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DISA in the 21st Century

Lt. Gen. Raudege
Lt. Gen. Harry D. Raduege, Jr.,
DISA Director, June 2000 to July 2005 

With the new century, DISA faced even greater challenges as a DoD service provider. Preserving radio spectrum, information assurance, ensuring interoperability, and establishing secure wireless links were just some of the tasks faced by the agency.

500-Day Plan and Customer Advocacy

When he became director of DISA in June 2000, Air Force Lt Gen Harry D. Raduege Jr. realized that DISA needed to improve services, provide faster delivery, and develop and maintain better customer relations. Since 1996, DoD's non-classified (NIPR Net) networks grew 400 percent in data traffic, traffic on the classified networks increased 600 percent, and DISA was experiencing some difficulties managing such explosive growth.

Raduege talked with commanders and other key officials, such as the chief information officers in the military services, to determine what DISA was doing well and how the agency could be more responsive to the needs of its customers. Based on t he feedback he received, DISA developed a 500-day plan for improving the agency. The plan contained 140 items aimed at renovating the agency’s approach to customer services and addressing the challenges of wireless communications, information assurance, and interoperability.

Photo of Lt. Gen. Raudege talking about 500-Day Plan and Customer Advocacy
Lt. Gen. Raduege (holding document)
introduces the 500-Day Plan

DISA and the Global War on Terrorism

Perhaps the most significant achievement of the agency in 2001 was its immediate response in the aftermath of the attacks of Sept. 11. DISA justified $300 million in supplemental funds to support the Global War on Terrorism by providing critical communications paths and command and control enhancements for warfighters.

DISA History Photo
911 Pentagon Attack

DISA Support for Operation Iraqi Freedom

In the 18 months between September 2001 and April 2003, DISA supported the exponential use and increased capacity of information systems. The Defense Switched Network (DSN) infrastructure increased 400 percent. The Secret Internet Protocol (IP) Data Service (formerly known as the SIPRNet) capacity increased 292 percent. Sensitive but Unclassified Internet Protocol (IP) Data Service (formerly known as NIPRNet)capacity increased 509 percent. The Defense Video System Global (Secure) increased 1,150 percent. Satellite bandwidth increased 800 percent. The Enhanced Mobile Satellite Service (EMSS) capacity increased 300 percent, and usage increased 3,000 percent. EMSS allowed Special Operations forces to even call in air strikes from horseback in Afghanistan by permitting instantaneous communications in areas without any infrastructure whatsoever. The elevated demand for bandwidth communications for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) and video-teleconferencing (VTC) for leader’s strategic planning drove this need for increased capabilities and capacity.

For Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, DISA provided 30 times more bandwidth to a 45-percent smaller force than in Operation Desert Storm in 1991. DISA facilitated multiple enhancements to the nation’s preeminent joint command-and-control system and provided a real-time battle space picture.

In 2003 and 2004, DISA played a huge role in building a functional communications infrastructure to assist in the reconstruction of post-war Iraq. This was a monumental effort as the infrastructure throughout Iraq that never existed prior to the war. Basically, the mission was to provide fully scalable, redundant, and integrated information technology and telephone services to elements of the Coalition Provisional Authority and elements of the U.S. Central Command.

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Consolidation of DISA’s DECCs Megacenters

After the previous consolidation of 194 data-processing centers in the 1990s into 16 computing mega-centers, DISA has since striven to further reduce the number of mega-centers from 16 to six. In 2002, DISA Computing Services supported more than 700,000 users; operated more than 1,200 applications using more than 55 mainframes and 1,350 servers, 24 hours a day every day, and supported both unclassified and classified computing environments. DISA transformed a mainframe computer service provider into a full information technology provider. Under the consolidation, the agency reduced the Computing Services workforce by two-thirds from 3,700 to a planned level of 1,400, reduced the cost of mainframe processing by 50 percent, increased the processing capacity by 100 percent, and saved $143 million per year.

 Photo of SMC Montgomery
SMC Montgomery
Photo of SMC Ogden
SMC Ogden 

WHCA Communications Upgrade Program

Starting in 2003, DISA managed the six-year, $326 million effort to completely modernize presidential communications — the largest such initiative in the 61-year history of the WHCA. The “Pioneer Program” transformed presidential communications by employing net-centric concepts to put voice, video, and data at the president’s fingertips on an around-the-clock basis.

Global Information Grid – Bandwidth Expansion (GIG-BE) Program

The Global Information Grid Bandwidth Expansion (GIG-BE) Program was a major DoD net-centric transformational initiative executed by DISA. The $877 million program was the largest DoD information technology transport structure ever built. GIG-BE created a ubiquitous "bandwidth-available" environment to improve national security intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, information assurance, and command and control at locations worldwide.

After extensive component integration and operational testing, implementation began in early 2004 and extended through 2005. GIG-BE achieved initial operational capability (IOC) at six sites Sept. 30, 2004. On Dec. 20, 2005, the GIG-BE program achieved the milestone of full operational capability at all of the almost 100 Joint Staff-approved sites.

DISA History Photo 
Mr. David Mihelcic and Mr. Anthony Montemarano
standing among GIG-BE servers

National Communications System Transfers to the Department of Homeland Security

For nearly 40 years, the DISA director served also as the manager of the National Communications System (NCS). However, March 1, 2003, in accordance with a presidential executive order, NCS was transferred to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Changes for the Joint Task Force – Computer Network Defense (JTF-CND)

In early 2000, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld decided to combine the Computer Network Attack (CNA) mission with the Computer Network Defense (CND) mission and rename the Joint Task Force – Computer Network Defense (JTF-CND) as the Joint Task Force – Computer Network Operations (JTF-CNO), effective April 2001. Army MG J. David Bryan, who also served as the DISA vice director, assumed command of the JTF-CNO. In August 2003, the attack and defense missions were separated again, and JTF-CNO retained responsibility of network defense.

The most fundamental change in the history of the young organization occurred the following year when the elements of DISA’s monitoring mission were combined with that of the JTF, and the JTF became a three-star command with a new and expanded global mission. To reflect the new global emphasis, the name of the JTF was changed to JTF-GNO (Global Network Operations). On June 19, 2004, the Director of DISA, Lt Gen Raduege, assumed command of the JTF-GNO. However, this “dual-hatted” relationship ended Sept. 7, 2010, with the deactivation of the JTF-GNO. The mission of the JTF is now fully integrated into the U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM).

Anticipating the deactivation of the JTF-GNO, DISA fully reconstituted the DISA Command Center (DCC) in June 2010 to synchronize the delivery of DISA services to DoD, combatant commands, the military services, and defense agencies and to exercise robust and redundant command and control of all DISA resources under all circumstances to include cyber attack, physical attack, and natural disaster.

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DISA Reorganization 2003

In October 2003, Lt Gen Raduege initiated the most massive transformation in DISA’s history to prepare DoD for its next battlefield challenge being net-centric warfare. The reorganization focused on five major areas: acquisition, engineering, operations, finance, and governance. One of the driving challenges was the need for DISA to become a joint service information-technology-acquisition organization. One objective was to create an organizational structure that would position DISA to be DoD’s provider of end-to-end global net-centric solutions.

Security, Reach, and Speed and the ABCs

DISA History Photo
Lt. Gen. Charles E. Croom Jr.,
DISA Director, July 2005 to July 2008

In 2005, Air Force Lt Gen Charles E. Croom Jr, (pictured left) became the DISA director and led the development of a new strategy, which was called “Security, Reach, and Speed” and that called DISA to aggressively lead in five areas:

Speed: Deliver information technology capabilities and services faster.

Power to the edge: Extend enterprise services to the edge.

Operational excellence: Accelerate operational effectiveness and efficiency.

Sharing and defending information: Enable sharing of information while staunchly defending it.

Best value: Ensure customers know and understand the value of DISA capabilities and services.

Keeping the focus on increasing the speed of information technology (IT) acquisition to provide additional or enhanced capabilities to national leaders and warfighters more quickly, Croom emphasized getting DoD to act smarter and quicker on fielding IT. Croom’s new approach for information technology acquisition was as simple as ABC — Adapt, or Buy, or Create. The philosophy was to adopt or adapt existing capabilities before buying and to create only when necessary. The industry model of rapidly fielding 70 percent solutions provides an example, demonstrating that it is better to field a less than perfect solution to an existing problem now than to wait for several years in the attempt to develop a more nearly perfect product.

In the spirit of ABC, DISA adopted the Army Knowledge Online (AKO) portal as the foundation of the Defense Knowledge Online (DKO) Web portal and adopted a commercial solution for DoD-wide collaboration. DISA continued to strive for the fastest, most innovative solutions for its customers, the warfighter. Among the many programs pursued by the agency were the following three:

Net-Centric Enterprise Services (NCES)

Net-Centric Enterprise Services (NCES) is a DoD program, managed by DISA, to develop IT infrastructure services for the GIG. NCES enables information sharing by connecting people and systems that have information (data and services) with those who need information. NCES services include collaboration (Defense Connect Online), content delivery (including GIG Content Delivery Services and Enterprise File Delivery), content discovery (including Enterprise Search and Enterprise Catalog), service-oriented architecture foundation, metadata discovery, people discovery, and user access/portal (Defense Knowledge Online).


Forge.mil is a family of services provided to support the DoD's technology development community. The system enables the collaborative development and use of open source and DoD community source software. For programs and projects that require greater access control, the system supports private collaborative development with an on demand, fee for service offering. These initial software development capabilities are growing to support the full system life-cycle and enable continuous collaboration among all stakeholders including project managers, developers, testers, certifiers, operators, and users.

Rapid Access Computing Environment (RACE) Cloud Computing

Another piece of DISA’s services to its customers is it own cloud computing platform called the Rapid Access Computing Environment (RACE). The platform assists customers by giving them access to rental of servers and storage space to test and deploy new applications quickly and economically without the expensive processing of acquiring or installing their own hardware. DISA has been trying to move its data and services to the “cloud” because it promotes information sharing and mobility.

Disaster Relief

Photo of Katrina Coast GuardDuring the decade, DISA provided humanitarian and disaster-relief support in response to several natural disasters. DISA and the JTF-GNO responded as part of DoD’s relief efforts and support to those nations affected by the Indian Ocean tsunami that devastated parts of Indonesia on Dec. 26, 2004. DISA’s Pacific Command Field Office (DISA-PAC) and a DISA Tsunami Support Operations Cell worked directly with the U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) director for command, control, communications, and computer systems to satisfy the immediate requirements of participating defense elements.

In late August 2005, DISA’s Continuity of Operations Test Facility (DCTF) at Slidell, La., underwent a real-life test in the form of the largest natural disaster in recent U.S. history. When Hurricane Katrina devastated sections of Louisiana and Mississippi, the DISA facility became operations centers for the city of Slidell for several days after the storm. During the first three weeks after the hurricane, the facility provided shelter and security for about 200 to 350 first responders per night.



Photo of Meade Groundbreaking 
DISA Headquarters groundbreaking
ceremony at Fort Meade, Md.

The 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) legislation directed DISA to relocate and consolidate its headquarters elements in Northern Virginia to Fort Meade, Md., no later than September 2011. In addition to employees at the Arlington Service Center, which served as DISA headquarters for more than 50 years, employees in the Hoffman Building in Alexandria and in leased space on Columbia Pike and in the Skyline complex in Falls Church relocated to a new 1.1 million-square-foot, state-of-the-art, office facility, which is the largest office complex in Anne Arundel County, Md. A ground-breaking ceremony for the new DISA headquarters building was held in April 2008.




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