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Using APIs to unleash data and transform mission operations

The Defense Department has a history of trying to develop large IT solutions that meet requirements across the whole organization. But as history has shown, when pitted against schedule, cost, or suitability issues, the product is not a great success, shares Matthew Dansereau from the U.S. Air Force’s Rapid Sustainment Office (RSO).

However, the Air Force is signaling a paradigm shift in how it approaches technology development, he says, by moving to an API-first approach. Dansereau shares how the RSO uses this approach to modernize maintenance operations and sustainment activities across the department’s thousands of aircraft and other mission-critical systems.

“API’s play a huge role in being able to aggregate all of these disparate systems that that hold valuable information, to be able to get a full picture of supply and the impact on logistics,” Adds Google Public Sector IT executive Russ Kole in a recent Scoop News Group panel, underwritten by Google for Government. By coupling APIs with the existing enterprise environment organizations are leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities to speed decision-making for logistics operations.

“I think a challenge that we see very frequently is the need to be able to integrate an ecosystem of systems that has evolved over a long period of time and brings with it a lot of variation,” shares Russ Kole, DOD delivery executive of professional services at Google Public Sector.

“It’s a heterogeneous environment…that was never designed to be implemented in a way that modern architecture really enables,” says Kole, who explains that an API-first approach allows organizations to access data in the systems of record where it sits, as opposed to building separate data lakes or replicating the data elsewhere.

Dansereau elaborates that APIs give Air Force organizations the flexibility to develop smaller mission applications that meet the requirements and the capabilities they are responsible for. They can stitch them all together to meet the requirements of the larger organization.

“So, for the user, this is very seamless, and they’re getting some of the same effects as having one system to rule them all. But we’ve done it much quicker. And it’s much easier to manage in the long run if we ever want to do a tech refresh, or if we want to add capability, or remove capability that’s no longer applicable,” Dansereau says.

Kole cautions that in an API-first approach, the ecosystem itself doesn’t deliver functionality but enables the rapid development and deployment of functionality.

“An organization with several 100 data systems and repositories would go through and plum those applications in those systems to an API-management platform. And from there, it can now compose and recompose those systems into whatever use cases it needs,” he says.

Ultimately, the RSO is showcasing the use of APIs to play a larger role in aggregating disparate systems that hold valuable information and getting a full picture of supply and the impact on logistics.

Watch the full discussion to learn more about unleashing your organization’s data with APIs.

This video panel discussion was produced by Scoop News Group for DefenseScoop, and underwritten by Google for Government.

About United States Air Force Rapid Sustainment Office (RSO):Established in 2020, the RSO accelerates the delivery of critical operational solutions to the Department of the Air Force sustainment enterprise.