Army Bets Big On Service Contracts To Fix Aging IT

Army Bets Big On Service Contracts To Fix Aging IT

The Army’s information technology is too old and modernization is too slow, the service’s three-star CIO said this morning. So the service needs a “fundamentally different” strategy that relies heavily on the private sector, Lt. Gen. Bruce Crawford said the Army has to start relying on contractors to own and operate IT on the Army’s behalf — what he calls “enterprise IT as a service” — and start moving on-base IT to Defense Department clouds.

“Around 70 percent overall of that [IT] infrastructure — in the case of voice, it’s probably as high as 90 percent — is at or near end of life,” Crawford told the Association of the US Army here. “[It] would take beyond the year 2030 — if we stayed on the current path — to modernize. We ran into one brick wall after another [asking], ‘how do we get speed,’” Crawford continued. So, about six months ago, he and Lt. Gen. Steve Fogarty, head of Army Cyber Command, realized “we needed to do something fundamentally different.”

This effort’s urgent because the aging IT on Army bases can’t protect data from high-end hackers, provide the bandwidth for new augmented-reality training systems or support combat units waging high-intensity warfare against great powers (i.e. Russia and China), Crawford said. “This reform and modernization initiative,” he said, “is less about saving money than it is about increasing operational effectiveness throughout the force.”

That said, when Crawford talks about “enterprise IT,” he’s referring to the Army’s 288 “posts, camps, and stations” in the US and abroad, not the tactical networks that Army units deploy with to the battlefield. “I’m very comfortable with the path we’re on with the tactical network,” Crawford told reporters after the AUSA session, “but in terms of enterprise network modernization, [where] I’m trying to modernize at 288 different locations … you can’t get there from here.”

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