NMCI chiefs say the project is looking up

NEW ORLEANS'Part tent revival, part sales pitch and part technology update, this week's Navy-Marine Corps Intranet Symposium focused on the positive side of the largest-ever services outsourcing buy.

To be a leader associated with NMCI, 'You need a really, really, really thick skin,' acknowledged Albert Edmonds, president of EDS Government Solutions, NMCI's prime'and at times beleaguered'contractor. Despite a $330 million writeoff to cover NMCI losses, he said EDS is unequivocally committed to seeing the seven-year program to completion.

EDS's client executive for NMCI, Bill Richard, said that the company expects to make a profit once video and voice data are added to NMCI. To date, the Navy has used NMCI only for regular data'the intranet's core function, on which the company expects to break even at best.

NMCI officials have deployed 80,000 NMCI seats and expect to reach 210,000 by the end of the year, according to Rear Adm. Charles Munns, NMCI director. He said the network services provided by EDS are stable and secure enough that the Navy is looking to run several servicewide applications over NMCI. These include Task Force Web, Task Force Excel, and Project Sail'Web applications covering command and control, training and the detailing of sailors.

'The nonclassified part of the intranet is more secure than what we had before, so we are comfortable doing things,' Munns said. 'Mission-critical applications are running on NMCI.'

He noted that 1,200 NMCI seats participated in the recent Iraq war. Because the technology was standardized to NMCI specs, it could be quickly converted to run classified tactical applications collectively known as IT-21.

All is not perfect with the NMCI program, officials said. Acknowledging user complaints about its help desk, EDS' Richard said the company is adding permanent staff to the NMCI help desk, including those who can help with custom applications.

Moreover, Congress is mulling a $160 million, or 10 percent, cut in the NMCI budget for fiscal 2004. Munns said that the cuts were part of an across-the-board IT cut for the military, but that the concerns expressed by members of Congress'lack of management or system redundancy'don't apply to NMCI.

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