The United States Army’s shift from a network-centric to a data-centric environment is accelerating. Developments in Europe have demonstrated the need for robust information-sharing capabilities to meet the rise of military operations in cyberspace. This development plus the acceleration of modernization efforts as a result of the pandemic, has put the Army ahead of the Modernization Strategy published in 2019—A key part of the modernization strategy is Project Convergence, which focused on connecting the Army and its allies as a “multi-domain task force” to combat an evolving threat landscape. Project Convergence 2021 (PC 21), held in Arizona last fall, built on the inaugural event, PC 20, to give a clearer view of the path toward achieving the promise of Joint All-Domain Command and Control.
A key takeaway from PC 21 was the Army’s need for a common operating environment. Currently, the Army is trialing the Command Post Computing Environment, a system that will consolidate mission systems and programs into an integrated and interoperable computing infrastructure, which will bring stove-piped legacy systems together to create a “single pane of glass.” In creating this unified environment, multiple domains will be able to access the same cache of relevant information. By improving the time to transmit information and the ability to verify its accuracy, a shared source of data can increase decision-making speed. For Brigadier General Jeth Rey, along with other Army leaders, PC 21 clearly demonstrated that a data fabric is a key to linking existing systems into the seamless database that future Army operations will depend on.
As the first step toward achieving a single pane of glass, a data fabric functions as a layer over existing architecture, tying together disparate sources of data underneath it. The data fabric allows organizations to integrate, manage, and distribute data in real-time to any user, regardless of its location or format. For the Army’s modernization efforts, that means faster, smarter decision-making.
One piece of the data fabric, an AI application called FIRESTORM, is responsible for shortening the sensor-to-shooter timeline, or the time it takes to assess a threat, decide which weapon is most appropriate, and respond to the threat. When done manually, this assessment takes tens of minutes, but FIRESTORM is helping to reduce that to tens of seconds. “There was no way that we could have achieved what we did at PC 21 with sensor to the shooter without having a data fabric,” Brig. Gen. Rey said during a December Technical Exchange Meeting. “That’s why I told the team we have to push to get a data fabric earlier rather than later.”
In parallel to its own approach to data fabric development, which comes from a “distinctly Army” tactical vantage point, the Army is using vendor-designed technologies for complementary prototyping efforts. Enterprise-grade data fabric solutions offer both a starting point for developing more Army-specific products and the deep knowledge gained from serving a range of industries. Collaborating with industry partners has allowed the Army to mature its tactical data fabric and expand its usage.
Army leadership is already preparing for PC 22, which aims to apply knowledge gleaned from the previous years’ experiments to enable information sharing between the U.S. military and international partners. Their development of tactical data fabrics will be critical in achieving this ambitious goal.
To learn more about how data fabrics can streamline data for decision-making, click here.