Pentagon Announces New Digital Modernization Strategy

Pentagon CIO Dana Deasy speaks with journalists during a Jun 25, 2019, Defense Writers Group breakfast in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of GW's Project for Media and National Security.

The Defense Department this week published a multi-pronged digital modernization strategy targeting four areas that can benefit most from a new approach to the digital age: a Pentagon-wide data storage cloud; artificial intelligence; command, control, and communications; and cybersecurity.

Across dozens of objectives, the strategy encompasses current and future efforts like those underway at the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center and in iterative software coding centers to fuel innovative technologies, as well as to make the Pentagon’s information technology enterprise more efficient and capable, boost network security, and cultivate a digital-savvy workforce.

DOD pledges more effective oversight of its nearly $50 billion IT portfolio in a shift that recognizes the importance of data management and secure networks in 21st-century combat. According to a July 15 policy paper, the strategy aims to smooth the department’s move to a globally accessible “cloud” that holds military data, as well as other IT services that DOD would buy as a whole rather than asking each service to opt into them.

“The future DOD digital environment will provide seamless, agile, resilient, transparent and secure infrastructure and services that advance DOD information superiority and simplify information sharing with mission partners,” the strategy said.

In many ways, DOD’s strategy mirrors work ongoing in the Air Force. The blueprint looks to improve how data collected by airborne intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance platforms is shared, drive the Pentagon toward a greater command of electronic warfare, and turn to quick contracting methods to bring new technology on board faster.

Across the department, officials are touting the promise of AI, big data analytics, blockchain, quantum computing, the Internet of things, 5G wireless connectivity, and more. In a July 15 press release, Pentagon Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy reiterated that those technological leaps, still largely in the future, can help DOD make the most of its new IT systems, like the enterprise cloud, and combat assets, like C3 networks.

Pentagon officials are also revamping the process of hiring cyber professionals, “providing hiring managers with greater options for sourcing candidates and the ability to offer more competitive compensation packages” as DOD competes with private industry for workers.