Air Force IT modernization ahead of schedule

The Air Force’s IT modernization effort is moving forward rapidly, and the service should reach its targets for 2012 ahead of schedule, the Air Force CIO said Thursday.

The Air Force’s goal over the next six years is to go from a servicewide total of 1,700 separate systems and 19,000 applications to a better-integrated unit of 700 systems and 10,000 applications, Lt. Gen. Michael Peterson, chief of warfighting integration and CIO for the Air Force, said yesterday at a lunch sponsored by the Industry Advisory Council in Arlington, Va.

“We will be there well ahead of that,” Peterson said of the 2012 targets. “And we have to be.”

The Air Force also is committed to investing in the recapitalization of its aging air fleet, Peterson said. The average age of the force’s aircraft—23 years—makes this imperative.

In fact, “recapitalization and modernization” is now one of the Air Force’s three top priorities. The other two are winning the global war on terror and taking care of agency personnel, he said.

Overall, the Air Force is not planning to reduce the air fleet, given the warfighting challenges ahead. “We’re not bringing the number of wings down, because we have new missions,” Peterson said.

But the agency is aiming for cost savings through smarter business operations and more sophisticated technology.

In this, the Air Force has had success in increasing connectivity capabilities so more data can be sent quickly from the theater to a control center, where it can be analyzed. “We’ve made it so much easier to move information,” Peterson said.

Recently upgraded systems also are more adept at consolidating functions. And the service is developing technology to make the process of storing information more efficient, leading to potential savings of “a quarter of a billion dollars a year,” Peterson said.

“All we do,” he said to an audience consisting mainly of industry executives, “is steal the great ideas you’re coming up with.”

Mark Tarallo is a freelance writer in Washington.

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