Air Force makes first major move toward a central network

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- The Air Force took its first major steps recently in moving e-mail and network services into what will become the central Air Force Network. Within today's environment, major commands and some subordinate units operate their own networks. Active Directory and Exchange, is the project that consolidates them under the operational control of a single commander.

Members of the Air Force Network Integration Center teamed with the 561st Network Operations and 81st Communication Squadrons at Keesler AFB, Miss., and in 45 days helped them become the first operational base to migrate onto the AFNet.

"In a move affecting more than 6,100 users, 7,000 computers, and 700 organizational accounts, the success we enjoyed at Keesler reflects two years of planning and is truly symbolic of a team effort," said Senior Master Sgt. Dan Lester, AFNIC's Active Directory and Exchange Lead Command Manager. "The lessons we learned were invaluable, and we've already integrated them into the processes we'll use for future migrations."

The ADX program is part of a service-wide effort to transform cyber operations and consolidate network applications for better security, reduced cost, and enterprise-wide standardization.

Col. Curt Locke, 690th NSG Commander, who is now the single network commander for Keesler AFB, said, "The AFNet being built today will consolidate network application and help desk services that are operating independently today. By consolidating these networks and centralizing services, we can reduce our manpower and equipment footprint and still deliver the mission support our customers need.

While the majority of these changes were transparent, the most visible to computer users at Keesler, and will be for the rest of the Air Force, is the change to a single e-mail address (firstname.lastname@us.af.mil) - an address people will keep for the duration of their careers, or employment/affiliation with the Air Force regardless of the base or organization assigned.

ADX builds on the successes of the "E-mail for Life" program, and as additional bases migrate onto the AFNet, it will provide Airmen log-on capability to any connected Air Force computer without having to re-register for computer access whenever they go TDY, move, or deploy.

Mr. Eric Lubeck, ADX Program Manager, said, "Simply stated, Airmen now have an account that is always active, and through the use of their Common Access Card, will have around the clock access to e-mail and network services regardless of their duty location. The move to a single network and ability to create and maintain static e-mail addresses has long been an e-business industry standard, and one overdue for an organization as mobile and diverse as the Air Force."

It has taken a team effort on this project and Sergeant Lester said, "An easy, but vitally important group of people we often take for granted are the local Client Support Technicians. Without them, and the active involvement of the Network Control Center, migrations would be virtually impossible to execute. "

Keesler's 81st Training Group Vice Commander, Lt. Col. Skip Adams, said, "The Keesler migration was part of the communication community's overall initiative to improve and enhance the way active duty, Reserve, Guard, civil service, and contractor force access information."

Though Keesler is the first base to migrate, AFNIC and the 690th Network Support Group at Lackland AFB, Texas, have worked to migrate more than 9,300 individual users into the AFNet and by the end of the project anticipate 845,000 users will be migrated. Next to be migrated will be Lackland AFB, Texas, Dobbins ARB, Ga., and Grand Forks AFB, N.D.