NATO's Strategic Warfare Development Command

NATO Conference Highlights Emerging Analytical Approaches to Defence and Deterrence

November 1, 2023

In the heart of the Alliance, NATO leaders and top experts continue to explore the latest advancements in operations research and analysis and compare National and NATO strategies.

The Headquarters Supreme Allied Commander Transformation and NATO Science and Technology Organization co-hosted the 17th annual NATO Operations Research and Analysis Conference in Laurel, Maryland, Oct. 30-31, with additional analytical training, Nov. 1-2.

The NATO Operations Research and Analysis Conference, held at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, brings key decision makers and top experts from NATO commands and agencies, national defence analysis and research organisations, academia, and industry.

Every year, analytical experts have the opportunity to discuss and debate on how the application of scientific methods support the decision making process in the various NATO commands and agencies and at the national level. While Operational Analysis is applied at various decision making levels, the commonality of the practice makes it possible but also necessary to communicate challenges, exchange best practices, and gain insights with goals on making better decisions and improving results.

As part of the continuous development of the NATO Operations Research and Analysis Community, the annual conference builds on previous conferences, workshops and research.

This year, the Operations Research and Analysis Conference is open to representatives from all NATO Nations, NATO Bodies, NATO Agencies, Australia, Austria, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, Sweden, and Switzerland.

Supreme Allied Commander Transformation General Philippe Lavigne kicked off the conference with opening remarks and virtually welcomed delegates. “Allied Command Transformation has always been a leader in NATO in thinking of its analysts as a precious resource.  They provide a crucial capability at all levels within Allied Command Transformation, in the NATO community as a whole, and by providing links to their colleagues in national bodies in settings like this,” said Lavigne.

This year’s theme was focused on “Changing Character of Defence and Deterrence: the Power of Analysis”. The theme reflects the long-standing practice of Operations Research and Analysis in Defence, combatting ongoing challenges faced by the Alliance; and looks into the future to bring new methods to old challenges or well-established methods to future challenges.

Lavigne and keynote speakers noted that the conference is crucial for innovation and focusing on defence and deterrence will ensure a strong and stable future for NATO.

NATO Chief Scientist Bryan Wells highlighted how innovations, such as autonomous weapons systems or artificial intelligence, are changing warfare; as is the increasing amount of available information. Shifts in the global balance of power are challenging the Alliance’s values, and aggressions against Ukraine are threatening the security of the Allies. These major developments along with the new NATO Strategic Concept, underscore the need for the Alliance to ensure that its deterrence and defence remains credible and effective.

During the conference, participants discussed topics such as artificial intelligence, modelling and simulation, strategic analysis and war gaming; General Lavigne provided perspectives on how the Alliance is fine-tuning plans for its modernization: “Today’s war is as much, if not more, about data, people and talents,” he said.

“In a world where we are all operating under an avalanche of data, where resources are not without limit, we constantly require the provision of evidence-based advice to our political masters, so that they can take decisions at the speed of relevance.”