Government // Leadership
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11/5/2010
05:49 PM
John Foley
John Foley
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Air Force CIO Priorities: Networking At Mach 6

Lt. Gen. William Lord outlines an ambitious plan to bolster the Air Force's cybersecurity posture, drive IT efficiencies, deploy new tech tools, and establish aerial networks at supersonic speeds.

Reform IT acquisition. If the Air Force is to succeed at the above challenges (cybersecurity, IT efficiency, delivering new communications tools) it’s going to have to change the way it acquires IT products and services. The IT industry simply moves too fast, which means the Air Force finds itself running on outdated products and services. Too often, "we’re delivering yesterday’s technology tomorrow," says Lord.

The Air Force needs to lower the hurdles to testing new technology and to leap entire generations of platforms to get from the old to the new more quickly. “How do we leap 3G and go to 4G networks? That’s one of the things we’re looking at,” says Lord. The Air Force has a good working relationship with the IT industry, but “we need a better one,” he adds.

Establish mid-air networks. The Air Force is adept at establishing communications on the ground and in space; it’s the “aerial layer” in between where there’s the most room for improvement, Lord says. Examples of technologies in this area are the Joint Tactical Radio System and the Link 16 over-the-air data network. In a recent demo of JTRS, Lockheed Martin showed that streaming video could be transmitted from an Army helicopter to ground radios and displayed in a Humvee. Impressive but complicated, and it shows why Lord is turning his energies to this area.

Mid-air networking will only get more sophisticated. Lord talks of networking from an F-35 fighter traveling at the speed of sound, and collecting and transmitting ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) data from unmanned aircraft that bolt through the sky at Mach 6.

There's much more on the Air Force's IT agenda, including the rollout of Windows 7 to 600,000 PCs, and Lord’s interest in conducting an apps-dev competition along the lines of the Apps For Army contest. It’s an ambitious set of goals, and none of it will be easy. We will report regularly on how it’s going.

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