Centre for Institutional Analysis of Armed Forces


The mission of the Centre for Institutional Analysis of Armed Forces (CIAAF) is to regroup researchers interested in the study of armed forces from the point of view of institutional analysis and to create synergies to offer a new understanding of, and new solutions to, future and emergent military challenges.

Research Axes

Institutional Adaptation to New Forms of Warfare. The armed forces are both social institutions and functional organizations. They significantly outlast the individuals who are part of it, and they transmit explicit and implicit values and norms, as well as shared mental frameworks, that are deeply entrenched in the organizational and administrative setup of the armed forces. In this context, new forms of warfare, such as counter-insurgency, irregular warfare, 21st century peace support operations, and hybrid warfare tend to present challenges that reach much beyond technical and functional issues. Oftentimes, these new forms of warfare challenge directly deep institutional taken-for-granted norms and notions of conventional military forces, as being the politically neutral instrument of the state. Implicit political Issues related to planning for complex non-kinetic military objectives, political and sociological assessments of military theatre, cumbersome and constrained security support to achieve non-military objectives, or the use of military capabilities to achieve information dominance are but a few of the institutional challenges raised by new forms of warfare.

Institutional Adaptation to New Socio-Technical Systems. Given its capacity to transform and mutate, the very essence of information technology points towards various dilemmas between security and freedom, control and creativity, and the achievement of collective objectives and localized goals. The outcome of these tensions does not depend on technological solutions, such as increased security, tighter controls or greater centralization, for instance. Armed forces, as an institution tend to share norms, values and cognitive notions of the industrial era, which emphasize substantive control and programming, and top-down command systems that are profoundly challenged by new technological development, which tend to empower users and their ever increasingly specialized knowledge and know-how.

Institutional Adaptation to New Cognitive Approaches. New military epistemology (ways of knowing) and ontology (ways of being) have been emerging in military institutions to trying to respond to the realities of complexity, ambiguity and uncertainty ever present in the contemporary world. Fixed points of reference, thinking that privileges prediction over understanding, as well as binary divisions regarding allies and adversaries, are increasingly challenged by approaches that are non-linear, attentive to the non-static nature of conceptualization and enactment, and seek to analyze how knowledge and theory are constructed, utilized, and reflect contextually specific ideas, interests, and institutions. These new cognitive approaches are creating significant institutional tensions in the realm of military planning, threat assessment, force development and procurement, for instance. As well, these new cognitive approaches call for innovation in teaching and learning approaches, and interdisciplinary perspectives in professional and military education, not only to the content of courses but also to how curriculum is designed and delivered.


Associate Members

  • Lieutenant-Colonel Jérôme Lacroix-Leclair, French Air force

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