The Army’s new Futures Command will rely on information technology to achieve its mission, and that could open up opportunities for IT contractors in Austin, Texas, and across the U.S.
As the command carries out its mission to prepare the Army for future combat situations, it will focus on incorporating new technologies, working with industry and academia, and placing an emphasis on Army networks. Those objectives mean IT is likely to be prominent in Army Futures Command contracting.
The Army Futures Command, which will be located in Austin, will combine Army Research, Development, and Engineering Command (RDECOM), parts of Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), and other Army sub organizations.
Bloomberg Government data shows $3.7 billion in fiscal 2017 contract spending based on the Army’s planned structure. Of that, $224.6 million was for IT products and services. That’s likely missing some IT that has been incorporated into contracts classified as research and development, which account for $2.1 billion of the fiscal year’s obligations. For example, a keyword search for the word “cyber” finds $30.6 million in R&D contracts.
Here are the five IT trends Bloomberg Government is watching as the command becomes operational.
More Austin-Based Contracting
Organizations that have performed work or are based in Austin may win more of the IT and IT-focused R&D work due to their proximity to the new headquarters.
“The location itself is a large density or concentration of STEM and R&D talent, entrepreneurial investment, accessibility to the footprint, and helps us get closer to academia and business,” Army undersecretary Ryan McCarthy told Bloomberg in July.
Because Futures Command chose the location to better collaborate with innovative and agile academic institutions and private companies, it will build those relationships, possibly giving organizations a leg up when it comes to upcoming acquisitions.
The top information technology contractors of fiscal 2017 performing work in Austin were:
- Accenture Plc — $59.4 million.
- Smartronix Inc. — $21 million.
- Three Wire Systems LLC — $17.8 million.
The top R&D vendors performing work in Austin in fiscal 2017 included:
- The University of Texas System — $77.6 million.
- Defense Energy Center of Excellence — $12.6 million.
- Southwest Research Institute — $5.4 million.
Increased OTA Use
Small business and nontraditional contractors also may be recruited to compete for the work through Other Transaction Authority.
The offices that will become the Army Futures Command issued as much as $983.4 million in OTAs in fiscal 2017, a 72 percent jump from $571.1 million in fiscal 2016.
Because OTAs can be used to fulfill one of Futures Command’s main priorities — greatly reducing the time to develop a new technology — Bloomberg Government expects future OTA use at the command to be similar to or greater than use by the offices it will combine.
Emphasis on Agile Development
Agile development, a methodology that allows engineers to release products and redefine requirements iteratively and incrementally, will play a major role in reducing the time to develop new technologies. The command will rely on contractors who use agile to get to a working prototype more quickly.
Some of those contractors may be the top software engineering and agile development vendors with the Army. The market leaders in fiscal 2017 were:
- CACI International Inc. — $168 million.
- Science Applications International Corp. — $81 million.
- ManTech International Corp. — $42 million.
Connection to DIU
Due to one of its locations being in Austin, its relationships with commercial technology firms, and its similar mission of modernizing the warfighter, the Defense Innovation Unit is likely to collaborate with Army Futures Command.
Companies that have worked with the DIU, formerly known as Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, may benefit from that relationship and be better positioned to win Futures Command contract opportunities in the coming years.
Focus on Mobility
The Army’s future plans for its network strategy include the ability for soldiers to communicate and be connected, whether they’re in combat or on base.
The command will include a cross-functional team devoted to the Army network. The strategy says that the cross-functional team has started reaching out to traditional and nontraditional contractors for network products and services, which probably means it is using OTAs.
The team’s focus is on the “scalability of an integrated tactical network at the brigade and below,” according to the Army’s website. This means that the Army is looking to simplify and improve its current network using mobility so those in battle can stay connected.
This focus on mobility could give contractors providing those services more contracting opportunities. The Army’s top mobility contractors in fiscal 2017 included:
- CDW Corp. — $189 million.
- HP Inc. — $106 million.
- Dell Inc. — $78 million.