Solving the Army's data talent problem
- By Lauren C. Williams
- Oct 15, 2020
The Army is in serious need of data talent, but boosting recruiting efforts can't be the only strategy.
Mark Gorak, the director of people analytics for the Assistant Secretary of the Army Manpower and Reserve Affairs, said the military service needs to develop specific skill sets and retool or retrain existing workforce, while also taking advantage of direct commission and rapid civilian hiring authorities.
"The senior leaders know we need more but they don't know what that means. So what does more of this skill set mean" that's what needs to be developed, Gorak said during a discussion on the Army's data workforce at the virtual AUSA conference Oct. 13.
The need was evident during the Army's six-week experiment testing out a portfolio of prototypes from its tactical network to launching small unmanned aerial vehicles. Having researchers and scientists alongside military operators during the large-scale experiment cemented a need to put coders and data-focused talent on the battlefield.
"We are in this enlightenment process about what is the intersection of our equipment modernization lines of effort with modernizing the talent base that the Army is going to demand for the future," said Kate Kelley, Army Future Command's director of Human Capital.
Defense technology experts have floated the idea of creating military academies to develop tech talent. While the Army hasn't fully embraced that idea, Futures Command is standing up a software factory that's focused on local talent around its headquarters in Austin, Texas.
Kelley said the software factory's goal is to "take advantage of the resident tech base" and teach military personnel how to be conversant in various languages so "that those skills start to become part of not only our lexicon but what we actually know and do in the tactical environment."
The Army's task force on artificial intelligence at Carnegie Mellon University is hoping to do that with advanced degree options for DOD personnel.
Doug Matty, the director of the AI Task Force, said Project Convergence at Yuma Proving Ground demonstrated how artificial intelligence and machine learning allowed for "actual system collaboration, that means machine to machine directly, enhancing the soldiers ability to command and control on the battlefield."
"Having that requisite skill set available to allow for on-demand integration, engineering, development etc.," Matty said, "that's where we'll be able to learn the lessons we need to to achieve the results that we want."
John Willison, the deputy to the commanding general for the Army's Combat Capabilities Development Command, said that in addition to tapping current workforce, there has to be a commitment to continuous education.
"It's a full time job to maintain that competency, so it's got to be a learning career field. Because technology is moving that fast, demands are moving that fast, challenges are changing, so people need to stay on top of their own further education," Willison said.
"And then it's our opportunity to match those competencies and who we are to what we do and the roles that people are going to play."
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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