Communications transformation brings positive change to forefront

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. David R. Stewart
  • 71st Communications Squadron
Over the past six months, we underwent a huge transformation in the information technology realm. We restructured our communications squadron, upgraded the base telephone switch and moved to seven-digit dialing, consolidated the computer help desk, strengthened Public Key Infrastructure security and adopted standard e-mail naming conventions. That's quite a feat, but Team Vance knuckled down together very well. I need to be up front though - we've only seen the tip of this iceberg. We still have a long way to go to modernize our base network as well as continue our transformation to the Air Force Network Operations umbrella-- an Air Force prerequisite for delivering critical, operational cyber-warfare capability. 

This year promises to be extremely busy. We were fortunate enough to receive funding from Air Education and Training Command to modernize our network here at Vance - a long-awaited and much needed project, as Vance is one of only two bases in AETC that never received a network backbone upgrade under the Combat Information Transfer System Program. This is a fantastic opportunity to overhaul the network backbone, optimize information flow by balancing network traffic loads, improve network survivability through power backup upgrades and install fiber optic cable to 25 core buildings around base. 

In addition to the backbone overhaul, we'll replace many of the network components residing in the end buildings around the base. Currently, 40 percent of these components are at the end of life or nearing it, and 33 percent are remotely unmanageable - invisible to network administrators over the network, which prevents remote administration and monitoring of health and bandwidth. That's not all! We're also planning to replace the network wiring inside several key facilities all the way from building entry to wall jacks with the latest industry-standard network cable. 

I'm excited about this opportunity to improve our network to such an extent. This modernization will truly improve the reliability and performance of information services at Vance, better support our wing mission and pave the way for continued migration to AFNetOps. 

Air Force is in the process of eliminating major command "county options" and rolling 10 distinct network domains under a single hat, or AFNetOps entity, de-centrally controlled by two CONUS centers. The migration reduces duplication of effort Air Force-wide and builds the foundation needed to deliver distributed computing capabilities to Airmen at home station as well as war fighters in land, maritime, space and cyberspace domains. 

AETC was selected as the first MAJCOM in the Air Force to fully transition into AFNetOps, and Vance is No. 3 in AETC base priority, so you can say we're leading the way for the Air Force. The following is a brief description of some transformation initiatives in store for Vance over the next eight months. Implementation dates continue to be moving targets as Air Force finalizes their plans. 

· Transition operation of base network boundaries (firewalls, etc.) to I-NOSC-West. These systems protect and facilitate management and access to base network resources (firewall, Web site filters, etc.). The physical systems will remain at Vance; however, administration and operation will be conducted remotely from Peterson AFB, Colo. 

· Standardize e-mail box size and attachment size limits. Good news is that we don't expect these limits to decrease beyond our settings today. The e-mail attachment size limit will be set to 12MB, which will be standard at all AETC bases and eventually AF-wide. We also expect a change to organizational e-mail display names to include the base name in order to clarify locations, i.e. "Vance 71 CS/CC Commander." 

· Consolidate Active Directory and e-mail systems into a standardized architecture and physically-consolidated e-mail environment, with individual and organizational mail boxes migrating from Vance to an Area Processing Center at Scott AFB, Ill., managed by the folks at Peterson AFB. 

· Standardize collaborative toolsets and processes through command-wide Enterprise SharePoint migration. We've recently received training on this system, and will soon begin training site and content managers wing-wide, and will work with wing agencies to develop e-staffing tools for implementation wing-wide. 

· AETC and U.S. Air Forces in Europe Consolidated Help Desks virtually combine under the name "Enterprise Service Desk," providing the foundation for Air Force-wide implementation. We don't expect impacts to our current process, but the name will change from Consolidated Help Desk to Enterprise Service Desk. 

· AETC Base Telephone Operators consolidate to San Antonio.
In addition to transforming our systems, we're also changing the way we'll lead our communications squadron. This summer, we lose our remaining officer billets and bring in a civilian director to lead the squadron. In a similar fashion, we're looking to our civilians to lead our flights. AF is scoring a home-run by creating these leadership opportunities for Department of Defense civilian employees with interest in upward mobility. 

I'm proud of our military, civilian and contract communications team. Together, we're ready to lead the march into the next phase of change. Rest assured; we'll remain focused on our flying training mission and will work our hardest to mitigate impacts. Change is never easy, and there's bound to be some bumps along the way, but in the long run, the benefits will be well worth the effort: unity of command, synergy, information security and Air Force-wide standards.