Software shop changes shape

Air Force software shop changes shape

MONTGOMERY, Ala.'What once was primarily the software factory for the Air Force, the Standard Systems Group, is today its chief IT buying shop and systems integrator.

'SSG's transformation has been the focus of the last year,' said the group's executive director, Frank Weber. He joined SSG exactly a year ago, during the 2002 annual Air Force Information Technology Conference.

Speaking at this year's conference, he said the service's new focus on becoming network-centric and more integrated among commands is driving SSG's changes. The organization provides systems for commands throughout the service'and generally systems that are used by at least two commands. That requires integration, oversight of multiple vendors, and follow-up technical support and configuration management.

But what it doesn't include anymore is writing software from scratch, Weber said.

'The vendors can do a better job of that. We're focusing on the front-end and back-end architectures, standards, independent testing and support,' he said. That has led SSG to reassign its 900 code jockeys to other functions.

In his first year, Weber said, he has reorganized the group, creating an executive officer for field software support and enlarging the engineering side of the house.

Next comes what Weber called 'reshaping the work force,' reducing it by 20 percent to 25 percent. 'We'll end up 400 to 450 people smaller with a sharper focus on program management and integration,' Weber said.

A big technical challenge for SSG will be fulfilling the service's desire for an enterprise logistics system. Such a system would link the targeting systems to other functions such as ordering a replacement weapon, recording an aircrew's flying hours in the personnel records systems and generating aircraft maintenance tickets, Weber said.

One senior SSG manager said Weber has succeeded in putting a new plan in place, and has the support of top and second level managers. But, the official said, the hardest challenge will come during the next 18 months, when workers' jobs change and disappear.

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