Navy, Marines to Analyze Pentagon’s Cloud Email System

Navy CIO Terry Halvorsen speaking during a panel on cyber warfare

U.S. Naval Institute

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Navy CIO Terry Halvorsen speaking during a panel on cyber warfare

The service's top tech official says that his office plans to undertake an analysis before moving Navy and Marine Corps emails to the cloud. By Bob Brewin

The Navy plans to conduct a cost, security and performance analysis before it complies with a Pentagon directive to use a Defense Department email system, Chief Information Officer Terry Halvorsen told Nextgov.

In September, Defense CIO Teri Takai designated the Defense Enterprise Email cloud service operated by the Defense Information Systems Agency  as an enterprise service,  and directed all Defense components to develop a plan by January to shift email to the DISA cloud in October 2014.

Halvorsen, in an email statement to Nextgov, said he will conduct a business case analysis before he moves Navy and Marine Corps email to the DISA cloud. The two services treated email as a core service on their existing Navy Marine Corps Intranet, or NMCI, and the follow-on Next-Generation Enterprise Network. NGEN is slated to replace NMCI and serve 800,000 users in the spring of 2014.

 “The Navy adheres to the practice of requiring a business case analysis before making investment decisions,” Halvorsen said.

The service will explore “available alternatives — including DISA Enterprise Email — to find the most cost-effective means to provide email service. The business case analysis will consider cost, mission, security and system performance related to the various solutions to determine which offers the necessary security and service at the best price.”

Warren Suss, president of Suss Consulting, said “this seems like a reasonable approach to me, as the Navy needs to determine the costs of a transition [to the DISA cloud]. There is no question that it will be costly and painful.”

The Army moved 1.43 million unclassified email accounts and 115,000 classified accounts to DEE in August. Service officials said they expected to save $76 million this year and $380 million through 2017 from the shift.

The Navy built email into the $3.5 billion NGEN contract awarded to HP Enterprise Services in June The contract is back on track after the Government Accountabilty Office denied a protest by Harris Corp. Suss said the Navy will need to negotiate a change order with HP if it moves email from NGEN to the DISA cloud, yet another cost.

Cultural factors and “branding” issues also play a role in the shift to the DISA cloud as users end up with a plain “mail.mil” email address rather than a “navy.mil” or “marines.mil” address, Suss said. But these factors pale in comparison to the potential savings from enterprise email, Suss said.

The Air Force also has concerns about the price of enterprise email. The Air Force said on Oct. 2 that it planned to move 150,000 classified email accounts to the DISA cloud as it will provide “significant operational efficiencies,” but Gen. William L. Shelton, who heads the Air Force Space Command, said the service still has concerns about the cost of moving unclassified email to the cloud.

DISA started work on a Defense-wide e-mail cloud in June, 2011 when it signed a contract with Microsoft for Army email software “scalable to support the 4.5 million DoD user personas, which are actual user accounts and other defined entities such as group email addresses, which are required by Exchange.” 

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