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DISA Celebrates 50 Years of Continuous Support for the National Leadership & the Warfighters

DISA 50TH Anniversary Photo
Gen. Pollett cutting 50th Anniversary cake
with DISA employees

For more than 50 years, the Defense Communications Agency and later the Defense Information Systems Agency has provided service to the nation’s warfighters and leaders in both war and peace. That service was recognized May 12 during a well-attended anniversary celebration at Seven Skyline Place (Sky 7). Army LTG Carroll F. Pollett, DISA director, led the celebration of the agency’s storied past. “DISA’s history is one of constant change and adjustment to meet the needs of our warfighters and the environment in which they operate…Many of you participated in those changes, and I salute you,” said Pollett. Hundreds of employees remotely witnessed the ceremony over video teleconference (VTC) or DISAVision or used Defense Connect Online to watch the ceremony on desktop computer screens.

DISA Support in Afghanistan

To accomplish the mission in Afghanistan, DISA in February 2009 established a support element and a Telecommunications Advisory Team. DISA Director Army LTG Carroll F. Pollett visited the area of operations three times to consult with the representatives of U.S., coalition, and host-nation forces and with DISA field representatives to get a greater sense of situational awareness and to take measure of the effectiveness of DISA support.

The Telecommunications Advisory Team (TAT) is part of the staff of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). The team coordinates and synchronizes information technology projects and strategies conducted the Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), international assistance organizations and ISAF. The TAT’s operational focus is on developing plans with the government of Afghanistan to support stabilization operations by the providing the country’s fiber-optic backbone, improving cell coverage and recommending actions to grow the industry to provide jobs and improve the country’s economy.

Among the other major achievements of DISA in Afghanistan, are the development of a common video-teleconferencing (VTC) platform to enable the multinational forces in theater to communicate by a secure VTC bridge and providing assistance to U.S. Central Command to establish a secure, collaboration mission network — CENTRIX-ISAF (Combined Enterprise Regional Information Exchange System-ISAF).

The DISA Campaign Plan DISA GRID

As the agency began its next 50 years, DISA’s leaders recognized that our military forces’ demand for global information transport was growing and changing as dramatically as their missions. DISA has been committed to providing information dominance so that our forces can successfully respond to the challenges of the next engagement — whatever, wherever, whenever that is. Under the leadership of Pollett, DISA launched a Campaign Plan in 2010 to chart the agency’s way ahead. The plan guides the allocation of resources, design of the organizational structure, and the execution of priorities. The Campaign Plan built around DISA’s three lines of operation —enterprise infrastructure, command and control and information sharing, and operate and assure — and nine “joint enablers” that support the lines of operation — acquisition, contracting, engineering, information and knowledge management, people, planning, resources, spectrum, and testing.

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Strengthening Communications in Afghanistan

From 2008 thru 2010, DISA, recognizing the priority of ongoing combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, worked directly with the Commander, United States Central Command (USCENTCOM), to design and implement a high capacity strategic communication network into an active Theater of Operations, ensuring reliable communications for intra-theater mission partners and to national leadership. Prior to this installation, the coalition forces in Afghanistan were dependent on satellite communications and tactical microwave links, which had limited bandwidth capacity and induced significant delay. The core SDNs connected Bagram, Kabul, and Kandahar providing high capacity diverse network connectivity at 622MB per second. In addition to the core sites, DISA established more than100 leased circuits to support remote locations and provided inter-theater DISN connections to the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, and Bahrain. This core network also increased the IP capability of the Theater from 8 Mbps to 450 Mbps, a 5625 percent increase to the IP capacity for the Theater.

Supporting the Warfighters and Disaster Relief – All at the Same Time

DISA has successfully operated and defended the Global Information Grid (GIG), providing information capabilities with a reach from the White House to forces at the tactical edge. DISA successfully supported execution of military operations while simultaneously supporting peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance, and disaster-relief missions in multiple theaters around the globe. During a 4-month period in 2011, DISA provided exceptional support to an unprecedented six simultaneous operations: Operation NEW DAWN in Iraq; Operation ENDURING FREEDOM in Afghanistan; Operation UNIFIED RESPONSE in Haiti; Operation ODYSSEY DAWN and NATO Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR in Libya, Operation TOMODACHI in Japan; and DISA’s global cyber operations in support of United States Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM).


In January 2010, DISA worked quickly and aggressively with the commander of United States Southern Command, to support Operation UNIFIED RESPONSE by providing earthquake disaster relief and humanitarian assistance in Haiti. Through an aggressive contingency planning effort, DISA provided satellite communications capabilities as well as critical information sharing technology, providing the Task Force Commander with information capabilities to command and control forces and coordinate relief efforts. As DoD’s satellite communications leader, DISA used the Defense Satellite Communications System to provide frequency and bandwidth support to all organizations in the Haitian relief effort. DISA’s Super High Frequency missions supplied bandwidth for U.S. Navy ships and one Marine Expeditionary Unit that were providing medical assistance, security, and helicopter support. Additionally, DISA supported all satellite communications for the U.S. Air Force handling around-the-clock air traffic control and air freight operations at Port-Au-Prince Airport, as well as military Ultra High Frequency channels and contracting for additional commercial SATCOM missions, all of which greatly increased capabilities for relief efforts.

During this operation, DISA leveraged new technology in Haiti that linked non-governmental organizations, other nations, and U.S. forces together to track, coordinate, and better organize relief efforts. The Transnational Information Sharing Cooperation (TISC) tool was still in test operations, but DISA application managers quickly expanded its All Partners Access Network (APAN) portal to allow any relief organization to sign on and collaborate using APAN’s Web-based social networking services. More than 280 users found TISC to be indispensible in coordinating and efficiently directing the tons of relief supplies that arrived by air and ship, as well as the hundreds of rescue and medical experts that converged on the island. DISA efficiently resolved spectrum issues that resulted from hundreds of conflicting and overlapping communication frequencies among the many relief agencies that worked in Haiti. DISA deployed experts to form a Joint Spectrum Management Element that solved complex command and control challenges and allowed relief agencies to communicate without conflict.


Responding to requirements from the commander of United States Africa Command, DISA provided structured, immediate, and responsive joint and coalition information-sharing support from February 28 to March 31, 2011, for Operation ODYSSEY DAWN and the follow-on NATO Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR, supporting operations in Libya. During these operations, DISA delivered critical satellite capabilities supporting intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance requirements and deployed a network infrastructure, providing command and control information services to critical locations across France, Spain, Italy, and Turkey in support of air operations.


In mid-March, 2011, shortly after engaging in Operation ODYSSEY DAWN in Libya, DISA supported contingency operations in response to the 8.9-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan that affected the critical command and control information infrastructure across the Pacific Rim. In support of Operation TOMODACHI, DISA engaged with senior leaders of the Joint Staff, United States Pacific Command (USPACOM), United States Forces Korea (USFK), and United States Forces Japan, to assess, prioritize, and restore critical communications within the area of operations to ensure critical intelligence, logistics, and command-and-control mission requirements were accomplished. Within 24 hours, critical circuits were restored across the Pacific Rim, and within 6 days, 100 percent of bandwidth was restored for USFK. DISA support continued until the conclusion of the operation in early May. In the post-Operation TOMODACHI timeframe, DISA worked with USPACOM to develop plans to establish the most robust, survivable telecommunications infrastructure in history, providing the capacity and diversity required to support future engagements and warfighting requirements.

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DISA and United States CYBER Command (USCYBERCOM)

All of these special and immediate operational missions were conducted while DISA simultaneously continued without disruption or flagging to work with DoD, United States Strategic Command, and USCYBERCOM to operate and defend the GIG. On September 7, 2010, DISA successfully transferred the Joint Task Force -Global Network Operations functions to the newly established USCYBERCOM, ensuring that all missions succeeded during the critical transition period and setting the conditions for successful initial operations by USCYBERCOM.

DISA’s direct support to USCYBERCOM, as well as to combatant commands around the world, has shaped and influenced the future of cyber operations for DoD by providing innovative technology, operational structures and processes, and doctrinal concepts for command and control and leadership that enhanced capabilities to respond to dynamic and hostile threats to the Nation.

Enhancing Enterprise Infrastructure and Services

While DISA was supporting warfighters and disaster relief, the agency dramatically changed the enterprise infrastructure required to provide warfighters with communications and computing capabilities and services. Directly attributable to DISA’s vision and leadership, the Defense Enterprise Computing Centers (DECCs) have been transformed to provide a broader set of capabilities that include full service support for enterprise services. DISA also globally deployed an array of content delivery nodes that extend computing power to forward deployed theaters while providing reach back to critical applications and processing from the core data center infrastructure.

In Operation ENDURING FREEDOM in Afghanistan, DISA played a key role in enhancing the overall communications infrastructure to support some 6,000 users of hand-held satellite communications, and through the Afghan Mission Network (AMN). Established in 2010, AMN supports 30 nations and 85,000 users and has become the principal command-and-control network in Afghanistan. AMN reinforces that commanders operating in complex coalition environments require responsive coalition mission networks for command and control and information sharing in theater.

Among the other major achievements of DISA in Afghanistan are the development of a common video-teleconferencing (VTC) platform to enable the multinational forces in theater to communicate by a secure VTC bridge and providing assistance to U.S. Central Command to establish a secure, collaboration mission network CENTRIX-ISAF (Combined Enterprise Regional Information Exchange System-ISAF). DISA completed this warfighter requirement in less than 6 months, from requirements through inception, design, certification, and production to operations September 1, 2010.

The Joint Enterprise Network (JEN)

As DoD aggressively seeks more ways to generate efficiencies throughout the military services, combatant commands, and defense agencies, DISA is supporting these efforts by transforming the way DoD builds, maintains, operates, and delivers information. With its partners – the 5th Signal Command, Network Enterprise Technology Command (NETCOM), and the Army G6 Chief Information Officer (CIO), DISA is transforming information technology in the European Theater through the Joint Enterprise Network (JEN).

Established in 2010, the JEN consolidates and standardizes information transport, enterprise services, and network management functions, creating a shared network for the Army, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), and the U.S. European Command (EUCOM). This common, virtualized infrastructure offers a more reliable and rapid deployment of services. DISA provides enterprise services, data center services and operations, and long-haul communications to the European Theater. JEN provides a secure, robust, information environment by leveraging DISA’s DECCs and the existing fiber network. This has allowed for a consolidation of Army Processing Centers providing significant cost savings. The consolidation effort has also allowed JEN to provide better security through the reduction of entry points, standardized tools, and consolidated resources, all of which reduce network vulnerability and allows better operational agility in responding to network threats and incidents.

DISA Relocates Its Headquarters to Fort Meade

DISA Ribbon Cutting Ceremony 
Ribbon cutting ceremony at new
DISA headquarters, Fort Meade, Md.

From January to July 2011, DISA relocated more than 4,500 military and civilian employees and supporting on-site contractors, 700 workstation suites with 11,000 pieces of advanced IT equipment, and 58,000 square feet of lab equipment in accordance with the Base Realignment and Closure program. The relocation to Fort Meade, Md., consolidated DISA headquarters elements that were housed in multiple locations in Arlington and Falls Church, VA. In April 2011 DISA held a ribbon cutting ceremony officially opening the new headquarters complex. The real achievement during this relocation was DISA’s ability to maintain an extraordinary pace of operations and to continue to deploy critical warfighting capabilities with absolutely no disruption of service and support to our mission partners.

DISA Achieves Clean Audit

With oversight of one of the most complex budgets in DoD, DISA beginning in 2008, directed the most intense process analysis and remediation of financial internal controls in the agency’s history. This effort successfully prepared DISA to be the first agency in the federal government to be authorized for audit under the new standards of the Federal Improvement and Readiness (FIAR) office. It also resulted in $490 million in savings, $21 million in cost avoidance, and an estimated $626 million in future benefits to DoD.

DISA’s efforts culminated in the award of a clean, unqualified, audit opinion on the financial statements of DISA’s FY 2011 Defense Working Capital Fund – a $7 billion enterprise. This is the first unqualified opinion in the Department since 2006. DoD is identifying this achievement in its FIAR report to Congress as an important example for other DoD organizations. DISA’s successful process was also cited as an example for other defense agencies during congressional testimony on Defense Audit Readiness.

DISA and the Way Ahead

DISA Headquarters at Fort Meade, MD
DISA Headquarters at Fort Meade, MD

As it enters the second decade of the new century, DISA stands as an operationally focused combat support agency, providing joint and combined warfighting command and control and information technology capabilities. DISA engineers, develops, maintains, and operates a global net-centric enterprise in direct support to joint and coalition warfighters, national-level leaders, and other mission partners across the full spectrum of operations. DISA operates in 4,300 locations and 90 nations worldwide with a workforce of more than 14,000 and an annual budget of more than $8 billion.

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