Over 180,000 US Army personnel now have access to the Google collaboration suite

Army undersecretary says there are no growing pains in the Workspace

Despite email licensing shortfalls and other IT issues, the U.S. Army has provided Google Workspace, the search-and-software giant’s collaboration suite, to more than 180,000 personnel.

About six months after the service began quietly testing the constellation of digital tools with a select group, and three months after it began publicly distributing them to troops, the tally is expected to continue to rise.

Undersecretary Gabe Camarillo said on Jan. 12 that Workspace, which includes email, chat, and storage functions, has so far been a success. When asked by C4ISRNET and Army Times if there have been any significant problems, glitches, or compatibility issues, Camarillo replied: “Not at all.”

Early in the process, the Google platform was considered the top option to serve troops who lost access to official email accounts after changing from Defense Enterprise Email and its mail.mil addresses to Army 365, which uses Microsoft products.

After transitioning to Army 365, the service switched to an individual-license model, but realized there wouldn’t be enough Microsoft licenses to cover all of its employees. The plan was initially discarded in favor of an “alternate email solution,” in which junior personnel would no longer have access to official email.

When Google announced in July that its Workspace package had achieved IL4 authorization, a security requirement for handling critical infrastructure, defense, intelligence, finance, and proprietary business information, the solution became apparent. FedRAMP High authorization had previously been achieved.

Google said in an October blog post that 250,000 users would receive credentials for Army use that such qualifications opened up the possibility of Army utilization. Other federal agencies have previously adopted Workspace, including the Defense Innovation Unit and the Air Force Research Laboratory.

Google Workspace will provide today’s military with a leading suite of collaboration tools to get their work done, according to the company. The government has asked for more choices in cloud vendors who can support its missions.

The outgoing chief information officer, Raj Iyer, told Army Times in October that some organizations within the Army are receiving Workspace because they are more “self-contained” and may not require the same level of cross-command and cross-service collaboration available through Army 365.

In late 2022, Google and Microsoft, along with Amazon and Oracle, were selected by the Pentagon, alongside Amazon and Oracle, for the Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability contract, a $9 billion successor to Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure.

Some observers — both within the Army and the private sector — worry about collateral damage as Workspace is partially adopted by the tech giants in their war for Defense Department dollars. For the Army, juggling personnel between different programs and the administrative complexities that accompany them could cause problems.

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