Air Force is out of the code business

'We're focusing on the front-end and back-end architectures, standards, independent testing and support.'

' SSG Director Frank Weber

SSG, its longtime software factory, transforms into a systems integration and procurement office

MONTGOMERY, Ala.'What once was the software factory of the Air Force, the Standard Systems Group, is a thing of the past. Today, it's a buying shop and systems integrator, with its 900 code jockeys reassigned to other functions.

'SSG's transformation has been the focus of the last year,' said the group's executive director, Frank Weber. He joined SSG 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.

In his first year, he 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,' he said.

Big challenge ahead

A big technical challenge for SSG will be fulfilling the service's desire for an enterprise logistics system. Such a system would link targeting systems to other functions such as ordering replacement weapons, recording an aircrew's flying hours in 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 or disappear.

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