Army seeks partners to develop tactical computing capabilities
February 10, 2014
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - The U.S. Army hosted its third annual Tactical Capabilities Innovation Laboratory Industry Day here Jan. 30 to inform potential partners about technologies being used, developed or sought in support of TCIL and Army-computing development efforts.
More than 330 potential government, industry and academia partners attended the Research, Development and Engineering Command's communications-electronics center or RDECOM CERDEC, TCIL Industry Day.
Formerly known as the Tactical Cloud Integration Laboratory, the TCIL promotes fair and open competition for academia and industry partners regardless of size or government collaboration experience, according to Henry Muller, director of CERDEC's Intelligence and Information Warfare Directorate, or I2WD, which manages TCIL.
"This is really the essence of what we do as an RDEC [Research, Development and Engineering Center] - reach out to industry, understand what it is you are working on, promote innovation and new ideas from industry and tell you where we are going as an Army," said Muller.
Additionally, the Army informed TCIL attendees about future investment plans and technology capability roadmaps.
"We want to share as much as we can of our investment roadmaps, so you can see [our focus], and we can make sure we are making investments in the right places, and not investing where we don't need to because industry is already making those investments," said Muller.
In addition to CERDEC I2WD, representatives from Program Manager Distributed Common Ground Sensor-Army, the Army Training and Doctrine Command, and Army G-2/Intelligence and Security Command presented to attendees and made themselves available for discussion.
Much of TCIL's work feeds directly into DCGS-A, and looking to industry to assist its development process.
"The Distributed Common Ground System - Army is designed and built using commercial off-the-shelf hardware and software. We rely on industry partners - both small and large from across the country - to deliver innovative solutions to support our soldiers. This latest Industry Day was a great success and highlighted the ongoing series of successful partnerships with industry that has made DCGS-A so successful," said Col. Charlie Wells, PM DCGS-A.
The event also gave potential partners the opportunity to learn about the Army's efforts to bridge developers, vendors and solutions with operational users in a government-managed, isolated test environment, said Robert Czajkowski, CERDEC's project lead for the TCIL.
Members of the TCIL Analyst Working Group explained various capabilities sought for inclusion in the TCIL and Army systems and explained the overall TCIL process.
"The Analyst Working Group is one of three sub-teams within the TCIL that is comprised of several military intelligence analysts who have spent a majority of their professional careers in the field. They fully understand what the soldier needs. The group is fully adept with the end users' - soldiers' - use cases, concept of operations, and workflows," said Czajkowski. "Our TCIL AWG works closely with the TCM [TRADOC Capability Manager] to vet new, potential requirements as well as understand existing requirements."
The TCIL Analyst Working Group announced they are seeking a variety of capabilities. These capabilities should address tools to assist with weather effects and assess the impact of weather on terrain, systems, tactics and operations; product creation capabilities that represent the operational picture easily; overlays and data fusion/exploration; gap analysis that provides alerts for missing data; rapid and secure collaboration tools; computer networking operations and cyber security; and running battle-damage estimates.
Potential vendors looking to participate in the TCIL development environment have until March 15 to submit a whitepaper with supporting documentation to CERDEC I2WD for review in order to demonstrate how the proposed capability can fill one or more of the desired capabilities. The TCIL Team will review whitepapers and provide a response to the vendor by May 2 as to future steps for accepted applicants or an explanation for non-accepted applicants.
Applying organizations can vary in size and do not have to have prior experience working with the government. A team of both government employees and TCIL contractors will assess the white papers.
"Government employees make the final decisions about any vendor coming into the TCIL - not the contractors. The contractors help evaluate the paper and provide subject matter expertise, but they are not involved in the final decisions," said Czajkowski.
Accepted organizations can then bring capabilities for development, testing and more to the TCIL, which provides an environment with an open-standard architecture, according to Czajkowski.
The TCIL team emphasized that applying companies do not have to be large, government-contract savvy organizations.
"One of the biggest things we stress for Industry Day is that we promote fair and open competition. We are looking for the capabilities," said Jeremy Crenshaw, TCIL Analysts Working Group member with Data Tactics Corporation.
"We bring people in under a myriad of different contract vessels. It could be through a sub-contractor to the prime contractor, through a BAA [Broad Area Agreement], through a CRADA [Cooperative Research and Development Agreement] - there's a myriad of different ways we get the capabilities in to meet the soldiers' needs," said Crenshaw.
TCIL has evaluated more than 75 technologies in the last three years and more than 200 organization representatives attended previous TCIL Industry Days, said Czajkowski.
From those 200 organizations, the TCIL working group met with 18 companies for a couple hours each before selecting four new companies to participate with the lab and developed one Cooperative Research and Development Agreements, or CRADA, as a result from the 2012 Industry Day, according to Czajkowski.
The TCIL process for expediting capabilities to the soldier continues to receive adjustments from the TCIL working group.
During the past year, the TCIL expanded its needs from strictly seeking cloud-capabilities to seeking a wider range of computing capabilities. Since part of TCIL's mission is to support the DCGS-A, which is why there was a change to focus on all computing capabilities rather than just cloud computing as cloud computing makes up on only a small portion of DCGS-A , said Michael Hinman, Booz-Allen-Hamilton technical lead.
This process streamlines earlier efforts to integrate capabilities through TCIL. "We have our industry process, we have a work flow on how we do Industry Day to promote fair and open competition. That process, because of CERDEC I2WD and the PM DCGS-A, has shown how we can level the playing field and bring in capabilities quickly and easily while still staying within the requirements for contracts," said Hinman.