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On behalf of the United States Air Force, General Dynamics commissioned TEKsystems to support its effort to replace network boundaries at 105 Air Force bases and seven Air National Guard bases around the globe. For this technology deployment initiative, TEKsystems recruited and managed the technical resources and provided comprehensive logistical support.
Formed in 1952, General Dynamics (GD) is a large defense contractor that has evolved its defense-related operations and now stands as a leader in mission-critical information systems and technology.
People are critical to shaping an organization’s success; employees are the foundation of any business and are at the core of every achievement. Businesses need the right talent with the right skills and knowledge to drive results. A mistake in hiring can impact employee productivity, harm employee morale and result in knowledge loss. Further, employee turnover impacts budget, as hiring and training costs also absorb the exit of the employee, workflow disruption and the recruitment and onboarding of a new hire.
Attracting, hiring and retaining the right people is essential to achieving bottom line results and yet it also represents one of the biggest organizational challenges affecting businesses today. Finding the right people is of critical importance in the highly complex IT industry.
The IT industry is fast-paced, and organizations must adapt quickly to new trends and new technologies. Finding professionals with the skills, knowledge and experience to keep pace with business demands or outpace competitors is a struggle. Demand is high and the market for experienced IT professionals is competitive. Organizations must often pay a premium for scarce skill sets and salaries in the IT field have increased much faster than salaries in other industries.
IT professionals are also motivated by more than just compensation, and many professionals also value recognition, opportunity and other intangible factors. Finding an IT services partner that can match and fill stringent qualification demands with the right people enables organizations to successfully complete their most pressing IT initiatives.
Cisco Network equipment installation, Cisco
The network boundary equipment that was supporting 112 Air Force and Air National Guard bases worldwide was approaching the end of its life and service capacity. Given the need for a secure and reliable telecommunications infrastructure at military bases, modernizing the equipment was an IT priority for the United States Air Force. The support contract between GD and the United States Air Force included the supply and installation of tested and configured base boundary hardware, but GD did not have an in-house team able to meet the following challenges:
IT professionals fit for the job needed not only the technical specialization required to train and perform the base installations, but they also needed the proper credentials for traveling internationally on behalf of the military. These requirements included the possession of a valid passport and/or visa, up-to-date immunizations, U.S. Department of Defense-issued common access cards, visit authorization letters, secret clearance from the U.S. Government and coordination with government-issued travel orders. Once the team was in place, each team member needed highly customized training at GD offices in Oklahoma City specific to the configuration needs of each military base.
The United States Air Force dictated the schedule for completing all 112 base network boundary installations and required completion within eight months. The Authorized Service Interruption (ASI) period was also working against this timeline, and the installations could only be scheduled for an eight-hour window on Fridays or Saturdays each week.
Given the tight timeline, any turnover simply could not be afforded. TEKsystems needed to secure those IT professionals who met the technical and travel requirements, and made it through the training to stay on board for the entirety of the assignment. The unpredictable conditions that consultants were being asked to work under—including constant travel often to unknown, U.S. Government directed locations—were competing with the need to retain this talent.
Project oversight was a daunting task as the U.S. government changed the installation schedule often—requiring the technical team to be available and able to depart for an installation at minimal notice. Coordination was needed with each military base to ensure equipment was onsite and the base was ready for the installation.
TEKsystems proposed a resource-based solution, involving in-depth project management oversight of the screening, onboarding and global travel clearance of selected consultants:
Identify field installation engineers who possessed the technical expertise as well as necessary prerequisites for foreign travel (i.e., passport, visa, immunizations, DoD-issued access cards, visit authorization letters, secret government clearance and government-issued travel orders). Leveraging our national recruiting center, aligned with our government services practice, TEKsystems was well-positioned to manage the sourcing and screening requirements of GD and the United States Air Force.
Provide a technical overview and instructions on the installation process to be followed for the United States Air Force network boundary installations. TEKsystems would ensure selected engineers attend the one-week training program at the offices of GDIT in Oklahoma City where they would go through lab exercises and mock installations.
Develop a roll-out strategy for the installations to take place. TEKsystems would work with its National Logistics Office and the TEKsystems Security Department to prepare for implementation of the program; this would involve ensuring engineers have proper documentation for travel, planning a schedule that aligns with base sites’ availability, travel logistics, engineer assignments, coordination with the bases on equipment needed for the installation, and security requirements (i.e., Joint Personnel Adjudication System (JPAS) updates and visit authorization letters).
This collaborative approach would provide the United States Air Force with seamless support from GD and TEKsystems to bring each base's network online with the upgraded solution within the allotted time frame. TEKsystems was selected based on our prior partnerships with GD, proven capabilities and proposed solution.
The replacement of the United States Air Force base boundary equipment was successfully installed at the 112 total Air Force and Air National Guard bases within the client’s desired time frame and with minimal disruption to base personnel. On-site engineers facilitated the creation of custom configurations and the installation and testing of two 7606-s Cisco Routers, one 3750-g Switch and one MRV Console Server at each scheduled location during an ASI window of eight hours or less.
TEKsystems provided a total of nine reliable, highly skilled and secretly cleared Cisco Installation engineers to accommodate the unpredictable and constantly changing schedule for the base installations. With eight engineers being deployed at a single time, the U.S. government required nine engineers to be in place.
With just two and a half weeks of lead time prior to GDIT training in Oklahoma City, TEKsystems had to act fast in order to find the right technical professionals for the job. As demonstrated by our proprietary Staffing Quality Process®, TEKsystems was uniquely suited to identify and secure a niche set of engineers possessing challenging credentials including skill set, government clearance and willingness to travel abroad to undisclosed locations. TEKsystems has more than 2,200 recruiters worldwide who know how to find the top talent in each major market and have a unique perspective on the talent pool available for such a complex assignment. The TEKsystems team learned the client requirements and project expectations in order to present the assignment clearly and concisely to qualified candidates. Recruiters with specialized experience in government recruiting identified and screened candidates for the skills needed by the client. Once candidates were on board, TEKsystems kept in continuous contact, ensuring the team was engaged and readily available for training and deployment throughout the project duration.
TEKsystems managed the onboarding process for the engineers, ensuring each received the appropriate, ongoing training in Oklahoma City as required by the client. We also provided continued project oversight and support that was required in order to seamlessly perform all required base installations; this involved: UID tracking, quality check-lists, supporting GD and government meetings, updating the master schedule and providing daily updates.
GD lacked a platform for warehousing highly sensitive, custom configuration files and templates requiredfor each location. Given that the field engineers were not permitted to store the sensitive content on their Department of Defense laptops when traveling between bases, TEKsystems offered an SMP site that could be securely accessed and updated by both GD IT and TEKsystems’ engineers. After completing each installation, engineers were able to post deliverables to the SMP site immediately, allowing TEKsystems and GD’s project managers to review outcomes without any delay.
Before the launch of this program, TEKsystems and GD collaborated on a rigorous upfront training program for engineers. Conducting testing exercises in the lab setting allowed our engineers to identify and troubleshoot real life issues that occurred on the actual base sites. Upon encountering technical difficulties during the installations, TEKsystems’ engineers provided GD IT engineers with detailed explanations for the issues and technical recommendations for improving their process.
As a result of TEKsystems’ careful planning and execution of this complex tech deployment initiative, all bases are now functioning on the newly configured, installed and upgraded equipment.
The success of this engagement was grounded on:
The level of specialization and technical expertise needed to conduct the installations was extremely high; further tightening the candidate pool, scarce were the IT professionals who met the stringent travel requirements and were willing to commit to the time and schedule conditions. TEKsystems leveraged its proprietary Staffing Quality Process® and niche recruiters with military project experience to find the optimal team of qualified engineers for the job.
Entrusted with supporting GD's engagement with an end client, it was critical for TEKsystems to ensure the partnership moved seamlessly towards achieving success. Potential program gaps resulting from the partnership were eliminated through open communication, collaboration and the timely escalation of any site issues.
At the completion of every installation, TEKsystems collected a set of documents from each base which encompassed lessons learned, an overall test document and a record of any technical or logistical issues that arose during the installation. Through this iterative feedback process of reporting, improvements were made and factored into plans for the remaining sites.