Forensic and technical exploitation in the military domain

  • Lauren Elizabeth Wilson

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Forensic science is defined as “The application of scientific methods and techniques to matters
under investigation by a court of law”1. The definition of forensic science does not include nontraditional
forensic science customers including military, intelligence agencies, benefit and
fraud investigators, the financial market regulator, transport safety boards, competition
authorities, the United Nations, and international tribunals and criminal courts. Forensic
support to military police investigations has a long history and in 2003 during the Iraq conflict,
forensic science was employed beyond its traditional law enforcement objectives and applied
to counter the increased threat from Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). The forensic
science capability in support of the expeditionary (deployed) military force in a theatre of
operation is referred to as expeditionary forensic science (also known as battlefield forensics).
Establishment of the expeditionary forensic science capability in Iraq was ad-hoc and was not
part of a deliberate strategy. Organizational theory has previously been applied to forensic
science in support of law enforcement and criminal justice system objectives, but has not been
applied to military forensic science. This study applies modern organizational theory,
specifically the systems approach, to the development of a military forensic science framework.
This research addresses the question:
“What is the most efficient framework for Defence to undertake forensic and
technical exploitation activities as a coordinated joint capability?”
Military organizations are moving away from platform approaches and towards systems of
systems, which is defined as a set or arrangement of systems that results when independent and
useful systems are integrated into a larger system that delivers unique capabilities. Most
military systems are part of a system of systems even if they are not explicitly described as
such. Similarly, forensic science can be described as a system of systems even though it has
not previously been described as one. Applying modern organizational theory to military
forensic science determined that the system of systems approach was the most efficient
framework for Defence to undertake forensic and technical exploitation activities as a
coordinated joint capability.
The forensic science system of systems describes forensic science as a sub-system within the
larger criminal justice, law enforcement, intelligence, and military system. Systems are made
up of components, sub-systems, and units that take stimuli from the environment and process them to add value. The important components of the forensic science system of systems are
risk and issues management, quality management system, and all-source intelligence. The
secondary sub-systems include the biometric system and forensic intelligence model. The
forensic science system of systems provides a holistic, end-to-end framework that promotes
interactions between the parts in a complex network of relationships. A key advantage of the
forensic science system of systems is that it is based on contingency theory that postulates that
there is no one ideal organizational model and the model will be contingent on the operating
environment. This mitigates against the risk of the system not being mission capable and will
ensure that the forensic science system of systems is able to meet the current threat from nonstate
actors and any future threats from state or non-state actors.
There have been no previous in-depth unclassified academic studies on military forensic and
technical exploitation and this research makes a significant contribution to this field and lays
the foundation for future academic studies.
Date of Award2018
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJames Robertson (Supervisor) & Michelle Gahan (Supervisor)

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