Chief information officers (CIO) from the U.S. Army Reserve and the National Guard Bureau (NGB) laid out their top tech priorities and projects they have in the works as they head full force into 2023.

Innovation topped the list during the discussions at AFCEA’s Army IT Day on Jan. 12, followed closely by the broad theme of data management and specific projects like JADC2, BYOD, and network convergence.

“In the last three years the focus has been innovation [and] digital modernization for the National Guard,” Kenneth McNeill, the bureau’s CIO, said.

McNeill has been working hard to implement the Army’s “bring your own device” (BYOD) concept within the NGB. He said that 93 percent of personnel in the NGB don’t have government-issued laptops or phones, so allowing them to use their personal devices is a “game changer.”

The Army launched its BYOD pilot at the end of September, and the CIO said his team is now in the third phase of testing the program.

“That is a top priority for us, and it is a game changer, because when our soldiers and airmen are not at the armory, they have to be connected . . . in a secure way,” McNeill said.

Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) is also on McNeill’s IT priorities and modernization efforts list for 2023.

JADC2 is a warfighting necessity to keep pace with the volume and complexity of data in modern warfare and to defeat adversaries decisively. The Pentagon released its implementation plan for the project last March.

“That’s a top priority for us because I think the Department is starting to really move out on JADC2 and get to where it needs to go,” McNeill said.

The third and final priority for the new year: data. McNeill said the NGB is working closely with other military branches to combine data and dashboards that will provide information that is “critical for senior leaders to make timely and smart decisions.”

“That’s a huge lift for the Guard,” he said. “We’re doing some things right now in our innovation and digital modernization that traditionally we haven’t really done because we rely on the services.”

Col. Carlos Jaffett, CIO for the Office of the Chief of Army Reserve (OCAR), Col. echoed McNeill’s priorities in both innovation and data.

Jaffett explained that he brought on a chief data and information officer to start up a data literacy program and create a cultural shift to help his team make better use of data analytics tools.

Jaffett also said OCAR is standing up its 75th Innovation Command.

“That’s where they’re going to engage and utilize the AI resources and try to see what programs they can assist and how we can better modernize the Reserve,” the colonel said.

He explained that effort has already begun to take up simple projects, like automating and digitizing paper processes and recruiting applications.

Jaffett’s biggest priority and project, he said, will be converging the Reserve’s current network – ARNet – with the Army’s main network. The colonel called that his big supporting mission at the moment, and said it will be influential for their modernization efforts.

He described it as a “heavy lift” for OCAR but emphasized that they’re in the process of doing their convergence, and “near term.”

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Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.