Air Force revises net modernization tactics

Six years into a $4.7 billion modernization of its data networks, the Air Force is changing management tactics to give more support to local bases that might lack technical expertise.

The Air Force is shifting the burden of support of Combat Information Transport System (CITS) initiatives from bases to regional commands. In the new organization, the commands will assist the bases with selecting and installing new systems, according to Air Force officials speaking late last month at the Air Force Information Technology Conference in Montgomery, Ala.

Also, the CITS program office is strengthening its support for the bases. In the past, the office supported technology installed under the program for about two years and then passed the responsibility to bases. Now the CITS program office will support products for their entire life cycles, said Lt. Col. Michael Horn, CITS program manager.

The program will extend to wireless devices, with the goal of having a solution ready by the "first quarter of the next calendar year that integrates well with the base infrastructures," Horn said at the conference.

CITS is evolving in other ways, as well. Program officials recently finished testing an enterprise tracking and notification system that will enable major commands to communicate with the Air Force Computer Emergency Response Team and other offices on the Defense Department's Secret Internet Protocol Router Network, said Capt. Korwin Miike, CITS' chief of integration and strategic planning, at the conference.

He said that CITS officials also recently awarded a certification and accreditation contract to Northrop Grumman Corp. to help identify and mitigate risks in the program.

The Air Force has also expanded CITS' range of technology, adding enterprise and fault management, remote access terminal services, classified networks and wireless capabilities.

Mike Corrigan, vice president of Suss Consulting Inc., a government consulting firm, said CITS' shift to a more regional approach for management makes sense because, in the past, the bases did not have the technical personnel to manage and learn all the subsystems, which included "stacks of documentation that were 10 feet high."

Corrigan, who helped implement parts of CITS during his previous tenure in EDS' government division, said standardizing equipment would also aid the architecture modernization effort, especially because individual base IT officials used to select equipment piece by piece throughout the deployment process.

In the next couple of months, CITS will focus its resources on standardizing the major commands' Network Operations and Security Center infrastructure and remote access terminal services, Miike said. He added that there also is interest in awarding a systems integration contract for CITS, but based on the size and scope of the program, "that will take some time."

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Making the connection

The Combat Information Transport System (CITS) program focuses on using commercial products to modernize information technology at bases and has more than 120 locations worldwide.

The CITS mission has four focus areas:

* Upgrading base backbones with high-speed data transport.

* Providing centralized command and control and information assurance tools.

* Upgrading and sustaining base telephone switches and management systems.

* Providing Air Force help-desk services for CITS and related systems users.

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