gi-gmail:-us-army-launches-google-workspace-for-troops

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army is rolling out Google Workspace for soldiers new and old, months after the service quietly began testing the software suite as a potential solution to previous information technologies issues.

Army Chief Information Officer Raj Iyer in a social media post this week said “Army Google Workspace is now operational and live,” adding that the service “implemented the first Impact Level 4 Google Workspace in the Federal Government to process Controlled Unclassified Information.”

C4ISRNET and Army Times first reported the testing and the Army’s intent to deploy Google as a solution for a shortfall of Microsoft 365 licenses that could have left thousands of troops without access to email or other collaboration tools.

Google in July announced its Workspace package achieved IL4 authorization, a security requirement tied to the handling of critical infrastructure, defense, intelligence, finance and proprietary business information. It achieved FedRAMP High authorization months prior.

Such credentials made the Army deal possible.

According to Iyer, new troops entering the Army now automatically receive Google Workspace accounts with an @usa.army.mil address. He confirmed that “all remaining users” from the legacy email platform — known as Defense Enterprise Email — “will be transitioned to Army Google Workspace over the next several days.”

Up to 250,000 troops will receive the new service, Google officials confirmed in a blog post. The number aligns with the shortage of Microsoft 365 licenses that Army Times previously identified.

Google Workspace is already used by the Air Force Research Laboratory and various other federal entities. The Army Software Factory was also an early adopter; now, they’ll be permanent Google users.

Beta testing

The launch of Workspace for the Army at large follows months of evaluation behind the scenes.

The platform was initially considered a front-runner for troops who may have lost access to official email accounts amid a choppy transition from Defense Enterprise Email and its mail.mil addresses to the newer Army 365 system, involving Microsoft products. Army 365 includes Army.mil email, but the service decided not all soldiers required them.

Iyer in July told C4ISRNET and Army Times the service “is committed to providing our Soldiers the communications and collaboration capabilities they need to perform their missions. The CIO added that more information was to come.

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Lt. Gen. John Morrison, the Army’s top uniformed IT official, a month later confirmed a pilot was underway and that senior leaders would decide on the next steps “over the next several weeks.”

“We’ve got champions that are in that environment. We are learning about it,” Morrison told reporters on the sidelines of the AFCEA TechNet Augusta conference. “We are getting all the tactics, techniques and procedures that we need.”

The size and makeup of the pilot was not disclosed. Officials were tight lipped about details over the summer, citing the effort’s intricacies and infancy.

Bigger business

The rollout also marks a significant win for Google, which unveiled its public sector division in June and competes with fellow behemoth Microsoft inside and outside the defense world.

Microsoft has long worked with the Pentagon, supplying services and products ranging from cloud computing to the HoloLens, a foundation for the Army’s futuristic Integrated Visual Augmentation System.

Both are now operating under the same roof, furnishing similar software.

Google and Microsoft are also in competition for the Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability, the follow-up to the failed Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI, venture.

The Defense Department contacted the two, as well as Amazon and Oracle, about the $9 billion opportunity last year. Proposals are now under review. An award is expected in December, after an April deadline was missed and deemed overly ambitious.

Initial JWCC contracts will comprise a three-year base with one-year options. A full and open competition for a future multi-cloud, multi-vendor environment will likely follow.

Colin Demarest is a reporter at C4ISRNET, where he covers military networks, cyber and IT. Colin previously covered the Department of Energy and its National Nuclear Security Administration — namely Cold War cleanup and nuclear weapons development — for a daily newspaper in South Carolina. Colin is also an award-winning photographer.

Davis Winkie is a senior reporter covering the Army, specializing in accountability reporting, personnel issues and military justice. He joined Military Times in 2020. Davis studied history at Vanderbilt University and UNC-Chapel Hill, writing a master’s thesis about how the Cold War-era Defense Department influenced Hollywood’s WWII movies.

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