Reorganization launches technology support office.
A new U.S. Air Force organization will conduct base maintenance, logistics and communications systems operations as part of a broader restructuring of the service’s capabilities. It will work closely with the commands to provide essential services such as electronic records management and databases, information assurance for military operations and force structure, and organizational issues analysis.
As the U.S. Defense Department strives for more efficient, streamlined operations, the individual services are assessing their internal logistics support structures to determine if they can be changed or enhanced. By creating leaner organizations that are more capable of meeting customer needs, the military hopes to reduce its logistics footprint, increase operational tempo and save money, experts say.
Recent Air Force efforts to reorganize communications and information functions are an example of this trend. In April, the service divided the responsibilities of the existing deputy chief of staff for communications and information between the new Warfighting Integration Office (AF/XI) and the Directorate of Communications Operations, Installations and Logistics (AF/ILC), Rosslyn, Virginia.
Responsible for a variety of logistics tasks in areas such as base maintenance, communications networks and supporting expeditionary air operations, the AF/ILC seeks to work closely with the Air Force commands to seamlessly support their needs, explains its director Brig. Gen. Bernard K. Skoch, USAF.
By separating its communications and information capabilities into two areas of responsibility, the general argues that the Air Force increases rather than decreases its focus in these areas. Although the service had an efficient procedure for dealing with the former systems it managed, changes in technology and in world events mandated a realignment of capabilities, he says.
In the past, the primary activity of the Air Force chief of staff for communications and information was to conduct life-cycle planning. This covered multiple areas and made work very complicated for the staff. Gen. Skoch notes that the new chief of staff, Gen. John P. Jumper, USAF, has a fresh vision for the entire cycle that focuses on integrated information technology services.
The chief of staff previously handled all responsibilities for warfighting integration and communications operations, but the revised structure divides these duties. The deputy chief of staff for warfighting integration now concentrates on integrated command, control, communications, computers, information, surveillance and reconnaissance activities, while the director for communications operations focuses on day-to-day operational and integrated planning.
As director of communications operations, Gen. Skoch maintains communications for combat support. The new structure permits a more direct relationship with other deployable assets such as combat support and civil engineers. “We work hand in glove with civil engineers everywhere they go. They provide a base infrastructure for roads, facilities and utilities. We provide that kind of service with a communications infrastructure,” he explains.
Under the new arrangement, AF/ILC focuses on deployment, operations and sustainment. While some short-term difficulties may be encountered as various staff groups mesh into the new structure, the general is sanguine that his organization will make its mark in the service quickly.
The directorate’s primary responsibilities are combat support, base maintenance and logistics; however, it also assists with enterprisewide operations such as maintaining computer and communications systems. Noting that the service has a collection of major commands well supported by their information technology structures, Gen. Skoch believes that by applying a big-picture approach, his staff can efficiently manage these systems.
This type of approach permits the Air Force to adapt more readily to technological change because the directorate can concentrate on the boundaries between acquisition, design, fielding, operation and maintenance of new systems. “As information technology has galloped ahead, making this [organizational] change allows us to have a team of professionals on our side of the wall saying, ‘OK, this system is being fielded. What operational doctrine are we going to develop? What operational concepts are we going to employ? What maintenance concepts are we going to use?’” the general shares.
By dedicating staff to this planning function, the directorate can seamlessly integrate information technology into weapons and platform functions. Gen. Skoch believes the new organizational structure allows two staff teams to focus on specific areas of responsibility such as integration or operations and maintenance.
In his first year as AF/ILC director, Gen. Skoch plans to focus on a variety of strategic and personal goals for the organization. At the strategic level, he hopes to build strong relationships with the new deputy chief of staff (DCS) for warfighting integration and the chief information officer to maximize warfighting effectiveness. “Lt. Gen. Michael Zettler, USAF, is the DCS for installations and logistics and my boss. That’s a new role for him, and we need to make sure that we properly equip him to fulfill that role,” the general explains.
Career management is another major concern. The general wants to implement a career management master plan for all of the directorate’s enlisted and civilian personnel and officers because he views them as a critical asset for achieving the organization’s mission.
A final strategic goal involves partnering with the other half of the new structure, AF/XI, to share ideas. When the original communications and information structure was split, its core staff formed the two new organizations. “We don’t want to lose any of the teaming that went on before when it was one staff,” he says.
Gen. Skoch intends to focus on people by conducting a baseline review of how the directorate acquires personnel in specific career fields and how they are trained and developed. “We want to make sure that we are equipping people adequately for the tough jobs that we ask them to do. That’s not easy to do in today’s world. Because the technology changes so fast, we’ve got to make sure that we work with the air education and training community to incorporate the latest technologies into training,” he remarks.
Compensation and retention is another important staff issue. The general notes that the directorate is not responsible for compensation as a matter of policy, but attempts are being made to reward its highly skilled men and women. “We need to make sure we represent them well on assignment issues. Our people deploy a lot throughout the Air Force. That makes it a challenge to retain people. An old saying is that we recruit individuals, but we retain families. We need to make sure that we focus on that as we’re working on assignment policies,” the general observes.
The goal for enterprise awareness and reporting is to ensure that mechanisms are in place to report enterprise issues up the chain of command to the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Office of Management and Budget.
Another focus is electronic records management. In his role as director of communications operations, the general is responsible for the daily management of a number of Air Force communications and information programs and processes. These include electronic records, systems compliance databases, current budget year activities, electronic publishing, and competitive sourcing and re-engineering for communications and information units. The directorate also reviews operational plans for command, control, communications, computers and intelligence operations; provides information protection and assurance oversight; and is a focal point for network readiness.
Gen. Skoch plans to conduct a baseline review of all of the Air Force’s communications and information functions to apply best practices and technologies. The review will ensure that the service has the best structure to perform these functions so that air and space operations can be more effectively and efficiently supported.
AF/ILC also is involved in a Defense Department-wide effort called the global information grid bandwidth expansion (GBE). The defense information system network (DISN) is AF/ILC’s communications backbone and will serve as the core layer that will be augmented by the GBE.
The general notes that this effort comes online just as his directorate is getting on its feet, which permits the organization to define clearly its responsibilities for fully integrating additional bandwidth into the operations and maintenance of installation-level computer and communications systems. In addition, the AF/ILC is involved in the combat information transport system, an effort designed to provide centrally managed infrastructure support to major Air Force commands.
Acquisitions are another responsibility for the new directorate. The organization is implementing an initiative begun by the Air Combat Command (ACC) called ACC Way, which acquires information technology systems through a common purchasing medium. The AF/ILC bases its acquisition pattern for desktop computers on this approach. “I think we’ve made some enormous strides in how we acquire IT. This enterprise approach to acquisitions gives us more leverage with industry. It lets us do a better job managing configuration, and it lets us do a better job of enterprise software licensing, which lets us save money,” Gen. Skoch says.