DISA puts an end to ad hoc collaboration

With contract to IBM, DOD standardizes on software to share information

Defense personnel always have collaborated on the fly, using an assortment of government-developed and commercially acquired instant messaging and Web conferencing software products.

That's about to change.

The Defense Information Systems Agency has hired IBM Corp. to provide enterprisewide 'pay for use' collaboration services under its Net-Centric Enterprise Services program. The $17 million contract, announced July 13, will bring the Defense Department instant messaging, text chat, Web conferencing, whiteboarding and application sharing, including audio and video capabilities.

'The former way was really an ad hoc set of heterogeneous capabilities that some communities were able to use and some were not. It was not ubiquitous across the DOD,' said Linda Marshall, director of defense agencies for IBM Global Services in Fairfax, Va. 'This will introduce one vehicle for which they can collaborate and share real-time information across all the agencies.'

IBM will host unclassified applications for DOD at a secure facility managed by ServerVault Corp. of Dulles, Va., Marshall said.

In addition to this contract, which runs for one base year with two option years, DISA also plans to acquire a second commercially managed collaboration service to promote competition between the service providers, according to officials. Defense users eventually will have two choices for collaboration services.

'Until now, collaboration tools tended to be local enclave solutions, or at best limited to a single service or command,' said Rebecca Harris, NCES program director for DISA. 'An enterprise solution provides additional capability by enabling communication across organizational boundaries.'

Collaboration is one of nine core services that make up the NCES initiative. The others are applications, discovery, enterprise service management, mediation, messaging, security, storage and user assistance. DISA eventually will look at all of the core services to figure out a way to deliver them across DOD.

The acquisition is structured in a way that Harris called 'transformational.'

'First, the contract structure for this acquisition is a 'pay for use' type contract,' she said. 'Instead of paying for individual per-seat licenses, DISA has established a contract structure that allows the government to only pay for the services that are actually used, which is very similar to a cellular phone plan.'

'Secondly, since DISA has contracted to utilize an existing commercial service, we expect the capabilities to be available to our customers almost immediately,' she said.

Although DOD awarded the contract to bring enterprisewide collaboration tools to support warfighters who are deployed globally, an auxiliary benefit will promote telecommuting across DOD, Marshall added.

In another recent NCES contracting development, DISA awarded a $1 million contract to Merlin Technical Solutions Inc. of Greenwood Village, Colo., in June to provide service-oriented architecture governance products for the agency's Net-Enabled Command Capability and NCES initiatives.

Merlin Technical Solutions is functioning as an integrator under the DISA contract, using SOA management tools developed by Systinet Corp. of Burlington, Mass.


  • senior center (vuqarali/Shutterstock.com)

    Bmore Responsive: Home-grown emergency response coordination

    Working with the local Code for America brigade, Baltimore’s Health Department built a new contact management system that saves hundreds of hours when checking in on senior care centers during emergencies.

  • man checking phone in the dark (Maridav/Shutterstock.com)

    AI-based ‘listening’ helps VA monitor vets’ mental health

    To better monitor veterans’ mental health, especially during the pandemic, the Department of Veterans Affairs is relying on data and artificial intelligence-based analytics.

Stay Connected