by Noreen Costello
DISA Strategic Communication and Public Affairs

The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) is leading an effort aimed at consolidating the common use information technology (IT) infrastructure for the Department of Defense’s (DOD) “fourth estate” – headquarters, agencies, and activities that do not fall under the military departments.

The consolidation, known as the Fourth Estate Network Optimization (4NEO) effort, was directed by the DOD chief information officer and acting chief management officer in late 2018.

It aims to reduce the cyber-attack surface, reduce operating costs, and improve support services for end users.

“The objective is to move the fourth estate’s common use IT systems, personnel, functions, and program elements associated with the support of those systems and technologies into a single service provider architecture,” said Drew Jaehnig, who is leading the 4NEO effort for DISA.

Common use IT includes, but is not limited to, cybersecurity, enterprise services, asset management, network services, and operations, Jaehnig said.

“What’s excluded from this consolidation effort are systems designated as mission critical, systems used exclusively for research and development, and common use IT elements that are so intertwined with an organization’s operations that they are deemed ‘non-severable,’” he said. DOD’s educational, or “.edu,” networks will be consolidated under a separate effort.

Fourteen agencies are affected: the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Defense Contract Audit Agency, Defense Contract Management Agency, Defense Finance and Accounting Service, Defense Health Agency, Defense Human Resources Agency, DISA, Defense Logistics Agency, Defense Media Activity, Defense Microelectronics Activity, Defense Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Accounting Agency, Defense Technical Information Center, Defense Threat Reduction Agency, and the Missile Defense Agency.

Jaehnig said DISA has been working with the affected organizations for months, ensuring the network consolidation effort is a collaborative process. The fourth estate network optimization effort is expected to result in a cost avoidance for the department, which means money can be used for efforts supporting increased lethality.

“Business reform and IT optimization contribute to a more lethal force,” he said. “We all recognize that and are working toward a common goal.”

“Reducing the number of networks offers an added benefit of providing more control and consistent cybersecurity standards, which strengthens the fourth estate’s overall cybersecurity posture,” said Laura Herbertson, deputy chief of the 4ENO project. “The consolidated network will also reduce redundant IT costs and provide equal or better services than the separate networks.”

She expanded on the program’s objectives.

“This is really going to shake the foundations of the types of services DISA provides. Today, DISA is known for global networking, telecommunications, and enterprise services. In the future, we are going to be known for global desktop support. We’re going to have 400,000 users calling us directly to get their machines fixed. That is a huge shift in perspective and it’s going to require the agency to be even more customer service-oriented than we have been in the past,” Herbertson said.

Jaehnig said DISA is carrying out the optimization effort in two phases. The first phase –in fiscal year 2019 – involves consolidating smaller fourth estate agencies and activities onto a single network Jaehnig referred to as “DODNet 1st Generation.”

The second phase is scheduled to begin in fiscal year 2022, when the DISA begins converging the remaining larger networks and DODNet 1st Generation into one, single fourth estate network, “DODNet 2nd Generation.”

“Our focus right now is making sure our first customer through the gate has a seamless transition without disrupting their mission,” Jaehnig said. “We want to make sure everybody understands DISA’s level of commitment to getting this right and making sure warfighters and mission partners have the best service we can possibly give them as soon as they come onboard.”

Jaehnig assures the DOD agencies and activities their respective missions will continue to receive unwavering support from DISA.

“DISA will continue to provide command and control and information-sharing capabilities,” Jaehnig said. “And, we will ensure a globally accessible enterprise information infrastructure for our joint warfighters, national level leaders, and other mission and coalition partners.”

For more information about the Fourth Estate Network Optimization effort, contact the DISA 4ENO office at 301-225-8142, DSN 312-375.