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New strategy globalizes Air Force information

By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Nov. 08, 2002) -- The Air Force is changing the way it manages information, according to a recently released document by the service's chief information officer.

John M. Gilligan said the 2002 Air Force Information Strategy is designed to standardize the way the Air Force uses the ever-increasing volume of information it generates in the performance of its mission.

"This is a document that helps galvanize the Air Force toward a consistent approach on how we want to use and manage information," Gilligan said. "Another motivator for the information strategy is that information is becoming an increasingly important part of our ability to conduct our Air Force missions, warfighting in particular."

The overriding idea presented in the strategy is that the Air Force will create a single, global, integrated digital network that is available to all members who need information. The network would provide what information is necessary, where it is necessary and when it is necessary.

"In order for us to be able to effectively leverage information, all Air Force members need to have access," Gilligan said. "Not only will we have a ubiquitous network, but everyone will have access to it."

For warfighters, a global network will mean quicker access to targeting, weather and intelligence information.

One example is the linking of the equipment used to find bombing targets. In Afghanistan, special operations members on horseback used laser range finders to pinpoint targets. They used the global positioning system to find their own coordinates and then manually calculated the coordinates of the target. That information was then radioed in to an operations center that relayed it to an aircraft.

With a global network, the various electronic systems used in that chain of information could be made to work together, Gilligan said.

"We had not thought to link the laser range finder to the GPS receiver to a data link capability," he said. "An example we can now demonstrate in the field is that the special operations person clicks on the laser range finder and then, within milliseconds, that information is in the cockpit. That is going to speed up the ability to prosecute time sensitive targets by many minutes."

The Air Force's global network will benefit more than just the warfighter, Gilligan said. For example, maintenance information for aircraft, or even video footage of complex repair techniques, will someday be available online. Maintainers would be able to access that information with a handheld computer from anywhere in the world.

Additionally, because personnel, medical and financial information will be available globally and around-the-clock, Air Force members will be able to accomplish actions in those areas, regardless of their own location, Gilligan said.

"In the future, when airmen want to perform personnel or finance actions, they will no longer go to the personnel flight or down to the finance office. They will do the majority of that online, 24-hours a day, with self-service capabilities," Gilligan said. "Physical location will no longer be a limit. If you are at home, in the office, or in the field, you will be able to access the information and perform those services."