WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army is well on its way to widespread, secure use of cloud computing capabilities following what the service’s new chief information officer characterized as a “really hard sprint.”

The Army considers cloud migration and adoption fundamental to the overhaul of its larger networks and collaborative capabilities. Mastering cloud technology could also help take advantage of artificial intelligence and machine-learning tools as well as provide troops access to data they otherwise wouldn’t be able to get their hands on.

“I believe that right now we are 100% definitely on a good path to start what I call the ‘maturation process’ of how we are employing and deploying cloud capabilities,” CIO Leonel Garciga told C4ISRNET in an interview. “We’re hitting that next step now where we’re validating some of the work that we’ve done. We’re looking, both from an operational and cyber perspective, where we are in the story, and we’re starting to mature the process on how those capabilities get delivered.”

Garciga was named CIO in June after working as the top technology officer for Army intelligence. Prior to taking over the Army’s IT reins, service officials touted a $290 million investment in cloud — an expenditure they said underlines the seriousness of the matter.

“Cloud’s not a new thing, and it more becomes: Where do we have the best opportunity, from a technical perspective, to leverage cloud across the board?” Garciga said. “I think we’re doing a great job there. That’s been a maturing process over the last couple of years that has been interesting to watch, both outside of being in this position and in this position.”

The Army is not alone in embracing the cloud. The Air Force and Navy are tapping the digital ether to ensure information is available when and where it’s most needed.

Underpinning it all is the Defense Department’s Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability, or JWCC. The landmark arrangement with Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Oracle, worth up to $9 billion, is meant to expand the department’s cloud inventory while bridging unclassified, secret and top secret designations.

The contract is considered the follow-up to the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure venture, which was scuttled in 2021 after allegations of political interference.

Garciga said the Army is “all in” regarding JWCC. The service, he added, is working through “the initial stages of getting some task orders right, running through the process.”

More than a dozen orders totaling hundreds of millions of dollars were awarded using JWCC as of August, according to the Defense Information Systems Agency, the Defense Department’s de facto IT authority.

U.S. Army Chief Information Officer Leonel Garciga takes a pause during an Aug. 16, 2023, speech at the AFCEA TechNet Augusta conference in Georgia.

“They’ve been really good partners, understanding where we are in the story,” Garciga said of that agency. “We’ve made a decision to move out on first steps within JWCC, see what that looks like, and keeping some of our legacy stuff on [Cloud Account Management Optimization] until we get the process right, we understand what it looks like, we get some more organic capability to manage the business process of cloud acquisition.”

Pentagon CIO John Sherman has instructed defense agencies, military services and other offices to prioritize JWCC, including when dealing with the nation’s most sensitive data.

He said a number of existing cloud services will transition to JWCC upon expiration.

Garciga said the Army has a calculated plan to transition from where the service is now “because we’ve got some some runway and some space to get there. We’re deliberately looking at onboarding and making sure that we’ve got a good plan to scale at Army size.”

Garciga succeeded Raj Iyer as the Army CIO. He spent years at the Defense Department’s research arm focused on improvised explosive devices. He was also an enlisted Navy submariner and is a graduate of the Navy’s Nuclear Power School.

Colin Demarest is a reporter at C4ISRNET, where he covers military networks, cyber and IT. Colin previously covered the Department of Energy and its National Nuclear Security Administration — namely Cold War cleanup and nuclear weapons development — for a daily newspaper in South Carolina. Colin is also an award-winning photographer.

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