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News > ESC takes lead in approving C2 Platform Information Technology
ESC takes lead in approving C2 Platform Information Technology

Posted 1/18/2011   Updated 1/18/2011 Email story   Print story


by Chuck Paone
66th Air Base Group

1/18/2011 - HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- Program managers looking to incorporate various information technology-intensive systems face significant challenges gaining approval to operate them within the Air Force enterprise.

To help remedy that, Lt. Gen. Bill Lord, the Air Force chief information officer, delegated responsibility for certain types of IT approvals to Dr. Tim Rudolph, the Electronic Systems Center chief technology officer, last June. Dr. Rudolph now serves as the designated accreditation authority for Command and Control (C2) Platform Information Technology (PIT) across the Air Force.

Platform IT refers to computer resources, both hardware and software, that are physically part of, dedicated to or essential in the mission performance of special purpose systems such as: weapons, training simulators, diagnostic test and maintenance equipment, calibration equipment, equipment used in the research and development of weapons systems, medical technologies, transport vehicles, buildings, and utility distribution systems such as water and electric.

"The lengthy final gating process of gaining certification and approval means it can take many, many months to operationally use what can be rapidly developed in days or weeks in an increasingly commoditized market," said Dr. Rudolph. "Within the constrained and appropriate definition of Platform IT, the newly delegated activities can add agility and speed."

However, C2 PIT, which applies to subsystems and some forms of interconnects, is neither the panacea nor end run around policy, he cautioned. "What the use of C2 PIT here represents is an incremental step in overall recognition of systems engineering rigor being a primary component of mission assurance."

Later last year, Brig. Gen. David Cotton, the Air Force senior information assurance officer, also named ESC Engineering and Technical Management's Systems Engineering Division Chief Jeffery Mayer the certification authority for such IT systems. That move, along with recently approved PIT guidance, paves the way to begin operating under this new construct, and recognizes that many sources of expertise for command and control platform IT reside here at ESC.

"In the past programs had to generate unique documentation to achieve certification," Mr. Mayer said. "Under the C2 PIT construct, the certifying authority is now pushed down closer to the program office, and the ESC process will use documentation and test evidence that the program was going to develop as part of their normal systems engineering process, which we anticipate will save time compared to developing unique artifacts outside of the normal acquisition process. Also we have the unique skill sets and knowledge needed to assess program security compliance."

A Platform Information Technology Working Group, formed in 2008, provided the recommendation for this "more logical process," said Matt Cloutier of the Engineering and Technical Management Directorate. The group, which has various Air Force participants as well as inputs from the Army and Navy, agreed that streamlining the process this way made sense.

"The process for accrediting IT for these systems really comes down to verifying systems engineering has been accomplished; there's really no additional process required," Mr. Cloutier said. Because ESC engineers are best able to assess system engineering documentation for command and control systems, it simply makes sense to both do those reviews and accept the responsibility - and risk - for making the decision here.

With the new process in place, Mr. Cloutier said he expects dozens of programs and systems to come before Dr. Rudolph this year alone.

"We planned for 50 per year, but I wouldn't be surprised if we wind up supporting a lot more than that this year," he said.

Information on C2 platform information technology and the certification and approval process is available on the Air Force Information Assurance community of practice site and on ESC Engineering's WIKI and Share Point sites. Specific address information for these sites is limited to those with proper access. For more information about accessing these sites, individuals should contact the Hanscom C2 PIT Support Staff via the global email directory.

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