Chasing Army Advanced Computing Investments

Published: October 23, 2013

ARMYBig DataDEFENSEForecasts and Spending

Sequestration cuts are hitting the Army hard. Even its information technology portfolio is experiencing deep cuts and every program is under scrutiny. One area where Army officials have said that the Service intends to continue investing is in Advanced Computing, which is part of its Science and Technology (S&T) portfolio. The Army's FY 2014 funding request for S&T is $2.2 billion. Planned advanced computing investments within that portfolio amount to just over $16 million. It isn't a lot of money but in this climate every penny counts.

Since the end of the government shutdown last week Army officials have been out and about sounding their frustration about the impact that sequestration is having on Army programs and troop readiness.  Full public venting of their concerns came out at the 2013 Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting and Exposition.  Army Secretary McHugh and Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno stated that many of the Army’s modernization programs are in serious danger from budget cuts.  Army acquisition chief, Heidi Shyu stated, however, that some investment will continue in the Army’s Science and Technology (S&T) portfolio.  Rickey Smith, Director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center—Forward, provided further details, noting that the Army’s S&T investment strategy focuses on human performance, advanced computing, and material sciences.  It is the advanced computing piece of this equation that I’ll dig into in today’s post.

Advanced computing investments fall under the Army’s Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E) budget request.  For Fiscal 2014 these investments include one project called simply “Advanced Computing,” and two other projects that include advanced computing elements.  These other projects are “Power Electronics, Hybrid Electric, and On-Board Vehicle Power (OBVP) Components” and “Command and Control (C2) On-The-Move (OTM) Enabling Technologies.”

Looking over the “Advanced Computing (AC)” project description it seems clear that this is a big data applied research project with the goal of investigating “computing and networking architectures, algorithms, [and] visualization for advanced C4I battle command applications.”  AC has been underway for a couple of years and in FY 2014 the planned investment is $3.75 million.  Planned activity centers on “exploring uncertainty quantification based mathematical approaches to assist the verification and validation methodologies.”  The program will require the vendor to work closely with the Army’s Communications-Electronics Research, Development, and Engineering Center (CERDEC) and Army Test and Evaluation Command (ATEC) to develop “scalable programming models and software developed for [the] tactical computing concept.”

As for the planned OBVP investment, this project focuses on developing next generation portable power sources for vehicle platforms to enable the use of on-board advanced computing and other power-hungry technologies.  The work required entails laboratory testing of proposed solutions to investigate the viability of “high temperature power electronics compared to traditional power electronics for power generation.”  Requested funding for this project in FY 2014 amounts to $2.41 million.

Lastly, the C2 OTM investment “investigates, designs, and codes software to improve the Warfighter's ability to access, use, present, and understand relevant mission command information.”  The effort focuses on developing “software and algorithms to increase unmanned platform autonomy and improve multi-platform autonomous collision avoidance” to improve mission command capabilities.  The planned investment for this project in FY 2014 is $9.95 million.  Presumably the industry partner would be required to work with PEO Command, Control, and Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T) on this effort.

I realize that none of these investment amounts are staggeringly large, but in today’s fiscal environment every cent counts.  If the Army says these are areas where spending will continue, then vendors are well advised to follow the breadcrumb trail.  Further research did not turn up any contract opportunities specifically related to these investments so there is hope that competitions for contracts are still pending.  Those interested should be aware that at least some of this work could be related to contract #W15P7T13D0054 awarded to DRS Technologies in June 2013 for Production of the Mounted Family of Computer Systems (M-FOCS) Hardware.  There is a software component to the DRS contract, but for the most part it appears to be a hardware-focused effort.