Navy will more than double NMCI seats this year

NEW ORLEANS'Part revival tent, part sales pitch and part technology update, last month'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, government solutions president for NMCI contractor EDS Corp.

Despite a $330 million write-off to cover NMCI losses, he said EDS is unequivocally committed to seeing the seven-year program to completion.

EDS' client executive for NMCI, Bill Richard, said 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'NMCI's core business on which the company expects to break even at best.

Some 80,000 NMCI seats are deployed, a total expected to reach 310,000 by the end of the year, said Rear Adm. Charles Munns, NMCI director.

Munns 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 the Navy had 1,200 NMCI seats in operation in the recent Iraq war. Because the hardware and software were standardized to NMCI specs, they could be quickly converted to run classified tactical applications created under the IT for the 21st Century initiative.

Munns also said that the contract with EDS will be modified so that new services can be added quickly. For example, when BlackBerry wireless PDAs, from Research in Motion Ltd. of Waterloo, Ontario, and associated services were added to the NMCI catalog, it required months of negotiations to set prices. Now, Munns said, EDS and the Navy will use an algorithm to determine prices and a markup for EDS.

NMCI's program manager, Capt. Chris Christopher, said any new products on NMCI would be sold as services and not simply parts.

But 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 technicians 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 the cuts were part of an across-the-board IT cut for the military, but that the concerns expressed by members of Congress'about a lack of management and system redundancy'don't apply to NMCI.

Munns said, 'Our plan is to be at 210,000 seats by the end of summer.'

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