Air Force centralizes cyber control under new reorganization plan

Service consolidates its IT, business and acquisition operations to become more cost-effective and benefit from commercial technologies

The Air Force this year has reorganized its business and acquisition operations to become more cost-effective and take better advantage of commercially available technologies.

The restructuring of agencies under the Air Force Materiel Command has major implications for the service’s future cyber operations, since one of its major goals is to standardize infrastructure and platforms.

The moves include establishment of the new Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. This center is charged with managing all the service’s weapons systems, from inception to retirement. Under its control are 10 program executive offices (PEOs), including a new one for command, control, communications, information and networks (C3I&N) at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass. This new office is charged with integrating cyber capabilities across all Air Force programs.

“We’re trying to basically create a business model similar to how [the Defense Information Systems Agency] is a provider for DOD,” said Tim Rudolph, chief technology officer for the Life Cycle Management Center. “I think the model is actually a very powerful one.”

The new PEO is led by Maj. Gen. Craig Olson, formerly the Business Enterprise Systems program executive officer, who told an industry group on Oct. 25 that the reorganization under AFLCMC would emphasize better cooperation among PEOs and with industry.

"Cross-PEO integration is now more important than ever before," he said. "There can be no walls between the PEOs."

Olson’s PEO will provide the network infrastructure that all Air Force applications ride on and be the lead agency in defining requirements for cyber, networks, crypto and data links. He will also have a seat at Air Force Secretary Michael Donley's new CIO Governance Board, which will direct future Air Force cyber and IT investments.

The restructuring also includes combining Hanscom’s Battle Management and Theater Command and Control PEOs into a single PEO called Battle Management, which will be responsible for mission planning, operations centers, theater command, communication and control, strategic surveillance, aerospace management, and intelligence processing, exploitation and dissemination. The head of that new organization is Steven Wert.

Rudolph said the reorganization better aligns PEOs with their responsibilities and creates efficiencies through a common infrastructure under AFLCMC. The move also helps speed the acquisition process for new technologies, and enables the service to more effectively counter more sophisticated cyber threats, he said.

Officials look forward to input from industry to ensure they are seeking proven solutions to the military’s needs in an atmosphere of greater cost constraints. “I think that’s the only effective way,” Rudolph said.

The Air Force – like other military services – has emphasized off-the-shelf, open technology in its acquisition strategy, which Rudolph said is able to provide a richer range of capabilities, better interoperability and more security. “Gravitating toward these solutions ultimately makes sense,” he said.

As an example of how open technology was transforming acquisition, he cited the Air Operations Center weapons system under development by Northrop Grumman. The system gives the Air Force an enhanced operational-level theater command and control capability in air, space and cyber domains in a single computing environment.

Industry leaders have responded positively to the reorganization.

“I think the concept makes sense,” said Michael Twyman, vice president of Northrop Grumman’s Defense Systems Division, noting that rapidly emerging cyber threats require an evolution of Defense Department acquisitions practices.

“The thing we’re all waiting for, of course, is what new things are they going to buy and when,” he said.

About the Author

Charles Hoskinson is a contributing writer for Defense Systems.

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