NMCI First to Employ Multiservice Global Address List

September 15, 2009
by Rita Boland
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U.S. Navy users of the Navy/Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI) are the first service members to have access to a Global Address List (GAL) containing contact information for multiple military branches. The capability makes the intranet the first service network to comply with a U.S. Defense Department directive that indirectly calls for such a tool and the first network to proactively meet an upcoming directive. The GAL builds off a larger department directory and improves communication between the Navy and other military branches.

The new GAL synchronizes with the Defense Information Systems Agency’s Joint Enterprise Directory Services (JEDS) to offer Navy users contact information for personnel in the U.S. Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, the Integrated Shipboard Network System and other defense agencies. For the GAL to synchronize correctly with the addresses it contains, JEDS had to have full functionality, a recent development. JEDS is a central exchange where all the Microsoft Outlook Exchange data is pulled together. The NMCI is the only military information technology network employing the directory services to provide multiservice information to its users.

The NMCI also is the first defense information technology network to meet DOD (Defense Department) Directive 8500.1, which does not speak directly to the JEDS requirement but to the larger information assurance required for such programs. The directive on JEDS is still pending, but the NMCI program office decided to meet that mandate proactively, knowing instruction was coming. Other directory services do not yet support interoperability among the military branches, making contact information in the directories inaccessible to outside users.

According to Capt. Scott Weller, USN, program manager, NMCI, a multiple-service-branch GAL capability would have been added to the intranet regardless of the department order. Previous technological hurdles prohibited earlier opportunities for the tool’s development. The captain says the idea was on the NMCI’s plate, but the firm requirement made it a little easier to pursue.

Deployment of the GAL began March 26 with a Radia software push, which is the electronic tool the NMCI uses to reach its more than 700,000 users at approximately 360,000 workstations. The roll-out was done in a phased approach to ensure it worked in the real world before full implementation and because of the size of the organization. “It just takes time to roll out even a simple application like that to so many users,” Capt. Weller explains.

All Navy personnel on the NMCI have access to the new GAL now, and the Marine Corps users will have access soon. Security concerns prevented the Marine Corps from participating concurrently with the Navy in the capability roll-out.

The NMCI is a shore-based network used in the United States and Japan, but the GAL works for the onshore Navy environment as well as in at-sea operational environments. The Navy demonstrated this during the exercise Trident Warrior 2009 when the GAL was used on the USS Nassau. Though the GAL has the ability to synchronize with at-sea networks, the Navy has no imminent plans to implement the capability on ships.

Capt. Weller emphasizes that the GAL is not simply a tool for back-office administrative systems; it directly touches and impacts the warfighter. “It [enables] the ability to send … e-mail to anybody who’s in JEDS,” Capt. Weller says. “It’s just a matter of doing a name search … It just makes communication among my peers in other departments easier.” 

The addition of the GAL to the NMCI is seamless for users. The only difference is that more names are available in the drop-down contact menu. Personnel can search all Defense Department address books to find a contact or narrow their search by selecting a specific agency’s address book. “I think it will facilitate better communication,” Capt. Weller says. He explains that if he needs to send an urgent message to someone he knows but for whom he lacks contact information, it now will be easier for him to find the exact non-Navy colleague he needs even if he or she is not in his personal e-mail address book.