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Better Data Access, Speed, Security and Correlation are Key to the Digital Air Force of the Future

John Odey, Director of USAF Business Development, Iron Bow Technologies

January 21, 2020  |  Cyber Security  •  IT Modernization

In the military-wide race to innovate and stay ahead, the U.S. Air Force is looking to develop and synchronize the latest agile, dynamic cyber/IT capabilities. Service leaders know the key to achieving digital battlefield success is only through connecting, sharing and learning with industry as well as other service branches, agencies and coalition partners.

At AFCEA NOVA’s Air Force IT Day in December, leaders from DoD and USAF emphasized quickly modernizing with operational improvements and industry best practices. The Digital Air Force campaign plan is already in flight with a solid strategy and priorities.

It’s All About the Data  

Data is the key to success to enable joint all domain command and control and gain decision advantage. The Air Force’s Kessel Run software modernization office is a prime example. Kessel Run AFLCMC Det 12 Commander Colonel Enrique Oti—a public champion of accelerating the Defense Department’s cutting edge—said at Air Force IT Day the Service must think and operate differently, quickly growing and taking advantage of a common platform for building, running, monitoring, and resolving essential IT applications and services.

The current data chasm is the result, at least in part, of software and applications that are not nimble, user-friendly nor capable of rapidly generating, storing and sharing quality data—for any functional mission—whether logistics, personnel or even air war planning.

Then there’s the issue that even as the Air Force is able to collect and extract meaningful data, operators still have to convert that data into actionable results. To help accelerate that, the Digital Air Force Initiative was launched last year, seeking to better harness the power of data and decision-making capabilities, and improve user experience.

This is where industry comes in. Technology companies around the world have invested a lot into figuring out novel and best ways to leverage data, from the hardware that processes the information to the software that controls and organizes it. The Air Force can take advantage of the years’ worth of private-sector effort to enable the Service’s cyber/IT teams to apply best-in-breed capabilities and achieve the goal of next generation joint all domain command and control. No more reinventing the technological wheel or stuck in the cycle of “delivering yesterday’s technology tomorrow.”

Harnessing the Power of Data

Under Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donovan stated, “Next-generation combat is going to depend on data, more so than any time in the past. It’s important for us to make sure all of our Airmen have uninterrupted access to all of the data they need when they need it.”

The AF Chief Data Officer, Deputy Chief Information Officer, and Deputy Chief Management Officer are all aligned together to bring the Digital Air Force into fruition. Eileen Vidrine, the AF Chief Data Officer, discussed shaping a data-driven AF built on empowering Airman, with increased data visibility, improved analytics, and managing the growth of data to improve readiness and enable quality decisions at the speed of mission operations.

To meet the data mandate, Vidrine outlined the Enterprise Information Model and the use of the VAULT (Visible, Accessible, Understandable, Linked and Trusted) Data Platform. The VAULT Platform provide Airmen with cyber-secure, cloud-based tools to support a full lifecycle of data exploitation activities. This makes it possible to now “ingest data, manage storage, manage metadata, manipulate, cleanse and experiment with data and visualize analytics results” leveraging a common application platform.

What does this mean for the Air Force? It will be able to connect to and access best-in-class applications much more quickly, giving troops the warfighting edge. Plus it drives closer collaboration with industry, keeping pace with the accelerating advancement of technology and finally establishing the best user experience all Airmen need and deserve.

Collaboration, Sharing and Learning

Finally, the DoD and USAF leaders stressed the importance of collaboration not only with industry but also within all the military services and with our coalition allies. They called for everyone across DoD and all military Services to “connect, share and learn” so the services can leverage each other’s tech advancements.

A prime example is the Army leveraging the Air Force’s Enterprise IT-as-a-Service (EITaaS) construct and modifying it to suit their Service needs. This allowed the Army to avoid the time and effort to fully develop it from scratch on their own. It also has positioned the Army to more quickly buy and deploy innovative network, end user and compute solutions.

This is just one significant instance of many that we expect will benefit the DoD. These best practices and lessons learned—many borrowed from the commercial sector—will bring the services (and allies) together to develop and equip the all-domain warfighter of tomorrow.

These are lofty goals, but at Iron Bow we see how they could catalyze the Air Force and the new Space Force, into a forward-leaning, agile military machine. Our knowledge and experience with Air and Space Force customers allows us to integrate solutions into what they truly need now and well into the future.

Industry partners like Iron Bow providing infrastructure and the latest technological capabilities, will allow the Air Force and Space Force to be clearly focused on its core warfighting missions. For more information, visit our website.

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