Apr 07 2021

DISA Makes Progress on Deploying New Cloud Collaboration Tools

The Defense Information Systems Agency is onboarding users to a Microsoft-based platform for cloud-based office productivity.

The Defense Department is embracing the cloud with gusto and isn’t looking back.

Via the Defense Information Systems Agency, DOD’s IT arm, the Pentagon is busy migrating users to cloud-based collaboration and productivity tools under a massive new contract. The multibillion-dollar program, known as the Defense Enterprise Office Solution, is DOD’s effort to get a massive number of users using modern office tools available through the Microsoft 365 platform.

As Nextgov reports, Vice Adm. Nancy Norton, former DISA director, said before she retired in February that 16,000 users had already shifted to Microsoft 365 through the DEOS contract.

Caroline Bean, DISA’s DEOS program director, said during a Federal News Network event in late March that the figure is now more than 17,000 users within DISA and Joint Force Headquarters-Department of Defense Information Network, according to Nextgov. Those users are acting as early adopters for the new tools, and Bean said that DISA was preparing a “pretty lengthy document” to serve as a checklist for other DOD components making the move.

“We have a lot of lessons learned to share with the DOD agencies that are now going through this process,” Bean said.

DOD Upgrades Office Productivity Tools

DEOS, originally announced in 2019, is designed to modernize the Pentagon’s productivity tools for tasks such as word processing and spreadsheets, email, collaboration, file sharing, and storage.

The goal of DEOS has been to shift the department to common communication, collaboration and productivity capabilities that are more efficient, accessible and aid DOD operations around the world. The DEOS program also serves as a way to get more DOD components migrated to the cloud.

“It’s exciting, because it’s not only about licenses that they’re purchasing,” Bean said, according to Federal News Network, “but it’s also helping our DoD agencies to get to the cloud as well. So, it’s not just about the services they can purchase. It’s also about getting them there and migrating, because we know how hard it is to move to the cloud.”

Shifting to Microsoft services provided by DEOS also enables DOD components to plan for user productivity in the office and at home over the long term. The DOD is looking to build an enduring platform that is more robust and secure than the Commercial Virtual Remote solution the Pentagon stood up last year to enable users to telework during the pandemic.

LEARN MORE: How can agencies secure data from shared documents after users leave?

CVR was based on Microsoft Teams, but DOD is planning for something with more features and security for the long haul: It’s called DOD365 and is set to roll out in mid-June.

“Our enduring capability is going to be with us for a long time,” Acting DOD CIO John Sherman tells FedScoop.

Technical and security issues are still being worked out, according to FedScoop. For example, while users can connect any personal device via CVR to low-security collaboration tools, during the summer, mobile devices and tablets not provided by the government won’t be able to access the service, and users will need a Common Access Card reader to enable their personal laptops to connect.

DOD components that are transitioning to DEOS-provided services will need to work through other IT-related issues, including handling local network configuration so that routers, ports and firewalls enable the use of Microsoft 365 services, Bean said, according to Nextgov.

The transition from the low-security CVR environment to the more secure and permanent Impact Level 5 DEOS environment may be tricky for DOD agencies to navigate.

“There was a bit of an education that needed to occur as far as, you know, make sure you’re looking at whether this meeting is on CVR or whether it’s on your IL5 instance, because it does matter,” Bean said, according to Nextgov. “So there [was] definitely a lot of user-type education that we needed to do just to figure out how to maneuver through these different chat capabilities now that we have at our fingertips.”

MORE FROM FEDTECH: How can your agency best support hybrid work environments?

Photo by Kevin Headtke/DISA