DOD eases collaboration tool rules

The Defense Department has officially eased restrictions on collaborative software tools, but all products still must prove capable of sharing data with the Defense Collaboration Tool Suite.

In a memo released in early August by the DOD chief information officer, the Joint Staff, the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) and Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the department officially backed off earlier guidance mandating use of the Defense Collaboration Tool Suite, which is made up of Microsoft Corp.'s NetMeeting and Sun Microsystems Inc.'s SunForum.

The memo states that the department will announce—at a date yet to be determined—guidance for testing other software options for interoperability with NetMeeting and SunForum.

Collaboration software enables geographically separated users to share documents, slides and applications online and is at the forefront of the military's transformation efforts. The Joint Forces Command has advocated a militarized version of America Online, known as Defense Online, because of the relative ease it offers in bringing together military experts for faster, more informed decision-making. For classified collaboration, Defense staff members use the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network.

The Defense Collaboration Tool Suite mandate was problematic for thousands of users in the department, including the Navy and the DIA, which already use Ezenia! Inc.'s InfoWorkSpace.

"There are so many people in DOD. You can never get everyone to buy one product," Don Eddington, director of the Advanced Information Technology Services Joint Program Office at DISA, said earlier this year while the memo was still in draft form.

Susan Hansen, Pentagon spokeswoman, said the memo is designed to offer short-term guidance for organizations using products other than the Defense Collaboration Tool Suite.

"This isn't a real change in strategy," Hansen said. "We're just letting people know that we're not shutting anything out."

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