Army wants to spend nearly $1B on cloud, data by 2025

Ryan D. McCarthy being sworn in as Army Secretary Oct. 10, 2019. (Photo credit: Sgt. Dana Clarke/U.S. Army)

Ryan D. McCarthy being sworn in as Army Secretary Oct. 10, 2019. (Photo credit: Sgt. Dana Clarke/U.S. Army)

The Army plans to invest almost $1 billion in cloud, data and artificial intelligence over the next five years but will put it all on hold if Congress doesn't reach a funding deal or if the Pentagon's $10 billion cloud buy is delayed.

"The intent is to move the Army from the industrial-age processes to the information age of leveraging data as a strategic asset and utilizing private sector technology," Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said in prepared opening remarks at the Association of the U.S. Army's annual conference Oct. 14. "We will manage big data, employ AI-enabled tools in earnest without sacrificing cyber security or resilience. We intend to invest over $700 million" across the 2021-2025 Future Years Defense Program, 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 Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud bid "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 data from weapons systems to make faster decisions on the battlefield as well as making much more informed decisions from a business standpoint in places like the Pentagon," he said when asked of the Army's contingency plan 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 is waiting on Congress and the White House to agree on a funding bill for fiscal year 2020. Currently, the federal government is operating under a continuing resolution through Nov. 21. A new bill is needed for the Army and Defense Department to get funds for new or multiyear programs.

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. It's not problems within the network, it's that 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, rely on network capabilities. "The bandwidth requirements, the latency we can't have -- so there's a lot of technical hurdles to overcome."

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."

About the Author

Lauren C. Williams is senior editor for FCW and Defense Systems, 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 [email protected], or follow her on Twitter @lalaurenista.

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