Navy preps intranet, smart cards

Norfolk, Va.—The Navy continues to evaluate the costs for its global intranet with an eye toward kicking off contracting this summer and also has decided to use smart card technology as a "cyber-identity" for allowing entry into buildings and secure networks, according to speakers here at the service's semiannual Connecting Technology Conference last week.

Rear Adm. John Gauss, commander of the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, said that while the service has yet to agree on how it will acquire the Navy Worldwide Intranet (NWI), he expects to issue a request for information this summer. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jay Johnson has said he wants the NWI in place by 2001.

Gauss said the Navy's top management is working on the structure of the NWI. Early ideas for development include five regional metropolitan-area networks in the United States and four overseas MANs, each serving areas with a large concentration of naval bases, activities and ships. The MANs would provide service to individual bases within each region and would provide the Navy with "significant cost savings" as well as "significantly increase combat effectiveness and improve business efficiencies," Gauss said.

Navy personnel and industry sources attending the conference said that the NWI faces tough opposition at top levels of the Navy because of its high cost. The NWI is estimated by industry sources at more than $200 million. "Gauss has to prove that the NWI can deliver the costs savings he believes it can generate before he can secure backing,'' said one former Navy information technology official now working for a contractor.

Dan Porter, the Navy's chief information officer, said, "We're working through the value proposition of shared service,'' which forms the heart of the NWI. Porter acknowledged that there is some skepticism within the Navy about the costly NWI and said, "It is imperative that we get the value proposition straight."

On the smart card front, Johnson put the CIO in charge of smart card technology last month, Porter said, and his office wants to minimize the data contained on the cards by embedding public-key infrastructure encryption technology.

David Wennegren, deputy Navy CIO, said he viewed the smart card as a "multipurpose cyber-identity" with uses ranging from a PKI "hardware token" to a building pass key to a personnel ID.

Wennegren also does not envision the Navy loading the smart card with a lot of data, such as a service member's medical records, as contemplated in the past. Rather, he sees it as a key to unlock access to such data on secure World Wide Web sites. Wennegren said the Navy will outfit the tens of thousands of personnel in the Atlantic and Pacific fleets this years.

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