WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army’s multidomain task forces will serve as primary test beds for the service’s emerging data and cloud initiatives, top service officials told reporters.

The Army is in the throes of modernizing its cloud infrastructure and data flow to units across its enterprise and tactical networks around the globe, to units from the corps level and below, as underpinned by the recently signed digital transformation strategy.

MDTFs will serve as initial experimentation units to test some concepts that will then be scaled to corps and division levels.

“Army senior leaders made a decision about two months ago to anchor our mission data and cloud efforts to the multidomain task force,” Lt. Gen. John Morrison, deputy chief of staff for G-6, said in a Dec. 14 call with reporters. “We have recently published an execution order that aligns our resources and our energies to establishing that.

“It will be anchored to the multidomain task forces so we can increase the numbers of reps and sets and, quite frankly, increase our learning opportunities as we really work through how do we enable data at the edge so that we can significantly increase our ability to see, sense, understand, decide and act, and achieve decision dominance that we’re going to need to for a multidomain-capable force.”

MDTFs are to be in constant contact with adversaries during the so-called competition phase of conflict. The first Multi-Domain Task Force was created in 2017 and is based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. It focuses on the Indo-Pacific region, namely China, meaning its constant presence in competition should lend fruitful feedback for how to continually develop and progress concepts.

Officials previously announced this effort, but Morrison on Tuesday provided greater fidelity on what the MDTFs will provide the Army in the way of experimentation for future concepts.

The Army also recently signed its unified network plan, which is meant to set the foundation for how the service will link its enterprise and tactical network. The work involving MDTF personnel will be the first tactical attempt at working to pass information across that enterprise to tactical architecture, Morrison said.

“As we put out our initial cloud and hybrid cloud and data capabilities to support the Multi-Domain Task Force, that’s going to put pressure on what we need to do from a unified network perspective so we can provide that secure highway with the right guardrails. That synchronization is going to be absolutely critical,” he said.

Following this experimentation, Morrison added, efforts will move to corps and then division (the Army didn’t want to add complexity at the brigade level by trying to link information back to the enterprise level just yet).

Morrison said the Army believes this is a more pragmatic approach to learn through exercises throughout the rest of fiscal 2022 and into fiscal 2023.

Morrison and Raj Iyer, the Army’s chief information officer, noted that as a part of these ongoing efforts — and in line with the new digital transformation strategy — the Army is looking to rework its data and cloud strategies.

“The Army data plan … is getting rewritten now and refreshed through an executive order to an implementation order to make sure we reflect the priorities of the Army modernization efforts, primarily around how we operationalize the multidomain task force and the integration with the corps,” Iyer said. “The Army has had a cloud plan now for also well over a year. That also is being updated now to reflect the priorities that we just talked about in terms of establishing the tactical edge cloud capabilities as well as all [U.S.] capabilities for cloud in Europe and [U.S. Indo-Pacific Command]. Those are being worked in parallel under the overarching guidance of the [digital transformation strategy], but we expect all of them to be approved and start to implement early in FY22.”

The data plan, which was only about 4 months old, was rewritten and signed Dec. 10, Morrison said.

He added that the Army wants to experiment with tactical cloud capabilities, which he referred to as an eventual hybrid cloud environment. Adversaries will seek to degrade communications and data flows, so forces must be able to plan for this congested battlespace, the argument goes.

“It really comes down to where do you have to have the data, where do you need to have compute and storage so that when you are operating in that degraded environment, you’re able to still conduct operations,” he said. “If we just do everything in the cloud, if a unit was to get cut off and not have conductivity back to the cloud, wherever it is, then obviously they become mission ineffective. We’ve got to find that right balance that allows us to really take the power of the cloud and the capabilities that will be resident there and apply them at the point of need.”

Mark Pomerleau is a reporter for C4ISRNET, covering information warfare and cyberspace.

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