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Information Systems Agency Has Full Menu on Its Plate

April 2009
By Kent R. Schneider

We all know the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) as the keeper of enterprise networks for the defense community. We know DISA as the agency cognizant of many of the U.S. Defense Department’s key joint enterprise applications. But we also know that in recent years, DISA’s role in network centricity has grown.

DISA now is the center of network monitoring and control. It operates the enterprise computing centers for the department, and it is the hub of enterprise-level network services, growing in content and importance. And, it has a critical role in cyber initiatives as the new administration sorts out the national strategy for cyberspace.

Anyone in government, industry or academia who works with—or aspires to work with—DISA should attend the 2009 DISA Customer Partnership Conference, April 20-24, 2009, in Anaheim, California. This will be an opportunity to meet and hear from DISA’s new director, Lt. Gen. Carroll Pollett, USA, along with the key staff of DISA, its government customers and key industry suppliers. Gen. Pollett has said that he will reveal his strategic vision for DISA at the conference.

The emphasis on support to the warfighter, given the spotlight by former DISA directors Lt. Gen. Harry Raduege, USAF (Ret.), and Lt. Gen. Charles Croom, USAF (Ret.), certainly will gain momentum with Gen. Pollett at the helm because he is known to have those in harm’s way as his primary focus. At the same time, DISA leaders understand that, to meet the new demands on the agency, they need to leverage the innovation and new solutions available in industry. As a result, leaders from industry will present new ideas and technologies to help meet the challenges of today’s environment.

This agency deserves focus. Given the new administration’s emphasis on technology—and cybersecurity in particular—DISA is going to be a hot stock. Just a visit to the DISA Web site (www.disa.mil) will give some insight into the broad spectrum of mission areas and programs that the agency is working. Digging into any of those will show the many opportunities to help.

For example, the Net-Enabled Command Capability (NECC) is the DISA-led effort to bring a services approach to command and control. As this is working, DISA continues work on the Global Command and Control System–Joint (GCCS-J), the Global Combat Support System (GCSS) and Multinational Information Sharing (MNIS), which addresses one of the Defense Department’s highest priorities—interagency and coalition information sharing.

To provide computing services, DISA operates 18 computing centers that support more than 3 million users. More functionality is consolidated into DISA’s computing centers yearly. They now support users with applications in personnel, payroll, logistics, accounting and medical processing.

One of DISA’s most pervasive efforts is the Global Information Grid (GIG). The agency continues to grow and evolve network support for the defense community, and it has responsibility for the life cycle of the GIG and for ensuring its effectiveness. In recent years, increased emphasis has been placed on extension of the GIG to the edge—to make sure the warfighter is fully supported.

For cybersecurity/information assurance, DISA plays a major role in protecting the defense community’s information assets. The Joint Task Force–Global Network Operations (JTF-GNO), commanded by the DISA director, is a major element of the strategy for network protection. In this role, the agency’s director responds to the direction of the commander, U.S. Strategic Command. Through the Program Executive Office, Information Assurance/NetOps, DISA provides a number of other information assurance services, including real-time support, training, implementation guidance, and certification and accreditation.

DISA also has program responsibility for development and delivery of Net-Centric Enterprise Services (NCES) for the GIG. These services span a broad spectrum of capability needed to ensure effective information sharing.

The agency also is at the heart of defense satellite communications systems. DISA has the lead in the Defense Department to provide both military and commercial satellite service to the White House, to the warfighter at every level and to critical support organizations globally.

And, of course, DISA has the responsibility to provide voice, video and data services over the Defense Information System Network (DISN) to support its wide spectrum of customers. These services include the nonsecure Internet protocol router network (NIPRNET), the secret Internet protocol router network (SIPRNET), the Defense Switched Network (DSN), the Defense Message System (DMS), DISN video services and many more.

These programs represent just some of DISA’s key efforts, but certainly not all. Does it sound as if the agency has a lot on its plate? It does, and the best place to hear and see it all is the DISA Customer Partnership Conference (www.disa.mil/conferences/). This is an agency that deserves attention, and this is a conference that people in the defense communications and information systems sector need to attend.