How Army’s New Handheld Solutions Will Give Taxpayers an “Edge”

It's obvious that there is a greater return on taxpayer investment (ROTI) if solutions reach the field faster. A4A was a great start to creating an infrastructure where applications can be shared, downloaded, modified, resubmitted and ranked. Ultimately, this could lead to greater ROTI. (Photo: US Army)

It's obvious that there is a greater return on taxpayer investment (ROTI) if solutions reach the field faster. Apps for the Army was a great start to creating an infrastructure where applications can be shared, downloaded, modified, resubmitted and ranked. Ultimately, this could lead to greater ROTI. (Photo: US Army)

Michael Anthony is the Chief of the Advanced Applications Branch and Collaborative Battlespace Reasoning and Awareness (COBRA) Army Technology Objective (ATO) Manager for the US Army Research Development and Engineering Command, CERDEC, Command and Control Directorate (C2D). Ron Szymanski is a Lead Computer Scientist for CERDEC C2D and the Technical Lead for the COBRA ATO.  Both are located at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, MD.

Yesterday, we defined Edge-Enabled systems and explored some real-world examples. Today, we’ll conclude by discussing how they could increase our operational effectiveness while providing a greater return-on-taxpayer-investment (ROTI).

Today’s Warfighters are facing an ever-changing, ever-adapting, enemy force, so they require a system (or systems) that can adapt as fast (threshold) or faster (objective) than that enemy. Unfortunately, many of their traditional Army systems cannot adapt as quickly as necessary. However, the commercial marketplace routinely showcases this capability.

LTG Sorenson (CIO/G-6 Army) recently gave a brief where he stated that, “DoD should leverage this [commercial marketplace] innovation more effectively.” He then went on to state his “Big Four” goals which all centered on transforming the current acquisition process from one that takes more than five years into one that takes months.

It’s fairly obvious that there is a greater ROTI if solutions reach the field faster. Because our enemies are adapting so fast, a system that takes five years to go from requirement definition to deployment is not optimized for the current fight. As a result, that system goes underutilized or units spend additional dollars to build a solution that meets their needs. In both cases, that initial investment is wasted, but in the latter case, multiple units may end up building the same (or nearly identical solutions) because there is no mechanism to share those products. As a result, not only is the initial investment lost, but new, similar products are being developed three, four, or five times over.

A better way to gain ROTI would be to create an infrastructure (and Apps for the Army is a great start) where applications can be shared, downloaded, modified, resubmitted and ranked.  Think of it this way: when iPhone or Android users go to their devices marketplace, they can search and find (within seconds) pretty much any application that they can conceive of.  And if they can’t find that application, odds are someone is developing it and it will be on the marketplace next time they look.

We hope this brief series provides some insights on how the Army may approach this area to ultimately provide Warfighters with much needed capabilities while reducing the total life cycle costs.

Again, we’re open to your thoughts on this model, so please share feedback or leave questions. For a more in-depth explanation regarding our approach, listen to the DoDLive Bloggers Roundtable discussion we had last week at the C4ISR Symposium in Baltimore.  If you simply want more information about CERDEC C2D, contact our Public Affairs office, (732) 427-1594 – and be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter, too!

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