Defense Department leaders and managers confront extraordinarily complex and difficult challenges today. Global threats are quickly evolving and advancing, enabled by increasingly powerful and easily accessible commercial technologies that are fast eroding our own military’s technological leads. Traditional Defense Department business practices and approaches were not designed to quickly field emerging technologies—such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality, cloud computing, advanced data analytics, and others—that are already transforming the world around us. Moreover, legacy mindsets, widening skills gaps, and a process-driven culture risk undermining DoD’s agility and battlefield edge.
To borrow a phrase from Gen. John Murray, commanding general of the new Army Futures Command (AFC), the military is “engaged in a protracted struggle to out-innovate our future competitors, and right now, we are not postured for success.”
As a former CIO of the U.S. Army, I have seen many of these challenges close up and I realize how difficult it can be to find effective solutions that can transcend the many barriers in the way of our shared goal of continuing our military overmatch well into the future.
So what will it take—as Gen. Murray put it—to “out-innovate” our future competitors? I explore this question in a series of articles being published throughout this year in AFCEA International’s SIGNAL Magazine. In short, the answer is that it will take fresh thinking across the military community and a recognition that the future belongs to those best able to adapt, manage change, exploit data, and anticipate what is ahead.
For military leaders, that means re-imagining many of the things that the Defense Department has traditionally relied upon. In my columns, I explore some of those key themes that DoD leaders will need to re-examine as they re-posture themselves and their organizations for the future. These include modernization, culture, workforce, design, cloud, AI, extended reality and more:
- Preparing the Defense Department for the Future, One Idea at a Time (published Jan. 1, 2019)
- Defense Department Talent Challenges Demand New Approaches (published Feb. 1, 2019)
- The Defense Department Must Step Boldly Toward Information Technology Modernization (published March 1, 2019)
- To Maintain Our Leading Military Edge, We Must Think Differently About Risk (published April 1, 2019)
- Once Struggling for Defense Department Acceptance, Cloud Is Now Inevitable (published May 1, 2019)
- AI Is Ready Now, and the Defense Department Must Get Ready as Well (published June 1, 2019)
- Having Great Technology Isn’t Enough; Operators Must Use It (published July 1, 2019)
- Cyber Threats Need Less Hand to Hand Combat, More Collective Defense (published August 1, 2019)
- The Benefits of Collective Cybersecurity are Too Compelling to Ignore (published September 1, 2019)
- Extended Reality Offers the Military Boundless Opportunity, as Well as Risk (published October 1, 2019)
- Multidomain Operations and What Innovation Means for the Future of Warfare (published November 1, 2019)
- As We Pivot Into the Future (published December 1, 2019)
Our future success in this endeavor—to pivot faster into the digital future—is critical. The way forward will certainly rely on strong leadership and guidance across the Defense Department, but it will also require that thousands of individual decision-makers across the military enterprise become proactive agents of change within their own organizations. I hope these columns provide those decision-makers some useful guideposts to consider as they navigate these extraordinary times today and beyond!
LTG(R) Susan Lawrence, Managing Director, Armed Services Portfolio Lead, Accenture Federal Services
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