Air Force CIO lays out goals to work more closely with industry partners

By Shelley K. Mesch / July 28, 2022

The Air Force hopes to build tighter ties with companies to field needed software capabilities and updates more quickly, Air Force Chief Information Officer Lauren Knausenberger said Tuesday.

A strategy plan, which Knausenberger said could be released next month, will begin a process to streamline capability acquisition. That could include reducing the steps required in the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program process, cutting back on reauthorization requirements when environments change and allowing companies to list software options for the military as they would in the open market, Knausenberger told attendees of a Potomac Officers Club summit in McLean, VA.

Software and IT as a service, often called SaaS and ITaaS, are going to be important components of a modernized Air Force, Knausenberger said, though acquisition processes still need to be updated to allow for these types of acquisitions.

SaaS and ITaaS models charge recurring fees, often monthly or annually, to license products rather than a one-time payment for the product. In return for the recurring fee, that product will be regularly updated.

“We want to buy as a service,” Knausenberger told the industry representative attendees. “We want to update the architecture when new architectures are available. We want the software updates.”

A lot of money needs to be funneled into cyber development and acquisition to create a modern cyber architecture, she said. That architecture would underpin all operations, connecting warfighters, commanders and other support as well as platforms, sensors and munitions.

“We can’t do any of that unless we make pretty serious investments in cyber and execute the heck out of it,” Knausenberger said.

One of the ways the Air Force is updating cyber capabilities is by creating an app store. The store would be populated with programs approved for military use, Knausenberger said, allowing warfighters and other service members to access applications in a timely manner.

A robust cloud system for unclassified and classified information and programs will be key to modernizing cyber operations.

“To get that speed to the warfighter, we have to have that cloud architecture everywhere in the world,” Knausenberger said. “We have to be able to push software on demand.”

The fiscal year 2024 budget request, which the Air Force is drafting now, will reflect the push for cyber, she said.

There is more support for improved cyber in the service than in years past, said Knausenberger, adding that Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall “gets it.”

“I don’t have to be the only one fighting” for funding, she said.