Profiles In Excellence: The Enterprising Spirit

Outstanding Technical Program/Project of the Year

Although DISA’s reputation is for technology, there is nothing technical about its mission: to provide unparalleled excellence in support of the warfighter. Twenty eight awards were recently presented at the 2012 DISA Annual Awards Ceremony to honor the work of DISA’s innovators.

The winners of this year’s awards leverage their skills as collaborators as well as their technical their collaborative and technical expertise to fundamentally change the way DISA supports the mission.

The Enterprising Spirit
Outstanding Technical Program/Project of the Year
John Hale, Joint Enterprise Email Development Team

HaleThe sign of innovation is easy to spot; it costs less and works better. The DoD Enterprise Email implementation led by DISA’s development team meets both of those criteria – but it wasn’t easy. To understand why, Program Manager John Hale noted how things worked before: individual services supplied their own email support structure, but features were limited.

Anyone who has ever received a “mailbox full” warning knows what he means. Beyond technical issues like storage space, the address book was another issue. “Right now, if you’re in the Air Force and go to your email system you get everyone in the Air Force,” Hale said, “but you can’t get someone in the Army.”

More to the point, email was costing the services both time and money. “Is it really the Army’s mission to provide a phone, computer, and email on every desk?” Hale asked. “We in DISA want to provide common services so those agencies can focus on their mission and worry less about the underlying infrastructure.”

Delivering that underlying infrastructure – Department-wide – proved to be a unique challenge. The first test was to determine how the system would manage identities among the DoD’s 3.7 million potential users. When a new lieutenant was set up on a new computer, or a colonel retired and collected her last active-duty paycheck, how would DISA manage the process? How would the system know? The answer, in fact, lay in the paycheck itself.

DISA’s email development team based its Identity Synchronization Service (IdSS) and Enterprise Application Services Forest (EASF) on the trusted source data provided by the Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC). “The people who write your paycheck, they know everybody who works for DoD,” Hale said, “so we based our ID solution on the data that they have.” Because DMDC maintains the most up-to-date records within the department, the DoD Enterprise Email system is able to keep an up-to-the-second list of all 3.7 million Common Access Card (CAC) holders. In fact, Hale explained, if you’re a CAC holder, you already have an account in the DOD Enterprise Email system, even if your service hasn’t adopted it yet. When a user joins the system, the team simply enables a mailbox and transfers the necessary data, but the ID management issue has already been resolved.

“The people who write your paycheck, they know everybody who works for DoD so we based our ID solution on the data that they have.”
John Hale, Chief, Enterprise Applications, Defense Information Systems Agency

By doing so, the team laid the groundwork for other enterprise services in the future. “We took a slightly different tack than organizations in the DoD had in the past,” Hale said. “We didn’t just create something isolated in this service; we created the base capability that’s going to be leveraged by all services going forward.”

That future seems particularly bright. Soon, the agency will roll out Enterprise Portal Services that will offer SharePoint capability, as well as an Enterprise Content Management Capability. Already, it stood up Defense Connect Online, a state-of-the-art desktop video conferencing capability. All of these offerings form the backbone of DISA’s suite of enterprise services; all of them deliver on the promise of DISA’s core mission to directly support warfighters; and all are powered by the email team’s innovative identity management approach.

Hale credited his team with the project’s success, which includes a 2012 Federal Computer Week Federal 100 Award as well as DISA’s Outstanding Technical Program/Project of the Year Award. That said, he remains well-grounded about its capabilities, both in terms of cost-reduction – which will become increasingly important in future years – and service to the user. “When you get down to it, email is email. It’s not glorious stuff, but the whole prospect that you can go to the interface and have access to all of your email wherever you are and get a global address book of everyone in the DoD – that’s hugely beneficial.”

About this Report

This report was commissioned by the Content Solutions unit, an independent editorial arm of 1105 Government Information Group. Specific topics are chosen in response to interest from the vendor community; however, sponsors are not guaranteed content contribution or review of content before publication. For more information about 1105 Government Information Group Content Solutions, please email us at [email protected]