IT will be key element in Air Force's deployment of expeditionary forces

MONTGOMERY, Ala.—Information technology will play a central role in the creation
of expeditionary air forces, said Gen. George T. Babbitt, commander of the Air Force
Materiel Command.


The Air Force recently announced plans to create 10 expeditionary forces—at least
two of which will be on call at any time—capable of hitting targets anywhere on Earth
within 24 hours.


“Information technology will enable the [forces] to be lean, light and lethal
enough to quickly and decisively respond anywhere around the globe,” Babbitt said at
the recent 1998 Air Force Information Technology Conference.


“As the Air Force looks to the future and adjusts to changing threats to our
national interests at home and abroad, we are developing a new way to deploy forces
tailored to meet any challenge,” he said.


The service’s new expeditionary force structure and operational concepts, touted
as a model for U.S. air power in the 21st century, will be implemented by 2000, Babbitt
said.


Air Force systems professionals from around the country descended on the Montgomery
Civic Center to discuss the service’s long-range, rapid-deployment goals.


Significant technical challenges, such as creating robust, available and secure
networks that integrate voice, video and data must be overcome before the expeditionary
forces become reality, Babbitt said.


An Air Force Scientific Advisory Board study determined that expeditionary forces will
need high-bandwidth among systems used on the front lines, en route and back in the United
States, he said.


The maintenance concept for the forces, known as Agile Combat Support (ACS), is one of
the Air Force’s six core competencies, designed to provide supplies and services
quickly and accurately to deployed expeditionary forces, Babbitt said.


A flexible and responsive logistics support system must replace the “brute force
logistics concept that resulted in a stockpile of unneeded supplies and a glut of
equipment that made finding the right item like finding a needle in a haystack,” he
said.


Babbitt has had frontline experience with Air Force logistics operations. He previously
was director of the Defense Logistics Agency at Fort Belvoir, Va. He also was deputy chief
of staff for logistics for Air Force Headquarters, and director of logistics for the Air
Training Command and the service’s forces in Europe.


Using the ACS concept, the service can deploy the expeditionary forces with minimal
support. Babbitt said the forces will reach back to Air Force bases in the continental
United States for services, engineering, intelligence and communications support.


Reach-back capability, the foundation of ACS, depends almost solely on IT, Babbitt
said.


“When I think about user-friendly communications, I think of the telephone,”
he said. “We know that when we hit the last digit of a phone number we’ll get a
response at the other end. That’s the same level of expectation our deployed forces
should have of their ability to get data and assets they need, when they need them.”


A user-friendly system needs standard software, hardware and Web communications, he
said. The service wants a seamless, secure global network, composed of LANs, WANs and
tactical networks servicewide, he said.    

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