Letters to the Editor

Editorial missed the point on NMCI

I was dismayed at the apparent lack of insight, understanding and thoughtfulness in the editorial 'NMCI redux'. Although the government would love to see EDS Corp. earn a profit on the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet, the government also expects the contractor to deliver a fully functional, integrated system for the amount bid so that the infrastructure of the Navy can continue to support the fleet.

Speaking about the complexities of the NMCI contract as if it were a walk in the park, swatting at bees and encountering thickets, isn't exactly providing profound revelations about the problem-plagued program.

The legacy application problem is neither some hidden thicket in the heart of a far-off wood nor an annoying bee to be swatted. But kill an essential one of these apps and just watch the bees start coming out of the Pentagon. Like it or not, legacy applications are what the Navy uses day-to-day to accomplish missions critical to the security of this country.

Many of these applications were developed in a stovepipe environment, owing to the relative autonomy of unit commanders to accomplish their missions.

Since this was no secret, it is a mystery as to why appropriate attention in the form of design and implementation planning was not better thought through. Would it not have been wise, nay, essential, to require contractors bidding on the contract to provide connectivity to legacy applications, or at least have an idea of what they were getting themselves into?

More likely it was a case of poor leadership and management. The rule of the seven P's come to mind: Proper prior planning prevents pitifully poor performance.

To anyone in the IT business, changes and resistance to changes are the norm, but when the changes are expected to threaten the livelihood of thousands of entrenched government employees, care must be taken in the design, including human design, introduction and implementation of the system.

Planning for change management is an inherent part of good leadership, and it must include technical, political and cultural issues.

It was a mistake to assume that EDS would profit from NMCI from the per-seat payments it receives. Developmental costs are inherent in every project. They are often the single largest cost in terms of time, money and effort. While one hopes EDS can salvage a decent return on its investment, of greater concern is that the people of this great country get a fair return on their NMCI dollars.

Name Withheld

Editor's note: The writer is a retired Navy officer.


Cooper, define 'proprietary'

In the article 'Ready or not,' there was a quote from Homeland Security Department CIO Steve Cooper: 'When we award contracts and grants, we are not going to buy anything anymore that is proprietary and doesn't interoperate and doesn't intercommunicate'.

I understand the sentiments behind the comment, but I find it very disturbing and shortsighted for a CIO to make such a comment. Unless he has a special definition of proprietary, then he is saying he will not buy anything commercial. By definition, those systems and software products are proprietary.

I spent six years on the Army staff in the 1990s fighting this kind of ignorance and am sad to see it perpetuated in Homeland Security. Back in 1996, I authored and presented a paper, 'Artificial Intelligence and the Information Interoperability Puzzle.' It addressed how to achieve interoperability and interconnection without being trapped into dead-end technologies.

I hope GCN will push Cooper to define what he means by 'proprietary' and how that affects interoperability and communications. Otherwise, I fear the bureaucracy implementing his guidance will cost our government millions of dollars and repeat the mistakes of the past.

Steve Woffindden

Retired Army Lieutenant Colonel

Gilbert, Ariz.

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