AF sees value in spending on IT for leaner, meaner troops

AF sees value in spending on IT for leaner, meaner troops

By Bill Murray

GCN Staff

DAYTON, Ohio'Air Force leaders last week called for Congress to shell out more money for a lighter, leaner and more lethal military service.

Systems successes during Operation Allied Force and other recent missions showed warfighters the value of information technology, they said, at the Armed Services Communications and Electronics Association InfoTech '99 conference.

'We're flying with fewer aircraft but fulfilling more requirements,' said Lt. Gen. Walter S. Hogle Jr., vice commander of the Air Mobility Command.

Good work

Besides supporting peacekeeping missions and flying combat missions to quell regional outbreaks, AMC officials have carried out humanitarian missions in the Caribbean and Central America, he said.

With more work and fewer resources, AMC officials have to improve throughput, which means 'getting the right things to the right places at the right time,' Hogle said. AMC has nearly 143,000 personnel, and it serves as the Transportation Command's air component.

AMC officials have improved the Global Transportation Network'into which they feed logistics data'since Operation Allied Force, when 50 percent of 40,000 containers at one Saudi Arabian facility had to be reopened, relabeled and resealed because Defense Department officials did not know what was inside them, Hogle said.

In November 1997, during an Iraqi operation, Air Force officials could identify 28 percent of cargo and 33 percent of passengers using the Global Transportation Network. After some intense systems work, those figures improved to 85 percent of cargo correctly identified during Operation Allied Force and 89 percent of personnel movements, Hogle said.

During a recent exercise, AMC officials used the Global Transportation Network to correctly identify 96 percent of cargo and 99 percent of passenger movement, said Hogle, who works at AMC headquarters at Scott Air Force Base, Ill. 'We did it simply with brute force,' he said.

The fact that Hogle'a warfighter who flew 125 combat missions in Southeast Asia'could appreciate technology shows how important systems have become to the service, said Air Force Lt. Gen. John L. Woodward Jr., director of command, control, communications and computer systems for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

'He never knew [technology's importance] until four years ago,' Woodward said.

Like Hogle, Woodward reflected on the Air Force's attempts to make expeditionary aerospace forces a reality.

More bandwidth

With increased networking requirements during Operation Allied Force, satellites, circuitry and telecommunications systems were jammed during the Serbian bombing campaign, Woodward said.

U.S. forces showed a 184 percent increase in need for satellite communications bandwidth during Operation Allied Force compared with Desert Storm, although seven percent fewer personnel were involved, he said.

Land-based bandwidth increased by 155,000 text pages per second, he said, while DOD officials ramped up satellite communications bandwidth by 42 percent in the midst of Operation Allied Force to meet the requirements. Almost in jest, he asked audience members to write Congress asking members to give the Air Force more funding.

Both Woodward and Hogle lauded the Air Force's ability to fly a dozen C-17s from central Germany to a muddy airstrip in Albania to provide humanitarian relief during Task Force Hawk.

The mission showed how the Air Force can use its systems to operate more efficiently while landing in developing countries, they said.

During his keynote address, Gen. Lester L. Lyles, the Air Force vice chief of staff, pointed out that the service has to strike a fine balance in carrying out its national security missions, as well as the other operations the president orders it to perform, while taking care of its personnel.

'We'll have to give a little here to give there,' he said, referring to some programs losing funding at the expense of others.

Although the Air Force was 'the weapon of choice' during Operation Allied Force, Lyles said, service officials are trying to be 'very careful not to pat ourselves on the back,' which many would perceive as a slight to their sister services.

Air Force officials need to treat the network as a weapons system and focus on information assurance, said Lyles, the former director of the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization.


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