The Key to Future Readiness Is Big Data

By Pam Braden & Mike Schwartz

In the quest for military readiness, are defense decision makers over-investing in “ready to fight tonight” forces at the cost of preparing for the conflicts to come? In two recent op-eds, General Charles Q. Brown, chief of staff of the Air Force, and General David Berger, Commandant of the Marine Corps, make a compelling case for re-evaluating the current measurement of military readiness to better balance urgent near-term needs with equally important modernization efforts.

Failure to make the shift, they argue, could leave the U.S. military unprepared to deter and defeat future threats from near peer competitors like China and Russia. To assess strategic decisions under their new readiness framework, the Joint Chiefs call on the Pentagon to harness advances in big data and artificial intelligence to deliver rigorous, data-driven analytics about legacy platforms and future capabilities.

The analytic tools they envision are not futuristic and don’t have to be expensive. There are cost-effective analytic tools and techniques which are real, readily available, and already being deployed with great success on a smaller scale for this very purpose. We at Gryphon Technologies are experts in model-based systems engineering and associated analytics, which provide a clear picture of the immediate, ongoing, and future needs of existing systems. The rapid analysis is comprehensive, efficient, and cost-effective.

Applying these tools - and the insights they produce - on a wider scale can better equip the military to sustain today's systems, enhancing the ability to support the modernization needed for the future. The analytics can inform decision-making at all personnel levels - from service chief to maintainer.

With increasing operational demands and a finite number of ships capable of executing missions, the Navy must maximize time underway. Urgent operational requirements will - and should - take priority, and commanders in these scenarios make informed decisions based on the facts available to them. However, what if they had decision aids that could better articulate the cost of doing work today versus the impact of not doing that same work? Decisions could be made quickly, based on data, and justified with confidence, which would streamline maintenance processes.

With digital engineering, Gryphon is developing a tool kit to build digital models of specific characteristics of ships and systems. This will provide decision-makers with the ability to quickly and accurately assess conditions, leading to better informed maintenance decisions. These models are highly adaptable and can be used to evaluate a range of priorities, from maintenance needs to cyber vulnerabilities.

For example, a commander will be able to use a digital model of a unique ship characteristic to anticipate the true costs of deferred maintenance. The fleet commander will be able to do the same at a higher level, and ultimately so will the Chief of Naval Operations. The Navy will have a fleetwide assessment of the true cost of maintenance decisions. With that knowledge, they can better prioritize decisions about ship modernization and maintenance.

Good intelligence is essential in all domains of warfare, and the United States has robust systems in place to give the warfighter every insight into the intentions and capabilities of our adversaries. The country still has work to do on assessing our own readiness and capabilities. Fortunately, better decision-making tools are within reach.