AF: Better IT starts at home

AF: Better IT starts at home

'We take our own networks down more with our own misdeeds,' Air Force Lt. Gen. William J. Donahue says.

Service needs to boost training, security and Internet use, deputy CIO says

By Bill Murray
GCN Staff

MONTGOMERY, Ala.'The Air Force's deputy chief information officer challenged information systems personnel to measure the effectiveness of their work against the service's mission and focus on training and information assurance.

Lt. Gen. William J. Donahue, director of Air Force Headquarters Communications and Information, spoke at the recent Air Force Information Technology Conference.

Donahue conceded that the service has a retention problem and that IT systems have replaced many manual tasks. But he expressed frustration that 'we don't use IT to automate our own processes' in the Air Force. 'We need to eat our own dog food.'

He estimated that more than $3 billion'or 4 percent of the service's annual budget'is spent on IT.

Information assurance is everyone's concern, he said, citing the example of misconfigured routers that can harm network performance. Moreover, when a user mistakenly sends 'a gazillion-bit file' to a universal e-mail list, that clogs the network and gives people more work to do, he said.

When the Melissa virus hit this year, Donahue found that he was on the Microsoft Exchange global address lists for 'everybody in the Texas Air National Guard.'

'I don't have a clue why,' he said, prompting laughs from the audience.

'We take our own networks down more with our own misdeeds' than do any outside hackers, Donahue said. When instructed to do so, users should 'change your damn passwords' and power down systems for information security, he said.

Even while congratulating Air Force personnel for using networks effectively in Operation Allied Force, Donahue challenged them to make more applications Web-enabled. 'We're still lagging on Web use,' he said.

Confiding that his duties have prevented him from meeting his goal of learning a new programming language every three years, Donahue challenged the audience to spend more time training.

To tackle the Air Force's IT work force retention problem, the service is paying high re-enlistment bonuses for relevant military occupation specialists, Donahue said.

Officials are reviewing recruiting incentives that would extend from four to six years the enlistment period to which communicators and information systems specialists would have to commit.

Donahue said the responsibilities and opportunities Air Force personnel get are difficult to come by in private industry. Air Force officials have to promote such intangibles because 'we can't win a bidding war with industry,' he said.

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