Mission Capable: Robins’ Software Experts’ Fast Work, Knowledge Prevent Work Stoppage

Staff Report From Middle Georgia CEO

Thursday, April 9th, 2020

Just as the coronavirus pandemic nearly halted a $6.4 million mission at Robins, software developers in the 402nd Software Engineering Group and the 578th Software Engineering Squadron worked swiftly to enable more than 1,200 workers to continue providing warfighter support from home.

The Scalable Portable Integrated Data Router is a communication gateway software organically developed and maintained datalink software solution currently hosted on two major communication gateway systems. SPIDR is strategically planned to be hosted on three additional gateways within four years.

Integration of SPIDR will break more than a 10-year vendor lock for some systems and is projected to save $1.2 million annually in program support fees per gateway system.

Phillip Brown, Element chief in the 578th Software Engineering Squadron’s Tactical Data Link Gateways at Robins, said his people went the extra mile to keep the mission going.

“The 578th SWES coordinated with 402nd Cybersecurity team to place appropriate cybersecurity procedures in place to protect government assets and networks while teleworking and returning to standard duty,” he said. “The SPIDR project team re-planned task execution to continue software development and testing around telework capability. Doing so ensures minimal impact to software delivery schedule and exposure risk for project personnel due to COVID-19.”

Brown said the measures his team took continues valuable support to warfighter during this critical time.

“As a part of the Air Force Sustainment Center, AFLCMC is our link to the warfighter,” he said. “By rapidly executing situational telework, we are able to continue supporting the warfighter by executing our mission.”

Nicola Bruno, deputy for the Common Avionics Branch within the Electronic Warfare and Avionics Systems Program Office at Robins, said by providing the means for software development teams to continue coding during this national pandemic ensures critical software fixes, updates and crypto mandates can continue to be worked. 

“These software updates provide users with additional cybersecurity protections to support U.S. Homeland Defense missions,” she said.

Lakyshia Fullwood, chief of Datalinks and Gateways in the Electronic Warfare and Avionics Division of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Robins, said the 402 SWEG, 578 SWES made it possible for the mission to go on.

“The Centralized Software Sustainment Activity team’s standup of telework capable workstations enabled continued coding for a critical Block Cycle release needed to integrate crypto compliant Tactical Data Link radios into three major Communication Gateway systems, Link 16 Alaska, and Roll On Beyond Line of Sight Enhancement , and Joint Tactical Equipment Package , that provides critical Command and Control communication support for 20+ platforms, spanning all major commands, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, the Homeland Defense, the Regional Air Operations Center, 43 foreign military sales countries, and the Army and Navy, as well as a capability insert that will enable compliance with Defense Department and Federal Aviation Administration cryptographic modernization mandates,” she said.

Timing was key in preventing the work stoppage.

Fullwood said she was impressed with the swiftness of the team’s execution of the steps it took to pull off setting up the arrangement.

“First, they had to process telework packages for approval,” she said. “Everybody had to get trained and signed off on a telework agreement. Then, they had to get approval to take their workstations home and confirm that their workstations worked in their approved telework locations.

“It was pretty amazing that they got this done in five days,” Fullwood said. “They had to put the packages together and get higher level approval to use the equipment at home. That’s a pretty amazing feat.”

Bruno said she was appreciative of the quick response.

“I truly appreciate the efforts of Bob Herrmann, 402nd SWEG director, as he quickly responded to the COVID-19 crisis by approving a plan for his SPIDR software development team to set-up development workstations at employee telework locations,” she said.  “Jason Noe, 578th Flight chief, and Phillip Brown, 578th Element chief, have done a phenomenal job in executing this plan.” 

Bruno said the group successfully set-up the workstations and completed cyber security scans to ensure each work station was properly secured in record time. 

“This action allows the team to continue the critical development of this enterprise software solution for gateway systems,” she said.