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The Latest on DoD Unified Capabilities Implementation from the JIE Mission Partners Symposium

Published: May 28, 2014

USAFARMYCloud ComputingCommunications ServicesDEFENSEDISAJoint Information Environment (JIE)Unified Communications

Representatives from DISA and the Army provided an update on the DoD’s efforts to implement Unified Capabilities at AFCEA’s JIE Mission Partners Symposium in mid-May. Their comments emphasized the importance of UC to DoD’s enterprise services plan and the need to understand the effort as both a hardware and software intensive undertaking. Information was also provided indicating how DISA and the Army may consider hosting certain elements of UC in a commercial cloud environment.

Last week in this space I provided an update on cloud computing and enterprise services at the DoD that were discussed at the recent JIE Mission Partners Symposium in Baltimore.  This week the focus turns to Unified Capabilities (UC).  When it comes to the procurement of UC not much has happened since my last post on the subject back in December 2012.  The Army’s Program Executive Office Enterprise Information Systems (PEO EIS) conducted a series of Requests for Information for the capability and it has now turned over responsibility for the acquisition to the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA).  The Army and DISA have made progress, on the other hand, implementing the Internet Protocol (IP) based infrastructure required for enterprise UC.  This infrastructure consists largely of installing Multi-Protocol Label Switching routers in global JIE “regions” (at this point primarily Europe and the CONUS, with the Pacific pending).

Most interested commercial parties are keeping a keen eye on the UC procurement because it is the acquisition immediately in front of them.  The symposium made clear, however, that infrastructure matters.  Basically, the infrastructure effort is helping to dictate the procurement schedule and eventual rollout date for UC. 

For example, DISA Director, Lieutenant General Ronnie Hawkins, kicked off the conference by stating that continuing the planning stages for UC will be one of DISA’s primary focus areas for the next six months.  Lieutenant General Robert Ferrell, the Army’s CIO/G6, repeated this timeline the following day, noting that the Army anticipates rolling out the first stages of UC in fiscal 2015.  FY 2015 is only 5 months away, suggesting to me that industry won’t see a Request for Proposal for UC until the first third of FY 2015 at the earliest.

This timeframe was further reinforced by PEO EIS Doug Wiltsie, who noted that EIS had just finished reviewing the 53 industry responses they’d received for the UC RFIs.  Responsibility for the UC procurement is being transferred to DISA, which is still in the process of assigning acquisition personnel.  All of this suggests that industry is months away from seeing an RFP, a timeframe that would be consistent with what General Hawkins stated.

As for how UC will be rolled out, this too will take place in phases.  DISA CIO Dave Bennett reported DISA’s intent to push out the new UC capability across DISA headquarters as a pilot in the first stage of implementation.  The reason for doing this is to work out bugs and determine next steps forward.

Doug Wiltsie added that UC is one of the largest efforts that the DoD/Army community is trying to get its arms around.  The scale of the challenge is daunting, with the potential for an estimated 3 to 4 million users of UC across the DoD.

Finally, there was some news in regard to UC and cloud computing.  Wiltsie noted that the Army is working with the National Security Agency to finalize security requirements that will allow a commercial data center to be used for some elements of DoD UC.  These elements are expected to be those that are ordinary use and which generally have a lower security threshold.  So, it is possible that the UC application eventually selected will include capability by the vendor to also host pieces of the solution.