NATO's Strategic Warfare Development Command

The 14th NATO Operations Research and Analysis (OR&A) Conference Goes Virtual

October 9, 2020

9 October 2020 – The 14th NATO Operations Research & Analysis Conference, co-hosted by Headquarters Supreme Allied Commander Transformation and the NATO Science and Technology Organization kicked off this past Monday. The annual NATO Operations Research & Analysis Conference conference serves as an integral component to the continuous development of the NATO Operations Research & Analysis Conference Community of Interest. It builds upon previous conferences, workshops, and ongoing research, and assembles esteemed members of the profession from across numerous organizations that include NATO commands and agencies, national defence analysis and research organisations, centres of excellence, academia, and industry.

Against a backdrop of a global health emergency, the virtual conference was opened with an emphasis on a changing future due to COVID-19 as well as Emerging and Disruptive Technology – the theme of this year’s conference. Allied Command Transformation has developed an Emerging & Disruptive Technology roadmap that will showcase and serve as a way to better understand the potential of emerging and disruptive technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Data Sciences, Autonomy, Hypersonics, Directed Energy Weapons, Quantum Technologies and Biotechnologies & Human Enhancement.

Mr. Mircea Geoană, NATO Deputy Secretary General and Dr. Bryan Wells, NATO Chief Scientist, Science and Technology Organization, virtually welcomed delegates representing twenty-one NATO nations as well as seven Science and Technology Organization Enhanced Opportunity Partners and Partnership for Peace nations.

“NATO’s Operational Research and Analysis community plays a vital role in assisting Nations and NATO in understanding the political and military implications of emerging and disruptive technologies. The experts that are brought together demonstrate the power of NATO’s network of scientists,” NATO Deputy Secretary General said.

Professor Dame Angela McLean (Chief Scientific Advisor, Ministry of Defence, UK), gave the first keynote address. Her research in the use of mathematical models to aid our understanding of the evolution and spread of infectious agents was particularly timely and an important bridge between Operations Research & Analysis Conference’s mission and an uncertain global health climate. During her keynote address, Prof. McLean remarked that, “Emerging technologies will require new approaches to operational research and analysis and enhancing our collaboration with industry, academia and international allies is important.”

The conference also featured keynote addresses from Vice Admiral (Retired) Mathias “Mat” Winter, 24th Chief of Naval Research/Director of Innovation and former Program Director for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, and Brigadier General llmàrs A. Lejins, NATO Allied Command Transformation’s Assistant Chief of Staff for Joint Force Development, both of whom stressed the importance of relentless innovation and adaptation in light of Emerging and Disruptive Technologies.

The conference programme featured thirty-six presentations that ranged in topics from Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to Big Data and Strategic Analysis. Most presentations, however, focused upon how Emerging and Disruptive Technologies can improve decision making or how Operations Research & Analysis can assess future impacts of Emerging and Disruptive Technologies on military operations. A wide range of examples and technical developments in Emerging and Disruptive Technologies were discussed over the course of two days enhancing the long-lasting Operations Research & Analysis Conference community collaboration on this important area of research.

With unprecedented travel and gathering restrictions due to the global Coronavirus pandemic, the programme committee elected to conduct this year’s conference virtually for the first time in its history. This conference format offered attendees greater opportunities and flexibility, drawing over 400 registrants – three times the number of attendees as previous conferences.

Next year’s conference is scheduled for 18-20 October 2021 and set to be held in Spain.