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CHIPS Articles: Cloud-based innovations strengthened at DISA through new center: DoD’s Cloud Computing Program Office

Cloud-based innovations strengthened at DISA through new center: DoD’s Cloud Computing Program Office
By Suzan Holl - February 26, 2021
It has been almost a year since the Defense Information Systems Agency, and many Department of Defense components, transitioned to a maximum telework posture to minimize the risk of spreading of the novel coronavirus disease 2019 in the workplace.

The physical distancing measures posed an enormous challenge for the agency: How would DISA, the nation’s premier IT combat support agency, continue to maintain mission readiness, collaborate internally and externally, and connect and protect the warfighter in cyberspace? The workforce needed a collaboration tool that was accessible from government-furnished equipment and personal devices, and they needed it fast.

To address this urgent need, DISA partnered with the DoD Chief Information Office’s Cloud Computing Program Office. CCPO offers expertise in providing digital and cloud-based innovations and solutions at speed. Working as a team, DISA and CCPO determined that a commercial capability platform was the best solution to address the mass telework requirement during the pandemic.

A well-known product was used to facilitate the Commercial Virtual Remote Environment. CVR provided users with the collaboration capabilities they needed when teleworking on the Non-classified Internet Protocol Router Network, or NIPRNet, such as chat and video conferencing.

With the right collaboration tool in place, the focus shifted to getting CVR out to the millions of military members around the world and to the civilians and contractors who support them. DISA helped CCPO with onboarding by working through the email routing and in the download of users into the CVR user database for provisioning.

Within a matter of weeks, CCPO was able to provision over one million users onto CVR.

“CVR obliterated the myth that it requires years to deploy a capability to the entire department,” said Sharon Woods, CCPO executive director who added, “Although this was an IT effort, its success ultimately comes down to people.”

“The DISA-CCPO collaboration was incredibly successful, from securing the contract for CVR in record speed to rolling out this important capability to the entire DoD,” said Vice Adm. Nancy A. Norton, DISA director and commander of Joint Force Headquarters-Department of Defense Information Network. “The ability of the DISA workforce and that of other DoD components to adopt CVR and use it successfully for internal and external collaboration is a stunning example of the agility our personnel possess and their commitment to our missions,” said Norton.

Norton believes the successful relationship between the two organizations boils down to one thing: trust.

“We have worked to build a high-trust relationship with CCPO,” said Norton.

And that relationship between the two organizations will continue to grow. DISA welcomed CCPO as a new standalone center Jan. 31, 2021, when it transitioned to the agency from the DoD Chief Information Office.

CCPO’s move to DISA is not a new idea. Initially set up as a non-traditional office under DoD CIO, the department always intended for CCPO to transition to DISA when the time was right. Over the last two years, CCPO has grown from infancy to a mature operations and program office, which is the reason the decision was made to transition CCPO to DISA now.

“I’m excited about this move,” said Norton. “From day one DISA has provided administrative support to CCPO but their operational direction has come from DoD CIO. As we move forward into longer term sustainment kinds of efforts, operational direction needs to come from an organization like DISA, the premier IT combat support agency for the nation that does operations, sustainment and development work across the board for the department.”

As a center, CCPO has the opportunity to incorporate into and fully participate in DISA’s governance bodies. It also allows CCPO to provide combat support with respect to cloud computing capabilities for the department, which is one of its critical mission tenants.

Because DISA already provides administrative support to CCPO, the move had no impact on personnel and its office location, which remains in Arlington, Virginia. What does change with the transition is the operational control of CCPO, which DISA now provides.

“This integration is one that I am definitely looking forward to because of what DISA and CCPO both bring to the table,” said Norton. “CCPO consists of a small group of people who are very focused, innovative and dynamic in their approach to creating new solutions, driving innovation and delivering it very quickly.”

Norton said DISA brings that same spirit of innovation, but with the scale and scope of being able to develop very large-scale operations that can be sustained over time and across all mission sets.

CCPO already has a number of groundbreaking projects it is working on and being a part of DISA opens doors to deploy those projects at scale, said Woods. Two of these projects include Cloud Infrastructure as Code and Global Directory.

IaC will provide pre-configured, pre-authorized cloud templates that will help any customer deploy to the cloud faster. Global Directory will serve as a single identity solution for all of DoD, permitting access to multiple environments with a single user account to create a better user experience, provide increased security for organizations and give a holistic view of each user who will have one identity regardless of how many DoD position changes they have throughout their career.

Woods pointed out that the move to DISA is a huge opportunity for both organizations and the department.

“CCPO brings innovation, agility, and cloud-driven advancement,” she said, “DISA brings a globally scaled enterprise of information technology and depth of experience. Together, both organizations can make each other better and deliver critical technology to support the warfighter at scale,” said Woods.

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