What is resilience

Defense organizations, by nature, confront unanticipated and highly impactful disruptions, but must continue to operate using complex mission systems. They must adapt these systems to withstand surprise and accomplish defined objectives despite disruption and the behavior of adversaries. It is crucial to understand a system as more than hardware or software—it is a combination of people, organizational processes, and technologies. Mission resilience is the ability of a mission system to prevent, respond to, and/or adapt to both anticipated and unanticipated disruptions, optimizing efficacy and long-term value. This means overcoming sophisticated cyberattacks and managing the risk of systemic software vulnerabilities, but it also encompasses changing operating environments, adversary innovation, and unexpected failures. Resilient mission systems should have the capacity to continue mission essential operations while contested, gracefully degrading through disruption rather than collapsing all at once.

Resilience is a key challenge for combat mission systems in the defense community as a result of accumulating technical debt, outdated procurement frameworks, and a recurring failure to prioritize learning over compliance. The result is brittle technology systems and organizations strained to the point of compromising basic mission functions in the face of changing technology and evolving threats.

In-depth research


Dec 14, 2020

How do you fix a flying computer? Seeking resilience in software-intensive mission systems

By Trey Herr, Reed Porada, Simon Handler, Orton Huang, Stewart Scott, Robert Lychev, and Jeremy Mineweaser

Defense organizations, by nature, confront unanticipated and highly impactful disruptions. They must adapt complex mission systems to withstand these disruptions and accomplish defined objectives. To ensure mission systems like the F-35 remain available, capable, and lethal in conflicts to come demands the United States and its allies prioritize the resilience of these systems.

Cybersecurity Defense Industry


May 10, 2021

Mission resilience: Adapting defense aerospace to evolving cybersecurity challenges

By Simon Handler, Trey Herr, Steve Luczynski, and Reed Porada

While aerospace presents inherently distinct challenges from other spaces, defense organizations could look to the private sector and adapt commercial practices to implement the principles of resilience.

Cybersecurity Defense Industry

Short-form content

New Atlanticist

May 4, 2021

A plea to the Pentagon: Don’t sacrifice resilience on the altar of innovation

By JC Herz

US defense systems are vulnerable because they are brittle and unmaintained, and thus not resilient. Fixing it will require a new approach to acquisition.

Cybersecurity Defense Industry

The Atlantic Council’s Cyber Statecraft Initiative, under the Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab), works at the nexus of geopolitics and cybersecurity to craft strategies to help shape the conduct of statecraft and to better inform and secure users of technology.