The Defense Department crossed a major milestone in its work to establish its Microsoft 365 cloud environment, known as DOD 365, late last week, according to a Pentagon official.
Danielle Metz, DOD deputy chief information officer for the information enterprise, told Nextgov in an interview 17 Impact Level 5 tenant owners successfully implemented security configuration changes in the DOD 365 environment on Thursday. IL5 addresses controlled unclassified information.
“This is the first step for us to be able to get to the point where we’ll be able to have direct internet access for web browsers,” Metz said. “So that was something that was a lofty goal, incredibly ambitious schedule, and we actually did it.”
Metz said this work took two weeks with IL5 tenant owners, the Microsoft team, and engineers from across the military services, the Defense Information Systems Agency and other DOD components.
“It was remarkable to watch how they created a war room, they were in it together, actively exchanging lessons learned, as they were implementing these standard configuration guides,” Metz said. “Everyone knew that there was an aggressive timeline. They honored the mission by doing their work in a very professional and dedicated manner.”
The goal is to have the capability available across the whole DOD 365 environment by early June, Metz said, adding “we’re on a really good trajectory” to do so. After ensuring the DOD 365 cloud environment will have direct internet access for web browsers, the next sprint will do the same for bring-your-own-approved devices, followed by another sprint for desktops, Metz said.
The Defense Department has been working on delivering enterprise business collaboration tools since 2016, and after some contracting difficulties, implementation of the Defense Enterprise Office Solution contract is well underway. The contract is proving the department can do enterprisewide blanket purchase agreements at scale for these kinds of cloud capabilities, Metz said. General Dynamics Information Technology is the integrator for the project.
DEOS implementation is benefitting from the department’s experience standing up the Commercial Virtual Remote environment, which is the temporary solution providing collaboration tools to DOD users to support telework rolled out during the pandemic, Metz said. The department has created and conducted assessment testing with the office of the director of operational testing and evaluation, the cyber services components, and U.S. Cyber Command to determine how to set up flexible DOD 365 capabilities.
These assessments allowed for quick sprints that incorporated real-time feedback, Metz said. DOD is now implementing zero-trust principles in the DOD365 environment to ensure all tenants are supported by a mandatory minimum cybersecurity baseline upon which all the tenants can build, she added.
“We’re really encouraging DEOS to be the first choice in terms of receiving your software-as-a-service, office suite capabilities,” Metz said. “And in order for us to encourage that from the department, instead of mandating it, what we are doing is creating what I’ll call a delightful customer experience. So streamlining how you could do the initiations and execution of the task orders as well as making it competitively priced.”