USAF Joins Navy in Criticizing Intel Ops and Plans
David A. Fulghum
4:35 PM on Nov 04, 2009
U.S. Navy headquarters created a Directorate of Information on Nov. 2 out of its intelligence (N2) and command and control (N6) offices. The intent is to better organize some of the more esoteric technologies such as cyber operations, unmanned vehicles, network attack and architecture design into a single organization with an operator and warfighter perspective.
Air Force intelligence officials point to their own initiatives in that area over the last few years.
For example, 5th Air Force in Japan merged A2 and A6 in 2007. The rub, say intelligence officials, is that A2 and A6 at the headquarters level are staffing functions and each is responsible for two very different work forces that require expertise to manage and fund. The Air Force decided instead to install the change at the warfighting level.
“Within the Air Operations Center, there aren't any traditional A2/A3/A4 etc staff codes... the AOCs are functionally aligned,” says a senior USAF intelligence official. “So I'd maintain that merging N2 and N6 is nice, but essentially symbolic. Not that symbols don't matter, but you don't fight wars at a Service staff level. Those staffs organize, train, and equip forces for presentation to a combat commander, which is where the merger has to take place.”
“It’s not the platforms that are important, it’s the architecture and the information moving through those nodes,” say Adm. Gary Roughead, the Navy’s Chief of Naval Operations. The Navy also stood up the 10th Fleet that will be the forward operator of cyber attack and defense, and it also will determine how unmanned vehicles will support that effort.
Air Force officials agree whole-heartedly with Roughead.
“The Air Force has a platform fixation that causes problems,” the intelligence official says. “ The Air Force continues to maintain a problematic vocabulary that uses the term 'operations' in a way that's no longer meaningful or helpful. It would be nice to simply ban the use of that term. Classic case: who's the 'operator' on an RC-135... the pilot, who's essentially a bus driver for the crew in the back, or the Arabic linguist who's directly involved in combat operations as he/she monitors the situation on the ground? Who's the operator on a B-2 with a load of JDAMS... the pilot who's driving those bombs to somewhere near their intended destinations, or the targeteers who decided where those bombs should impact to achieve the desired effect and who program the destination coordinates into that bomb? I'd argue that the the term 'operator' has become pointless in the way we fight today. The right term is 'the warfighting team' and that includes airplane drivers, targeteers, communicators, linguists, planners, and munitions loaders at home base. Pull any of those out of the equation, and all you've got left is a flying club with interesting airplanes.”
Air Force officials also applaud Roughead’s call for the formation of composite squadrons that, for example, could combine similar type airframes from different services such as the Navy’s Broad Area Maritime Surveillance and the Air Force’s Global Hawk long-endurance, high-altitude UAVs, both built by Northrop Grumman.
“Amen!” the intelligence official says. “ Why the Navy went after BAMS alone, considering how long the Air Force had been working GLOBAL HAWK, is a mystery. I tried numerous times to get the BAMS folks to talk to us and they weren't interested. True, they needed a sensor that's different from the one we initially fielded, but sensors and platforms aren't the same thing. The real issue was that we needed (and need) their overwater sensor in the Pacific as much as they do, and it would have been more cost effective for both services to tackle that together. Same for the ground exploitation sites. I can't think of any good reason why USAF DCGS and Navy DCGS couldn't have merged their efforts to create a truly joint exploitation architecture.”
Lt. Gen. Dave Deptula, Air Force deputy chief of staff for ISR recently bemoaned the fact that “We are in an information age, but we have an industrial age acquisition system. We have to become much, much more capable because our adversaries are not limited by the same sort of bureaucratic and legislative constraints that we have. “
Other intelligence officials join in the self-criticism.
“Nowhere is this more true than in the Air Force DCGS acquisition program,” the AF official says. “ We're having to buy computers the way we buy airplanes, which is truly irrational. The acquisition habits and regulations drive us into fielding IT systems that are obsolete before they're delivered (see DCGS 10.2). We discussed with industry partners, and they were utterly astounded that the USAF would buy computers rather than lease them with tech refresh clauses in the leases. No one at the phone companies, to take one example, would do it that way. As a consequence, the fielded systems are unsustainable when they arrive, and the contractors who field them end up having to charge exorbitant prices to maintain long-obsolete equipment.”
”There needs to be a way to validate demand with respect to resourcing,” Deptula says. “Part of that [answer] is integrating all the ISR capabilities that are provided by each of the service components [to] make sure that we treat ISR holistically from a combatant commander’s perspective [and] to optimize what’s actually available. We can’t afford excessive redundancy.”
Deptula’s supporters in Air Force intelligence see obstacles.
“Again, amen!” says a veteran intel official. “But since our Service programs don't talk at the Service Headquarters level, the first time a combat commander gets to see what the Services bought is when they come to fight. That's very late in the game.”
ar99, intel, C&C, USN, USAF