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Air Force moves to institutionalize enterprise architecture

By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Jan. 16, 2003) -- Leaders of the Air Force's information technology, warfighting integration and operations communities took a major step recently to further the service's transformation efforts by creating the Air Force enterprise architecture council structure.

Enterprise architecture is a formal process designed to better integrate the systems that support all Air Force activities, said Charlie Martinez, the Air Force's deputy chief architect on the Air Force chief information officer's staff.

"An enterprise architecture approach is somewhat akin to the 'city plans' that many large cities use to guide improvements to their transportation, water supply and sewage systems," Martinez said. "In the Air Force's case, what the leaders hope to accomplish is to transform the Air Force's warfighting, combat support and business information systems into a seamless integrated whole."

The key to the Air Force's approach is establishment of a set of councils to oversee the Air Force's enterprise architecture development. Rather than one "super structure," the Air Force will use an integrated patchwork of separate architectures that span all mission areas.

The structure included 13 architecture councils that address the areas of combat operations, space operations, mobility operations, special operations, weather, air traffic management, installation and logistics, health services, personnel, acquisition, financial management, modeling and simulation, and infostructure.

In addition, the charter established the Enterprise Architecture Integration Council, of which the other councils are a part, to oversee and coordinate the integrated activities of the councils.

"This formal body is unique ... in the Department of Defense and will permit centralized control and decentralized execution," Martinez said.

According to Martinez, each council will document key processes within their functional areas, identify the types of information and information flows needed to support their key processes, and determine the current and future information systems needed to support them.

They will also ensure that the processes, information, flows and systems are consistent and interoperable within their own functional areas and with those of other related functional areas throughout the Air Force.

One warfighting process often cited by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John P. Jumper as critically needing effective integration is the "kill chain."

The kill chain refers to the series of steps that start with identifying a target and end with finally dropping a bomb on that target. A variety of information technology assets, such as communications links, databases, software applications and computer hardware, are used to convey or process the kill-chain information. The role of the architecture councils is to ensure that combination of IT assets work together seamlessly in support of the kill-chain process, Martinez said.

One major reason for developing the enterprise architecture, Martinez said, is financial.

"A lot of the motivating force is to save money," he said. "If you look at the military budget you see that one of the largest line items is manpower. Anytime we can consolidate or streamline processes and save manpower, we save money.

"Many Air Force processes were created when we had to do things manually. Now that we are in the information age, we may be able to completely change the processes themselves, making them more efficient and effective."

Martinez said that perhaps the best reason for developing an enterprise architecture is to improve the consistency, accuracy and timeliness of the information the Air Force must share.

"Eventually, and most importantly, I think our new approach will result in more effective use of our resources and better information on which to make decisions," he said. "That alone makes the enterprise architecture an absolute necessity for the future of our Air Force."