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BITI awards contracts, upgrades Air Force cyber infrastructure

Airman 1st Class Matthew Dahlhauser, 39th Communications Squadron cyber transport technician, checks cables on an Ethernet port switch Feb. 22, 2013, at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. The 39th CS provides communications support for the entire NATO-led Patriot battery deployment to Turkey. Throughout the deployment, members of the squadron will maintain the communication lines for more than 400 U.S. Army service members stationed in locations around Turkey. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marissa Tucker/Released)

Airman 1st Class Matthew Dahlhauser, 39th Communications Squadron cyber transport technician, checks cables on an Ethernet port switch. Recently, the Base Information Transfer Infrastructure program from Hanscom AFB, Mass., awarded four acquisition contracts to modernize and replace critical network components. BITI is responsible for upgrading the Air Force's cyber infrastructure and provides both hard-wired and wireless network capabilities to 175 active-duty, Reserve and Air National Guard bases worldwide. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Marissa Tucker)

Airman 1st Class Brandon Koch, 28th Communications Squadron cyber systems operator, plugs a cable into a network server at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., March 3, 2015. Airmen conduct walkthrough inspections of the server room daily to ensure all cables are functioning properly. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Hada/Released)

A cyber systems operator plugs a cable into a network server. The Base Information Transfer Infrastructure program office from Hanscom AFB, Mass., is modernizing base wired and wireless equipment to ensure Airmen remain securely connected to the Air Force network. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Zachary Hada)

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- The Base Information Transfer Infrastructure program office here recently awarded four contracts geared at recapitalizing or replacing critical network components.

BITI is responsible for upgrading the Air Force's cyber infrastructure and provides both hard-wired and wireless network capabilities to 175 active duty, Reserve and Air National Guard bases worldwide.

According to program officials, the four contracts mark the first round of recapitalization efforts for 44 installations in the operations and support phase for both wireless and wired systems. The total value of the contracts is approximately $24 million with an expected completion date of September 2016.

Full deployment is anticipated for February 2017.

"BITI efforts are effective in mitigating vulnerabilities against cyber attacks," said Adam Hurst, BITI program manager. "However, to ensure the network sustains its reliability, maintainability, availability and equipment certifications, component refreshes are needed every few years."

The recapitalization will update hardware such as core and critical distribution nodes every five years once the initial installation is complete. The five-year update is in alignment with industry standards for commercial-off-the-shelf refresh cycles on BITI-related network components.

According to Hurst, this will drive out obsolete equipment that could introduce vulnerabilities to the network.

BITI also has the capability to address the growing demand for additional bandwidth, which is driven by voice, data and imagery requirements. If requirements are approved, the program will adjust to meet the users' data transport needs.

"We will be looking at several different initiatives in order to provide better capabilities and lower costs," Hurst said. "Some of these include expanding the wireless networks, right-sizing the network to accommodate increased bandwidth requirements and supporting the transition to the Joint Information Environment. BITI will also look at new ways to architect the network and new equipment technology in order to provide the best data transport solution."

With 800,000 users worldwide, the Air Force network infrastructure that BITI provides affects every single Airman. It allows service members to communicate via email, access mission applications and even conduct wireless F-22 Raptor maintenance, such as running diagnostics.

BITI, which is part of the much larger $3 billion Combat Information Transportation System program, began in the 1990s, but at the time, dealt strictly with wired networks. BITI-Wired provides base-wide connectivity for all core facilities deemed mission essential while maintaining connectivity to all other base network users.

These "turnkey" active-duty, Guard and Reserve installations include a distribution system element, such as fiber optics, a manhole and duct system; inside plant element, consisting of power, ground, cooling and physical security; and a network element, which includes switches for distribution and user access.

The wireless component of BITI was added in 2005.

Beginning in 2011, the BITI-Wireless began to upgrade elements of the system starting with the authentication server. Later, the wireless controllers and access points were updated.

The BITI wireless component of the program will be added to the recapitalization effort beginning in fiscal year 2016.

"The recent contract awards are a step in the right direction toward updating our Air Force cyber infrastructure," said Col. John Bedingfield, C3I and Networks Infrastructure Division senior materiel leader. "The contributions made by the BITI team are vital to the Air Force network and impacts every Airman across the globe."

(Editor's note: This is the third story in a series of Hanscom AFB cyber initiatives)