Commentary by Col. Mike Finn
50th Network Operations Group commander
In case you didn’t notice, Schriever Air Force Base recently “migrated” to the Air Force single enterprise architecture centralizing network control and security. You may know that the Air Force-wide migration to the AFNET is one of the largest and most complex info-technology initiatives in the DoD. It is stretching the capability and capacity of Air Force cyber professionals, as well as the commercial partners supplying the hardware and software. (Intriguingly, our partners often remark that they haven’t seen their wares implemented on the scope and scale of the AFNET). You may also know that Schriever was the first base in Air Force Space Command and the first base under INOSC-West to be migrated.
So, it is no surprise that there were plenty of challenges and lessons to be learned during Schriever’s migration. In fact, there are still several people and computers still not quite fully migrated. And, there are still several significant issues with email, SharePoint, medical and other services that impact Schriever’s productivity and “user experience.” If that isn’t bad enough for you, your email box is smaller and your wait at the Air Force centralized helpdesk can take on epic timelines.
For many of us, things sure seemed better before the migration and, at face value, it appears that we have endured a lot of pain without much gain. Arguably, that may be true for an individual user; however, the capabilities that the AFNET brings are critical to meet demanding budget and security needs. The AFNET construct consolidates all network operations, control and security under the 24th Air Force and its subordinate cyber units. This consolidation will provide a more secure cyber environment and help the Air Force become more efficient in light of impending manpower and funding cuts.
Tough times call for tough decisions. The rapidly changing environment obligated Air Force leadership to make bold decisions and enforce somewhat draconian measures to implement the wide-ranging transformation of the AFNET. I believe the AFNET is an example of the revolution we will increasingly experience in the Air Force. Historic technical and organizational changes are essential to prevail in a more complex and contested environment. Ultimately, these innovations will be necessary to drive not only efficiencies and effectiveness, but more importantly, a shift in our thinking and in our culture.
The AFNET will facilitate a change in the way we operate in cyberspace. As individuals, we will have to become more responsible for good cyber discipline and will need to become more self-reliant. As an institution, we will become better postured for future DoD consolidation and will build the ability to fight through degraded cyber conditions.
There is little doubt that we will continue to see sweeping changes in the next few years as a result of budgetary and operational necessities. We can already see the beginnings of adaptations in other areas, such as the equivalency of remotely piloted aircraft operations, the importance of space-based capabilities to the warfighter and the primacy of information in warfare.
The Air Force, as an institution, must find agility in its organization and mission sets. As Airmen, we must remain agile in our skills, our processes and our thinking. Although our projects, productivity and pride may be casualties of ambitious headquarters initiatives, each of us has the duty to roll with the punches and find a way to get the job done.
So, don’t let migration keep you down. Overcome the nuisances, restrictions and inconveniences and adapt to the new environment. Challenge the things that don’t make sense and take advantage of the inertia of change to find innovative ways to make a positive difference. Keep your feet moving and get ready for the next big (or small) change that’s around the corner, because it is coming. Finally, remember: Change is inevitable. Resistance is futile. Adaptation is survival.