For the U.S. Army, the mission drives everything. The Army is creating ready, prompt, and sustained warfighters to protect the nation – but two decades into the 21st century, war has evolved and challenged the department to quickly modernize and adapt to a changing landscape.

The Army quickly recognized the need to keep up with new technology environments, and released a vision for what warfighting should look like by 2028. To equip soldiers with the right tools, the Army wrote that “reforming the current acquisition system and unifying the modernization enterprise,” alongside other efforts, will be a priority of its 2028 vision. With data as a strategic asset, the Army is leaning into the information age to drive its future mission.

“In order for us to compete and fight, we need to be able to share data from the foxhole to the enterprise and back,” Director of the Army’s Enterprise Cloud Management Office (ECMO) Paul Puckett said, “and that requires our systems, our architecture, and our cloud to be designed and built to be a global asset and not just a capability at the enterprise.”

With some modernization success already underway, the Army is also looking ahead to more advanced solutions that harness the power of data. In May, the Army began seeking out intelligent automation, augmentation, and analytics solutions that use data to improve the decision-making process.

“We have started on our data strategy from a modernization journey,” Army Corps of Engineers CIO Dovarius Peoples said of the Army’s modernization efforts at-large. “Being able to receive data from authoritative sources, looking at those repositories, identifying how to properly secure it, and then being able to make informed decisions.”

But the Army can’t fulfill this goal alone. Like any agency, the Army requires a resilient and reliable software supply chain that is up to date on what acquisition looks like in the information age. Partners must deliver on mission-first, rather than technology-first, efforts and acquisition to meet the goals of the Army of the 21st century.

A Mission-First Supply Chain for Data-Driven Future

Embracing a data-driven future, the Army began setting up to manage and harness the power of data through its ECMO in November 2019. ECMO is building out the Army’s cloud architecture to develop stronger data inventory and software capabilities, supporting the agency’s ultimate vision of future modernization.

“In the ECMO, we’re really trying to determine how and where we can achieve repeatability and effectivity in leveraging cloud computing,” Puckett said of the effort, “so that we can then scale that effectiveness across the rest of the Army.”

Moving to a hybrid cloud infrastructure not only reduces legacy systems on the network and information siloes, but it will also bring data management strategies and applications closer to the warfighter to improve decision-making. This paves the way for future emerging technology implementation, such as artificial intelligence or machine learning, to maintain data as a strategic asset for years to come as the Army modernizes its software supply chain.

In an exclusive interview with MeriTalk, Christopher Yates, Red Hat’s senior solution architect for public sector, explained, “As the Army looks to become more data-driven, they must prioritize modernizing the software supply chain, migrating to a hybrid enterprise cloud environment, and enabling enterprise IT-as-a-service. These are all key to achieving this goal.”

Without mission-first supply chain partners, however, the Army’s modernization efforts could face unnecessary hurdles and slow down progress. The Army requires its contractor ecosystem to rethink traditional technology acquisition by offering solutions that focus more on achieving mission outcomes rather than the technology itself. Members of the supply chain who can’t keep up with the changing landscape risk falling behind, Yates cautions.

Familiarity with DevSecOps processes, for example, is one way that supply chain partners can work with the Army to demonstrate mission-first values. Collaboration between development, security, and operations teams is how agencies like the Army are building modern application development strategies. The culture-shift away from traditional technology acquisition and development, however, doesn’t happen overnight.

Creating the Culture to Support Modernization

Through Agile and DevSecOps methods of software delivery, agencies can shorten the development lifecycle and provide iterative improvements to the technology at hand. These processes increase the value of the development process, creating a supply chain partner with proven capabilities to support rapid development and updates.

“The Army and its partners need to focus on the problem sets of their warfighter, rather than those of the infrastructure or technology,” Yates recommends. “Application development is too slow, too risky, and too focused on function. Teams should ask, ‘what value is being added?’”

For the Army, implementing agile and DevSecOps processes could streamline mission delivery and provide warfighters with the information they need to quickly make mission-critical decisions.

Upgrading technology to meet a modernizing landscape also requires an innovation mindset from both in-house teams and outside supply chain partners. The Army has set out to embrace a culture of innovation in line with its modernization strategies, and supply chain partners could benefit from bringing the same mindset to acquisition.

“It is about rethinking traditional technology acquisition, development, and implementation processes – and rethinking organizational culture,” Yates suggests. “Both must evolve for innovation at scale.”

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MeriTalk Staff