The Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) took on the theme of “Building the Army of 2030” at its 19th Annual Meeting and Exposition. Held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in the nation’s capital from Oct. 10-12, the event is the largest annual land warfare exposition in North America.
Hosted by AUSA, a nonprofit educational and professional development association serving the Army and supporters of national defense, the event attracts more than 33,000 people and more than 700 GovCon and defense marketing exhibitors in five halls throughout the 2.3 million-square-foot convention center.
New this year was AUSA CyberWorld, which joined experts in all things cyber in a fast-paced series of presentations. It featured demonstrations, debates and thought leadership on today’s biggest cyber concerns, including cybersecurity and cyberwarfare.
The Army announced a new contract worth up to $1 billion to support migrating systems to the cloud. Called the Enterprise Application Migration and Modernization (EAMM) contract, it’s multi-award, multi-vendor and will start in the second or third quarter of the current fiscal year.
“This is going to become the easy button for the Army to actually move to the cloud,” Army Chief Information Officer Raj Iyer said. “Because right now, what’s happening is even when we have commands that want to move to the cloud today, there is not one contract that they can go to move to the cloud. So they’re doing a lot of shopping. [They’ve] got to go to multiple contracting centers to go find the right vehicle and then when they go there it takes them nine months before they actually get on contract.”
The goal with this contract, he added, is to award a task order within four weeks.
The announcement came a day after the service set forth a new 15-page cloud plan, which incorporates zero trust, a cybersecurity framework that is gaining traction governmentwide and which requires authentication and authorization of all users.
In fact, officials at the conference said that Army cyber forces must keep up with evolving threats. One of the biggest challenges is the speed at which threats move, said Lt. Gen. Maria Barrett, Army Cyber Command commanding general.
“We can use the traditional intelligence sources, but there’s a plethora of information out there that also enables us to see further,” she said.
Additionally, officials emphasized the importance of data and analytics with another plan that has four short-term and seven long-term objectives, one of which includes delivering software and decision analytics faster to outpace adversaries.
Electronic vehicles and drones got plenty of attention at this year’s conference. For the former, the Army plans to field hybrid-drive tactical vehicles by 2035 and fully electronic ones by 2050, a shift that will not only make the service more environmentally friendly, but more effective, said Doug Bush, assistant Army secretary for acquisition, logistics and technology.
“We’ll have the ability for the Army to [have] vehicles with enough electric power not just to be silent watch and use less fuel, but also to have things like directed energy weapons on them – lasers, high-powered microwaves and electronic warfare kits – all across the battlefield,” Bush said.
With drones, the Army is seeking industry input on how to deploy intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance payloads on very high-altitude drones (unmanned aerial vehicles that fly higher than 60,000 feet).
The idea is to get stratospheric-sensing technologies “and then how we build sensor technologies that are resilient to this future environment,” said Mark Kitz, Army program executive officer for intelligence, electronic warfare and sensors.
“Our strategy has three layers and a foundation: the space layer, optimizing what we can get from government or commercial things on orbit; an aerial layer that includes manned and unmanned platforms from the stratosphere to the mid- to high-altitude layer that is optimized with sensors for a high-end adversary to the ground layer; and the terrestrial layer where we need sensing at echelon,” added Lt. Gen. Laura Potter, Army deputy chief of staff for intelligence, G2.
Unmanned systems are also a threat, as indicated by the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
Those threats are varied, ranging from sophisticated, long-range cruise missiles to off-the-shelf quadcopters, said Maj. Gen. Sean A. Gainey, director of the Army’s Counter-Unmanned Aircraft Systems Office. An effective approach is a layered approach, he added, naming kinetic, electronic, directed energy and microwave systems.
Overall, the military’s joint command is not prepared to quickly launch operations in the Arctic should that become necessary as the situation in Russia and Ukraine escalates, said Air Force Gen. Glen VanHerck.
“More than 50% of my AOR [area of operations] is in the Arctic. Yet we’re not organized, trained and equipped to be able to operate in that Arctic environment in a timely manner,” VanHerck said.
We look forward to celebrating two decades of AUSA’s Annual Meeting and Exposition in 2023 to learn more about how the Army addresses current and future challenges with innovation. (Relive AUSA 2021 and 2019 through our eyes.)