Navy intranet stakes raised
- By Bob Brewin
- Jan 24, 1999
SAN DIEGO—The Navy's top officer last week raised the stakes in the service's pursuit to build an intranet to link half a million Navy users around the world by 2001.
At the West '99 conference sponsored by the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association and the Naval Institute, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jay Johnson said the Navy of the 21st century must be prepared to operate in the "the boundless domains of the sea, space and cyberspace. [Networks] have become a force in the world. We cannot afford not to" build the intranet.
The Pacific and Atlantic Fleets have spent the past two years developing the Information Technology for the 21st Century network, which will connect ships and bases with commercial networks. Johnson said the Navywide intranet "cannot be just limited to ships.... Operational primacy requires robust linkage between ships and to all supporting elements ashore."
Rear Adm. John Gauss, commander of the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, headquartered here and charged with development of the intranet, said eventually the intranet would serve 180,000 users in the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets, 123,000 users in the supporting Navy systems commands and roughly another 200,000 civilian and military users in smaller commands around the world.
Adm. Archie Clemins, commander of the Pacific Fleet, first called for the development of the intranet in November at an AFCEA conference. Industry and military sources said Johnson's choice to use a public forum to push the intranet puts clout behind an effort that eventually could end up as a turf fight between the Navy and the Defense Information Systems Agency, which is responsible for providing global service to all Defense Department users through its Defense Information Systems Network.
When asked what role DISA and the DISN would play in the intranet, Gauss said that though the Navy would consider DISA as a provider, the service must consider alternatives that would deliver better "price and performance."
Gauss, in a panel discussion on the intranet, said the Navy will continue to use DISN's Secret Internet Protocol Router Network for classified traffic. But because "price and performance is a consideration, we will have to consider other sources to move high-volume information" in the unclassified realm, he said.
Clemins, who continued to push for a separate Navy network in his comments, said building a Navywide intranet made more sense than focusing on a similar network for all of DOD. "If you want to organize for success, bite off chunks," he said. "I don't know how to bite off all of DOD."
Army Lt. Gen. David Kelley, DISA director, said during another panel discussion that he "was not in favor" of the services operating their own networks and pointed out that DISA is in the final stages of contracting for a Pacific extension of the DISN to serve "largely Navy customers."
Sprint and MCI WorldCom, which recently won contracts for the new governmentwide FTS 2001 contract, said they could satisfy the Navy's requirements from that vehicle. MCI, which won its FTS 2001 contract the week before West '99, distributed mimeographed brochures that touted FTS 2001 as the "Global and domestic provider to the Navy and Marine Corps" and said that the new contract can provide the Navy with everything it needs from switched voice services, to calling-card services, to advanced Asynchronous Transfer Mode data services.
Bill Brougham, director of the Sprint Defense program office, said his company can "probably handle any requirement the Navy has. We provide a wide range of services" on FTS 2001.
Johnson made it clear that he wants more than just long-haul pipes on the intranet, saying the Navy wants industry to help it acquire "end-to-end capability." In his briefing, Gauss described the Navywide intranet as a massive enterprisewide network, encompassing everything from PCs on the desktop to ship and shore local-area networks, to regional network control centers and server farms, to metropolitan-area networks, to the long-haul circuits to stitch the networks together as well as the afloat networks bundled under the IT-21 project.
Johnson declined to put a price tag on the intranet project, saying he "didn't like" the first figure he saw. The scale of the project literally could mean a price tag measured in billions of dollars, industry sources said. For example, Spawar pegged the value of a pending five-year contract to provide 64 megabit/sec service to 75 ships at $135 million.