Evaluations find Corps' systems good to go for Jan. 1

Evaluations find Corps' systems good to go for Jan. 1

As buyers, 'we have to be prudent,' the Marine Corps' Debra M. Filippi says.

By Bill Murray

GCN Staff

The Marine Corps has done nine operational evaluations for year 2000 readiness and has found no problems that would lead to computer systems failures, said the service's deputy chief information officer.

'We had software failures, such as computers that didn't roll over,' but they didn't affect operations, said Debra M. Filippi, deputy assistant chief of staff for command, control, communications, computers and intelligence.

Marine Corps officials might conduct a fall-back exercise in the fall after a final operational evaluation is completed, she said.

Filippi also said that despite the shift to PCs running Microsoft Windows NT for many programs, Unix will still be needed.

The service is shifting away from Unix workstations as front-end interfaces, Filippi said. But the Corps will use PCs to access Unix applications through the Internet, she said. 'We can get the power of Unix on the other end.'

A majority of Unix systems used within the service 'come to us from systems we pull from joint communications or the Navy,' she said. 'Nothing is pure or absolute.' Some observers have thought the Marines were just buying PCs and PC servers exclusively because the service is porting the Global Command and Control System from a Unix environment to Windows through its command and control PC initiative.

The Marines were a catalyst in the Defense Information Systems Agency's porting GCCS to PCs, Filippi said.

'This is a reasonable approach,' she said. 'We have to be prudent when we tout ourselves as buyers and buy what the market bears,' which is increasingly PCs that run Windows.

A few good PCs

When asked if the Marines Corps will ever use PCs exclusively, she said, 'not in the near future.' Service officials are studying what makes a true desktop and PC environment, and what kind of processing power people need when within months vendors may be selling computers powered by 1G processors, she said.

Meanwhile, despite a six-month delay caused by defects in almost 400 servers, the service is on track to deploy by year's end Exchange Server 5.5 running under NT Server 4.0 with Outlook as the client for messaging, Filippi said.

In response to criticism about the definitions of regions for the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI), Filippi said there's nothing magical about the rationale behind defining some regions geographically while others involve organizations that are geographically dispersed.

There are regions for Hawaii, Japan, and the East and West coasts, but there's also a logistics region, which includes bases in Albany, Ga., and Barstow, Calif., as well as the Marine Corps Systems Command in Quantico, Va., and other parts of the Materiel Command that work closely together, she said.

Corps officials, however, are 'rethinking the regional construction. Does it make sense to have four regions or eight regions?' Filippi said. 'We're looking to industry for more of the capabilities and techniques' to support NMCI than there are under the Marine Corps Enterprise Network, she said.

Buying through the Marine Corps Systems Command and its forthcoming blanket purchasing agreements for PCs and servers'which the service has mandated starting Oct. 1'will allow the service to save money by taking advantage of economies of scale and also to consolidate warranty fees and keep better track of warranty data, Filippi said.

Filippi, who had worked for more than 20 years in the Navy, said the Marine Corps is very different from its parent service. 'They do things differently because they are different,' she said. 'Operation forces are different than ships,' and Filippi said she feels a closer connection with the Corps because it is a smaller service.

Filippi said she finds the 'brutally honest' nature of the Corps refreshing. 'I don't think I've been treated differently' as a civilian female, said Filippi, who will complete her second year with the service next month.

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