Another approach to warfighting integration

Air Force office signals a new era of IT convergence and efficiency

Air Force officials said the service's newest information technology organization will be more than a one-stop shop for IT policy formulation and implementation.

They are expecting the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force, Chief of Warfighting Integration and Chief Information Officer to accomplish two key objectives of Gen. John Jumper, the service's chief of staff: rid service computers and networks of the dreaded Microsoft Windows hourglass and, in military parlance, shorten the kill chain.

Lt. Gen. William "Tom" Hobbins, director of the new office, called SAF/XC, said the convergence of the Air Force's warfighting IT, business IT and communications operations functions will help airmen target and attack the smaller, more mobile enemy targets they encounter in the war on terrorism.

Hobbins, speaking May 10 at the opening of the office, said he wants SAF/XC to build a reputation servicewide for "shortening the kill chain" and helping airmen "become analyzers not just inputters of data."

In December, Air Force officials announced the creation of SAF/XC, which represents a merger of the former offices of the CIO, deputy chief of staff for warfighting integration and deputy chief of staff for installations and logistics.

Michael Dominguez, acting secretary of the Air Force, called SAF/XC a big step. He said the office took longer than expected to materialize because change is hard, but it will enable the service to dominate air, space and information.

Hobbins said Air Force officials' recent efforts to organize SAF/XC will ensure that the service's warfighting IT, business IT and communications operations functions will receive the necessary attention.

Rob Thomas, a member of the Senior Executive Service and a business IT expert from his years working at the Treasury Department and participating in the CIO Council, will serve as Hobbins' deputy. Thomas previously served as deputy chief of staff of warfighting integration under Hobbins.

The office consists of three directorates, with a civilian and two generals as leaders. Information, Services and Integration, led by Maj. Gen. Charles Croom, will integrate data for Air Force, U.S. and coalition warfighters. Operations and Support Integration, led by Maj. Gen. Gregory Powers, will manage warfighting and business IT. Policy, Planning and Resources, led by Senior Executive Service civilian David Tillotson, will link architectures, warfighting, and capital and strategic planning.

Each of the directorates consists of at least four divisional offices. The Directorate for Information, Services and Integration, for example, has offices for fixed network operations, expeditionary network operations, enterprise information services, information assurance, architecture integration, and force development and transformation.

SAF/XC includes four other groups for assessments, client services, operational support modernization and Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard advisers. The IT office also controls four field operating agencies: the Air Force's Communications Agency, Frequency Management Agency, Agency for Modeling and Simulation, and Command, Control, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Center.

"This is a natural evolution that links warfighting systems with business systems for a competitive advantage," Hobbins said.

Air Force officials considered linking warfighting and business IT in 2003 when they formed the Commanders Integrated Product Team, which led to the formation of SAF/XC, said Jack Woodward, a retired Air Force lieutenant general who last served as director of communications and information systems and deputy CIO.

"Hobbins has taken on the tough challenge of synchronizing warfighting IT with combat support IT," said Woodward, who is now executive vice president of Accenture's National Security Systems unit.

Hobbins comes to the new job with a strategy: His office will work on plans to integrate the Air Force's warfighting and business IT systems with the systems of the other military services, reduce the number of people and amount of equipment in the Air and Space Operations Centers command facilities by 30 percent, update the CIO governance process, and develop and publish an information assurance policy.

"We want to close the seams in the kill chain," he said.

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