Exploring the Army Operating Concept

As the U.S. Army draws down after nearly fifteen years of war, the service is reflecting on lessons learned as well as looking ahead to future conflicts and challenges. A central product of this analysis is the new Army Operating Concept called “Win in a Complex World.” Published October 2014, this document from Army Training and Doctrine Command seeks to characterize the nature of the world we now live in (unpredictable, quickly evolving, and increasingly complex) and shift attention away from weapons, technologies and systems in favor of a focus on the capabilities at all levels (tactical, operational, and strategic) that will be needed to win future conflicts.

The Army Operating Concept took center stage in Huntsville, Alabama at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Global Force Symposium. Serving as the keynote speaker for the symposium, General Ray Odierno, Chief of Staff of the Army, highlighted the challenges the United States is facing around the world; from West Africa to North Korea, the U.S. is confronted with a broad range of enemies and enemy capabilities. Many of these threats are long-term in nature and will require sustained operations to bring them to an end. At the same time, the Army and all other services are entering an era of tightened budgets which, according to the service chiefs, including GEN Odierno, severely threatens the Army’s readiness and modernization efforts. It is these modernization efforts that are needed to achieve the capabilities needed to win in a complex world.

Given the lessons learned from the past fifteen years and the budgetary difficulties that lie ahead, the Army is indeed at what GEN Odierno described as “a strategic reflection point.” Tremendous challenges await the service and its major commands. However, GEN Odierno reminded the audience that “it’s people who win wars,” and that the U.S. Army remains the world’s best land force because of its men and women in uniform who are out in the world making a difference.


Almost every session at AUSA ILW Global Force Symposium centered on the Army Operating Concept.  Do you think the AOC will drive real change in the Army, or will it fall victim to various constraints such as contracting, personnel systems, and the ever-changing budget situation? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

You can view GEN Odierno’s full remarks via the AUSA YouTube Channel:

Big Data for National Security

A few weeks ago, during the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference, the Institute for Defense & Business in conjunction with SAS Institute sponsored a luncheon panel discussion about Analytics and the Future of SOF. They offered me the opportunity to partner with Ambassador (retired) David Litt and Major General (retired) Kevin Leonard, U.S. Army to discuss how analytics can be used as an enabler for SOF operations in austere areas like Africa.

We’ve all heard the hype about “Big Data.” But SO WHAT? It’s generally discussed in the context of marketing, with one of the favored examples being Target identifying which of their customers are pregnant through their buying habits so that they can then send them coupons for diapers. But if you are not trying to sell diapers, you have probably missed out on the conversation, since selling diapers is a far cry from national security.

So instead of discussing “big data,” why don’t we discuss “Predictive Battlespace Awareness” or “Intelligence Preparation of the Operational Space”? These are two topics that are highly relevant to National Security. Funnily enough, both of these discussions lead us right back to big data, analytics, and the subject of last week’s conference, how can analytics be an enabler for SOF in the future.

Predictive Battlespace Awareness is the concept that you can develop a situational awareness picture so rich it enables you to anticipate what will happen so that you can develop course of action to thwart your adversary before they can act. A recent blog on my website discusses agribusiness in Africa as a sample use case. Achieving situational awareness is one element of the decision cycle: Observe, Orient, Decide, Act, also known as the OODA-loop.

For years, in all industries, the defense community not withstanding, we’ve been making huge investments into sensor technology to enable the observation phase of our OODA loop. And now we find ourselves overwhelmed with that very same data. We are no longer looking for a needle in a haystack, we are looking for a specific needle in a needlestack, and, as one might expect, it’s pretty painful.

Analytics technologies allow us to explore that data in a way that empowers us to advance our decision cycle through the orientation and decision phases. This means we can act more quickly when opportunities present themselves, respond more rapidly to thwart our adversaries, and anticipate where problems might develop so we can put remedial measures in place ahead of time.

Further, big data analytics capabilities can act as an enabler to collaboration. In an age of complexity, the next operation may require cooperation across multiple nations, non-governmental organizations, and both civilian and military authorities. Big data can facilitate this, even despite the fact that each organization runs on their own siloed system and processes.

In each of these cases, Special Forces will be able to leverage huge amounts of data to develop an intelligence picture of their operating space, collaborate with a coalition of any size and shape, and build the network they need to manage the complexity that is a part of normal operations.

This essentially recaps the discussion between David, Kevin at the discussion panel. Once again, I’d like to thank SAS and the IDB for the opportunity to share ideas. Big data may have us swimming in the ocean, but analytics capabilities offer a huge return on investment, not just for people looking to sell diapers, but for those of you who work in the national security community—in fact, the return on investment from a national security perspective is infinite!

Lt Col Tammy Schwartz, USAF (Ret.)Lt Col Tammy Schwartz, USAF (Ret.) is an IDB guest blogger and recognized innovator with more than 20 years of national security experience. Schwartz is a former Chief Technology Officer for Air Force Enterprise Networking and is currently a Consultant for SAS and the Owner of Llamrai Enterprises. You can read more from Schwartz on her blog.

Shining a Light on Data in Austere Environments

SAS and the Institute for Defense and Business (IDB) co-hosted their third panel discussion May 21st during the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference 2014. Retired Ambassador David Litt, head of the Center for Stabilization and Economic Reconstruction (CSER) program at the IDB, moderated the lunchtime discussion entitled, “Supporting SOF Network in Austere Environments: Using Analytics to Prepare, Sustain and Support.” In this discussion, the “austere environment” meant Africa.

The panelists, MG Kevin Leonard, USA (ret.), and Lt Col Tamara Schwartz, USAF (ret.), had interesting perspectives given their different backgrounds, but they reached similar conclusions. While technology, data, and analytics are enablers, it is TRUST, PARTNERSHIP, and COLLABORATION that make it work. The challenge is busting old paradigms and thinking outside the box.

From left to right: AMB (Ret.) David Litt (CSER), MG (Ret.) Kevin Leonard (Fluor), and Lt Col (Ret.) Tamara Schwartz (SAS Consultant) discuss data in austere environments during the May 21st panel sponsored by IDB and SAS

From left to right: AMB (Ret.) David Litt (CSER), MG (Ret.) Kevin Leonard (Fluor), and Lt Col (Ret.) Tamara Schwartz (SAS Consultant) discuss data in austere environments during the May 21st panel sponsored by IDB and SAS. (Institute for Defense and Business Photo by Christine Reynolds)

The Panelists

Leonard knows AUSTERITY and LOGISTICS. During his long career with the Army, he’s been involved in logistics activities in Afghanistan, Jordan, and Iraq – just to mention a few countries. He has supported BIG ARMY and the little Army and is continuing to support contingency operations at Fluor. He knows the challenges of getting supplies over the last mile. He also knows that if Coca Cola can do it, it can be done.

Schwartz is well acquainted with IT and enterprise networks – and supporting SOF. She understands cyberspace – the dangers as well as the great opportunity it provides for data discovery. She also understands how analytics can be used effectively to support the mission.

The Problem

As military operations shift and budget pressures shape the new military, supporting special operations forces when they deploy to austere environments, like Africa, with the speed and agility necessary will be essential. Developing a Common Operating Picture (COP) is challenging in the best of circumstances. How can we get the data that supports a COP in a place like Africa – and fast?

Some Solutions

There is a preconceived notion that there is no data available in the remote areas of Africa. But is that really true? “No!” say our panelists. We just need to start thinking out of the box and take advantage of what’s already there.

  • Open Source Data like population and tribal data, mineral data, water data, and lots more statistical global data is easily available
  • Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) running ongoing programs, such as Doctors without Borders and the Red Cross can provide a wealth of information.
  • OTTWs (Operations Other Than War) – oil and gas companies, mining companies, infrastructure and agribusiness companies, General Electric, Coca Cola. They almost never come into consideration as sources of information, but they have a lot to offer the military. They’ve already paved the way in this space and established their own infrastructure. They all have to have good situational awareness to provide for and protect their employees. They know who’s who and how to deal with local challenges. Is it unthinkable to ask them to partner?
  • Social Media Data – We know what you’re thinking, but hear us out. Much of Africa may be austere, but there are signs of digital life throughout. And wherever there’s a connection, somebody’s tweeting or snapping pictures with their cell phones and communicating information out in cyberspace on just about every human condition – illness, famine, harsh weather conditions. This social data may not be the kind the military traditionally uses to build a COP, but by connecting all the digital dots early warning signals can surface.

The underlying analytic technology keeps getting better and better. It’s more powerful and easier to use. Analysts can access and bring together big data from non-traditional sources. Unstructured data found on the web in in cyberspace can be incorporated into the analysis. Visual analytics lets non-statistical people quickly look at the data to spot trends and correlations. The end result is a more complete, holistic COP that can be built more quickly.

But, to effectively get access to the right data, the importance of partnerships can’t be understated. Trust and collaboration between data owners is imperative. The players supporting SOF in these austere environments need to reach out and build trusted relationships with NGOs, commercial industry and other government agencies. Players also need to build trusted relationships and share data amongst themselves. In this high stakes game, everyone is at risk.

Gail Bamford is an IDB guest blogger and senior marketing professional with over 25 years in information technology. She has been with SAS, the leader in advanced analytics software, since 2006 and supports business units focused on delivering analytic solutions to Defense, National Security, Higher Education and K-12.

Additional Resources:

Download white paper based on SAS-IDB Panel discussion at AUSA 2013, “Data vs. Gut” – “How Analytics Improves Decision Making at the Department of Defense: Finding new ways to add value and insights to big data.”

Read blog on SAS-IDB Panel at Indiana University, “SAS – IDB Defense Panel Serves Up Advice for Analytics Students at Kelley School Business Analytics Summit 2014”

DAELP Corporate Host of the Month: Raytheon (April 2014)

For the 11th cohort of the Depot and Arsenal Executive Leadership Program (DAELP), Residency 2 was a four-day defense industrial benchmarking tour in Louisville Kentucky, an integral piece of the DAELP curriculum.

After a late night at UPS Worldport, the Depot and Arsenal Executive Leadership Program participants filled their coffee cups and went to work on several Value Stream Analysis exercises hosted by Raytheon in Louisville, Kentucky. This two-day exercise served as the capstone of the Program’s second residency. Participants called upon knowledge gained during the industrial benchmarking tours and applied the theories they have been learning as a part of their Lean Six Sigma for Executive Champions online certificate program through North Carolina State University.

The capstone of DAELP XI cohort's defense industrial benchmarking tour in Louisville, KY was a two-day exercise in value stream mapping at RaytheonThe first day began with introductory briefs from Raytheon leadership in Louisville, followed by tours of the Warfighter Support Center and Missile Systems facilities.   The program participants were then divided into four groups, and began the exercises with walk-throughs of their various processes.  The groups briefed the results of their Value Stream Analyses to the Raytheon leadership, process managers, and other employees during the afternoon of the second day.

The interactions afforded by this unique two-day value stream analysis event proved mutually beneficial for both Raytheon and DAELP participants.

For each process, the DAELP teams produced a future state map, ideal state map, and a list of action items that process managers can implement in order to begin moving towards the ideal state.  Even though the teams only spent a day and a half on these exercises, Raytheon managers were impressed with the outcomes.

“This wasn’t just academia,” noted Vic Herbison, Program Manager for Spares Logistics Operations, highlighting that the DAELP team’s work delivered tangible benefits for his department.

Through the exercise, participants were able to hone their value-mapping skills and apply their knowledge of continuous process improvement. The dialogue with Raytheon helped them gain insight into the challenges that private sector companies face as well as discuss with private-sector leadership the challenges that the defense industry as a whole now faces.

It is exactly these interactions with organizations like Raytheon, with their dedication to innovation and collaboration, which allow the IDB program participants to turn theoretical principles into concrete, actionable skills.

For their hospitality and help with coordinating, sponsoring, and hosting the exercise, we owe a special thanks to:

Mr. Curtis Palmer, WSC Manager
Ms. Jessica Jackson, Site Administrator
Mr. Eric Bohnert, Logistics Manager
Mr. Vic Herbison, Program Manager
Mr. Sean Riley, Product Line Leader
Mr. John Packwood, Ops Excellence Manager

The Business of Defense – Best Business Practices for DoD

A task group of a DoD advisory board published a report of recommendations to help address management challenges, mounting costs, and budget cuts without neglecting the need to retain readiness. The task group examined past downsizing success and failures to identify lessons learned from both the DoD and private sector perspectives.

DBB ReportThey looked to identify best business practices for DoD–strategies, practices, and performance metrics–to use going forward.

The Defense Business Board was established in 2002 by the Secretary of Defense to provide DoD “with trusted independent and objective advice” on strategies proven effective by the private sector. This task group’s mission was to evaluate how successful executives of large, complex organizations plan, implement, and maintain strong performance, especially during periods of reduced resources and/or marketplace changes.

The board suggested the need to shift from “spending management” to “modernized, cost-based management” and identified what they think the overarching goals should be: to reduce overhead, cut low-priority programs, and increase efficiency. They listed various obstacles DoD will need to overcome in order to achieve their goals and presented a detailed, four step plan to guide the process.They also emphasized the focus was mainly on reducing administrative, infrastructure costs without impacting combat effectiveness.

IDB is dedicated to helping the government and corporate workforce be better businessmen and -women. Uncertainty is everywhere and everyone has an opinion on the best course of action. We want to know what you think of the board’s recommendations. What is DoD’s biggest challenge and how can they overcome it?

Read the board’s full report, Applying Best Business Practices from Corporate Performance Management to DoD, and leave your comments below!