SPAWAR loses out as Navy intranet developer

SPAWAR loses out as Navy intranet developer

By Bill Murray

GCN Staff

While Navy officials named a program executive officer for the service's intranet project, an admiral refuted suggestions that his vision for the $200 million voice, video and data network has been dismissed by higher-ups.

Late last month, Lee Buchanan, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition, announced that Joseph Cipriano, a Naval Sea Systems Command procurement official, will be program executive officer for information technology and will oversee the creation of the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet, which was most recently known as the Navy-Wide Intranet.

Meanwhile, Rear Adm. John A. Gauss canceled the Space and Naval Warfare Center's NWI pilot in San Diego due to funding limitations.

'The purpose of the pilot was to demonstrate that the architecture worked from a price-performance perspective. ' Folks have bought into it,' he said.

Gauss said SPAWAR had only leased equipment for the pilot, which it will use elsewhere. 'We're going to make pilot documents available as reference documents' for the intranet, he said.

'We had a minor perturbation named Y2K,' Gauss said of SPAWAR's year 2000 readiness efforts, which left a dearth of funding for the San Diego pilot.

'What we talked about at Connecting Technologies was primarily the architecture for the NWI, which included some material on the San Diego metropolitan area network,' said Cmdr. John Tull, SPAWAR spokesman, when asked about a May 11 speech in Norfolk, Va., in which Gauss elaborated on the NWI pilot. 'However, what he didn't talk about in Norfolk was the pilot and how the pilot was going to overlay computing services onto the San Diego MAN.'

But there's more to the story than the killing of the San Diego pilot. 'The major difference was NWI was more of a build-it, own-it, operate-it strategy developed within the Navy, primarily at SPAWAR,' said Ron F. Turner, the deputy chief information officer.''

Big difference

The Navy Marine Corps Intranet 'is more of a buy-it strategy developed by both the Navy and Marine Corps,' making it truly a naval initiative with buy-in from users servicewide, Turner said.'
In other words, there is a big difference between SPAWAR's vision as articulated by Gauss and Cipriano's plans, Turner said.

But Gauss said the only big difference between NWI and the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet is the name, which merely reflects the inclusion of the Marine Corps, Gauss said.

'The architecture is the same,' he said.

The basic architectural requirements will be similar to the Navy's IT Infrastructure Architecture document, which one can find online at, Turner said.

'The biggest shift we've made is in what we will acquire,' said a statement that Cipriano released last month. 'We're no longer looking to build our own architecture. Rather, we are going to specify and buy a service.'

Cipriano said last week that the service on Nov. 5 will issue a request for proposals for the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet. Vendors will have to submit bids by Dec. 6, and Cipriano's office expects to make an contract award by May 24.

The Navy will award an eight-year contract with a five-year base period and three one-year options, he said.

'I've never advocated building our own infrastructure,' Gauss said. 'People were taking a literal translation of what I was saying. ' It was a business euphemism, not a statement of work.'

Gauss wanted SPAWAR to serve as the contracting office for the project because 'somebody has to contract for it,' he said. 'Other commands would send their money here.'

A former Air Force contracting official argues that Gauss' predicament is typical, during an era of acquisition reform, when contracting offices compete against each other.

'When there's a vacuum, people try to fill it and be competitive,' said Chip Mather, senior vice president of Acquisition Solutions Inc. of Chantilly, Va. 'That's what SPAWAR did.'

With no Navy central source selection organization, 'each major program is like a jump ball between various activities that have acquisition missions,' Mather said.

'I welcome a PEO because he'll be in Washington,' Gauss said. 'We've never had a Washington presence,' the SPAWAR commander said from his San Diego office. 'A lot of what he'll have to do requires a Washington presence.'

He's the one

Gauss lauded Cipriano as the best choice as PEO.

'He's the guy I would have selected.' SPAWAR personnel will work for the PEO, providing contracting, engineering, fiscal and legal support, Gauss said.''

But Gauss conceded there were disagreements between him and Navy officials over the corporate intranet, which is expected to be in place by 2001.

'Any time you embark on something this radical, you're not going to agree on everything,' he said.

As a result of the debate, 'you end up with a better approach and better products. In some cases, folks have seen my logic,' and vice-versa, Gauss said. 'This was not SPAWAR versus the rest of the Navy.'

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