Army explores new digital engineering tools as part of holistic modernization aim

By Maureena Thompson, Army Futures CommandSeptember 7, 2022

Brig. Gen. Michelle Letcher, AFC Chief of Staff, discusses the importance of digital engineering.
Brig. Gen. Michelle M. T. Letcher, Army Futures Command Chief of Staff, discusses the importance of advancing digital engineering efforts during the command’s Digital Engineering One-On-One Engagements event, which took place in Austin, Texas, from Aug. 31 to Sept. 1, 2022. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Patrick Hunter, Army Futures Command) VIEW ORIGINAL

AUSTIN, Texas — Army scientists and concept designers anticipate that in the data-centric Army of the future, data will be essential as well as abundant. Understanding how to corral disparate technological systems and data sources into a cohesive suite of digital tools and analytic platforms is therefore imperative to future operational success.

“We’re trying to make sure that necessary information is accessible to everyone,” said Dr. Katrina Mansfield, systems engineering branch chief at Army Futures Command, of the diverse and robust data that will be informing critical decision making. She added that when it comes to facilitating thriving digital ecosystems, “It’s all about data integrity.”

Mansfield joined government colleagues and industry changemakers last week to explore new digital engineering tools and solutions as part of Army Futures Command’s Digital Engineering One-On-One Engagements, hosted in Austin.

The learning and networking event, which took place from Aug. 31 to Sept. 1, served as an opportunity for innovation-minded businesses to brief Army officials on their proprietary products and services, increasing the Army’s awareness of existing options for furthering digital transformation and enhancing industry familiarity with the Army’s technology development goals.

“We ask you to come here and disrupt the way we do business,” said Brig. Gen. Michelle M. T. Letcher, Army Futures Command chief of staff, who provided opening remarks at the forum.

Letcher encouraged participants, who were selected to attend the event after responding to an Army-issued request for information, to contemplate different ways of approaching data management and the Army’s desired end state for such activities.

“It’s fast, it’s collaborative, it’s going to change the way we do business,” Letcher said of the Army digital engineering effort, which will ultimately “deliver something to the warfighter that’s going to allow us to win, whoever the adversary may be.”

“How can you help us achieve it?” she inquired. “How can we make things better?”

More than 20 companies, roughly half of them small businesses, participated in the event. The Army provided each company 25 minutes to present to government representatives and field any questions as part of a series of one-on-one discussions.

The engagement also included group presentations by Army modernization, acquisition and data analysis leaders and subject matter experts, who highlighted the Army’s focus on using unique, adaptable and effective methods to advance digital engineering while reducing costs, increasing interoperability and standardizing systems and priorities.

Michael Gully, ASA(ALT) Lead Digital Systems Engineer, explains how the Army incorporates new tech.
Michael Gully, Lead Digital Systems Engineer at the Office of the United States Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, explains the Army’s process for incorporating new digital technologies, which involves near-term, mid-term and long-term acquisition activities. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Patrick Hunter, Army Futures Command) VIEW ORIGINAL

The Army’s exploration of digital engineering — which Defense Acquisition University defines as “an integrated digital approach that uses authoritative sources of systems' data and models as a continuum across disciplines to support lifecycle activities from concept through disposal” — is timely because “there’s a lot of growth that we really need to build up our skill set,” said Michael Gully, lead digital systems engineer at the Office of the United States Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology.

Gully explained that the Army is harnessing digital engineering to achieve rapid and holistic tech evolution; continuous workforce and process improvement; accelerated capability revisions and upgrades; interoperable and data-centric material solutions; and authoritative and reusable data.

He emphasized that the process is an inherently incremental one, and that a diversity of near-term, mid-term and long-term acquisition projects will ensure continuity of operations and the skillful incorporation of solid, sustainable solutions aligned with joint all-domain command and control objectives.

“It’s about improving defense,” Gully said. “Everything that we build needs to be part of that integrated force.”