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DISA has no room for failure in cyber security

Personnel are dwarfed by servers and computing systems that nearly fill the main computer room of the Defense Information Systems Center Oklahoma City, located north of Bldg. 3001. DISA personnel serve Department of Defense customers worldwide 24-hours-a-day. (Air Force photo by Margo Wright)

Personnel are dwarfed by servers and computing systems that nearly fill the main computer room of the Defense Information Systems Center Oklahoma City, located north of Bldg. 3001. DISA personnel serve Department of Defense customers worldwide 24-hours-a-day. (Air Force photo by Margo Wright)

DISA systems administrator Gail Ford and other computer professionals help customers with computer problems around the world. (Air Force photo by Margo Wright)

DISA systems administrator Gail Ford and other computer professionals help customers with computer problems around the world. (Air Force photo by Margo Wright)

From their work stations overlooking DISA’s main computer room, customer support professionals Sandy Hening and Mikell Spencer help clients worldwide. (Air Force photo by Margo Wright)

From their work stations overlooking DISA’s main computer room, customer support professionals Sandy Hening and Mikell Spencer help clients worldwide. (Air Force photo by Margo Wright)

System analysts Chris Hollis, left, and Stephen Fischer, are surrounded by approximately 5,500 computer tapes inside a round library storage module operated by robotic arms that pull information when needed. Several of these modules cover the floor in DISA’s main computer room but disks are replacing the 10-year-old tape storage technology. DISA professionals anticipate the change within the next year. (Air Force photo by Margo Wright)

System analysts Chris Hollis, left, and Stephen Fischer, are surrounded by approximately 5,500 computer tapes inside a round library storage module operated by robotic arms that pull information when needed. Several of these modules cover the floor in DISA’s main computer room but disks are replacing the 10-year-old tape storage technology. DISA professionals anticipate the change within the next year. (Air Force photo by Margo Wright)

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- There is no room for failure in the Defense Information Systems Agency mission and officials know it. Day-in and day-out, they take every conceivable precaution to prevent a malfunction. DISA Oklahoma City, one of DISA's four main computing sites, is a tenant organization at Tinker. Situated primarily in Bldg. 3900 with some space in Bldg. 201, 450 civilian and contract employees provide and safeguard computer systems for the president, vice president and Department of Defense.

"Unlike flying an airplane over the United States where we know there are no enemies, the contested cyber world in which we operate contain thousands of enemies and they are a threat around the clock," said Rodney Walker, DISA Oklahoma City director. "These conditions demand 'always on, no-fail systems and services' that provide warfighting agility across the full spectrum of operations."

DISA is one of seven combat support agencies in the Department of Defense and officials said, the only one charged with connecting the global force.

The Tinker associate unit manages systems and programs for customers including the Air Force, Navy and Army. Whether on base or overseas officials said, customers are ensured maximum security provisions.

One advantage to being collocated on an Air Force installation is it allows DISA officials to better understand needs and requirements of the Air Force mission and to be an active participant in base activities.

Within Bldg. 3900, the main facility, programs and systems are stored and monitored in a 65,000 square-foot, temperature-controlled "computer room." The computer room amounts to approximately two-thirds of the building.

The building features an uninterrupted power supply mechanism, which ensures power to the equipment is maintained should the building lose commercial power. The system consists of battery back-ups until the four massive generators kick in.

"Our infrastructure must enable the information exchange from the producer to the shooter in both directions at breakneck speeds with assurance the information is secure," Mr. Walker said. James Pearl, DISA Oklahoma City Technical Support Division chief, agreed.

"Everyone expects computer systems to be like the phone, when you get on it, you expect it to work," he said. "So we have a lot of redundancy in place to make sure we're always up and running. We provide services all over the world and it's always primetime somewhere."

Because DISA Oklahoma City manages so many programs and the average lifecycle of a computer system is three to five years, Mr. Pearl said computer hardware and programs are constantly being upgraded.

Additionally, because of the changing times and the technically savvy environment, DISA Oklahoma City officials ensure computer responses and demands are immediate.

"In the past, it was adequate for Department of Defense organizations to connect, work through their traditional hierarchal networks and systems and then make decisions to deliver to the tactical edge," Mr. Walker said. "That concept is no longer acceptable. We must provide seamless networks to the full spectrum of those involved."