May 27 2022

Flank Speed Moves Navy to a Cloud-Based Microsoft Office 365 Solution

An enterprise cloud environment allows improved collaboration and productivity among sailors, Marines, civilians and contractors.

The Flank Speed project aims to shift all Navy enterprise collaboration and productivity services to an enduring, cloud-based Microsoft Office 365 solution. Military leads expect that to have a big impact. 
 
The move “will provide world-class security and collaboration tools to improve productivity across our distributed workforce,” said Thomas Harker, then the acting secretary of the Navy, in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
 
Navy Flank Speed users “can access their account from work, home, or on the road,” said Rear Adm. Susan BryerJoyner, Navy Cyber Security Division Director Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, in the Navy technology publication CHIPS.
 
The effort will give the Navy Microsoft Teams access and incorporate many other advanced collaboration and productivity tools in an integrated platform.
 
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What Is Flank Speed?

“Flank Speed is the Navy’s enterprise cloud environment,” says Barry Tanner, acting executive director and chief operating officer of the Navy’s Program Executive Office for Digital and Enterprise Services.
 
It provides “a permanent, single-enterprise Microsoft 365 solution for modern operations, built on a highly secure operations and defense platform designed to support additional cloud capabilities into the future,” he says.
 
In his testimony, Harker pointed out that the initiative “will modernize our infrastructure to a more cloud-enabled, performant, and defendable network allowing data and information to move from anywhere to anywhere securely.
 
“It will also improve our overall cyber readiness posture by implementing key zero-trust architecture principles, securing devices and endpoints, establishing identity and user privileges, and introducing content and data rights management,” he added.
 
The Office 365-based system gives sailors, Marines, civilians and contractors access to Microsoft Teams, chat and remote work systems. It represents the Navy’s version of a broad new cloud-based DOD365 remote and in-person suite of tools, providing similar experience to the Commercial Virtual Remote environment created for the pandemic, with enhanced security measures.

DIVE DEEPER: Learn how DOD transitioned from a CVR environment to the cloud-based DOD365.
 

How Does Flank Speed Help the Navy?

Flank Speed delivers “more secure collaboration, communication and productivity services with wide-ranging benefits, from remote work to improved network performance, built on a foundation of zero trust,” Tanner says.
 
“It is designed to deliver 24/7 modern, cloud-based solutions that support a digitally connected workforce with ubiquitous data access and persistent information sharing,” he said.
 
Shifting enterprise collaboration and productivity services to an enduring, cloud-based Microsoft Office 365 solution “will provide world-class security and collaboration tools to improve productivity across our distributed workforce,” Harker said.
 
BryerJoyner described a number of key capabilities that become available in this approach.
 
“Once they have a Flank Speed account, users can access Teams, one terabyte of OneDrive storage, and productivity tools to include Excel, Word, OneNote, and PowerPoint,” she told CHIPS.

“They will be operating in a secure cloud environment built on the advanced security principles of zero trust that supports unclassified data at the Controlled Unclassified Information level,” she said.

Prior to a March town hall meeting on Flank Speed, she said in a press release, “We’re incredibly excited to create an opportunity to connect innovators throughout the workforce in a meaningful way. In this hybrid workplace, it’s important to create these moments so that each individual can understand how they fit in this monumental digital transformation initiative.”

472,000

The number of Navy onshore users, all of whom are connected to Flank Speed

Source: FedScoop, “Office365 Collaboration Tools Now Available Across Navy,” Jan. 10, 2022

How Is Flank Speed Different than CVR or NMCI?
 

Flank Speed differs from both the Navy’s Commercial Virtual Remote (CVR) solution and the Navy/Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI).
 
The Department of Defense’s pandemic-induced rollout of Microsoft Teams in 2020 provided CVR collaboration capabilities to sustain mission accomplishment in a mass telework posture.
 
“CVR transformed the way hundreds of thousands of DOD employees work, while also demonstrating how modern, commercial best practices can succeed in the Navy and Marine Corps,” Tanner says.
 
CVR, which operated at security Impact Level 2 — accommodating information that has been approved for public release — “was always meant to be a temporary solution that was sunset in June 2021,” he says. 
 
With this in mind, Harker told the Senate that the success of Flank Speed frees the Navy from reliance on “outdated, duplicative and less secure legacy IT systems that cost more and deliver less, further eroding DON’s competitive warfighting advantage.”
 
Built on the advanced security principles of zero trust, Flank Speed operates at security Impact Level 5 to accommodate data at the Controlled Unclassified Information level. 
 
“The platform not only provides the Microsoft Teams capability like CVR but incorporates many other advanced collaboration and productivity tools in an integrated platform,” Harker said.
 
NMCI, meanwhile, remains at the heart of Navy’s shore-based network system. “It is still the basic platform for the network,” Tanner said. “Flank Speed, at its basic level, extends the Navy’s capabilities into the cloud to meet the fleet’s need for a modern software platform that enables the way we work today.”

LEARN MORE: The Navy is using a secure ‘sandbox’ to test IT products securely.
 

What’s Next for Flank Speed?

The Navy is looking to expand on the already successful Flank Speed deployment, bringing powerful new resources to the table as the program unfolds.
 
“Flank Speed is much more than Microsoft Teams,” Tanner says. “We have over 450,000 users licensed and enabled for M365 Office Online, OneDrive, SharePoint, Teams and many more modern collaboration capabilities.”
 
Going forward, “we plan to continue releasing new features and capabilities over the coming months, fully embracing the evergreen software delivery concept that is at the heart of modern cloud computing principles,” he says.
 
The effort is still underway to bring all users into the fold, and once that’s completed, the Navy expects to take further efforts to ensure Navy Microsoft Teams and other key capabilities are put to maximum use.
 
“Our journey won’t end once we fully migrate all of our workforce,” Tanner says. “Helping our user base understand how to effectively use these new tools is a main priority, as the efficiencies to be gained from these tools will only be fully realized once we eliminate legacy practices.”
 
As the pieces fall into the place, the Navy will be looking to leverage Flank Speed as a starting point for further modernization efforts.
 
“We continue to develop and pilot additional cloud capabilities and services that we will deliver securely through the Flank Speed platform, driving the Navy’s digital enterprise transformation,” Tanner says.
 
All this, in turn, promises to enhance the Navy’s ability to conduct its critical warfighting mission.
 
“I am confident that this transformation will accelerate our ability to improve processes and operations because of the amazing talent and relentless drive that exists within our Navy workforce,” BryerJoyner told CHIPS.
 
“Flank Speed further empowers our distributed workforce by providing access, from anywhere, to core functions and data that are critical to our success in this age of strategic competition,” she said.

Seaman Jarrod A. Schad/U.S. Navy

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