Army Futures Command Builds Software Factory
The command's new center aims to churn out adroit coders that can thrive in multidomain warfare.
The U.S. Army Futures Command is preparing a software center designed to improve the digital competency of warfighters. The so-called software factory, in Austin, Texas, will take soldiers and civilians with a propensity toward software development and sharpen their skills. Warfighters facing near-peer threats and operating in a multidomain environment in the future may not have the ability to reach back to higher echelons for coding solutions or necessarily rely on contractor presence for software. They will need to be able to diagnose software issues of information technology that soldiers will be using the future as well as code specific solutions on the spot to support faster decision making.
As such, the Army needs to prepare an environment that supports software development solutions created “by soldiers for soldiers,” said Maj. Vito Errico, USA, Army Futures Command special assistant to the commanding general and software factory lead. Maj. Errico spoke to reporters during a media call on July 14.
The command will begin with an initial move-in of soldiers this fall and more established operations by mid- to late January 2021, he shared.
“A large part of the software factory is about preparing our workforce for that future operating environment,” Maj. Errico said.
The factory’s curriculum will center on advancing warfighters’ cloud engineering and Linux programing skills, as well as teaching object-oriented languages such as C++, Java and Java Script.
Initially the factory will accept cohorts of about 30 people for six-month stints, working up to hosting 200 people for three years. Leaders will harness traditional talent mechanisms within the Army to identify factory students, including the Aim 2 marketplace. Modernization reforms of the service’s human resource systems—which were originally meant to track skillsets for conventional warfare—will help identify new coding talent, the major explained. He also urged soldiers to reach out to their branch managers is they are interested in the factory.
Given the COVID-19 pandemic, the Army is planning for a parallel physical and virtual educational presence at the factory. COVID-19 related considerations were incorporated “in every step of the plan,” the major noted.
The Army Futures Command also is making sure that cybersecurity is a key tenant at the factory, and the participating warfighters “will be practicing true DevSecOps,” he added. “Everything we are doing is well [vetted] with senior Army command leaders, whose mission it is to make sure we operate at the highest levels of cyber security standards.”
The center will partner with academia and the industry and will host an important apprenticeship program. “We are constantly looking at pathways to onboard new civilian talent, not just into the factory but also into the Army,” Maj. Errico said.
The goal will be to construct a software development nexus that the Army can duplicate and proliferate over time, ramping up based on events, with Maj. Errico clarifying that the demand signal would come primarily from soldiers on the ground.
The software factory effort is part of a suite of workforce modernization programs that the command is pioneering, including a related pursuit of advancing artificial intelligence- (AI-) based skills. The command, along with the AI task force and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), is providing a digital talent initiative at CMU for masters-degree programs in AI, data science and computer engineering.
“The ability to train and retain talent, to utilize existing talent, and expand their skill sets is almost as important as the actual software products that they will create,” he concluded.