plugging into the cloud

Information-age Army depends on cloud, data investments

If Congress doesn't reach an appropriations deal or if the Pentagon's Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud buy is delayed, the Army's plans to invest almost $700 million in cloud, data and artificial intelligence over the next five years could be put on hold.

Speaking at the Association of the U.S. Army's annual conference Oct. 14, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said that the service intends to move away "from the industrial-age processes to the information age" by  leveraging data as a strategic asset, utilizing private-sector technology and tapping big data and AI "without sacrificing cybersecurity or resilience," he said.

But McCarthy told reporters Oct. 14 those plans could get derailed, forcing the Army to "sit and wait." Lack of funding or a potential delay in the JEDI cloud contract "strikes to the heart of our concern," he said.

"Those items are new start dollars to address this extremely important architecture that we have to lay in  …  to make faster decisions on the battlefield as well as making much more informed decisions from a business standpoint," he said when asked of the Army's contingency plans should it not receive full funding or the Pentagon's $10 billion JEDI cloud buy is delayed.

"Without a budget, it's a new-start program, so we'll sit and we'll wait," the Army secretary said.

McCarthy's comments come as the Army marks two years into a massive shift to prioritize modernization with a new command focusing on six major areas, including network capabilities -- which cloud infrastructure underpins.

Gen. John Murray, head of Army Futures Command, told reporters in a separate Oct. 14 briefing that the network was a key priority.

"The thing that I think about often is the network … we're relying on the network for so much," Murray said, adding that many of the command's focus areas, such as the Integrated Visual Augmentation System training tool, depend on network capabilities.

McCarthy said he didn't know of an Army priority or program that wouldn't be affected without a budget deal, including prototypes that are yielding results and being primed to scale across the force.

"There is no flexibility," he said. "You lose buying power immediately. We could lose potentially upwards of $7 billion worth of buying power for recent research development and acquisition elements -- just that alone -- because of continuing resolutions."

This article was first posted to FCW, a sibling site to GCN.

About the Author

Lauren C. Williams is a staff writer at FCW covering defense and cybersecurity.

Prior to joining FCW, Williams was the tech reporter for ThinkProgress, where she covered everything from internet culture to national security issues. In past positions, Williams covered health care, politics and crime for various publications, including The Seattle Times.

Williams graduated with a master's in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park and a bachelor's in dietetics from the University of Delaware. She can be contacted at lwilliams@fcw.com, or follow her on Twitter @lalaurenista.

Click here for previous articles by Wiliams.


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