Air Force

AF feels good about 2000

Since April 1997, Lt. Gen. William J. Donahue has been director of the Air Force Communications and Information Center, where he is responsible for strategic plans, doctrine, policies, architecture and standards for communications and information systems for the service.

The Air Force carried out its mission with NATO in Kosovo using a light and lean air expeditionary force, said Donahue, the deputy chief information officer. He recently talked with GCN about information technology use in Operation Allied Force and about year 2000 readiness.

Staff Sgt. Rob Williams, left, works with Airman Michael Wright at the Fusion Center at the Gunter Annex of Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. The Fusion Center, which goes into full operation tomorrow, has 115 full-time employees who work in a secure building, responding to year 2000 readiness and other issues, said Col. Robert Glitz, chief of the Customer Support Division at the Standard Systems Group's Software Factory. The Fusion Center has T1 lines, and employees work on a network running Microsoft Windows NT Server 4.0 that lets them route incoming faxes as .gif files and voice mail messages as .wav files.

<> I couldn't be more proud of what we accomplished in Operation Allied Force. It was a wonderful display of air power. I didn't say 'Air Force'; what I'm talking about is joint air power.

It was a precision engagement. It wasn't just about delivering munitions on target. We excelled in information assurance, and we maintained a mobility fleet with civilian and joint powers. We operated from 40 sites in 15 countries.

We didn't do everything perfect, but bandwidth wasn't a limiting factor. We demonstrated good reach-back capabilities, and we used commercial products effectively. We were on the Net, Web-enabled. We controlled much of our operations on the Web.

We put our technology as far forward as we could, using a high-speed communications network in refugee camps, for example. It was an information-intense operation, and we also showed our reach-back capabilities with predator video from Kosovo, which was transmitted back to Hurlburt Field, Fla., for decision-making and then back to sensors in Kosovo.

It was the first cyberwarfare. People came at us'consistently and persistently'Serbs, I guess. The networks held up, even when [viruses] Melissa, Worm and Papa hit. The firewalls we installed at the bases through the Combat Information Transport System worked well.

On the network

Senior leadership personally exploited our networks, especially the Secret IP Router Network, and found they could move around information. It doesn't matter where you are. What matters is that you're on the network.

Information technology tools'CDW-Government Inc. of Vernon Hills, Ill., Dell Computer Corp., Gateway Inc. and Micron Electronics Inc. of Nampa, Idaho, are selling PCs and servers through blanket purchasing agreements, while Comark Federal Systems and Government Technology Services Inc., both of Chantilly, Va., and Westwood Computer Corp. of Springfield, N.J., are offering peripherals through their BPAs. Cytec Corp. of Dallas, GTSI and Inacom Government Systems of Fairfax, Va., are selling ruggedized portables in the Standard Systems Group's first major foray into BPAs. Total projected sales this year are $186 million.

Global Combat Support System-Air Force'The service is modernizing its standard information systems through this $900 million indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract with Lockheed Martin Corp., which runs through 2001. The Air Force is focusing on supporting its combat activities through integrated Defense Information Infrastructure Common Operating Environment-compliant logistics and supply maintenance systems.

Integrated-Computer Aided Software Engineering'Logicon Inc. of Herndon, Va., is selling enterprise software through this $1.4 billion contract, which expires in April 2004. During the past two years, the Air Force has bought more than $150 million worth of Oracle Corp. database management system software and tools through site licenses covering nearly the entire service.

We've invested in more bandwidth on the Non-Classified IP Router Network than SIPRnet. We were able to look at the peak and average loading [on the networks]. If there were peaks, we needed to see if they were properly sized. We had the capacity we needed on the networks.

We feel good about year 2000 readiness. Your Air Force is gonna fly in the year 2000. Operational scenarios, including flights, will not be affected. We did a Y2K flag test that included 224 sorties and 77 pieces of ordnance, and we have tested real-time mission scenarios.

It is difficult to come up with an estimate regarding how much we're spending on year 2000 readiness, although we have received $242 million in emergency supplemental funding for the effort. Initially, we estimated $400 million, then it was $500 million and later $800 million. To get a year 2000 remedy, sometimes you deploy a new system. Should that funding be considered year 2000 readiness money?

We found we had to upgrade the switches for our telephone systems. The software and hardware upgrades cost $60 million.

In our testing and evaluation, we have uncovered minor problems. On May 11 and 12 at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., we did a year 2000 test that involved 2,500 people and 25,000 computer systems. We found our first 9/9/99 failure. We found commercial products where the vendors said they were Y2K ready that failed the tests. Nonetheless, there was no disruption of operations.

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