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The march of MODAF

"In the current challenging environment, there is an increasing need to understand and share complex information, both within the MOD and across national and international organisations."


David Mawby
Defence Management Journal
1 November 2010

The MoD Architectural Framework has a key role to play in supporting UK defence, argues David Mawby, Defence Expert at PA Consulting Group

The UK Ministry of Defence introduced the MoD Architectural Framework (MODAF) – ‘a set of rules on how to organise information about the business’1 in August 2005, to provide clarity and consistency, particularly in areas where understanding and sharing complex information are critical. As such, it has the potential to enhance cooperation in the current challenging environment.

MODAF was intended to enable Network Enabled Capability (NEC) by improving consistency in specifying system and platform requirements and interfaces. It was based on the widely adopted US Department of Defence Architectural Framework (DODAF), and includes MoD-specific extensions in key areas such as capability management and acquisition planning to better suit the MoD’s approach and organisation.

The framework can be used to model and optimise capabilities through life, from top-level capability management through to supplier’s system design, and also provides explicit coverage of all of the defence lines of development. A MODAF architecture comprises a set of viewpoints, which are in turn defined by individual views, representing different needs or concerns 2.

Since its launch, MODAF has been used increasingly across the UK defence community – with a variety of applications within the MoD (from programme teams to logistics support), defence alliances such as Niteworks (a partnership between the MoD, Dstl and UK defence industry) and most of the major UK defence contractors. Its success has not been limited to the defence sector either – there have been successful MODAF implementations in organisations such as the Government Communications Headquarters and National Air Traffic Services. A number of organisations (both in defence and other sectors) have also built their own architectural frameworks based on MODAF, including NATO and the Swedish Armed Forces.

Current and future challenges
The framework was developed specifically to meet the need of the MoD to acquire and understand complex information. This need is growing – in addition to dealing with the implications of the recent financial crisis, the UK is facing new challenges to its defence and security. Warfare is not only becoming increasingly asymmetric, it is also being conducted in new dimensions that are not widely understood, with cyber-warfare being one notable example. Furthermore, the UK’s response against these new threats will require the effective harnessing and integration of multiple agencies across defence and security sectors.

It is in this context that the Strategic Defence and Security Review has been
taking place – the first comprehensive review of defence in over a decade, and the first to integrate the broader national security dimensions.

Budgetary decision-making
MODAF supports rigorous capability management, ‘what if’ analyses and identification of programme and technical dependencies. Use of MODAF will therefore enable the right trades to be made within the acquisition programmes to maximise the effectiveness that can be delivered within severely constrained budgets. It will also permit regular, ongoing reviews of the operational capability, ensuring that funding can be allocated to those items that will deliver the highest operational improvements.

Defence relationships and alliances
The defence green paper 20103 states that the UK will need to establish a series of defence relationships with partners in the EU, in addition to maintaining its relationship with the US. At a national level, effective security will rely on close cooperation across government. The use of a common language for describing problems, defining investment options and making decisions – such as that provided by MODAF – can greatly improve the effectiveness of these partnerships.

Future capabilities
In order to optimise investment in future capabilities against new threats such as cyber attack, the UK needs to develop a sound understanding of the threat landscape, and analyse the options for responding to them. Conventional physical, platform-centric thinking is not appropriate for the cyber domain, where technologically competent individuals can launch effects simultaneously and near instantaneously around the globe. Having been developed with complex information problems such as NEC in mind, MODAF is well placed to help the UK develop future capabilities against such threats.


2 For further explanation, please see 

3Adaptability and Partnership: Issues for the Strategic Defence Review’ is available from For a summary document, please visit PA's website here.

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