Every October, I look forward to attending the Association of the United States Army’s (AUSA) Annual Meeting & Exhibition in Washington, D.C. As someone who has been involved with the organization from both inside and out—as an Army officer, Army Surgeon General, then as the Secretary of U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and now on the contractor side—I’m always curious to experience not only the sights and sounds of the yearly gathering, but also to see what’s coming next.
This year’s theme, “America’s Army: Ready Now, Investing in the Future,” sets an appropriate tone for the crossroads at which the Army sits today. It alludes to the transformations the Army must continually perform to harness the technological advances of the information age and gain qualitative advantages over potential foes. These changes—which refer to the knowledge, speed and precision with which the Army needs to operate—will help create a force that is dominant across the full spectrum of military operations: persuasive in peace, decisive in war and preeminent in any form of conflict.Throughout my years as a combat veteran, civil servant and contractor, I have seen the Army transform itself again and again, with these transformations constantly and consistently meeting emerging threats head-on. It’s a remarkable compliment to Army leadership, soldiers, civilians and contractors that the organization can continue on this path.
Now, on the eve of AUSA, here are what I believe to be the five most significant things the Army is in the process of achieving to fulfill the promise of investing in its future.
1. Powering the Army Futures Command—A most encouraging sign for the Army as it moves forward is the achievement of full operational capability of the Army Futures Command (AFC) this summer. While the Army has always kept one eye toward the horizon, AFC is a dedicated command created to oversee the Army's accelerated modernization efforts, ensuring rapid delivery of new technology to enhance warfighting capabilities. The command promises to use the best expertise the Army has to offer to create innovative solutions faster and better by exploring, developing and testing new methods, organizations and technologies. In short, the success of AFC will ensure that soldiers have what they need before they even now they need it.
2. Investing in augmented reality/3D/synthetic training environments—Tools such as augmented reality (AR) and 3D training combine physical and digital realities not only to help simulate—as closely as possible—real-world scenarios encountered by our warfighters, but also to train tomorrow’s soldiers using methods that have become commonplace for them. This focus also includes synthetic training environments (STE), which combine virtual, constructive and gaming training environments to provide cognitive, collective, multi-echelon training and mission rehearsal capability for the operational, institutional and self-development training domains. These immersive training techniques are not only highly effective, but can also be easily replicated for different environments with precision accuracy.
3. Utilizing data visualization and analytics—As acceptable response times to incidents become increasingly shortened, it becomes even more critical for the Army to be able to locate and manage assets at a moment’s notice. While not as eye-popping as some other future technologies, achieving total asset visibility (TAV) is vital to helping prepare the Army’s future fighting force. TAV can be used to get ahead of traditional supply chains, where everything from nuts and bolts to tanks and troops can be proactively located, identified and maneuvered to help deliver solutions before crises arise. Such a setup also promotes military-wide joint operations where one branch borrows equipment from another rather than purchasing it for a short-term need.
4. Automating cybersecurity—The battlefields of the future are just as likely to be in cyberspace as they are on land. Implementing automation throughout the Army’s cybersecurity enterprise for the more mundane activities—through robotic process automation (RPA) and other intelligent automation processes—can free up cybersecurity experts to devote themselves to more critical work, resolving more complex issues as they arise. As protecting the cyber domain becomes more and more complex, the ability to successfully automate tools and techniques to help in this endeavor will help provide a significant tactical edge.
5. Centralizing the acquisition process—Before any of the technologies mentioned above can be put into use by the Army, they must first be purchased. Two years ago, the Army awarded CGI a contract to create and maintain the Army Contract Writing System (ACWS), an enterprise-wide solution designed to bring an enhanced user experience to thousands of the Army's acquisition professionals in over 300 locations worldwide. A transformational solution, ACWS consolidates and simplifies the Army’s end-to-end procurement system, providing it with acquisition and procurement agility and better insight into a highly complex process all so that capabilities can be put in the troops’ hands faster and more efficiently. Proper utilization of the system will play a key role in the delivery of services and solutions that define the Army’s fighting force of the future.
Each of these five future initiatives can coalesce to make the world’s premier fighting force even greater. And for each of these focus points, CGI Federal is ready to help. For the better part of the past three decades, we have supported the Army’s mission-critical objectives for transformation; an enduring partnership that has been built on operational readiness and process efficiency. We make sure to incorporate our domain expertise with advances in technology to leverage data insights and ensure the Army can continually adapt and transform the way it achieves its mission.