Commander: Outsourcing cuts SPAWAR costs

Commander: Outsourcing cuts SPAWAR costs

BY PREETI VASISHTHA | GCN STAFF

The cost of maintaining systems, networks and help desk operations at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command in San Diego is running 23 percent less than it did in 1999.

The difference is that in 1999, the Navy command managed the operations on its own. This year, it has outsourced them.


'At SPAWAR, we have identified over 3,000 applications that are being run. And we have managed to kill 42 percent of them since February.'
'Rear Adm. John Gauss
It is these figures that SPAWAR's departing commander, Rear Adm. John Gauss, shares with critics of the service's Navy-Marine Corps Intranet. Outsourcing is cost-effective, he said.

With NMCI, the Navy and Marine Corps will buy information technology service as if it were a utility. Electronic Data Systems Corp. won the $6 billion, five-year contract and will provide hardware and software, technical support, e-mail service, training and security services at a per-seat charge averaging $3,412 a year [GCN, May 21, Page 1].

All for outsourcing

Gauss, who had long been a proponent of outsourcing Navy systems services, said NMCI has also helped the Navy identify and inventory its many legacy applications.

'At SPAWAR, we have identified over 3,000 applications that are being run. And we have managed to kill 42 percent of them since February,' he said.

If the Navy were to modernize on its own, it would be very costly, Gauss said, adding that with programs such as NMCI, industry makes the initial investment and handles the recapitalization. 'Also, with NMCI, Navy can get technology light years faster,' he said.

Gauss took over as commander of SPAWAR-San Diego in March 1998 when NMCI, then dubbed the Navy-wide Intranet, and another high-profile program, IT for the 21st Century, were just beginning to percolate. When he retires next month, he will close the book on a 32-year naval career that spanned tours of duty aboard ships, at the Pentagon and with several systems shops throughout the service.

Gauss said he plans to take another federal job, but that it will not be in the Defense Department.

NMCI and IT-21 have given the Navy a global, seamless and interoperable approach for modernizing its systems, Gauss said.

'There's been a revolution in the way ships communicate and how we have moved from slow-speed circuits to high-speed protocols,' he said.

The Navy's IT-21 program established a way for the Navy's forces and even those of allies to tap into a network that supports voice, video and data transmissions from shipboard and on-shore PCs.

Internet access on a ship was a new concept when Gauss took charge, said Richard Williamson, media operations officer at SPAWAR. But by October, all but eight ships in the Navy'excluding those set to be decommissioned within the next five years'will have Internet access, he said.

IT has made work in the Navy a paperless proposition, automated tasks and brought substantial improvements, Gauss said.

For instance, during Operation Desert Storm, strike planning started 72 hours in advance, and a 300-page document was flown to sailors launching Tomahawk cruise missiles. Now, strike-planning time has been reduced by 24 hours, and execution is done in an hour, he said, adding that massive documents still need to be flown halfway around the world.

IT with a plan

But for military assuredness, such IT use must be backed by solid planning and a robust infrastructure, he said.

The biggest challenge the Navy faces is keeping pace with advancing technology, Gauss said. As new technologies emerge, the service needs to be quick enough to acquire and use them before they become obsolete, he said.

Meanwhile, there is the challenge of integrating new technologies servicewide, Gauss said. Otherwise, there's little difference compared with the days of stovepipe systems, he said, because you end up with duplicate data entry and maintenance.

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