In 1983, pinned down by enemy fire in Grenada, a U.S. military unit used a credit card to make a long distance call to a stateside base and request support, as the story goes. Because of interoperability problems, unit members couldn’t use the field radio to reach the right command in theatre.
Fast forward decades later and, despite significant evolution in information technology (IT), military users still endure systems that don’t adequately support the mission.
In the Department of the Air Force (DAF), every hour that airmen and guardians spend getting older technology to work is an hour not focused on primary job functions. Service desk calls, system access requests, and other challenges chip away at their ability to fulfill a mission that requires global situational awareness from an integrated view of the air, space, and cyber domains.
The DAF’s enterprise IT as a service (EITaaS) program intends to change that through a digital transformation program that will improve its ability to execute its mission.
Peraton is well-equipped to deliver a program of this scale given its history in operating the largest network for the Department of Defense. Under Peraton’s digital transformation model, new capabilities are phased in, with an emphasis on solutions and services delivery. For example, process automation increases efficiency and provides insight into the status of requests and transactions. Infrastructure automation makes it easier to test deployments, distribute equipment, and respond to outages with disaster recovery solutions. Use of automated responses to queries or events also allows systems to scale up or down.
Taken together, this view of service delivery cuts to the true value of digital transformation and how to excel in an environment needing data-driven decisions.
Intended to change the way airmen and guardians approach their jobs, EITaaS will support the ever-increasing velocity of change facing the DAF. Challenges include a focus on the Indo-Pacific region, expanded cyber and space missions, and support of older weapon systems while introducing new ones. Meeting these with efficient, scalable IT requires a granular level of transparency across interconnected systems, which will inform development of an architectural model of an optimized network. Teams must have a clear view of security, data flows, and the traceable relationships between requirements, users, systems, and components.
Factor in the Technology and Workforce Together
With an understanding of the overall network, EITaaS leaders can further step into digital transformation using modeling and simulation, which elevates the critical focus on how processes get delivered. For example, by using simulation combined with authoritative sources of information to support lifecycle activities, EITaaS will introduce a faster development and implementation cycle for technology.
With the increased and likely permanent use of telework, EITaaS will need a hybrid architecture that provides application and data access, collaboration, and adaptive security for on-base and remote personnel.
With these benefits will come some short-term organizational friction, which the DAF can work through with change management. This will ensure all stakeholders are invested in EITaaS success, embrace a common vision, agree on the priorities of technology change, and have full transparency of plans and progress along the way. Continuous communication and engagement with these individuals will cascade down to users—an important success factor in digital transformation.
Monitor Everything and Automate Wherever Possible
Automation often occurs through processes or activities using artificial intelligence. Automation gets enabled through data and, more specifically, data that’s collected and aggregated to monitor the network. If there are delays in accessing applications or executing a task, the data can reflect the discrepancy and trigger automated responses. If there are challenges with asset and lifecycle management, using data in a predictive support model with telemetry-capable devices can generate trending information. This highlights areas where the user experience can be improved, where processes can be revised, and where investments will be prioritized.
Secure Access to Data and Devices
Handling threats is what the Air Force does every day, which is why it needs a comprehensive approach to security. Point solutions and perimeter security have their place, but they are not enough to counter the untold number of cyberattacks that occur. To remain formidable, systems must incorporate identity management and DevSecOps so that cybersecurity is a primary and initial consideration, not an afterthought.
To be certain of cyber resiliency, the EITaaS infrastructure must have the capability to automate configuration control so that implementation of the newest application, standard update, or patch occurs after security checks are performed against standards and updated in the governing architectural document.
Expect the Best for the Nation’s Security
EITaaS will represent how the DAF needs to function in the future no matter the mission. It will provide resiliency, a better user experience, automation based on artificial intelligence, process efficiency, and improved security. Most important, it will deliver a network with appropriate support for warfighters, making today’s challenges as irrelevant as the credit card-based telephone calls of the 1980s.
Chris Painter is vice president and technical director of Peraton’s Defense Solutions sector.