By Scott Prater
The Information Assurance and Communications Security staff at Schriever are a humble bunch. Most of the time they prefer to stay out of the limelight, but with the wing-wide Consolidated Unit Inspection imminent in the next few months, units and organizations base wide might want to pay attention to their expertise.
The 50th Space Wing IA/COMSEC shop is fresh off an exhausting inspection, one in which Air Force Network Integration inspectors took a fine-tooth comb to the shop’s programs and processes.
After looking into more than 7,900 inspectable points, the inspectors discovered zero critical findings in April.
Preparing for the inspection well in advance was important, said Hank Brinlee, 50 SW COMSEC manager. The IA/COMSEC team began its preparation more than eight weeks out. One of the biggest steps they took was to expand their inspectable checklists.
Staff members knew inspectors would be using broad checklists to comb through COMSEC programs on base, so they broke those checklists down to more specific areas.
“Say for example the checklist asks a simple question like, ‘Is there an appointment letter for this function?’ Brinlee said. “We would break that question down to smaller parts such as: ‘Is the appointment letter signed by the current commander,’ or ‘Has a security manager verified clearances of users?’”
James Wacaster, 50 SW base support chief, said the IA and COMSEC offices will even transition to using the Air Force Quality Control Checksheet 100 series when preparing for the CUI.
“The AFQCC 100 series provides greater detail versus using the outdated Air Force Form 4160,” he said.
Brinlee also recommended taking a more proactive approach when providing training and guidance to on-base customers.
“Instead of doing one-time training and then letting customers go, we nurtured them by providing ride alongs,” Brinlee said. “We even sat in their modules with them for a day or two and showed them how to handle COMSEC material.”
Every unit on base may not have customers who will also be inspected like IA/COMSEC, but most keep records and must follow guidelines and Air Force Instructions for handling documents or programs in their respective offices. For those, Brinlee recommended that units share the responsibility of viewing documents at the most minute level.
“If the same people are looking at the same pieces of paper, then most likely you’re going to miss stuff,” he said. “That’s why everybody in our shop has eyes on every piece of paper. We’ve even brought some managers in from the 30th Space Wing to look at our paperwork.”
The IA/COMSEC shop also wasn’t afraid to take bold steps as far as duty hours and scheduling was concerned. For instance, two IA/COMSEC staff agreed to work an alternate shift for eight weeks. This tactic allowed the staff to focus on inspection preparation.
“On the later shift, our staff members had fewer customer contacts and inquiries, so they were able to review our internal program almost without interruption,” Brinlee said. “We did that for a few weeks and then had them work with customers on the later shifts, getting them up to speed on training and guidance. Finally, during the inspection, we had that same crew working to make corrections to findings before the end of the same duty day.”
Lastly, Brinlee recommended that units or departments study their AFI directives; know them inside and out.
“The inspectors can pull something out of an AFI that is not on checklist,” he said. “Unless you know your directives extremely well, you won’t be able to answer those specific questions.”