Navy-wide intranet plan prompts questions about other service IT buys

Navy-wide intranet plan prompts questions about other service IT buys

By Bill Murray

GCN Staff

The Navy-Marine Corps Intranet industry day this month raised plenty of questions as vendors scrambled to form teams to bid for the winner-take-all contract.

One thing sparking many vendors' questions is the project's expanding scope. Initially conceived to create a servicewide intranet, NMCI has grown to become a commodity buy for online services and hardware. Marine and Navy officials touted it as a program worth billions.

Through the project, the Navy plans to pay a fixed price per seat for information technology services, which officers described as similar to how the Navy would buy telephone service. The shifting scope led some vendors to grumble that they will be hard-pressed to meet NMCI's initial bid deadline of Dec. 6, given the complexity of the procurement.

Two big questions arose immediately:

  • If the Navy and Marine Corps plan to buy PCs, servers and other products through the NMCI contract, what will become of the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center's IT Umbrella program?

  • Will the Corps bother negotiating a blanket purchasing agreement for PCs and servers'a BPA the service had said it would set by July 1?

Navy and Marine officials said that, for now, no programs have been eliminated, although some are on hold.

As to SPAWAR's IT Umbrella program, the San Diego organization will develop more focused contracts because the Navy will be able to buy many commodity products through NMCI, said Rear Adm. John A. Gauss, SPAWAR commander. His program, for example, could award a contract for financial management software, he said.

The Marine Corps, meanwhile, postponed its BPA because of the NMCI industry day, but Maj. Jeff Lee, assistant program manager for logistics at the Marine Corps Systems Command, said the service still plans to proceed with the BPA and will finalize a deal soon.

Some buys also were put on hold because of the NMCI project, said Ron F. Turner, the Navy's deputy chief information officer.

'We've waited long enough,' said Vice Adm. Robert J. Natter, director of space information warfare for the Navy's Command and Control Directorate. 'With our security needs and the number of stovepipe systems we have, we need to do [NMCI] now.'

Fast and furious

'The faster we get there, the faster we can preserve budgets for it in out years,' Gauss said.

The Corps and Navy can use operations and maintenance, and working capital funds for NMCI, which will provide services to users in the continental United States and Hawaii, said Joseph R. Cipriano, the Navy's program executive officer for IT. His office will manage NMCI. Navy ships can use other procurement funding for their afloat activities under NMCI, Natter said.

The service plans to use its IT for the 21st Century program to cover requirements for systems products and services outside the continental United States. The Corps has its own program for such needs.

The Marine Corps will continue to follow systems policies set by the Navy CIO, but it is also establishing eight regions for IT management, said Brig. Gen. Robert M. Shea, assistant chief of staff for the Marine command, control, communications and intelligence.

Although Gauss had originally suggested that SPAWAR could do many of the projects for the servicewide intranet effort, the Navy decided to hire a contractor for the program. The Defense Department needs to stick to its strengths and outsource programs such as NMCI, Navy and Marine officials said.

'Doing tape backup doesn't seem like a core competency for the government,' Gauss said.

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