The New Army Installations Strategy: Implications for Industry
Published: February 03, 2021
Army commits to the Internet of Things.
- Army published its first installations strategy in December 2020.
- The Army’s new strategy outlines a common approach to modernizing facilities using Internet of Things, 5G, advanced analytics, and artificial intelligence/machine learning technologies.
- Given the newness of the Army’s approach it is likely to use Other Transaction Authority to award prototyping contracts for individual facilities before expanding its efforts into a large follow-on production contract.
About two months ago, the Army released a new installations strategy dedicated to modernizing its camps, posts, and stations. Forces driving this initiative include a desire to achieve facility resilience against destructive environmental events such as hurricanes and hardening Army installations against cyber and other types of attacks. The new strategy outlines four “Lines of Effort” that the Army will pursue in order to achieve its objectives. These include taking care of people, strengthening readiness and resilience, modernizing and innovating, and promoting stewardship. Caring for people and promoting stewardship deal with personnel, housing, and environmental remediation so for our purposes here I’ll zero in on the LOEs strengthening readiness, modernizing, and innovating.
Strengthening Readiness and Resilience
Facing efforts by adversaries “to undermine operations and our ability to mobilize and deploy” even in the Continental U.S. (CONUS), the Army intends to “operationalize installations” by applying “traditional battlefield formations and capabilities development analysis to installations.” In essence, the Army Corps of Engineers will be carrying out assessments intended to enhance the ability to “move and sustain” troops prior to deployments by protecting critical facilities from cyber attack and adopting an appropriate level of automated industrial control systems for water, electrical, and communications systems to sustain readiness.
Whereas the Army previously expressed an interest in leveraging Internet of Things (IoT) solutions on the battlefield, it is now moving to use that technology in the CONUS. There are three parts to this strategy of immediate interest to industry: facilities assessment and strategy development, developing a Common Operating Picture (COP) for facilities managers, and deploying the industrial control systems needed for base operations. Army engineers will require the assistance of contractors to support facility assessments and develop strategies for implementing IoT solutions. Contractors providing IoT solutions that want to work with the Army should explore opportunities with particularly the Army Corps of Engineers’ Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC), as it is the organization which will lead this effort. Analytics providers should also sound out their contacts at the ERDC in order to get a jump on what the Corps envisions new facility COPs might look like. Just keep in mind that the Army still has not settled on a data standard for its planned facilities IoT ecosystems. The possibility that Army uses other transaction authority to award prototyping contracts is very real.
Modernizing and Innovating
This portion of the strategy focus on modernizing and securing the information backbone at Army facilities and transforming information operations. Nearly ten years after the Army’s “installation as a docking station” effort, the Service is still seeking ways to make that vision a reality. Modernizing the information backbone will entail installing new 5G technology at Army facilities, along with IoT technology and the cyber, advanced analytics, and artificial intelligence capabilities needed to secure installation infrastructures.
Much like the readiness objective outlined above, the Army Corps of Engineers will need to invest in sensors, software, and 5G networking hardware. In addition, however, it is likely that the Service will also leverage cloud computing in order to provide a platform for COPs and computing power for the AI and machine learning capabilities it wants to use. Industry partners offering expertise in the design and implementation of systems from the IoT edge to the COP center should find a growing number of opportunities doing work related to the new installation strategy. The Army clearly wants to develop a single approach to modernization that it reproduces at facilities across the country. Given this approach, the Army is likely to start with pilot projects (think OTA awards) that it then expands into larger production efforts.