For more than a decade the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville (Huntsville Center) has maintained acquisition and contract management of the Department of Defense High Performance Computing Modernization Program (HPCMP).
However, changes to the program are underway to turn over the program to the U.S. Army Engineer Research Development Center (ERDC) contracting activity, Vicksburg, Miss., as early as September.
Patrick Parten, Huntsville Center HPCMP program manager, said although the acquisition portion of the program is moving to ERDC, there is no change to the mission of the HPCMP.
“Since the announcement that the portfolio of projects would transition to ERDC, we’ve worked closely with the HPCMP and the ERDC Contracting Office to ensure a smooth transition of all work with little or no impact to customers or the mission,” Parten said.
“The program continues to accelerate technology development and transition into superior defense capabilities through the strategic application of HPC, networking and computational expertise.”
In 2012, Huntsville Center and ERDC created a partnership to procure the follow-on integrated technical services needed by the HPCMP. To meet the demanding, ever–changing, technical requirements of the HPCMP, Huntsville Center’s Facility Technology Integration Division developed a highly skilled, multi-disciplined Project Delivery Team (PDT) solely dedicated to the execution of contracts in support of the HPCMP.
Over the decade under Huntsville Center, PDT managed a portfolio of projects valued at more than $2 billion and obligated over $1.4 billion over the life of the program. The PDT includes subject matter experts in the areas of program and project management, acquisition, engineering, contracting, resource management, and legal counsel. Additionally, the PDT has members with vast amounts of experience in information technology, networking, cybersecurity, software, hardware, training (in-person and virtual) and communications infrastructure.
Parten said Angela Wilson, Huntsville Center HPCMP contracting section chief, has been instrumental in the program’s success while handling a portfolio of contracts including Technology Insertion Basic Ordering Agreements, High Performance Computing Integrated Technical Services – Unrestricted, HPC Integrated Technical Services – Restricted, HPCMP Program Administrative Support Services, Navy Business Services and ERDC Business Services.
The HPCMP was initiated in 1992 in response to congressional direction to modernize the Department of Defense laboratories' High-Performance Computing (HPC) capabilities. The HPCMP was assembled out of a collection of small high performance computing departments, each with a rich history of supercomputing experience that had independently evolved within the Army, Air Force, and Navy laboratories and test centers. The HPC’s tools solve complicated and time-consuming problems with researchers expanding their ability to solve modern military and security problems using HPC hardware and software.
The HPCMP operates five DoD Supercomputing Resource Centers (DSRCs) with associated Local Area Networks (LANs) / Wide Area Networks (WANs) and develops HPC software applications and support environments.
The five DSRCs are: Army Research Laboratory, Adelphi, Maryland; Air Force Research Laboratory, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio; Navy Oceanographic, Stennis Center, Mississippi; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Engineering Research and Development Center, Vicksburg, Mississippi, and Maui High Performance Computing Center, Maui, Hawaii.
In the past, when someone at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) mentioned clouds, they most often were referring to the weather. However, in today’s modern context, “the cloud” can mean many things. At USACE’s Institute for Water Resources (IWR), it most often describes the Civil Works Business Intelligence (CWBI) program. CWBI has been a USACE leader in cloud implementation over the past 10 years and continues to refactor Civil Works data and system assets to gain efficiencies, integrate resources, and reduce Information Technology (IT) maintenance and cost.
The CWBI program is one of USACE’s key Automated Information Systems (AIS) and is a critical backbone to the Civil Works mission. “CWBI touches almost every aspect of the Civil Works mission as it relates to data and information delivery,” says Mr. Edward E. Belk Jr., Director of Civil Works. “We rely on the cloud infrastructure, cybersecurity implementation, and system engineering services CWBI provides to ensure critical data and analysis mission requirements are met.” CWBI’s current purpose is to integrate Civil Works data in a cloud-smart environment that standardizes data organization and management, ensures cybersecurity, delivers innovative technology solutions, rationalizes resources, and enhances visualization. CWBI currently supports more than 100 Civil Works applications across the USACE enterprise and is used widely by internal and external stakeholders. CWBI partners with multiple entities within USACE, federal partners, and others to deliver data and resources where it is needed most. For example, CWBI’s cloud infrastructure serves as the backbone to help regulatory permits be issued, the public understand where levees and dams are located, and to deliver navigation charts to vessel operators traversing inland waterways. CWBI is led by a small program management office overseen by IWR and the USACE Cold Regions Research and Engineering Lab’s Remote-Sensing and GIS Center of Expertise. “As the first production cloud operating environment within USACE, CWBI has transitioned standalone applications to a cloud environment where levels of computational capacity, data management, data interconnectivity, and cyber security that were unattainable only a few years ago,” stated Dr. Joe Manous, IWR Director. “These accomplishments are why the CWBI team was recognized as the IWR 2022 Team of the Year.”
CWBI leverages the cloud in benefit of the Civil Works mission to deliver critical products to decision-makers and the public. For example, CWBI is responsible for providing a common resource in the cloud to collect data for Civil Works operation and maintenance (O&M) activities. CWBI then couples the O&M information with financial details from other USACE AIS to help report program status, performance metrics, and compliance with legislation and regulation. “CWBI plays a vital role in the Hydropower Business Line’s understanding of the operational performance of its generating assets,” stated Mr. David Sanna, USACE Hydropower Digital Transformation Lead. “Hydropower has worked directly with the CWBI team to develop and deploy a new Hydropower Homepage within the CWBI platform, which establishes a central hub for communication, data reporting, and visualization of key performance metrics across the business line. Building on this foundation, the Hydropower Business Line is engaging with CWBI on further development to track additional data sources and enhance the analytical tools available to its users.” In addition to Hydropower, CWBI is also supporting other Civil Works O&M business lines. For example, the USACE Natural Resources Management (NRM) program supports all USACE missions while having the unique assignment to manage and protect more than 260 million public visitors annually at over 400 lakes and approximately 5,000 parks in 43 states. “Efficiencies of managing the natural, cultural, environmental and recreation come from understanding the inventory, performance, benefits and resources for each project,” states, Mr. Jeffrey Krause, Natural Resources Management Chief. “Moving the data from multiple databases and platforms to CWBI provides a one stop entry and reporting tool to maximize use of resources, improve public safety and quickly show leaders and the public the benefits the NRM Program offers to the nation.”
CWBI also utilizes the cloud to innovate. When a new solution is necessary to support Civil Works, CWBI employs Software as a Service (SaaS), serverless technology, or containerized delivery using an agile approach instead of traditional servers, stand-alone software packages, and databases that require significant maintenance and attention. “We cannot afford to just lift and shift assets to the cloud without any changes,” stated Lyle Seethaler, CWBI Technical Lead. “CWBI helps data and system owners evaluate their requirements so they can be properly configured and take advantage of the various components a cloud environment offers.” Furthermore, CWBI utilizes cloud IT resources to scale assets as requirements change and share engineering and cybersecurity resources to help the USACE Civil Works mission save money. If each Civil Works application were to pay for its own cloud environment, then the annual cost to support these initiatives would be exponentially greater. CWBI has worked to methodically migrate Civil Works applications year-by-year to the cloud. It has taken time, but refactoring applications to gain benefit from cloud-native solutions allows for cost-savings, elasticity, and flexibility. Each Civil Works application is often different, so re-architecting to modify software and codebase allows for cloud-based features to be incorporated and utilized. CWBI also serves as a rationalizer, ensuring data is integrated and applications are amalgamated where possible.
Now that so many Civil Works assets have migrated to the cloud, CWBI is proactively focusing on the data elements that reside there to ensure they are visible, accessible, understandable, linked, trustworthy, interoperable, and secure (VAULTIS). “To achieve USACE’s vision of becoming a data-driven enterprise and leveraging the data insights to make better informed decisions requires all its mission and business areas to come together and develop standardized, automated, and repeatable processes addressing data governance, access, quality,” states Mr. Walton Cheung, USACE Chief Data Officer. “CWBI is contributing to the USACE Enterprise Data Strategy goals and objectives by leaning into the VAULTIS principles. This transformation is incremental, and I appreciate CWBI partnering with me to achieve this vision on our journey together.” Additionally, to take advantage of artificial intelligence and machine learning, CWBI must be aligned with VAULTIS principles so that outputs are meaningful. “The adage of ‘garbage in, garbage out’ rings true,” says Mr. Will Breitkreutz, CWBI Technical Lead. “How can you expect to take advantage of automation if your data is not accurate or well documented? You cannot. Therefore, CWBI’s role in data management in the cloud and implementing a clear strategy is necessary for the USACE Civil Works mission to be successful.”
This year, the CWBI program is focused on maintaining its core services, data-focused delivery, fulfilling modernization assignments, and supporting the Civil Works modules hosted within its cloud environment. For example, the program is actively developing a new Corps Project Notebook application to help the USACE enterprise report and track project locations in a standardized format using a common geospatial solution set that is aligned with defined USACE regulation. Furthermore, CWBI is expanding its geospatial capability with the deployment of a new Geographic Information System (GIS) environment that takes advantage of cloud-native setup and will deliver mission needs internally as well as to the public. The new environment will be more robust than previous iterations and standardize multiple GIS processes.
Engineering in the cloud has allowed CWBI to deliver an easy to use, flexible, cost-effective, reliable, scalable, innovative, and secure system. CWBI’s cloud environment is capable of automation, mobility, and integration. It will continue to take effort and resources to maintain, but the impression of what a cloud means to the USACE Civil Works mission has changed.
To learn more about the CWBI program and its cloud engineering efforts, please contact the USACE Institute for Water Resources at IWR@usace.army.mil.
Rapid technological advancement has ushered in a time of near-constant innovation for the Department of Defense (DOD), bringing both previously unimaginable progress and a marked increase in threats. Cybersecurity has emerged as a critical aspect of day-to-day DOD operations, and the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) Information Technology Laboratory (ITL) is home to a Security Control Assessor-Validator (SCA-V) team that is playing an integral role in securing vulnerable infrastructure and sensitive data.
“Cybersecurity work is important to almost every aspect and capability we have come to take for granted in today’s world,” said Kelly Hills, ITL SCA-V lead. “Cybersecurity is necessary to protect all categories and types of data from theft, damage and exploit, and without comprehensive safeguards in place and the ability to conduct third-party audits of these implemented mechanisms, data and systems could remain unknowingly at risk, which could be devastating to national security.”
ITL’s SCA-V team is one of only eight teams appointed by the U.S. Army Network Enterprise Technology Command Cyber Security Directorate to perform third-party Assessment and Authorization validations on U.S. Army systems to obtain and maintain an Authority to Operate. The group uses the Risk Management Framework – a required, comprehensive set of security regulations – to assess the management, operational and technical security controls and enhancements employed within an information system and determine overall effectiveness.
“We conduct these assessments on all types of information systems around the world, including systems that belong to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,” said Hills. “Examples are hosting enclaves, the cloud, web and desktop applications, enterprise systems, simulation, training, tactical, and financial models and systems, to name a few. These assessments ensure security posture is maintained and data is kept safe from adversaries.”
Comprised of 16 members with a wide range of knowledge, expertise and certification, the ITL SCA-V team performs more than 100 assessments per year on average and was also recently responsible for conducting 36 assessments in Southwest Asia, traveling to multiple countries within a 12-month period. The group also has the ability to perform remote assessments, a process they created and documented in FY20 when faced with a COVID-19-related travel ban.
“As the premier DOD center engaged in creating and applying advanced information technology to support the Warfighter and the nation, ITL is uniquely suited for these efforts,” said Hills. “The SCA-V team is responsible for ensuring our nation’s information, and therefore our men and women in uniform, remain safe and secure. The team contributes to the ERDC mission by developing and delivering groundbreaking solutions to operational environments, continually finding new ways to ensure that the Army’s and DOD’s information systems remain secure.”
Imagine if you were told that a new software platform could save you 40% of the time you currently spend on administrative tasks at work. What could you do with that extra time? That is the exciting question that many within the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers might be asking themselves when a new construction management platform is released to the enterprise.
The Technology Modernization Office, or TMO, a branch of the Construction Management Innovation Office within USACE Headquarters, is working hard to develop and deliver a new construction management platform. The new platform will be designed to foster a more efficient, collaborative working environment by streamlining and modernizing current construction management processes.
The new construction management platform will replace the Resident Management System, or RMS for short, which is the platform currently being used by USACE and its contractor partners. RMS is the program by which USACE and contractor partners communicate with each other throughout the course of a construction project.
By replacing RMS with a new, more modern platform, the TMO hopes to streamline how USACE projects are completed by improving collaboration among the entire project team including external partners. This would, in turn, improve workflow efficiency related to the entire construction management process.
“To me, one of the really cool parts of this project is that it will not just be innovating the things we’re delivering, but the process by which we deliver projects,” said Alexandra Henderson Connors, construction management technology modernization manager, who works out of the Kansas City District in Kansas City, Missouri.
A relatively new branch of the Construction Management Innovation Office, the TMO is still in the early stages of design and development for the new construction management platform. The replacement platform has a projected release date to the USACE enterprise of 2025. The work being done by the TMO located in the Kansas City District will have long-lasting benefits for the entire enterprise and our mission.
But replacing RMS is just the tip of the iceberg for the TMO. The team will continue to manage projects and oversee initiatives focused on increasing construction quality and efficiency.
“The platform is really the ground level that allows us to bring in all of these other innovations … it’s that first step to be able to continue to innovate … and then we can start to do all of these other really cool things,” said Henderson Connors.
Long-term, the Construction Management Innovation Office and the TMO have a plan to continue to innovate by focusing on construction management technology, research and development. Innovating now and into the future, USACE aims to stay competitive with the private construction industry.
The TMO hopes its innovations will strengthen USACE partnerships across the nation and around the world, maintaining its reputation as a trusted federal partner. With a focus on the intersection of people, process and technology, modernizing the process by which USACE completes its mission will serve to strengthen current partnerships and build new, lasting partnerships in the future.
“These systems will showcase USACE’s commitment to keeping up with technology that works for project delivery staff, not against them,” said Darrick Godfrey, USACE Headquarters senior construction engineer.
While the prospect of strengthening and establishing new external partnerships is an added bonus, USACE leadership acknowledges that improving construction management processes is critical to the mission and hopes its dedication to industry excellence will attract new talent and retain existing talent.
“If we are open to new ideas, exploring ways of finding new processes and technology that will enhance tried and true USACE processes … there is no limit to where our digital transformation journey will lead,” said Godfrey, “and we might just have fun doing it.”
For more information about a career with the TMO or USACE, visit Careers and Employment with the Kansas City District (army.mil).