Air Force opens a command

Air Force opens a command

The Fusion Center will ease collaboration among personnel and will let them conduct briefings, Air Force officials say. It is housed in a 1957 nuclear attack shelter.

Standard Systems Group will watch for cyberthreats, viruses, net glitches

By Bill Murray

GCN Staff

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala.'Capping eight months of hurried preparations, the Air Force on Aug. 31 formally opened a center for collecting data on information warfare attacks, year 2000 readiness and other systems crises.

'We have to have good situational awareness to make decisions,' said Brig. Gen. Gary Ambrose, the Air Force year 2000 director. The Fusion Center, operated by the Standard Systems Group, is connected to each of the service's command posts and help desks, and it lets the service monitor networks down to the server level with Hewlett-Packard OpenView, he said.

At the router level, the SSG OpenView system lets Fusion Center officials check bandwidth and processor utilization, Ambrose said. A surge or sharp downward turn in such utilization would give Fusion Center officials cause for concern, he said. Air Force officials have implemented contingency plans for performing processes manually in case of computer failure.

Counting down

The Fusion Center operates 24 hours a day, and 45 people will work each shift leading up to the Dec. 31 rollover to 2000, Ambrose said.

'The Air Force is not canceling leaves or calling people en masse during rollovers,' he said. Ninety-six percent of Air Force mission-critical systems were fixed and fielded by the end of last month, he said.

With LAN drops in the break rooms and along walls on the same floor as the Fusion Center, up to 160 networked PCs can run in the center, said Col. Robert Glitz, chief of the Customer Support Division at the SSG Software Factory. The Fusion Center has four T1 lines, and personnel use Microsoft Exchange 5.5 running under Windows NT Server 4.0 for messaging.

From the Fusion Center, the Air Force can deny access to the service's Non-Classified IP Router Network and Secret IP Router Network, Glitz said. The center features 28 SIPRnet fiber-optic lines, and its phone systems can handle 96 concurrent sessions, he said.

While Fusion Center officials field help desk calls and collect data, command and control decisions will be made from the Air Intelligence Agency at Kelly Air Force Base, Texas. The Air Force Operations Center will also make command and control decisions for year 2000 readiness, Ambrose said.

Air Force officials around the world will be able to monitor the service's year 2000 readiness on a SIPRnet Web site, said Kenneth Heitkamp, SSG's technical director.

For its independent verification and validation process, Air Force officials are scanning more than 20 million lines of Cobol code to detect latent problems in year 2000 readiness, Ambrose said.

The service is using off-the-shelf products, including Millennium CrossCheck from Data Integrity Corp. of Waltham, Mass., for Cobol code, as well as Bridgeway 2000 Compliance Checker from Bridgeway Systems LLC of San Rafael, Calif., for non-Cobol code, an SSG spokeswoman said.

Cold War leftover

The Fusion Center is housed in a reinforced concrete blockhouse built in 1957 and designed for use in case of an attack by the Soviet Union. The center's design was drawn up March 15, and construction began April 15, Glitz said.

'We had no drawings for the floor beforehand,' which made the architects' task particularly challenging, Glitz said. Initial money for the center came from a $5.7 million working capital appropriation, he said, and SSG spent nearly $1 million more for demolition, network servers, telephones and wiring.

SRA International Inc. of Arlington, Va., performed systems integration work for the Fusion Center through an existing integration of command, control, communications, computers and intelligence systems contract with SSG, Glitz said. Help desk call data is fed into Fusion Center systems through Help Desk 4.0 from Remedy Corp. of Mountain View, Calif.


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