Air Force, Army push for more innovation

RICHMOND, Va. — The Air Force’s community of interest for flight-scheduling systems is debating the number of systems the service should use. The meetings, taking place this week, will recommend reducing the number of disparate systems from between 23 and 35 to a handful, said David Stookey, chief of the Air Force’s Data and Transparency Strategy Branch.

“The intent is to reduce the number of systems and improve the flow of information,” Stookey said June 6 after a panel discussion on innovation at the Defense Department at the 27th annual Management of Change conference. “The intent is not to eliminate one part of the system or force people to use only one system. Our end goal is to make the systems more interoperable and reduce costs.”

The Army, meanwhile, is trying to foster innovation by appealing to vendors whose products are still in the beta stage, said C.J. Wallington, director of the Army’s advanced technologies office.

“We watch what the Army needs or what policies are coming out, and we look for products or technologies that can satisfy our needs,” he said. “We want to get involved early so we know what is coming next.”

Stookey added that the Air Force Chief Information Officer’s Office supports  considering the use of Web services to connect the systems — once their number is reduced — as a way to solve the interoperability problem and ensure that all squadrons’ needs are met.

“I know of a case where two squadrons on the same base use different systems and can’t communicate when they are using planes for training,” he said.

This five-day effort is a part of a larger Air Force strategy to do more than automate business processes. It’s about improving the functions and applying technology to them.

Stookey said the CIO office has realigned across 13 business functions to move toward that goal. Some of these new areas include enterprise architecture, strategic planning, portfolio management, and capability implementation and deployment.

Wallington said the Army’s approach deals more with the private sector. The service has set up more than 35 technology adoption programs with different vendors including Microsoft. The programs let the Army test beta versions of hardware and software on a controlled but wide-scale basis .

For instance, Wallington said, the Army is testing Microsoft Exchange 14, Longhorn — the next version of Windows — and Apple’s iPhone.

“We are testing 2007 Exchange [Server] Service Pack 1 with more than 7,000 people across the Army,” Wallington said. “There is no cost except for installation and maintenance. Microsoft wanted us to really load test the software.”

Wallington also said the Army will test a new handheld device that can switch between the classified and unclassified networks. The Army hired General Dynamics and L3 Communications to build its version of the SME-PED.

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