DISA sunsets Defense Enterprise Email and embraces new communication technologies

Anne Armstrong
Office of Strategic Communication and Public Affairs
April 4, 2022 

“Enterprise Email has proven to be one of DISA’s greatest achievements,” said Tony Montemarano, former Defense Information Systems Agency executive deputy director.

In 2011, DISA unveiled the first cloud-based global email system, known as Defense Enterprise Email, in response to the United States Army’s need to reduce costs with a centralized email process.

An interagency program, DISA’s Defense Enterprise Email solution was led by Alfred Rivera of DISA and Mike Kreiger of the U.S. Army Chief Information Officer - G6 Division, revolutionized communications for the total force with uniform protocols, single-use email addresses that could migrate with the user and a universal database accessible from remote locations. It reduced costs by removing individual command and unit mail servers, associated power costs, licensing and maintenance.

By 2022, the associated Global Address List, known as the GAL, contained a searchable directory of 4.5 million Common Access Card holders — essentially, the entire Department of Defense. Independent Army auditors assessed savings to the government of approximately $78 million per year.

However, as technology and mission requirements evolved, so did DISA. Inherent Defense Enterprise Email limitations, advances in cloud computing and a migration to Microsoft 365 diminished Defense Enterprise Email’s usefulness.

Rodney Saxon, DOD Enterprise Email and Enterprise Messaging Branch chief, considers Microsoft 365 an all-around upgrade to Defense Enterprise Email. He is currently migrating 1.7 million Defense Enterprise Email customers to Microsoft 365 tenants and explains that Microsoft 365 and its Teams package offer reliable, secure and efficient chat, presence monitoring, accountability, document sharing, scalability and other powerful applications that render the Defense Enterprise Email platform obsolete.

He noted, however, that individual tenants will not be able to share in the Microsoft 365 bundle and DISA will be unable to troubleshoot email problems on their servers.

Portrait of Rodney Saxon

Saxon acknowledges that the COVID-19 global pandemic accelerated the timeline. With remote missions, requirements for a system to accommodate telework had a profound impact on the adaptation. Given the loss of the benefits of consistent email addresses, Saxon added that the Microsoft 365 email functionality was justified because of the nature of the robust server and the significantly larger mailbox capacities.

Saxon stressed that the highly useful Global Address List will remain and that DISA Joint Tenants will continue to use the mail.mil domain.

“The users who are staying with the joint tenant will retain their mail.mil address,” said Saxon. “Army and others get a different address when they move to their own tenant.”

When asked what people will like as Defense Enterprise Email sunsets, Saxon listed all the new things Teams has, “chat, keeping an online presence, calendaring, being able to call someone and sharing documents … the whole 365 Teams bundle.”

Despite the end of DISA’s Defense Enterprise Email era, Microsoft 365 cloud computing gives the warfighter greater storage capability, security and applications to best meet the mission.

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