The Integrated Operating Concept

In September 2020 the Secretary of State for Defence and the Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) launched The Integrated Operating Concept 2025 (IOpC).  IOpC set a blueprint for operations and presented four sub functions: protecting the base, engaging with partners and opponents, constraining activity, and, if necessary, fighting.  These themes work symbiotically with a blurring between them.  Introducing the new concept, General David Petraeus described it as an ‘important juncture for UK defence’ and a ‘new approach’… a fundamental change in the conduct of operations. However, the concept did not receive a universally positive reception.  One blogger, Sir Humphrey, described it as being ‘long on buzzwords [and] short on evidenced examples’.  He questioned how it changed the reality of operations today compared to historical campaigns.  Michael Clarke urged commentators to hold IOpC against the outcome of the Integrated Review and not to judge it until resources were confirmed.  Beyond these views there has been little public analysis about it and the evidence base underpinning it is not yet developed.

This article is an opinion piece and does not aim to provide a watertight analysis of the concept, rather, it aims to provoke debate about its utility and how it should be developed.   Firstly, it questions if IOpC is a strategic or operational concept and argues that it is the best definition of operational art that UK Defence has.  Secondly, it argues that the MOD must make a positive case for cross-Government support and look to make IOpC a national doctrine.  The article discusses the value of IOpC against national fusion doctrine.  Thirdly, it suggests that the UK should retire traditional deterrence theory and replace it entirely with IOpC by 2025.  Lastly, this article looks at the component parts of IOpC to suggest ways in which it could be developed.

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