Navy wants to move its email to DISA’s forthcoming cloud offering

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As part of its planning for the upcoming recompetition of its multibillion-dollar Next Generation Enterprise Network (NGEN) contract, the Navy would very much like to become a big customer of the Defense Information Systems Agency’s new department-wide offering for email, voice, video and other “unified capabilities.”

Trouble is, the system, Defense Enterprise Office Solutions (DEOS), doesn’t exist yet, and no one can say with certainty exactly what capabilities it will offer or how much DISA will charge for them.

Under the Navy’s current acquisition plans, the existing NGEN contract would be broken into four segments, with “productivity services” split off from the main contract and handled by DEOS. But at least in the short-term, it’s looking as though the Navy will have to continue to provide for its own unified communications services as part of the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet.

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“What the Navy can utilize is going to depend on the mechanism that the DEOS contract puts in place and the agreements that they have in place,” said Capt. Don Harder, the deputy program executive officer for enterprise information systems and the senior Navy official overseeing the NGEN procurement. “But the expectation is that we will utilize those services that are advantageous for us to utilize.”

Harder told reporters Tuesday that the Navy intends to write the contract for the upcoming NGEN competition in such a way that it can transition to the DISA offering whenever it becomes available. The agency has not yet released a final request for proposals for DEOS, nor has it announced an expected award date.

“When the DEOS contract is implemented, we will be standing ready to utilize it as a method of procuring our productivity services,” he said. “We are writing our contract in a way that provides for those productivity services to be provided to us as they are today under the NGEN contract, and then migrated over in the future, either through another contract or the DEOS contract when it becomes available.”

DEOS is DISA’s planned follow-on to its existing Defense Enterprise Email service and is intended to run under a commercially-operated software-as-a-service model, unlike the existing email offering, which is operated inside DISA data centers. Once known as Defense Enterprise Email 2.0, it has been in the planning stages for more than two years. If indeed the Navy opts to transition its 700,000 users to the service, it would dramatically expand DISA’s customer base for email services.

The Army is currently, by far, the largest user of Defense Enterprise Email. Last week, the Air Force appeared to settle on a different path, announcing a $1 billion, five-year contract with three companies to implement its own instantiation of Microsoft’s Office 365, including a cloud-based email capability.

“The biggest area we have to understand still is the migration of our data from the current [NCMI] environment to a new cloud environment where productivity services may be provided,” Harder said. “However, utilizing the lessons learned from what the Air Force is doing today and a pilot program that we’re planning to implement, I think we’ll be able to mitigate any negative impacts fairly well.”

The Navy announced last week that it was delaying the planned award of its next NGEN contract by roughly six months — until December 2018 — in part, so that it can gather more input from industry.

To do that, Harder said PEO-EIS had implemented what he called a contract development “sprint” — taking principles from agile software development and attempting to apply them to the way the Navy conducts the acquisition process, including by conducting weekly conference calls with potential bidders (there were 90 on last week’s call) and continually circulating draft versions of contract documents with tweaks that reflect industry’s concerns.

“Really what this allows us an opportunity to do is to continue to develop the acquisition documents in a way that lets us buy these products in the way they are sold in industry,” he said. “We’ve gotten a lot of very solid input back from industry early on, which has allowed us to modify our documents to get us closer to the expected outcome for the end user.”

Beginning within the next month, the Navy also plans to start conducting “engineering days” so that its technical experts can meet face-to-face with their counterparts in industry, letting them know how NMCI operates today and what the Navy expects from the next NGEN contract.

But Harder said the development process for the upcoming NGEN recompetition will not rely solely on input from industry.

“Not only have we been using this process with industry, we have been using it with our stakeholders — the users — as well,” he said. “We’ve had many of the components involved very extensively over the past year, we include them in all of the reviews, and we incorporate their comments as well. But I also think we have learned more from industry on how to write language into the contract that does not preclude specific solution sets that would be advantageous and provide a better value to the government … we’re not gearing this toward any one solution.”

As part of the NGEN delay, the Navy also plans to make a sole-source award to DXC Technology to extend the current contract, which expires at the end of June 2018 (DXC is the successor firm to HP Enterprise following its merger earlier this year with CSC).

Officials said they expected the continuity of services contract to last for an additional 23 months in order to allow adequate time for the Navy to transition to the new contract.

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