Air Force: NMCI won't work for us

The U.S. Air Force will not follow the Navy's lead with a major outsourcingproject similar to the Navy Marine Corps Intranet.

Although rumors have said the Air Force is interested in the Navy's$6.9 billion NMCI program, the service is now rejecting the concept in partbecause it could compromise the service's combat capabilities, accordingto Col. Bill Cooper, Air Force director of missions.

"We're not going to do an NMCI. We have not even come close to consideringthat," Cooper said Thursday during the 14th annual TeleStrategies Inc.'s Federal Telecom Opportunities for Today and Tomorrow conference in Reston, Va. From the Air Force's perspective, the Navy is outsourcing from fixed stations but fights from the fleet, according to Cooper.

"The Air Force fights from fixed stations, and we rely too much on fixedstations to outsource it as a whole, so I don't see us going in that direction,"Cooper said.

"A couple of times when it was brought up during sessions, [Lt.] Gen.[John] Woodward, who is my boss, made some very pointed objections aboutthat in regard to the Air Force," Cooper added. "He fully supports whatthe Navy is doing, but he doesn't believe the Air Force is going to be ableto pull it off." Woodward is Air Force deputy chief of staff for communicationsand information.

Under the NMCI effort, one vendor — Electronic Data Systems Corp. —is responsible for all the ship-to-shore communications for the Navy andMarines. The program has been praised by numerous Pentagon officials, andtouted as an example for the other military services — and even the restof the federal government — to follow.

Paul Brubaker, deputy chief information officer at the Defense Department,said during the same conference that NMCI "represents a major opportunityfor the services and DOD in general."

"If successful, the economic advantages that may accrue with NMCI canresult in decreased short-term pressure on the Navy budget and facilitateplanned weapons and platform modernization initiatives," said Brubaker.If the other services follow the Navy's lead, DOD would have only threemajor networks rather than thousands, which would vastly improve the military'sability to seamlessly share data, he added.

Although the Air Force's rejection of the NMCI concept appears to bea major setback to NMCI being accepted DOD-wide, one expert said the programwill not fail because "no matter how bad it gets, the Navy will simply declarevictory and move on" because "the Navy paints over rust."

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