Army IT leader pledges quicker cloud uptake in ‘year of action’ – C4ISRNet

AUGUSTA, Ga. — The U.S. Army will make swift, significant strides in cloud migration and utilization in the coming 12 months, according to the service’s top uniformed information technology official.

Dubbing the next year as a period “of action and acceleration,” Lt. Gen. John Morrison, deputy chief of staff, G-6, on Aug. 17 pledged “much more rapid movement to the cloud” now that the groundwork has been laid.

The Army considers cloud migration and widespread, secure use foundational to the broader modernization of its networks, computers and collaboration capabilities. Mastering cloud computing will also help realize artificial intelligence and machine learning for cyber warfare, according to the 2020 Army Cloud Plan.

“We are putting the requisite capabilities into the hands of our operational formation so they can understand the applications that now need to move to the cloud, and we are aligning the requisite combat power to assist in that migration,” Morrison told reporters at the AFCEA TechNet Augusta conference. “It is going to be much faster.”

The Army requested $16.6 billion in cyber and IT funding for fiscal 2023, which starts Oct. 1, or more than 9% of the service’s $178 billion budget blueprint. Hundreds of millions would be invested in cloud, officials said.

Morrison and others are coordinating with Army Chief Information Officer Raj Iyer to audit data centers that the service eventually wants to shutter, to better understand what is out there and what needs to be relocated. Such analysis will speed cloud uptake, according to Morrison.

“What we have learned very quickly is it’s not about the data center, it’s about the applications and the data that’s in the data center,” the general said. “What is cloud ready? What is not cloud ready? Et cetera. And that’s sort of been where we’ve gotten a little pitchy at times.”

Iyer in June described the coming year as an inflection point along the Army’s “digital transformation journey.” The CIO said he expected great progress to be made on cloud initiatives, as well, based on previous advancements in fiscal 2021 and 2022.

“We need to make sure that the investments that we have are appropriately aligned to the Army’s priorities and to the DoD priorities, quite honestly,” Iyer told reporters this year. “There are clearly some priorities that we have invested in. All of you know that digital means that we have to adopt — at scale — cloud, data and AI.”

The Army’s cloud efforts are tied to the Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability, the Department of Defense’s $9 billion follow-up to the failed Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure endeavor. The department axed the lucrative JEDI deal, won by Microsoft, in 2021 after years of delays and accusations from Amazon that the Trump administration interfered in the competition.

The JWCC is meant to beef up the department’s cloud-computing capabilities by bridging unclassified, secret and top-secret tranches while still reaching the military’s farthest edge.

The Pentagon last year contacted Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Oracle about the JWCC, and earlier this year said proposals remained under review. Awards are expected to be made by the end of December, after an April deadline was deemed premature.

“JWCC is still in the throes of moving through the acquisition process,” Morrison said. “So I would sit there and say we’re well nested, and the DoD CIO understands everything that we’re doing.”

Colin Demarest is a reporter at C4ISRNET, where he covers military networks, cyber and IT. Colin previously covered the Department of Energy and its National Nuclear Security Administration — namely Cold War cleanup and nuclear weapons development — for a daily newspaper in South Carolina. Colin is also an award-winning photographer.

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