WASHINGTON -- The Army is overhauling how it does business behind the scenes in order to operate at the speed of conflict during the information age, said the top Army finance official, who outlined plans for a new business system slated to impact modernization efforts by 2027.
The Enterprise Business System Multi-Functional Capabilities Team, or EBS-MFCT, is a three-tiered business rollout currently six months into its initial phase, said Jonathan D. Moak, the senior official performing the duties of the assistant secretary of the Army for financial management and comptroller.
By the time it is fully functional, it will completely revamp how all business is done and reported in a rapidly modernizing Army, Moak said.
The new system goes far beyond the pen and ledger of yesterday’s money handling, and taps into tomorrow’s advanced technology such as artificial intelligence, robotic process automation, and algorithms that are constantly learning, he said.
It will gradually replace the clunky 30-year-old business model currently being used, and will shift toward a holistically functioning modern plan, similar to what works in private industries.
“This system will positively impact the buying power of the entire United States Army,” Moak said. “And, if we commit ourselves to a streamlined system that’s more reliable with respect to information accuracy, it will improve our lethality across the Army.”
How the Army’s enterprise business operates is the lifeblood for movement and support of funds, people, and materiel throughout the force. So as the Army modernizes its force and equipment, it’s also improving its business process execution, data-analytics value, and cloud computing advances, he said, all while reducing cost and freeing up manpower.
What to expect
Soldiers and civilians working in the financial, logistics, acquisition, and human resources career fields will be directly affected by the new system, Moak said. “It will impact their day-to-day operations, so it’s critical to get their feedback and buy-in during this Herculean effort, because we’re going to lead our way through this.”
Everyone else, depending on various degrees of improvements, will be impacted by things like improved system latency and more accurate accountability when they need it most.
Today, some Soldiers have to memorize the meanings of countless codes, all needed to categorize different financial activities. One big change Moak hopes to offer is predictive outcomes, similar to Google searches, which will allow troops to quickly search for things in inventories.
“If we’re able to bring in advanced machine-learning algorithms and artificial intelligence, we know that will reduce errors, increase productivity and user satisfaction,” he said.
With robotics process automation, the Army can also take repetitive processes and apply machine learning to them, he added. These changes may open the door to more manual processes being predicted and free up time for analysts to focus on higher-priority targets and value projects.
“We are committed [to] providing a better, timelier user experiences across the range of battlefield functions down to the tactical edge for Soldiers,” said Robin P. Swan, Office of Business Transformation director. “From supply, maintenance activity to personnel activity, we’re providing data to analyze at the point of need, and execute those tasks better.”
The Army’s business base extends all the way from the strategic support area to the tactical point of the spear, he said. The new systems will provide a “converged enterprise business system approach” to enable uninterrupted operations, he said.
The need for change
The Army’s current business system was simply “unsustainable,” Swan said. It branched off into multiple functionally-focused areas that are expensive to manage, and that lack both the agility and ability to share information cleanly between systems and commands.
“A business transformation is necessary to support the needs of the warfighter because we have to ensure proper stewardship of all of the Army’s assets,” Moak said. “We have to bring that oversight into the information age, and we’re driving change that’s going to impact the Army for a long time.
“The genesis of reviewing all of the business operations happening in the Army today is to be prepared for the Army of 2028,” he added. “Improving communication between systems and end-users will provide actionable insights to leaders, and allow for accurate, timely, and secure data for decision making.”
For example, identifying the cash on hand at a particular command today requires sorting through multiple system reports, phone calls, and spreadsheets.
Likewise, “Commanders need to be able to trust the numbers they see in their supply systems, as that will reduce their overall risk and improve the Army’s buying power,” he said. “Laborious and time-intensive methods tie up decision-making space and hinder timely reallocation of resources in areas that enable warfighters.”
On top of that, the critical business system support capabilities that are in place -- especially in logistics -- are either aging or long gone, he said. A change was not just in order, but was critical, he added.
To take on this critical need, the Army established the EBS-MFCT, Moak said, and called on the leadership of John Bergin, who serves as deputy assistant secretary of the Army for financial information management, to take the helm.
“The EBS-MFCT will deliver a multi-phase approach to Army Business Operations Modernization that shall include at a minimum the consolidation of the major Army [enterprise resource planning] onto a single platform,” Bergin said. “This effort will deliver better visibility to Army commanders in the field and in garrison, enable Army auditability, improve Army operational resilience, and directly contribute to improved readiness."
The EBS-MFCT will leverage distributed team members from across every functional domain in the entire Army, with major centers of gravity in the National Capital Region; Redstone Arsenal, Alabama; Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland; and Fort Lee, Virginia, Moak said.
“Right now, we’re still in the very beginning stages,” Moak said. “The Army has been working on this for about a year, but as a functional team for the last several months.”
Today, a team of financial experts are knee-deep in the first of three phases for the transformation, Moak said. Phase 1 lays the groundwork for the EBS-MFCT organization and puts the wheels in motion for Phases 2 and 3.
“Success [during Phase 1] is realizing and fully optimizing affordable systems that support the entirety of our business activities, and end-to-end business processes that enable each of the functional domain areas to improve accurate and timely decision-making,” Moak said.
So for now, Army leaders are setting conditions and enabling capabilities needed for the restructuring. To do this, they are combing through current business processes and taking a hard look at the force’s current legacy financial and logistics capabilities, while also considering how they will be modified over the phased timeline.
“What we're embarked on right now is significant business process reengineering,” for process efficiency and better alignment of supporting information technology,” Swan said.
In roughly 18 months, as the foundation stage is set, it will be time for Phase 2 -- or the incremental fielding phase, Moak said.
“[Phase 2] begins with the delivery of an [initial operating capability] of certain requirements, and ends when conditions are set for [full-operational capability] of the modernized EBS landscape,” he said.
Ideally, the second phase will be an about-face in the right direction for the new plan, he said. It will bridge together the critical core and legacy systems, identified during Phase 1, with new emerging requirements and technologies planned for in the last step, he explained.
This sets the stage for Phase 3, or “the end game” as Moak dubbed it. The final chapter of the financial overhaul will bring full operational capabilities and sustainment of the new enterprise resource planning system for the rest of its service life, he said.
Although the 2027 end date is set, checkpoints from one phase to the next are to be seen as flexible, especially during such an early stage of development, Moak said, but as time goes by, the checkpoints will become clearer.
Until then, Moak and his team are focused on the road map needed in the first stage, and that comes with asking questions like, “How are people currently conducting their business? What steps do they take to do their jobs each day? What changes are needed?”
To answer those questions, “tiger teams” will eventually be deployed to each of the affected organizations, he said, to help individuals at the local level through new processes and to learn how to use the new system.
The work being done by financial and logistics experts will eventually give commanders in the field a modern process to provide them with accurate, timely information to help increase their readiness objectives.
“We’re helping to improve combat power all the way to the tactical edge wherever Soldiers operate,” Moak said. For the service members this effort is about “having the right equipment, at the right time, and at the right place as that increases the trust between our systems and our unit commanders.”