The U.S. Department of Defense is seeing the nation’s adversaries use capabilities better than the American military, but change is underway. In particular, the Army recognizes that it must dust off some of its aging procurement processes and leverage commercial technology to regain an advantage over its enemies, said Lt. Gen. Bruce Crawford, USA, the Army’s chief information officer/G-6, at the MILCOM 2017 conference in Baltimore.
The Army’s road to readiness runs through Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG) and the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command, in the opinion of Maj. Gen. Randy Taylor, CECOM’s commanding general. The advantages of the command—aside from the beautiful 144 miles of shoreline on the Chesapeake Bay in Aberdeen, Maryland, and the 400 American bald eagles that also live there— is that it may be the one place in the military where research and development in science and technology; technology development; testing; acquisition; fielding; and sustainment are all at one installation.
An evolving Army needs equipment to be successful on the battlefield. It sounds simple, but it requires an orchestra of contracts, logistics support, parts, repairs and maintenance, all beginning with research and development and testing. For sustainment to happen, it’s a “team sport,” according to a panel of Army leaders at the recent MILCOM conference in Baltimore on October 25.
Working to slough off the culture of archaic contracting processes, certain offices within the Defense Department are implementing innovative procurement processes, especially for information technology (IT) products and services. The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), which is responsible for building, operating and securing the DOD Information Network (DODIN) for U.S. forces, has taken some proactive measures to introduce improvements into its contracting processes, according to Rear Adm. Nancy Norton, USN, vice director, DISA.
The Department of Defense is seeing its adversaries utilize off-the-shelf technologies, mobile networks and commercial applications that the U.S. military itself is not using as well. With this recognition, the “winds of change” are beginning to blow through the agency. The U.S. Army in particular must dust off some of its aging procurement processes and leverage commercial technology to regain the advantage over its peer adversaries, warned Lt. Gen. Bruce Crawford, USA, Army chief information officer (CIO)/G-6 at the MILCOM 2017 conference in Baltimore on October 24.
Data stored “in silos” is not providing a fluid, agile stream of information that the DOD needs to perform everyday missions. While data may successfully be generated, getting the needed information “in the right hands at the right time” is a challenge the DOD is facing.
The threat of cyberwarfare from adversaries is only expected to increase, and the U.S. must boost its cyber defenses, including its training and certification. The military is still considering how best to conduct defensive cyberspace operations education.
The challenges involved with being the CIO for the Marine Corps include balancing the service’s evolution with its technology needs and finding the right technologies for warfighters on a tight budget with changing operational needs. “There is a lot of change going on in the Marine Corps and that change is fantastic,” said Brig. Gen. Dennis Crall, USMC, director C4/Chief Information Officer (CIO).
To increase interoperability and performance, U.S. military satellite communication programs will turn more and more to working with international partners. At the same time, leveraging commercial satellite technologies will also reduce costs dramatically.
This is a necessary strategy given that adversaries are increasing their hostile activities in space and cyberspace, warned Robert Tarleton, director, Military Satellite Communications (MILSATCOM) Systems Directorate, Space and Missile Systems Center, Air Force Space Command, speaking in Baltimore at MILCOM, co-sponsored by AFCEA and IEEE.