IT consolidation for military’s Fourth Estate agencies is coming next year, officials say

Nancy Norton (DISA photo)

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The Department of Defense’s effort to consolidate its support agencies’ IT will have the bulk of its work done in fiscal 2021, senior IT officials said Tuesday.

The large-scale project will take years to fully complete, with estimates from DOD reaching to fiscal 2025. The project remains on schedule despite the coronavirus pandemic and some hiccups with workforce transfers.

Previous timelines indicated the Defense Information Systems Agency had planned for the widespread consolidation in fiscal 2022 of the 27 non-warfighting support agencies’ IT networks and help desks.

DISA starting bringing 22 of the networks into a new DODNet in fiscal 2020, Principal Deputy Chief Information Officer John Sherman said Tuesday.

“Above all, this transformation will allow each [Defense Agency and Field Activity] to focus on its core mission,” Sherman said during AFCEA’s TechNet Cyber conference.

The 4ENO initiative aims to bring 22 of the support agencies’ networks into one consolidated service and support operation run by DISA. Agencies in the Fourth Estate, which includes operations like the Defense Logistic Agency, currently operate their own IT systems and help desks, creating redundancies and security weaknesses, officials have said.

The consolidation plan was announced in 2018. It has undergone changes as DOD ran into challenges transferring IT employees and faced a bigger lift than initially expected, Sherman said.

DISA’s outgoing director, Vice Adm. Nancy Norton, said at TechNet that the coronavirus pandemic has not affected DISA’s work on 4ENO or other major projects.

“We have not just survived, we have thrived,” she said.

A review done by the DOD CIO’s office last year found that more than a 1,000 employees and hundreds of contractors were needed to support disparate networks across the Fourth Estate. Each agency operates its own unclassified and classified networks along with its own help desk. DOD saw the size of the IT workforce and various network operations as a waste of resources and a security risk.

The disparate nature of all the networks “forced many [support agencies] to maintain their own networks … in a less than optimal security posture,” Sherman said.

Once the full consolidation is complete, DISA will be an IT service provider to the support agencies under the new system. The agency already operates global network services for DOD and military operations and has a large IT and cybersecurity workforce, making it the ideal operator of the Fourth Estate networks, Sherman and others at the TechNet conference said.

Recently revised DISA strategy also puts 2021 as the year implementing the modernization plan.

“DISA is currently procuring the capability for user activity monitoring for the Fourth Estate in 2020, with planned full operational capability in fiscal year 2021,” DISA’s updated 2019-2022 strategy states.

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Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), Fourth Estate, IT Modernization, john sherman, Nancy Norton
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