NEWS | July 27, 2010

Electronic Systems Center enhances Air Force network

By Patty Welsh

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. (AFNS) -- The Cyber/Integration Division, formerly known as the 753rd Electronic Systems Group, has recently improved the way information flows to and from Air Force computers worldwide, saving approximately $24 million in the process.

This was accomplished through modernization projects that upgraded both the Air Force network defense boundary and the Air Force Web proxy architecture. The modernization plan replaces aging equipment with newer, modern items and also improves security.

"Secure access to the Internet is crucial to Air Force mission performance," said Ronnie Carter, the Cyber/Integration Division chief. "Detection and prevention of network attacks is a high priority. "

The boundary, composed of a series of base-level routers and switches, is where the majority of external Internet traffic enters the Air Force network. Access to the Air Force intranet "cloud" also crosses this boundary. The boundary routers control the flow of network data through each Air Force base; newer routers include major security upgrades that prevent unauthorized access to sensitive Air Force data.

"Not only will the new routers make the network more secure, they will increase the capacity, speed and efficiency of Air Force network traffic," said Brian Monahan, the boundary router modernization project lead. "It will make the average user's job easier. "

The base network boundary also includes a Web proxy, which ensures authentication and validation of website URLs and IP addresses. The proxy works by denying access to black-list sites, which are known to spread viruses or other malicious programs.

"The proxy operates quietly in the background, protecting and defending the Air Force network at each base boundary. The Web proxy can prevent users from accessing malicious websites, including those designed to commit identity theft. Those websites can also target high-ranking users and steal their electronic access to sensitive information," said 2nd Lt. Richard Barnard, the Web proxy modernization program manager.

Last year, members of the 753rd ELSG Support Division and engineers from the MITRE Corp. worked out a design that balanced the need for new boundary equipment with compatibility for future projects.

Because the new equipment needed to be fielded quickly, the 753rd ELSG pursued a contracting strategy to procure the equipment in the most efficient manner, using lowest price, technically acceptable contracts.

"Awarding the boundary project as an LPTA saved the Air Force between $17 and 19 million, while the Web proxy project saved the Air Force about $5 million," said Maj. Jon Stevens, the Network Defense Systems chief. "These savings can now be utilized for other high priority network defense projects. "

Money was also saved by using an established competitive contract vehicle, the Network Centric Solutions, or NETCENTS, contracting and purchasing these items in bulk at the Air Force enterprise level, rather than at the individual base or major command level.

The modernization projects will help ensure the Air Force network is protected with the latest network defense technology.

With Air Force operations as net-centric as they have ever been, net defense will ensure Air Force information superiority in the years to come, Major Stevens said.