Testing center delayed

One measure aimed at improving NMCI's operation has been pushed back. The Navy said it would be unable to open its Product Evaluation Center at the Space and Naval Warfare IT Center in New Orleans until at least the fall. Earlier this year, the service said it intended to open the center this month.

The extended time will allow the Navy to finish operational testing on a prototype and to release a request for proposals for a vendor to run the center. The Navy will use the share-in-savings process, which means the service will share savings with a vendor chosen to run the lab, Christopher said.

The Navy will publish the standards that a product needs to meet to pass NMCI compatibility testing, and the procedures for submitting software to the center, on its site, at www.nmci.navy.mil. The Navy also will require every vendor who wants a software product tested for compatibility with NMCI to pay the costs of the tests, which could run anywhere from $10,000 to $40,000 per application, Christopher said.

'We can't afford to test every software product,' he said. 'We're shifting the cost from the government to industry.'
'Dawn S. Onley.

NMCI eventually will have more than 360,000 users on its integrated voice, video and data portal. The second largest network, run by IBM Corp., has 319,000 users, followed by the United Kingdom government, which outsources 100,000 government computer seats.

Noting that EDS has experienced financial problems as a result of the project, England applauded its perseverance on NMCI.

'This has not been a perfect process,' England added. Still, it's already considerably better than the way IT was managed before in the Navy, he said. Just five years ago, the Navy had 28 separate commands that budgeted and managed their own IT systems autonomously.

The Navy had no accounting of how much money it spent on IT products and services. Today, IT expenditures are bundled into the monthly computer seat cost the Navy pays for NMCI.

One step to improve management of the portal has been to trim the service-level agreements to a more manageable number. When the contract was signed in October 2000, the Navy established 240 performance criteria within about 30 categories that EDS had to meet, said Rear Adm. Charles Munns, who recently left as NMCI director after being nominated for a new command. 'Our lesson was, 240 was too many,' he said.

Capt. Chris Christopher, deputy director for future operations, communications and business initiatives for the NMCI program office, said he didn't know what the NMCI office's end SLA target would be, but he called the process 'evolutionary.'


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