AUSA NEWS: Army partners with Silicon Valley to develop soldiers’ software skills
Army Futures Command Software Factory Operations
Army photo by Mr. Luke J. Allen
The military is relying on Silicon Valley expertise as it strives to develop a cadre of military personnel capable of rapidly developing software applications that can be used at the forefront of tactics.
In April, Army Futures Command set up a new software factory in Austin, Texas — a commercial technology hub where Army Futures Command is headquartered — to enhance the force’s organic software capabilities by training troops and civilians in the force. army who have a gift for coding. The service wants to reduce its reliance on industry for these skills.
“We’re not sure we can move contractors onto the battlefield the way we were able to in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Lt. Col. Vito Errico, co-director of the Software Factory. , said Oct. 11 during a presentation at the Association of the American Army’s annual conference in Washington, D.C. “We certainly believe that in the information age, it’s time to start investing in soldiers who have those skills.”
The service aims to create product teams capable of prototyping and developing solutions that can be deployed on operational battlefield networks, he said.
The Software Factory recruited cohorts of approximately 30 soldiers and army civilians. They undergo a four-month “tech accelerator” to immerse them in topics such as software engineering and platform engineering, then they are assigned to work with subject matter experts for another six to nine month.
“We pair them with Silicon Valley experts so they can hone their own expertise, so they can learn to work as a Silicon Valley product team, just like we might see in some of our Silicon Valley’s favorite companies,” Errico mentioned. “It’s learning how to prototype a solution.”
Building relationships with industries outside of national security is a key part of the initiative. The Software Factory hosts weekly lunches and discussions with heads of tech giants like Microsoft, Facebook, and Google.
“Soldiers are exposed to this type of problem-solving process” that the commercial sector is known for, Errico said, touting the advantages of being located in Austin, where many high-tech companies outside of Silicon Valley have settled down.
Troops also have the possibility of doing internships of 30 to 60 days with companies interested in hosting them. Companies interested in contributing to these efforts can find more information at the Software Factory website armyfuturescommand.com/software-factory or at the organization’s booth at the AUSA conference.
The soldiers participating in the initiative are expected to be part of the project for three years, two of which will be focused on training other soldiers in the skills they learned.
The Software Factory will accept applications from the fifth cohort until November 15, according to the organization’s website. The opportunity is open to a wide range of service members, from Private 1st Class to Majors, Errico said.
The Software Factory initiative will inform Army policies on talent management and retention. Officials fear coders may leave for other opportunities in the business sector.
“The military doesn’t want to make that kind of investment… [and then] lose those kinds of soldiers,” Errico said.
Topics: Army News