Making the Most of Time and Resources

Michael J.Basla, CIO, U.S. Air Force
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Michael J.Basla, CIO, U.S. Air Force

Michael J.Basla, CIO, U.S. Air Force

Calculated implementation of IT solutions

The biggest challenge this year and beyond is fine tuning the Department of Defense (DoD) acquisition and fielding processes by finding ways to deliver IT solutions in a more efficient and effective manner. Besides, knowing when to implement a technology is critical, especially in our environment where we must operate and sustain fielded capabilities as we bring on new solutions.

Coupled with these challenges is a trained workforce that is prepared to use IT solutions. For example, we will implement Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) as part of our security architecture. Our workforce must be prepared to deploy and sustain this technology.

From ideas to implementation

Growth in commercial technology has not only fundamentally transformed how we conduct business, but also how we gather intelligence and ensure warfighting mission success. This has placed an increased level of importance to understand requirements across all mission areas. In DoD, we have a deliberate and often time consuming acquisition process structured around the purchase of major weapon systems. This bureaucracy creates a lengthy cycle of gathering and validating requirements, developing a strategy and plan, acquiring funding support, and competing for a  solution within federal guidelines. By the time this process is complete, the fielded IT capabilities are usually late to need. We must find innovative ways to field IT capabilities within our own corporate process to meet the warfighter’s requirements.

"Meeting the users’ needs is the no.1 priority and it is absolutely critical to stay connected with them"

Managing the resources

Managing the Air Force’s complex enterprise environment is an arduous task. We have many users performing a wide range of functions that have solved their IT challenges independently.  With fewer resources available, we need to understand common requirements that can be solved across many mission owners with an enterprise solution vice having “one-offs”. For example, we have an application to inventory vehicles, a different application to inventory aircraft parts, and yet another application to inventory computer equipment -these similar processes could all be solved with an enterprise solution.

Technology comes calling

Mobile technology has eluded the Air Force for several years because of stringent security standards; however, we are making strides in fielding this capability. For example, the Air Force is working closely with several partners to field 18,000 iPads as Electronic Flight Bag (EFB). The EFB saves time and energy for the aircrew and we are gaining efficiencies by having less printed products onboard the aircraft; however, the biggest advantage of an EFB is safety of flight. For example, aircrews have access to real-time weather and airfield notices, giving the aircrew the ability to make in-flight adjustments to their flight plan. The next step is to take the lessons learned from EFB and apply them to all mission areas.

My advice for fellow CIOs

Meeting the users’ needs is the no.1 priority and it is absolutely critical to stay connected with them. A CIO must be a technical advisor that fully understands user requirements, and then applies the appropriate technology to meet mission demands. Therefore, CIOs cannot isolate themselves from the users. 

I’ve also learned to not wait for the ideal solution. As General Patton once said, “A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week.” To that end, we’re partnering with our other service CIOs to leverage each other’s efforts, working in parallel to pursue the 80 percent solution, refining the solution as we move forward.

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