Clouds or Silver Lining?

Anybody who has followed the Navy Marine Corps Intranet project knows that its trek has been turbulent. But who would have predicted that the $8.8 billion contract would be part of an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission?

EDS, lead vendor for NMCI, is the subject of an SEC investigation based on a large earnings and revenue shortfall reported last September. The company announced last month that it also lost $126 million from January to March in part because of costs associated with NMCI, which alone totaled $334 million in losses.

The company attributed the loss to "a decline in the average seat price based on the types of seats ordered and expected to be ordered by the [Navy], as well as a reduced period of time in which to generate seat revenue due to deployment delays and associated incremental estimated operating costs."

And to add insult to injury, the House Armed Services Committee in its May markup voted to reduce spending on the contract by $165 million in fiscal 2004.

Most observers speculate that the NMCI probe is just part of the SEC's overall EDS investigation, but they are still staying tuned.

On the bright side, however, the NMCI Web site, which is updated daily, indicates that 73,000 seats have been transferred to NMCI, with nearly 210,000 ready to go.

But Does It Get HBO?

Satellites played a vital role in Operation Iraqi Freedom, providing connectivity and bandwidth support to units that had never before had them in battle. Units used the Global Positioning System, instant messaging and logistics support via satellites that allowed for the modern-day blitzkrieg into Baghdad.

But it all came at a price, according to Maj. Gen. John Scott, the Army's chief integration officer. "We spent about $300 million on commercial satellite use for the recent operation and another $170 million for [military] satellites," he said. "We need to try to even out that amount because the fact is we were overly reliant on the commercial side."

Sitting on the Sidelines

A large part of that satellite problem, Scott said, is that the National Guard and Reserves account for about 70 percent of the forces serving in the combat zone, but they don't have satellite access.

"So we don't deploy them," he said. "They sit at home while active-duty units perform the [satellite] work. We have 30 percent of the [signal] force doing the work for the whole theater."

A Horse is a Horse, Of Course

You may have heard the stories about the special forces troops in Afghanistan using the Joint Tactical Radio System to call in precision air strikes from horseback. Many at the Pentagon laud that as synergy between the war of yesterday and the war of tomorrow.

But Army Lt. Gen. John Riggs, director of the Objective Force Task Force, was not so impressed. "Aren't you tired of our soldiers having to invent stuff on the fly?" he asked a group of industry leaders gathered at the Army Information Technology Day conference, sponsored by the Northern Virginia chapter of AFCEA International. "God bless their ingenuity, but the fact that we have to borrow radios and ride jackasses doesn't say much for us, does it?"

Hail and Farewell

The magical tour that is Army chief information officer Gen. Peter Cuviello's departure has officially begun. He was subjected to ovations and accolades at the AFCEA Army IT Day conference.

Cuviello announced in April that he would retire this summer, and the Senate late last month confirmed Maj. Gen. Steven Boutelle as his replacement. During his final speech, Cuviello urged the industry executives in the room to continue the fight to transform the armed services.

"I have enjoyed what I've done," Cuviello said. "Not I but we as a team appreciate the support [industry] has given us in the past and today. But more importantly, we appreciate what you will do in the future."

He left no doubt that transformation is imminent, come hell or high water. "Those who worry about the leadership changes should not," Cuviello said. "We have an irreversible momentum going here. We don't need to worry about the very top because we have people below them, all the way down to privates and GS-2s and 3s, who are doing the Lord's work. They are doing both the fighting and the transforming."

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