July 27, 2018

How the Five Eyes Can Harness Commercial Innovation

By Daniel Kliman and Brendan Thomas-Noone

Earlier this year, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and New Zealand – which along with the United States are members of the “Five Eyes” alliance – came together to collectively attribute to Russia what may be the most costly cyber attack in history. This public affirmation provided a rare glimpse into the depth of defense cooperation among the world’s English-speaking democracies.

Formalized in 1955, Five Eyes collaboration has proven a remarkable success both throughout the Cold War and in the post-9/11 era of counterterrorism. The informal alliance has until now remained rooted in intelligence sharing. However, in a world of complex and rapidly evolving security challenges, the Five Eye countries should consider a new area of shared focus: leveraging the commercial technology sector to address common national security concerns.

This new focus would complement existing collaboration among the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. The five countries already cooperate on defense science and research through The Technical Cooperation Program, an arrangement that today covers 11 major areas, including electronic warfare, conventional weapons and materials processing, and involves 1,000 scientists. Collaboration under the TTCP is likely set to expand: last year, the U.S. Congress added Australia and the United Kingdom to the National Technology and Industrial Base – a legal framework previously limited to the United States and Canada – creating new opportunities for joint R&D and controlled technology transfer.

Members of the Five Eyes have also long worked to standardize operating practices and technical specifications, efforts critical to allowing military forces of the five countries to operate together. Cooperation in this area includes the Air and Space Interoperability Council, the Australia, Canada, New Zealand, UK and U.S. Naval C4 Organization, and the Combined Communications-Electronics Board. Military embeds and liaison officers – some serving in senior roles – further bolster interoperability.

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