Navy to field PC-based command, control system

The Navy has received initial approval to start fielding a PC-based version of its command and control (C2) system, after completing what a top Navy commander called the "largest and most comprehensive'' test of such a system in the service's history.

The test of the Navy's Joint Maritime Command Information System (JMCIS) 98, which ran from March 16 to April 1, involved ships from the USS Lincoln carrier battle group and the USS Essex amphibious-ready group as well as three shore command installations in Hawaii and one in San Diego.

The test reflected an "effort of epic proportions'' to develop and deploy the new system in just 18 months, according to Rear Adm. John Gauss, commander of the Navy's Space and Naval Warfare System Command (Spawar).

Gauss said JMCIS 98 will become the Navy's version of the Global Command and Control System and later this year will be renamed GCCS-Maritime. The Navy plans to use JMCIS 98 as the basic building block for its Information Technology for the 21st Century (IT-21) project, which was designed to equip the Atlantic and Pacific fleets with commercial off-the-shelf equipment, Gauss said.

Capt. Roger Hull, the Spawar JMCIS and GCCS-M program manager, said switching to PC-based platforms for servers and desktops will help the Navy realize that goal quicker and at a lower cost than by using Unix workstations. Hull said the switch to PCs and high-powered PC-based servers running Microsoft Corp. Windows NT will allow the Navy to completely equip ships and shore stations with GCCS-M by 1999, instead of 2003 as originally planned. The accelerated fielding also will save the Navy time and money correcting Year 2000 computer date glitches that the Navy needs to fix in its C2 Unix workstations, Hull added.

The costs of fielding a PC-based JMCIS are from one-quarter to one-tenth the costs of standard Navy workstations offered in the Tactical Advanced Computer-3 and TAC-4 families, Hull said. He estimated the overall savings to the Navy in the $20 million range.

When Spawar set out to acquire the computers and software for the initial JMCIS deployment, Hull said the command decided to opt for the fast-track approach afforded by acquisition reform. It awarded a blanket purchase agreement (BPA) "that allowed us to purchase $2 million worth of PCs— and [to] have them delivered— in just one month from the initial query to vendors.'' Hull said if they used older procurement methods, "it would have taken us a year.''

The contract, won by Digital Equipment Corp., was based on best value and not the lowest price, Gauss said. Digital offered to pre-load all the Defense Department's Common Operating Environment and JMCIS application software, saving the Navy untold man-hours by not having to install government-furnished software in tight shipboard spaces, Hull said. Gauss said that to the best of his knowledge, this was the first time any DOD unit has configured a computer deal that includes pre-loading of government software on such a scale.

Pat Gallagher, former sales vice president of Zenith Data Systems Inc. and now an industry consultant, said this particular deal shows that vendors can craft innovative deals in the federal market that promise more return than just selling boxes. "This is not a PC sale, it's an integration deal," Gallagher said.

Gallagher also said the JMCIS BPA shows that the Navy managed to strike the same kind of deal that commercial accounts do with their computer suppliers. "Commercial customers such as Ford Motor Co. demand their software be pre-loaded,'' Gallagher said. Gauss said the initial JMCIS 98 PC contract was "a good example of the savings we can generate'' by using innovative acquisition techniques.

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