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Homeland Security

'New AFNIC' offers cyber advantage

by Katherine Kebisek
Air Force Network Integration Center

6/25/2012 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (AFNS) -- "Cyber Innovation. Mission Success." This is how the "New" Air Force Network Integration Center officials sum up what their organization provides to the Air Force and other mission partners.

It's a phrase representing a new direction for a not-so-new organization. AFNIC, established from what was formerly the Air Force Communications Agency, stood up in 2009 as a direct reporting unit to Air Force Space Command. The center's roots trace back even farther with the establishment of the Army Airways Communications Service in 1938.

The term "New AFNIC" emerged in the past several months as the center's personnel implemented a massive restructure of the organization based on recommendations from a 2011 Headquarters AFSPC study. AFNIC officials requested the study after being realigned to AFSPC.

"We had a very broad mission that included everything from standards and architecture, to writing Air Force policy, even doing some operations work," said Brad Ashley, AFNIC's technical director. The restructure aligned some command (i.e., organize, train and equip) functions to AFSPC, network operations and maintenance functions to 24th Air Force and network integration to AFNIC.

With the restructure complete, AFNIC officials are focused on providing cyber solutions for Air Force Network integration, cyber simulation and network standards, architecture and engineering. Through these core services, the center establishes what the Air Force network looks like and determines how to get cyber capabilities integrated into the network, helping Airmen achieve their mission with the "power of cyberspace."

"Almost everything we do in the Air Force today relies on the network," Ashley said. "If the combatant commander and the warfighter can't leverage the network for their unique mission set, then we're not getting the full power of cyberspace."

Knowing what the network looks like, and what it will look like in the future, is important. There have been instances where major information technology systems were built according to how the network was structured at the beginning of the project, but when it came time to connect to the Air Force network, sometimes years later, the systems didn't work as designed because the network architecture had evolved. AFNIC aims to prevent those situations.

"When we're engaged early in a project we can help identify potential issues and provide guidance to ensure systems and applications are developed compatibly with the AFNet," Ashley said. "The end result is a capability that works as intended, a secure network, and an empowered Airman ... that's the advantage we provide."

Fueling new AFNIC is a renewed emphasis on innovation, an ethos AFNIC's commander is passionate about.

"Innovation is the true fuel for our national economy and our nation's military prowess," said Col. Riz Ali, the AFNIC commander. "Innovation is more than just new technology; it's finding new ways to communicate, collaborate and do business. This mindset is very important to have and foster ... it's what drives progress."

As part of this effort, the center has made it a priority to be more transparent and improve communications. Personnel now regularly use tools like blogs, discussion forums and online working groups to connect and exchange ideas with mission partners around the world.

AFNIC also recently launched an internal program through which its personnel can submit and pursue ideas to improve center operations, the Air Force enterprise, or both.

"The ultimate goal is to introduce operationally viable, innovative cyber solutions to our Airmen," Ali said. "We are faced with serious challenges in cyberspace. The domain and the threats to it are constantly changing. We can't stay a step ahead unless we're thinking outside the box."

Innovation, combined with the decades of experience, technical expertise and commitment to customer service AFNIC personnel possess are what Ali said provide mission partners an advantage.

"Our cyber professionals have the knowledge, skills and innovative outlook to tackle even the most complex, demanding technical issues," Ali said. "We do what it takes to provide high-quality, decisive and secure cyber solutions ... an advantage that positions our partners for mission success."

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