Army CIO: FY23 is ‘year of inflection’ for digital transformation

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Army CIO Dr. Raj Iyer speaks at the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes during a pinning ceremony on Dec. 15, 2020. (DVIDS)

WASHINGTON: The Army’s chief information officer said he wants fiscal 2023 to be the service’s “year of inflection” for digital transformation, as he revealed details about how the service plans to spend its requested $16.6 billion in cyber and IT funding.

“It’s very, very tempting to continue to spend money on technologies that are 10 years old because we’ve gotten comfortable with them,” CIO Raj Iyer said Thursday during a briefing with reporters. “We know that they work to meet today’s needs and it’s so much easier to just keep them on…That’s not what’s going to help us fight and win…for the Army of 2030.”

Iyer said that the overall budget is “almost flat” going from FY22 to FY23, so the service needs to closely watch how it uses its money and continuously reprioritize its budget in support of future modernization.

Of the $16.6 billion for cyber and IT next year, he said $2 billion would be allocated directly to the cyber piece of the funding for offensive and defensive operations, and research and development in cybersecurity. The bulk of the investment, about $9.8 billion, will go towards the Army network, and $220 million will go towards “all things AI.” 

Network modernization is led by the Army’s Network Cross-Functional Team and Program Executive Office-Command, Control, Communications-Tactical teams, which are developing and fielding “capability sets” — tool kits of applications and technology designed to modernize network capabilities across the service — every two years.

The first set, Capability Set 21, is already about 70% fielded and elements of the set are being used by units deployed in Europe to support NATO. The set is focused on making the network more intuitive and includes single-channel commercial radios with advanced networking waveforms, among other components designed to enable resilient communication.

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The Army this month is anticipated to conduct a two-phased operational assessment with its next set, Capability Set 23, both with the 2nd Cavalry Regiment in Europe to get real time operational feedback to help the service decide what to field.

Later this year, the service plans to begin experimenting with US Army Pacific Command for cloud, data and mission command applications while, at the same time, developing capability sets 25 and 27.

The network funding “is clearly supporting all the way from the tactical edge, including support to current operations, all the way to investments we’re making in the cloud,” Iyer said. “[FY]23 really is also our opportunity to scale our efforts that we have made some tremendous progress [with] in [FY] 21 or 22. And so we’re seeing about a $290 million investment in cloud in FY23 to continue to further our cloud migration journey.”

The service is expected to release its updated cloud plan later this year, Paul Puckett, the director of the Army’s Enterprise Cloud Management Office, said in May.

“What you’re going to see is a greater level of detail and maturity for not just leveraging commercial cloud computing, but really how that starts to extend into our on-premise locations, how this starts to extend into our tactical locations and how we start to kind of poke at some of the mission-enabling capabilities of how the Army operates, enabled by cloud computing,” Puckett said May 24 at an Amazon Web Services conference.

On the research and development side, the Army wants to invest around quantum computing and supercomputing requirements. Quantum science has become an area of focus for both DoD and the White House.

In May, President Joe Biden signed two directives aimed at advancing quantum science, including a memorandum outlining his administration’s plan to address national security risks posed by quantum computers that could be capable of cracking DoD’s encryption.

The Army in FY23 also wants to invest $1.4 billion to modernize its legacy enterprise resource planning systems responsible for the service’s financial, training, logistics and human resources-related activities.

It’s unclear if that funding is part of the larger $16.6 billion cyber and IT funding Iyer laid out, but he said the Army will award multiple OTAs to initiate prototypes that will run anywhere from 12 to 18 months for enterprise business system conversations and award a production contract once it down selects a prototype.

“Some of the things that we will be looking for as part of…this prototype is to look at how modular the architecture is, again, to make sure that is future-proofed,” he said. “We’ll be looking at the ability to support data exchange through APIs and micro-services… We’ll be looking at the system being cloud native from the get-go and making sure that we can fully benefit from a future modern architecture…We’ll be looking at how flexible the solution will be in terms of its ability to implement Army-unique processes where we have them without the need to customize commercial-off-the-shelf products.”





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