Army budget points toward multi-domain operations

The Army still spends a lot of staffing, training and equipment and not enough on modernization but there are still significant opportunities to help the service improve multi-domain operations.

The Army will likely receive more funding from Congress in the coming years. And there’s a good chance that money will go towards ensuring proper staffing, training and equipment, instead of modernization.

Despite its large operating budget, the Army still allocates smaller percentages for its research, development, test and engineering (RDT&E) budget than other service branches, and as a result, it has struggled when it comes to modernization.

But that doesn’t mean that the Army is not interested in modernizing. One recent modernization concept emerging within the service branch has been multi-domain operations, which would ensure better information and data sharing between operational domains like cyber, space, land and intelligence. The Army wants to break down barriers between these domains to gain a competitive advantage against adversaries. The service sees the battlefield of the future as increasingly complex, contested and congested—taking place in dense, urban areas. Multi-domain solutions would provide more accurate information to commanders, enabling them to act faster and giving them an important edge.

This strategy will be implemented not only in the actual battlefield, but also at all operational levels, including enterprise IT. Here are ways the Army could lean on the private sector to get the ball rolling on multi-domain operations.

  • Infrastructure: Cloud computing can help the Army achieve more flexibility with configuration management. It also brings more data sets together for improved analysis and better decision making. Continued data center consolidation and improved collaboration through Unified Capabilities will also help the Army operate more efficiently. Infrastructure and network configuration are the backbone of multi-domain operations. The Army will help bring these stove-piped systems and networks together to integrate operations.
  • Cyber: The Army wants cyber embedded across all missions, and the Defensive Cyber Operations (DCO) program will be central to making that happen. The DCO program office, which is part of the Program Executive Office Enterprise Information Systems (PEO EIS), launched in January and focuses on programs for insider threat monitoring, cyber tools and forensics—all for Army Cyber Protection Teams. The DCO office recently released a request for information asking for industry feedback on a series of seven RFIs it plans to release for fiscal year 2019 programs. The RFIs focus on a deployable DCO system, DCO mission planning capabilities, user activity monitoring and malware analysis. This office is very critical for cyber companies across the gamut of products, as DCO is overseeing the requirements and acquisition process for cyber mission tools across the Army’s enterprise networks. Getting these cyber projects off the ground at the DCO office is going to be important for integrating cyber capabilities into operations throughout the Army.
  • Business, Operations and Logistics: Finance, supply chain management and HR are functions the Army wants to improve. For example, the service needs more access to its logistics enterprise resource planning system so leaders can extract needed information and use it in warfighting or other operational functions. One of those functions could be performing analysis on maintenance equipment and then getting that information to the field. The Army’s business and operations processes are going to be heavily focused on realizing efficiencies in both time and money, and this will depend on the ability to look at all sources of data when it comes to logistics and bring that together in a multi-domain environment. Data for the Army’s logistics systems is increasingly being moved to cloud environments to improve real-time asset visibility. Infrastructure and networking vendors can facilitate this move and improve data integration, while business and operations vendors can help them realize efficiencies in process.
  • Analytics: Finally, data analytics is where the Army can start putting its data to work. Very little of the data it collects and stores is used for operations, so the Army is looking for ways to change that. The Army Research Laboratory’s Internet of Battlefield Things (IoBT) is one area it’s exploring to make better use of the data coming in from weapons systems, sensors and wearable devices. This effort will help the service figure out which data sets from which sensors can be combined to provide the most meaningful analysis that can be used in tactical decisions. When it comes to integrating intelligence operations across other missions, the Army is attempting to construct an architecture that will allow it to continue with intel operations despite network failures. For analytics companies, the concept of multi-domain operations creates opportunities for real-time analytics, machine learning, data integration and management and cyber analytic tools.
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