Air Force preps architecture training

Although some may say that there are only about 20 architects in the Air Force, the sad fact is that the service really has no idea how many of its more than 100,000 information technology personnel are trained architects because it does not track them.

To remedy that situation and better equip the Air Force with properly trained enterprise architects, the service is preparing an architecture training strategy, said Col. William Nelson, deputy director of C4ISR (command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) architecture and assessment, in the office of the deputy chief of staff for warfighting integration at Air Force headquarters.

Speaking at a Nov. 12 enterprise architecture seminar sponsored by the Bethesda, Md., chapter of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA) International, Nelson said there are four levels of necessary architecture training, some of which the Air Force can do on its own and some that require assistance from the private sector and academia:

1. A management and use course, which lasts about four days. The service already has conducted this course for about 50 students and plans to do another one in December. The goal is to conduct it four times per year.

2. A practitioner course, which should take about two weeks. The service currently relies on academia to provide this training.

3. A series of certification courses, which would last about six months and cost about $10,000 per student in the private sector.

4. Tool-specific training.

Nelson said he thinks the Air Force would need at least one certified architect to complete the third level of training at each of the service's 10 major commands. He added that the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence recently created a course that could satisfy the Air Force's needs.

Next month, the Air Force's Infostructure Architecture Council (IAC) will report to the service's senior leadership with recommendations on what approach should be taken for architecture training, he said.

"We have the framework for enterprise architectures, but all the pieces are not proceeding at the same pace," Nelson said. "Architectures are part of the departmental decision-making process," and the Air Force is working to "prioritize workloads based on where the department needs to go."

In related news, Nelson said the IAC recently selected System Architect from Popkin Software as the Air Force's standard architecture tool.

"Popkin is our preferred tool, but they are allowed to use others," Nelson told FCW, adding that the service signed a contract Oct. 30 for about 123 licenses.

Nelson acknowledged that the Popkin tool is not perfect but said the Air Force thought it was time to move forward with a standard architecture tool and will re-visit the issue as the technology and training practices evolve.

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