The Army's plans to move its email system to a Defense Information Systems Agency enterprise cloud darkened on Tuesday as a House Armed Services subcommittee chopped the project's 2012 budget by 98 percent, contingent upon the Army conducting a business case analysis of the program intended to serve 1.6 million email accounts.
The Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee said during the markup of its portion of the 2012 Defense Department budget released on Tuesday that it will allow the Army to spend only 2 percent, or $1.7 million, of its requested $85.4 million budget for the servicewide email system based on Microsoft Exchange until it completes an analysis and delivers a report.
The bill language, which still must pass the full House and Senate to become law, said that the Army must furnish the subcommittee with the original case analysis to support the move to DISA for email service and an examination of alternatives considered.
The subcommittee also asked the Army to provide an economic analysis, including life-cycle costs, for the switch to DISA and a cost-benefit analysis of sustainment costs.
Margaret McBride, spokeswoman for the Army Chief Information Office, said the service expects to save more than $100 million a year through efficiencies gained from the enterprise email system, starting in 2013.
The subcommittee released its bill language just as Air Force Maj. Gen. Ronnie Hawkins, DISA vice director, was telling a joint Army-DISA press briefing that DISA is in talks with the other services, defense agencies and combatant commands to transfer their email to the DISA cloud. Hawkins said that from the DISA perspective, it's a question of when such a transition will occur, while for the Air Force it's a question of if it will happen.
The African Command and the European Command will use the DISA cloud, as the Army provides them with services -- including email and information technology systems, Hawkins said. He added that the Transportation Command and Northern Command have signed on to the DISA email cloud, along with the Defense Logistics Agency.
Ray Bjorklund, senior vice president and chief knowledge officer of consulting firm FedSources, said the email language might reflect industry concerns that DISA could end up as the monopoly email supplier for the Defense Department, with numerous companies angling for the business, including Google and Microsoft.
Spokesmen for Google and Microsoft declined to comment on the email language in the subcommittee's bill.
Last month, Teresa Takai, the Defense Department's chief information officer, told the Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee that she would not rule out the use of commercial cloud suppliers, though she says the "paramount" goal of security is best achieved using an internal "private" Defense systems.
Warren Suss, president of Suss Consulting, said the language would definitely cramp the Army's enterprise email strategy. He said he had no doubts that the Army has already done the requested business case analysis and said he was surprised by the language in the bill. A cost-saving project such as moving email to the DISA cloud, he said, was something Congress "would embrace and encourage."
Army deputy CIO Mike Krieger told a press briefing that the DISA consolidation has allowed the Army to hosts its email operations in just nine DISA computing centers, whereas before, a single post -- Fort Belvoir, Va., alone hosted 20 email servers.
Krieger said the Army has transferred 20,000 email accounts to DISA as of May 3 and expects to complete transition of 1.4 million unclassified email accounts and 200,000 secret email accounts by the end of this calendar year.