Inside DOD

Amber Corrin

Inside DOD

By Amber Corrin

Where does DOD enterprise e-mail really stand?

After migration issues, Microsoft patching, adjustments to tactics, techniques and procedures and some serious hurdles in funding – all of which the Army says have been or will soon be fixed – will 2012 be the year Defense Department enterprise e-mail transcends the rhetoric and speaks for itself?

Maybe not. If DOD enterprise e-mail’s had a murky existence so far, its future is practically opaque. In fact, there are more questions than ever, including three big ones.

Some background: A little less than a year ago, the focus was mostly on Army enterprise e-mail, since it was – and still is – the only service implementing the program. There were questions as to if and when the other services would join, but most concern centered on the technical difficulties the Defense Information Systems Agency and Army CIO were having in migrating e-mail accounts.

Those difficulties were fixed and the Army resumed the migration process, with more than 300,000 accounts migrated to the cloud-based e-mail system being hosted by DISA.

But now it’s on hold yet again, after provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act suspended all of the Army program’s funding pending reports submitted to Congress that detail how it fits in with broader DOD enterprise e-mail plans, the use of fair and open competition in upgrading DOD enterprise e-mail architecture and how the DOD CIO is handling the e-mail capabilities of the other military services.

Question 1: So where does enterprise e-mail stand?

For the Army, it’s at a standstill…for now. But to hear the Army tell it, it’s just another brief pause while the mandates from Congress get squared away.

“Migration stopped upon enactment of the NDAA – pending Army’s compliance with the Act’s requirements,” Margaret McBride, Army CIO spokeswoman, said via e-mail. “The Army must first submit a report to Congress and wait 30 days before spending [fiscal 2012] funds to begin migrating new organizations or installations to enterprise e-mail. The most likely effect is a 45 to 60 day delay in migrations – depending on when the Army submits the required report.”

Question 2: About that does enterprise e-mail fit with broader DOD plans, and how much fair and open competition was used?

While technically that’s two questions, they’re wrapped in one big one: What will this report say? There’s no telling until it comes out, and even then details may be scarce if it’s like the last Army enterprise e-mail report Congress asked for. In May 2011, a House Armed Services Committee subcommittee proposed stripping 98 percent of the initiative’s funding and asked the secretary of the Army to furnish business-case and cost/benefit analyses for moving the service’s e-mail to the DISA cloud. In that case, Army CIO/G-6 did not respond to FCW’s requests to see the report, but the program did move forward.

In terms of how enterprise e-mail fits in with broader DOD, neither the Air Force, Marine Corps nor Navy have said they would join enterprise e-mail. Rather, officials hinted it wasn’t likely, and in August 2011, DOD CIO Teri Takai backed off the idea that all services would be part of the same enterprise e-mail program as the Army.

“Enterprise e-mail doesn’t mean everybody goes to DISA,” Takai said at the time. “What it does mean is we have to get to a common identity management structure, and we have to get to a common directory structure. We have to be able to collaborate. That’s really the infrastructure that is critical here. That’s the architecture we’re looking at now.”

And as for fair and open competition? The devil will be in the details of the congressional report, but back in May, Army Deputy CIO Mike Krieger did say this: “We considered doing an RFP, but DISA gave us a really good deal.”

To answer a question with another question – what happens if Congress doesn’t like what the Army’s and Takai’s reports say?

Question 3: What does this mean for the other services and offices outside the Army?

As previously stated, the Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy don’t appear to be on board with DISA-led enterprise e-mail, although inside sources suggest there may be some conversations going on behind the scenes that could involve a change of heart. Given that there was, at some point, an on-the-record stance that the other services would wait and see how the Army’s program shook out, there’s certainly some wiggle room if it is decided that going through DISA may in fact be the most economical option for upgrading aging e-mail systems.

Meanwhile, according to DISA officials, non-Army entities are moving forward with their own plans to implement enterprise e-mail. Tony Montemarano, DISA director of strategic planning and information, said Jan. 17 that the Defense Logistics Agency and Joint Chiefs of Staff are planning migrations; they will join those 300,000+ that have already made the transition.

To be sure, there are a lot of moving parts here, and that doesn’t even include issues like the Army being ordered to designate enterprise e-mail as a formal acquisition program with accompanying oversight and to use commercial technologies whenever possible; or what it will mean for DOD’s new “DISA first” data center consolidation strategy, or what will happen when budget cuts hit.

For now, there are more questions than answers. Some transparency once the reports are filed might help fill in the blanks.

Posted on Jan 19, 2012 at 12:14 PM2 comments

Air Force's Hawkins takes charge as DISA director

Army Lt. Gen. Carroll Pollett officially stepped down as director of the Defense Information Systems Agency in a change-of-command ceremony held Jan. 11 at Ft. Meade, Md., where the agency is headquartered.

Taking over DISA’s reins is Air Force Maj. Gen. Ronnie Hawkins.

Pollett has served as the leader of DISA since 2008, and is retiring after a 37-year Defense Department career.

“Every part of DISA has an essential role in the accomplishments and support we have provided the Warfighter over the past three years. Our partners throughout the department, elsewhere in the government, foreign and domestic, and in industry have had critical roles as well,” Pollett said. “I want to thank them for their continued service to their country, and for the hard work they do every day.”

Hawkins returns to DISA after a brief stint at the Pentagon as the Joint Staff's deputy director, command, control, communications and computer systems, a role he has filled since July. Before his Joint Staff assignment, Hawkins was DISA's vice director under Pollett.

“I am honored to assume the directorship of DISA and to continue our critical support to joint warfighters, national level leadership, and mission and coalition partners, providing joint and combined warfighting information technology capabilities,” Hawkins said in a statement.

Posted on Jan 11, 2012 at 12:14 PM0 comments

What does sequestration really mean for DOD?

The warnings were dire and came from the highest echelons of the government and Defense Department well before the Congressional super committee failed to identify $1.2 trillion in federal budget savings by 2021. The impact of sequestration on DOD is hanging over the Pentagon like a dark cloud, the “devastating doomsday scenario” predicted by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta now a reality.

Or is it?

Sequestration’s threat went something like this: If the super committee failed to act by Nov. 23, it would trigger automatic cuts equaling the aforementioned $1.2 trillion across the federal budget. The cuts would be split equally between defense spending and non-defense spending, effective Jan. 2, 2013. For DOD, this means about $600 billion in budget cuts over the next 10 years.

It’s a bit of an exercise in fuzzy math, but according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, that would mean:

The major cuts to the budget lower the government’s interest payments considerably, so in reality that $600 billion is more like $492 billion from 2013 to 2021, divided into about $55 billion per year. Combine that with $450 billion in cuts from the Budget Control Act – the debt ceiling deal from August that established the super committee to begin with – and another $39 billion in cuts ordered by the White House, and DOD is looking at a total reduction in spending of about $980 billion over the next 10 years, beginning with the 2013 budget.

“While this is certainly a lot of money, it represents approximately a 15 percent reduction below the baseline 10-year budget provided by the Congressional Budget Office,” David Berteau, president and director of the International Security Program at CSIS, and Ryan Crotty, a research associate with the CSIS Defense-Industrial Initiatives Group, wrote in a Dec. 2 analysis piece. “Despite the outcry from the Pentagon, the total level of these cuts is less than catastrophic. Even under sequestration, the DOD budget in 2013 would be approximately equal to the base budget in 2007 (adjusted for inflation) and well above the low points of defense spending in the late 1990s.”

The current cuts are also well below historical post-war spending decreases – such as those following the Korean and Vietnam wars – something Larry Korb at the Center for American Progress pointed out in September and was echoed in the CSIS report.

Then there’s the possibility that sequestration might not even happen. For one, by the time it would take effect, the U.S. could have new Congress members and even a new president, and the entire law could be avoided wholesale by simply repealing it. And since the legislation still has more than a year to until implementation, Congress, theoretically, has time to come up with a better idea.

Those are possibilities, but far from certainties.

“DOD will begin taking actions in advance of the deadline, perhaps as early as next June or July. Congress is unlikely to act to change sequestration by that time. In addition, President Obama has said, ‘I will veto any effort to get rid of those automatic spending cuts to domestic and defense spending,’” the CSIS report stated.

So what now?

Berteau and Crotty predict that Congress will revisit previous deficit plans, including those proposed by the Bowles-Simpson commission last year and the Senate’s Gang of Six. And the Pentagon is already undergoing efforts to streamline and trim its budget, having been ordered to do so more than a year ago by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

But for DOD, the biggest impact right now is the uncertainty, and so much hinges on what remains to be seen.

“For DOD, uncertainty means not being able to construct the Future Years Defense Program, which outlines the budget for the next five years and charts a course for the military’s future. Without a realistic FYDP, DOD cannot manage itself as effectively,” Berteau and Crotty wrote. “As the debate on sequestration moves forward, it will be in parallel with congressional action on DOD’s fiscal 2013 budget request, a proposal that will not include sequestration. We will learn more by watching this dual process as it plays out next year.”

Posted on Dec 02, 2011 at 12:14 PM1 comments