With more than 3.4 million service members and civilian contractors spanning 11 combat commands across 4,600 global installations, the Department of Defense (DoD) needs reliable and secure collaboration and information sharing to support our national defense. MeriTalk recently sat down with Curtis Puckett, vice president of Defense Agencies at General Dynamics Information Technology (GDIT), to discuss the Defense Enterprise Office Solutions (DEOS) contract, which is designed to meet these needs. Puckett previously served as chief of the Joint Interoperability Test Command’s cyberspace and national intelligence portfolio at DISA and director of operations for the Air Force’s 609th Air Operations Center Detachment 1 at the Combined Air Operations Center in Al Udeid, Qatar, giving him unique insights into the DoD’s communication needs and challenges, especially at the tactical edge.
MeriTalk: GDIT won the DEOS contract in late 2020. The goal of the contract is to streamline the DoD’s use of cloud email and collaborative tools while improving cybersecurity and information sharing across the DoD enterprise. How would you assess progress under the contract so far?
Curtis Puckett: The contract is progressing well. DISA did an excellent job using the contract to respond to the needs of the department as we fought through the pandemic and everyone shifted to remote work. This was accomplished through a lot of hard work and long nights from the teams at GDIT, Microsoft, and DISA. Today, with Lily Zeleke and the Honorable John Sherman in the DoD chief information officer’s office, we are pushing even harder to deliver for the department. They’ve been critical in driving things forward and we are following their lead, especially with the IL6 joint tenant.
Now post-pandemic, the Impact Level 5 (IL5) joint tenant has been stood up. Multiple other unclassified tenants have also been stood up, and we’re on the cusp of having users in the IL6 joint tenant.
MeriTalk: What does DEOS mean for DoD mission partners?
Puckett: Through DEOS, DoD mission partners have easy access to collaboration services, including Office 365, on a 10-year blanket purchase agreement (BPA), which DISA is successfully managing. Mission partners can get support services, licenses, tools, assessments, migration services – all the things they need for successful implementation and operation. That’s the greatness of DEOS. Dozens of organizations and hundreds of thousands of people are actively using DEOS, and it continues to grow. When we get to IL6, it’s going to grow exponentially.
MeriTalk: We’re about three years in on DEOS so far. How has the BPA been used by the department since it was awarded?
Puckett: The IL5 tenants have been stood up and the department is using Microsoft 365 in those tenants today. As awareness of the contract vehicle grows, people are starting to think about using it in different ways – to support disconnected environments, to get a migration assessment, to obtain engineering support around a cloud service, for example. The BPA is very broad and useful for mission partners to buy services and improve what they’re doing in the cloud.
MeriTalk: DEOS goes beyond Office 365. What are some of the other cloud services that are offered?
Puckett: It’s an extremely versatile contract with many additional cloud services, including migration services; real-time environment monitoring; data classification and tagging; zero trust security; identity, credential, and access management (ICAM); and cross-cloud and cross-tenant collaboration. We’re also connecting and supporting denied, disconnected, intermittent, and limited bandwidth (DDIL) environments.
Tenant management is another important offering. Think of it this way: 14 tenants are inside the IL5 part of the cloud. One of them is the joint tenant managed by DISA, and other organizations have their own tenants. It’s like their own house in a city. Under the contract, we can manage multiple tenants – gaining cost savings and providing consistent tenant configuration and security controls.
MeriTalk: GDIT, leveraging the success of DISA’s joint M365 tenant in the unclassified environment, is integrating the first classified cloud Office 365 environment in the DoD. How are GDIT, DISA, and Microsoft working together to make this vision a reality?
Puckett: GDIT is very privileged to be the service integrator helping to put Office 365 in a classified cloud. It’s a huge endeavor that requires a lot of collaboration. Microsoft migrated the many components of the Office 365 and supporting services to the classified environment. We are thoroughly testing what they have delivered. If we find anything, it’s sent back to Microsoft, who will continue to improve the service until it passes testing. Once it clears testing, we let the users start putting their fingers to keyboards to see if they can break it. Our goal is to break it as fast as possible, fix it, and get it out there for the mission partners to use. Microsoft, DISA, and GDIT are working very well together and are aligned on the end goal.
MeriTalk: As you mentioned before, many agencies have their own tenants of Office 365 or other cloud services. How can DEOS potentially streamline those tenants?
Puckett: Through DEOS, GDIT can help organizations identify and address specific gaps or objectives in their cloud services, whether that’s supporting improvements of the core Office 365 offerings or the underlying networking, security, or support services. We understand how those things are managed in the cloud as well as the security controls. We can offer best practice advice as consultants to help organizations understand what they need to do, or we can manage the environment – which provides the scale that helps drive down costs and increase efficiency.
MeriTalk: How does GDIT help defense organizations migrate to DEOS, and what other assistance do you provide?
Puckett: We have a proven process to get defense organizations onto the DEOS BPA. If an organization has their own tenant, we can map their objectives to the services offered under the contract and coordinate with DISA and GSA to do the onboarding. We currently offer email, OneDrive, SharePoint, and project migration assessments. We find out what you have, estimate the cost to move it, and then handle the migration. Our SharePoint migrations move not only the data, but also the workflows behind the data. Not every tool can handle this level of complexity.
We’re also standing up permanent change of station (PCS) tenant-to-tenant migration. This is extremely useful for service members and staff who are moving from one DoD organization to another, which is quite common. Our PCS migration tool and process makes sure that their Office 365 data moves from their old tenant to their new tenant, so they have everything they need when they arrive at their new assignment.
MeriTalk: Last May, the DEOS initiative expanded with the addition of a project to develop a proof of concept in a DDIL environment. You’re working with DISA and Microsoft on this effort. How is it progressing?
Puckett: We worked with Navy and Marine Corps organizations that had a specific DDIL use case that they wanted to test. The use case came through the DoD-wide DDIL working group. We did the testing and the deployment inside a lab to have a full representation of the problem they were trying to solve. We successfully concluded the project at the end of 2022. Everyone was happy with the results, and we hope to test more DDIL use cases soon.
Everyone’s trying to figure out how to use collaboration tools in a disconnected environment with a local network, disconnected from the cloud. In a combat environment, a chat program is probably the most important tool we have. To improve operational speed in real time, we often use secure chat programs to collaborate across several organizations to ensure mission success. These tools are critical to the warfighter.
MeriTalk: What is the biggest challenge you have with DEOS today?
Puckett: It’s getting organizations educated about the BPA so people can use it. We are working with DISA and Microsoft to get the word out so mission partners around DoD know it’s available to them. We can do a lot of great work for DoD mission partners – assessments, migrations, engineering support including DDIL, zero trust, security, and so on. We look forward to supporting the diverse requirements of mission partners with DEOS.