Email this Article Email   

CHIPS Articles: Rear Adm. David G. Simpson

Rear Adm. David G. Simpson
Vice Director of the Defense Information Systems Agency
By CHIPS Magazine - April-June 2013
As vice director of DISA, Rear Adm. Simpson helps lead a worldwide organization of military and civilian personnel responsible for planning, developing, and providing interoperable, global net-centric solutions that serve the needs of the president, secretary of defense, Joint Chiefs of Staff, the combatant commanders, and other Department of Defense components.

CHIPS spoke with Rear Adm. Simpson March 29, 2013.

Q: Reaching the one-million users mark for DoD Enterprise Email is quite an achievement. Is the process of moving users to enterprise email going more smoothly now? I understand that there were some issues in the early stages of roll-out.

A: Thanks for asking, this is a good opportunity. Let me start with talking a little bit about what Enterprise Email is. It’s just passed the one-million mark — we actually flew right through it and we’re at 1.1 million unclassified users. About 18 months, after we started the unclassified system, we started the classified system and are providing service for over 60,000 SIPRNET users. We will deploy an enterprise mobility capability that is part and parcel with the Enterprise Email capability. [It includes] 80,000 BlackBerry mobile devices, 700 smart devices — those are Apple and Android tablets and smart phones. Next week we deliver the first of 500 secret SIPRNET mobile phones that can actually be accredited up to the top secret level.

The first classified mobility device goes to Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter. So, it’s important that we really get a sense of the universe of enterprise services to appreciate the synergy from their deliberate integration. This integration allows users to communicate, not just via email, but via calendaring (ability to share calendars across the DoD), collaboration, via identity management, global directories and unified capability (VOIP & Video). Users have mobile access to those capabilities as well as applications that have only, at this point, been available in the fixed environment.

When we first rolled out Enterprise Email, we had a very good product, and a good team that understood how to implement the product. We had organized around running networks for tens of thousands of users. When we got to about 60 or 70,000 users, we recognized that the team was not structured to optimize for the full scale of the endeavor. Navy information professionals understand how critically important IT service management is, and DISA employs ITIL v.3 (Information Technology Infrastructure Library version 3) for our DoD enterprise security management framework, so while we had the right framework in mind, we had not task organized to our own target framework. So we took a two-month pause in the creation of new accounts. In that two months, we did a deep dive focused on process improvement, and what we recognized is that we had not implemented our own ITIL objectives.

So, we needed to break up our processes that had co-mingled, incident management and problem resolution, capacity management, change management, and really define workflow associated with each of the process lanes and the process owners. So in doing that, DISA greatly improved the service. We also recognized that our partner organizations were a key part of the service framework. There’s an element of tier one that is a partner organization responsibility; similarly at the high end, tier four, (problem resolution) there is an element of service that periodically requires our vendor partners to be engaged.

We worked with all of our partners to align our enterprise service management framework so that we had one incident management process between us and systematically addressed process definition and implementation. We worked to develop service level agreements and operational level agreements together so that expectations were clear and execution was crisp. That two-month pause allowed us to resume migrating users right out of the gate; in some months, 80,000 to 90,000 users a month.

Currently the Army, Joint Staff, EUCOM (U.S. European command), AFRICOM (U.S. Africa Command), Navy recruiters, and several other agencies have switched to Enterprise Email. We are working to onboard additional services and agencies. I think it’s also important to recognize that we built this service in a way that did not repeat some of the shortfalls of previous DoD Enterprise Intranets.

Specifically, an important core tenet was to maintain government command and control over all aspects of the service. The Agency must be able to assess risk to prioritize corrective action based on that risk, to recognize opportunity, and to be able to direct the activities of the entire team even while under a committed adversary attack. So not only did we need to get the service management framework optimized for service levels, we also needed to build the kind of command and control commensurate with the level of adversary threat we expect in the future.

Q: What is the response of the users once they migrate to the Enterprise Email system? It sounds like things have been going very well.

A: They have; it’s been very positive. First on the Navy side, let’s just pick a niche here. Rear Adm. Earl Gay, who leads Navy Recruiting Command, had a real issue facing him in that his workforce — the recruiters — are a very mobile workforce. They were regularly being locked out of their email capabilities on the road because of limitations in storage and aspects of the service that weren’t as mobile as they needed to be. When he looked at what the NMCI contract line items would cost to upgrade the services for all the recruiters, it wasn’t in his budget. He heard about DoD Enterprise Email and found that the cost of the entire Enterprise Email account would be less than the cost to increase the NMCI memory capacity for each of the recruiters. He was able to switch them to Enterprise Email and achieve lower cost and increased capabilities.

The recruiters have been very well supported by that. I spoke to Rear Adm. Gay when we went over 1 million users; I wanted to make sure that there wasn’t any degradation in his service level. His 5,000 recruiters have been on it now for seven or eight months meeting all missions. We get that same response from all levels of the department.

DISA is responsible for DoD’s communications for the President through the White House Communications Agency. We also provide Enterprise Email today to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Vice Chairman and all of the Joint Staff users. We are quite sure that the chairman wouldn’t be shy if the service didn’t meet his expectations. Similarly, the Secretary of the Army, Chief of Staff of the Army, deployed forces in Korea, Japan, and Southwest Asia have all given us high marks. They enjoy the flexibility to access the same service anywhere around the world.

We also work closely with AFRICOM and EUCOM as we bring the Joint Information Environment together. Enterprise Email is providing organizations that were strapped for money and people a cost-effective way addressing the continuously increasing computer network defense requirements.

Q: What is the vision for the DoD Enterprise Email system for continued deployments and what are the projected cost savings and efficiencies for continued deployment? How does DEE fit in with the DoD Chief Information Officer’s and DISA’s plans for the development and deployment of enterprise services across the department?

A: This mission first and foremost is to ensure that we provide a service to meet warfighter needs. It’s got to be there with the right information at the right time in a reliable, robust and resilient manner. It has to be defensible against committed adversary attack. We will continue to work under U.S. Cyber Command to make sure that Enterprise Email has the very best our nation has to offer in the way of cyber security. We must be able to spot anomalous activity and correlate that activity to identify a potential attack so that we can contain and prevent its lateral spread. Then we must bring to bear the whole weight of our operations and intelligence communities to characterize those attacks, and when appropriate, generate active responses to those attacks.

Second, DEE will be the linchpin for bringing the department’s collaborative capabilities together. I believe that as we go forward, there will not be an appetite for continuing to have multiple enterprises within DoD. We will be providing a service that the world is increasingly comfortable with – having email as a part of the cloud. Many of us are familiar with Gmail and other kinds of cloud-based email systems. They’re very reliable. Shifting the resiliency for our military email system, from a server that has to go with you wherever you are and maintained in a building where you’re at because you’re potentially disconnected at times to one in which we regularly engineer route diversity and the ability to work around outages in the transport layer because we’ve designed it with the 99.99% of network access that many missions truly require, has enabled a whole new way to look at email in the future.

So instead of doing multiple enterprises at scale — one for the Army, one for the Air Force, one for the Marines, one for the Navy and then once again for the DoD components and COCOMs, I absolutely believe the right thing to do is to do it once for DoD so that each of the services can optimize their resources around their tactical information environment. The tactical edge is where we really want to be focusing Navy and Marine Corps dollars, around our unique tactical platforms.

We have already achieved significant cost savings for the Departarment. The charge for Enterprise Email since we first started the project has been $39 dollars per user, a year. Thirty-nine dollars per user a year! And it hasn’t changed since we began. DISA is a working capital funded organization. We have to abide by the statute in the way we’re set up and that is to recover all the costs that we spend. We’re in a very good position to hold that pricing. I know that as we continue to add volume, we’ll continue to lower the cost of running the service.

DoD Chief Information Officer Ms. Terri Takai has set a very progressive agenda which takes advantage of the latest technology for the department. It centers around things like cloud services, data center consolidation, enterprise mobility and unified capabilities (eliminating legacy telephony and video services). Enterprise Email is very well-suited to multiply the advantage from all of those initiatives.

Enterprise directory services is an example where the move to Enterprise Email automatically adds value for other enterprise service offerings. Our mobile devices (BlackBerry, Android, Apple IOS and Windows 8) utilize the same directory as our email system, phone and video system, and our portals. Pulling together the same directory for all of these areas enables additional collaborative capabilities that weren’t there before in directories built independently by each organization. Under the fully realized joint information environment, the ability now to have your phone be the computer on your desk, and have phone calls made to your organization, recognize that you’re not there, see where the device is and then route the phone call to wherever you might be throughout the battlespace is a very important capability.

If you’re not there, the message that the system takes in unified capabilities then becomes an email accessible from Enterprise Email or enterprise mobility and is archived within the connected portal structure. That’s part of the CIO’s vision in the joint information environment, that we multiply the advantage from each of these capabilities to gain synergy from the investments while improving the defense. We’re able to now see and correlate anomalous activity across each of these lanes. The value isn’t just in the single product, Enterprise Email, for example, it is in the synergy between each of the different products and services of the JIE and the ability to defend in a much more effective and efficient manner.

Q: The DoD Mobile Device and Commercial Mobile Device (CMD) Implementation Plan encompasses three goals to achieve: improve infrastructure, implement mobile device management (MDM) policies and develop mobile Web-based applications. There are 16 ongoing component mobility pilot programs; can you talk about how the pilots are progressing?

A: I think that the pilots are progressing well. Each of our partners had specific goals in wanting to understand how mobility would better advance their missions in a specific area. They’re operating the pilots in a way that informs the entire group with best practices and observations to the operational environments for the 16 different pilots. Next steps include stand up of enterprise mobile device management and its mobile applications store. Many of the pilots will then join the enterprise, bringing best practices with them.

A couple of the pilots really are oriented toward how we ultimately expect to bring enterprise mobility into the tactical information environment. A good example of that is Navy’s (Long-Term Evolution) LTE pilot on the USS Kearsarge and the USS San Antonio. Imagine setting up a cellular network (4G) afloat that connects to all of those capabilities I just described—unified capabilities, cloud services, mobile app store and email —collaborative products. That’s a huge capability that will revolutionize the way that we communicate. I think we’ll see the number of pilots reduced in the upcoming months to years and the remaining pilots will really focus on the tactical edge.

Q: What are you learning from the pilots?

A: Some of what we’re learning is important. First, let me talk about the challenges. There are a number of competitors in mobility in the commercial sector. BlackBerry, Apple, and iOS products, Android, and Windows 8 on the Microsoft side are competing vigorously, and all are working to roll in technology to gain advantage over one another. That’s one of the reasons why when we pulled together enterprise mobility, we established, from the very beginning, the principle that we would be establishing a management platform that is vendor agnostic so we would not have a big competition for any one vendor only to later regret that we missed out on the next technological improvement. Instead, we defined the platform in a way where the onus is on the vendors to upgrade their products into that single departmentwide mobile ecosystem system.

That’s been very successful, and we’ve got all four product lines up and running. We are surprised, frankly, about how much interest there has been from each of the vendors. When we first started out, there were some critics that said, ‘Well, DoD is such a small market, commercial providers of public technology won’t want to change anything they’re doing to accommodate a DoD-run enterprise.’ The exact opposite has happened, and we have mobile companies really seeking to partner with DoD mostly because of the security challenges that their non-DOD customers are facing. In working with NSA (National Security Agency) and DISA at the early stages of their product lines, they’re finding they’re able to work on capabilities with DoD in a manner that improves their products — improves the industry in a mutually satisfying way.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to talk about with us?

A: I always like to talk about the opportunity for Navy to improve collaboration across the joint force; to improve the Navy’s leverage of “purple” joint investments, to benefit from the defensive cyber orientation that is designed at DISA from the beginning with CYBERCOM, NSA and our service partners. There’s great potential for Navy to benefit from DOD-wide services, and optimize Navy work in IT around our unique platforms and the maritime information environment.

Rear Adm. David G. Simpson
Rear Adm. David G. Simpson

Rear Adm. David G. Simpson at Joint Test and Evaluation, Suffolk, Va,. Jan. 12, 2012.
Rear Adm. David G. Simpson at Joint Test and Evaluation, Suffolk, Va,. Jan. 12, 2012.
Related CHIPS Articles
Related DON CIO News
Related DON CIO Policy

CHIPS is an official U.S. Navy website sponsored by the Department of the Navy (DON) Chief Information Officer, the Department of Defense Enterprise Software Initiative (ESI) and the DON's ESI Software Product Manager Team at Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific.

Online ISSN 2154-1779; Print ISSN 1047-9988
Hyperlink Disclaimer