Army CIO: FY23 is the “turnaround year” for digital transformation

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

WASHINGTON: The Army’s chief information officer said he wanted fiscal 2023 to be the service’s “tipping point” for digital transformation as he revealed details of how the service plans to raise the requested $16.6 billion for to spend cyber and IT financing.

“It’s very, very tempting to keep spending money on technology that’s 10 years old because we’ve grown accustomed to it,” CIO Raj Iyer said during a briefing with reporters on Thursday. “We know they will meet the needs of today, and it’s so much easier to just keep them… That won’t help us fight and win… for the army of 2030.”

Iyer said the overall budget is “almost unchanged” from FY22 to FY23, so the service needs to watch closely how it’s spending its money and continuously reprioritize its budget to support future modernization.

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

Network modernization is being led by the Army’s Cross-Functional Networks Team and Program Executive Office Command, Control and Communications teams, who are developing and deploying “skill sets” — toolkits of applications and technologies designed to modernize network capabilities across the service — every two Years.

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

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

Later this year, the service plans to experiment with US Army Pacific Command for cloud, data, and mission command applications while also developing capability sets 25 and 27.

The network funding “clearly supports all the way from the tactical edge, including support for ongoing operations, to investments that we are making in the cloud,” Iyer said. “[FY]23 is also really our opportunity to scale up our efforts that we’ve made some tremendous progress [with] in [FY] 21 or 22. And so we see approximately $290 million invested in the cloud in FY23 to continue 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 granularity and maturity, not only to leverage commercial cloud computing, but also how this is beginning to expand to our on-premises locations, how this is beginning to expand to our tactical locations and as we begin to explore some of the Army’s mission-enabling capabilities made possible by cloud computing,” Puckett said May 24 at an Amazon Web Services conference.

On the research and development side, the Army wants to invest in the demands of quantum computing and supercomputing. Quantum science has become a focus area for both the Department of Defense and the White House.

In May, President Joe Biden signed two policies promoting quantum science, including a memorandum outlining his administration’s plan to address national security risks posed by quantum computers that might be able to crack the DoD’s encryption.

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

It’s unclear if this funding is part of the larger $16.6 billion cyber and IT funding Iyer has planned, but he said the Army will award several OTAs to initiate prototypes that will between 12 and 18 months for company talks about business systems and award a production contract once it selects a prototype.

“Some of the things we’re going to look for as part of … this prototype is to look at how modular the architecture is to make sure it’s future-proof,” he said. “We will look at the possibility of supporting data exchange via APIs and microservices… We will look at making the system cloud native from the start and make sure we can take full advantage of a future modern architecture… We will assess how flexible the solution will be in terms of its ability to implement army-specific processes where we have them without having to adapt commercial off-the-shelf products.”

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