DOD connects online to cut travel

As budget realities constrain travel, attention turns to DOD's online collaboration system.

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).

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