BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE –
We think of pioneers as people who’ve created new inventions or led the way into new frontiers on horseback, but some of the most important pioneers in American history changed the face of America through immigration, capitalism, and machine technology. While Enterprise Information Technology as a Service (EITaaS) among military organizations may not be as famous as George Patton or Alexander Graham Bell, it could be described as trailblazing its place among America’s firsts.
In October, 2018, Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, Colorado, kicked off EITaaS, a pilot program that transfers responsibility of basic networking and day-to-day IT services to commercial vendors.
According to U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Joshua Bradeen, a key figure in the implementation of EITaaS for the 140th Wing, Colorado Air National Guard, BAFB was the first base among seven to pilot an ongoing effort to build cyber forces, while simplifying IT services through this process.
“The coolest part is Buckley will be the first base to put an active component, Reserve and National Guard component together, on one IT platform,” Bradeen, plans and program technician assigned to the 140th Communications Flight, said. “It allows us, as uniformed members and personnel, to focus on protecting something that gives us freedom and ensures the safety of the nation.”
What this means for end users, he explained, is a quicker response time to IT service requests. It will resemble help desks, where traditionally, people call to set up appointments or request maintenance services to repair their personal cell phones, desktops or laptops. End users call one number for help with work stations, video teleconferencing systems or mobile devices.
“Think of this way: You go to an online store to shop. Think about what it would be like if you could actually shop on a platform similar to that, but you’re buying a Department of Defense asset,” Bradeen said. “It’s assigned specifically to you, and instead of having an interaction with a person, its automated, to make sure the user is getting the service they want, when they want it. It streamlines the process, but it puts the ownership in the user’s hands. They’ll see a quality product come back in a timely manner, and see the status of their requests as they get processed.”
What this means for BAFB as a total force is that resources used to deliver products and services in the IT world will change direction and re-focus their efforts on developing Military Defense Teams aimed at strengthening cyber security.
“Our mission is to fly, fight and win in air, space and cyber space,” Carl Urban, project manager of the 460th Cyber Squadron, 460th Space Wing, said. “Servicing printers, servicing desk tops, removing email issues … those are services industry already provides. By bringing in the EITaaS effort, the personnel who were supporting those types of requests are now able to do things that are part of Air Force core functions.”
The Colorado National Guard is now on the same cyber space and IT playing field. They’re in the fight with active and reserve components of the Air Force.
“This allows us to become operational as Military Defense Teams,” U.S. Air Force Maj. Edgar Acosta, commander of the 140th Communications Flight, said. “Once the EITaaS initiative takes off, we’ll transition our forces to better defend the platforms we use for warfighting capabilities. We’ll move away from the support role and focus on defending weapons systems in the cyberspace domain.”
How long will this take?
According to Air Education and Training Command, the end user agreement between the Air Force and the contracter Unisys Corp., the EITaaS pilot program will run for an estimated three years before the program can be fully implemented Air Force wide, providing it’s successful.
Urban explained that Buckley Air Force Base is currently in the second line of effort to meet this goal. The first line of effort was referred to as the Network as a Service (NaaS), which laid the groundwork, whereas the second line of effort involves these end-user services to be requested through an enterprise service desk. Though the exact location of the service desk hasn’t been determined, it will be on Buckley.
Compute and storage will finalize the entire effort.
“Once it all comes together, EITaaS is born,” Bradeen said.
Once upon a time, the Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve and Air Force Active Duty were connected through core values or the branch of service printed on their uniform. However, the nation’s security requires innovative solutions and using the total force in IT functions. Lines between organizations are fading, and cohesive partnerships of National Guard, Reserve and Active Duty Airmen at Buckley are pioneering the way.
“Key elements for success is being open to the idea of what could be possible,” Urban said. “We understand there’s risk, we understand that this is not the status quo we’re pursuing. We’re taking on those risks to accomplish better things.”