Military Embedded Systems

Army 365 cyber upgrade continues for armed forces


February 04, 2022

Lisa Daigle

Assistant Managing Editor

Military Embedded Systems

Army 365 cyber upgrade continues for armed forces
In this 2020 Army photo: Capt. Kelly Spencer, a brigade nurse and the officer-in-charge of a minimal care ward at the Seattle Event Center. Image: Sgt. 1st Class Brent Powell.

The summer of 2021 saw the U.S. Army embark on a service-wide migration to Army 365, which provides soldiers and Army civilians with a cloud-based collaboration capability; final email and platforms integration is expected sometime later in 2022.

The new Army program is an upgrade to the commercial virtual remote (CVR) environment somewhat hurriedly fielded to the Department of Defense (DoD) workforce during the spring of 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic forced widespread remote work.

A three-phased approach will transition all Microsoft Teams, email, and SharePoint systems to Army 365 and eliminate the need for the temporary CVR and other functions, says Lt. Gen. John B. Morrison Jr., Army deputy chief of staff, G-6. The goal, he adds, is to provide a much-improved user environment among the Army’s 1.2 million service members, civilians, and support contractors.

Raj Iyer, the Army’s chief information officer, says that while the CVR “came in handy” during the early part of the pandemic when everyone had to resort to telework, “Army 365 gives us an enduring capability to collaborate across the Army, along with our sister services, the joint force, and industry.”

Army 365 hosts a range of resources including video and voice teleconferencing, email, instant messaging, and access to shared drives. As soldiers and civilians log into the Army 365 environment for the first time, they will see a suite of programs that will far exceed the CVR experience, Morrison asserts. The system hosts a range of resources to include video and voice teleconferencing, email, instant messaging, and access to shared drives.

“Cybersecurity was baked into the development of this architecture from the beginning,” Morrison says. “As we migrate to Army 365, we’re treating it like an operation. It is aligned against an operational [command-and-control] construct.”

Vital to the rollout: Army Cyber Command and Army Network Enterprise Technology Command, both of which are involved to provide an added layer of protection beyond what the commercial market can offer.

The shift to Army 365, Morrison says, will also help the service phase out previously used computer capabilities, like SharePoint and CVR, by shifting all personnel to a shared, familiar environment to improve productivity.

Iyer adds that users will also get computer support from a single source, as the Army will provide support from the Army enterprise service desk.

Security in a hurry

Delivery of the CVR, the initial enhanced security capability to the Army enterprise, at the beginning of the remote-work order in March 2020 was facilitated by the Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C5ISR) Center (a component of Army Futures Command’s Combat Capabilities Development Command) along with Army Cyber Command (ARCYBER), Army Network Enterprise Technology Command (NETCOM), and Microsoft.

“When DoD needed a team to provide 24x7 Defensive Cyber Operations (DCO) for CVR [at the beginning of the pandemic], they turned to the C5ISR Center because of our subject-matter expertise in cloud and our history of rapidly adapting to new technologies,” says Greg Weaver, operations manager of the Center’s Defensive Cyber Solutions Branch. The C5ISR Center transitioned the CVR cybersecurity services mission to the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) in the fall of 2020. The Army then also sought the C5ISR Center’s help when it decided to develop and implement Army 365 while sustaining the DCO mission.

CVR was never intended to be permanent, says Carlos Mateo, a cybersecurity architect at the C5ISR Center; Army 365 is the Army’s follow-on to CVR to ensure there is no loss of the lessons learned and capabilities achieved during CVR.

Three-phased approach

The first phase of the Army 365 migration began in the summer of 2021 with the service-wide transition of CVR and Microsoft Teams capabilities, with the second phase transitioning government email capabilities to Army 365 before the closure of the Defense Enterprise Email service by March 2022.

The final phase will move all SharePoint services to Army 365, with this portion of the transition taking the longest – the finish date for this piece is expected some time late in fiscal year 2022.

Program officials will continue to test and validate Army 365 as it’s rolled out and gains users. As it evolves, Morrison says, ­officials will generate user guides for the force to ensure a seamless transition: “Army 365 is going to be such a game-changing integrated capability and it pushes the limit on how we can improve our business and operational processes.

“We are going to look for that feedback. We know that soldier and civilian ingenuity will use this capability in ways we couldn’t even imagine. Capturing those lessons learned will be important.”

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