Securing future defence supply chains against Black Swan disruptions

3-D rendering of a black swan among white swans, image by Andreas Prott/Adobe Stock

Andreas Prott/Adobe Stock

What is the issue?

In today's integrated economies, supply chains are critical to the functioning of all sectors. In defence specifically, reliable supply chains enable national power projection, combat effectiveness and credible deterrence. However, both military and commercial supply chains are highly vulnerable to disruptions, including events that are unexpected and difficult to plan for, but may have far-reaching and catastrophic effects. For the purposes of this project, we are using Nassim Taleb's concept of 'Black Swans' to describe and categorise these events.

While there is extensive literature on supply chain resilience (SCRES) in the commercial sector, the consequences and considerations for defence are very different. Commercial SCRES is often thought of in terms of the cost of implementing proactive mitigation and resilience measures, versus the cost that a company may incur in the event of disruption. Disrupted defence supply chains, however, can compromise national security. Existing approaches to Black Swans are therefore not adequate for defence supply chains.

How are we helping?

Through a literature review and targeted interviews with stakeholders and practitioners across Defence, the private sector and academia, researchers from RAND Europe and RAND Corporation will explore how Defence can design resilient defence supply chains to secure it against future Black Swan events. We will use our interdisciplinary competences and perspectives to identify key questions on howto enhance the resilience of defence supply chains. These questions are intended to shape and encourage future research in this area.

This research is possible through donor-funded seed grants from the RAND Center for Global Risk Security (CGRS). CGRS seed grants provide research funding for a broad range of topics and support cooperation among researchers across RAND's offices and those at peer institutions around the world.