Navy takes common-sense tack

The Navy once again has proven itself to be in the forefront of the federal information technology community with its rare ability to design programs that combine innovation and pragmatism.

In the latest case, the Navy has decided to make what it calls a "sweeping shift" in information management as part of its Naval Intranet. This project, formerly called the Navy Worldwide Intranet, will provide 450,000 users with PCs, communications gear and other tools needed to support network connectivity across the Navy and the Marine Corps. But rather than buy and manage this equipment, Navy commanders want to specify and buy a service, leaving the technical details to a contractor.

At first glance, such an approach would appear to be a radical departure. In fact, to some observers, the Naval Intranet smacks of outsourcing, which is certain to raise alarm in Congress because of the potential political ramifications of turning services over to the private sector on such a large scale.

But the procurement strategy shows a practical view of technology. For several years, IT vendors have been saying that federal agencies must learn to think about the Internet in the same way they think about the telephone: not as a technology or product but as a service.

That is the tack the Navy is taking, and it makes sense. Despite the resistance to outsourcing, the Pentagon has come to realize that the armed forces need to focus on military operations. They cannot afford to devote a large amount of resources - and they may not have the technical expertise - to provide services that are readily available in private industry.

The Navy showed the same kind of sharp thinking with its Information Technology for the 21st Century initiative, which was designed to introduce commercial technology into tactical operations. IT-21, which will be a component of the Naval Intranet, seemed bold at the time, but the Navy has carried it out in a measured fashion, looking to deliver some immediate benefits while developing its long-term strategy.

The Navy has a good chance at succeeding with its newest initiative because its top leaders have learned a valuable but elusive lesson: When it comes to technology, it sometimes takes sophisticated thinking to deliver a common-sense solution.

About the Author

Connect with the FCW staff on Twitter @FCWnow.

Featured

  • Defense
    Ryan D. McCarthy being sworn in as Army Secretary Oct. 10, 2019. (Photo credit: Sgt. Dana Clarke/U.S. Army)

    Army wants to spend nearly $1B on cloud, data by 2025

    Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said lack of funding or a potential delay in the JEDI cloud bid "strikes to the heart of our concern."

  • Congress
    Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) at the Hack the Capitol conference Sept. 20, 2018

    Jim Langevin's view from the Hill

    As chairman of of the Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committe and a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rhode Island Democrat Jim Langevin is one of the most influential voices on cybersecurity in Congress.

Stay Connected

FCW INSIDER

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.