The Royal Air Force (RAF) has appointed its first ever Chief Digital Information Officer (CDIO).
Dr Arif Mustafa, who started work on February 1, 2022, is an oil and gas (O&G) sector veteran who spent 10 years at BP, including as Head of Operational Integrity, and CIO for several North American units.
More recently he was Group CIO at Saudi Arabian mining firm Ma’aden. His doctorate, at the Netherlands’ Leiden University, focussed on implementing technological innovation in large organisations and a methodology he developed during the doctorate was implemented for unwanted event analysis and prevention by Shell.
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The RAF said on February 20: “This role will see Dr Mustafa help meet the challenge of our Next Generation RAF with data, information, cyberspace, and digital technologies. He will provide specialist resources for digital business; up-skill the workforce; adopt new digital capabilities and improve digital integration across Government… [Dr Mustafa] will lead efforts to modernise the RAF through the implementation of the RAF Digital Strategy and its ability to transform the way approach our use of data as a critical asset” it added.
MOD CIO Charles Forte described the appointment as “an important step to support modernisation and the competitive exploitation of game-changing digital technology and information opportunities that work at a greater level of cohesion and integration across Defence, the national security cadre, industry and allies.”
New RAF CDIO: “A pivotal momentum in its evolution”
Dr Mustafa said: “Its an honour to be selected as the first RAF CDIO at a time of ever-increasing importance of technology in support of the UK’s Air Defence. I am delighted to join the RAF at this pivotal moment in its evolution. I’ve been very impressed with the RAF vision for the future and its commitment to digital and information. I’m confident that with the talented and committed people within the RAF we can meet and succeed these expectations. Finally, I look forward to getting out to meet those personnel of all grades and ranks who produce, utilise and rely on digital services to do their jobs. Digital services are crucial part of the future RAF and we should not limit our ambition current technology or by legacy structures,” he added.
The new RAD CDIO’s appointment comes as UK and allied defence services increase their focus on digital leadership. The US Army recently appointed its first civilian CIO, for example (see The Stack‘s 2022 interview with Dr Raj Iyer here) and NATO appointed its first CIO in 2021. Both have been tasked with bringing oversight to siloed IT functions, improving the speed and coordination of procurement, taking more of an enterprise approach to all things digital and critically, supporting processes and architectures that will improve the use of data.
RAF Modernisation and the Integrated Review
The RAF’s hiring of its first Chief Digital Innovation Officer also comes in the wake of one of the most ambitious and sweeping shake-ups of the UK’s defence strategy in a generation with the launch of the “Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy” in March 2021. The Integrated Review lays out HMG’s vision for the UK’s role in the world over the next decade and the action it will take to 2025.
It notes that “competition will continue within the conventional military domains of land, sea and air, and will grow in other spheres, including technology, cyberspace and space, further shaping the wider geopolitical environment” — increasing the need for joined-up thinking across national security. including at the RAF.
Air Marshal Andrew Turner, Deputy Commander Capability, RAF, speaking to RUSI’s Andy Young, suggested in November 2021 meanwhile that technological innovation was a priority for the RAF, adding: “I think a strategic risk we all face… is the failure of imagination” noting that “we have become exceptional at our way of warfare so our adversaries have moved to a different form: it’s either scaled in technology or shifted the geographic bias and moved from hard power to soft power… so agility of mind and organisation [is critical to our future]”.