Department of Defense implementing cloud-based email systems

While the United States Department of Defense (DoD) has made great strides in recent years with implementing cloud-based ERP and other new tech initiatives, perhaps its greatest technological innovation has been the use of cloud-based email. The DoD has been gradually moving email accounts into the cloud for six years, and in 2013, the department now boasts over one million cloud email users.

The Defense Information Systems Agency told Federal News Radio that the millionth user was a soldier in Fort Riley, Kansas, who migrated to the cloud on March 12.

“It’s been a long road to get to where we’re at today,” said DISA chief of enterprise applications John Hale, who has been working on cloud email since 2007. “This is just the first major milestone we’re going to hit as we move forward with the rest of the enterprise services to continue to gain efficiencies within the department and save the department money overall in this austere budget environment we’re in.”

The uptick in cloud migration is coming at just the right time – migrating to the cloud tends to be a huge money-saver for large public and private enterprises, and funding is in short supply at the DoD given the ongoing sequester. The American Forces Press Service reported on the grim details of the expected budget cuts – the Pentagon plans to trim more than $47 billion in spending between now and September 30, which is the end of its fiscal year, and much of that money will come out of employees’ paychecks. The department plans to furlough 800,000 workers without pay for up to 22 days between now and September.

The DoD won’t be able to cut anywhere near $47 billion simply by migrating to the cloud – in fact, FNR reports an Army estimate of only $70 million a year – but any increase is a good one for a department that sorely needs to cut costs. The Army has made up the vast majority of the cloud movement so far, accounting for 967,000 of the million users to date, but other defense organizations have seen the Army’s success and now plan to replicate it.

The Air Force will likely be next to make the leap, as that branch is already at work on a new network of IT infrastructure called AFNET, which will include a revamped email system. The Navy, on the other hand, was initially a bit hesitant, but now Hale says the Navy is also beginning to test a potential cloud service. The government needs to save cash wherever possible, and a full-scale cloud transition will undoubtedly help.