Navy is under the gun to answer Congress' questions about NMCI

Navy is under the gun to answer Congress' questions about NMCI

Navy officials are working furiously to meet a self-imposed June 21 deadline for providing Congress with details about the service's $10 billion Navy-Marine Corps Intranet procurement.

Failing to provide the information could delay the award by a month or more. The service originally had planned to award the eight-year contract by June 1.

The Navy must convince lawmakers that the buy is the right thing to do.

This month, the House Armed Services Committee approved a clause in the fiscal 2001 Defense Department authorization bill that forbids the service from spending any money on an NMCI contract until 60 days after the committee gets the information it requested, said Ron Turner, deputy chief information officer for infrastructure, systems and technology.

Lawmakers want to know how the department will pay for NMCI, how the procurement will affect Navy personnel and what its impact will be on small businesses, Turner said.

'Although the program is a multibillion dollar government contract unprecedented in scope and expense, this initiative was not included in either fiscal year 2000 or fiscal year 2001 budgets,' the committee noted in a report accompanying the authorization bill.

The committee also cited 'serious concerns' raised by the General Accounting Office about the Navy's 'acquisition strategy for the program, the absence of basic justification material and the lack of governmental oversight.'

Meeting demand

Turner said his goal is to assuage lawmakers' concerns and supply the demanded information by mid-June, when the members of the House and Senate Armed Services committees are slated to begin a conference session on the authorization bill.

'There probably won't be major delays in the contract award,' he said. Turner said he is 'not a procurement guy,' so he cannot project the award date. 'It's kind of like dancing,' he said, describing the give-and-take of Congress' authorization and budget process.

This is not the first attempt by lawmakers to rein in the Navy on NMCI. Rep. Herbert H. Bateman (R-Va.) in February sent a letter to Navy Secretary Richard Danzig demanding that the service provide a business case analysis for NMCI [GCN, March 6, Page 3].

The service hired Booz, Allen & Hamilton Inc. of McLean, Va., to conduct an analysis and has been submitting reports to Bateman, chairman of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Readiness.

Studying effects

To answer the House committee's questions, the Navy is studying the effect that outsourcing voice, video and data services would have on the operation of Navy help desks, network administration and PC technical support, Turner said.

'We want [displaced workers] to move into knowledge management, applications development and other areas,' he said.

The NMCI contractor will receive financial incentives to hire Navy civilian workers who perform activities that the vendor takes over, he said.

As to the financial questions from Congress, the Navy is 'doing a thorough scrub on what we spend today on information technology,' said David Litchfield, the service's deputy program executive officer for IT. He spoke last week at the Navy Connecting Technology Conference in Norfolk, Va.

As to the effect on small businesses, Litchfield said, the service is working with the Small Business Administration and will include terms in the NMCI contract for penalizing the prime contractor if it subcontracts less than 35 percent of NMCI work to small businesses.

Meanwhile, the service is also negotiating with the Defense Information Services Agency on an agreement to use the Defense Information Systems Network for long-haul NMCI communications. Turner said a decision was expected late last week.

The NMCI bidders'Computer Sciences Corp., Electronic Data Systems Corp., General Dynamics Corp. and IBM Corp.'will make best-and-final offers soon.


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