Navy says it feels pressure to make IT-21 a success

Navy says it feels pressure to make IT-21 a success

By Bill Murray

GCN Staff

Navy officials are pleased with the funding they have received for their Information Technology for the 21st Century project for fiscal 2000. But now that the money is allocated, they are feeling the pressure to perform.

With $500 million in funding set aside for next year, "our job is to get [it] done," said Vice Adm. Robert J. Natter, deputy chief of naval operations for operations and plans. "We plan to do installations six months before deployment and training," beginning in mid-2000, he said.

"The battle group commanders, Marines at sea and sailors'the warfighters'made the arguments" that persuaded Congress to generously fund IT-21, said Natter, the former director of space, information warfare, command and control, who was scheduled to take his new position Sept. 1.

Natter previously was chief of the Navy's Legislative Affairs Office and a staff member for the House Armed Services Committee for the 100th Congress.

Build, now buy

In response to a question about Gigabit Ethernet and whether that could replace asynchronous transfer mode networks on the ships, Natter said, "We're going to go where technology takes us. We're idiots if we don't."

After 40 years of developing their own technology, Defense Department leaders have had to shift during the last five years to becoming technology buyers, he said.

Following a recent weeklong off-site meeting of the Navy's stakeholders in the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet project, the service has received 50 white papers from vendors hoping to win the intranet contract, Natter said. Officials are developing a request for proposals that will come out later this year, he said.

The Navy plans to award an NMCI contract in May.

"The thing I've found in this building is if you issue a challenge, it'll be met," said Natter, speaking in his Pentagon office about the ambitious procurement schedule for NMCI.

"We think the Marine Corps needs to ask how they can keep the Navy on board," said Natter, in response to a question about the Corps' long-term interest in NMCI, given the fact that the Navy has the ability to control Non-Classified IP Router Network access from its Network Operations Center.

Price cuts

"We're gonna be beating the hell out of them with NMCI," Natter said, referring to price breaks that service officials expect to get on the single-award contract.

After Natter met with a couple of senior Navy officials, "Lee Buchanan [assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition] then got involved, and he showed us the way to do it."

Buchanan named Joe Cipriano to be program executive officer of IT for the Navy, Natter said.

Natter said that it was an "evolutionary decision" to form a program executive office for IT to manage NMCI, rather than have Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command officials do the work.

"We knew nine months ago that we wanted industry to take the lead [on NMCI]," Natter said.

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