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Driving Digital Transformation in the U.S. Department of Defence

In a background brief called Digitisation and the Modern Battlefield, the Association of the U.S. Army asserted that conversion to digital communications would be imperative if the Army is to maintain technological superiority on future battlefields. It went on to point out that the objective is a fully integrated operation where the commander has the information necessary to develop intelligence, synchronise the manoeuvre of forces and optimise the employment of weapons throughout the width and depth of the battle area.

U.S. Department of Defence (DoD) still emphasises the importance of digitised information in making military operations more effective, and the value of full system integration. If anything, that objective is more pertinent than ever, as the DoD undergoes a long-term, comprehensive digital transformation affecting every aspect of its operations, not just those on the battlefield.

In addition to person-to-person messaging, digitisation involves communication between unmanned devices, frequently involving artificial intelligence, machine learning, cloud storage, and big data analysis in combat support roles. Digitisation is essential to intelligence gathering, monitoring troop movements, aircraft missions, autonomous weaponry, and more. 

The fundamental technology that underpins it all is data — data that is accurate, clean, trustworthy, timely, and secure. The DoD is keenly aware of these limitations and has been hard at work upgrading its underpinning technologies. However, the funds just are not available to meet all of the IT demands that service members require, and its transformation into a fully digital agency still remains on the distant horizon.

Strengthening the digital foundations of DoD by modernising the military’s digital assets can be accomplished by focusing on three fundamental aspects of digitisation: Data, cyber and cloud. By delivering high-quality data structures which interweave disconnected data endpoints, the DoD creates a digital fabric where high-quality data is accessible and usable.

By identifying and incorporating cybersecurity requirements early in the modernisation and automation process, the DoD can also ensure more cost-efficient, effective, reliable, and consistent data. Non-repudiation, data integrity, endpoint identification and protection, and encryption methods are just a few of the cybersecurity requirements considered crucial to the success of any automation effort.

Modernising within the full scope of these cybersecurity requirements also significantly reduces reliance on operator knowledge, skill, and interaction, resulting in a decrease in insider threat vectors, both intentional and unintentional, and in cybersecurity incident response activities, including vulnerability identification, detection, and response.

To rapidly scale this automation to meet mission needs, the DoD is rapidly moving to the cloud, which provides the necessary elasticity and storage resources through on-demand computing. Leveraging accredited cloud enterprise services assures that security standards are being met and maintained while easing the heavy burden of maintaining these services independently, freeing valuable resources to focus less on system maintenance and more on high priority mission requirements.

The cloud also provides durable, secure, global connectivity to crucial data and functionality from anywhere in the world providing access where and when it is needed, which is critical to carrying out mission objectives.

As reported by OpenGov Asia, DOD outlined its goals that would help support service members outside of the U.S. by way of cloud computing. The agency establishes the vision and goals for enabling a dominant all-domain advantage through cloud innovation at the tactical edge. It identifies areas requiring modernisation to realise the potential of cloud computing, specifically: security, redundancy, reliability and availability.

The strategy is broken down into three parts: resilient connectivity, providing the right computing power, and training members to utilise the technology. Regarding the first goal, the agency is committed to providing robust and resilient connectivity all the way to the tactical edge. Right now, network connectivity is a problem when it comes to connecting to the cloud and getting people the information they need to carry out their missions.

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