Magazine article National Defense

War Lessons Reshaping Air Force Budget Priorities

Magazine article National Defense

War Lessons Reshaping Air Force Budget Priorities

Article excerpt

Lessons from recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq are shaping Air Force plans to fine-tune capabilities in "time-critical, time-sensitive targeting," said Brig. Gen. Michael Snodgrass, the Air Force deputy director for operational capability requirements.

The Air Force is in the "very early stages of doing capabilities-based planning. ... We are still getting our arms around it," he told National Defense during the 2003 National Aeronautical Systems and Technology conference, in Dayton, Ohio.

To improve capabilities for time-critical strike, one immediate priority is to be able to analyze intelligence faster, he explained. "We have a tremendous amount of intelligence capability, but we have to be able to analyze it and quickly determine what is important."

The Air Force wants to reduce its reliance on human operators and have more machines talking to other machines, analyzing photography and other documents, he said. People only should be used in critical situations when human decision making is needed, he said.

Snodgrass' office is working with the users, the Air Combat Center and the Air Force Materiel Command to put together a game plan on how to go about addressing capability shortfalls.

"Then we kind of back out of it and let the major commands and the labs do what they do best, which is invent technologies and investigate alternatives," he said. "They are the ones who go out and do the hard work of trying to fill that shortfall. ... There are a series of investigations that we go through before we determine what the real requirement is," he said.

He cautioned that the Air Force, to help meet its modernization goals, should work more closely with industry.

"We need to be a team with industry," he said. "If what we are thinking and saying does not make sense to them and does not allow them to morph their approach to be able to fulfill our requirement, then we are going to fail."

The Air Force needs to work at teaming up with industry, said Brig. Gen. Edward Mahan, the director of the Air Force Information Dominance Office, at the NASTC conference.

Mahan acknowledged that industry is trying to understand the process and that it will take time to figure out the new ways of doing business. "It is just very difficult," he added.

Mahan is a strong proponent of agile acquisition, a concept the Air Force adopted in recent years.

Agile acquisition aims to deliver capabilities quickly. Mahan is looking at timelines of 12 months or less. …

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