AF puts its money on modernization

Service plans to consolidate thousands of systems, apps

When an IT specialist recently told Lt. Gen. Michael W. Peterson that a computer hard drive was almost full, Peterson performed a simple review of the saved documents.

Peterson, Air Force chief of warfighting integration and CIO, checked the hard drive’s contents and found poorly organized files that contained redundancies and even junk files.

“It was all garbage,” he said. “Not one file was named so that I could understand what it was.”

As a result, Air Force IT specialists are developing a system for saving information more efficiently. It prompts users to label files and helps them take stock of what is already saved. The potential savings of this system amount to “a quarter of a billion dollars a year,” Peterson said at a luncheon last month sponsored by the Industry Advisory Council.

The new system is part of an Air Force modernization that extends well beyond file organization. The service also is increasing Internet connectivity capabilities so data can be sent more quickly from the theater to a control center for analysis.

“We’ve made it so much easier to move information,” Peterson said.

The service’s ability to move information is paramount to meeting its three goals of recapitalization and modernization, winning the war on terror and taking care of its personnel, Peterson said.

The Air Force expects to reach its modernization targets ahead of schedule, Peterson said. The goal is to go from an agencywide total of 1,700 separate systems and 19,000 applications to a better-integrated unit of 700 systems and 10,000 applications by 2012, according to Peterson.

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

The success of the modernization effort is due to several components, all of which are part of the service’s Operational Support Modernization Program, Peterson said in a follow-up interview.

These components include implementation and monitoring of the Defense Department transition plan, the overarching military modernization program. Greater systems integration also has been achieved through the implementation of enterprise IT portfolio management.

The implementation of those plans has been supported by the successful use of the Air Force Operational Support Enterprise Architecture.

In addition, Peterson said, DOD’s business enterprise architecture has provided a “kick-start” to standardization in key areas of operation. In March, DOD submitted to Congress the latest version of its Business Enterprise Architecture, which emphasizes standardizing data and the elements people are required to use in systems operation.

“It is all of these elements, working together, that help the Air Force make progress in this area (of modernization),” Peterson said.

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

“We absolutely have to recapitalize the force,” Peterson 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.

Here, Peterson said, the goal is to “establish a culture of continuous improvement,” and then use some of the savings to recapitalize weapons systems and infrastructure.
Recently upgraded systems are also more adept at consolidating functions.

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

Mark Tarrallo is a freelance writer in Washington.

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