Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska —
The 673d Communication Squadron is in the midst of the Department of Defense mandate to transition to a Microsoft Windows 10 Secure Host Baseline by March 31, 2018 – and there is more to this project than replacing computers.
“It is not just our [information technology] office, or our maintenance team, infrastructure, client systems – there are Airmen in the field sprinkled throughout, helping along the way because this is a base-wide effort,” said Air Force Capt. Christopher Arnold, 673d CS Operations Flight commander. “We are also relying on the user too; when they back up their data and [are] ready for us, we can install and connect their new computer seamlessly.”
Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson has the unique challenge of being the largest account in the Pacific Air Forces, with approximately 7,500 users between the different branches, detachments, tenant units and other mission partners. This projects aims to strengthen cyber security, streamlining information technology procedures by operating on the same system.
The 673d CS does much of the work from start to finish, but so does every unit’s IT representative. The 673d CS manages the accountability, storage, imaging, delivery, installation and connection of every new Windows 10 computer for every user on JBER, while the unit IT must confirm the accountability, assist the installation and connection, and properly dispose of the old systems via the Defense Logistics Agency disposition services.
Before replacing every unit’s computers, the 673d CS had to assure the accountability of every usable computer on JBER by confirming with each unit IT how many computers were under their account versus how many users were on their network.
“Through this process, we found more than 1,500 machines on the network, but not on any accounts – which is not supposed to happen,” said Air Force Master Sgt. Matthew Steele, 673d CS cyber services section chief. “Everything on the network needs to be on the account, so we did a datacall throughout the whole base, telling unit IT [representatives] to look through a list [of computer serial numbers] and tell us which of these computers should be on [their] account, then submit the request to add them to said account.”
When the 673d CS receives shipments of Windows 10 computers, they store approximately a thousand at a time in a small warehouse attached to their building and the rest in a larger warehouse to pull from whenever they have room. A portion of the computers from the small warehouse are pulled for imaging, then delivered to the next building ready for their replacement computers.
“All the computers come preloaded with Windows 10 so when we image them, we basically fill it up with an updated version of Windows 10 with all of the Air Force’s group policies and software loaded into it, so it’s the Air Force’s Windows 10,” said Tech. Sgt. Steven Brumley, 673d CS maintenance team production supervisor. “It saves time and network bandwidth to do this process in the warehouse [rather than] pushing the updates through the network because it simply takes longer and has a higher fail rate.”
The 673d CS team originally were able to manually image six computers in four hours at a time, but after several innovative changes to their approach from Airmen and contractors, they are now able to image 48 computers in a little more than three hours while only requiring two hours of hands-on work – saving them an estimated 12.6 million man-hours by the end of the project.
As of Nov. 21, JBER is 31 percent compliant and the 673d CS plan to be done before the deadline. Despite a slow start familiarizing themselves and trying different ideas to improve productivity, they have reached a point where they are able to image about 100 computers a day. They have fewer than 4,400 more computers to replace.
“Replacing almost every computer, around $92 billion in Air Force assets – just thinking about it – is daunting,” Steel said, “but we have a really good group of very intelligent people.”