Working toward a more mobile military

The services are looking to bring logistics tracking and wireless learning capabilities to mobile devices for troops.

While their budgets hang in limbo, the military services are moving full-speed ahead with mobile projects, ranging from continuing education to logistics aimed at enhancing readiness.

For the Army, Mobile Program Director Rick Walsh said the Training and Doctrine Command is looking at establishing wireless capabilities in the classroom to expand and encourage web-based training and lifetime learning into the field.

"I have 1,500 pieces of courseware written up to 20 years ago. We still use it and its still good courseware, but I've classified it in such a way that I can't use it in the mobile workspace," Walsh said at the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association's Mobile Tech Summit on Nov. 29 during a panel on broadband mobility. "It has to be controlled, so you can only build it in the classroom, only on a [government furnished equipment] device, only if you're [common access card] enabled. That's not good."

Walsh said the focus for 2018 and beyond will be to increase student population up to 10 times over by moving information stuck in that controlled environment to one that is more open and accessible.

The Marine Corps wants to make logistics more mobile-friendly.

Chris Woehler, Marine Corps Installations Command deputy assistant chief of staff, said on the broadband mobility panel that a main goal is to keep people from having to log onto a desktop computer and have them use wireless mobile devices to update supply transactions.

Woehler said most of the maintenance and supply buildings are being modified to add mobile infrastructure capacity.

"We're putting in more Wi-Fi backbone in each of those facilities," he said, so that maintainers and supply workers can keep working in the hangars and use portable maintenance devices to plug in to the different logistics capabilities and order parts.

The Air Force detailed grander plans that targeted logistics and research and development investment.

Maj. Gen. Cedric George, the Air Force's logistics CIO and deputy director for resource integration, said the force's logistics mobile strategy isn't going fast enough, and current architecture -- 359 disparate logistics IT systems that average 18 years old -- must be refitted for mobile use.

"It's not sufficient, it's not effective, it is not sustainable. And while we have a smorgasbord of applications for mobile, it's not driving the log effects I need," George said at the AFCEA event.

George also wants to move applications "strongly and comfortably in a commercial cloud environment," fully utilize tablets in the field and launch a series of pilot programs and micro-funding to get around the clunky acquisitions process.

He highlighted a collaboration with six Air Force groups, the mobile solutions company Monkton and Apple to build a National Information Assurance Partnership-certified mobile app that allows service members to connect with the integrated maintenance data system and track ongoing work instead of inputting data at the end of the workday.

George also mentioned updating platforms and architecture originally designed for desktops to work for mobile devices as a priority. A recent experiment with the 459th maintenance group at Andrews Air Force Base demonstrated that service members wanted the ability to connect with the desktop-based G081 mobility aircraft data system platform to track maintenance that they were doing on a Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker that suffered a hard landing -- as well as use video call and instant messaging services from the same tablet device, he said.

Looking forward, George said he hopes to empower commanders to make research investments by turning them into venture capitalists that dictate how to invest allotted assets.

"You're a venture capitalist, open up your shark tank and bring in people to tell you what you need to invest in to confront your pain points, and then you invest in what you need," he said, adding that there would be parameters for the investments. "I want that money in the hands of commanders" because they can identify pain points and are "smart enough to tell you what to invest in."

This article was first posted to FCW, a sibling site to Defense Systems.

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