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Strategy Boosts Combat Decision-Making Capability

December 9, 2010
By Maryann Lawlor, SIGNAL Online Exclusive
E-mail About the Author

The Air Combat Command (ACC) is executing a plan that delivers more combat power through an innovative Combat Air Force (CAF) information-sharing capability. The U.S. Air Force Portal will host this dynamic method to accelerate the resource allocation decision-making process.

The Requirements Integration Visualization Enterprise Tool (RIVET) is a scalable, multiservice, multi-major command information presentation solution. It provides interactive reporting, rapid cross-platform comparison and subject matter expert data input that supports the CAF information-sharing concept. RIVET rapidly highlights redundancies across multiple CAF platforms by leveraging the physical, information and collaborative dimensions of the network-enabled environment to deliver decision superiority.

Leveraging the power of the Air Force Portal and enabling access to its vast information repositories, RIVET facilitates faster and more accurate decisions about how and where to spend limited resources. According to Brig. Gen. Steven Spano, USAF, director, Communications Directorate, ACC headquarters, the tool is extremely powerful because it bases decisions on information and not only technology.

In a recent Joint Staff data call, RIVET turned a disruptive, full-time four-day drill into a seven-minute rapid-fire response. Air Force officials satisfied a joint headquarters query for tactical platform communications capabilities by providing key weapons systems communication capabilities information with an accurate and rapid response. Senior acquisition officers were impressed with the fast turnaround time and insisted that RIVET be looked at closely for possible joint service duty, the general shares.

The overall information-sharing strategy delivers enhanced combat power through increased awareness, access and understanding of the information that decision makers believe is important, he adds. CAF information is exposed for discovery and authoritative sources can be identified so relevant information services can be found. Access is granted through roles-based services, protecting CAF information against current threats.

“ACC’s lead warfighter integrator is commanding the charge for enhancing CAF decision superiority with a fresh perspective grounded in warfighter integration and net-enabled, synchronized environment capabilities. But this isn’t the same pitch heard time and again; there’s a twist. The twist is in creating and leveraging a CAF information strategy built upon an information sharing concept rooted in the U.S. Department of Defense strategy for information sharing,” Gen. Spano says.

The CAF information strategy concept establishes a common understanding for shared information across the organization. Users participate in communities of interest, employ shared vocabularies, and present user-defined interfaces to the information and information services, which results in understanding. Combat effects are gained through implementing the CAF information strategy by removing duplicative data and improving processes, efficiency and collaborative production. “Though service-oriented architectures offer a subset of these benefits through design attributes, the information strategy has greater richness, as well as a more compelling understanding and impact to operations,” Gen. Spano relates.

Collectively, this concept transforms data from pure information into knowledge. Decision makers see the timely, accurate and relevant information they need to achieve information superiority. “Although this mantra has been heard before, most other concepts stop and declare success at the intersection where data, information and knowledge are transformed. The ACC sees this intersection as the entry fee to achieving decision superiority. The command recognizes an important element is missing that must be in place before decision superiority can be achieved: a comprehensive information strategy to close the seams between content and context, richness and reach, and communication and collaboration,” the general states.

“All of the groundwork RIVET has laid matters because establishing a network-enabled environment that supports information and decision superiorities is a difficult and lengthy endeavor but pales in comparison to the lost opportunity cost if not espoused. Decision makers are less willing to commit resources for long-term gain when they are incentivized by a near-term culture. Policy, organizational boundaries, critical missions, funding lines and personnel rotation cycles are some of the cultural obstacles that must change for the shift from a need-to-know to a need-to-share environment. One way to negotiate cultural obstacles to establish a network-enabled environment is by committing resources toward implementation of an information strategy,” he adds.

According to Gen. Spano, the effects of the ACC’s investment in an information strategy on decision makers do not stop with the ACC or the CAF but will ripple across the Air Force and industry. However, other CAF members and Air Force major commands need to follow suit to project the full potential of this capable force to warfighters in theaters of operation far from the desks at major command headquarters.

Industry can contribute as the information strategy message is crafted and ready for industry to hear. “The principles embodied in the CAF’s way forward are ready to be internalized by industry to affect change in production lines so acquisition cycles will soon have a rich and plentiful stock of commercial off-the-shelf products to choose from that meet CAF needs. All that needs to be done for this effort is to precisely communicate the CAF message to industry,” he adds. “Stand by for the ACC information strategy implementation plan, which is just around the corner and will be explained fully during an information strategy industry day.”