As the Defense Department pushes forward with plans for shared IT services across the military components, Air Force leaders are putting the new policies into place in ways that impact the daily lives of airmen.
Many aspects of emerging DoD IT plans are discussed at high levels – efficiencies, savings, as-a-service offerings, mobility and more. Those conversations still are happening as policies continue to take shape, but the impact is being felt down the ranks, according to one Air Force official.
“Everything we’re thinking and doing has got to be in sync with the down-range operations. Everything in terms of communication, information technology, cyber … If we’re too far afield, then we already have failed,” said BG Kevin Wooton, director of communications and information at Air Force Space Command. “Foremost today we are trying to balance that twin issue of efficiency and effectiveness when it comes to IT. It’s easy to get so excited about efficiency and saving money that we become less effective – that we even go down a road that ultimately [doesn’t] help our warfighter. So we constantly have to balance that.”
The services are working to strike that balance with a number of initiatives designed to streamline defense IT operations, some of which now are being rolled out. The Joint Information Enterprise has launched in Europe, with the Pacific up next; several Air Force components have migrated to defense enterprise e-mail and AFNet, and more continue to transition; and a move to joint regional security stacks is under way.
Wooton said that after this month the Air Force will “declare victory” on the AFNet migration, getting everyone onto a single exchange, shrinking the attack surface of Air Force networks and reducing hundreds network entry points to 16 gateways. The joint regional security stacks will be fielded this summer, he added.
“All of these things prepare our force for the joint network; we’re more seamless,” Wooton said March 6 at a Cisco event in Washington. “A lot has happened just over the last few months. This has been a fast-moving train; it’s been fun. The defense acquisition process can be glacial, but in this case the drive to do joint and the exciting nature of this” has accelerated progress.
The Air Force also is expanding mobility efforts, including most recently the introduction of iOS devices into one of the service’s pilot programs. Wooton also is hopeful the increased access to and use of mobile apps – both commercial and Air Force-specific – will “allow us to do things differently, faster, better and cheaper.”
“We believe mobility provides unprecedented opportunities to advance operational effectiveness, frankly,” he said. “The idea of a tablet out there in the flight line for a young airman maintaining airplanes, versus a desktop back in the office, changes his game totally.”
All of the efforts hinge on evolving partnerships that stem from the need for efficiencies and the much-faster pace industry offers.
“If we don’t open our aperture and think of new ways of doing business and bring in partners beyond maybe what we originally thought, we will fail,” he said. “Relationships are critical, especially in the cyber and IT regimes. All of the innovation going on today in this business is in the commercial arena…we could never keep up.”