ONE FOOT IN THE FUTURE

Abu Dhabi 2019 | EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Rear Admiral James Anthony Morse, President of Rabdan Academy, on the vision behind the academy, interoperability between the public and private sectors, and the impact of AI on warfare.

Rear Admiral James Anthony Morse

What role does Rabdan Academy play within the formative educational environment of Abu Dhabi?

In support of its mission, Rabdan has three main functions: academic teaching, vocational training, and encouraging interoperability across government safety, security, and defense entities with the private sector. The vision behind the academy is important from a holistic security perspective, driving cross-government dialog by breaking down barriers between the relevant organizations. Although we report to the Abu Dhabi Executive Council, our Board of Trustees is formed by a number of key stakeholders, mostly from the defense and security segment, which amplifies our scope beyond the Emirate. Our mission is about both education and forming networks of highly skilled people to draw upon. Our faculty has a healthy mix of 25% Emirati and 75% international, all of whom tend to be practitioners as well as academics in various fields. At the same time, there is a need for highly specialized training and education, which is why our vocational and academic programs are steadily expanding. For example, we offer a new master's program in intelligence analysis taught by our faculty with non-military backgrounds to help our students understand intelligence in a significantly broader sense rather that solely a military one. We also have a new bachelor's program in homeland security that requires input from nearly every government entity, as we cover topics such as resilience, which is vital even in the business community.

How can interoperability between the public and private sectors help address national concerns?

The risks facing the UAE are not that different from those nearly any other nation faces, such as natural emergencies, global health threats, and organized crime. That being said, the UAE is located in a region with many potential challenging factors. Solutions can be imposed by authorities, though it is much more effective to convince the human elements of the various systems to take this journey together and discover the value of coordination and cooperation. To achieve our long-term goal, we need to rely on the strategic planning that the leadership of the UAE has directed, which allows for a highly efficient and effective public sector to be integrated with the private sector to create the bedrock of a healthy and safe society and nation. Indeed, the private sector requires security, so it has an important role to play in support of government entities and must make its contribution to resilience and security.

How do you expect AI to impact warfare?

We have long had automated systems in the military, usually in defensive, rather than offensive roles; however, there remains widespread public unease about the potential use of AI to make decisions about terminating life in more offensive, kinetic scenarios. Ethics will remain an important area of education in the future since we do not want to rely on machines to make ethical decisions for us. There are many human skills that will not be replaced by AI, and as educators we need to focus on these, so that people can continue to play a critical role in technologically advanced societies. We must prepare our graduates for the challenges in the coming five to 10 years, challenging some of the long-established academic paradigms.

Given international trade's reliance on maritime logistics, what is the future of naval warfare?

There is resurgent recognition of the role of maritime forces in the wider security framework, as the global market demands a highly efficient and effective supply chain, often utilizing the access and capacity offered by maritime trade. Protecting trade and maritime infrastructure across a number of areas is therefore a key area that we must not take for granted.