DISA Is a Laser Focused on Services for the Enterprise

May 2012
By Kent R. Schneider, SIGNAL Magazine

The command, control, communications and computers (C4) technology community has undergone a great deal of change over the past couple of years. The U.S. Cyber Command and the military services’ cyber component commands were created, the Joint Forces Command was disbanded, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Networks and Information Integration (ASD NII) transformed to become the Office of the Defense Chief Information Officer (CIO), the J-6 (C4) on the Joint Staff was eliminated, and the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) has changed significantly. All of these modifications have resulted in adjustments to priorities, shifts of mission and more focus on the enterprise.

Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, USA, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently announced that the C4 directorate (J-6) on the Joint Staff was being reconstituted with Maj. Gen. Mark S. Bowman, USA, as the new J-6. Kudos to Gen. Dempsey for realizing that this part of the realignment was a mistake and for taking the action to correct it. This restores the warfighters’ C4 advocate on the Joint Staff, and the position even has been strengthened to provide more authority in critical areas. This reinstatement of the J-6 will cause more change, but all for the good.

DISA has been affected by every one of these changes. DISA is a combat support agency of the Defense Department; it has completed a Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) move of its headquarters to Fort Meade, Maryland; it has taken on increased responsibility for support to warfighters globally as a result of the changes I have described; and its information technology infrastructure requirements have grown with increased consolidation of data centers, networks and services. Through all of this, the DISA focus on support to the enterprise has not wavered. Lately, it seems that every government organization has adopted an enterprise view, but DISA has been doing “enterprise” long before it became the thing to do.

Today, an enterprise approach is essential because of the increased needs for joint, coalition and interagency information sharing; demands for enhanced collaboration capabilities; and calls for greater effectiveness and efficiency. DISA stands as the best—sometimes the only—source of enterprise infrastructure and services for the entire defense establishment. Networks are consolidating, because network enclaves limit cybersecurity efforts and inhibit effective network situational awareness and command and control. These joint networks will be operated and protected by DISA. Data centers continue to be consolidated. Much of this will occur at the military service level and in the other operating agencies of the Defense Department, but much of this consolidation is being accomplished by migrating additional capability into the existing DISA Defense Enterprise Computing Centers (DECCs). These centers repeatedly have demonstrated their efficiency and cost effectiveness. As increased information sharing, service agility and platform independence move more users to cloud computing, DISA will provide much of the cloud resources that remain in government. The public cloud will meet some defense cloud requirements, but sensitive core requirements will remain in private clouds, many of which will be provided by DISA.

The agency also is increasingly providing enterprise services for infrastructure, applications, data storage and security. DISA has considerable experience in this area since it recently declared final operational capability on the Net-Centric Enterprise Services (NCES) program. The agency most recently has been working with the U.S. Army on the Enterprise E-Mail initiative. The Army has the lead for the Defense Department, but DISA is doing much of the implementation.

Those who have not been working with DISA on a regular basis or watching activities closely there can become engaged by participating in or attending the DISA Mission Partner Conference at the Tampa, Florida, Convention Center, May 7-10. For the second year, DISA is including its one-day forecast to industry as part of the conference. People can attend for just the one day of the forecast or for the full conference. My own recommendation is to join DISA Director Lt. Gen. Ronnie Hawkins, USAF, and his staff for the entire event. It will provide an opportunity to see what DISA has been doing and to understand the path it has laid out for the future—a future that everyone will want to be a part of.


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