Air Force chief derides 'tribes'

The Air Force must break down its "tribal" platforms and procedures and integrate them using information technology to speed its kill cycle and succeed in the war against terrorism, according to the service's chief of staff.

"The problem with the Air Force is that we're all about tribes" and protecting individual programs and platforms, Gen. John Jumper said during his Aug. 26 keynote presentation at the Air Force IT Conference (AFITC) in Montgomery, Ala. "Too few of us are about integration."

Jumper said that unfortunately, the best integration occurs during wartime, when the necessity to do so is most apparent and people are more willing to break down the cultural walls. He said the Air Force's kill cycle of find, fix, track, target, engage and assess could be significantly faster if integrating related systems and programs were the rule instead of the exception.

"In this decade, the name of the game is integration," Jumper said. "We have the capabilities and technology today to be doing it much better than we are doing it."

A "constellation of platforms" in space, in the air and on the ground is needed to conduct precise target location and identification and that can "talk seamlessly with [National Reconnaissance Office] satellites," he said.

"Digital-level conversations will replace tribal conversations," Jumper said, adding that the direct digital communication will be much faster than the analog means that human operators use. For example, he said the Air Force should begin to think of the F-22 fighter jet as also being an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft and "get away from being platform-centric."

Maj. Gen. Craig Weston, vice commander of the Air Force Standard Systems Group Electronic Systems Center, agreed and said IT is the foundation of the service's command, control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C2ISR) systems.

"IT is the glue that binds together individual Air Force weapons systems" and makes them into a "system of systems," Weston said, adding that some current capabilities were not even thought possible a year ago.

Jumper said that despite the need for greater integration, the Air Force has had some recent success stories, including the now-famous example of a staff sergeant on horseback in Afghanistan using a laptop computer and other equipment to call in bombing coordinates on an al Qaeda stronghold to a B-52 aircraft overhead at 39,000 feet.

In addition to speeding up the kill cycle, the goal of using IT to integrate systems is to save lives. The outcome of Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan might have been different if those in the field "had all the information they could have had and assets in the right place," Jumper said.

"That's our goal, that's our job, that's our mission," he said.


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