Air Force logistics chief seeks transformation

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Transformation was the order of the day at the Air Force Information Technology Conference as the top official of the Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC) laid out reasons for why the service's logistics arm needs to change and how IT will be a core driver of that change.

Various parts of the Air Force logistics organization have operated mostly in isolation from one another without much communication or synergy, said Gen. Gregory Martin, commander of the AFMC, in the opening keynote address at the conference in Montgomery, Ala. Attempts to fix the situation have been done "one bite at a time," he said.

But the need for a more flexible military force, which President Bush has described as one capable of "defining the battlespace on our own terms," requires a more structured and aggressive approach, he said.

"In the end, it's all about defining the operational support battlespace," Martin said. "And this 'info tech' stuff is the most significant enabler. It's truly transformational."

The AFMC's Operational Support Modernization Program will focus on four areas, Martin said:

Deployment management.

Operational response management.

Operational support command and control.

Agile sustainment.

The aim is to connect thousands of islands of information together so commanders on the ground can get timely information about battlespace needs, Martin said.

That would give insight into all of the different databases that exist in the AFMC, he said. A single screen could show a commander what assets are needed now and what could be needed in the future. The next step for AFMC officials is to develop ways to sustain that capability according to the changing needs of the battlespace.

It won't be easy, he admitted, because commercial solutions don't yet exist for much of this. But it's also not optional.

"This is the biggest elephant on the block," he said.

AFMC's modernization program is an example of what Carly Fiorina, chairman and chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard Co., called the third major shift that will also transform the technology industry.

In a presentation immediately following Martin's, Fiorina said that value is increasingly being driven horizontally in organizations rather than vertically.

Historically, she said, organizations were set up as vertical entities and technology was developed to fit that model, with data and content connected to specific devices and applications. But that's no longer what drives value, she said.

"You can't conduct network-centric warfare unless you have systems that can deliver information to the right people," Fiorina said.

Technologies are needed to provide a complete view of the environment to the user, as are the tools to control it all in real time, she said.

Brian Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached at hullite@mindspring.com.

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Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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