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Analysis

Byting the bullet

Now is the time for smart military bases

Military installations are the backbone of the US Department of Defense (DoD). While smart technologies are slowly being put to use on military bases, there are significant security, operational, and economic benefits yet to be realized. The smart military base is the key to tomorrow’s fighting force.

Smart Bases

Smart bases are happening

Smart technologies are at work today improving the full range of activities that occur on military installations. For example, the Navy’s Print the Fleet smart manufacturing project uses 3D printing to provide quicker and cost-effective parts that can be produced at nearby installations or on-board ships. There are many individual success stories, but they evince the possibility of smart bases.

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What is a smart military base?

In essence, a smart base is the integration of technological and process innovations that improve the performance, efficiency, and convenience of the managed assets and services on a military installation. In other words, whereas there are bases that have employed smart technologies and practices for energy, mobility, and construction initiatives, a smart base integrates all of these things (and more) to provide a comprehensive set of solutions for the challenges associated with operating installations.

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Potential benefits of the smart base

Cost efficiencies
The Army has realized nearly $150 million in cost avoidance through its smart energy program alone. And in an uncertain budgetary environment, now may be the time for the DoD to make a deliberate and sustained investment in creating a new generation of fiscally-responsible, smart bases to meet the myriad of global and domestic challenges currently facing its vast infrastructure.

Accommodating a surge
Whether a base sees a small increase in visitors due to a ceremonial event or a population surge from an air show or visiting aircraft carrier, a smart military base can scale to the base’s needs.

Improved routine base activities
From facial recognition software to smart health centers, automation can help speed up various base activities.

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No one-size-fits-all solution

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to smart technology use on bases. Large training bases like Fort Hood and smaller bases in urban centers like Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall will not need the same set of solutions. Fortunately, the end state for any smart military base is entirely tailorable to the installation. And the very nature of smart technology permits flexibility, scale, and adaptiveness to a base’s primary mission, whether flight operations, education, or ship berthing and maintenance.

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Overcoming the barriers: Security and financing

Smart military bases are not without challenges. Two of the biggest are security and financing.

  • Security: Too often, security takes a backseat to cost savings and ease of use. Not so for a military base; security must be a forethought. A smart military base hardened against cyber attacks is the only acceptable solution.
  • Financing: The prospect of large initial costs represents another barrier to the prospect of smart bases. Shifting some of the cost from the government to commercial partners could bring the smart military base closer to reality. In this regard, public-private partnerships and performance-based revenue models can act as catalysts in promoting investments in smart military bases.

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