Jerry DotsonApril 15, 2021

Harnessing UC For Real-Time Collaboration Across the DoD Enterprise

The work from home revolution is only one piece of the digital transformation that the Department of Defense (DoD) is undertaking. The DoD and all branches of the military are trying to realize a vision of ubiquitous operations where their vast, dispersed workforce can conduct business and manage operations from anywhere. That means accessing all necessary data – both classified and unclassified – securely and reliably.

“In times of crisis, few things are more important to ensuring mission success than the ability to interconnect information, people, and resources,” said former U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Danelle Barrett in an article she recently wrote in CHIPS, the Navy’s IT magazine. “The current pandemic presents the challenge of having to accomplish this with an unprecedented remote workforce.”

The ability of military commands to easily adapt is tied to how quickly they could enable their digital workplace by leveraging and utilizing existing unified communications (UC) solutions, platforms, and revised workplace processes, Barrett noted. Therefore, “a holistic digital transformational approach needs to be considered and any key enterprise data and transport architecture capabilities need to be backed up by a unified communications plan to ensure mission success,” she said.

If the department is going to realize the vision of accessing and transferring data “from anywhere to anywhere,” this approach must be applied across both the business enterprise and operational networks.

Unified Communications: A Connective Tissue

UC serves as the connective tissue that brings the business support and operational environments together. This connectivity allows for communications and real-time collaboration to occur whether personnel are working from home, the office, aboard a ship at sea, in the air, or on a remote battlefield.

Everything is connected today. The business enterprise is where military commands deal with telework, readiness, and training issues. The operational side focuses on the sensors, shooters, Internet of Things (IoT) devices at the tactical edge, and unmanned vehicles. The workforce handling the operational platforms need business support to do their jobs. For example, if they cannot get the logistical and readiness support from the team back home, personnel aboard an aircraft carrier or with a signal battalion will run out of parts and equipment.

If intelligence organizations cannot provide “all-source intelligence” and upload that information to sensors, shooters and other platforms, military forces and intelligence officers in the field cannot do their jobs effectively.

The two environments must be connected to support the warfighter and the business of getting things done for them. Then, the DoD can achieve the goals of the Joint All Domain Command and Control, or JADC2, the DoD-wide IT architecture needed to realize the vision of a networked joint force, able to operate at 21st century speed. JADC2 seeks to eliminate the DoD and military services’ stovepipes in favor of a totally integrated and truly networked force, capable of connecting any shooter or sensor to any field commander, at any time.

That is where capabilities from companies like Avaya come in, allowing the transport backbone to move the data. Then the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and Joint Forces must organize their data and employ data analytical tools from industry to help them make sense of their data. The DoD workforce must use that data in a smart way, whether it is readiness data, training data, operational data, shooter data, sensor data, whatever kind of data, according to Barrett.

Reimagine IT

To realize the vision of making data ubiquitous, DoD will have to reimagine its IT architecture – embracing an open standards-based approach, not just to hardware and software, but to IT services as well.

The complex, hybrid IT environment in which DoD elements must meet their mission requires cloud-based services from different vendors to play nicely with each other, just as their hardware and software products must do. “It’s not all going to come from one provider,” Don Turner, Senior Product Management, Avaya Government Solutions, noted in an article in Signal Magazine.

For multi-vendor IT environments to work, the DoD must set and enforce standards to ensure interoperability. “Standards enable DoD to deploy new capabilities, and scale them rapidly, with the confidence they can integrate with existing tools, platforms and devices,” he said.

The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) helped this effort by publishing both a cloud security requirements guide, and a cloud connection process guide, setting standards that cloud services must meet.

With those standards in place across the DoD enterprise, cloud-to-cloud services like Avaya’s OneCloud Secure can reach out across the department’s networks to get the unclassified data its workforce needs to execute the mission. “We can obtain that data, extract that data, share that data, make it securely available to the people that need it on any device, over any network,” Turner said.

Enabling a digital workplace through UC is more than just providing voice and conferencing access.  Adopting and adapting to a true digital domain using UC solutions lets military commands leverage and embrace situational awareness, operations and business continuity, cybersecurity, automation, flexible consumption, and omnichannel notification, to name a few benefits.

As we move beyond the pandemic response, DoD leadership knows that the horse is out of the barn. “There is no turning back on proceeding with key IT infrastructure and digital transformation initiatives – particularly those that deliver an agile and flexible remote workforce,” Barrett noted.

To learn more about how DoD organizations have overcome the challenges of digital transformation and enabling a digital workplace, join AFCEA for a webinar, “Ensuring Mission Success & Safety in a Dispersed Work Environment: Maximizing the Power of Unified Communications (UC) on June 10, 2021 at 11:00 AM EST. Register today to discover how the DoD has delivered the resources and tools needed to successfully accomplish their mission during unprecedented times.

Harnessing UC For Real-Time Collaboration Across the DoD Enterprise

Jerry Dotson

Jerry Dotson is the Vice President for Avaya Public Sector. Dotson oversees the design and implementation of communication services to support the various operations of DoD, Civilian, Intel, and SLED  customers.

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