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Changes planned for ISR community

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (April 16, 2007) -- The Air Force director of Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, or ISR, recently discussed his plans for improving the service's ISR capabilities.

During a recent roundtable with members of the press, Lt. Gen. David A. Deptula laid out his plans for overhauling the service's ISR functions.

The general has served as the Air Force deputy chief of staff for ISR or A2, for about six months, and took the position just months after it was created.

"I want to manage ISR from a capabilities-based perspective," he said. "Organizationally, I want to treat Air Force intelligence as an Air Force-wide enterprise. And personnel-wise, we need to reconstruct our bench of Air Force senior intelligence officers so we can viably compete for joint and interagency positions."

The general said that upon taking his position as the Air Force A2, he asked for a diagram of the service's ISR organizational relationships. What he found was a convoluted set of relationships. The complexity of the organization left seams in ISR capability, unclear lines of responsibility, and lack of a clear advocate for the Air Force ISR capability.

"The way we do business today is that we define ISR capability by individual program elements," he said. "The net result is a tendency to drive a disjointed approach to ISR. We have the potential for the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing, and in fact, that has happened."

Recently, the Air Force was upgrading software for the Distributed Common Ground System, a global processing system that provides analysis and distribution of intelligence data from anywhere on the planet. The software upgrade for the system ended up being incompatible with the new sensors aboard U-2 and Global Hawk aircraft. The incompatibility was unexpected, the general said, and may now take as many as 20 months and $17 million to fix.

To prevent those kinds of mishaps in the future, General Deptula is creating a position that will integrate ISR assets and manage them as capability areas.

"It is too big a bridge to cross to try to change the way OSD manages by program element," the general said. "But I am going to put in place an ISR capability integrator, not dissimilar to a program manager for each set of ISR capabilities."

General Deptula said he also plans to realign the command structure for intelligence agencies currently within the Air Force.

"I want to align Air Force intelligence so there are coherent lines of responsibility and authority for the intelligence function, and make sure it is treated as an Air Force-wide enterprise," he said.

To that end, the Air Force Intelligence Agency and its subordinate units, with the exception of the Air Force Information Operations Center, will move from under Air Combat Command and become a field operating agency of A2. The agency will be renamed the "Air Force ISR Command." The target date for the transformation is March 1, the general said. The AFIOC will remain with ACC as part of the 8th Air Force's Cyber Command.

The move is significant, with chains of command being changed. Manpower will remain in place however, the general said. But the changes will streamline presentation of Air Force ISR capabilities for national and joint users, as well as establish intelligence as an Air Force-wide enterprise.

Finally, General Deptula said he is planning to develop a "bench" of senior-level ISR officers to provide more Air Force visibility in joint, and national intelligence community positions.

The general said that today, the Air Force is not adequately represented in senior ISR positions in joint, national or combatant commander billets. In fact, the Air Force has not held a combatant commander J2 position in more than five years, he said.

"(This) is not good for the joint or national community," he said. "Our combatant commanders need to be served by an air perspective."

The general asked Gen. T. Michael Moseley, the Air Force chief of staff, to expand the number of Air Force intelligence general officer billets, and General Deptula plans to ensure those officers are properly trained and postured as desirable candidates for joint and national senior intelligence positions.