I/ITSEC NEWS: Marines Report Initial Success with Software Factory

By Allyson Park

U.S. Marine Corps photo

ORLANDO – The Marine Corps is training its service members to create software that it can use to boost efficiency, lethality and enable Force Design 2030 modernization goals.

Thomas Johnson, senior principal engineer of Joint/Coalition C2 at the Marine Corps Tactical Systems Support Activity, said “Our core systems, our core capabilities within the Marine Corps are going to require that level of Marine that understands that technology.”

Through the Austin, Texas-based U.S. Marine Corps Software Factory, the service offers a four-month technical acceleration program teaching software engineering and development and product management, then pairs each Marine with an industry expert for nine months. For two years after that, they go through on-the-job training, designing and developing applications and creating quick-turn solutions for the fleet, he said during a panel at the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference on Nov. 28.

“We’re using this latent talent that can obviously be put to great use across the Marine Corps,” said Matt Robinson, director and portfolio manager for Marine Corps Software Factory. The idea is that those who have served at the factory will “go out to these unit commanders, and they’ll be able to create these solutions at the tactical edge where the commander might not have two years to get the software that he needs, but he needs it in maybe six weeks to two months. That’s our mission right now.”

By March, the Marine Corps Software Factory will have four applications “completely 100 percent done,” Robinson added.

The Army Futures Command also established a software factory staffed by soldiers in Austin in 2021.

Understanding data on all different levels of command is critical to achieving overmatch with adversaries, and it must be a part of the Marine Corps, all the services, and coalition partners. Data is “a weapon,” and training software-intelligent and capable Marines is key to enabling commanders and unit leaders to stay ahead of challenges on the modern battlefield, Johnson stated.

“You want to kill your enemy, you want to kill the data first,” he said. “We’ve got to make Marines data competent. And the good news is almost all of our Marines that are coming in today, they have a data background. They know how to curate data … Oddly, we have to weaponize the capabilities that our young people have today to get after our challenges.”

That being said, industry still has a large role to play in understanding data and utilizing it for the future fight.

“One of the things that we’re very interested in is purchasing source code,” said Rick Bobst, warfighter support officer at Marine Corps Tactical Systems Support Activity. “If you can transition something to digital solutions for the Software Factory, we can take that source code and maintain it and manage it while looking for a transition partner.”

Working with to purchase source code from industry partners is something that the Corps is actively doing, bringing in industry and government in different capacities, he said.

Johnson said the ability to interpret and understand data is key to staying ahead in the modern battlefield,“If you’re going to be able to outpace and out compete your adversary, you have to be able to interpret this data and make decisions on data when those algorithms aren’t working, the systems aren’t working.”

Topics: Training and Simulation

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