HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass: The Combat Information Transport System is a high-priority item for Air Force officials who seek to create, manage and defend a truly enterprise-wide internet.
During a recent Electronic Systems Center program prioritization effort, CITS was listed as number two out of more than 300 total programs. Since it is a high priority, CITS will receive a bevy of additional resources, including organic and contracted-support personnel.
CITS is composed of three systems: transport, network defense and network management. Transport is everything that relates to the physical pathways that information passes through, network defense is the security and network management is the control. All of these assets combine to provide connectivity throughout the Air Force to link command and control and combat support systems to the Defense Information System Network using Non-Secure Internet Protocol Router Network, or NIPRNET, and Secure Internet Protocol Router Network, or SIPRNET connectivity.
“There’s a clear recognition now that CITS requires a tremendous amount of effort and an equivalent amount of support,” said Col. Russ Fellers, CITS program manager. “Our team is working a lot of long hours, but we’re really seeing the fruits of prioritization now, with resources being matched to the tasks at hand.”
With a total portfolio value of $6.4 billion and projected new annual expenditures of $500 million, CITS also is garnering a lot of interest from the civilian industry. That interest was evident during a recent CITS industry day, when industry representatives packed the base theater to listen to Colonel Fellers and numerous others share details about the program’s recent restructuring and the way ahead.
The CITS program, prior to restructuring, had been managed as one very large but amorphous Acquisition Category I, or ACAT-I, program.
In its new form, which has been approved at all levels of the Air Force and Department of Defense acquisition hierarchy, it is composed and managed in segments. One segment, Information Transport Systems, includes all of the fiber, copper and wireless components used to move vital information around the globe. Another segment is the Air Force Network, which includes all efforts to build, manage and defend the consolidated network. Another segment handles a batch of smaller acquisition efforts that can be managed as ACAT-III programs and in turn is free from the high-reaching ACAT-I oversight requirements.
The restructure, according to Colonel Fellers, not only presents a more efficient construct, but more accurately reflects the CITS mission.
“We’re providing all the capability to operate a secure, manageable enterprise network that achieves the reliability, consistency and security objectives of the Air Force,” said Colonel Fellers. “This new structure allows us to manage the total portfolio according to those separate though related needs.”
Network defense is high on priority lists, and CITS managers have a multi-pronged effort planned.
“Network threats can come from a lot of different places, and from both outside and inside the network, so we have to look at a layered approach,” Colonel Fellers said. The layered defense scheme envisioned includes defense “rings” at the strategic, theater, tactical and unit levels.
Officials also plan to consolidate operations to minimize the number of threat entry points, reducing the Air Force’s independent NIPRNET connections to the internet down to 16 and eliminating major command-centric domains. The latter will allow Air Force members and employees access to one central Air Force domain. This central domain will achieve, among other things, the ‘e-mail for life’ designation that negates the need to change addresses with every intra-service move.
Officials also hope consolidation efforts will help offset the personnel losses suffered by the communications career field as a result of personnel cuts.
“They were probably hit as hard, or harder, than anyone,” Colonel Fellers said. “By reducing the number of locations where all of our core [information and technology] services are provided…we can hopefully provide a high level of service even with the reduced staffing.”
In the near term, CITS program managers will also work to upgrade information and technology infrastructure at Air National Guard bases, so that they will parallel the capability of active-duty bases. They also will recomplete a large segment of a second-generation wireless upgrade designed to significantly enhance security. Program managers also will continue work on other major security initiatives such as the Vulnerability Lifecycle Management System, aimed at increasing desktop security, and the data-at-rest initiative, which protects information stored on laptops and other portable media.
“The stand-up of 24th Air Force and move of cyber operations to Air Force Space Command indicate how important it has become to manage and defend the Air Force network,” said Colonel Fellers. “Just like we need air superiority and space superiority, it has become clear that the Air Force needs cyber superiority to perform its mission.”