The Army’s network modernization plan for the years 2025 to 2040 calls on the service’s tech developers and customers to ensure it maintains the edge in the increasingly complex, data-saturated future.
When Army CIO Lt. Gen. Robert Ferrell surveys the technology horizon, he sees dynamic computing and sensors at a network's edge, faster distillation of data into actionable information, human-machine interactions, robotics and autonomous operations as well as self-healing and self-protecting networks.
In the Army’s network modernization plan for the years 2025 to 2040, Ferrell calls for service’s tech developers and their customers to ensure that the Army maintains a technology lead in the increasingly complex, data-saturated future.
"The Army must continue to seek and elevate emerging technologies in order to constantly modernize our network and maintain our technological edge," Ferrell wrote in the plan.
In an effort to expose the Army to a wider range of thinking, a panel of outside experts, including IT specialists from Johns Hopkins University, gave input on the strategy.
The new document complements a short- and medium-term IT plan that Ferrell put forth last year.
During a March 31 roundtable discussion with reporters, Ferrell was asked about the difficulty of predicting what the Army's IT terrain will look like in 25 years. The plan is "not focused on widgets; it's focused on conceptual areas," he replied. Prescribing one gadget or another would have been ill-advised "because as soon as it came out on the street it would have been dated," he added.
The IT capabilities available to soldiers in the field are at a critical juncture as Army Cyber Command matures and Wi-Fi becomes a reality for deployed units.
The new plan imagines where these capabilities are going. It calls for a network that supports "dynamic computing," or computers that can learn from operational requirements to deploy applications in response to changing missions. Army IT planners also want their future network to support an explosion in devices connected at the edge, such as mobile devices.
However, Ferrell said computing advances cut both ways.
"One development the military must closely watch is the growing availability of ever-increasing data processing power and faster transmission speed at lower cost," he wrote. "This trend gives resource-poor states, criminal organizations and even individuals access to capabilities traditionally monopolized by advanced countries."
The new plan also picks up on a theme of the Defense Department-wide "third offset strategy": more effective interactions between man and machine.
"Future force reductions, coupled with the radical increase" of drones and semi-autonomous systems, mean that commanders will need new tools for situational awareness, the document states.
On cybersecurity, Army officials are keen on "self-healing and self-protecting capabilities" that can defend against any threat to the resiliency of the Army network. As a result, jeopardized systems must be able to self-destruct to avoid being compromised by an attacker, according to the document.