Marines map out an IT master strategy
- By Gregory Slabodkin
- Jan 12, 1998
With all the talk about the Navy's Information Technology for the 21st Century
initiative, the Marine Corps again seems in the shadow of its larger sister service.
Not to be outdone, the Marine Corps has devised a plan for modernizing its IT systems
for warfare in the next century.
The Marine Corps Implementation Plan for Information Management is still in draft form,
but the service has settled on some key ingredients.
The plan ties the Corps' Operational Maneuver from the Sea concept of operations to an
overall IT acquisition strategy, Corps officials said.
Gen. Charles Krulak, the Marine Corps commandant, approved the Marine Corps Master Plan
in the fall. He then called for development of more than a dozen separate implementation
plans covering vital areas such as information management.
Based on the implementation plans, the Marine Corps will develop its budget submissions
for 2000 through 2004.
"When the commandant talks about opportunities for enhancement, information
management comes first--not kicking down doors or storming beaches," said Col. John
Bouldry, director of plans for the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Command,
Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence.
Krulak's vision for the Marine Corps in the 21st century is one of a highly versatile
fighting force that is first on the scene and ready to use the latest warfighting
technologies. The vision requires a robust information infrastructure that Marines can
access easily, in garrison as well as afloat and ashore.
The Marine Corps' ongoing base modernization is a five-year, $155 million program that
began last year and will focus on three major installations where 95 percent of Marines
are concentrated--Camp Pendleton, Calif., Camp Lejeune, N.C., and Camp Butler in Okinawa,
The Marines are modernizing the base-level information infrastructure by replacing
copper cable with fiber-optic cable. The Corps is linking its camps and stations by
asynchronous transfer mode switches running at OC-3 transmission rates of 155
Last year, the Corps finished the Camp Lejeune upgrades and expects to complete work at
Camp Pendleton later this year. Camp Butler work is set for 1999. Then, between 2000 and
2003, the Corps will modernize six more bases and four air stations.
Like the Navy in its IT-21 initiative, the Corps is migrating from Sun Microsystems
Sparc workstations and Hewlett-Packard Co. Unix workstations to networks of PCs and
notebooks running Microsoft Windows NT.
IT-21 hardware standards established by Pacific and Atlantic fleets last March specify
a 200-MHz Pentium Pro PC with 64M RAM and 3G hard drive as the preferred minimum Navy
The Marines' standards are less demanding. The Corps will replace 286s, 386s and 486s
with 166-MHz Pentiums with at least 32M of RAM and 1G to 2G hard drives.
"Every year, beginning in 2000, we're going to have a recapitalization effort.
That's the difference between the IT-21 plan and the Marine Corps plan," Bouldry
said. "IT-21 calls for bringing new technology in now. But the IT-21 plan doesn't say
how the Navy is going to refresh that technology."
The Marine Corps' five-year, $175 million divestiture strategy calls for replacing 20
percent of its 75,000 workstations every year with an annual recapitalization of $35
million. The service estimates the average cost of a PC at $2,500, including maintenance.
The Marines have yet to divest themselves of any of their computers. All the PCs ever
bought are still in use. The Corps estimates that 50,000 of its PCs are 33-MHz 486s,
33-MHz 386s and 12.5-MHz 286s.
The Marine Corps also plans on leveraging existing complex-instruction-set-computing
and reduced-instruction-set-computing systems to create the most efficient mix of RISC and
CISC in a thin client-server environment. CISC platforms will provide the baseline for
thin-client systems, while RISC platforms will form the baseline for infrastructure
In one case study, the Marines Corps found that of $507,000, $242,000 could be saved
for one infantry battalion through migration to a client-server environment when CISC
platforms were used to run the 10 applications resident on the RISC servers. The numbers
of RISC and CISC systems would shift from nine high-capacity RISC platforms and 23 CISC
platforms to three RISC servers supporting 46 CISC systems.
"We took a representative infantry battalion and asked how many $50,000 computers
do we have and how many $2,500 computers are we using," Bouldry said. The goal was to
reduce the number of high-end systems and raise the number of inexpensive end-user
systems, he said.
The Marines also will continue to focus on joint capabilities.
"We have to be careful about joint interoperability because Marines could be part
of a naval expeditionary force or part of a land component," Bouldry said.
To that end, Marine Corps systems must comply with the Defense Information
Infrastructure Common Operating Environment and the Joint Technical Architecture standards
to ensure that they are interoperable.