Net-centric projects taking the next steps

NCES principal director Debra Filippi says the program will give military agencies the chance to offer core services across Defense.

Rachel Golden

The Defense Department's Net-Centric Enterprise Services initiative is moving forward developing services for military agencies despite budget cuts to a complementary testing program.

NCES, one of five pillar programs of DOD's transformation efforts, is developing an initial nine enterprisewide service applications.

The Horizontal Fusion Portfolio Initiative tests NCES applications in real-world environments, along with demonstrating software applications submitted by other Defense agencies.

This year, NCES received full funding while HF's budget took a hit. The Horizontal Fusion budget was cut by $80 million, leaving the program office with $126 million to deploy 16 applications that have already been tested. But it has no money to test new apps this year.

Different directions

NCES, which is run by the Defense Information Systems Agency, received $52 million this year, and the agency is requesting $79 million in fiscal 2006, according to recently re-leased budget documents.

DISA plans for the initiative to cover nine core services: applications, collaboration, discovery, enterprise service management, mediation, messaging, security, storage and user assistance.

Marian Cherry, HF's portfolio manager, declined to comment on HF's budget request for 2006 until final decisions are made, but acknowledged questions about the program Congress raised in the fiscal 2005 bill.

Cherry said the program's managers are taking Congress' advice to step back and reassess the program's goals.

In last summer's Quantum Leap 2 demonstration, Horizontal Fusion tested four NCES applications, including discovery, messaging, mediation and security. During the exercise, HF's portfolio was available on the Horizontal Fusion Services Oriented Architecture and the programs accessible through a Web-enabled portal called Mars. But this year, there will be no Quantum Leap exercise, officials say.

What does the HF budget shortfall mean for the NCES program? A few industry sources say it will undermine NCES' testing capability this year.

Without Horizontal Fusion, one source compared NCES to a shell infrastructure such as America Online 'with nothing there. It's AOL with nobody to [instant message].

But DISA officials say this year's budget crunch for Horizontal Fusion will have no impact on NCES.

Debra Filippi, principal director for NCES at DISA, emphasized that NCES and HF are two different programs with two separate budgets. The Office of the Secretary of Defense for Networks and Information Integration sponsors the Horizontal Fusion initiative.

Filippi said NCES 'is not so much about 'killer apps' as it is about 'killer services' providing the capability to access the data generated by applications throughout the enterprise.'

For example, Filippi said, a federated search service gives war- fighters more information, and from more sources, than they have been able to access in the past. And NCES can take a capability like Blue Force Tracking, the troop- and vehicle-tracking tool, and make it 'known across the enterprise, using the service registry and service discovery service,' Filippi said.

Instead of using the Quantum Leap exercise to demonstrate services this year, NCES is establishing a pilot environment at the Defense Enterprise Computer Center in Columbus, Ohio, that will be used to demonstrate, model and simulate the evaluation capability modules, officials said.

This year, Filippi said Net-Centric Enterprise Services is also forging ahead on a process to give military agencies an opportunity to offer their enterprise services and capabilities.

To that end, the program office plans to issue a series of requests for information to collect data from service providers, developers and commercial vendors on their proposed products and services.

'If a service that is potentially one of the core enterprise services already exists, it would make perfectly good sense to consider that as one of the nine core services,' DISA CIO John Garing said. 'From our point of view it's common sense. It's value-added.'

Also, DISA recently awarded contracts to move NCES to the Web.

NCES is considered one of the major components of the Global Information Grid, the Defense Department's global network for classified and nonclassified data.

Five transformation pillars

The program enjoys top-level support from the Office of the Secretary of Defense. It is considered one of five key pillars of Defensewide transformation, along with the Global Information Grid-Bandwidth Expansion program, the Joint Tactical Radio System, Transformational Satellite, and GIG information assurance.

Congress appears not so certain about Horizontal Fusion. In the fiscal 2005 bill, a congressional committee voiced concern over the enormous undertaking and said the office needed to take a step back and put additional thought into how to achieve the goals over time, Cherry said.

Cherry said HF is heeding the advice and that her office is excited at the opportunity to support deployed troops this year with apps ranging from content staging to basic language translation services.

'We look forward to propagating a service-oriented architecture for the department,' Cherry said.

'They are two separate efforts, [but] Horizontal Fusion couldn't do the implementation of anything without NCES,' Cherry said. 'NCES builds the core enterprise services.'

'The environment that's being deployed is bigger than NCES services but wouldn't work without the services,' Cherry added. 'The services make the whole thing hum.'

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