Providing real-time information to the warfighter.
Remarks to the Capitol Hill Club, Washington, D.C., May 4, 2006
Thank you, Congressman Taylor. That was a pretty good introduction. I really do appreciate you coming to join us and offer that introduction. When I was asked to do this briefing, the seminar folks asked if I knew anyone that would be willing to introduce me, so I said one name, and thank you for attending. Because it does make you feel good to be with someone from home. For example, I was back in Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. as the Wing Commander for a couple of years, and although I don't really believe that I think differently, I can't tell you how often someone would come up and go "But you understand." I felt right at home.
Lt. Gen. Stephen Wood (Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Plans and Programs, Headquarters U.S. Air Force) thanks for setting these seminars up. They are great. So, what's warfighting integration? OK, everybody knows what a Chief Information Officer is. And if you don't, that's okay because I'm going to spend a lot of time on that today. Now, what's this warfighting integration thing all about and where did we come up with that? We were so good at building systems in the '70s and '80s and early '90s, like AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System), JSTARS (Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System), a lot of the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance programs. I mean, they were tremendous capabilities. Somehow we forgot that they should talk to one another. And I'm sincere about that. I mean, can you imagine that the JSTARS aircraft, which is a radar that looks at moving targets on the ground principally, and our AWACS aircraft, which would look at moving targets in the air, were planned not to talk to one another? And so now you kind of look at each other and go "What were we thinking?"
The opportunity to use all of your force and all of your capability to go against a target or use those capabilities jointly amongst the services or coalition environment--it just doesn't work unless there's inter-dependency and inter-operation. I mean, the stories are endless about the lost opportunities because we couldn't push that information except through a voice call. And if you have ever listened to a headset in an air-to-air environment--that's another reason they didn't send me to Undergraduate Pilot Training--it is just endless noise for someone who doesn't know what's going on. And even if you do know what's going on, while there is a lot of information flowing, there's not enough information flowing.
We had Congressman Gibbons from Nevada here earlier this morning; he had to run off to another engagement. But recently I was out at Nellis AFB, Nev.; we were wrapping up the Joint Expeditionary Force Experiment, which is an activity we run every two years in the Air Force. It's all about our command and control, our ISR platforms and how we are going to take them to the next level. For the experiment, the question is--what are we going to bring to the fight, with respect to information, that we can put into the hands of our people: the Airman, the Soldier, the Marine, and the Seaman that's on the ground or engaged; that will let them do their job a whole lot better? The word "joint" is really key in all of this. Let me just talk about a couple of the initiatives that we investigated and experimented with.
Non-traditional intelligence surveillance reconnaissance. I mean, what is that to begin with? We've had lots and lots of sensors out there that only feed one pipe. For instance, the targeting pod on a fighter--it feeds the crew, it doesn't feed the rest of the world. And so all of those bits of information just kind of fall on the floor and don't benefit everyone in the fight. Or the same kind of information from a UAV that is piped all the way back here to the continental United States, and we do the analysis and assessment here and then it's piped back to the theater where the command and control function and the intelligence function get to view it. But what about that Soldier on the ground that would really like to know what's over the other side of that wall in the compound. Those are the kinds of things we're experimenting with. How can you take the images, the information that's being sucked up by that sensor and very easily and very simply put it in the hands of someone that needs it right now? It may not be glossy; it may not have all the annotations. But I'll tell you what, if you're on the ground, whether you're a Marine, a Soldier, an Airman, and you have access to that kind of instant information--it is huge.
The experiments we did with that were really important. An example of this kind of piping of information directly down to the ground can be shown by what happened right after Katrina as we were trying to get our hands on what was happening in New Orleans with the flood. We brought 10 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to New Orleans to provide an awareness capability that we continued to work on. And our first intent was to fly these UAVs around the New Orleans area and help Gen. Russell Honore with situational awareness. The FAA looked at that and said "not so fast." So we ended up--with the flexibility of key air power, cutting the wings off--they're made of Styrofoam--the wings off the UAVs and strapping them to helicopter struts, and now you've got cameras everywhere. Or put them on the tallest hotels out there--I think we put four of them on the Wyndham building downtown--with a 360 degree view of the city. And so you remember when the fires and explosions were happening at different areas in the city, they knew instantly that this had happened and piped all of that information back to the command and control center so we could respond or understand what was happening.
That is just as an example of the same thing that is going on over in Iraq and Afghanistan right now--the first capability was bulky and rudimentary. And now it's more compact, easier to use. At this point, there are already terminals on the ground over there. You've got this big operational and strategic pipe back and forth. You've got the tactical piece.
But what about the dissemination across the rest of the battlespace? We brought a platform out called BACN--Battlefield Airborne Communications Node--okay, before I go any farther, things got out of control for a little while. We allowed the action officers to start naming all the programs, and before BACN we had T-BONE, which was Theater Battle Operations Net-centric Environment. And then the ground element of BACN was going to be EGGS. And we had to find a manly term for the ground element, so it's called RAKER now. But this BACN platform, initially we're flying it on an RB-57 Canberra. Don't worry, some of us in the room know what that is. But it is an older aircraft that we borrowed from NASA. But they fly at relatively high altitudes, and so two of these would provide coverage for the entire Iraq theater. And it ends up being a gateway. And so all of the data links that ground forces rely on, all of the data links the air element relies on, they don't naturally talk to one another. The radios that we operate with don't always talk to one another. And then you also needed a way to take that ISR information being captured by sensors and distributing that, and then linking in some higher bandwidth capabilities because although when we invented Link-16, which is the most modern link that we've got up there, we couldn't imagine how we would ever fill it up. That was 20 years ago. It fills up in a hurry now.
So now with some bigger bandwidth, you can pipe images wherever you need them in the environment. You can immediately connect your ground forces, your air forces, and as the next generation space capability is launched, Advanced Extremely High Frequency and transformational SATCOM. They're part of this--a direct link down to a terminal on the ground that feeds you into the terrestrial environment. And you've networked capability in the air. This is flying; it's operating--but it's just a demonstration right now. But the excitement, when you come back and talk to someone that had access to this information that never had it before. And when I talk about large bandwidth, I'll give you an example.
The wave form--there will not be a class on wave forms. The radio signal that gets this back and forth is a two-megabit per second byte. I was in the Pentagon a few weeks before this was done. I was talking on what we call voice-over internet protocol to the pilot of an F/A-18 at China Lake, which is just across the border from Nellis AFB. And I was looking at his targeting pod; I was looking at the synthetic aperture radar scope, and said "Hey, could you move the cursor up to the building on the left?" And with no delay at all, the cursor jumps up to the building on the left. You can't imagine how important that is, to sharing information in an environment where everything happens right now.
And for a long time, the first couple of years of Iraqi Freedom, I can't tell you how many articles I read or speeches I heard from Army and Marine lieutenant colonels that just felt like when they left garrison, they were on their own, you know, the information flow stopped. And that is exactly where we've got to take this environment--where the information doesn't stop, where they have what they need, Airmen have what we need, everyone's engaged. The Special Operations forces--for many years it was a single-thread radio link for their air support. And sometimes there'd be radios that were not immediately available or it was shared and there was a lot of other traffic on the net. Air Force Space and Army Space teamed up for an initiative on a high-altitude long-wave radio capability. I know this sounds fancy, but it was a weather balloon--you know one you blow up with helium on the ground--and then they tied a radio transponder package to it. And it launches off and operates between 90,000 feet. And up at those altitudes, there's not a lot of wind up there. You know winds are far below that, and so you have to figure out where to launch it from to get it to the right spot. But once it gets up there, it's pretty stable. I mean the high winds at Nellis this week were six knots up at 80,000 feet, so it stays and stays and stays. And at the end of the day when you want to bring it home, you just tell it to unplug itself and it parachutes back down to the earth. The entire package in the experimental phase was $7,000. Okay, you lose the balloon. But, we can buy another balloon.
The neat thing about this was not so much about the balloon, but what it gave the special operations forces on the ground. They wouldn't have worked back to the special ops phase in the air and space operations center. They said, we don't want voice, we want network. And they were doing, through the secret internet protocol network--SIPRNET--they were on chat and e-mail and information services to Hurlburt Field, Fla., to where their air and space operations center is, to other members of the special operations force that were in the field. It worked perfectly. Those are the kinds of experiments that really pay dividends. Lt. Gen. Michael Wooley (Commander, Air Force Special Operations Command) will be here next week. As soon as he heard about this, you know he wanted us to "go buy now." You know, so there was none of this, "You know we'd like the program for this."
But the Navy has a Predator. That's one of the high-altitude UAVs that they bought a couple of early on in the program. And once again, I didn't understand. You know, because what they wanted was a radar on the Predator that showed moving traffic on the ground. And I'm thinking, well I think we've got that already, why would the Navy need to do another experiment. And then someone explained to me--it was a naval officer--he said it's different. When you're looking at something on the terrestrial surface of the earth, the ground doesn't move a lot, and so it's really easy to pick up that moving target. When you're looking at the surface of the ocean, because what their initiative was about was tracking maritime traffic, the surface of the water is moving all the time. And so it's a different algorithm for finding, being able to track ships at sea, or approaching our coasts. So the experimentation was both with the radar and with the other optical images so that you can make certain, yeah that's the vessel we're after. But, great interaction, great opportunity to move information around and understand what some of the other problems and initiatives are out there for things like Homeland Defense.
And as we talk more about Homeland Defense--the last thing about BACN, it also has a cell phone tower. And so you just register all of the cell phones that you want to use on that network with the tower, and then you can bring cell phones anywhere you need. The bottom half of that we played with is RADAR. RADAR is a Humvee--with the other end of this gateway in the back end of it that was built to support 500 Soldiers on the ground in terms of number of the communications needed. The RADAR program, Joint Forces Command was the big lead on that, but we're doing the airborne piece. But that's just a taste of what was happening at JEFX--the Joint Expeditionary Force Experiment.
You know, I was standing there in that air and space operations center, and go back to the days when I actually worked in an air and space operations center instead of just stuffing my hands in my pockets and looking at what the experts were doing. I couldn't believe it--you know the information that's displayed across the walls so everyone has a general situation awareness of very specific information. But then every crew position, they're looking at two or three screens of information. And I'm just looking--they're manipulating data. And it's not just at the Air and Space Operations Center. It's the F-16 squadron that is flying missions tomorrow, or a couple of days from now, looking over their shoulders as we build the air and space tasking order. Kind of grading your work and giving you feedback right now for things to check through, if you make a mistake. And there--right in front of me--someone fat-fingered a fuel load in. And immediately a message pops up that's not the right quantity for the mission. And in the past, to begin with, we'd have never got it fixed in the computer. It would have taken all sorts of effort to rework the tanker flow, to get this fixed on the fly. So it's a huge improvement in the ability to share information.
The last part was, as we're working through some new network capability inside the Air and Space Operation Center, was a lot of the process of creating the air and space tasking order, some of it was, you know how do you stay in sync with the joint or the combined force commander, how do you follow through with the processes that we developed over the years to make certain we were after the right target, we had the right strategy, we were employing the force accurately? But a lot of the process was because after you finish doing all the brainwork, it took 12 hours every night to "thump"--and that's what we call those young men and women, "thumpers"--to thump the data into the databases. And then as you go from process to process, there's lots more thumping. That's another reason I don't have a degree in computer science, I flunked thumping. The theory was great; I just spent all of my time with the error listings on the wall. But now you enter it once and it moves seamlessly across that environment. Exciting. But standing behind those men and women that are doing the work on the floor or out in the intelligence surveillance reconnaissance division, they've got the information, they're monitoring up to a dozen chat sessions. So if there's something going on with tankers or combat search and rescue, or you name it, they are all engaged. And they are all making it work. And they have their head in the game. It's absolutely huge.
So why is that important? I mean, you get it. You can go to anyone wearing a uniform like this, and you can ask them what are our priorities? And they will all tell you we are absolutely in this Global War on Terror as a full joint member of the fight and we are going to win it. And that is what we're focused on and everything we do, if you can't link it back to that, then you must be on vacation right now. Because that is exactly where our heads are pointed. It's winning the Global War on Terror and it's being smart about doing it. It's becoming more efficient. And now for those of you that enjoyed the first half of the speech, I want to talk a little bit about CIO stuff.
It really is about being efficient. The reason I kind of like this audience--those of you that attended this morning, I got a list of who was going to be here. There are lots of names that I recognize, so thank you all for coming. On the industry side, I can't tell you how much I learn everyday from, visiting companies out there or talking to representatives. That's where things are happening in this information technology environment. We are not inventing anything in the Air Force. Some visible examples of what's happening is we've gone up to industry and said, "That's smart, we ought to be doing that." Do you remember, and not all of you will get this, but do you remember when you picked up the phone many years ago and you didn't always have dial tone, but we weren't surprised? It has only been a decade though that when you got on the computer and you didn't have email, you weren't surprised. So based on that lack of surprise a decade ago, we built lots of network control functions in a tiered fashion, so when you had a problem there was somebody nearby to call. And they could rush over, and it's always somebody--you know that you're going to have to update your jokes or otherwise they don't understand them. Years of age difference.
Today I am surprised when the network doesn't perform, except at 3:30 in the morning. They're always fixing something at 3:30 in the morning. I am surprised when we don't have service. But in the meantime, we haven't changed our business models for providing those services. We still have network operations and security centers at every one of our major commands or major command-like functions. We had 17 of them a year ago. Seventeen is about 15 too many. And the only reason you need two is to have a back-up in case one has a problem.
But we're on the path now. We've already taken it down to 10. We'll go down to two over the next couple of years. The next tier below that, instead of sending those network control centers down to the base level, you want to go to more of a lights-out kind of function. The way you go to lights-out, in other words, it's all automated; things are happening seamlessly, is you go over what industry's doing out there, and how they're running their networks. And they keep telling you the same things. It's about configuration control. It's about architecture. It's about planning.
As we go and do that, number one, you tighten down the security on the network with significant improvement. The next thing you can do is you don't have to touch everything by hand. We can have a security patch come down for the network and it would take us 57 days to touch every computer out there. Now, we all understand that 57 days is too long in the information environment. So what you do on the critical thinking you couldn't get to everyone, so you disconnect them. Oh, that's useful. Don't talk to anybody.
But thanks to partnership with industry, by the end of this year, we will be able to patch every computer in the Air Force in less than 72 hours. And pretty soon it'll be less than that. Because you're doing it that way, what we call touch maintenance for the most part goes away. You can do it centrally.
And we didn't even know we were doing it right in some places in the Air Forces. When I was at United States Air Forces in Europe in the late '90s--do you remember the Melissa virus and the Love Bug? I was actually ignorant of what was going on, but I did have a lieutenant that was pretty smart. So we implemented some software that allowed us, centrally from Ramstein Air Base, to control all of the networks at the bases. And the reason was a lot of the sites in Germany and in the Netherlands and Norway; they're small and they don't have 24-hour operations for the networks. And so we thought we'll just do it centrally from here, and that's the way we set it all up. So when Melissa and the Love Bug came along, we just fired the patches out and patched centrally, and never shut down anything.
Now, other people who had a problem with ownership--you know, that's my network, and you're not going to touch it. The Air Force is a little ownership-centric at times. But, for instance, there were some other commands in the Air Force that were off the air for three days just trying to patch the servers out there. So once again, we stole from industry, that's what we're doing across the Air Force, to get into the networks in terms of security.
We relied on passwords for a long time. Guess what? You can guess passwords. Just before Allied Force, which was the air war in Serbia in 1999, we wanted to make certain our networks were secure, so I invited our red teams from Air Intelligence Agency to come over and look at it. Now we have automated password-checking tools, but at the time we didn't. However, we told everyone what kind of passwords to use. So they did the check and they came back to me and they said, "Look, there are 24 passwords we found on the network that are absolutely the wrong passwords to have out there." And they showed them to me. And so I made a PowerPoint slide out of them, and put them up at a big staff meeting with my boss. I hadn't thought this out very well. So my boss--not to be named at this session--went, "Oh, there's my password."
We're making progress. It's more--you only need one help desk, you need regional processing centers. And, once again, it's stealing and borrowing from industry repeatedly that drives down the cost of doing business, which drives down the personnel requirement. In fact, to run our networks this way, it requires 4,000 less people. One of our difficulties in the IT business is we train our people well. And they eventually do work for all of you. The schoolhouse down in Keesler AFB is where our central place is for training our computer experts, and it's a great facility. But our folks don't stay long--well, some of us do. So how do I keep that core smart? How do I drive down some of the numbers we need to do the business?
It's not just running the network, it's the work the CIO function has been doing for a number of years. It's been almost a dozen years now since the legislation came through that identified the CIO responsibilities. And, at first, being a receiver of CIO direction, I was not thrilled with all the extra work. Because Mr. John Gilligan, who was our CIO for a long time in the Air Force, was always sending another edict down for me to reply with the right information. It was kind of like you slump over and go, "Oh, okay."
I'll give an example. We can look across the Air Force at every information technology system or application we have, and we understand completely what the modernization schedule is, as those systems start to converge to the point where you can retire them. How we have to partner them, what about overlap, or I don't need do that more than once, or systems that duplicate each other's performance. It has allowed us to be so much smarter in terms of- as we were developing the fiscal year 2006 POM, now the fiscal year 2008 POM, is to look out and know we don't have to put money against modernization because we're going to retire that program. And we're going to move to--for instance, we're moving to defense standard programs for personnel, human resources, for finance. It's the same sort of thing in the logistics community. This will save hundreds of millions of dollars by finally being able to take control of the information technology programs out there and instead of losing any capability, dramatically improving capability. That's what's happening.
It's moving to new technologies like service-oriented architectures, data, all in one architecture so you can move seamlessly through applications. So it's about taking the resources that we free up and being able to invest those in the recapitalization and modernization efforts that the Air Force has to have. The nation as a whole has got a lot on its plate, and we really expect it to be our responsibility to do business smarter, find efficiencies, and put that to the modernization and recapitalization that we have to have in the Air Force. And that is exactly what is happening.
Through all of this, we strive to empower our people. Once again, I just can't tell you, my mouth must have been open the whole time back at JEFX, as I was looking over the shoulders of those men and women who are considerably younger than I am, that how much information was available to them, and how much their heads were in the game, and the difference they were making because we finally empowered them with some tools that mattered. I mean, the vision has been there for a long time. We've had plenty of people come before me that knew where we were headed. But finally being able to implement some of those processes has made my last six months here at the Pentagon pretty exciting and very rewarding.
Thanks for having me this morning and I'd be happy to take questions.
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|Title Annotation:||Gen. Michael W. Peterson|
|Publication:||Air Force Speeches|
|Date:||May 4, 2006|
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