Navy, DOD go full speed ahead on NMCI testing

Navy, DOD go full speed ahead on NMCI testing

'This is not what performance-based contracting is all about,' said Paul Brubaker, former Defense deputy CIO. 'The tendency is to exercise the authority that you have. It's a bureaucratic system of hoops and loops.'

Agreement lets testing proceed but debate remains on how to test and if tests will delay rollout

An agreement reached this month by the Defense Department and Navy on testing for the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet ended a month-long impasse. But questions remain about the best way to test commercial products used by Defense agencies.

Paul Brubaker, a former Defense deputy chief information officer and now president of the electronic government division of Commerce One in Laurel, Md., recommended stringent independent tests of the system. He said the government should seek an experienced consultant'such as Booz, Allen & Hamilton Inc. of McLean, Va., or KPMG LLP of New York'to run tests on the $6.9 billion project. NMCI is designed to bring 360,000 users on 200 networks into a single intranet.

'If they wanted to focus on the results, [they should] do independent validation and verification of the service-level agreements, including under a stressful environment, to see if it works or not,' Brubaker said. 'This is not what performance-based contracting is all about. The tendency is to exercise the authority that you have. It's a bureaucratic system of hoops and loops.'

The agreement was followed by the first cutover of a Navy facility onto the intranet. Users at the Naval Air Facility in Washington went online with NMCI on Sept. 7.

Lead contractor Electronic Data Systems Corp. has assumed responsibility for about 42,000 seats at Navy facilities in California, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Nevada, Virginia and Washington. NAF is the first base where all users have been moved onto NMCI.

Defense has agreed to allow the Navy and EDS to proceed with work on NMCI without immediate, rigorous weapons systems testing, according to a memorandum signed by DOD officials Sept. 5.

The system, however, will undergo full Defense operational testing and evaluation, a strenuous level of testing similar to the analysis of Defense weapons systems, in June 2002. In the memorandum, signed by Defense CIO John P. Stenbit and Michael W. Wynne, principal deputy undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, Defense officials said the Navy could order no more than 60,000 NMCI seats pending a senior-level review of the results.

The testing schedule, according to the memo, would be overseen by Stenbit's office. When 20,000 seats have been fully integrated into NMCI, Defense officials will conduct a senior-level review. If the network passes, the Navy can add 150,000 more seats, the memo said.

Rick Rosenburg, EDS' NMCI program executive, said the agreement 'indicates the high level of confidence [Defense and Navy officials] have in the program. We can now begin collecting hard data to prove their faith in the program has not been misplaced.'

DOD said it would set up a team of reviewers to ensure adequate testing of interoperability, security and reliability.

Brubaker questioned this approach and called it 'a detailed bureaucratic exercise.'

'Who's this independent team, and what are their qualifications to go in and determine if this is meeting the service-level agreements?' Brubaker asked.

T&E delays

Navy officials previously argued that complying with full Defense testing and evaluation would delay implementation. The project apparently is already behind schedule by about a month, according to Eric Mazzacone, a public relations consultant on the project with subcontractor Booz, Allen & Hamilton. The Navy wanted its own evaluators to conduct testing for the intranet along with personnel from EDS, and suggested that DOD testers monitor the evaluations.

There had been a month-long impasse as both sides debated how and what to test.
A strategic pause in NMCI's congressional funding, issued last fall, called for DOD to limit the rollout to 42,000 seats until the network components are certified. The testing agreement lets the work continue.

Now, both sides will try to convince Congress that the resolution is the best scenario for NMCI. According to a statement from DOD, the department 'is in discussions with the Congress to gain their support for the new strategy and determine what changes, if any, are required.'

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