HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – A program led by the Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence and Networks Directorate here has developed new external access capabilities for teleworkers.
The directorate launched the Cloud Hosted Enterprise Service last fall, allowing personnel the ability to use Office 365 Teams, a shared workspace tool. Since then CHES team engineers have been working to expand the capabilities to end users outside of the Air Force Network.
“The original scope of the project was to provide SharePoint access to our mission partners or contactors who don’t work on the base, but still needed access to our resources,” said 1st Lt. Caleb Gill, a Commoditized Infrastructure Branch CHES engineer here.
Gill said that, while his team continued to make progress, their efforts preceded all COVID-19 response operations.
“About six weeks ago, we came to the realization that we may need to dramatically scale up our abilities to telework,” he said.
The CHES team quickly adjusted not just to improving SharePoint access, but all Office 365 products including OneDrive, email and Microsoft Teams.
Gill said that registered CHES users, or users with @us.af.mil accounts, will have access to all Office 365 resources they typically would on base without needing access to the virtual private network, or VPN. Users will only need internet access, a common access card and a CHES account.
“A major benefit to this is that more people will be able to get online and continue working, but it also takes a huge burden off the VPN,” said Gill. “We’re winning on two fronts.”
Maj. Gen. Michael Schmidt, C3I&N program executive officer, said adding this new capability now is extremely important.
“As Department of the Air Force personnel work to continue their mission during these unprecedented times, the CHES team has been working very hard to enhance the Air Force’s teleworking user experience,” he said. “I couldn’t be more proud of this team since their efforts not only impact our C3I&N teammates, but the entire Air Force.”
Once the capabilities are pushed out, which Gill expects within weeks, they will be available to the entire Air Force. Instructions on how to register for Cloud One can be found on the Air Force Portal.
Gill said although the new capabilities weren’t built for the current massive teleworking need, the timing could not be better. Personnel will not only have access to necessary resources, but will be able to complete the mission more efficiently.
“In many ways this is a force multiplier, because not only are you getting more access, you’re getting better access,” said Gill. “This is huge step for the entire force.”