Consolidation efforts give Navy leverage

GCN: During a recent
briefing on the future of IT in the Navy, you didn’t once mention the Information
Technology for the 21st Century initiative. Is IT-21 still viable?


MILLER: It’s very much alive. IT-21 as an initiative is not going away, but
it’s not a program of record. What I’m trying to do is take IT-21, which is a
fleet-driven initiative that doesn’t consider all of the Navy, and extend it.


The Marine Corps, for instance—unless their units are onboard ship—are not
included in IT-21. We’re looking at a technology infrastructure for the entire Navy
that includes other facilities in addition to the fleets. I don’t have a nice acronym
for this effort. But if I call it IT-21, people will look at the initiative and think
it’s that narrow.


GCN: A March 1997 message from the
Pacific and Atlantic fleets established IT-21 standards. But the Navy Chief Information
Officer Board of Representatives in May approved the Information Technology Standards
Guidance that lays out servicewide standards for hardware and software. Does the ITSG
supersede the IT-21 standards?


Miller: The ITSG standards include a lot of areas that the interim IT-21 standards did
not. The Pacific and Atlantic fleets looked at specific areas. What we tried to do with
the ITSG is look at the entire protocol stack and a whole chapter on information
protection.


It’s a more comprehensive view, but it doesn’t contradict any of the interim
standards. In fact, they’re all in there. It’s a matter of building on what
they’ve done and extending it rather than throwing it out. What we’re trying to
do is make the ITSG a living, evolving document. That’s why it’s on the Web and
we’ve put money aside to update it frequently.


We’re going to try to keep it current as opposed to what we often do, which is
make a standard and then forget to update it.


GCN: The ITSG listed commercial
products as either preferred products or not recommended, and there were definite winners
and losers. What was the vendor response to the document?


Miller: Our dialogue has been open and candid. There’s some disappointment and
some delight. What I have taken very positively, though, is even where we have expressed
concerns about some current products, we have promised to re-evaluate them roughly every
year.


GCN: The ITSG selected Microsoft
Windows NT as the Navy’s preferred operating system for both networks and PCs. One of
the reasons the Navy selected NT is because it has been certified by the National Security
Agency for command and control security applications, while the most current versions of
Unix have not been evaluated. Is there still a role for Unix in the Navy?


Miller: I would be surprised, given the size and diversity of the department, if
we’ll ever really get to a completely homogeneous computing platform for all users.


We have real-time, near real-time and large-scale modeling and simulation requirements.
We’re looking at a balance between Unix and NT, but we also have a need for
high-performance computing. We have a variety of needs that right now Unix best serves,
and I see it continuing.


GCN: The Navy recently signed the
service’s first-ever master licensing agreement with Novell Inc. Are you currently in
discussions with other vendors to conclude enterprisewide licensing agreements for
software?


Miller: What we are doing now, in fact, is re-examining our negotiating position. You
may find this hard to believe, but we really are talking with our sister services and the
Defense Department about the idea of leveraging our buying power DOD-wide.


GCN: The Navy’s latest
estimates put the cost of fixing the service’s year 2000 problem at about $479
million, including the Marine Corps. The Navy has about 800 mission-critical systems. Will
they all be ready in time?


Miller: We have 24 mission-critical systems that right now are not expected to meet the
DOD-specified date for being Y2K-compliant. But that doesn’t necessarily mean after
Jan. 1, 2000. We are tracking them. We are putting a lot of effort right now into the
contingency and test plans.


If we can concurrently do the testing while they’re in renovation, then maybe we
can reduce some of that time.


We have to deploy onboard ships, and the ship deployments are such that the fixed
systems won’t be installed in all the fleets until after the DOD-specified date.
We’re not counting systems as completed until they’re installed on all the
platforms where they need to be.


GCN: The Navy has established
integrated product teams to assess the feasibility of outsourcing IT infrastructure work
in Oahu, Hawaii, and Norfolk, Va. The Marines are also considering outsourcing parts of
their operations in the Washington area. What is the status of those efforts?


Miller: I think we’ve made good progress. It’s been hard to get consensus
from this large group, but I think we’re getting there. It’s just that there are
a lot of people involved. We’re in the process of talking to all the owners of
resources to show them that it’s a win-win situation, instead of mandating from
above.


We try to give them as much data as possible, but we are asking them to take a leap of
faith because we’re making a paradigm change. We give them a lot of facts, and
sometimes they’re surprised at what we’ve uncovered. For example, in the
Tidewater-Norfolk area, we were told that there were 12 telephone switches in the area
when in fact there were more than double that.


There’s a lot more at stake here and, hence, a larger potential for savings. The
philosophy all along has been: Before we march off and do a big contract, let’s do
enough of an assessment to understand where we are with some hard dollars in a business
case analysis.


The Marine Corps is smaller than the Navy, so in that sense it has an easier task.
I’m not belittling the Corps task, but because it is smaller it’s easier for
them to get their hands around the concept and make faster progress. I’d like us to
come to some kind of a decision this summer. That’s the nice thing about being
smaller. If we could this summer decide that this approach is the best, then I see things
coming to fruition within 18 months.


GCN: Do you prefer blanket
purchasing agreements or indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contracts?


Miller: My preference is whatever makes good business sense.


GCN: The Navy has some major
personnel changes in the works. Vice Adm. Robert Natter will replace Vice Adm. Arthur
Cebrowski as director of space and electronic warfare, and Brig. Gen. Robert Shea is
replacing Maj. Gen. Joseph Anderson as the Marine Corps’ CIO. How do you see those
replacements?


Miller: I haven’t had a chance to meet Vice Adm. Natter yet. But I have had a
chance to meet Brig. Gen. Shea, and I’m looking forward to working with him. I think
this is going to be a good opportunity to have energized folks coming in with new ideas on
how we implement IT.


That’s not to say anything negative about the folks who are leaving. Adm.
Cebrowski has set the vision, and I don’t see us veering from that general vision of
network-centric warfare. What we’re now going to do is get into the engineering and
implementation phase. Let’s not just chart the course long-term but take steps now.
 

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