Air operations center gets speedy IT accreditation

Information systems at the Combined Air Operations Center in Qatar had to be certified and accredited before the center could begin directing all coalition air activity in Iraq. It was a rush job for SecureInfo Corp. of San Antonio, Texas, which sent a three-person team.

'What we were looking at is normally a six-month project,' principal engineer Steve Terry said. 'We managed to do it all, start to finish, in about four months.'

According to Air Force reports, the CAOC is a $45 million, 30,000-square-foot complex supporting the air components for the U.S. Central Command. Its duties include directing search and rescue operations and missile defense; targeting, battlefield coordination and special operations support; and directing sorties by U.S. Air Force and Navy and British aircraft.

SecureInfo provided security expertise and risk management to the CAOC's network monitoring capabilities. Defense Department command and control IT systems must be certified for information assurance before they are permitted to operate.

The company's team lived with troops in the desert to finish the job before the start of hostilities. They used a risk management security tool developed to DOD requirements by SecureInfo, said Karen R. Mella, vice president of corporate communications. The automated RMS software identifies requirements a system must meet, determines its level of risk and imposes safeguards for integrity, availability and confidentiality.

'We had quite a bit of experience working with other combined air operation centers,' Terry said. They included Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii and Prince Sultan Air Force Base in Saudi Arabia, where air operations against targets in Afghanistan were coordinated. 'That gave us a good perspective of the kinds of things we could run into.'

Even so, 'there were quite a few long days,' he said.

That was not necessarily a bad thing, said Andy Pilato, SecureInfo's laboratory chief. 'It was either work or sleep on a cot in a tent,' he said. The nature of the work also spurred them, Pilato said. 'The information we're assuring is itself a key motivator,' he said. 'There are lives at stake.'

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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