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Innovating for Competitive Advantage through Digital Transformation

September 28, 2020

During the recent 2020 Defense Services Conference, Department of Defense (DoD) leaders emphasized the importance of policy changes that depart from the Department’s standard way of doing business. As adversaries’ technologies evolve, the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Honorable Ellen Lord stressed the importance of digital transformation in augmenting warfighter support and speeding up decision-making.

One area targeted by the DoD for improvement and policy changes is the rapid shift from manual and non-digital processes to digital processes. The rapid transformation to a remote working environment and capability necessitates the acceptance of Digital Transformation, but what is it exactly?

Digital Transformation at its heart is the use of digital technology to address and resolve organizational problems. An important distinction to note, however, is that Digital Transformation is not simply a translation of non-digital to digital. Rather, Digital Transformation employs digital solutions to significantly improve existing processes.

This recent push for digital processes is hastened by the massive and global transition to a remote workforce in 2020 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. This Digital Transformation shift is seen as a necessity for the DoD to prioritize innovation to preserve its competitive advantage over adversaries around the globe, who creatively and rapidly employ digital technologies to increase their sphere of influence without encountering the scrutiny of legislation, regulation, and constituencies. Even with its potential benefits, a rapidly evolving technological environment presents complex security threats and opens up new arenas in which the DoD will be forced to compete; however, strategically transforming DoD capacities in digital environments can directly address the Department’s most pressing challenges from global competitors and enhance operational capabilities in high impact areas.

Understanding and Embracing Digital Transformation

The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that telework in general has been on the rise; however, the coronavirus pandemic substantially and rapidly increased the need for telework capabilities and Digital Transformation. In fact, 31 percent of workers employed in early March switched to telework by the first week of April, and it is anticipated that workers will continue to work remotely after social distancing measures are lifted.

The DoD has strongly emphasized digital transformation in recent years. Within its Digital Modernization Strategy, the DoD stresses the importance of “expand[ing] [its] military advantage in this new digital operating environment” that is “a­gile, resilient, transparent, seamless and secure[s] IT infrastructure and services that transform data into actionable information and ensure dependable mission execution  in spite of the persistent cybersecurity threat.” So what are some ways the DoD seeks to embrace Digital Transformation to improve its capability and military advantage?

Artificial Intelligence

An expansionary initiative that will sustain the DoD’s technological innovation is the development of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC). This institution was established to accelerate the Department’s adoption and integration of artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities in key missions come. When asked by Congress about his priorities for modernization, Secretary of  Defense Mark Esper mentioned, “I think artificial intelligence will likely change the character of warfare, and I believe whoever masters it first will dominate on the battlefield for many, many, many years. It is a fundamental game changer. We have to get there first.” On September 9th and 10th, JAIC will host the first ever 2020 DoD Artificial Intelligence Symposium and Exposition which will allow attendees to participate in sessions led by thought leaders and organizations that are driving the proliferation of AI technology. AI has virtually limitless potential to transform the DoD and its operations and recent applications of this fascinating technology will be on display.

Increase Cloud Capabilities

Expanding cloud capabilities to increase data accessibility and speed up decision-making is another notable innovation that sets out to address many of the DoD’s current challenges. At the Defense Services Conference, Deputy Secretary of the Navy William Bray highlighted the possible improvements with expanded DoD cloud capabilities. In addition to cost-effective benefits, he noted the expansive storage and speed of the cloud that would enable the DoD to rapidly obtain large data sets. As a centralized location for all DoD information, the cloud allows for increased transparency across the branches and an increase in the ease of sharing information. Also, by having this storage platform, there is room for more advanced capabilities, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning to aid in quick decision making.

Strategic Approach

While the DoD has outlined many digital solutions to maintain competitive advantage in the global arena, with new innovation comes a new set of challenges. On the Digital Transformation panel, Deputy Secretary Bray noted that expanding DoD technological capabilities posed some security threats at new access points. Capacity building is an integral part in combatting these security threats proactively.

In order to ensure the long-term success of DoD Digital Transformation, new policies and a plan for future transformations can scale the cloud and JAIC for future use.

Please visit our service page to learn more about how WBD helps the DoD with its Digital Transformation efforts.

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