A global professional networking platform for security practitionersDefense Security Cooperation Agency
We redesigned and rebuilt the GlobalNET platform to enable secure international collaboration, and now we provide ongoing DevOps and IT support services.
content artifacts migrated to modern platforms
practitioners use GlobalNET to learn and connect
countries represented in the GlobalNET community
“It is a pleasure working with the CivicActions team. We have a happy group of stakeholders, and GlobalNET is a great example of what other agencies could be doing to be successful.”
- Lisa Berry | Senior GlobalNET Liaison Officer
The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) uses the GlobalNET platform to facilitate secure training and collaboration among partner organizations. Thousands of military, diplomatic, law enforcement, and civilian government personnel around the world use GlobalNET to connect with and learn from each other. They work on topics from security cooperation to humanitarian operations; counter-terrorism to public diplomacy; leadership development and more.
Faced with aging technologies and a complicated collection of digital content and microservices, DSCA initially engaged CivicActions to develop a quality assurance program and to ensure system stability during code updates. At the end of that contract, we were tasked with redesigning and rebuilding GlobalNET to create a more personalized, secure, and responsive experience for users.
Years later, we continue to provide agile development, modern IT implementation, and DevSecOps services to keep everything running smoothly and to continuously improve GlobalNET systems.
The goal of GlobalNET is to ensure that international legal and security practitioners can easily engage each other for collaborative work. Ease of use and top-notch security are essential to the success of the platform. DSCA uses GlobalNET to:
- Provide professional development and training for practitioners
- Facilitate connection among practitioners and their sponsoring organizations around the world
- Provide a responsive, multi-lingual, intuitive user experience that respects the cultures of individual participants
- Comply with strict security requirements, from FISMA to FedRAMP
- Human-Centered Design
- Heuristic Evaluation
- Information Architecture
- Content Strategy
- Prototype Development & Testing
- Visual & Responsive Design
- Agile Methodologies (Scrum, Kanban)
- DevOps / Infrastructure As Code
- Content & Data Migration (Cloud)
- User Research
- Network Performance Optimization
- Security Compliance & Continuous Monitoring
- Custom Programming (PHP, Python, Bash, Java)
Tools and technologies
- Drupal (5, 6, 7, 8 / 9)
- Apache Solr
- Ilias LMS (plus Shibboleth / SimpleSaml SSO)
- Common Access Card (CAC) and Yubikey authentication
- Clam AV
- Behat / Cypress
- Docker / Ansible
- OpenSCAP / ZAP
- Advanced Intrusion Detection Environment (AIDE)
- OpsGenie / StatusCake
- Amazon Web Services
- Red Hat Enterprise Linux
- External services (Adobe Connect, EZ Proxy, Clickatell, Google Analytics / Tag Manager / Translate)
When we first engaged with DSCA, the agency wanted to bring a better experience to the tens of thousands of legal and security practitioners in the GlobalNET community. DSCA challenged the DoD contracting status quo by choosing a fixed-price agile contract, moving away from the waterfall approaches that doom many government IT projects to failure. We partnered closely with agency stakeholders in an agile process throughout the complex process of redesigning GlobalNET and the massive migration to a FedRAMP-certified platform. Daily collaboration and the ability to adapt to evolving needs helped us complete the rebuild on time and on budget.
Understand the needs
We conducted onsite user research in three cities to initially assess the needs of the GlobalNET community, then followed up with remote consultations. As new features were built, usability testing with site users helped us collect feedback, identify problems, and prioritize future needs for ongoing product iteration. The initial discovery phase uncovered more than 600 user stories, which were then prioritized and tracked to completion.
Automate and test
From confident code deployment to faster Authority to Operate (ATO), we have focused on providing GlobalNET with stability and security from the start. A platform for international security practitioners deserves no less. Our DevOps activities include continuous monitoring, network optimization, and a three-tiered on-call support system to make sure the platform is always up and running. We also apply regular security updates and automated testing.
Quality and security control
We implemented a mechanism for updating, testing, and deploying hardened server instances and application code in a way that is generally invisible to end-users. Server instances are subjected to SCAP and ZAP scans for system compliance, while automated “smoke tests” ensure the code is ready to deploy. All new code is subjected to more than 600 automated tests (and scripted tests by humans) prior to being approved for deployment. This rigorous quality control minimizes surprises and downtime.
Accessible, responsive platform
We applied user-centered design to modernize the look-and-feel of GlobalNET. The multilingual functionality and fully responsive design make it easy to participate from any device, anywhere in the world.
Empowered global partners
Customized, branded landing pages were created for partner organizations, so administrators can share news and publications with GlobalNET members and the public. They can also manage event listings and calendars for their groups and courses.
We improved functionality for GlobalNET learners so they can participate in discussions, access research databases, and upload coursework for review. Professors can share their course content and announcements through an intuitive interface.
Participants can find what they need among GlobalNET’s vast resources through a personalized dashboard, where they can receive messages, connect with contacts, and navigate quickly to their groups, courses, events, and saved content.
Minimal disruptions to users
We carefully planned a rolling launch schedule that allowed us to successfully migrate hundreds of thousands of files and user accounts into the modernized site — with very little downtime for GlobalNET participants during the transition.
Open source for public benefit
We use open source technologies for the majority of our work on GlobalNET systems. The entire codebase is released as an open source project for review, comment, or forking by other agencies who might benefit from a similar system.