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Admiral BryerJoyner responded to questions in writing in late July.
CHIPS: Can you briefly describe what Flank Speed is and how it will impact Navy IT users?
Rear Adm. BryerJoyner: Flank Speed is the Navy’s unclassified Microsoft 365 (M365) cloud that provides improved collaboration, productivity, and security features to support a more productive, distributed Navy workforce. We are taking an agile approach – starting with basic capabilities and adding new features and training as they become available.
The speed and scale of this change is unprecedented. The Navy stood up Flank Speed in June, and approximately 266,000 users have Flank Speed accounts so far. The rest of our 200,000+ shore users will get accounts before the end of September.
Users will experience three steps in their move to Flank Speed.
Once they have a Flank Speed account, users can access Teams, one terabyte (1TB) of OneDrive storage, and productivity tools to include Excel, Word, OneNote, and PowerPoint. They will be operating in a secure cloud environment built on the advanced security principles of zero trust that supports unclassified data at the Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) level.
Flank Speed users can access their account from work, home, or on the road. A Government Furnished Equipment (GFE) with VPN connection provides the most capability, but Flank Speed users are also able to access M365 tools and OneDrive data using non-GFE laptops with CAC-authentication and an internet connection.
CHIPS: Why did the Department of Defense Chief Information Officer direct the shutdown of the Commercial Virtual Remote (CVR) environment on June 15; since it proved to be a productive way to telework during the pandemic? Couldn’t the DoD CIO just fix the shortcomings in CVR so the Navy could continue to use it?
Rear Adm. BryerJoyner: The DoD pandemic-induced rollout of Microsoft Teams to the entire DoD enterprise began in March of 2020. DoD stated from the beginning that the CVR capability was a temporary measure to meet the needs of an increasingly distributed workforce in the wake of the pandemic. CVR transformed the way hundreds of thousands of Department of the Navy (DON) employees work while also demonstrating how modern, commercial best practices can succeed in the Navy and Marine Corps. While these CVR collaboration capabilities sustained mission accomplishment in a mass telework posture, they could not meet DoD’s more stringent data security requirements. On June 15, CVR Teams went away for all Department of Defense users.
The Navy built Flank Speed from the ground up to be secure and support remote access from anywhere. Flank Speed provides integrated capabilities to enhance users’ collaboration and productivity.
CHIPS: How has the transition to Flank Speed gone so far?
Rear Adm. BryerJoyner: Overall, we have met or exceeded expectations. A transformation of this magnitude, across DoD and within Navy, is challenging. There have been some initial growing pains, and there have been and will be frustrations along the way as we build this environment in real time and must rely on our DoD partners to deliver required capabilities.
At the same time, we are learning more every day about how to best take advantage of the M365 integrated productivity and collaboration environment. Our Flank Speed Team, which includes experts from a number of commands, including Program Executive Office for Digital and Enterprise Services, Microsoft, and Fleet Cyber Command are working very hard to deliver improvements and ensure a smooth transition.
I encourage Flank Speed users to explore the different M365 options for implementing processes and sharing information. The Flank Speed Team has produced a series of ‘How To’ guides that reflect the latest information and tips. We have established a couple of different sites where Navy personnel can go to access the latest guides, review Frequently Asked Questions, and other valuable information. One is on the Secretary of the Navy’s Share Point Portal (https://portal.secnav.navy.mil/orgs/OPNAV/N2N6/DDCION/FlankSpeed/SitePages/Home.aspx) and the other is the Flank Speed Hub (https://flankspeed.sharepoint-mil.us/sites/Flank_Speed_Hub).
CHIPS: There is some confusion about what zero trust means and its relationship to Flank Speed. Can you describe how zero trust will impact Navy IT users? Will security credentials change? Do we need new common access cards (CAC) to access the new environment?
Rear Adm. BryerJoyner: Zero trust is based on the principle of ‘never trust, always verify.’ It has become a bit of a buzzword, and it is important to understand that you cannot just buy ‘zero trust’ — you must design it into your network architecture.
While the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence provide specific definitions of what is considered zero trust architecture, the basic concept calls for a single authenticated source of user identity combined with additional context, including policy compliance.
Practically speaking, zero trust involves adopting very granular, rigid user identification policies, strict authentication, role-based access, time and/or location access, and a host of other conditions that define when, where and how employees can access systems and digital assets, such as data and applications. This new level of control helps ensure any threat, even an internal one, can be contained.
CHIPS: Why is this transition so complex? Couldn’t this just be executed via the contract that delivers IT services for the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet?
Rear Adm. BryerJoyner: This transition is complex because it involves a shift of information flow from inside Navy boundaries (Navy networks) to outside Navy boundaries (M365 cloud). This is similar to the road infrastructure shift from old two-lane business routes to modern freeways and bypasses.
We have to update and modernize our global enterprise shore-based networks to create direct paths with more bandwidth to the cloud. This process has to be done in a controlled, measured, phased-in approach to provide same or better network performance to users as they begin using the Flank Speed cloud.
CHIPS: Are afloat networks adopting the M365 cloud environment for fleet users as well?
Rear Adm. BryerJoyner: The Flank Speed M365 cloud is being implemented for Navy’s shore-based users only. Fleet users will be able to participate in M365 Teams meetings via web browser if the bandwidth is available.
CHIPS: Can anyone access the OPNAV N2N6 Flank Speed portal (https://portal.secnav.navy.mil/orgs/OPNAV/N2N6/DDCION/FlankSpeed) for more information?
Rear Adm. BryerJoyner: Anyone with a CAC may access the Flank Speed portal. Also, Flank Speed provides the ability to access the Flank Speed Hub and M365 tools from the internet using any desktop/laptop with CAC-authentication.
CHIPS: Since the Navy is adopting Microsoft 365 in a cloud computing environment and Outlook mail services are changing, will the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet be disestablished? Are we getting new email addresses? Will the RDT&E networks be shut down?
Rear Adm. BryerJoyner: The Navy-Marine Corps Intranet, as managed through the Next Generation Enterprise Network (NGEN) contract, remains at the heart of our shore-based network system in the Continental United States. NMCI (and ONEnet) will continue to provide access to applications and data that cannot be hosted in the cloud.
As part of the move to Flank Speed M365, email addresses will change, aligning the Navy with the rest of the Department of Defense, and supporting the implementation of zero trust in the DoD M365 cloud. Emails sent to your legacy email (firstname.lastname@example.org) will be automatically forwarded to the new Flank Speed email address during the transition.
RDT&E networks will not be shut down. RDT&E networks provide mission specific environments and tools to test, evaluate, and field critical capabilities for the Navy’s afloat and deployable units.
Is there anything else Navy IT users should know about Flank Speed and the new M365 environment — or anything else you would like to discuss?
Rear Adm. BryerJoyner: I am confident that this transformation will accelerate our ability to improve processes and operations because of the amazing talent and relentless drive that exists within our Navy workforce. Flank Speed further empowers our distributed workforce by providing access, from anywhere, to core functions and data that are critical to our success in this age of strategic competition.
Originally published in CHIPS Magazine: