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Cyberspace milestone reached for Air Force Network

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (AFNS) -- Air Force Network Integration Center members here completed the migration of all user accounts onto the Air Force Network, March 31.

This accomplishment marked a major milestone in the Air Force's progression to the Department of Defense's Joint Information Environment, a network construct that should eventually unite the entire military around a single set of shared infrastructure and information technology services.

"This is truly a significant milestone for Air Force cyberspace," said Gen. William Shelton the commander of Air Force Space Command. "Completing this portion of the migration not only paves the way to the JIE (Joint Information Environment) for us, it is also critically important to our future enterprise and to the defense of Air Force networks on a global scale."

Prior to the AFNET vision, unique mission requirements, operational concerns and mission-related preferences drove many Air Force organizations to create separate individual networks to support their email and applications. This patchwork of networks led to high operational and maintenance costs, not to mention standardization and security challenges across the service.

"Until now, organizations across the Air Force have been operating what were essentially their own independent networks, consequently driving unique and unit specific requirements," said Markus Rogers, the director of network architectures and lead of AFNET migration. "The AFNET means enterprise-class situational awareness, network scalability and an ability to command and control our network."

The AFNET migration project consolidated 646,000 email boxes and 12,318 servers at 275 sites from multiple Air Force major commands, field operating agencies, direct reporting units and geographically separated unit networks. It created a centrally-managed standardized structure under the operational control of the 24th Air Force commander.

This large-scale project took a team of more than 200 military, civilian and contractor personnel from AFNIC and the 690th Cyberspace Operations Group five years to complete.

"We made major strides over the past five years to get to this point, creating a resilient, flexible and defensible network under the purview of a single commander that dramatically improves cyber security and significantly reduces vulnerability to attack," Shelton said.

One challenge to the AFNET migration process was obtaining the critical infrastructure to standardize and connect the disparate networks into the new AFNET architecture.

"We underestimated the complexity of such an enormous task when we started the first migration at Keesler Air Force Base in March 2009," Rogers said. "We learned a lot from the challenges of those initial migrations and changed our approach accordingly."

As a result, Rogers and his team increased resources and streamlined the process. The AFNET migration team improved mail migration rates from 2,500 per base per week up to 10,000 per base per week and migrated eight bases concurrently.

"Ultimately at the four year mark, we had migrated 50 percent of the Air Force, and this past year, we set records migrating the remaining 50 percent onto the AFNET," Rogers said.

Rogers said long-term use of a single AFNET should provide a consistent user experience.

"It simplifies operations and maintenance," Rogers said. "It also decreases the manpower required to manage a centralized structure and should reduce training costs. Ultimately, it should improve warfighters' access to data and information services, regardless of location."

This active migration milestone completes the transfer of all Air Force user accounts and workstations across the Air Force. The AFNIC and 24th Air Force migration teams will continue to work with the MAJCOMs in the legacy shutdown phase to transfer their functional system servers onto the AFNET by the end of July.

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