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AFIMSC identifies information technology infrastructure needs across installations

  • Published
  • By Debbie Aragon
  • AFIMSC Public Affairs

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas -- Communication – whether by land line, giant voice or land mobile radio – is critical to every installation and, ultimately, mission accomplishment for the Department of the Air Force. 

To help ensure the viability of information technology infrastructure for those systems, the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center’s Installation Support Directorate (IZ) is visiting installations as part of its management of the base operations support-information technology (BOS-IT) portfolio.

The infrastructure assessment visits, paused because of a surge in COVID-19, are set to being again soon. 

In-person assessments are critical to “accurately identifying infrastructure deficiencies and providing requirements to optimize support,” said J. McClain, IZ’s project manager.

“We operate in an environment that is very complex and highly dependent upon BOS-IT infrastructure, no matter the location or mission,” he said. “Funding restrictions, reduction-in-forces and a shift from traditional base communications squadron functions to an enterprise-centric approach has contributed significantly to local infrastructure neglect, effectively reducing and sometimes eliminating, the eyes and ears that use to monitor it and the hands that use to care for it.”

That infrastructure includes inside and outside copper and fiber optic cabling, antennas and microwave relays as well as the viable, practical and required telephony, land mobile radio, giant voice and uninterruptible power supply to support BOS-IT. 

“These IAVs provide unbiased clarity and invaluable insight to the actual health of the installation’s communication infrastructure,” said Master Sgt. Russell Van Houten, IZ enterprise communication systems manager. “Prior to these efforts, there was no centralized awareness of the assets in our portfolio. Every base competed within and among major commands for funding and technical support. 

“By performing these IAVs in conjunction with the Installation Health Assessments, we are able to develop the first consolidated enterprise-wide database for the portfolio. The data we collect is objectively verified and impartially reviewed at an enterprise level and we use this information to develop funding priorities, trend analysis and future sustainment strategies,” Van Houten said. 

Installations to receive the assessments are ranked using a worst-to-best list, McClain said. Using the listing, as well as information from partnering agencies and local commanders, they determine when and where IAVs are planned; usually in pairs at two separate locations to maximize resources. Weather can also be a deciding factor considering it can be difficult and dangerous for team members to climb communication towers or inspect underground in frozen conditions.

“AFIMSC represents an enterprise view of this portfolio,” Van Houten said. “We all have a technical background of the subject matter but are primarily charged with determining the future strategy of BOS-IT support for the Department of the Air Force. We rely on the 38th Cyberspace Engineering and Installation Group at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, and the 85th Engineering Installation Squadron at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, for their specialized expertise, especially during IAVs.”

The 38th CEIG, serves as the cyberspace integrator engineering element for each installation and are familiar with projects and technical requirements. 

“They provide crucial continuity in a high paced mobile environment,” McClain said. “As a source of engineering expertise and corporate continuity, they are in touch with existing problem areas, shortfalls and mission gaps at each location.”

They also understand issues that pose serious threats to operational capability and develop plans in the form of projects to advance mission capability going forward, he added.   

The 85th EIS are “equally important partners” for hands-on inspection of infrastructure and on-ground technical expertise, McClain said.

“They are highly trained professionals who pull back layers of infrastructure to expose areas of potential risk … opening manholes, traversing underground vaults and ducts, inspecting antenna towers, poles, and platforms during each assessment,” he said. “The Cable Dawgs are true assets who are very much in high demand so we are very lucky to have them as primary partners for assessment initiatives.”

In summary, “the engineer from the 38th CEIG will be familiar with projects and technical requirements while the team from the 85th EIS conducts a physical hands-on inspection of the infrastructure,” McClain said. 

“We compare notes (with the 38th CEIG and the 85th EIS) to determine what is, what should be, and develop a plan to get there,” Van Houten added. “This is a real advantage for the installation because this type of comprehensive expertise and experience is not available locally and rarely in the same place at the same time, focused on the same problem.”

The visits are not considered inspections or directive in nature. Instead, “they provide realistic and actionable solutions,” Van Houten said. 

The assessments include three major components – in-brief, out-brief and after-action report. The after-action report features the who, what, where, when and why of the findings.

Each product is posted to a SharePoint site for stakeholder visibility. 

“This information is readily available to the community and is a great source of knowledge for those who would like to compare problem areas from other locations and potentially initiate internal assessments within their organization,” McClain said. 

Back at headquarters AFIMSC, McClain and the installation support team “compile the layers of information gathered from other IAVs and IHAs to form a comprehensive image of emerging or trending issues in the field,” Van Houten said. “We use this unique perspective to identify persistent problems and calibrate our strategy toward tackling our most significant obstacles.”