As technologies develop at a quicker pace than ever before, it will be critical for the Army to invent open architecture weapons, computers and equipment that can be quickly upgraded with new software and components, but the service still is challenged in making such systems a reality, an Army official said Wednesday.

Adversaries are working to overcome the U.S. military’s technical edge, and the service will not be agile enough to react if it remains tethered to the stovepiped, hardware-based systems that it has been reliant upon in the past, said Col. Linda Jantzen, a division chief in the architecture, operations, networks and space (AONS) directorate of the Army’s Chief Information Officer/G-6.

iStock Cyber Lock “We can’t afford to be swapping out hardware platforms every couple of years as they become obsolete,” she said at Defense Daily’s Open Architecture Summit. “We need to be able to simply just go into that platform and change the software and be up to date.”

Doing that is easier said than done, however, as the Army finds itself trying to balance priorities such as security, intellectual property rights and interoperability as open architecture systems gain greater prominence.

The Army’s CIO/G6 works closely with the service’s acquisition wing to try to ensure that current standards and system architectures are implemented early in the development of weapons, computing systems and other equipment. The service has designed avionics, robotics and tactical radios with open architectures, said Jantzen, who could not identify specific programs.

However, “it’s not an easy process. It’s a learning, iterative, collaborative process,” she said. “You can’t just change everything overnight. We have tremendous investments in legacy systems, so we’re going to be operating in a bimodal fashion for some time.”

“We have a lot of work to do to correct decades of development of single-function, stovepiped systems that use a range of standards,” she added. “We’re tied to legacy systems that are stuck with operating on an obsolete operating system that costs us money to sustain, paying for licenses for things that out of lifecycle.”

One of the biggest challenges is striking a happy medium for an interoperable and agile product that still meets all of the service’s requirements.

“You can be so open that there are too many options,” she said. “You can be not open enough so that nobody knows what you want or what you can build to.”

For instance, the Army currently employs too many technical standards, which stifles interoperability, but in the past it’s found that using a single standard can lead to products becoming obsolete too quickly, she said. The Army also would like to streamline its collection of complex, disparate networks, but has to figure out how to safeguard them into one enterprise and convince skeptics that open architecture can lead to greater cybersecurity.

“The reality is that when it comes to security, our enemy is complexity. We have to be able to see ourselves, we have to be able to see our network,” she said.

Oftentimes there are legal concerns that come with open systems, whether that takes the form of working with industry partners on intellectual property matters or dealing with data storage. The Army’s movement to a unified voice, video and chat capability is one example of the latter, Jantzen said.

“We would like to move faster in this arena with the migration, but we have to move cautiously” and ensure data is searchable, accessible and open to Freedom of Information Act requests.

The service is trying to anticipate future trends, and CIO/G6 plans to release in 2016 a long-range “Network 2025 to 2040” strategy in partnership with the service’s science and technology community.

“We’re not trying to predict what technologies will come along,” she said. “We’re trying to…think of the network a little bit differently based upon what our industry partners are telling us are feasible technologies and capabilities for the future. How do we think about how we deliver services and capabilities in the future versus how we do that now?”