The Army’s chief information officer said the service is planning soon to take its "Apps for the Army" contest idea to industry.
Speaking July 13 at the Association of the United States Army’s Institute of Land Warfare breakfast in suburban Washington, Lt. Gen. Jeff Sorenson said, "It won’t be an RFP but a contest," similar to the one that was open to soldiers and Army civilians earlier this year.
He said he hopes the contest "begins to attract the smaller companies," who have provided most of the applications for the iPhone and Droid mobile devices. "That is the knowledge base, the innovation base."
Sorenson said the contest for soldiers and civilians attracted more than 150 participants who produced more than 50 applications for Army use. He said the winners of the contest will receive cash awards in August. Winning applications included: help to recruiters, disaster relief and physical training.
The Army is moving more and more toward applications rather than systems, he said. "What does that common operating environment look like?" is the question the Army is asking, but is having difficulty closing the gap between commercial information technology development and its information technology development.
He said on the average it takes more than five years to field information technology in the Army and about two years to do so in Special Operations Command at a time when applications’ development and fielding commercially is happening even more rapidly.
Using the example of tactical radios as a technology that has exploded in the past decade, he said the Army had about 365,000 in its inventory in 2000 but now has more than 919,000 – almost one for every soldier in all components. "In 2000, no one heard of a blog. There are 133 million now."
Sorenson said the goal is to have networks immediately accessible anywhere. That allows the Army to be based in the United States but capable of mounting an expeditionary force. "We don’t know where we are going to have to go."
Steps the Army and the Defense Department are taking to use information technology more efficiently are: creating a single e-mail system, reduction of Army data center from 400 to 75 and having a common network operating tool.
IBM, an AUSA sustaining member, sponsored the breakfast.