The Defense Information Systems Agency, or DISA, is making progress on an important modernization project, despite the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic. In November, Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist designated DISA to lead the Fourth Estate Network Optimization Program. The multiyear, comprehensive information technology advancement effort, which runs through fiscal year 2025 will bring improved network capabilities, connectivity, cybersecurity and user assistance.
Part of the effort includes the evolution of the existing DISANet into the developing DODNet 2.0, designed to be a single service network for the Defense Department’s 14 Fourth Estate defense agencies and field activities. The program will consolidate the networks of 13 defense agencies, optimize 27 networks, and merge 30 help desks into a single service, providing better user experience, greater efficiency and economies of scale gains.
DISA’s Defense Enclave Services Directorate is conducting the IT modernization and is moving the Fourth Estate agencies—beginning with the Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC)— onto the DODNet, explained Llewellyn Don Means, Defense Enclave Services Executive.
“In this first year, we’re focused on DTIC,” Means reported. “We’ve already started onboarding their personnel, and by the end of the year we will be providing the network infrastructure, classified and unclassified services, and upgrades in cybersecurity. We are bringing them into the fold, offering the global service desk for them to call and also tying into the command and control infrastructure that DISA provides worldwide. We hope to have their initial operational capability up by the end of the year. So, they are the first order of business, and then rapidly we’ve got another four agencies that we’re going to pull in the next year, including DISA.”
Users of DODNet will be able to take their laptops or other end point devices and go from any Fourth Estate agency to another on the same network, with the same end point, without any decline in productivity, cybersecurity, visibility or even loss of the help desk. “When we finally, completely field what we’re calling DODNet, any of the Fourth Estate agencies should be able to be completely portable,” he said.
Specifically, the 14 Fourth Estate defense agencies and field activities include:
• Defense Microelectronics Activity (DMEA)
• Defense Media Activity (DMA)
• Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA)
• Defense Contract Management Agency
• Defense Contract Audit Agency
• Defense Manpower Data Center
• Defense Finance and Accounting Service
• Defense Threat Reduction Agency
• Defense Logistics Agency (DLA)
• Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
• Missile Defense Agency
• Defense Health Agency (DHA)
After tackling DTIC, the directorate will work to pull the DMEA, the DMA, and the DPAA into the modernization effort next. Means clarified that the directorate selected those five agencies to tackle first before moving onto much larger agencies such as the DHA and the DLA.
“We want to make sure that we are providing resilient, robust infrastructure so that we can enable all of their missions,” the executive indicated. “Ultimately, all of these defense activities and field activities are important. Every single one of these is important. That’s why they are their own activity or agency. The challenge with the Fourth Estate Network Optimization for my directorate is that I’ve got to understand every single one of their missions, and understand what’s the unique equity that they have for us to deliver this commodity type of information technology, and how I can make sure I’m enabling them to do their mission.”
The Defense Enclave Services Directorate also is responsible for vital communications capabilities, the executive noted. The directorate provides solutions to make sure officials can carry out the functions of the United States government through communications and collaboration, no matter what the state of the world is.
“In my portfolio, I have nuclear command and control, and a national leadership command capabilities role where I provide communications for the president, including a crisis management system, classified communications and a collaboration service,” Means explained. “I provide special access program information technology, the most compartmented and highly classified kinds of [platforms]. And I’ve got common use information technology and services over a broad spectrum of scenarios. If you think about voice and video, telephone, printers and how to collaborate, I’ve got several different types of those products and services in my directorate.
Means, an electrical engineer, who began his career as a Naval flight officer, worked for DISA in the mid 1990s as a communications officer in the Pentagon. After a stint in the private sector, he returned to DISA in 2000 and has been working for the agency in various capacities ever since.
“The [Fourth Estate Network Optimization Program] really is a big reform activity with a lot of benefits beyond cost savings, so I’m pretty excited to be part of it,” he said.