The Ministry of Defense (MoD) plans to spend £11.7 billion over the next 10 years to update or replace its digital systems to keep pace with potential adversaries.
The MoD’s ambition for its spending program is to transform the use of technology by the armed forces, enabling the MoD to seamlessly share and leverage data in military operations by land, air, sea, space and cybernetics.
However, the National Audit Office (NAO) said the Ministry of Defense was struggling to recruit and retain the qualified staff it needed – partly because they could not match the salary offered in the private sector .
“Technologists view the Department of Defense as bureaucratic and the hiring process – including obtaining a security clearance – as too long,” the NAO added. “The lack of technical skills affects the delivery of individual programs and strategy.”
The NAO said the program faces other challenges due to the nature of the Department of Defense’s business, requiring the use of technology in hostile environments with limited connectivity, such as at sea.
“The Ministry of Defense is not alone in facing these challenges, but it must urgently develop a realistic plan if its armed forces are to be equipped for the modern battlefield,” said Dame Meg Hillier, president of the public accounts of the Communes.
Overall, the UK economy is estimated to be losing an astonishing share £6.3 billion in GDP per year, largely due to a widespread lack of adequate digital and IT skills in the workforce, resulting in unfilled jobs.
A MoD spokesperson said: “Harnessing digital capabilities and data is fundamental to our success in modern military operations and to the effective functioning of defence. As recognized by the National Audit Office, Defense has a strong digital strategy and we are making good progress in implementing it.
“We recognize the report’s recommendations, including that we need a clear overall plan to strengthen delivery, which we are taking immediate steps to implement. Digital transformation is a priority for the department and the report’s insights and recommendations will help us achieve our ambitions.”
The news comes amid a noticeable increase in cybercrime activity. Over the past year, approximately 1.6 million people in the UK have been victims of cybercrime, with tens of thousands of businesses also targeted, according to government figures.
Nadhim Zahawi, chief cybersecurity minister, warned that UK businesses need to start taking cybercrime more seriously and do more to protect themselves, including working more closely with the government.
Currently, only 23% of companies have a cybersecurity plan, he said, pointing out that Companies need to stop viewing cybersecurity as “a corporate IT issue” and instead treat it as a business priority.
“We need organizations to do more to strengthen their cyber defenses,” Zahawi added. “It is clear from the number of businesses that have experienced cyberattacks that this is an area of vulnerability.
“So my message to businesses is clear: work more closely with us on skills building, training and online defenses, which will positively impact the successes of your businesses and in turn help us deliver on our plan. ambitious to increase economic prosperity and put more money in people’s pockets.
Meanwhile, the EU has said a ransomware attack takes place every 11 seconds, with the global annual cost of cybercrime estimated at €5.5bn (£4.8bn) in 2021 .
The National Cyber Security Center’s (NCSC) “Suspicious Email Reporting Service” has received over 13.7 million reports since its launch in April 2020, helping to remove over 95,000 scams. Moreover, last week GCHQ director Sir Jeremy Fleming also warned of China’s growing use of technology to boost its influence abroad.
Over the past year, organizations around the world, from the UK NHS at Apple in the United States, and even in Albanian government, suffered severe cyberattacks that disrupted services and put users’ personal information at risk.
In order to mitigate this threat, the UK government has released a “Business Board Toolkit” and a “10 Steps to Cyber-security Guide” which provides guidance for businesses on how to improve their cybersecurity.
Great Britain also developed a “National Cyber Strategy” to strengthen the UK’s credentials and security in the digital world, backed by £2.6 billion in funding through 2030. According to Zahawi, it is not possible to “achieve economic growth without economic security in a digital world”.
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