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Knowledge tops rank for Guardsman leading Phoenix Oracle

  • Published
  • By Donna Jeffries
  • 108th Wing

JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. – Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Steven De Leon, an intelligence analyst with the 204th Intelligence Squadron, is helping develop the Air Mobility Command-led project called Phoenix Oracle.  

Phoenix Oracle is the umbrella term for AMC/A2's (Intelligence, Air and Space Information Operations) modernization, innovation and transformation efforts. Part of the project is building a multilayered web capability that provides real-time, geospatial data accessible across unclassified, secret, top-secret, and allied network platforms, allowing users to accurately access predictive and prescriptive analytics. The product will improve the quality and timeliness of the Mobility Air Force's Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, decrease time spent collecting and researching data and increase time for analysis and other work.

The New Jersey ANG intelligence unit joined the project because of its ability to provide the continuity the active duty has challenges providing due to personnel turnover, said Lt. Col. Drew Eisenhofer, director of operations, 204th IS.

Additionally, the 204th is in the forefront because of the skills of its members. The specialties include information analysts and operations intelligence analysts who write and brief airfield risk assessments and country risk assessments.

"In the beginning (in March), it was just Lt. Col. Eisenhofer, attending meetings with AMC. He found out there was a relation to airfield risk assessments and country risk assessments and he asked for my flight to go to a meeting, and I was asked to attend because I write risk assessments," said De Leon.

De Leon was placed on the geospatial visualization team in March and immediately created a web application for the SECRET platform. The A2 personnel then briefed AMC, who were "so impressed with how the web application turned out, they asked what my skills and experiences were," said De Leon.

Melinda Meek, deputy director of A2-Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, said De Leon and Master Sgt. Mike Klein are perfect examples of the "digitally adept Airmen" the Air Force seeks.

"De Leon has the intelligence background, but also has the technology skills to leverage the open-source and modern geospatially enabled capabilities to weave into our intelligence mission," Meek said.

With his military intelligence training and a bachelor's degree in data science and computer science from Thomas Edison University, De Leon is considered a double threat.

"They call me UNICORN because I have the intel background and technology background and I can combine both," De Leon said. 

Often, success leads to more responsibility and challenges.

Such is the case for De Leon, who was named the chief lead of the AMC's Phoenix Oracle development team June 28. He is responsible for researching and developing scripts to support the database and website and oversees a team of three civilian contract software engineers.

"His passion for making the mission better for everyone, his positive spirit, inquisitive mind, and desire to contribute to a team of people willing to be change agents (it's not easy being the voice of change), is why I asked him to be the chief of our development corps in our Mod Squad," said Meek. "The Mod Squad is a team of people standing together to transform our mission in key technology areas in data, geospatial, visualization and user experience, collaboration and integration (diverse partnerships with IC, DoD, industry, academia and modern DevSecOps approaches), automation and analytics (Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning/Computer Vision/Predictive & Prescriptive Analytics), and modern program management (agile, lean startup, venture capitalism, etc.)."

De Leon said the two-year project, with a budget of $4.3 million, will streamline data onto the Phoenix Oracle website, where intel analysts can easily obtain information about any airfield and countries to use for their briefings or situational awareness.

"This will also make it easier for intel analysts to write airfield risk assessments and country risk assessments that are disseminated throughout the Air Force," he said. "It will also help AMC, but it's also open to other MAJCOMS, federal agencies, and intelligence community."

De Leon is concentrating on making the CrunchyData PostgreSQL/PostGIS database and services into a digestible form. PostgreSQL is an open-source, object-relational database system, while PostGIS provides spatial objects, or storage and query information about location and mapping, for the PostgreSQL database.

Meaning it's a database and also a coding language with different iterations – this PostgreSQL/PostGIS data is for geospatially enabled information.

"I'm taking all the data sources that AMC and A2 compile and indexing them into the PostgreSQL/PostGIS data and then from there trying to script Python code so the website can recognize all the indexed data in the PostgreSQL/PostGIS database," De Leon explained.

His job is to bridge the gap from data to website.

De Leon says he feels the weight of his task because the project is being watched by not just A2 but several major commands, the Department of the Air Force chief software officer and Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) executive champion, the Department of the Air Force chief digital transformation officer, and their Phoenix Oracle partner, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA).

"To keep my balance, I keep a calendar and annotate everything I do and check off what I've done," said De Leon. "I'm creating this as I go. I have to set up the environment for the codes in order for my team to contribute."

De Leon said meetings take up most of his Mondays and the rest of the week is spent researching codes and scripts and learning the mechanics of the different coding languages.

"I learned the fundamentals in college, but now I'm learning the application of it at the enterprise level," said De Leon, who is studying for a master's degree in technology at Thomas Edison University.

Aside from his Phoenix Oracle team members, De Leon is working with NGA, A2-Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance USAF and Arkansas Air National Guard personnel. He's also drawing from the expertise of a CrunchyData senior engineer to create the database for the project and fellow squadron member Klein, who shares his expertise in technology and cybersecurity.