Air Force Academy during the 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire. (U.S. Air Force photo/Carol Lawrence)

IT Infrastructure

AF Academy urgently needs IT modernization, superintendent says

Unless the Air Force can modernize the IT infrastructure at the Air Force Academy, the school’s  accreditation could be in jeopardy, according to Lt. Gen. Richard Clark, the academy's superintendent.

"Our IT is woefully behind where we need to be a provider of cyber excellence," Clark testified during a House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee hearing on March 2.  The Academy’s IT needs don't get the same attention as the Air Force’s broader enterprise needs because it is funded as an .edu rather than a .mil organization, he said. That difference means the school doesn’t “fall under the normal IT funding that the rest of the Air Force comes under," Clark said. "So that funding that we need, not only now but into the out years, is vital for us. In fact, it threatens our accreditation."

The Air Force Academy's aging IT was included in an early version of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act under items of special interest, noting that updates to networks were delayed due to the pandemic's social distancing and "unique requirements not supported by existing Air Force IT enterprise services."

Besides the upgrade delays, Clark testified that the COVID-19 pandemic exposed weaknesses in the Academy’s IT systems "as we've gone to more virtual classes" and symposiums.

That need for better IT infrastructure is key to the Air and Space Force's preparation for Joint All Domain Command and Control -- a concept that would allow multiple systems and platforms to communicate across the military services.

The academy is expected to break ground this month on a new cyber innovation center to would bring in expertise and collaboration from industry and Air and Space Force partners so cadets can learn about real-world needs and problems.

But that overall mission of cyber and tech education rests on IT modernization funding, he stressed: "We have great needs, I think, from a fiscal standpoint to allow us to meet our aspirations to be that school of cyber excellence."

This article was first posted to FCW, a sibling site to Defense Systems.

About the Author

Lauren C. Williams is senior editor for FCW and Defense Systems, covering defense and cybersecurity.

Prior to joining FCW, Williams was the tech reporter for ThinkProgress, where she covered everything from internet culture to national security issues. In past positions, Williams covered health care, politics and crime for various publications, including The Seattle Times.

Williams graduated with a master's in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park and a bachelor's in dietetics from the University of Delaware. She can be contacted at [email protected], or follow her on Twitter @lalaurenista.

Click here for previous articles by Wiliams.

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