Air Force plans an IT blowout

Air Force plans an IT blowout

By Thomas R. Temin

GCN Staff

MONTGOMERY, Ala.'The Air Force wants to pull off a trifecta win in information technology deployment.

By year's end, officials at the Global Combat Support System Requirements Integration Directorate, known as GRID, plan to release Version 2.0 of the GCSS integration framework and simultaneously deploy two pilot systems and a service Web portal.

Prototypes for the pilots are scheduled to be delivered some time this month, even before the framework itself arrives, said Lt.Col. Mike Sheridan, chief of GRID's Integration Division.

'So we've got a bit of a timing issue there,' he said.


AF sets GCSS schedule

' September 2000: Prototype integration of munitions and personnel training data systems; initial version of Air Force Web portal

' October 2000: Delivery of Version 2.0 of GCSS integration framework

' December 2000: First use of framework at Defense Information Systems Agency's Montgomery, Ala., megacenter

' May 2001: Second-phase development of integration prototypes




One prototype will logically integrate the service's 14 personnel training records systems and make the data Web-ready. The other will use GCSS to integrate munitions data from various systems.

A series of meetings with Air Force commanders in chief revealed that munitions, fuel and repair parts tracking systems were those most in need of integration via GCSS, Sheridan said.

A renewed urgency to get on with the Air Force portal project stemmed in part from a May visit by Air Force Secretary F. Whitten Peters to West Coast technology vendors, Sheridan said at the Air Force Information Technology Conference last week. Companies Peters visited included Oracle Corp., Sun Microsystems Inc. and Cisco Systems Inc. of San Jose, Calif.

Upon his return, Peters ordered an assessment of what it would take to Web-enable the Air Force Operational Requirements Management System. AFORMS tracks training histories and requirements of pilots, Sheridan said.

AFORMS will be one of the Air Force portal's initial applications, along with a staff directory and a user-accessible version of the Military Personnel Flight system. MPF records personal information such as addresses, phone numbers and savings account payroll deductions.

Step saver

Currently, Air Force staff members must visit a local personnel office to have a clerk make any changes to this information. But Virtual MPF 'would bring this service to the desktop,' Sheridan said.

Users will access the Air Force portal via the military's Non-Classified IP Router Network.

The integration framework is a compilation of commercial software products that together constitute middleware for integrating disparate applications, said Scott B. Edwards, program manager for the Air Force GCSS contractor, Lockheed Martin Systems Integration of Owego, N.Y.

A key component will be the IBM MQSeries messaging products. Messaging is the only practical way the Air Force's 3,000 combat support systems can share and exchange data, Scott said.

The framework will use Extensible Markup Language, Common Object Request Broker Architecture and Open Application Group standards, Scott said. It is designed to be compliant with the Defense Information Infrastructure's Common Operating Environment. Client hardware for running GCSS applications can be anything from workstations running Unix or Microsoft Windows NT to handheld computers.

By defining common services such as data exchange interfaces and security, 'we're essentially building the plumbing people will latch on to. Eventually, they'll restructure their applications to plug into the central services' provided in the framework, Scott said.

Version 2.0 is scheduled for delivery by the end of October with initial deployment to users in March. But Sheridan and Scott said Air Force brass are pushing GRID to speed up the project and begin the deployment in December.

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