Navy has high hopes for embattled NMCI deal

Navy has high hopes for embattled NMCI deal

By Mark Kellner
Special to GCN

OCT. 6'Today's award of the potential $16 billion Navy-Marine Corps Intranet contract to Electronic Data Systems Corp. caps months of contention and controversy over the federal government's largest information technology procurement.

For the Navy and Marine Corps, it means outsourcing IT needs to the Texas company, and leveling the playing field among land and sea installations.

In May, House Armed Services Committee leaders voiced their concerns over the buy.
"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."

Before that, in February, Rep. Herbert H. Bateman (R-Va.) asked Navy Secretary Richard Danzig to hold off on the buy, stating that the service hadn't made a business case for outsourcing: 'I request that you delay the acquisition and implementation of this initiative until it is fully developed, is included in the future budget request, and receives the proper level of congressional oversight,' Bateman wrote.

The lawmaker, who had planned to retire this year, died Sept. 11.

In January, the Navy hired consulting firms Booz, Allen & Hamilton Inc. of McLean, Va., and GartnerGroup Inc. of Stamford, Conn., to perform a six-month, $2 million business case analysis for NMCI. The idea was to answer congressional qualms over the program, according to observers.

Underlying the concerns about a 'business case' for NMCI were congressional jitters over local jobs. But Rear Adm. Richard D. Mayo, director of Space and Naval Warfare Command and Control, told Congress in March that having an intranet would bring tremendous advantages to the Navy.

'First, an intranet can provide full collaboration across every afloat and ashore element of our department,' Mayo said. 'There will be no 'haves vs. have-nots' in the NMCI. Every naval element will be a full participant.'

'Unlike today, every command and every sailor will have the appropriate level of access to fully exploit network applications and services, and in turn, will be able to contribute fully,' Mayo said.

'We will increase network interoperability through the common standards that only a single enterprise intranet can provide,' the admiral said. 'Like successful business enterprises, the NMCI will provide full access across the enterprise to common databases and information repositories, as well as a great cross-functional reach across previously stovepiped boundaries.

'Our currently uncoordinated and inconsistently developed and operated networks do not permit this degree of synergy. The NMCI will better enable us to support sweeping applications like enterprise resource planning.'

In a year when the security of federal IT installations has come under great public scrutiny, Mayo claimed that NMCI would help the service enhance its defenses.

'Intranets bring with them security measures that are otherwise unachievable in uncoordinated and uncertain network conglomerations,' he told Congress in March.

Mayo said this would be done using standards-based technology across the entire network and by required 'quality of service' standards for the vendors involved.

'NMCI will also accelerate the desired proliferation of Class 3 public-key infrastructure-enabled Web pages and authentication measures for appropriately authorized access to, and modification of, Navy Web sites. The uniform implementation of PKI/certificate authorities and antivirus signatures across the NMCI enterprise will considerably reduce risks of external intruder root access gained by the 'sniffing' of passwords, and from unsolicited e-mail with malicious attachments,' he added.

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