The Navy gets its intranet project back on track

The Navy gets its intranet project back on track

Service sets goals for $6.9 billion buy after resolving Hill concerns that sidetracked NMCI award

By Mark A. Kellner

Special to GCN

Months of controversy repeatedly threatened to sink the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet project.

But with lawmakers' questions answered, the Navy has high hopes for the $6.9 billion contract it awarded this month to Electronic Data Systems Corp.

The Navy and Marine Corps will use the contract to outsource as many information technology needs as possible to the company, doling out services among land and sea installations.

But it was a rocky road getting through what Navy officials had hoped would be a record-setting procurement when they released the request for proposals in December 1999 and set the award date for June.

More details, please

Lawmakers created the logjam, demanding detailed information about the buy before they were willing to give it their seal of approval.

Ultimately, meeting those demands threw the NMCI award off-track by about four months'from June to this month.

In May, House Armed Services Committee leaders put their foot on the brake, voicing concern over the buy, just weeks before the service had planned to name a winning vendor.

'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 fiscal 2001 Defense 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.'

The concerns on Capital Hill were not entirely new to the service because Rep. Herbert H. Bateman (R-Va.) in February had asked Navy Secretary Richard Danzig to slow down the procurement.

At the time, Bateman said, the service had not 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,' he said.

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

To assuage its congressional overseers, 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 of NMCI.

Underlying the concerns about whether the Navy could justify outsourcing so much systems work were congressional jitters over losing local jobs at Navy facilities coast to coast.

The jobs issue aside, 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.'

By hiring a single comm services contractor and building a single enterprisewide intranet, the Navy will be able to increase network interoperability through the use of common standards, Mayo said.

He described the Navy's current networking environment as 'uncoordinated and inconsistently developed.' Through NMCI, the Navy will be better able to support sweeping applications such as enterprise resource planning, Mayo said.

Additionally, in a time when the security of federal IT installations has come under increased public scrutiny, Mayo said, NMCI would help the service enhance its systems defenses.

Security boon

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

He predicted that NMCI would accelerate the proliferation of authentication efforts for the Defense Department's public-key infrastructure program and strengthen the security of Navy Web services.

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