The A list that can help military customers meet objectives

18 August 2016

Andy Start, President Inmarsat Global Government

  • global-government

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If you Google the words “efficiency savings” and “Prime Minister” or “President” you get 26.5 million hits. Promising to deliver more, whilst spending the same or less, is a favourite activity of politicians worldwide.

Unfortunately if you add “practical steps” to the string in the search box you get pitifully few results. As I travel the world talking to government customers, they are without exception under huge pressure to meet the seemingly impossible objective of delivering more with less.

The good news is there actually are some fantastic examples of governments delivering more with less. Many of these leverage the powerful combination of global networks and computing power. Within broad industry these techniques are often referred to as e-Enablement and within the government context, e-Government in the non-military arena, and Digitisation and C5ISR for the military.

As the leading provider of global mobile satellite communications services, Inmarsat is actively involved in many such initiatives across the full spectrum of industry markets, especially maritime, aviation, oil and gas, and media. We’ve leveraged the experience gained in the 75 per cent of our business that’s commercial into the 25 per cent that’s government – but we’ve also had to adapt to the unique government environment.

What I’m hoping to achieve in this series of blogs is to give you some really practical techniques on how to deliver more with less within the government sector. I’m going to start by looking at some of the basic concepts– which you may not have previously thought of as levers you can control. I’ll then look into how we have architected our network with features that allow you to capitalise on the potential cost saving techniques. Finally I’m going to walk you through three relevant case studies. I’ll illustrate how, by using the latest techniques, our government customers are delivering greater operational effect at less cost. In each case I’ll also talk about how they’ll be able to do even more as they capitalise on emerging technology.

Delivering More for Less

One must first consider where you need to sit on the mission cost/operational outcome curve.


Each government operational team will have its own curve, based on their capability. This may not be linear, but as a general rule the more you spend the better your mission outcome is likely to be.

Operational leaders today are unlikely to be able to access the level of manpower and equipment that guarantees 100 per cent success in their missions. So you have a trade-off between deployed personnel, available budget and political importance.

Clearly what you need to do is change the rules and move the gradient of the curve. So how can you do that?

In “The Digital Edge”, Gartner analysts Mark McDonald and Andy Rowsell-Jones postulate five “As” that can be leveraged in the digital world: Augment, Apply, Accompany, Apply and Abstract. This is a way of looking at new combinations of physical and virtual work to create a unique capability that couldn’t otherwise be achieved.

The 5 As for modern government

In order to better understand the 5 As in our context, I’m going to rename some of them, put them in a military context and consider how they could allow us do more for less.


The first idea to reduce cost is to Augment the limitations on our soldiers’ capability and awareness. The most obvious example of this is providing a GPS enabled map on his/her PDA. But as soldier systems become more advanced we can provide huge amounts of information to a soldiers Head Up Display. Clearly overlaying Red/Blue force data into the soldier’s sight can materially increase their operational efficiency. So Augmenting allows us to do more for less.


The second idea is to Accompany – that is, to add digital sensors to previously inanimate objects. Let’s start by thinking of the benefits of digitising the solider. If we’ve put sensors in the rifle we can measure ammunition usage and its wear from use, we can put the soldier’s medical history in his/her dog tags, as well as measure their physical performance and know if they need help short or long-term. I’ve had the honour of being out with the Special Forces on communications training and the complexity simply of reporting and coordinating position by voice is enormous, but with automated Blue Force tracking that load can be reduced hugely.

The concept of Accompany doesn’t have to apply just to people – it can equally apply to platforms and logistics. Think about an ammunition container: today we waste an enormous amount of ammunition because we haven’t monitored its storage temperature, so we have to assume it’s been “lifed” if it’s been in a hot country. But if we can track which ammunition boxes have been stored under refrigeration we can save a fortune. So Accompanying (Adding) digital sensors allows us to reduce waste.


The third idea relates to Autonomy. Autonomous vehicles are making huge strides in the civilian world – Google’s driverless cars have already completed hundreds of thousands of miles in California. In the military world we are making significant cost savings by the application of UAVs instead of manned vehicles. Inmarsat is extensively involved with UAVs, UASs and, more recently, Unmanned Surface Vessels. While most of these are remotely piloted, we are seeing increased levels of autonomy allowing the pilots to focus on the higher level mission objectives. Today Inmarsat is working as part of Rolls-Royce’s autonomous container ship project, which they imagine will be operational by the early 2020s.


The fourth idea is to Automate. While this may sound similar to Autonomy, it focuses instead on automating end-to-end processes which would otherwise require time-consuming manpower. Let’s think about the highly repetitive process of checking IDs at a border security post. We can fully automate this process flow and materially reduce manpower while increasing probability of detection.


The final idea is one Gartner called Abstracting. In our sphere I normally referred to it as Big Data or Data Fusion. By synthesising data from hundreds of data sources we can create insights which allow us to make the right decisions far more quickly than we could individually, thus avoiding the waste associated with wrong decisions.

Read my next blog to find out how Inmarsat technology is utilising these 5 As to help governments around the world.

About the author

cm150x200Andy is responsible for the delivery of Inmarsat services to the military, emergency services, security service, border agencies, coastguard, and all other non-US government customers across the world. A member of Inmarsat’s Executive Committee, he runs a global team with hubs in Australia, Singapore, the Netherlands, South Africa, the UK, UAE, Canada, Washington and Miami.

Andy has an extensive experience of leading large defence businesses on an international basis. Prior to joining Inmarsat he was President of Harris Corporation’s international tactical radio business, Managing Director of BAE Systems Platform Solutions Business, and Director of EADS Astrium’s Military Space Business.

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