Air Force trying to keep up

Frustrated by a lengthy acquisition strategy that fails to keep pace with technological advancements, Air Force officials are working to make combat support more effective.

"As technology is progressing rapidly, we're crawling at a snail's pace," said Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Riemer, program executive officer for command and control programs and combat support systems. "If we had the technology available, we could have been much more effective, capable and responsive" during such recent events as the bombing of USS Cole and the Sept. 11 attacks.

In the short term, the Air Force is piloting an enterprise data warehouse with business intelligence tools to help streamline the acquisition process and draw it closer to the speedier, 18-month technology cycles, said Riemer, speaking Dec. 6 at the Defense Logistics 2001 conference in Pentagon City, Va.

The Air Force's long-term strategy is to consolidate more than 600 legacy systems into one, creating a Global Combat Support System (GCSS) that provides integrated, real-time situational awareness, Riemer said.

"Our current operations have reinforced the need for GCSS," he said.

Riemer said operations for Desert Storm and in Kosovo, when munitions and personnel were not being matched to mission requirements, proved that the Air Force's lengthy acquisition strategy was hindering it from keeping up with technology advancements. And things aren't much better today. The work gets done and looks fine from the outside, but on the flight line, personnel are putting in seven-day workweeks and are forced to innovate using outdated technology, he said.

Still, Air Force officials have seen a lot of resistance from many of the 23 domains, which include areas ranging from medical to financials to logistics, about being integrated into the GCSS. Only about four systems have signed on so far, and the goal is to have the entire system up and running by 2010.

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