Air Force focuses on info

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — If hardware and software have been the focus of Air Force information technology efforts in the past, it's information that will drive the future, according to John Gilligan, chief information officer of the Air Force.

Speaking at the Air Force IT Conference (AFITC) here this week, Gilligan said that idea stems from a simple recognition that information itself is now an enabling capability for the decision-maker and the warfighter.

Getting accurate, timely, complete and usable information to the right person in a secure manner is now the function of IT, he said.

"Information management is the way of the future," Gilligan told AFITC attendees in a keynote presentation.

That's going to bring a radical makeover for the Air Force's IT infrastructure. In the past it's been organized around completely separate organizations, each of which had control over its own hardware, software, interfaces and so on, he said. The future will be one of common interfaces, common data warehouses and a common set of applications delivered as Web-based services.

The guide for this future is the Air Force Information Resources Flight Plan, which Gilligan said was formally approved last week. It lays out a set of objectives for the next two years that are intended to meet the vision and goals put forward in an information strategy developed several years ago.

Gilligan outlined four initiatives that are guiding Air Force IT actions: server and network consolidation; Web-based platforms and services; common enterprise applications; and standards-based acquisition.

The consolidation part of the job is already far along, he said, with some 92 percent of the Air Force architecture that was previously administered separately now under a consolidated operations control, either physical or virtual. That will improve to 96 percent by the end of the year, he said.

There's also been significant progress towards a Web-enabled enterprise with the development of an Air Force Web portal that will eventually support airmen in anything they need to do their jobs, Gilligan said. The portal now can only be accessed through desktop systems, but a pilot due to begin next year will extend that to portable devices such as personal digital assistants, he said.

Other future developments include: Web services that will link legacy and new applications, a single repository for all Air Force data, and a common enterprise resource planning that Gilligan said will be used link various business processes across different domains.

The Air Force needs to adopt some "fundamentally different" paradigms, he said. The focus now has to be on producing and delivering precise, secure, quality information to support the warfighter.

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

About the Author

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

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