AF group will gauge technology impact

Striving to get itself in better sync with the principles of the Clinger-Cohen Act the Air Force has realigned personnel resources to create a new information technology management organization under Art Money chief information officer.

The Clinger-Cohen Act - along with the Government Performance and Results Act - directs federal agencies to measure the success of technology investments in terms of the direct impact those investments have on agencies' core missions.

As part of the reorganization the Air Force has created a CIO support staff that as one of its key tasks will find ways to measure how technology affects the Air Force's mission in order to satisfy the requirements of the law. The staff brings together personnel from IT offices in the Air Force Communications and Information Division under Air Force deputy chief of staff Lt. Gen. William J. Donahue. The staff reports to William James director of architectures technology and interoperability.

The Air Force also will create an integral structural connection between its technology pursuits and its larger mission. In principle Donahue said it is a question of "how can you bring [in] this information technology so you can have an Air Force that works better and costs less?"

He said it is largely a cultural issue in which IT personnel must think about their own jobs from a new perspective. "You ask a [communications and information] person what they do in the Air Force [and] they used to say `I do comm and info.' I want them to say `I do air and space operations and my contribution is communications and information.' "

As part of its reorganization the Air Force is establishing "customer liaison" groups within its Systems Division that will treat the service's operations groups as its customers. These groups will be responsible for "[knowing] the customers' needs as well as they do themselves" and for understanding the IT systems that meet those needs James said.

For example one customer-liaison group will be responsible for knowing the weather business and the systems that support that business he said. The Air Force always has been one of the Defense Department leaders in managing IT in terms of mission support said Chip Mather senior vice president of Acquisitions Solutions Inc. a Chantilly Va. government consulting firm.

The Air Force's Standard Systems Center made a practice of having its technical experts and end users sit side by side to develop IT solutions. "The part that was missing was the measures and the direct relationship to operations " Mather said. "Finding that is not going to be a chore it makes people think `Why am I doing this at all?' "

James described the realignment as a change of focus for an organization that has long been involved in developing IT metrics for understanding such issues as software development capability system uptime and life-cycle costs.

Donahue said the new organization falls in line with a concept of "architectures" put forward by the Office of the Secretary of Defense following passage of the Clinger-Cohen Act.

OSD directed the services to think about building functional architectures along three lines: operational which are directly mission-oriented systems for mission support and technical which provide system underpinnings. This fits very well with Clinger-Cohen Donahue said.

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