Congress throws up roadblock to Army enterprise email

Tuesday - 12/13/2011, 3:28pm EST

Language contained within the massive 2012 defense authorization bill approved by House and Senate negotiators Monday would force the Army to halt its move to a new enterprise email service hosted by the Defense Information Systems Agency, at least temporarily.

The House-Senate conference committee strengthened a provision that had been passed earlier by the House. The legislation orders Army Secretary John McHugh to designate the service's enterprise-email transition as a formal acquisition program overseen by the Army's assistant secretary for acquisitions, logistics and technology.

The Army would be required to establish a formal acquisition oversight body for the program, certify that its enterprise email program has been subject to the "maximum amount" of full and open competition possible and assess the relative costs of the DISA-provided service compared to alternatives.

Until those requirements are met and the Army reports back to Congress, the service would be barred from migrating any more of its email users from legacy systems to the new DoD cloud environment.

Though not expressly specified in the bill, House-Senate conferees said their legislation would not affect the hundreds of thousands of users who have already made the move.

"The conferees note their concern about the execution of the migration of Army enterprise email services, but also recognize that currently many Army users have already migrated to the new Defense Information Systems Agency-provided solution," lawmakers wrote in a report accompanying the conference agreement. "The conferees interpret the existing legislative language to be a limitation only on funds for the continued migration of users and not for the sustainment and maintenance of those users already migrated."

Both the House and Senate plan to hold final votes on the conference committee's agreement later this week. The White House had earlier threatened to veto the bill over unrelated provisions relating to the detention of terrorism suspects, but Congressional leaders said they felt that provisions they added to the bill in conference would allay the administration's concerns.

As of Nov. 1, the Army had completed about 20 percent of its migration. The service had previously been aiming for March 2012 to move all 1.4 million users to enterprise email.

The legislation also requires the Defense Department's chief information officer to report to Congress on how the Army enterprise-email transition fits into the department's overall IT strategy, how DoD is addressing the email capabilities of the other military services, and "a description of the degree to which fair and open competition will be or has been used to modernize the existing infrastructure to which the Army is migrating its email services, including a roadmap detailing when elements of the architecture will be upgraded over time."

A spokeswoman for the Army chief information officer said the office could not comment on pending legislation.

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