Enterprise email forcing broader changes for the Army

Wednesday - 2/22/2012, 5:15am EST

Jason Miller, executive editor, Federal News Radio

Download mp3

The Army's move of 1.4 million users to the cloud for email isn't really about enterprise email after all.

Instead, the email-as-a-service is serving as a forcing function to fix long-standing process problems across the department.

Mike Krieger, the Army's deputy chief information officer, said Tuesday the service and its partner, the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), which is hosting the email system in its private cloud, implemented the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) to smooth the transition. ITIL is an approach, similar to Lean Six Sigma or ISO 9000, to improve business processes.

"We have made more improvement on business processes between the Army and DISA than you could imagine," Krieger said during the AFCEA D.C. Emerging Technology Symposium in Washington. "The biggest thing that enterprise email has done is establish some discipline in the Army and DISA on ITIL business processes. We didn't have that."

Mike Krieger, deputy chief information officer, Army (CIO.gov)

Krieger said the service solved its migration problems of a year ago because of the changes brought on by ITIL.

He said Microsoft made some significant changes in its commercial product so Army employees can authenticate using their secure identity Common Access Cards in the DISA cloud.

Krieger said the discipline is most evident when the Army and DISA move users to the cloud.

"When we do a migration there's a joint order published by DISA operations and the Army that comes out a week earlier that says here's who migrating, here's how many, here's what color their underpants are. That's never existed," Krieger said. "Enterprise email has little to do with email. The discipline and ITIL business processes that we've established between the Army and our partner are huge."

Costs stay down

The discipline also is helping DISA and the Army stay on cost. Krieger said the Army estimated it was paying $150-to-$190 per person per year before moving to the DISA cloud. Now it's paying about 25 percent of that prior estimate.

The Army received the go-ahead to continue migrations starting March 17 from Secretary John McHugh. The service submitted a report to Congress explaining why its move to DISA makes the most sense. It had suspended new migrations in December.

The Army's move to email also is giving its cybersecurity posture a lift.

May. Gen. Stephen Smith, director, Army's Cyber Directorate (Army)

Maj. Gen. Stephen Smith, director of the Army's Cyber Directorate, said the enterprise email makes it easier to secure the network.

"This screams of standardization, so think about having one email system, one email address. It helps us with DoD identity management," he said. "So all of the efforts not only does it save the Army a tremendous amount of money, but it's better for our user community and from a security perspective, it provides much more enhancement not only today, but to be able to accept new technology particularly in identity management."

Smith said his office is looking for new cyber capabilities with his most pressing need in the identity management area.

He said moving to an enterprise pushes the service to run more technology across its broad network. Smith says that means the insider threat continues to be a big issue.

Email opens door for new services

Rear Adm. David Simpson, vice director of DISA, said he is most concerned about a specific piece of the insider threat.

"The security of the certificates [is] our authentication basis and are the keys to the kingdom as we get more functionality up and down the stack, as we do more with mobility than we ever dreamed of today, [we have to make] sure we identify each of the users within the network and keep the certificates that do that properly secured," Simpson said. "It's where we should be placing our biggest emphasis."

Rear Adm. David Simpson (DISA)

Simpson said DISA will build on the enterprise email offering with other enterprise services, including collaboration, file storage, records management and unified communications.

And it's the identity management piece that opens the door to even more advanced services.

To ensure these cutting edge technologies work, several services are creating oversight boards.

David Green, the chief technology advisor for the Marine Corps, said they have a formal and informal process to look for new technology.

"We hunt technologies," he said. "We are looking around because often times it's that little player that you never even thought of, you've never even heard of and you run into them in San Diego or somewhere else. And all of a sudden, you say 'wow if I bring that into the holistic architecture and it works and plays well with everything else, I am golden.'"

DoD R&D budget is down

Green said the Marines about two months ago created a panel of experts, called the Enterprise Architecture Executive Steering Group, to review new or cutting edge technologies.

"They are actually the resource sponsors and we show how these new technologies would align, and they would be evaluated against our enterprise architecture to determine whether or not it is worth the investment or worth the risk of investment especially with declining budgets," he said.

The research office in the Office of the Secretary of Defense also recently created several oversight groups to review the seven focus areas, such as electronic warfare, data management, autonomy, human systems and cyberscience and technology.

"Each one of these area is being spearheaded by something called a priority steering committee," said Reggie Brothers, the deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Research. "Each one of these priority steering committees are made up of members of DoD and elsewhere who have come together to chart a roadmap for these different S&T priorities."

The steering group is specifically working on improving the acquisition process to reduce costs and the time it takes to go from idea to implementation.

This effort comes as DoD's research and development budget is down by 3 percent in the 2013 budget request compared to the 2012 budget request. Brothers and other executives said every DoD service and agency is under pressure to spend money more efficiently and only on their highest priorities.

RELATED STORIES:

Army to resume moving email to the cloud March 17

DISA pushes efficiency, security virtues of DoD private cloud

DoD seeks more collaborative S&T research