- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Air Force is investigating a recent outage that sidelined a classified computer network at the heart of the Pentagon’s weaponized drone program, military officials said Wednesday.

A problem at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada last month affected its Secret Internet Protocol Router Network, or SIPRNet, and caused the system to crash, military officials confirmed this week.

Used to share classified material too sensitive for the open web, Creech’s network went offline in early September and is since “back up and running,” Air Combat Command spokeswoman Maj. Malinda Singleton told Military.com.

An “investigation into the issue is ongoing, and for operational security reasons, we typically don’t discuss the specific impacts of a network outage,” she told the website in an emailed statement.

The outage was first reported by BuzzFeed this week after its reporters spotted federal contracting records dated Oct. 7 where the incident was discussed.

“On 9 September 2016, the SIPRNet system currently in operation at Creech AFB failed and critical services were impacted. The services were somewhat restored with the use of multiple less powerful devices,” the notice said, and “there is currently no other backup system.”

“This temporary solution stabilized the services, but will not be able to maintain the demand for very long,” according to the solicitation for assistance.

Chreech functions as one of the main hubs for the Pentagon’s armed drone program, but those flights aren’t operated over SIPRNet, the spokeswoman said this week.

“There are various failsafe mechanisms, redundancies and preprogramming that allow our aircraft to retrace flight paths and to communicate with terrestrial, space-based navigation and through air traffic control systems to safely carry out their mission,” she told Military.com. “The bottom line is the Air Force conducts global [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] operations from multiple locations, each of which can take over if one node goes down.”

The Air Force said last month that it’ll be examining the “overall cyber readiness and security” of classified and unclassified computer networks at at both Nellis and Creech Air Force Bases sometime in October.

“Previous versions of this inspection merely assessed for compliance; today’s version is designed to assess an installation’s operational readiness for its cyber operations.

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