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Navy weighs options for email services

Nov. 26, 2013 - 03:45AM   |  
By NICOLE BLAKE JOHNSON   |   Comments
George H.W. Bush is conducting training and carrie
Sailors assess the security of computer networks aboard the aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush. (Navy)
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It’s no secret that Navy and Marine Corps leaders haven’t been the biggest fans of enterprise email services offered by the Pentagon.

At a Defense Information Systems Agency conference last year, Brig. Gen. Kevin Nally, spoke out against the Marine Corps moving to the DISA-managed email service and using @mail.mil addresses. The reasons were cultural, but at the time the Navy and Marine Corps already had an email system under the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet.

Now, email, along with data storage, video teleconferencing and other enterprise services, is expected to transition to the new Next Generation Enterprise Network (NGEN), NMCI’s replacement, and provide IT services for some 800,000 users.

Incumbent vendor HP will be providing all services currently offered on NMCI and a subsequent continuity of services contract, said Victor Gavin, the Navy’s program executive officer for enterprise information systems, in June.

But new departmentwide mandates could throw a wrinkle in at least part of the Navy’s plan to roll out enterprise services, particularly email.

DoD CIO Teri Takai is giving defense components until early January to come up with a plan to switch their email service to the DoD enterprise email service, according to a Sept. 5 memo.

Takai directed all components to identify existing email capabilities and begin moving them to the DoD-wide system no later than the first quarter of fiscal 2015. She said sharing a single email service will provide DoD components a common platform to coordinate activities and plan and schedule meetings.

“[Defense Enterprise Email] reduces the cost of operations and maintenance by consolidating hardware, as well as operations and support teams,” Takai said in the memo.

When asked whether DoD enterprise email would replace capabilities offered under NGEN, Department of the Navy CIO Terry Halvorsen said the Navy and Marine Corps require a business case analysis before making investment decisions.

“We will conduct a BCA of available alternatives — including DISA Enterprise Email — to find the most cost-effective means to deliver the department’s email service,” Halvorsen said in a statement to Federal Times. “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.”

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Marine Corps CIO Nally declined to comment.

Email is a service required to be delivered under NGEN, “there’s no question, that is just fact,” said Bill Toti, vice president and executive for Navy and Marine Corps accounts at HP. Toti said the Navy has not said otherwise about transitioning its email services under the NGEN contract.

If the government were to change its requirements, then HP would modify its delivery model, Toti said. But HP was able to offer the winning technically acceptable, lowest price bid for NGEN by integrating enterprise services, he said.

“So, there will be efficiencies lost if we were to sever a service,” he said.

Toti stressed that HP is not a competitor to DISA when it comes to providing enterprise services for the Navy.

“We look at ourselves as the first instantiation of the [Joint Information Environment] in DoD,” he said. “We were doing enterprisewide email before it was cool. Now, is it possible that requirements evolve over time for what enterprise email might be, of course.”

There’s an ongoing push to move to DISA for shared services, said John Slye, a federal analyst with IT market research firm Deltek. First it was enterprise email, and now it’s DISA for cloud services and data center consolidation. The move is part of the large JIE initiative to consolidate and standardize IT and get some consensus on costs.

If the services are going to move to DISA shared services, they have to work out the actual costs, Slye said. Working through cultural barriers is another challenge because there are entrenched processes for things like budget and capital planning.

Slye said the services are warming up to departmentwide approaches like DISA’s cloud offering, but the “Navy has been the one foot dragger among the three compared to Army and Air Force.”

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