Michael Peterson | Air Force streamlines IT processes

Interview with Maj. Gen. Michael Peterson

What's more

Car currently driven: Jeep

Dream car: A Jeep; it's not the first Jeep I've owned.

Books currently reading: The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century by Thomas L. Friedman and The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-first Century by Thomas P.M. Barnett

Personal motto: Not a motto, a philosophy: Everyone has something important to offer. I think it's my responsibility to create an environment in which all the members of my team and the extended team can be successful and offer that important thing.

Maj. Gen. Michael Peterson, the Pentagon's next CIO

Zaid Hamid

Maj. Gen. Michael Peterson's formal title is director, Information, Services and Integration, Secretary of the Air Force Office of Warfighting Integration and Chief Information Officer, the Pentagon. But that will soon change.

He has been confirmed for promotion to lieutenant general and reassignment as Chief of Warfighting Integration and Chief Information Officer, Office of the Secretary of the Air Force. His formal start date has not been set.

Peterson entered the Air Force in 1974 as a maintenance officer. His first assignment at the Pentagon came in 1988, when he was appointed a staff officer in the C3 Systems Directorate of the Joint Staff. For more than three years he served as director of communications and information systems at Air Force headquarters in Europe. He returned to the U.S. in 2000 to become director of communications and information systems at Headquarters Air Combat Command, Langley Air Force Base.

Peterson holds a bachelor's degree in mathematics and a master's degree in telecommunications management from the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg.

GCN senior writer Patience Wait interviewed Peterson by phone.

GCN: How is the Air Force's reorganization going, and what benefits has the service already accrued?

PETERSON: I think the hard work in the reorganization was the planning that occurred, from the point that the memo was signed by our chief and our secretary in December of 2004. All three staffs'our CIO, the IL (our installations and logistics communications staff) and the warfighting integration staff'they all had been working together, so it wasn't as if it was some foreign entity.

So the hard work was in the planning. What I'm really pleased with, we didn't lose the momentum on [any] initiatives. [So] what's happened is that things have speeded up. For example, the policy documents: We've been able to roll several really important information assurance, information technology policy documents out, things like network operating instructions. We really didn't think we would have as many completed by this time, but by August we'd rolled out the first 60. We have another 28 [last] month, and by the end of the year we'll have the final 52 that we have planned for this year already on the streets.

In the past it just took a long time because the CIO had responsibilities and authorities, the network folks had responsibilities and authorities, and bringing that together was time-consuming.

GCN: Are there other particular initiatives the three groups had up and running?

PETERSON: Our enterprise information management tool suite has really shown some success. The IT commodity council, work that was going on, that has really borne some fruit, and we can show the Air Force some hard cost savings where we've been able to take that money and spend it on other priorities. The operations support modernization initiatives that were underway'we've seen great movement there. Plus all of the work that the Air Force Command, Control, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance center has done, and the joint environment with Joint Command and Control Air Force Communications Agency.

GCN: How is the reorganization benefiting the warfighters?

PETERSON: Just two weeks ago we participated in an Air Force-Navy test at China Lake, a Navy range out in the California-Nevada area. This was a test of six airborne platforms, five ground platforms, plus a command and control mode, where for the first time we were linking all of those platforms together with IP-enabled data links. ... It was not connected to the Internet, but it could have been. We sat here in the Pentagon while they were doing the test out there and spoke to the aircraft, spoke to the aircraft commanders over voice over IP. We watched as they generated moving map displays from the cockpit and sent them back here.

GCN: What are your IT priorities at the moment?

PETERSON: Information assurance, information assurance, information assurance. As our operations and operations support environment become more dependent on IT, we have to protect it. We have to ensure that that information is available when and where we need it. That's all about information assurance.

I will give you an example. ... We will roll out next year what we call a standard desktop.
Regardless of the hardware platform, it will be a standard suite of software that will allow us to improve what we call configuration management. We already do that, but in that environment ... any time a patch is required to the desktops, right now it often takes days and days and sometimes weeks to implement all of the patches because of the nonstandard configurations. We really believe we can drive that to hours, no more than a couple of days, if we can centrally manage it, and Microsoft has suites of tools that allow you to do that.

GCN: When you talk about standard configuration, what will happen at individual commands where they may have software they need to use to fulfill their missions that falls outside that standard desktop. Is that to be moved over to other machines?

PETERSON: The applications might be different, but the underlying operating system is not different, and the core services are not different. For instance, if there is an application residing on that desktop for Air Force Materiel Command, all we really have to do is make certain it has the links to the kind of server software that we want to implement and we've already implemented with Microsoft Corp.

GCN: Is there any thought to moving applications to the Web?

PETERSON: At our Air and Space Operations Center, that is the big initiative that's going on right now: to make more use of Web and portal services into the applications and get to the information. We will see that rolled out in our Joint Expeditionary Force experiment this next spring. We've already seen the demos. Theater Battle Operations Network-centric Environment'TBONE is so good you can't bother memorizing the meaning of the acronym.

GCN: At a recent conference, speakers said that the government is such a large customer of commercial off-the-shelf software, that procurement officers are really the ones who can improve the security of software by specifying it as a requirement in the acquisition.

PETERSON: In the past, when we would buy software, before we would bring it to the network, it would have to go through a certification process. Then it would go to a major command and they would give it a certificate to operate for the network, [covering] lots of things. Do we have the bandwidth? Do we have the training? Do we have the technical information? Well, what we weren't good enough at doing in the past was not just that part, but working with the acquisition community way out in front of this effort to achieve the same thing with less effort on our part. What this will do is, in the hands of our acquisition partners, help them prepare policy process standards, so when they go out on a contract, we will tell the vendor these are the only ports we will allow you to operate on for network services. This is how you have to protect password access. These are the other standards you must implement so it will ride, operate successfully on our network. That is called IT Lean. We are in the process of doing that now.

GCN: What other things besides IT Lean do you have in the works?

PETERSON: The operations support modernization is a huge piece. ... One of our chief priorities is recapitalization of the Air Force, and that means we have to find ways to recapitalize the legacy space systems, the legacy aircraft systems, all the other operational systems that we require to get our job done. And part of that is, let's re-engineer and retool the business processes that support'in Air Force terms, business processes are operational support. If a commander of U.S. Central Command came through the proper process to the Air Force and said, 'I need a team''this is routine, not an emergency''I need a team in place to do this work for me,' if we followed the processes that are written down, it takes 150 days to answer the man. But using IT, we've cut that down to 21 days. ... Those are the kinds of things our logistics community are working on. We've already made great strides there; we think there are significant forward-deployed manpower savings, we know there is significance in the accuracy and timeliness of the information, so the operator ... knows exactly what munitions he or she has available to use.

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