Marine Corps wants to hand over some net operations to contractors

Marine Corps brass are weighing the advantages of turning over the day-to-day running
of nontactical networks to vendors.

The Corps wants to outsource part of its information technology and infrastructure work
in the National Capital Region, perhaps within the next three months.

If it works in the National Capital Region, the Navy will consider outsourcing the
Corps' East Coast, West Coast and Okinawa, Japan, network operations, said Col. John
Bouldry, director of plans and policies for the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for
Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence.

The service is defining the mission and costs of a metropolitan area network that would
include the Marines' Network Operations Center in Quantico, Va., Marine headquarters in
Arlington, Va., and smaller sites around the region.

The Marines must first make the case for turning over many of the IT services it
performs--including network support and management--to contractors.

"We're asking ourselves: Is it a core competency in the Marine Corps to be network
managers?" Bouldry said this month at the GCN Forum luncheon in Washington. "If
we have operations that are not deployable, do we really need to have uniformed Marines
doing these functions?"

The Corps is seeking economies of scale by tapping into the $70 billion a year IT
fee-for-service market.

"We have a difficult time retaining Marines with the skills to manage our
networks," Bouldry said.

Outsourcing would bring cost savings and a commercial skills base that would provide
such services as a 24-hour help desk, he said.

Marine Corps officials met with representatives from Boeing Co. and Lucent Technologies
Inc. of Murray Hill, N.J., this month to discuss work that could dovetail with Defense
Department contracts the companies already hold.

Boeing Information Services is the Defense Information Systems Network Support
Services-Global contractor.

Under the Navy's $2.9 billion Vivid contract, Lucent provides technical, administrative
and operations services for the Navy networks.

The Corps' push in the National Capital Region follows a similar project by the Navy's
chief information officer in Oahu, Hawaii, under that service's Information Technology for
the 21st Century initiative. The Navy's IT-21 Ashore Acquisition Strategy Proof-of-Concept
includes hiring vendors to run a Hawaiian MAN.

Coopers and Lybrand LLP of Wayne, Pa., and Booz, Allen & Hamilton Inc. of McLean,
Va., surveyed the infrastructure proposal and its costs for all commands at Camp Smith,
Hawaii, but have not released them publicly.

A similar team is analyzing the cost and benefits for a network in the Norfolk, Va.,

Bouldry said the Marine Corps, like the Navy, must answer a lot of questions before
deciding to use contractors to run its National Capital Region MAN.

The biggest problem is protecting classified information that contractors have access
to when working on military networks, he said.

"I'm not sure that we know what the full implications are. We have Secret IP
Router Network and the Non-Classified IP Router Network access and if we're going to
outsource, we obviously have to look at" security, Bouldry said.

The Marine Corps next year will switch from a network running Vines from Banyan Systems
Inc. of Westborough, Mass., to one running Microsoft Windows NT 4.0.

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