As the demands of the modern warfighter evolve, the Department of Defense’s information environment has struggled to keep up with the pace. In effort to support the continuing development of a network centric battlespace, DoD is now aggressively accelerating cloud migration efforts. With a network infrastructure that often doesn’t come close to rivaling those of other international actors, they’re inviting the private sector to help them in achieving these goals.
The Air Force has awarded a team comprised of Dell EMC, General Dynamics, and Microsoft a 5-year contract valued at $1 billion to provide hosted cloud services which will unify its communications and collaboration services. In addition to their Azure Government cloud services , Microsoft has even launched Azure Government Secret, a dedicated subdivision which will provide services operating within six interconnected CONUS facilities and handle classified data.
“While technological modernization has many dimensions, I believe accelerating the DoD’s adoption of cloud computing technologies is critical to maintaining our military’s technological advantage,” says Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan.
The USAF isn’t the only branch embracing cloud technology. Budget cuts have driven the Navy to adopt a similar approach to get more out of limited funding by migrating to the cloud. Amazon Web Services already provides hosting for all their public websites and as more vendors receive DoD approval, the private sector is eager to cater to the needs of an expanding military force. With a goal of migrating over 1,200 applications and systems across the country to the cloud within the next five years, there’s a lot of work to be done.
This need for the move to a cloud environment is more than a budgetary matter. Algorithmic warfare, which focuses on turning aerial imagery into actionable intelligence, depends on artificial intelligence and machine learning, and “is not going to be effective without cloud computing,” according to Shanahan.
Whether deployed as a cost-saving measure or crucial aspect of future technologies, it’s clear that cloud computing plays a vital role in the future of the network centric battlespace. This transition isn’t going to happen overnight and there are many facets in determining the effectiveness of migration efforts. Not every environment is going to be capable of adequately meeting the high demands of these mission critical applications, but taking a bottom-up approach in validating these systems will ensure mission success.
DoD recognizes the value of the private sector and needs to benefit from these technologies now more than ever. “This is the Tang of the 21st century,” says Shanahan. “We just don’t know what’s going to come out of it, but we’ll figure it out.”