“Airmen have learned during the pandemic to complete their missions remotely by accessing the Air Force network over the VPN using commercial WiFi,” said Craig Boke, AFLCMC User Experience Team. “When employees returned to do their work on the base, they found it frustrating not to have a similar user experience, which impacted productivity.”
Inspired by CSAF’s “Accelerate Change or Lose,” the AFLCMC Chief Information Technology Office worked under Air Force Enterprise policy to eliminate bureaucracy, empower Airmen, and shift culture toward the implementation of commercial WiFi.
Commercial WiFi is connectivity provided by a local provider that is completely off base infrastructure and AFNET. Users reconnect to the DoDIN or AFNet, just like when teleworking from home, hotel or kiosk, by connecting over the internet to existing gateways and cyber defenses at DoD or AF gateways to do their work take care of.
“Commercial WiFi poses no greater risk than telecommuting as government laptops are equipped with cyber security protections and employees deploy DISA or AF VPNs to protect up to controlled unclassified information and existing cyber defenses at the gateways keep unauthorized users out,” Boke said.
The challenge from the start was navigating the bureaucracy. Commercial access was always possible, but requests typically took a year to process. Lt. Gen. Shaun Morris, commander of the AFLCMC, asked the Commercial Internet Technology Office to develop a better process than the existing one.
The UX team streamlined steps along with inputs of installation POCs into AFMC, which were assigned AFLCMC personnel, by redefining the review and approval process. Your new CISP-ATO review process now returns results in days or weeks.
“We’ve seen a significant improvement in customer experience and more time to better support the center’s mission,” said Boke.
The small AFLCMC CITO team has also developed an automated system to explain the process, automate the submission of requests, manage the workflow and track metrics. Requesters now receive status emails as the request moves through the process, and the local communications squad receives the signed No Security Impact Memo if the request is approved.
All AFMC organizations fall under the new process rules. Currently about 32 requests have been initiated, 16 approved and 7 are operational. Each entity is responsible for submitting the required documentation – O-6 Concurrence Memo, floor plan showing placement of wireless access points and all classified processing areas, TEMPEST/spectrum management coordination and an onboarding questionnaire. The units are also responsible for funding implementation and monthly recurring costs, which vary by service provider.
“Commercial WiFi not only makes the transition between home and on-base seamless, it also frees employees from cubicles, helps make the most of available space, enables meetings in non-traditional spaces, and increases morale, recruitment, and retention,” because employees like the modernized environment, including using personal devices to stay connected with family and complete personal tasks without having to leave work to access cellular service,” Boke said.
Interested organizations should visit https://usaf.dps.mil/teams/10251/CISP/SitePages/Home.aspx to start the process.