DOD connects online to cut travel

Airman using DCO

Air Force 1st Lt. Tirso Peña, a navigator assigned to the Puerto Rico Air National Guard's 156th Airlift Squadron, monitors a DCO-hosted chat room at the Puerto Rico National Guard joint operations center in San Juan, P.R. (Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Paul Croxon)

The Defense Information Systems Agency's enterprise collaboration tool, Defense Connect Online, is experiencing enormous growth as agencies try to cut travel costs. The system has lately been providing 35 million minutes a month of web-conference time, said Emily Timmerman, solutions consultant for Adobe, speaking at a recent FCW Executive Briefing event covering collaboration and telework adoption. Now DISA is preparing to double DCO capacity, according to recent DISA reports.

DCO is an important tool for Defense Department partner agencies looking to set up audio-video Web conferencing, use instant messaging, and text chat. It has 800,000 users signed up, according to DISA. There are five million Department of Defense employees that might potentially use the system worldwide, Timmerman said. "Before 2007, there were a smattering of collaborative tools" to serve those users, she said. "DISA needed a single solution."

And so DCO was born. DOD picked Adobe and Carahsoft to provide suites of collaboration tools for the department's classified and unclassified networks.

DCO is comprised of three main components: the DCO portal, Adobe Connect for web conferencing, and the DCO XMPP chat client for presence and awareness.

DOD users, said Timmerman, look to DCO for many collaborative capabilities that can reduce costs and increase efficiencies. For instance, she said the system can facilitate "all-hands" calls -- one-way broadcasts from leaders to agency employees more efficient by cutting travel.

The collaborative environment also allows users to establish persistent virtual collaborative rooms that use the same URL where users can go for chat applications, to store notes and share documents. That consistent web address, said Timmerman, is particularly useful for DISA's emergency management personnel who can be in and out of contact when dealing with natural disasters.

The DISA collaborative environment, she said, is split into public and classified networks, allowing secure storage and sharing through the Sensitive but Unclassified IP Data Service (formerly called the NIPR, Non-Classified Internet Protocol Router Network) and the Secret IP Data Service (formerly called Secure Internet Protocol Router Network, SIPR).

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a staff writer at FCW.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.

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Reader comments

Sun, Jun 9, 2013

This is fine, but travel is important. Face-to-face meetings accomplish a LOT more than VTC session where most of the people are distracted. That's the dirty little secret, as much as the hand shakes that go with F2F meetings, and the hallway sidebars, and the talk at the bar after-hours; it's the distracted VTC attendee (and most get that way quickly - in an effort to multitask because they ARE in the office) that reduce the value a VTC session might offer. VTCs have their place, but like congress and the G8 have found, there's a LOT of value in meeting F2F...

Wed, Jun 5, 2013

DCO and its counterparts like GoToMeeting do a great job where PowerPoint and discussion are central to the meeting. However, the other richer and more subtle aspects of collaboration are lost with such tools. We really need a good and secure Second Life kind of virtual collaborative environment. Still, there is probably no way to get the experience of real, in-person communication.

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