Cloud Computing

Around 2014 or so, word in industry circles began circulating about something called the Department of Defense “Combat Cloud.” Few details about the Combat Cloud concept are publicly available, however, one piece of the puzzle is called the Tactical Cloud Reference Implementation (TCRI).

The TCRI, according to the Air Force, is “a software platform, which will provide a common framework to manage operational data while also performing analysis on this data through the use of automated, mathematical algorithms and analytics. Essentially, the concept is similar to how people utilize clouds to sync different data on their numerous smart devices such as tablets and smartphones. The difference is TCRI will largely function automatically, with little user input, and will only provide information that the user designates as relevant.”

Work on the TCRI is underway at the Army, the Air Force, the Navy, and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. It is the Navy, however, that initially took the lead in developing the TCRI architecture. They have now handed off the task to the Air Force. Once it is completed, the TCRI will interface with a large number of defense intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) sensor systems to deliver a unified operational intel picture that enables data-based decision making in both connected and disconnected environments.

As an enabling technology for the Combat Cloud, the TCRI effort reminds me of an engineering program related to the Distributed Common Ground System-Army which sought to create a “cloud brain” for synthesizing data inflows into a common intelligence picture. Booz Allen Hamilton has been heavily involved in that effort since the beginning, as it details in this summary, but other industry partners are involved as well. In fact, it was only after the TCRI acronym became more widely known that I realized Deltek had contract data related to the development effort. Here it is below, including total contract award values for work related to the DCGS-A cloud effort as well.

The high award totals in FY 2012 and 2013 are related entirely to DCGS-A cloud development, while the contract award totals from 2014 on are related exclusively to TCRI development at Navy and the Air Force.

Who is doing the work is provided in the table below.

Currently, work on the TCRI is taking place at the Office of Naval Research’s Naval Research Laboratory and at the Air Force's program office at Hanscom AFB..

Determining a budget for the TCRI effort is tough. In its FY 2017 budget request, the Navy asked for $42.5M related to its FORCEnet Future Naval Capabilities Pillar of which the Naval Tactical Cloud Reference Implementation is part. No separate breakdown for TCRI was provided. Also, no mention of the TCRI could be found in Air Force’s request for FY 2017. Presumably, it will appear in the FY 2018 request, unless the work is deemed classified, in which case the numbers will never see the light of day.

Stay tuned.

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