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The Air Force Pursues IT Operational Agility

Published: December 09, 2015

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The Air Force information technology (IT) vision for the future is information dominance and operational agility to enable and assure their mission. That was the theme as a recent Air Force IT Day event and comments from the speakers outlined several areas of challenge and opportunity for them and their industry partners.

At AFCEA NOVA’s 14th Annual Air Force IT Day senior leadership and others addressed their most pressing information technology issues, their impacts on the mission and strategies, and potential procurements that are of direct interest to industry.

The overarching theme was enabling operational agility with IT to help the Air Force achieve mission success and focused largely on aspects of functional agility stressed in the AF’s Future Operating Concept (AFOC), published in September. Some of the topics discussed and salient comments included:

  • Cybersecurity – Last year the AF spent $2.7 billion to secure networks, $0.3 billion to secure operations and defense and $0 went to securing weapons systems. This is what we’re trying to shift and standing up the Task Force Cyber Security that has now identified this need. – Lt. Gen. William J. Bender, Chief, Information Dominance and Chief Information Officer
  • Cyber Mission Forces – Half of the AF’s cyber mission forces reside in the 24th Air Force and half in the 25th. There are some talks about combining and creating a “vigilance command” to do things better, given the convergence points of C2, ISR, cyber, etc. We now have many more platforms that allow us to do C2, etc. much better than before, using platforms and capabilities in ways never before used to gain an advantage using creative approaches. – Maj. Gen. Bradford J. “B.J.” Shwedo, Commander, 25th Air Force
  • Big Data – The AF needs analytics to be applied to more than the data, but also to the analyst process. We need the architecture that enables rapid development, deployment and spiral improvements of tools and services. We also need analyst teams that include ISR analysts, data scientists, knowledge managers, and visualization gurus. – Mr. Jon “Doc” Kimminau, Air Force Analysis Mission Technical Advisor for the Deputy Chief of Staff, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance
  • Internet of Things (IoT) – The overarching priorities share information and have mission in common, so IT is the enabler of the enablers. The AF already has a network of things that are communicating (platforms), but we need to expand this to everything on the battle field. – Dr. Tim Rudolph, SES, Systems Planning, Research, Development and Engineering Level III Technical Adviser, AF Life Cycle Management Center
  • Data Center and Application Consolidation – We are reducing duplication at all levels because we can’t afford to have them all and maintain them all. It’s all about application rationalization. This is what we’re all about right now, by 2018-2020, to get down to a smaller footprint in an effective, affordable way. It’s a sweat spot for commercial vendors and partners, because you’ve done this for yourself in order to survive or improve competitiveness. – Maj. Gen. Craig S. Olson, PEO for C3I and Networks
  • Cloud – It is not just about infrastructure differences. It also brings a mobile front end that we can leverage for development without having to go through a 2 year cycle. We can use the cloud platform and the mobility that is baked into that product to deliver HR services securely. So cloud isn’t just about cloud, but enabling agility in other enhancements. – Mr. William E. Marion II, CIO & Dep. Director Plans and Integration, the Pentagon
  • Joint Regional Security Stacks (JRSS) – One thing we’ve done is flatten out our network, integrating the Guard and Reserve, so in effect we’ve already introduced JRSS on our network. So it will be transparent to us. – Col. Robert H. “Chipper” Cole, Director Air Force Cyber Forward
  • Future Cyber Requirements – We are looking for ways to allow DoD to operate effectively in the face of cyber warfare, for better and safer information sharing, ways at keeping a secret a secret, security beyond the signature epoch, better anomaly detection for security, a compression of response time and reversing latency, increased virtualization, and big data capabilities. – Mr. John Mills, Chief, Cybersecurity Strategy Division, Office of the Deputy CIO for Cybersecurity, Department of Defense

If there was a unifying vision among the many presenters it was their emphasis on the fact that everything they do with IT is centered on mission assurance and supporting the warfighter/operator.