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Industry Must Meet Army in the Middle

Army representative outlines guiding principles and pushes for a cultural shift during TechNet Augusta 2023.

On its modernization journey, the U.S. Army is undergoing a digital transformation to meet immense amounts of data and face international adversaries. The secret to its success is collaboration and interoperability with industry partners. 

“China is a different fight,” said Young J. Bang, principal deputy assistant secretary of the Army (Acquisition, Logistics & Technology). Though Ukraine's fight against Russia is proving successful from the digital standpoint, the Chinese theater is much more digitally native, Bang explained. 

The day one afternoon keynote speech was given at AFCEA’s 10th annual TechNet Augusta conference in Augusta, Georgia, taking place August 15-17. 

The Army is accelerating its digitization efforts, Bang explained, and it is critical for industry to understand current and future operations taking place. 

“We want to stabilize, simplify and flatten,” he said, noting convergence initiatives “so we can see ourselves better.” The conversation goes beyond just the network, with data, applications and infrastructure kept in mind to succeed in the tactical environment.

Capabilities continue to grow exponentially, Bang said, requiring more power at different signatures. However, high heat signatures mean an easy pinpoint for adversaries. “We are literally a Christmas tree,” he told the TechNet audience, noting the demand for low signature capabilities. 

The Army’s Program Executive Office Integrated Warfare Systems (PEO IWS) is currently fielding related capabilities, Bang shared, and more information will soon be announced.  

Constant iteration is another guiding principle, Bang went on. “We’re trying to break down the obstacles at the enterprise level to constantly iterate, to get more things out there faster and in smaller increments, but more importantly, get the users' feedback as we’re doing it.” 

One of the challenges the Army faces is reaching an N-tier architecture, which requires the separation of hardware and software. The material release process, which was optimized specifically for hardware, is much too long, Bang stated. “Even though software changes quickly … we can’t actually field that because it’s tied to the hardware.” 

Noting a win for his team, Bang added that a memo has been signed to provide a solution to the challenge. 

Young J. Bang, principal deputy assistant secretary of the Army (Acquisition, Logistics & Technology), addresses the TechNet Augusta 2023 conference.

Additionally, the Army is looking to leverage and enhance its use of open data. While lessons learned from Ukraine have included interchangeability, driving interoperability from the digital standpoint requires openness, Bang said.  

“From a technology perspective, it’s easy to say, “Hey, let’s make this open,” but there is also a procedural openness that we have to optimize or fix for us to be there,” he said.  

While the military continues to automate mundane tasks, the challenge is thinking differently to catch up to China in this digital age. 

The task at hand is to look beyond just technology, to instill an organization-wide cultural shift that requires people, processes and systems.