holslag discussing power politics, CAPT James Fanell (ret) on military security matters, Mr. Alexander Gray on democracy vs autocracy, Mr. Richard Cincotta analysing demographic patterns, Dr. Rand Waltzman addressing polarisation, and Professor Kerry Gershaneck on political warfare. On the second day, we had Mr. Andy Purdy discussing differing standards, RADM Mark Montgomery (ret) on commercialisation, Dr. Jody Westby discussing technological innovation and artificial intelligence, Dr. Uttam Sinha addressing the effects of climate change on the region, COL Joachim Isacsson discussing the effects of natural disasters in the region, Mr. Hunter Stires on the strategic areas of the South China Sea, COL Grant Newsham on economic implications, Professor Adrian Kendry addressing the competition for natural resources, and Mr. Rick Fisher on the trends of military expenditures.
ACT Strategic Foresight Branch, Strategic Military Implications Section Update
Summer 2020 – Spring 2021
The Framework for Future Alliance Operations (FFAO), developed and written by the ACT Strategic Foresight (SF) Branch Military Implications Section was last published in early 2018. That publication, the companion document to the 2017 Strategic Foresight Analysis (SFA) presented a shared understanding and view for the Alliance and the Nations the military ‘so what’ of the future described in the SFA. While the 2018 FFAO differed somewhat in content from the 2015 FFAO (the first publication of the FFAO), its purpose was to identify characteristics and abilities of future Alliance forces that would be required to retain the military edge, address challenges, and seize opportunities of the future through 2035 and beyond. As most of you may be aware, the 2018 was the last stand-alone foresight military implications report planned to be published by Allied Command Transformation (ACT). However, the SF Branch Military Implications Section will continue to provide the foresight military ‘so what’ as part of the newly planned Future Operating Environment (FOE) section of the NATO Warfighting Capstone Concept (NWCC) and the parallel publicly disclosed FOE Report (please see the article on our futures page entitled “Strategic Foresight Branch New Programme of Work” for the complete background of this change).
The decision to no longer publish a stand-alone FFAO was not made lightly nor without consideration of possible options and the concerns of our community of interest. In the months leading up to the SACT decision to no longer publish a stand-alone SFA or FFAO, the SF Branch Military Implications Section was actively involved in supporting the development and completion of the NWCC. As directed by SACT, the main part of this effort was the form of conducting a series of engagements with the Nations and NATO organizations throughout summer 2020. This led up to and culminated in the Future Threats and Opportunities Workshops in October 2020. The purpose of the Future Threats and Opportunities engagements and workshops was to provide a classified, threat informed assessment of the future security environment specifically considering Russia, China, hybrid threats and circumventing strategies including terrorism, other sources of strategic surprise, and opportunities for NATO.
Following the completion of the Future Threats and Opportunities reports, the Military Implications Section turned its attention to developing proposals for what was then the next planned version of the FFAO. Given the content of the new NWCC, many comments were received by ACT over the preceding months from NATO organizations and the Nations about expressing concern about overlap and redundancy in the FFAO and the NWCC on the ideas on the design, development, and delivery of NATO’s future Military Instrument of Power (MIoP). During the last quarter of 2020 one of the first steps taken by the Military Implications Section to ensure there was a thorough understanding of the function and utility of the FFAO for the Nations and NATO was to conduct a survey asking for input. In response to the survey, 10 Nations and 1 NATO partner, 1 International Organization, 4 Think tanks and 5 Academia provided a variety of comments and recommendations, but generally confirming the utility of a foresight military implications type of report. During the same time frame while conducting the survey, the Military Implications Section conducted a series of ‘roundtable’ meetings with stakeholders from our community of interest to discuss and gather ideas and input on the possible future of the FFAO. There was discussion of a range of options from no longer producing the FFAO to producing a FFAO-like report but with significantly modified content. These ‘roundtable’ meetings led to the development of a proposal to continue to produce a foresight military implications report though with somewhat different content than previous focusing on describing the future military operating environment and the related implications for NATO.
Although the proposal for developing a modified version of the FFAO received initial approval and the first workshop was scheduled for the end of January 2021, that decision was reconsidered and changed just prior to the execution of the workshop. The ACT leadership directed the SF Branch to pause its work that had begun on both the SFA and FFAO to examine its entire programme of work in light of how it was connected to and would support the NWCC and ACT Warfare Development Agenda. Following the analysis, a recommendation was made and approved by SACT to streamline and combine the SFA and FFAO development work and products into one seamless process and product incorporated as an integrated part of the NWCC. The ACT will no longer produce a stand-alone FFAO, the same analysis will be conducted and included as part of the NWCC and as the new FOE Report.
Thank you to those who have contributed to our work over the past year and for those who helped the Branch consider our way ahead and through this period of path-finding.
If you have any questions, the SF Branch primary points of contact are listed above in the “Contacts” area.
Strategic Foresight Analysis Webinars
ACT Strategic Plans and Policy, Strategic Foresight Branch held a series of webinars along Political, Human, Technology, Economics/Resources and Environment Themes during the months of October and November in 2020. HQ SACT’s policy is to adapt to the COVID pandemic environment as best possible to continue our important work. As such, instead of running the effective, in-person, conferences as done so often in the past, the Strategic Foresight Team utilised ACT GoToWebinar capability to continue its engagements with subject matter experts and a vast community of interest. These events proved as successful as in-person conferences, with attendance consisting of approximately 100 participants from HQ NATO, NATO and Partner Nations, NATO Centres of Excellence, international organizations such as the EU/EC, think tanks, academia and industry at each webinar.
The aim of the webinars was to examine the SFA 2017 Report trends and implications across each of the five themes in order to determine their on-going relevance. Concurrently, the group was tasked to identify any important changes in the original findings and introduce new emerging trends not previously considered.
The five workshops were each three hours in length, divided into two panel session with SME presentations and Q&A periods that allowed any participant of the webinar to engage the panel. The five webinars occurred on the following dates:
- Political – 8 October 2020
- Human – 14 October 2020
- Technology – 21 October 2020
- Economics/Resources – 4 November 2020
- Environment – 12 November 2020
Each webinar commenced with DCOS SPP, RADM Tammen, and the Strategic Foresight Branch Head, COL Wolhram, providing an opening welcome, instructions and theme overviews. In his remarks, DCOS SPP highlighted his vision for each specific theme area when stressing the importance of a consolidated effort to develop an in-depth understanding of trends and implications, for the Alliance as well as adversaries, if NATO could expect to meet its three core tasks while remaining resilient in the future.
SME moderators then took over to orchestrate the webinar’s two panels of discussions. USN Reservists, as well as students from Old Dominion University, joined the SF team as webinar observers in order to help capture, and later examine in further detail, many of the points covered.
Some of the key Political theme trends covered were the redistribution of geostrategic power (shift of global power), use of power politics, and the increasing role of non-state actors in domestic and international affairs. The political theme SMEs also discussed USA-China relations, Russia and the EU.
During the Human theme, the main trends discussed by the panel of SMEs were demographic transition, international migration, uncontrolled urbanization, vertical and/or horizontal inequality, effects of technology on human actions. A week later the Technology theme webinar renewed the notion of how this fast changing realm will affect the Alliance, the characteristics of Emerging/Disruptive Technology and how they differ from the past, the challenges in a NATO response, and NATO’s strength in address technology challenges. Future warfighting technologies will challenge the understanding and application of long held rules of war, and will impose greater demands and responsibilities on soldiers.
The Economics/Resources webinar saw Economic and Security experts on China, Europe, the US, and Russia offer insights into the short-term and medium-term configuration of the global economy in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021 and what we might expect through the decades up to 2040. The consequences of these insights will be the illumination of the challenges of global economic and social inequality, defense spending and other economic security issues that will drive the discussions about upcoming trends NATO must be prepared to address.
The last webinar was potentially the most compelling, since it covered a theme in which we are all interested – the environment and what the future may mean for our planet’s climate. The panel discussed future environmental concerns for the Alliance, including how the environment could be impacted by climate change, the expected population growth, natural and man-made disasters, food and energy needs, water scarcity and pollution as we progress towards 2040.
Overall, the most important aspect and ultimate success of the workshops was the same as any workshop the team may have held in person; the ability to bring together a large group of experts for the free exchange of ideas. To have a common understanding of the future trends and their military implications will enable the Alliance to improve the coordination of national defence plans to face future challenges, and to grasp new opportunities.
The SF Branch Program of Work currently is being redesigned to ensure all work strands align properly with the NWCC timelines. Though the future of the SFA 2021 and FFAO 2022 Reports may remain in question, the SF Branch foresight work continues. Every aspect of the insights gained from these webinars will support a vast amount of SF Branch foresight efforts, from the potential development of a combined SFA/FFAO effort which will be the Future Operating Environment of the next version of NWCC and individual WDA areas, to narrowly-focused topical foresight reports on specific regions or subjects such as China, the Black Sea or Climate Change. The world is transforming at an exponential pace and the Alliance needs to understand what/how things are going to affect the future security environment that will shape the world. The SF Branch work continues to help develop that understanding.
Food For Thought (FFT) Paper – POST COVID-19 GLOBAL SECURITY LANDSCAPE
In the early months of the COVID crisis in 2020, it soon became apparent that the pandemic might have significant implications for the Alliance over the mid- to long-term planning horizon across a variety of themes relative to the areas researched during many foresight efforts. The Strategic Foresight Branch, as the office focused on delivering the Long-Term Military Transformation programme for Allied Command Transformation, was the obvious choice to lead an effort to assess pandemic impacts on a future landscape accepted already as ambiguous, complex and changing rapidly. Additionally, at the same time that the pandemic was spreading across the globe, the initial planning was underway for the next iteration of the Strategic Foresight Analysis. Therefore, any research accomplished or subsequent findings could be reflected and refined as the pandemic matures past its early stage. In fact, the SFA 2021 webinar that followed in Oct and Nov discussed how many of the FFT findings would impact SFA trends and implications.
COVID-19 is likely to accelerate changes in many of the global trends found within the heart of SFA on-going research, with likely severe economic, social and geopolitical consequences. Some trends may converge and have compounded impacts. The FFT paper you will find here captures the idea that the convergence of trends such as shifts in global power, the relative decline of the West, increasing nationalistic sentiments and polarization within and between states, compounded by the economic challenges, is likely to increase potential for confrontation and conflict. Members of the Alliance may adjust their national priorities, turning inward to protect their populations through expanded national healthcare efforts, sacrificing defence investments on both national and international requirements. Nations may even need reminding that the unity of NATO, its cohesion and solidarity, may provide the greatest forum for addressing pandemic challenges, let alone assuring that EuroAtlantic stability and security is preserved throughout and long after the pandemic is gone.
The COVID FFT paper provides a useful assessment of the potential impacts of the pandemic. As with all the foresight work produced within the Strategic Foresight Branch, the FFT is not a prediction of the future, but rather an assessment of what challenges and opportunities may lay ahead for the Alliance. Opportunities of which to take advantage, and challenges of which the Alliance should try to avoid. The future holds potential for an unlimited number of possible scenarios, but this paper presents three fairly plausible outcomes. Again, not as predictions, but to provide some food for thought to Alliance decision-makers such that they might be better informed on the impacts of the pandemic.
Please click here to access the Food for Thought Paper. Any questions or queries related to this or any other foresight work may be directed to the SF Branch Head, Col Gyula Wohlram, or the Strategic Trends Section Head, Cdr Geoffrey Wallington.
Strategic Foresight Analysis Workshop on the Arctic and the High North
Oslo, Norway, 17-19 September 2019
ACT Strategic Plans and Policy, Strategic Foresight Branch held the Strategic Foresight Analysis Regional Report on the Arctic and the High North regional workshop in Oslo 17-19 Sep 2019. The aim of the Oslo workshop was to develop an understanding of the trends, issues, and implications both within and emanating from the region; focusing on the future of the Arctic and High North.
Although the workshop was a NATO SF Branch led event, collaboration with the co-hosts Norway and Denmark provided an excellent source of knowledge on the region while ensuring the very highest level of debate among a forward thinking community of experts was achieved. These findings were critical for, first and foremost, providing the information backbone of what would be the Arctic Regional report, as well as providing substantive information supporting foresight efforts required by the NWCC and the WDA.
The workshop commenced with a Keynote Address by GEN Paolo Ruggiero, Deputy SACT. GEN Ruggiero emphasised the importance of holding such workshops, as they are an imperative to facilitate the discussion and interaction between NATO Command Structure and Agencies, NATO and Partner Nations, NATO COEs, International Organizations, Industry, Think Tanks and Academia on developments in regions relevant to NATO and Euro-Atlantic security. Following a brief overview of the relevant trends and implications within the region, GEN Ruggiero closed with a very salient point; the Arctic of today can no longer be assumed to be the Arctic of the future, too much is changing, too rapidly.
Following GEN Ruggiero, Co-Host Nation welcoming remarks were presented by RAdm Frank Trojahn, Acting Chief of Defence Staff, DNK and Lt. Gen. Rune Jakobsen, Commander Norwegian Joint Headquarters, NOR. Additionally, Mrs. Tone Skogen, State Secretary of the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Defence, provided a keynote speech to wrap up the morning events.
Opening remarks from DCOS SPP, RAdm John W. Tammen, highlighted the current security environment, one which is characterised by complexity, uncertainty and unpredictability. RAdm Tammen described how the Alliance faces a range of security challenges and threats that originate both from the east and from the south; from state and non-state actors; from military forces and from terrorist, cyber, or hybrid attacks. Russia’s aggressive actions, including provocative military activities on the periphery of NATO territory and its demonstrated willingness to attain political goals by the threat and use of force, are a source of regional instability, fundamentally challenge the Alliance. In order to respond to these challenges, RAdm Tammen stressed that NATO is required to adapt continuously to the changing security environment with the resources and the resolve to ensure a leading role on the world stage. He stated that SFA/FFAO provide a unique added value by supporting the development of a shared understanding of the strategic future security environment, describing the most significant political, social, technological, economic and environmental trends, and their relevant military and security implications for the Alliance, out to the next two decades.
The opening session was followed by panel sessions over the next two days with distinguished speakers and moderators from governments, academia and think tanks. Topics for the panels were:
- Flag Officer / Executive Panel – NATO’s Role in the Arctic and High North
- Geopolitics in the Arctic
- Russia and the Arctic
- Environmental and economic drivers of change in the Arctic
- Human and Machine in the Arctic
- Future Security Environment Discussion
Each of these panel sessions were followed by plenary discussion Q&A sessions to fine tune and discuss the findings.Overall, the most important aspect and ultimate success of the workshop was the ability to gain a shared perspective from not just Alliance nations, but so many experts from external agencies and organizations. To have a common understanding of the future trends and their military implications will enable the Alliance to coordinate national defence plans better to face future challenges, and to grasp new opportunities.
Strategic Foresight Analysis Workshop on the Russia from Euro-Atlantic Perspective
Helsinki, Finland, 17-19 June 2019
ACT Strategic Plans and Policy, Strategic Foresight Branch held ‘Russia from a Euro-Atlantic Perspective’ regional workshop in Helsinki co-hosted by Finland and Sweden. There were more than 130 participants in total from NATO and Partner Nations, NATO international staff, NATO command structures and agencies, COEs, the EU and EDA, industry and academia.
After welcoming remarks of MG Jari Kallio, Commandant, Finnish National Defence University, co-hosts of the workshop, Ms. Helena Partanen from Finnish MoD and MG Michael Claesson from Swedish Armed Forces provided keynote addresses. This was followed by opening remarks provided by DCOS SPP MG Hickman. MG Hickman highlighted that ‘the Alliance faces a range of security challenges and threats that originate both from the east and from the south; from state and non-state actors; from military forces and from terrorist, cyber, or hybrid attacks. Russia’s aggressive actions, including provocative military activities in the periphery of NATO territory, and its demonstrated willingness to attain political goals by the threat and use of force, are a source of regional instability, fundamentally challenge the Alliance.’ He stated that SFA/FFAO provide a unique added value by supporting the development of a shared understanding of the strategic future security environment, describing the most significant political, social, technological, economic and environmental trends, and their relevant military and security implications for the Alliance, out to the next two decades.’
This was followed by four panel sessions provided by distinguish speakers and moderators from governments, academia and think tanks:
- Resurgent Russia: Russia’s foreign policy ambitions to reach and maintain great power status and the consequences for NATO and Euro-Atlantic security.
- Russian sphere of influence: Russian economic and energy strategies and their implications foreign policy.
- Russia’s Innovation Edge: The development of new technologies and how they will be exploited for strategic and tactical goals.
- The Future of Russia: Moscow’s domestic policies and strategies for regime survival.
This workshop also marks the first time that a Future Exploration Game was conducted in a Strategic Foresight context. The aim of the game was to allow participants to explore a potential future scenario out to the next two decades to identify trends and their implications while encouraging strategic conversation to reduce uncertainty. It also contributed to the development of non-linear thinking to improve our understanding of future eventualities. The Strategic Foresight Team received support from CAPDEV AOA Branch, NCIA SMEs, and wargaming experts.
We received a lot of good feedback for the high-quality speakers and moderators. We also received positive feedback for the Future Exploration Game. There are certain areas for improvement but this event set an excellent start for the use of exploration games. Overall, the workshop was a great success setting up the foundation for the development of the ‘Russia from a Euro-Atlantic Perspective’ report.
Strategic Foresight Analysis Workshop on the Future Security Environment in North Africa and the Sahel
Madrid, Spain, 2-4 April 2019
HQ Allied Commander Transformation is pleased to report the findings of the Strategic Foresight Analysis (SFA) North Africa and the Sahel Regional Perspectives Workshop held at the Centro Superior de Estudios de la Defensa Nacional (CESEDEN) in Madrid, Spain on 2-4 April 2019. Building on the discussions from the previous SFA workshops in 2018 in Cadiz and Budapest, the aim of this workshop was to develop an understanding of key trends, issues, and implications both within and emanating from North Africa and the Sahel regions. This event was supported by over 150 participants from 29 different nations including 25 NATO and Partner Nations, and 4 Mediterranean Dialogue Nations (Algeria, Mauritania, Morocco, and Tunisia). Participants represented a diverse array of organizations including NATO HQ, NATO Commands and Agencies, Centres of Excellence (COEs), the United Nations, European Defence Agency, industry, think tanks, and academia.
The North Africa and the Sahel Regional Perspectives Workshop provided an open and transparent environment that enabled extremely useful discussions on the key trends, concerns, and issues related to these regions. It is clear from the workshop discussions that there are numerous diverging views and interests on these trends, implications, and their potential outcomes in the next twenty years. Therefore, the workshop report should be read as a reflection of the discussions held during the workshop and should not be perceived as the views of the Alliance or ACT on any particular subject.
The results of the workshop will be reflected in and serve as a foundation for the Regional Perspectives Report on North Africa and the Sahel scheduled for release in the summer of 2019. During the report development process, we will invite and will provide opportunity for national input and collaboration. The North Africa and the Sahel regional report, along with other separate regional reports to follow, will serve to inform the next SFA scheduled for release in 2021 and Framework for Future Alliance Operations (FFAO) scheduled for release in 2022.
Visions of Warfare 2036
“This anthology of stories was developed as a proof of concept that futurist prototyping would be a useful tool to advance our thinking around the future.
Many inventions and innovations were described in stories many years before they became a reality. Advanced submarines, flying to the moon, flip phones, iPads and the Internet itself were foretold decades before the underlying scientific challenges were solved. That futurist literature informs or inspires product design has become an established practice. The foundational hypothesis for this project is that leveraging the rich tradition of futurist storytelling will assist innovative and transformational thinking. I hope that the broader and imaginative ideas provided here can be assessed by those at the cutting edge of technology delivery and conceptual thinking and will be useful in postulating possible future evolutions of technology and the environments enabled by them.
SciFutures brought together a group of talented futurist authors and gave them a profile of the future developed from Allied Command Transformation’s broad library of futures work including the Strategic Foresight Analysis, Framework for Future Alliance Operations, Technology Trends Survey and Long Term Aspects of requirements. With this profile in mind, but unbounded by military strictures or the subliminal requirement to be “realistic”, the authors began a journey of envisioning the future, and exploring and imagining how technology and trends could affect future operations. This anthology is the result of that journey.
These stories will incite inventive thinking and discussion about future possibilities and add to the toolbox that the Alliance military and others can leverage to imagine and contemplate how NATO will undertake operations in the coming decades. Insights ranging from human enhancement to advanced weaponry, robotics, artificial intelligence and atypical soldiers will enlighten and colour how we think about future military engagements, and inform new iterations of intellectual thought on long-term military transformation within Allied Command Transformation.
This project has literally taken on the challenge levied by Sergey Brin, one of the founders of Google, who said, “If what we are doing is not seen by some people as science fiction, it’s probably not transformative enough.” Allied Command Transformation offers this anthology to provoke a rich debate on the future. I hope that you enjoy reading these stories and I encourage you to engage actively in coming discussions.”
(Foreword to the book by Lieutenant General Jeffrey Lofgren, United States Air Force, Former Deputy Chief of Staff Capability Development)
Second Strategic Foresight Analysis Workshop on Regional Perspectives
Budapest, Hungary, 6-8 November 2018
Headquarters, Supreme Allied Command Transformation is pleased to report the findings of the Strategic Foresight Analysis workshop in Budapest, Hungary, at the National Public University on 6-8 November 2018. Building on the discussions at the previous Strategic Foresight Analysis workshop in Cadiz, Spain, the aim of this workshop was to set the foundation for the three Regional Perspectives Workshops that are planned for 2019; respectively on North Africa, Russia and Eastern Europe, and the Arctic/High North. These workshops will contribute to the development of Regional Perspectives Reports for each region. The Budapest workshop also provided an opportunity to demonstrate potential use of data science applications to improve the efficiency and increase the capacity of Allied Command Transformation’s foresight methodology.
The workshop was opened by Dr. Csaba Vezekenyi, Hungarian Deputy State Secretary on defence policy followed by a presentation on the National University of Public Service by Dr. Nyikos Gyorgyi PhD, Vice-Rector for International Affairs. After the opening we had an overviews of Hungarian transformational efforts by Dr. Gyorgy Rabai, Hungarian Ministry of Defence – Defence Policy Branch, branch head and by Dr. Gergely Nemeth Hungarian Ministry of Defence J5. After that, a short summary of the Long Term Military Transformation program was presented to inform first-time attendees on Allied Command Transformation’s foresight work and the purpose of the Regional Perspectives Reports. The morning session concluded with a short lead-in briefing focused on the aim, objectives and desired outcomes of the first breakout sessions on North Africa.
Over the following two days, participants worked in breakout sessions along the five themes of the Strategic Foresight Analysis (Political, Human/Social, Technology, Economics/Resources, and Environment) to analyse trends and implications, and to identify key areas, concerns, issues for the different regions. They were also asked to determine initial ideas that will require in-depth analysis These ideas will be distributed to a wider audience for their inputs which will serve as the basis for call for papers in development of the Regional Perspectives Reports. The participants were also requested to identify potential Subject Matter Experts that could support the Regional Perspectives workshops and reports. Before the breakout sessions on Russia and Eastern Europe and the Arctic/High North regions, the Host Nation presentation on “Defence capability development challenges and opportunities in Hungary” was provided by Imre Porkolab PhD. This was followed by briefing from Microsoft Solutions Group on their applications to conduct large data analytics and a presentation on Space by Lt Col Ryan Snider member of the SCO group.
On the last day, the breakout section were finalised and the workshop continued with a breakout presentations. The breakout session leaders/Subject Matter Experts provided back briefs of their respective regional discussions. Finally, the workshop concluded with closing remarks provided by Col Tibor Szabo, Allied Command Transformation, Strategic Foresight Branch, branch head.
The Budapest workshop provided valuable input to the development of the respective Regional Perspectives Workshops. The detailed Workshop report will be published and send to nations and workshop participants at the beginning of December 2018.
Moving forward with Regional Perspectives Reports, the Strategic Foresight Analysis / Framework for Future Alliance Operations teams will continue to plan and organize the Regional Perspectives workshops in close coordination with the respective host nations: Spain, Finland, and Norway. The results of the workshops will be reflected in and establish the foundation of the Regional Perspectives Reports. These reports will inform the development of Strategic Foresight Analysis 2021 and to the Framework for Future Alliance Operations 2022 reports.
Invitation Letter to Ministry of Defence ~ Invitation Letter Response ~ Invitation Letter v3.0
Agenda ~ Read Ahead
Plenary Keynote – Hungarian Deputy State Secretary (Dr Csaba Vezekenyi)
Plenary – University Vice Rector (Dr Nyikos Györgyi)
Plenary – Admin Brief (Col Sven Szabo)
Plenary – Opening LTMT Brief (Col Tibor Szabo, Mr Mehmet Kinaci, LtCol Rik Pleijsant)
Plenary – North-Africa Brief (LtCol Rik Pleijsant)
Plenary – Russia Brief (Dr Regian Karp)
Plenary – Space Brief (LtCol Ryan Snider)
Plenary – Arctic Brief (Cdr Geir Hestvik)
Plenary – Breakout Session out-briefs
Framework for Future Alliance Operations 2018
NATO Strategic Foresight Analysis Workshop in Cadiz, Spain
The Strategic Foresight Analysis Workshop in Cadiz has been an initial attempt to share ideas and objectives for the 2018 and 2019 timeframe with the Strategic Foresight Analysis community of interest.
In the next two years, the convergence of the technology trends and their implications on all other trends in the political, human, economy/resources and environment domains will be analysed and a test report, using computing power in the analysis process, will be developed.
Additionally, short regional reports on Russia-Eastern Europe, the Arctic, Asia-Pacific and the Middle East and North Africa and the Sahel will be provided as an outcome of regional workshops.
In this work, computing power will be used to support the research and analysis phases, development of scenarios to validate and inform trend analysis, and identification of implications. This process will provide an example of using technology and innovative approaches in staff processes, and of testing new ground to make an end product that adds value to NATO and Nations.
The aim of the Strategic Foresight Analysis workshop was to take stock, review methodology, discuss best practices and to outline a proposed way ahead toward the development of future Reports, while maintaining collaboration with NATO and Partner Nations, NATO Command and Agencies, Centres of Excellence, academia and industry.
Strategic Foresight Analysis 2017 Report Launch in Europe
Europe under pressure – security and defence in unpredictable times
- Dr. Hans-Gert Pöttering, Chairman of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and former President of the European Parliament
- Michael Roth, MP, Minister of State for Europe, Commissioner for Franco-German Cooperation, German Federal Foreign Office
- Jiri Sedivý, Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic to NATO, former Minister of Defence, Congress President BSC 2015-2017
- Dr. Karl von Wogau, Secretary General of the Kangaroo Group and Congress President 2001-2011
- Robert Walter, President of the Assembly of the Western European Union 2008 – 2011, President of the European Security and Defence Association (ESDA), Congress President BSC 2012 – 2014
The Congress addresses the European armed forces and the security organisations in Europe and those Non-European organisations that cooperate with them. It addresses also the respective ministries and agencies, the embassies in Berlin and the national and international companies. A special invitation goes also to the members of all national parliaments and those of the European Parliament. This event is open to press and on the record.
November 16, 2017 – 5:00 pm, 1957 E Street NW, City View Room, Elliott School of International Affairs, the George Washington University Washington, DC
The shift toward multi-polarity and a growing potential for major power conflict, combined with increasing populism, rapidly changing demographics, and emerging technologies, is presenting unique challenges to governments, militaries, and societies around the world. Allied Command Transformations’ (ACT) 2017 Strategic Foresight Analysis report identifies the key drivers of these global trends and their implications for NATO and the Alliance. The panel – featuring US and European experts on security, strategy, and foresight – will discuss how NATO and the Alliance can use insights from the analysis to help prepare itself for a future that is more complex, interconnected, and unpredictable.
Framework for Future Alliance Operations 2017
NATO Shares Strategic Foresight Analysis 2017 with the Public
NATO ACT will publicly launch its Strategic Foresight Analysis for 2017 this fall in Washington, DC as well as in Berlin.
NATO ACT is hosting launch events to give this report the widest dissemination in the United States and Europe. This will apprise leaders and influencers of the dynamic and complex future security environment and identify challenges and opportunities to peace and security that lie on the horizon and beyond.
The Strategic Foresight Analysis 2017 is the only NATO report of its kind and is a shared vision for the future authored by Allied Nations, Partner Nations, academia, and industry to foster a common understanding of the future that NATO expects to face out to 2035.
Allied Command Transformation is keen to share the report as widely as possible, to act as a foundation for wider debate about subject of our future.
Framework for Future Alliance Operations 2017
Framework for Future Alliance Operations Workshop #1 2017
2-5 October 2017, NATO JWC, Stavanger, Norway
Supreme Allied Commander Transformation is pleased to report the findings of the Framework for Future Alliance Operations workshop held in Stavanger, Norway from 3-5 October 2017.
The Framework for Future Alliance Operations workshop was a two-and-a-half-day working-level event held at the Joint Warfare Centre which brought together 87 participants from 18 Nations (15 NATO & 3 Partner Nations), NATO Commands and Agencies, 16 Centres of Excellence, European Committee and Defence Agency, think tanks and academia. The primary deliverable for this conference were recommended changes to the draft Chapter 3 of Framework for Future Alliance Operations 2018.
The workshop began with a plenary session for introductory remarks, discussion of workshop concept and objectives, survey results, and discussion of applicable lessons learned. Then the workshop participants broke down into small syndicates for facilitated syndicate work to address the core question: In 2035 and beyond, what abilities will NATO forces require in the areas of prepare, project, engage, sustain, C3, protect, and inform in order to accomplish NATO core tasks? The first day concluded with a brief icebreaker event. The second day of the workshop began with a plenary session on SAS-123 brief panel followed by continued syndicate work. The last day consisted of out-briefs and discussion commencing in a plenary session. Closing remarks from Colonel Szabo concluded the workshop around noon.
The Long-Term Military Transformation Programme will continue with the aim of completing the Framework for Future Alliance Operations in 2018. Moving forward, the Framework for Future Alliance Operations team will incorporate recommended changes into the draft Chapter 3 of the document. In October 2017, this document will be submitted for full staffing and review, followed by Bi-SC review in early 2018.
Moving forward with this project the Framework for Future Alliance Operations team will incorporate recommended changes into the draft Chapter 3 of the document. After this the fullFramework for Future Alliance Operations-2018 Report will be transmitted to stakeholders for red-line comments. All stakeholders will have about six weeks from end of November 2017 until 06 of January 2018 to provide final comments. Framework for Future Alliance Operations team is going to have a review with Allied Command Transformation and Allied Command Operations stakeholders in the same time and the Team will have a Line-by-Line Review of full Framework for Future Alliance Operations final draft with small group from Allied Command Operations in Brussels 12-16 February 2018. After this review the Framework for Future Alliance Operations Writing team will develop the final draft and will start the Bi-SC approval process. According to our timeline the Framework for Future Alliance Operations Report will be Bi-SC approved at mid-March.
NATO’S Long-term Military Transformation Workshop, 28-30 March 2017, NATO Defense College, Rome, Italy
NATO’S Long-term Military Transformation Workshop, 26-30 September 2016, Bydgoszcz, Poland
SFA Workshop Introduction (~4MB) | FFAO Workshop Introduction (~9MB) | UK MOD DCDC Global Strategic Trends Programme (~5MB) | Assassin Bots Trained to Kill Reef-eating Starfish (mp4 video, ~14MB) | Capuchin Monkey Fairness Experiment (mp4 video, ~2MB)
NATO’S Long-term Military Transformation Workshop, 19-22 April 2016, Lucerne, Switzerland
Read-ahead documents | SFA FFAO – HNR Welcoming Remarks | Workshop Presentations | Australian Defence White Paper | Out-brief slides | Strategic Foresight Analysis (SFA) Workshop Report, 19-20 April 2016
Strategic Foresight Analysis 2015 Update Report WS-2
Strategic Foresight Analysis Interim Update Workshop – II
RADM Pete GUMATAOTAO (US Navy) – Deputy Chief of Staff Strategic Plans and Policy
Strategic Foresight Analysis 2015 Update Workshop
Mr. Mehmet Kinaci & LTC Aaron Bazin – Strategic Analysis Branch, Strategic Plans and Policy
U.S. Joint Staff Futures Series – Briefing to NATO Strategic Foresight Analysis Workshop
Duncan Brown, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab
— This presentation is password-protected. Password should be requested to the Workshop organizers. —
Emerging Risks and Disruptive Trends in (Global) Supply Chain Networks
Dipl.-Ing. Johannes Göllner, MSc – Section Head, Knowledge Management – National Defence Academy, Austrian Ministry of Defence and Sports
Dr. Joachim Klerx, Senior Researcher – Innovation Systems Department, AIT Austrian Institute of Technology GmbH
Strategic Foresight 2040 – Capability Planning in the German Armed Forces
Dr. Olaf Theiler – Future Analysis Branch, Bundeswehr Planning Office
Framework for Future Alliance Operations 2015
Framework for Future Alliance Operations Workshop #6: Military Implications
12-13 November 2014 Brussels, Belgium
Invitation Letter ~ Administrative Notes ~ Read Ahead ~ Military Implications in Brief