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Air Force balances urgent needs, long-term goals: programs will require closer coordination between government organizations and industry.

The Air Force has begun an aggressive campaign to change business practices, in an effort to accelerate technologies needed to meet pressing requirements, senior service officials said.

The results, so far, have been encouraging, said Air Force Lt. Gen. Richard Reynolds, commander of the Aeronautical Systems Center. "We are getting better at enterprise leadership, at horizontal integration," he said in an interview during the 2003 National Aeronautical Systems and Technology conference, in Dayton, Ohio.

Reynolds oversees a quarter of the Air Force's product development capability. "I have been given responsibility to operationalize enterprise leadership," he said. "In a sense, we are transforming how we fight and transforming how we are equipping ourselves to fight."

Out of ASC's $19 billion budget for this fiscal year, $15 billion is for Air Force programs, and $3 billion is for foreign military sales. For fiscal year 2004, Reynolds is projecting a budget of $14 billion.

He said that the Air Force is trying to get better at coordinating projects across the Air Force Materiel Command, the Air Force Research Laboratory and Air Combat Command, as well as the logistics centers, the test centers and headquarters.

"We are figuring out how to do this," he noted. "It is paying us back in terms of our ability to deal with cross-enterprise issues, such as GPS jamming, combat ID and time-critical targeting."

"We are learning how to take advantage of the liberating policy that we have that takes down some of the low or non-value added bureaucracy that has worked its way into the acquisition process," he said.

The overarching guidelines for developing future capabilities and improving integration with joint forces come from seven task forces created by the Air Force chief of staff, Gen. John P. Jumper.

The seven task forces quickly are becoming the "touchstones" of what Reynolds calls enterprise leadership. The task forces are responsible for developing concepts of operations in the following areas: global response, global strike, air and space/C2ISR, homeland security, nuclear response, global mobility and air and space expeditionary.

"In the product development world, using enterprise leadership, we bring to bear the resources that we have to plan and experiment and define solutions to fill those gaps," he explained. "We present those as options and options sets to the Air Force requirements community both at the Pentagon and the major commands, and they choose to adopt them or reject them, depending on their own internal prioritization process."

The process is simple to conceptualize, but it is "very difficult in application," Reynolds said.

When it comes to delivering urgent war fighter requests, Reynolds said the service has been adopting a SWAT-team mentality.

Some of the capabilities that were rapidly fielded in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom included integrating the Litening targeting pot on the B-52 bomber and the F-16, and providing tactical air control parties with advanced targeting equipment and text messaging capabilities on moving map displays.

The Air Combat Command sent teams to Kuwait to help train the operators, said Col. Greg Feest, deputy director for requirements at ACC headquarters in Langley, Va.

But this swift response comes at a considerable price, said Feest. The funds had to be taken from other programs, including upgrades. Now, he said, ACC is trying to fix the shortfalls in those programs.

In its recent draft of the fiscal year 2005 amended program objective memorandum, or APOM, the ACC needed to offset $750 million for war-related work, such as flying hours and depot costs, not including any procurement or modernization programs.

While ACC's job is to procure capabilities for the war fighters, "when we get told to fund a program, the money does not come with it, [and] we have to find offsets. This may hurt our modernization and our legacy programs," Feest said. Many times, the ACC funds a program, but finds that it does not have the manpower to support it, he said.

About 38 percent of ACC's money goes to supporting legacy weapons systems and upgrades, said Feest. The rest goes to ACC's largest acquisition programs--the F/A-22 and the Joint Strike Fighter.

In the coming months, the Air Force will see a surge of maintenance requirements as platforms return from the Middle East, said Gen. Lester Lyles, commander of the Air Force Materiel Command.

"We are re-looking at those aircraft that were deferred from coming into the depots and at how we can reschedule getting them back into the depots," he said in an interview.

Lyles is anticipating a high volume of platforms that will need modifications in addition to maintenance and repair. "We are prepared to be able to address that," he said.

Improvements made in some of the depots are going to help do the job more efficiently, he said. Tinker Air Force Base, in Oklahoma, is one example, Lyles said. Tinker does maintenance and repair on the KC-135 tankers. "The war fighters will be able to get their platforms back a lot faster than in the past," he said.

Aging platforms like the KC-135 and the C-130 cargo aircraft are posing a dilemma as to what kind of procedures they should undergo, because of the extensive repairs required.

"We are seriously looking whether some series of those platforms should be retired a lot earlier than may have been planned," Lyles said. "The amount of work that we have to do on them--corrosion control, cracks" is massive.

When those aircraft are back in the United States, many questions must be answered, Lyles said. "What are we going to do with them? Do we continue to do maintenance and repair the way we have done in the past, or do we try to take a concerted effort to accelerate getting rid of them and try to bring something else to replace them?"

Meanwhile, the Air Force Materiel Command is working on implementing the enterprise approach to program development, he said. "We started our enterprise approach before the task forces really came on board," Lyles said.

AFMC has aligned its science and technology programs with the task forces, Lyles explained, "to make sure that the technologies we work with in AFRL are again in synch with the task force approaches and the capabilities needed by the Air Force."

Lyles, who is about to retire, has been working at convincing the Air Force leadership that investments in bio-technology, nanotechnology and directed energy "can revolutionize some of the ways we do war fighting," he said. "We are looking at more sensor work and greater and more effective sensored capabilities that we can provide by using directed energy technology."

The Air Force also needs to focus on multi-role platforms and work with the other services on mobility issues, Feest said.

"We want to look at a plug-and-play architecture" for fighter aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles, and command and control intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C2ISR) platforms, he said.

The ACC stood up a "Tiger team" to come up with a roadmap on how the Air Force wants to use future UAVs. The team is made up of representatives from the ACC, Air Warfare Center, UAV Battle Lab, AFMC and AFRL.

Among the concepts being looked at are the ability to command and control the Predator from a C-130 aircraft and to data-link the Predator to the B-52 bomber.

RELATED ARTICLE: War Lessons Reshaping Air Force Budget Priorities

Lessons from recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq are shaping Air Force plans to fine-tune capabilities in "time-critical, time-sensitive targeting" said Brig. Gen. Michael Snodgrass, the Air Force deputy director for operational capability requirements.

The Air Force is in the "very early stages of doing capabilities-based planning. ... We are still getting our arms around it" he told National Defense during the 2003 National Aeronautical Systems and Technology conference, in Dayton, Ohio.

To improve capabilities for time-critical strike, one immediate priority is to be able to analyze intelligence faster, he explained. "We have a tremendous amount of intelligence capability, but we have to be able to analyze it and quickly determine what is important"

The Air Force wants to reduce its reliance on human operators and have more machines talking to other machines, analyzing photography and other documents, he said. People only should be used in critical situations when human decision making is needed, he said.

Snodgrass' office is working with the users, the Air Combat Center and the Air Force Materiel Command to put together a game plan on how to go about addressing capability shortfalls.

"Then we kind of back out of it and let the major commands and the labs do what they do best which is invent technologies and investigate alternatives," he said. "They are the ones who go out and do the hard work of trying to fill that shortfall There are a series of investigations that we go through before we determine what the real requirement is," he said.

He cautioned that the Air Force, to help meet its modernization goals, should work more closely with industry.

"We need to be a team with industry," he said. "If what we are thinking and saying does not make sense to them and does not allow them to morph their approach to be able to fulfill our requirement then we are going to fail."

The Air Force needs to work at teaming up with industry, said Brig. Gen. Edward Mahan, the director of the Air Force Information Dominance Office, at the NASTC conference.

Mahan acknowledged that industry is trying to understand the process and that it will take time to figure out the new ways of doing business. "It is just very difficult" he added.

Mahan is a strong proponent of agile acquisition, a concept the Air Force adopted in recent years.

Agile acquisition aims to deliver capabilities quickly. Mahan is looking at timelines of 12 months or less. "Nine months would be great" he said.

To speed up the acquisition process, testers, contractors and the war fighters have to cooperate. Also, contractors need to be given incentives to deliver the products much faster, he said.

"The contract folks at the Pentagon are working to figure it out" Mahan noted.

Another helpful method is spiral development, which focuses on accelerating the acquisition process and incrementally upgrading the capabilities.

"It's pretty ambitious," he said. He stressed that for spiral development to be successful, program managers have to set realistic cost estimates and contain the cost growth.

The buzzword in spiral development is the so-called 80 percent solution. "Eighty percent solutions are OK," Mahan noted. "You get the first key capability out there, and the good ideas spiral into the subsequent development."

However, critics charge that spiral development could end up making things worse, by adding time and cost to the procurement process.

"It's an open debate, so we are still wrestling with that idea," Mahan said. Congress has become a little bit more accepting of spiral development he added.

"We have to make sure that everybody understands that we may never get to 100 percent because of funding. We don't say that the 80 percent solution is the final solution. We are still trying to work on that."

Just as speed counts in fighting a war, speed in acquisition also is paramount Mahan stressed. He said that the Air Force went from delivering capabilities in five years, a few decades ago, to delivering capabilities in 10 years.

Snodgrass said that feedback from the operators who fought in recent conflicts help drive the requirements process and decide what should be accelerated.

"Obviously, in combat emerging technologies aren't quite ready for use, but we will capitalize on that combat experience," he said. "It is the technology piece that is going to be the most important as we go forward."

Air Force decision makers have to make sure that industry understands "that we start with effects, [then go to] the capabilities and then the requirements that generate those capabilities, and then programs that fill those requirements," said Lt. Gen. Richard Reynolds, the commander of the Aeronautical Systems Center.

"We all have to have this common understanding of how the process works. We will probably do more of what I have called capabilities planning with industry," he said.

Roxana Tiron
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Author:Tiron, Roxana
Publication:National Defense
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2003
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