FORT KNOX, Ky. — Federal government employees still teleworking from home should see a big improvement in their network capabilities by July 31.
Officials at the Fort Knox Network Enterprise Center say they are preparing to launch a new virtual private network system that will provide higher bandwidth capability, the ability to process encrypted tunnels more effectively, and seamless failover.
“This allows for a better experience from the user’s perspective, and it allows the NEC to continue to update users workstations, monitor, as well as provide in-depth security and protection to both the network and user’s information,” said Mark Bunch, Network Infrastructure Division chief, 93rd Signal Brigade. “This will also position us so that in the future, when we migrate to the Joint Readiness Security Stacks, we will have already migrated our teleworkers, thus eliminating interruptions.
“This new VPN will also allow users access to [non-secure internet protocol router network, or NIPRNet] resources and email, even in the event of a disruption of service at Fort Knox.”
Bunch said VPN bandwidth at Fort Knox has proved inadequate to handle the volume of teleworkers when many were forced to telework after COVID-19 swept across the nation in March. This resulted in poor performance, which has proved frustrating for some employees.
“Fort Knox worked with the [Army Network Enterprise Technology Command] team to have a temporary Enterprise Class VPN server stood up to support the teleworkers while we worked toward a permanent solution,” said Bunch. “We are now in the process of migrating users to this permanent solution.”
Bunch explained that once the migration is complete, users only need to click the down arrow of the drop-down menu on the Cisco AnyConnect icon and select the new VPN — listed as knoky.ra.army.mil.
“One big change is that the new VPN requires PIV authentication, so the users must select the ‘Authentication’ certificate when prompted and not the ‘DoD Email’ certificate that they are accustomed to using,” said Bunch. “Over time, the old VPN files will be removed.”
Bunch emphasized that this new VPN is a permanent solution, which will align Fort Knox with larger sites, creating redundancy and assured security.
The proof of concept?
“I have been using the new VPN for several weeks with no issues,” said Bunch. “The throughput and access are the same as or slightly better than our current VPN. I believe once migrated, users will be pleased with the performance and with seamless failover to two other VPNs. We are no longer concerned about equipment failures impacting users’ connections.”
While the new VPN will provide the same level of network security as the current one, Bunch said protection once a user leaves VPN and enters NIPRNet will be greatly enhanced, providing protection for information and data.
Responsibility for getting users migrated falls equally into the hands of network technicians and users, according to Bunch.
“The NEC has the responsibility to the users to ensure they are positioned for success by providing information, ensuring configurations are in place, and giving guidance,” said Bunch. “The users have the responsibility of migrating to the new VPN by selecting it in the AnyConnect client before 31 July.”
He warned that users who do not accomplish their part will be locked out of VPN on Aug. 1.
For more information, users are asked to contact their organization’s information management officers.
“The IMOs are working with our Desktop Support team,” said Bunch, “and they are gaining knowledge that they can pass along to the users.”
To submit a ticket directly to the Army Enterprise Service Desk, call 866-335-2769. Bunch said those who submit a ticket while teleworking will need to provide a good call-back number.