When the “Apps for the Army” challenge kicked off in March, the U.S. Army expected to receive new software tools for improving how the service works. What resulted from the contest was a slew of new applications, as well as a new direction that will shape the way the Army does business.
After seeing success in similar contests held by federal agencies, the Army launched the program to test a rapid-acquisition process for software applications. The Army asked developers to submit software applications for mobile phones in categories including morale, welfare and recreation; Army mission; information access; location awareness; and training.
By May 15, 53 applications had been submitted.
“Of those 53, we got 25 through the certification process,” said Lt. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sorenson, the Army chief information officer.
He explained the contest foreshadows a future for getting applications into the Army more quickly.
“I think at some point in time we are going to extend this to the commercial sector,” he said.
Sorenson explained the success of the competition will lead to a major change in how the service approaches certain kinds of technology creation in the future. He said the process for developing applications for Army use was time-consuming and difficult before the contest.
With the acquisition process piloted during the Apps for the Army challenge, the Army demonstrated a faster way to get technology advancements to the military.
“We haven’t walked through all the capabilities, but I think this contest … portends a way for how we can more rapidly develop applications in the future, using the collaborative forums to help define the requirements, using this contest methodology to go out and have companies participate, and then build it in a manner that we can more rapidly bring it in,” he said.
Sorenson and Army Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology Malcolm O’Neill plan to issue an Acquisition Decision Memorandum in the coming weeks. The memo will outline the changes resulting from the contest.
Sorenson said the Army is looking at both the hardware and software-development process demonstrated by the iPhone and the Android. Using these commercial hardware smartphones can provide a common operating environment.
Sorenson said over the next year. the Army will expand the use of this development approach.