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  • ISR Detour
    Posted by David A. Fulghum 2:02 PM on Oct 06, 2009

    There was hope in the Pentagon for an expansion of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) into an Air Force major command. But caution has led the service’s four-star leaders to delay while cyber and electronic warfare organizations are put into place and made operational.

    ISR as a major command was expected to help speed rationalization, integration and operational use of information operations, cyber warfare, electronic attack, UAVs and other non-kinetic combat capabilities. Critics contend that also parallel’s a dip in enthusiasm for widening the influence of intelligence in mainstream combat planning and promoting intelligence officers to senior levels where they will have a more influential voice in war-planning. In fact, some recent selectees for general officer rank were discharged before their promotions became effective. This on-again, off-again advocacy of intelligence as a major component appears to again be in a trough.

    Last week’s closed-session, 4-star summit to review the Air Force ISR enterprise has concluded that an initiative for elevating the ISR agency to a major command is on hold for an indefinite period.

    “Alternatives for Air Force ISR organizational structures were addressed,” says Lt. Gen. Dave Deptula, Deputy chief of staff for ISR. Deptula has waged a campaign for years to increase the integration and interoperability between services and intelligence agencies. “The decision was made to maintain the direction of the AF ISR Agency as a separate organization with its focus on providing global integrated ISR as its primary mission."

    The structure will be reconsidered after recent changes in the Pentagon have had a chance to sort themselves out including standup of 24th Air Force (cyber warfare unit) and Air Force Global Strike Command (to integrate kinetic and non-kinetic combat) and the establishment this month of U.S. Cyber Command (to coordinate cyber-warfare among the services and with national intelligence agencies. During the review, Air Force leadership held in-depth discussions about the organization, personnel, and capabilities of the enterprise.

    It was decided to open Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) officer and enlisted ISR career fields to more candidate groups. Senior leaders discussed whether the current Air Force ISR command structure - with the Air Force ISR Agency directly reporting to the Air Staff - was best suited for how the Air Force executes its core function of Global Integrated ISR.

    Conclusions of the group were to maintain the current direction of ongoing AF ISR transformation efforts and specifically directed sustainment of current organizational alignments. AFISRA will remain a separate organization to focus on providing global, integrated ISR as its primary mission. Advocates of a bolstered ISR mission say it is inevitable that ISR will have to strengthen its linkages and integration with cyber-warfare, UAV, electronic attack and information operations to fully exploit non-kinetic warfare as a part of U.S. military operations.

    The summit was lauded by Air Force Sec. Michael Donley, but he urged caution and additional study so that the services “don’t act prematurely. We need to let these organizations develop and mature, and then we will be better able to assess what the next step might be,” he says.

    Tags: ar99, ISRSummit, Deptula

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