Navy looks beyond NMCI

The countdown to the end of the Navy Marine Corps Intranet has begun. No, the Navy has not changed its mind about outsourcing network operations and maintenance — it’s now developing new requirements for those tasks. But the $9.9 billion outsourcing contract that the service signed with EDS must end soon because, by law, agencies cannot extend federal contracts for services beyond 10 years.

On Oct. 1, 2010, the Navy will begin transitioning to the Next Generation Enterprise Networks (NGen), which likely will include NMCI and a host of other networks. One of them is OneNet, a program to install a secure network outside the continental United States. Another is the Base Level Information Infrastructure.

The Navy has started developing NGen’s requirements, said Robert Carey, the service’s chief information officer. Carey said it is too early to say much about the effort. The Navy issued a sources-sought notice in May for an overall NGen acquisition strategy. That strategy must address infrastructure ownership, performance management, technology infusion and adaptability, and service delivery concepts.

“We are starting with a broad brush based on a broad set of ideas that we will narrow down over time,” Carey said after he spoke at the Executive Leadership Conference in Williamsburg, Va., sponsored by the Industry Advisory Council.

NGen is receiving attention at the highest levels, Carey said, adding that the Navy secretary, chief of naval operations and assistant commandant of the Marine Corps are involved in the project. “This is a good demonstration of just how important this and any network is to the Navy,” Carey said.

Some industry experts point to a number of lessons the Navy has learned from its contract with EDS in the past seven years.

One industry expert, who requested anonymity because his or her company may bid on future work with the Navy, said the service didn’t spend enough time performing due diligence and, therefore, didn’t understand the size, scope and complexity of the original NMCI contract.

“The competition was way too fast for that size of program,” the expert said.

The expert added that the Navy and EDS did a good job of recognizing the importance of their partnership, and they eventually developed a proper number of performance metrics. “The [Navy] program office recognized [that] if EDS succeeds, we succeed, and if they fail, we fail,” the expert said. “They took a performance-based management approach in the program management office.”

Carey said that under the NGen effort, the Navy and Marine Corps should be mindful to mitigate risks and not try to start from scratch.

EDS has had ups and downs since it won the original NMCI contract in October 2000. It was widely reported that the company was losing money during the initial years of the contract, but that seems to be changing, some observers say.

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