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ISR chief stresses importance of turning data into information

by Tom Budzyna
Air Force News Service

9/18/2012 - WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- How would you handle 1.8 petabytes of information?

Imagine, your average laptop computer has one gigabyte of memory, so 1.8 petabytes would be like having 1.8 million laptops of memory begging for attention.

That was just one example provided by Lt. Gen. Larry D. James, Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) when he provided an overview of Air Force ISR at the Air Force Association Annual Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition Sept. 17, and said that, as good as Air Force ISR has proven to be, there's always room for improvement.

"The machine definitely has to help the analyst," said James to a room full of conference attendees highlighting the Air Force Distributed Common Ground System (DCGS) as the backbone the Air Force data management mission.

Lt. Gen. James explained that moving 1.8 petabytes of data to meet the demands of combatant commanders and senior decision makers is difficult work but the bigger challenge faced by Airmen is to turn that data into information.

That's the attention handled by DCGS every month and analysts like 26-year old Senior Airman George has seen it work.

"It's incredibly rewarding. Especially over there where you're working with the no-joke-boots-on-the-ground guys," said George who returned from a deployment to Afghanistan in March 2012.

"It's great to talk with the people going outside the wire. You learn ways to support them better," said George.

James explained that DCGS collects information from many layers, ranging from space sensors to air platforms, cyber networks and other sources.

"Getting the data is what counts," said James. He was describing how the entire intelligence community needs to find more efficient methods to process this data into decision making information for joint warfighters in all U.S. military services, senior leaders and more and more to U.S. allies.

"I work with a team where an Airman's work may end up on the President's desk. How exciting is that!" said James.

"It's great to talk with the people we support and help them understand what we (DCGS analysts) do," said George. He explained that, when he works one-on-one with customers in the field, they gain a real appreciation for what DCGS delivers.

"I can't wait to get back over there and do it again, to see real world situations and save lives every day," George said.

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