Navy office to curb portal development

Although already in the midst of a multibillion-dollar effort to create a servicewide network and eliminate more than 100,000 redundant applications, the Navy is taking on a new target: Web portals.

Officials plan to create an office to manage Web portals that have sprung up throughout the service, similar to the way the Navy Marine Corps Intranet team manages the service's desktop computers and networks, said David Wennergren, the Navy Department's chief information officer.

The issue is especially important as the Defense Department moves toward network-centric operations, which are at the heart of DOD's transformation efforts and stress the quick posting of data. But if that data is lost in a sea of portals, it would be almost useless.

"Just as we have tens of thousands of legacy applications, we have hundreds of portals," Wennergren said at the National Industrial Association's NMCI conference in New Orleans. "We want you to be able to find whatever enterprise knowledge you need from wherever you are, all through one enterprise portal environment."

As a result, the Navy will slash the number of portals across the service. Officials want to all but halt the creation of specialized, niche and customized portals, which tend to grow at the expense of sites that benefit the entire agency, Wennergren said.

"We are going to worry about content, not customization," he said. "If I'm school 'X' in Newport, R.I., I probably don't need a whole new portal but should focus on providing value-added content to the existing portal environment."

The Navy's decision to bring the portals under control is a good first step, said Bob Carter, director of the public sector for Plumtree Software Inc.

"I think it's going to be a huge challenge because from a tech standpoint, there have been a lot of standards kicked around," Carter said. "Governance is going to be the real issue here. This is going to require executive sponsorship, and it looks like the Navy is getting just that from the CIO's office."

The Navy is among the first federal agencies to try to tackle the portal proliferation, but several states have already undertaken similar initiatives.

Rock Regan, Connecticut's CIO, said the state has worked on the problem for about 18 months. He anticipates it will be an ongoing issue. "It became a problem of lack of control — who owns the data, who's responsible for it," he said.

"But the Navy's issue is orders of magnitude different from what we dealt with because of size," Regan added. "We still aren't done, because this is a never-ending process."

Col. Rob Baker, the Marine Corps' director of command, control, communications and computers, said the service is going to look at what works. "If you have a good portal out there, you don't have to be afraid that it's going to go away," Baker said.

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