Navy, Marine Corps still unsure about migrating to enterprise email

Monday - 11/18/2013, 3:57am EST

Jared Serbu reports.

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Two months ago, the Pentagon's chief information officer ordered all of the military services and Defense agencies to come up with plans to migrate their email systems to DoD's centralized enterprise email offering. But the Navy and Marine Corps still aren't willing to commit to making the move.

DoD CIO Teri Takai directed every DoD component to deliver up plans by Jan. 3 detailing how they would begin migrating their users to enterprise email by the first quarter of 2015.

The Navy and Marine Corps long have resisted the idea of joining up with the cloud-based email system operated by the Defense Information Systems Agency, arguing they've had a cost-effective enterprise email system of their own for more than a decade. And Robert Scott Jack, the Marine Corps' deputy CIO, said they're responding to the Takai memo by calculating how much it would cost them to make the move.

"Right now the senior staff of the Department of the Navy have our heads down with our pencils sharpened to do a business case analysis to compare and contrast the cost of going to the defense enterprise email," he told an AFCEA luncheon in Vienna, Va. Friday. "That will define for the Navy and the Marine Corps our path ahead for our involvement in enterprise email."

Asked whether the Marine Corps considered it a valid option to stay out of enterprise email despite the DoD directive, Jack demurred.

"We're going to consider all options that are contained in the business case so that we understand what the fiscal and mission assurance attributes are that are going to be nascent to the Naval response to that question," he said.

No way out

In the September memo, Takai also designated enterprise email as a core service of the Joint Information Environment, the single set of networking standards, enterprise services and security standards that all of the military services eventually will converge to. And from the point of view of the JIE executive committee, the Pentagon's senior governing body for the JIE effort, there are no excuses for not moving to enterprise email, at least according to one of its three members.

"There is no escape clause," Lt. Gen. Mark Bowman, the CIO/J6 for the Pentagon's Joint Staff, said a week after Takai sent the memo out.

From the point of view of the Navy and Marine Corps, there is good reason to suspect that moving to DoD's email system right away could be an uneconomical decision. Navy signed a contract with HP this summer that will reorganize the contract structure of their outsourced legacy enterprise network, the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet. The Government Accountability Office upheld a bid protest to that contract action, worth up to $3.5 billion, earlier this month.

Under the Next Generation Enterprise Network, the Navy will own its network and have it operated by contractors. The Marine Corps already has transitioned to a fully government-owned and -operated network. In both cases, the branches already have figured out their enterprise approaches to email and dozens of other services. And even before NGEN, the two maritime services handled IT as an enterprisewide construct for a decade under NMCI.

That's a distinction from the Army and Air Force, which, up until very recently, had services such as email operated by individual posts, camps and stations.

Big green boxes are no more

But now that the Marine Corps owns and runs its own IT infrastructure, Jack said it's busy trying to unify it under an architecture called the Marine Corps Enterprise Network. And he said the service also is fully committed to the JIE.

"The Marine Corps Enterprise Network (MCEN) unification plan is our campaign plan and navigation waypoints to getting to JIE compliance," he said. "Our public position on this is that we will deliver the architecturally-compliant configurations to meet the JIE standards so that marines anywhere on the globe can consume enterprise core services and have the command and control elements necessary for them to prosecute their particular mission at a time and place of their choosing or of the national command authority's tasking."

Jack said that convergence around standards and commercial technologies is an absolute must. He said the days of big, military-specific green boxes for communication are over, and that they need to be over. He cited one realization from ongoing studies at the Marine Corps Combat Development Command — under the current way of doing business, battlefield communications systems consume an absurd amount of weight energy.

"A scary piece of information is coming out of those studies," he said. "Obviously, an amphibious fleet moving forward is going to consume a bunch of [petroleum]. But the second greatest consumer of energy and demand signal for our heavy lift requirements is our [command, control, communications and computer] infrastructure that goes forward with a [marine air-ground task force]. In the 21st century, we've got to get a handle on that.

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