The U.S. Air Force’s point man on ISR expects to deliver architectures for the future of ISR to Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh by this summer.
“As we look to the future it’s more and more about handling the data,” Lt. Gen. Larry James told the audience at a Thursday morning event hosted by the Air Force Association. “You may have all this data coming at you, but you need to have the tools that allow you to do something with that data.”
James said that roadmap will likely involve moving towards an open architecture that includes non-proprietary software. “We’re building a roadmap for DCGS. That’s about 80 percent complete. We expect to have that complete for [Welsh’s] signature this summer.”
Guidance on how data is analyzed will be due around the same time.
“Analysts just can’t handle terabytes of data coming at them every day,” James said. “So the other roadmap is that analytic roadmap- what are those tool sets that we need to go out and find the data, to fuse the data together, to tag the data and create a product that the analyst can then use more efficiently and effectively.”
“That roadmap is well on its way, [and will] probably be up to the chief in late May or early June that lays out what are the analytics we need to invest in and develop in order to handle all this data,” he said.
The need for a new, comprehensive architecture stems from the “stovepipe” nature of how ISR programs were developed across the DoD, according to James. But that doesn’t mean the various ISR branches of the military are not coordinating.
“I believe the relationship between the senior intel officers among the services has never been better,” James said.
James, who plans to retire in June, took some time to look back at his tenure as Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance.
“If you look back over the last year, we truly have accomplished amazing things in the Air Force ISR community,” he said, before stating that USAF flew 128,000 manned ISR hours. That was divided into about 1,700 hours for the U-2, 9,400 hours on the Rivet Joint aircraft and over 100,000 hours for the MC-12.
During a question and answer session, James indicated that the ISR mission in Africa could expand in the future, based on need.
“Broadly speaking, as we continue to look at ... that continent, the demand for ISR will be there,” James said. “So yes, over the recent past it has expanded, and depending on how the threat evolves and how much we want to go after that threat, it could expand int he future. ISR is absolutely key to continued operations.”