NMCI still sparks love, frustration

Rear Adm. Charles L. Munns said a cut in legacy apps is one reason users have complained about NMCI.

Henrik G. DeGyor

The transition of the information systems of the Commander in Chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet in Norfolk, Va., to the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet has been as smooth as glass, officials there said.

The Naval Air Command in Orlando, Fla., has had similar success in cutting over to NMCI. At both sites, IT operations are being moved nearly seamlessly onto the NMCI infrastructure by workers from Electronic Data Services Inc., the lead contractor on the project, according to Navy officials.

But at NAVAIR headquarters in Patuxent River, Md., the transition has been bumpy, to say the least. Several users have complained loudly that the new systems' performance is inferior to the facility's previous information systems. And users at the command operate 2,321 quarantined seats'workstations that are not linked to NMCI because they are required to run legacy applications that the Navy still needs but cannot run on the new network.

What's the difference?

By comparison, the Norfolk facility has no quarantined seats, and NAVAIR Orlando has four of 1,244. Why has the switch been so much easier in Norfolk and Orlando?

In part, the transition has been smoother because those commands have simpler IT infrastructures than NAVAIR headquarters. In addition, Navy officials said, the Patuxent River base, the first Navy facility to cut over to NMCI, paved the way for other bases to make an easier switch.

'As one of the first sites to move to NMCI, and as a command with advanced technical IT expertise, they are helping us learn lessons which we can replicate across the enterprise,' said Rear Adm. Charles L. Munns, director of NMCI.

At NAVAIR headquarters, where Navy engineers develop and test technology to help warfighters, the transition is far from over, but the command has made significant progress, spokeswoman Eileen Kane said.

When it began looking at which applications it would keep for NMCI and which it would discard, the base had 26,000 apps. That number has been reduced to 2,000, Kane said. But because NAVAIR users still need those apps to do their jobs, and NMCI won't support the software, the Navy has fielded thousands of quarantined workstations.

The Navy had more than 100,000 applications when it started vetting software for NMCI process, Munns said. It has cut the number to 26,000, and Munns plans to reduce it to hundreds if possible.

Munns said NMCI's reduction of legacy apps is one reason users have complained.

'Some of them were applications that people liked and can't have anymore,' he said.

Other users have complained about the level of service and equipment under NMCI, but individual commands get to choose the level of service they'll receive, Navy officials said. Commands that have chosen a higher level of service than they had before the transition have been pleased with NMCI, Munns said.

'Norfolk is very happy. Orlando is very happy. It depends on where you sit,' he said. 'If you've been driving a Cadillac all your life and now we're coming in with a Ford Focus,' users might be dissatisfied.

But that unhappiness is the typical cultural resistance that most federal agencies experience when they modernize, he said.

'There are lots of pockets of resistance in many places,' Munns said. 'But I see that resistance decaying, and I see other agencies watching what we're doing. To me, it goes back to a cultural change.'

At NAVAIR headquarters, many users complain that help desk response is slow, the network is not quick enough, and that they still have to use two computers to do their jobs.

Several technicians at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Crane, Ind., who requested anonymity also voiced their displeasure with NMCI. After the rollout of the new network, they said, users can expect intermittent e-mail service, slower network speed, decreased productivity, increased frustration and 'restricted access to your own computer.'

But Monica Shepherd, director of the Navy's Task Force Web and of C5 systems for the Atlantic Fleet, said she can't relate to the transition problems at other commands. At her command, she said, NMCI has run smoothly and efficiently and users are pleased.

'We just don't have that experience,' Shepherd said. 'The kinds of things that you're hearing, we're not having that.'

Shepherd credited the technicians for the work they did to reduce legacy apps two years ago. The command went from hundreds of unclassified apps to 84, and technicians are still cutting.

'We've already walked the road that everybody is walking. We're trying to take the things we've done here and share our lessons learned with other folks,' Shepherd said.

Lt. Alvin Gonzalez, director of the fleet's legacy apps elimination team, echoed Shepherd's comments.

'The biggest reason for our success is we did all the hard work up front rather than waiting to the cutover before finding out something wasn't working properly,' Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez added that he thinks most of the problems other commands are having with NMCI will subside as time goes on and as users become more comfortable with the network.

'As time goes on, the more users get on the network, the more stable the network will become,' Gonzalez said.

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