Selling plan isn't like preaching to choir

Selling plan isn't like preaching to choir

Like evangelists traveling the country in search of converts, George Sibley and other Electronic Data Systems Corp. executives have journeyed coast to coast to win over sailors and Marines skeptical of the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet.

The NMCI concept hasn't been an easy sell, said Sibley, EDS' deputy program manager for NMCI. One reason is that it goes against the culture of the military to turn over the reins of internal communications to industry.

'This is change management,' he said. 'They're used to doing it one way. This is taking some control away from parts of the Navy.'

In the long run, NMCI will make the Navy and Marine Corps infrastructure more robust and secure while saving money, said Vice Adm. Richard Mayo, the Navy chief information officer.

'We're going to field NMCI capabilities for less than our budget,' said Rear Adm. Kenneth Slaght, vice commander of the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command in San Diego. 'We're going to kill off old legacy duplications ' the nonfunctioning applications.'

But not everyone is pleased. Some users say the per-seat price, which averages $3,412, is too high. Some systems administrators argue that it's not feasible, or even desirable, for everyone to use the same Microsoft Windows platform when there are thousands of computers throughout Navy and Marine Corps commands that run other operating systems, including Mac OS, Sun Microsystems Solaris and Hewlett-Packard HP-UX.

Other users at the Naval Air Systems Command, the first command to use NMCI services, have complained that the migration of old applications to the new platforms has not run smoothly'a fact that top Navy brass acknowledge but add that rough edges are being ironed out.

And then there's the rumor that the Navy and the Defense Information Systems Agency are at odds. The reason: The Defense Information System Network is responsible for providing nonclassified and classified networks to the military, so NMCI is a rival to DISN.

Not so, said Brig. Gen. Bernard K. Skoch, principal director for network services at DISA. Last year, DISA and the Navy worked out an agreement that gives DISA the right of first refusal to meet the Navy's networking needs, Skoch said. In other words, if DISA can't meet the service's requirements, the Navy can seek a vendor.

Outside the lines?

'Some people are saying there is contention between the Navy and DISA. That's just not so,' Skoch said. NMCI 'steps outside of the boundaries of traditional offerings. I think it's provocative. I think it's exciting. It's not without its challenges, but I think it's great.'

Bernard K. Skoch
Bickering is expected and often accompanies a cultural change of this magnitude, several Navy officials said.

'Some of the whining I've seen has to do with people who had money and are used to buying what they want to buy,' said Richard Williamson, media operations officer at SPAWAR-San Diego.

Williamson said the contract is designed to level the playing field for all Navy and Marine Corps commands. 'In the long run, it's a good thing. We could Monday-morning-quarterback this thing to death,' he said.

Ron Turner, deputy CIO for the Navy, agreed that NMCI is a concept that 'you've got to socialize daily.' But he added that its strengths, such as bandwidth on demand and global knowledge sharing, outweigh the uncertainties.

But the other services might not jump on the seat management bandwagon.

An Air Force official said his agency won't follow suit. Col. William Cooper, director of mission systems, communication and information, said the Air Force's view of network operations is fundamentally different.

'We view and operate our network as a single, fully integrated mission capability regardless of where and when we use it,' Cooper said. 'The Navy-Marine Corps Intranet strategy separates operations for in-garrison and deployed networks.'

Even so, the service has learned a thing or two from the NMCI effort, Cooper said. 'We wholeheartedly agree with the underlying strategy to centralize operations, standardize configuration, reduce complexity and decrease the cost of same or better network services,' he said.

An Army official also said NMCI is not where his service is headed. Lt. Gen. Peter M. Cuviello, the Army's CIO, said the low-level buy-ins are coming slowly, and the Navy hasn't fixed all the operational flaws NMCI is uncovering.

The fixes will come with time, Mayo said.

'Dawn S. Onley


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