Air Force wish list targets information

Information technology helped coalition forces hit targets with unprecedented speed and power during Operation Iraqi Freedom, but more work is needed to ensure that the service's business processes can match its warfighting prowess, according to one Air Force leader.

Information is the "lifeblood" of air and space power and IT "provides the pumps, filters and arteries to flow it," but the Air Force is now "drowning in information and starving for knowledge," said Lt. Gen. Ronald Keys, deputy chief of staff for air and space operations.

"The fog of war is that there are too many answers to the same question," and decision-makers may not know the real answer vs. one that came up in a chat room, Keys said during a June 27 luncheon speech in McLean, Va., sponsored by the Northern Virginia chapter of AFCEA International. "Information is a time-sensitive target," and the Air Force's kill chain of find, fix, track, target, engage and access applies.

When Air Force chief information officer John Gilligan recently asked Keys what he thought of the service's portal, the fighter pilot responded that "it sucks."

"That's a technical pilot term," Keys joked. But he added that he would like the Air Force portal to have "dot-com speed, flexibility and familiarity with [military] secure global access," and provided a list of requests that included:

* An integrated system as good as Yahoo Inc's system.

* Personalization features as good as Amazon.com.

* An Air Force-wide search engine as good as Google.

* File-sharing as good as Roxio Inc.'s Napster or Sherman Networks' Kazaa.

* Instant messaging as good as America Online Inc.'s program.

"And I want it all to plug into our legacy systems," he said. "I'm a man of few wants."

Navigation tools, weapons systems and information integration, particularly in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets, were the keys to successful joint operations in Iraq, but it still takes too long to "put steel on the target," he said.

Joint forces currently operate in "networked neighborhoods," such as the Combined Air Operations Center, that are effective at sharing information and collaborating. However, the ultimate goal is a true global constellation of resources that doesn't require knowledge to be pushed to the user, he said.

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