Editor's Note

Nothing like a challenge

The Army aspires to deploy a global enterprise e-mail system accessible from anywhere in the world with a single-sign-on account

If the Army’s LandWarNet 2009 Conference last month left a single lasting impression, it was the overarching urgency the Army faces in delivering on its vision for a centralized, fully functioning global network that can support the Army’s expeditionary forces and its partners.

That’s in part because of how much is riding on that vision and in part because of how much is involved in getting the job done.

A case in point is the Army’s goal of deploying a new global enterprise e-mail system accessible from anywhere in the world with a single-sign-on account.

The project involves developing a full complement of highly secure messaging, calendar, collaboration and other e-mail functions, including a sophisticated directory exchange service. In addition, the Army wants a system that would give users a dedicated e-mail address that would last throughout a soldier’s career.

Moreover, because the Army is in a better position than other services to develop a large-scale, global enterprise e-mail system, it has been tasked with taking the lead for a design that will likely serve the entire Defense Department.

So the new system must function with all common DOD user devices; work in unclassified, secret, top-secret and top-secret secure compartmented information user environments; and support Common Access Card authentication and other security standards.

To its credit, the Army is exploring how the entire system might be set up and managed by commercial suppliers — a welcome departure from the epic internal engineering programs of the past. A request for information has just been completed, and a request for proposals is due before the end of this year.

Few would disagree that the current practice of Army installations hosting and supporting their own e-mail exchanges is seriously outmoded.

Ironically, it was that archaic practice that helped fuel the enormous success of the Army’s Web portal, Army Knowledge Online. Today, some 2.5 million users routinely share information, pictures and messages with one another and their families from across the globe.

Unfortunately, AKO can’t readily support many of the capabilities the Army needs, especially at the brigade level, where regular network disconnections require more sophisticated systems.

And even if it could, the reality is, the Army has a huge investment tied up in software licenses and other embedded costs that will take time to unravel.

Add to all that the need to reroute and establish new e-mail accounts for thousands of individuals slated to make Base Realignment and Closure moves next year, and one gets a small glimpse of the complexity of the task — and the stakes involved — in trying build a global network.

About the Author

Wyatt Kash served as chief editor of Defense Systems from January 2009 to August 2010. He currently serves as Content Director and Editor at Large of 1105 Media.

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