AI empowers logistics and readiness for Army 2030
SparkCognition Government Systems | December 14, 2022
The U.S. Army has a clear plan that will, in a mere eight years, transform it into a technology-forward organization far removed from what we currently know as the nation’s military. Some of the Army’s primary vehicle assets—the Blackhawk and Apache helicopters and the M1 Abrams tank among them—remain fundamentally unchanged after 40-plus years, and leaders know that a successful move toward the Army of 2030 will be based on making aggressive technology advancements.
Chief among those is taking advantage of the artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities that private-sector companies such as SparkCognition Government Systems (SGS) bring to the fight.
The modernization effort is being led by Army Futures Command, with a priority on six core areas that can be moved forward independently without relying on progress from other initiatives. The six signature modernization efforts that will remedy existing gaps in Army capabilities are:
- Long-range precision fires
- Next-generation combat vehicle
- Future vertical lift (helicopter innovation)
- Network and C4ISR (command, control, communications, computers (C4), intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance)
- Integrated air and missile defense
- Soldier lethality
Sophisticated and well-reasoned use of data will be crucial in making decisions about resource utilization and future operations in all six areas. And getting the best possible insights from data tied to readiness and logistics—especially contested logistics where adversaries attempt to create disruptions—are two challenges where SGS has the ability to vastly improve how the Army of tomorrow performs on all fronts. Tools such as SGS Digital Maintenance Advisor (DMA) can quickly improve the knowledge and abilities of less-experienced maintainers while improving parts management across units and theaters of combat.
As a career Special Operations and Infantry Officer and former Director of Operations of the U.S. Army, Art Sellers supervised the operations, training, and leadership development of over 91,000 soldiers across the globe. Sellers, who recently joined SGS as senior director of Army programs, sees great promise in how AI can help the Army take its next great leap forward.
“Contested logistics and readiness—both personnel and equipment—are at the forefront of the Army’s needs,” Sellers said. “DMA assists maintainers at every level and will greatly improve the Army’s ability to properly diagnose maintenance issues and subsequently order the correct parts, saving time and money while decreasing the amount of time our ground and air platforms are on the non-mission capable report.”
Logistics for the future of combat
Sellers said the likelihood of moving away from semi-permanent bases in previous priority areas such as throughout the Middle East will require that the Army be able to coordinate movements of resources and people, with priority placed on ensuring superiority over near-peer nations such as China and Russia. That means a different style and frequency of movements for combat groups than was needed for the post-9/11 emphasis on antiterrorism and counterinsurgency.
“We were not competing against a peer or near-peer adversary, and that just has a different set of requirements and more large-scale requirements. I think some of our systems became latent because of that and just continued to be a legacy and did not grow in that time,” Sellers said.
“There’s broad realization of that now. So we look to the United States Indo-Pacific Command, and also the Middle East and Europe, and I think the logistical aspects of going those distances with the amount of supplies that we’re going to have to move is just something that can only be done with artificial intelligence if we’re going to do it well.”
Sellers added that gaming out conflict scenarios and determining best practices for quickly managing logistics wherever in the world the Army is needed will become much easier and more effective with AI capabilities. That is because in many ways the demands that come with moving people and equipment to response areas around the world will be as intensive and costly as the combat operations themselves
“Eventually, American manufacturing will react during a crisis and meet a lot of our needs, but they will be forced to ‘figure it out’ in an inefficient manner. Our industrial base isn’t as established as in World War II where we can just outproduce and hope it works out in the end. I don’t think most people think that’s the right answer to how this is going to go. It’s going to be on a much faster and larger scale.”
The people part of readiness
On the matter of readiness of combat vehicles and the people needed to maintain them, Sellers stresses there’s no such thing as “perfect readiness.” The preferred readiness level comes through the push/pull of managing demands placed on staff and equipment, balanced against the needs of a given mission or conflict.
“Sustaining that level of readiness will be even more difficult once we achieve it. How we continue to replace our personnel and our equipment and allow our units to come down from that highest level of readiness, from a training preparation and maintenance standpoint, will be important because it is difficult to stay on your toes, on alert for 18 hours, during extended phases of competition and crises” he said.
“That’s difficult to maintain as part of someone’s life for sustained periods of time. So we’ve got to rotate those responsibilities for an indefinite period of time. SGS is well-postured to take care of that, and our number one priority is mission readiness. With AI we have tools right now, ready-made, and (DMA) is proven in the commercial sector, proven within the military that it can make sure that personnel and equipment are ready to deploy.”
One more readiness consideration that SGS (and AI in general) can improve is the human resources component of addressing underperformance in recruiting new personnel and the shifting needs of the Army for specialists, including maintainers of major equipment.
“Qualifications for both entry into the Army and entry into specialties that are underfilled continue to hamper our efforts to ‘right-size’ the force. Additionally, unanticipated/unexpected personnel departures from within our formations will continue to be a challenge. AI can assist in streamlining and forecasting losses across our military specialties by rank/grade, and then link that to qualified applicants and their date of availability to enlist and begin training,” Sellers said.
“What SGS can do is ensure that there’s a plan for populating our personnel with the right skills, with the right capabilities. With the right longevity in their enlistment contract or officer timeline and work to fill those units, we are going to be prepared for those positions. On the equipment side, we’ll be ensuring that our maintainers and our operators are not wasting time trying to diagnose the wrong problem that’s going on, and wasting time ordering the wrong parts that could result in lots of money loss.”
With the many objectives and tasks that await Army leaders on the push to modernize the service, SGS has tools and capabilities to meet the wide-reaching needs of tomorrow. Learn more about how to put our advanced AI technology to work today.