DOD gives Navy OK to expand NMCI use

The Navy-Marine Corps Intranet program jumped two major hurdles this month, but it still faces significant challenges.

Last week, lead contractor Electronic Data Systems Corp. held a conference call with reporters to refute a report in Computerworld that NMCI was off course.

On May 3, the Defense Department gave the Navy the go-ahead to order 100,000 additional computer seats to be cut over to the NMCI environment after the system passed tests for security, reliability and interoperability with other Defense systems. So far, EDS has assumed responsibility for 49,000 seats.

Two days earlier, the House Armed Services Committee approved a bill to let the Navy extend the $6.9 billion NMCI contract by two years.

'I think we achieved a significant milestone,' said Rear Adm. Charles Munns, NMCI's program manager. 'We're now going from a pilot phase to a rollout phase.'

In the conference call with reporters, EDS officials said they had called for company workers to speed up the rollout of NMCI seats but that the program had not been hamstrung by problems. The story was based on an internal e-mail from Mike Hatcher, chief delivery officer for EDS on the project, to the EDS team working at Navy facilities.

In the memo, Hatcher used phrases such as 'scorched earth seat rollout' to drive home the need for workers to pick up the pace on NMCI. But Rick Rosenburg, EDS' program executive for NMCI, said the e-mail was not an indication that the program was in trouble.

'Do we need to become more aggressive in streamlining processes? Yes,' he said.

Green light

Defense CIO John P. Stenbit and Michael W. Wynne, principal deputy undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, gave the Navy permission to order the additional seats, indicating their satisfaction with the progress of contractor testing and evaluation.

But Defense managers sounded a note of caution, saying the decision to let the Navy proceed didn't mean senior officials were no longer concerned about program delays, legacy system migration and user satisfaction.

Defense managers worry that EDS will be unable to keep up the hurried pace of rollout. 'I think the biggest issue all along has been the slip in the schedule,' McClellan said. 'The time line definitely moved to the left a few times.'

The next phase starts at nine sites with the Navy cutting over to the NMCI environment 20,000 seats of the newly approved 100,000.

The EDS test of those seats will be used to gain DOD approval for the order of 150,000 seats beyond the 100,000 just approved for rollout.

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