2019 Expression of Interest

Modelling Complex Warfighting Strategic Research Investment Expressions of Interest

Joint and Operations Analysis Division (JOAD) undertakes rigorous, scientifically-based analysis of Defence operations and capabilities to provide independent, impartial and timely advice. Our Mission is to develop and employ trusted analytical methods and decision support tools that give Defence and national security decision superiority across all aspects of force design, operational planning, command and control, and support to the Australian Defence Force on operations. JOAD and the Defence Innovation Partnership (DIP) are launching the second Modelling Complex Warfighting (MCW) Strategic Research Initiative (SRI) call to academia. Expressions of interest should be submitted by 18th of October 2019. The projects will be for a period of 12 months commencing in January 2020.


The MCW SRI expressly seeks to revolutionise how we undertake Operations Research (OR) in DST to better handle the interaction of complex geopolitical, social, technological, economic and cultural factors for design of the Future Force. Force design is the process by which Defence conceives and produces a plan for its future capabilities. 

The MCW SRI aims to address the force design and future defence force employment problems under four broad research themes: Conquering Uncertainty, Innovative Simulations, Knowledge Synthesis, and Modelling Complexity. More information on the MCW SRI can be found at the following link https://www.dst.defence.gov.au/partner-with-us/university/modelling-complex-warfighting-strategic-research-investment.

In 2017 the MCW SRI placed a call for proposals, which resulted in a formation of an informal network of Australian universities supporting Defence decision making. The first call established a highly successful portfolio of collaborative research projects covering many disciplines.

The 2019 MCW SRI call will focus on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Autonomy for decision making with additional research areas being proposed by Defence OR stakeholders. The call will pioneer the use of Multi-Party Collaborative Project Agreements as part of the Defence Science Partnering Deed 2.0. The intention is to incorporate the MCW SRI Multi-Party Agreement Collaborative Project Agreements within an Operations Research network (ORnet) and build on the existing MCW SRI research portfolio.

Topics of interest:

This call will be comprised of two components:

  • MCW SRI topics, and
  • Defence OR topics.

Universities are welcome to submit multiple proposals to either or both components of this call, and the Commonwealth reserves the right to fund all or none of the topic areas.

MCW SRI topics

1.       AI-Enabled Wargaming for decision making

Defence has established the Defence Capability Assessment Program (DCAP) to ensure that Australia has the military capabilities necessary to meet future Defence and National Security requirements. The DCAP uses unstructured seminar wargames to elicit expert opinion as part of force structure analysis and experimentation. As other nations begin to use more advanced analysis techniques (including AI) to support decision making and to analyse military options, it will be increasingly difficult for the ADF to maintain decision superiority. The ADF requires new types of wargames that incorporate AI within human-centric wargames.

Recently there has been significant progress outside of Defence in using reinforcement learning (RL) techniques to learn novel strategies in complex games, such as Chess, Go, Shogi and StarCraft. This suggests a possible role for these techniques in military wargaming. Consequently, new wargames need to be developed which support structured decision making with well-defined underlying simulations. These systems require sufficient fidelity to capture the environmental complexity that impinges on the decision making process, as well as the ability to be run sufficiently quickly to support automated analysis. As AI techniques become more powerful in the non-Defence sphere there is a need to understand which of these techniques have most promise for providing enhanced military decision making. Defence needs research to understand the potential role for AI techniques throughout the entire wargaming process. This could also include technologies that can bridge the gap between current seminar wargaming and more structured wargaming, such as technologies that help record and cluster the information generated. Novel approaches to wargame data visualisation and human-machine partnerships are also of interest.

2.       Autonomous Analyst

Autonomous Analyst tackles the problem of utilising machine reasoning and learning to develop new augmented capabilities for Operations Research. This, in turn, requires analysis to drive the development of autonomous technologies through the specification of analysis problem conditions sufficient to support reliable decision making under uncertainty, complexity and exposure to terminal failure.

Automation is imperative to tackle the information overload faced by the analysts and decision makers as the data types arising in these problem domains are complex and dynamically changing. This research will both enable and take advantage of the best of advances in content analytics techniques from across information fusion, machine reasoning, learning, disambiguation, visualisation, narration and many more. Development of Autonomous Analyst requires explainable AI to generate an engaging narrative that conveys the ‘story behind the data’. This will enable Defence decision makers to rapidly understand, justify and associate appropriate levels of trust to the machine generated outputs; thereby enabling decision superiority and decisive actions.

Defence OR Topics

Defence is seeking research to inform our understanding of future complex operating environments and strategic security challenges. The outcomes of this work will be of interest to a range of Defence stakeholders in the Strategic Centre and operational planning communities. Research proposals are invited in response to the following topics:

1.       Defending Australia in cyberspace

How can viewing Western legal and normative frameworks through the lens of the contemporary operating environment enhance Australia’s capacity to achieve its information warfare objectives by: identifying acceptable existing or emerging defensive and offensive responses options; reducing institutional and operational constraints; and aligning policy, operations and strategic intent?

2.       Deterrence in the information domain

How can prevailing theories and fundamental tenets of international relations (IR, Strategic Studies, Security Studies, etc.) help Australia to navigate the Grey Zone (multi-dimensional space comprised of actions which are short of war) and enhance its capacity to understand and generate influence and contemporary strategic deterrence? And can we model this?

3.       Evaluating deterrence value:  modelling the value of Defence capabilities outside of conflict

In the past there has been a strong focus on how to compare military capabilities within well-defined conflict scenarios.  However, the role of the military has evolved so that there is now a need to identify the contribution of military capabilities to operations below the threshold of conflict.  How do we compare military capabilities and determine a comparative value/utility factor between Competition and Conflict? In evaluating this effect, what are the new measures and techniques that are needed in comparing the contributions of different military capabilities across both conflict and competition?  How can the deterrence effect of actions or Defence capabilities be understood and quantified to make informed decision about the balance of investment?

EOI Schedule:

Phase 1: Initial call for proposals.  Interested Australian universities are encouraged to identify relevant fields of endeavour or expertise where they would be willing to engage and partner with DST on Modelling Complex Warfighting. Universities are requested to submit proposals in response to the topic of interest (and Defence OR topics). Proposals should outline research outcomes relevant to the topic(s), research methods, and relevant research experience. Proposals should be a maximum of 2 pages.  The result of Phase 1 will be a short list of proposals that will be considered within multi-party collaborative projects developed during Phase 2. Funds will not be provided in Phase 1. Defence may choose to separately fund research proposals in response to the three Defence OR topics.

Phase 2: Partnering opportunity. Proposals shortlisted during Phase 1 will be considered for inclusion within a small number of multi-party collaborative projects. The selected applicants will be invited to virtual workshops, facilitated by DST, to develop a research program.  DST will continue to play a central role in this relationship, but academic organisations may also wish to form their own connections and propose multi-party research teams to DST.


20 September 2019 – Call for proposals released (Phase 1)

18 October 2019 – Closing Date for proposal submissions (Phase 1)

28 October 2019 – Selected partners are notified and invited to begin discussions regarding partnership opportunities (Start of Phase 2)

12 - 22 November 2019 – Partnering opportunity discussions

25 November - 20 December 2019 –Development of Multi-Party Collaborative Project Agreements where appropriate (agreements up to $200K for 2020 calendar year)

1 January – 31 December 2020 – Duration of Multi-Party Collaborative Project Agreements

Submitting Expressions of Interest:  Responses to this call for Expressions of Interest are to be made via

Submissions must be received before 5:00pm (EST) on 18th October 2019.

Key information

Points of Contact


Deanne Bateman
Defence Science and Technology Group
T: 08 7389 2363

Management and Administration:

Lisa Paddick
Defence Innovation Partnership
T: 08 8463 7105

Attached files