Air Force consolidates cyber/IT operations to improve performance

Maj. Gen. Craig Olson is the program executive officer for Air Force Business and Enterprise Systems, and also director of the Enterprise Information Systems Directorate at Maxwell Air Force Base, Gunter Annex, Ala. His Air Force experience includes assignments as a weapon systems, electronic warfare and flight test weapon systems officer in a number of Air Force fighters, and he spent a year as vice commander of the Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. He received his second star in June.

The BES portfolio comprises approximately 1,800 military, civil service and contractor support personnel managing 130 IT systems located at five bases throughout the United States with total funding exceeding $1.3 billion. The organization acquires, operates and sustains operational support IT systems for the Air Force. The Network Centric Solutions-2 (NETCENTS-2) contract vehicle for IT purchasing falls under these organizations.

In mid-August, Olson will leave PEO BES and the EIS organization to head a new Air Force PEO at Hanscom Air Force Base called Command, Control and Communications Information and Networks (C3I&N). It is part of Air Force Material Command’s restructuring, which included establishment of the Life Cycle Management Center (LCMC) at Wright-Patt. LCMC will consolidate the missions now performed by the Aeronautical Systems Center, the Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom, and the Air Armament Center at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. In July LCMC stood down the Electronic Systems Center.

Going forward, the C3I&N Directorate will be responsible for integrating cyber capabilities across all Air Force programs, according to a June 18 letter from Air Force Secretary Michael Donley to Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.). In addition, the new PEO for C3I&N will have a seat at Donley’s new CIO Governance Board, which will direct future Air Force cyber and IT investments, according to the letter.

Donley also noted that the PEO C3I&N is a two-star position, while the Electronic Systems Center commanding officer has been a three-star billet, so Congress will have the final say on what will fly regarding the organizational structure going forth. The LCMC commander will be a three-star general.

Defense Systems Editor-in-Chief Barry Rosenberg interviewed Olson.

DS: What's at the top of your to-do list?

Olson: As I look ahead to continuously improving our mission, I have three priorities. (The first is) strengthening the partnerships between the application development teams in our PEO, the requirement stakeholders and the infrastructure providers. I am particularly interested in the commoditization of infrastructure, which resides in the C3I&N portfolio I am transitioning to in mid-August. I also want to increase focus on our joint partners in DISA and our sister service IT acquisition organizations. There are many opportunities to increase effectiveness while saving dollars, and this will come from better partnerships across the IT enterprise.

(The second is) continuous learning. We need to incorporate proven commercial best practices while also building a base of government expertise to enable the Air Force to take a stronger lead role in managing the delivery of IT capabilities.

(The third is) the successful transition of the Business Enterprise System portfolio to my successor, Robert Shofner.

DS: What's your view of the cloud, what it can do, and security? What's PEO BES's specific programmatic role in developing military cloud computing? What of your own applications are you going to put on a cloud?

Olson: The cloud will become an ever-increasing part of IT solutions for the Air Force and DOD, but first we have to understand it and develop a CONOPS (Concept of Operations) for its use in a national security setting with an Air Force operational context. The BES Directorate is contributing by actively participating in Air Force-DISA Integrated Process Teams that manage IT infrastructure services within the cloud. Our portfolio also includes a pilot program to deliver airman readiness data via managed services, and I can foresee future requirements for other applications from the portfolio as we mature.

DS: What's the latest on NETCENTS-2?

Olson: I cannot get into specifics because of source selection sensitivities, but here is what I can say at this time. The Network Centric Solutions Program Office made contract award announcements for "Products" in April and more recently, "Application Services Small Business" in June. As is common for contracts of their size, both announcements were protested.

In the case of Products, during debriefings and subsequent protests, it became apparent that offerors may have inconsistently interpreted the requirements of the RFP as it related to completing contractual documentation and – in some aspects – the technical and price requirements. While the Air Force did not respond on the merits to any allegations nor agreed any allegations had merit, it provided notification to the GAO that corrective action would be taken to ensure fairness to all offerors and to ensure the best products for the Air Force will be obtained at fair and reasonable prices.

In regards to Application Services Small Business, I cannot comment at this time due to litigation sensitivities. The government was notified of three protests just last week and is still evaluating them.

The first NETCENTS-2 contract, Enterprise Integration and Service Management, was awarded in November 2010. There are three more NETCENTS-2 contract sets we expect to award in 2012 and 2013: Application Services Full and Open (March 2013); Network Operations Full and Open (December 2012); and Network Operations Small Business (March 2013). We are also planning for an IT Professional Support set of contracts that is currently on hold.

To mitigate any potential support gap due to protests or other delays, we are taking steps to extend the original NETCENTS both in ceiling and period of performance.

DS: Please bring me up to date on your major acquisitions/priorities, as well as some efficiencies identified (i.e. data center consolidation, reduction in number of applications, etc.).

Olson: Historically, Air Force efforts to develop and field major combat support information systems have been characterized by significant investments with limited capability being delivered. This realization has brought us to the point of restructuring our enterprise resource planning (ERP) programs to improve effectiveness and efficiency.

Previously, three separate program executive officers managed the three Air Force ACAT (Acquisition Category) I ERP programs in the finance, logistics, and personnel domains. These programs included the Defense Enterprise Accounting Management System (DEAMS), Air Force Integrated Personnel and Payment System (AF-IPPS), and the Expeditionary Combat Support System (ECSS).

Consolidating the Air Force ERPs into one organization will deliver more positive results, both operationally and fiscally, by allowing the Air Force to take ownership and responsibility for the implementation of these technologies while controlling costs through the use of highly defined work breakdown structures, integrated master schedules and multiple specialized vendors releasing capabilities in agile increments within a government-led ERP implementation methodology. In this new model, software development and infrastructure become commoditized in nature. The individual programs no longer provide their own technical platforms, but rather technical infrastructure is delivered as a standardized, cost-effective service from DISA. Towards that end, we are supporting Air Force Space Command and PEO C3I&N in the migration of Air Force IT capability to a DISA-provided infrastructure.

Additionally, commonality of tools, software baselines, acquisition strategies, and processes are being established across the BES Directorate to afford additional efficiencies by reducing the number of applications--a major premise of ERP development.

However, this new way of doing business is not without risks. It requires breaking antiquated models and streamlining bureaucracies. Air Force leadership has committed to this new approach by rapidly establishing cross-functional governance boards characterized by the commitment of the members to remove barriers and establish a path for success.

DS: Please provide some specifics regarding the delivery of ERP capabilities.

Olson: As far as specific capability delivery, in the financial domain, DEAMS Release 1 supports the processing of Air Mobility Command (AMC) general funds, and Release 2 supports AMC bases using Transportation Working Capital Funds. The Program Management Office is in the final stages of coordinating the Requirements and Design Services request for proposal, and expects OSD to authorize release of the RFP in mid to late July 2012. This contract will support design activities for Releases 3-6, thus laying the foundation for the remainder of Increment 1.

In the logistics domain, the ECSS program is undergoing a restructure and awaiting OSD approval of a multi-contract/multi-release acquisition strategy (similar to DEAMS). Approval is anticipated in August 2012.

Finally, in the personnel domain, OSD is currently reviewing the AF-IPPS acquisition strategy. Once OSD completes their review, the final RFP is expected to be released by the end of this fiscal year. The initial contract will include blueprinting/conference room piloting for all releases as well as a priced option for the development, testing, fielding, training and support of the military leave processing capability across all components. Two 12-month options for initial support of the leave capability will also be included in the initial contract.

I think it is fair to say our team has a demanding agenda, but the opportunities for more effective and efficient delivery of business capabilities are greater than ever.

DS: The ERP programs command a lot of the attention, so is there a lesser-known program you’d like to highlight.

Olson: One that stands out is the Deliberate & Crisis Action Planning & Execution System (DCAPES), which is one of our ACAT III programs that provide a tool for the Air Force to plan and execute major combat operations and military operations other than war. From my perspective, our biggest challenge has been managing the critical dependencies between DCAPES and its two primary strategic partners, the Global Command and Control System - Air Force (GCCS-AF) and the Joint Operations Planning and Execution System (JOPES).

To more effectively anticipate and resolve potential show-stopping issues, we have joined forces and created a senior leadership forum that meets on a regular basis to foster greater unity of effort and ensure our mutual success. One of the issues we've historically struggled with is making quick updates to DCAPES in order to remain interoperable when JOPES changes its software. We are now making excellent progress in our effort to loosely couple DCAPES from JOPES. This loose coupling effort will for the first time align authoritative data exposure with current DOD net-centric policy. In addition, DCAPES is developing a strategic plan to deploy significant new warfighter capability by means of an evolutionary acquisition approach based on state-of-the-art agile software development methodologies.

DS: I understand that Air Force promotion board members started using an electronic record scoring system for the first time. How will that work, and how will it streamline the promotion process?

Olson: With the Electronic Board Operations Support System (eBOSS), promotion board members use 135 human system interfaces with ergonomic touch-screen workstations to view and score digital personnel records. Multiple board members will be able to access the same records at the same time to make the board process more efficient. eBOSS is projected to reduce a typical three-week board by two to three days.

In addition, the Air Force Personnel Center (AFPC) estimates eBOSS will eliminate more than 235,000 duplicate paper records across the total force, saving the Air Force approximately $2.8 million in annual records maintenance costs once it’s fully implemented in the active duty and reserve components.

Another efficiency AFPC has noted is the preparation time to accomplish pre-board activities. Previously, pre-board activities required 30 full-time personnel during a 140-day period. Today, this same activity is now accomplished with only 2 people in 6.5 hours.

Finally, promotion boards will now feature workstations with high-definition, touch-screen monitors with a user interface similar to a smart phone or tablet computer. eBOSS will enable board members to navigate, view and score records with a touch of their fingertips to the screen when accessing board-related documents.

DS: You mentioned one of your ACAT III programs earlier. Another is the Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) ACAT III program. What do you hope to accomplish with that?

Olson: The SOA approach allows a user, particularly in a web-based environment, to more easily react to the inevitable changes required to support a business practice such as human resources (HR).

The SOA strategy has been used successfully in the commercial sector, and we are convinced SOA can also improve HR IT services within the Air Force.

For example, the data within point-to-point interfaces can become easily outdated, particularly if you have many interfaces to manage. Given the complexity of some of our IT systems and the sheer number of data points we manage today, the currency of this data can become suspect in a hurry. SOA can help this situation by treating these interfaces as a single service, standardizing and updating this service regularly, and by then letting everyone know that this service is the single authoritative data source.

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