AFEI was formed from its predecessor organization, the US CALS Industry Steering Group, to conduct programs and activity in e-commerce and e-business. Motivation for the creation of AFEI was in large part due to the interest in the continuation of some of the programs and activities of the CALS group in the wake of the decision of the Defense Department (DoD) to move away from the CALS strategy and towards e-commerce implementation.
In 1985 the U.S. CALS Industry Steering Group (ISG) was formed at the request of OSD. Volunteers from the private and public sector teamed with government logisticians and acquisition managers in order to implement business process improvements in the areas of data information digitization. The initial role of the ISG was to advise the Defense Department on the selection of commercial standards to enable data exchange among dissimilar systems.
CALS was a seminal concept for the information process and data management operations of business enterprises. Under the umbrella of the CALS initiative, successes were achieved in the transition from paper-intensive business processes to more integrated modes of operation across the enterprise. The operative term for CALS proliferation is "create data once, use it many times." In October 1998 the ISG was restructured as an association focused on Enterprise Integration.
Specifically CALS dealt with the creation, transformation, storage, transmission, and use of technical information. This includes engineering drawings, product definition, logistic support analysis data, technical manuals, training material, technical plans, reports and operational feedback data.
CALS was initiated in September of 1985 when the Deputy Secretary of Defense issued a statement to the secretaries of the military departments approving recommendations of a DOD/Industry Task Force on CALS. These recommendations were designed to achieve major improvements in weapon systems design by improving accuracy, timeliness, and use of technical information.
As a result of the 1985 recommendations, a strategy was initiated to address these improvements and to move from the current paper-intensive process to an automated and integrated mode of operation.
The DOD components were directed to establish plans to acquire, process and use technical information in digital form. Each was instructed to begin developing their acquisition strategies for new starts, developments and modification programs for their major weapon systems.
Additional stimulus was provided in August 1988 when the Deputy Secretary of Defense issued another memorandum to the Secretaries of the Military Departments stating that major steps had been taken toward routine contractual implementation of CALS throughout DOD and industry.
This second memorandum upheld the issuance of CALS military standards for delivery and access to technical data in digital form for weapon systems that started development in fiscal year 1989 or later. CALS pilot programs were subsequently set up for the A-12, ATF, V-22, and LHX aircraft, and for the SSN-21 submarine.