DoD Rolls Into the Combat Cloud

Published: February 22, 2017

Federal Market AnalysisAIR FORCE RESEARCH LABORATORY (AIR FORCE)Big DataCloud ComputingInformation TechnologyInformation TechnologyISRNAVAL RESEARCH LABORATORY (NAVY)OSDResearch and DevelopmentUnmanned Systems

Navy and Air Force are working the Tactical Cloud Reference Implementation

Around 2014 or so, word in industry circles began circulating about something called the Department of Defense “Combat Cloud.” Few details about the work entailed in this effort have been available until recently, including the actual name of the program – the Tactical Cloud Reference Implementation (TCRI). The name is a mouthful. You can see why people prefer to call it the Combat Cloud.

The TCRI, according to the Air Force, is “a software platform, which will provide a common framework to manage operational data while also performing analysis on this data through the use of automated, mathematical algorithms and analytics. Essentially, the concept is similar to how people utilize clouds to sync different data on their numerous smart devices such as tablets and smartphones. The difference is TCRI will largely function automatically, with little user input, and will only provide information that the user designates as relevant.”

Work on the TCRI is underway at the Army, the Air Force, the Navy, and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. It is the Navy, however, that took the lead in developing the TCRI architecture. They are now handing off the task to the Air Force. Once it is completed, the TCRI will interface with a large number of defense intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) sensor systems to deliver a unified operational intel picture that enables data-based decision making in both connected and disconnected environments.

The TCRI effort is reminiscent of an engineering program related to the Distributed Common Ground System-Army which sought to create a “cloud brain” for synthesizing data inflows into a common intelligence picture. Booz Allen Hamilton has been heavily involved in that effort since the beginning, as it details in this summary, but other industry partners are involved as well. In fact, it was only after the TCRI acronym became more widely known that I realized Deltek had contract data related to the development effort. Here it is below, including total contract award values for work related to the DCGS-A cloud effort as well.

The high award totals in FY 2012 and 2013 are related entirely to DCGS-A cloud development, while the contract award totals from 2014 on are related exclusively to TCRI development at Navy and the Air Force.

Who is doing the work is provided in the table below.

Currently, work on the TCRI is taking place primarily at the Office of Naval Research’s Naval Research Laboratory and in the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Information Directorate.

Determining a budget for the TCRI effort is tough. In its FY 2017 budget request, the Navy asked for $42.5M related to its FORCEnet Future Naval Capabilities Pillar of which the Naval Tactical Cloud Reference Implementation is part. No separate breakdown for TCRI was provided. Also, no mention of the TCRI could be found in Air Force’s request for FY 2017. Presumably, it will appear in the FY 2018 request, unless the work is deemed classified, in which case the numbers will never see the light of day.

Stay tuned.