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CHIPS Articles: Air Force Warfighting Integration Decision Support

Air Force Warfighting Integration Decision Support
Smart investing to get the most bang from the acquisition buck
By Lt. Col. Jordon Cochran - April-June 2012
Given today's fiscal realities and emerging threats, the need for warfighting integration (WFI) has never been greater. What is WFI, and why is it so important for you to understand it? In this context, WFI is the ability to maximize interoperability and effectiveness of warfighting systems to produce synergistic capabilities for joint warfighters by effectively informing and influencing corporate planning, requirements, programming and acquisition processes.

Effective warfighting integration accelerates the observe, orient, decide and act (OODA) loop process and provides the joint force commander with information superiority that yields decision superiority, which ultimately translates into domain superiority and more effective use of scarce warfighting resources.

WFI is not about developing advanced weapon systems and having them operate in isolation; nor is it about taking the latest technology and adding so much complexity that it is improbable or too expensive to field or making investment decisions without understanding the second- and third-order effects that need to be considered in today's tightly constrained budget environment.

For these reasons, the Secretary of the Air Force Chief of Warfighting Integration and Chief Information Officer (SAF CIO/ A6), Directorate of Warfighter Systems Integration (SAF/A6W) has been working on methods to better inform senior leader decision making with respect to WFI. One especially promising effort is the Warfighting Integration Decision Support Tool (WFI DST) that has been created by SAF/A6W personnel in partnership with the Air Force Enterprise Architects (SAF/ A6PA) organization with assistance from MITRE Corp. and Systems Planning and Analysis, Inc. contractor support.

There is a need for senior leaders to have a mechanism for viewing programs and their dependencies from a cross-functional, holistic perspective. Although there are subject matter experts with knowledge of these relationships, there is a need to institutionalize a "programmatic common operating picture" that can be used to ensure everyone involved in planning and programming has a shared and sustained view of real relationships and dependencies. This is what the WFI DST is attempting to address, and the project is off to a very promising start.

The tool harvests available authoritative data, such as that found in the Air Force Automated Budget Interactive Data Environment System (ABIDES), program element monitor (PEM) data briefings, major command (MAJCOM) architecture artifacts, and subject matter experts' knowledge, and fuses it together to provide increased programmatic situational awareness, particularly with inter-program touch points. Figures 1 and 2 illustrate the power of the tool.

Evidence over Eloquence

To promote evidence-based over eloquence-based investment decisions, we have mapped Air Force programmatic and operational relationships for nearly 1,000 program elements across the 12 Air Force Service Core Functions as well as nine Capability Portfolios. This includes programmatic mappings to the Joint Capability Areas (JCAs), Joint Capability Gap Analysis and Air Force Enterprise Assessment. These mappings enable the user to quickly visualize the operational capability supported by a given program or program element and has value in decreasing the time spent on data gathering, leaving more time for course of action analysis and decision making.

At this point, we recognize that there is much more work to be done as we refine the quality and quantity of data in the DST by leveraging an Air Force functional integrator’s expertise. We are collecting authoritative data, which includes many architecture artifacts contained within MAJCOM master plans and PEM briefings, and feeding data into the visualization tool. Just as we fuse and expose sensor data on the battlefield, we ought to be taking the same approach from a planning and programmatic perspective by exposing lead integrator knowledge to the enterprise. In the coming years, if we can use functional architectures as the authoritative, integrated source of operational and programmatic relationships, we will be in a position to better understand the collateral effects of investment decisions and avoid or mitigate unintended consequences.

The WFI DST allows users to view programming through a warfighting capability lens and expedites research and data gathering to allow more time for analysis, advocacy and better-informed decision making. The DST’s visualization of crossfunctional relationships is potentially very powerful, not only in terms of helping portray an enterprise perspective, but also serving as a knowledge base for those who are new to the programming world and may not fully understand the programmatic and operational linkages.

As the DST matures, the knowledge base gets richer and richer by leveraging stakeholders’ and subject matter experts’ authoritative information contributions. This ever-expanding knowledge base holds great potential as a continuity and training aid. Further, the tool has the potential to enable more effective horizontal integration across service core functions, platforms, systems and programs leading to lower costs, improved interoperability and enhanced netenabled warfighting capabilities.

As the Decision Support Tool matures, the knowledge base gets richer and richer by leveraging takeholders' and subject matter experts’ authoritative information contributions. This ever-expanding knowledge base holds great potential as a continuity and training aid.

The WFI DST uses a commercial off-the-shelf software product hosted on a secure classified government network. The DST allows the user to craft tailored views of the data and permits "what if" data excursions without corrupting or modifying any of the underlying authoritative source data.

The WFI DST shows great potential to enable warfighting integration in a visible, actionable and enduring way by leveraging enterprise architectures and authoritative data sources to better inform Air Force corporate decision making.

The shared view of programmatic reality it provides will facilitate coordinated planning, programming and budget execution to realize envisioned capabilities and maximize joint warfighting effectiveness in the years to come.

Email questions to SAF/A6WS at saf.a6ws.strategydiv@pentagon.af.mil.

Figure 1. An example of basic first-order programmatic relationships between program elements that enable a particular mission capability.
Figure 1. An example of basic first-order programmatic relationships between program elements that enable a particular mission capability.

Figure 2 depicts the enhanced first-order and second-order programmatic and
operational relationships among program elements that our WFI analysis produced. This mapping effort provides visibility of how programs and capabilities are linked, particularly across functional lines. In this example, there are three core functions spanned: Command and Control (C2), Nuclear Deterrent Operations (NDO) and Cyberspace Superiority. Key DST functionality includes this ability to easily discern programmatic versus operational relationships between programs, to hyperlink directly to related authoritative data, and to quickly scale a view across multiple degrees of separation (which translates to first-, second- or third-order relationships).
Figure 2 depicts the enhanced first-order and second-order programmatic and operational relationships among program elements that our WFI analysis produced. This mapping effort provides visibility of how programs and capabilities are linked, particularly across functional lines. In this example, there are three core functions spanned: Command and Control (C2), Nuclear Deterrent Operations (NDO) and Cyberspace Superiority. Key DST functionality includes this ability to easily discern programmatic versus operational relationships between programs, to hyperlink directly to related authoritative data, and to quickly scale a view across multiple degrees of separation (which translates to first-, second- or third-order relationships).
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