NMCI leaders point to progress ...

Capt. Chris Christopher says NMCI has made progress in the last year, including on security.

Despite negative reviews from some of its users, the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet project has had some successes.

The network went unscathed by the MSBlaster virus attack last summer, while some other government systems were affected, because the service had updated its antivirus software to spot malicious code.

And most of the federal government marveled at how quickly the Navy and prime contractor EDS Corp. recovered from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the Pentagon, when the Navy lost 70 percent of its Pentagon office space'including 30 servers in the Navy Budget Office alone.

The NMCI Information Strike Force, the contractor team led by EDS, rebuilt the network in less than a week.

The team loaded nine tractor-trailers with Dell Inc. notebook and desktop PCs, and fiber-optic and Category 5 copper cables. and went to work rebuilding lost classified and unclassified networks.
The Navy and EDS declined to be interviewed for this story, but the Navy released a statement saying its internal surveys have found a high rate of user satisfaction.

NMCI 'is a performance-based contract with a robust customer service satisfaction component,' said Navy spokeswoman Lt. Amy Gilliland. She said the Navy administers quarterly surveys, each one sampling 25 percent of NMCI users, 'giving those who use the network a chance to grade their service providers. EDS payments are in turn directly tied to the level of user satisfaction.'

The Navy's December survey, which covered a test population representative of the entire department, found that 60 percent of the users surveyed said they were satisfied with NMCI, Gilliland said.

In an interview last month, Capt. Chris Christopher, the deputy NMCI director for future operations, communications and business initiatives, said the program is still grappling with reducing the number of legacy apps and changing the culture of the Navy. But he said the Navy and EDS have made many advances in the past year.

The Navy has reduced more than 100,000 legacy applications to between 10,000 and 12,000.

And it has reduced the duplicated systems that accompanied the transition. Early last year, 20 percent of all users cut over to NMCI were forced to use two workstations'the new NMCI system and a quarantined seat that was not linked to the Intranet because it ran legacy applications that the Navy still needs but cannot operate on the new network.

Today, 10 percent of all workstations are quarantined. 'Most of those challenges seem to be behind us,' Christopher said.

Many of the respondents in a GCN reader survey saw other problems, and some suggested ways to improve the program. A recurring theme was the need for better communication.

'Continuous communication is a must,' one said. 'Leadership and communication will help to drive this project forward from both government and contractors.'

Another added: 'Perhaps the development of a communication plan would help break down the cultural barriers.'

NMCI should not be a one-size-fits-all program, many respondents wrote.

A few of the Navy's research and development engineers say NMCI software is too limited and that they should be allowed to purchase their own software.

'The business office structure of NMCI fits poorly in R&D environments where PCs are often treated as research tools,' one said.

Many respondents advised NMCI's leaders to listen more closely to the end users.

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