The COVID-19 pandemic forced the Air Force to take rapid action to enhance and scale its telework and remote IT services during the early days of the crisis. As a result, airmen are much happier with the Air Force’s IT services and support than they were before the pandemic hit.
The Air Force‘s IT customer satisfaction rating shot up from 21% to 48% since the beginning of the pandemic, action Deputy CIO Arthur Hatcher said Tuesday during a keynote at the annual Air Force Information Technology and Cyberpower conference.
“That’s about two out of 10 airmen [who] were happy with their IT support,” Hatcher said of the pre-pandemic rating. “Now it’s around 45% — four-to-five out of 10 airmen say, ‘I like what I’m seeing now at the workplace and this is helping me to do my job better,’ a significant improvement.”
Hatcher said the Air Force began measuring IT customer satisfaction before the pandemic and continues to do so throughout it. He added: “We think we’ve moved the needle in a short amount of time.”
How did the Air Force get such a result? Hatcher explained that the CIO’s office saw the pandemic as “an opportunity … to push initiatives through as the [Department of Defense] moved to maximum telework.”
“We were able to accelerate actions on several DOD digital modernization efforts,” he said. “VPN use — typically seen as an old outdated method for remote access — while overstressed initially was dramatically scaled in a very short amount of time.”
The Air Force increased its VPN capacity from 9,000 users to pre-pandemic to now around 430,000, Hatcher said.
Likewise, the DOD’s launch of the Commercial Remote Virtual (CVR) cloud collaboration environment based on Microsoft Teams gave the Air Force another tool to bring its personnel together virtually. Today, the service can support about 800,000 airmen on CVR, with about 242,000 using it almost every day.
And on top of that, the service finished onboarding major command personnel outside the U.S. to its Cloud Hosted Enterprise Services (CHES) platform, which is one of the world’s largest deployments of Microsoft Office 365, now with about 700,000 airmen provisioned to use it.
“Now we’re preparing for the next wave of requirements, sustaining the gains we’ve made as part of the new operating environment, keeping the personnel personal device connectivity, transitioning CVR capabilities to a FedRAMP IL-5 environment,” Hatcher said.
Tuesday’s AFITC event was one of Hatcher’s first public engagements as acting deputy CIO since he replaced Bill Marion, who retired from the Air Force in April.
But Hatcher won’t be around much longer either, he said, announcing that he’ll soon be retiring after 37 years with the Air Force, 30 of which were as active duty.
“It has been a wonderful and phenomenal ride and I’m extremely grateful for the opportunities,” Hatcher said.