WASHINGTON — Bringing new cloud and data capabilities to the tactical edge is a top priority for the U.S. Army this fiscal year, according to the service’s chief information officer.
Following the release of its digital transformation strategy last fall, the Army plans to start building out a variety of efforts to catapult the service into a digital native organization.
“As we start to do more exercises this year, we’re going to start to integrate more and more of the cloud capability and the capacity,” Army CIO Raj Iyer said during a Jan. 13 virtual presentation hosted by AFCEA’s Northern Virginia chapter.
Iyer said the Army is looking to springboard cloud efforts in 2022 to make the Army more expeditionary. One such effort is through the Command Post Computing Environment, a web-enabled system that will consolidate current mission systems and programs into a single-user interface. The goal, ultimately, is to be able to bring in large volumes of data from multiple classification levels into a single common operating picture. The Army has efforts underway to develop that through the cloud while modernizing the interface and data platform, said Iyer.
Army officials explained the key role certain units are playing in this experimentation to help shape how it will deploy and develop these technologies across the world for all formations.
“We are now actively working with units where we are allowing them to now experiment mission threats and operational scenarios using the capacity in the cloud and on the platforms that we have established,” Iyer said, noting that the aim is for the CIO and technical organizations to hash out the technological problems, freeing up units to focus on operational use cases.
Maj. Gen. Robert Collins, who leads the Program Executive Office for Command, Control, Communications-Tactical, added that his office has worked with the CIO, the XVIII Airborne Corps, the 101st Airborne Division and the 82nd Airborne Division to migrate some capabilities to the cloud. He added that these types of technologies de-burden tactical formations and allow them more operational flexibility.
Collins also stressed the importance of having a true data fabric that is flexible and can push information from the enterprise level to the tactical level and vice versa. There also needs to be a balance between what data soldiers have access to when fully connected and how much they can access offline.
“You may need to at certain conditions deploy with a certain set of data so that when you become disconnected from the enterprise, you can continue to operate,” he said.
However, this data fabric isn’t a single monolith, but rather, a federated system.
“We’re not laser focused on a particular data fabric,” said Brig. Gen. Jeth Rey, director of the Network Cross-Functional Team. “We’re thinking that they’re going to be more globally. There will be multiple types of data fabric. We need those data fabrics to be, again, open source, where they can actually collaborate with one another and provide that machine learning and AI that we need in order to aggregate those sensors and all the structured and unstructured data that’s going to be passing through that particular data fabric in order to create an informed decision for our commanders to execute on.”
Iyer noted the service is well on its way to implementing the Army’s first cloud outside of the U.S. in the Indo-Pacific region working with Army Pacific, the I Corps and the Multi-domain Task Force. This will allow the Army to integrate cloud in all aspects of experimentation and establish an edge computing cloud in the Pacific theater. Army officials have previously stated the Multi-domain Task Force is a main pilot effort for emerging data and cloud initiatives.
Mark Pomerleau is a reporter for C4ISRNET, covering information warfare and cyberspace.