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CHIPS Articles: DoD releases Cloud Strategy with emphasis on warfighters at the tactical edge

DoD releases Cloud Strategy with emphasis on warfighters at the tactical edge
By CHIPS Magazine - January-March 2019
The Department of Defense announced that U.S military forces are in the modern age of warfighting where the battlefield exists as much in the digital world as it does in the physical with the release of its new Cloud Strategy Feb. 4.

The new strategy emphasizes the significance and easy accessibility of data for warfighting efficacy. “Data and our ability to process data at the ready are differentiators to ensure mission success. Cloud is a fundamental component of the global infrastructure that will empower the warfighter with data and is critical to maintaining our military's technological advantage,” wrote Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan in the document foreword.

The strategy, which was developed with the Cyber Strategy in mind, drives implementation toward an enterprise cloud environment that will enable the integration of technological advances such as artificial intelligence and machine learning. It focuses implementation activities on two fundamental types of work: first is the stand up of cloud platforms ready to receive data and applications, and second is the ongoing work to migrate existing applications and to develop new applications in the cloud.

The strategy aims to unify the disparate cloud efforts and disjointed implementation of clouds throughout the DoD with a coherent plan and, at the same time, create a more secure and efficient IT environment.

Particular emphasis is placed on the needs of warfighters at the tactical edge and DoD’s ability to process and disseminate information for military operations, intelligence collection, and related activities. To ensure this, the Department plans to address the unique mission requirements through a multi-cloud, multi-vendor strategy that incorporates a General Purpose cloud and Fit For Purpose clouds (reference Appendix A, Figure A). The strategy will design objectives around solving these strategic challenges:

  • Enable Exponential Growth
  • Scale for the Episodic Nature of the DoD Mission
  • Proactively Address Cyber Challenges
  • Enable AI and Data Transparency
  • Extend Tactical Support for the Warfighter at the Edge
  • Take Advantage of Resiliency in the Cloud
  • Drive IT Reform at DoD

The cloud will allow DoD to further consolidate its sprawling data center assets, according to the strategy, and to further rationalize applications and reduce data centers. The cloud will provide an opportunity to accelerate and extend those consolidation opportunities, as well as the opportunity to deliver integrated Defensive Cyber Operations and achieve efficiencies through rapid deployment of common services.

The strategy will employ industry best practices in its cloud implementation and seeks to create a culture better suited for modern technology adaptability.

Of importance is the DoD’s need to develop a cadre of technical professionals, as well as encouraging technical proficiency throughout the entire Department. The DoD recognizes that it must have a technically proficient workforce committed to enterprise learning, not only for understanding the implementation and sustainment of a multi-cloud environment, but to also continue to modernize the Department’s IT infrastructure and cybersecurity.

DoD's workforce must obtain a basic level of cloud proficiency to most effectively exploit the benefits of cloud, the strategy stated. “Just as every Marine is a rifleman, every DoD employee must have basic cloud awareness to effectively operate on the 21st century battlefield.”

Objectives include:

  • Creating an environment where people can innovate iteratively;
  • Embracing enterprise solutions and navigating away from custom federated approaches;
  • Creating a sustainable culture and workforce that can effectively use what cloud provides; and
  • Creating a culture that enables continuous learning from our cloud partners.

DoD said there is no time to lose in adopting its technological and cultural shift to truly modern technologies.

“Rapidly providing DoD access to underlying foundational technologies, like cloud computing and data storage, on a global scale is critical to national defense and in preparing DoD to fight and win wars. If the Department wants to maintain its overmatch, it will need to leverage technologies such as AI and therefore, it must urgently create an enterprise cloud environment.”

Figure A: DoD Pathfinder to Hybrid Cloud Environments and Multiple Vendors – from the DoD Cloud Strategy
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