Congress puts brakes on Navy intranet

The Senate Armed Services Committee today plans to introduce an amendment

to the fiscal 2001 Defense authorization bill that may fundamentally alter

the Navy's plan for its $16 billion Navy/Marine Corps Intranet program,

FCW has learned.

Sources close to the proceedings said lawmakers plan to introduce "very

restrictive language" in the bill when the Senate begins the markup process

today.

"The language is going to require the Navy to follow the procurement

management process," said a source familiar with the Senate's plans. "I

don't think that the amendment is going to be pretty."

Congress is upset that the Navy has not followed the established rules

governing large government contracts such as N/MCI. As a result, the Senate

may force the Navy to re-introduce N/MCI as a new program. In its current form, the bill [the N/MCI plan] mandates Navy and Marine

units to direct their existing information technology

budgets solely to N/MCI.

"The problem is that if it's designated as a new program, that means

a two-year delay," the source said.

A spokesman for the committee could not be reached by press time.

Industry sources expressed concern about a delay, citing the fact that

the four vendors bidding on the deal have already spent about $10 million

on demonstrations and site surveys.

The American Federation of Government Employees union also expressed

concern. "We expect that language will be inserted that requires the Navy

to [outline] exactly how they will pay for N/MCI," said Jackie Simon, AFGE's

director of public policy.

"We have very serious concerns about the procedures and why this program

has been sped up so much," Simon said. "The whole procurement never went

through the appropriate channels."

AFGE also expressed concern to Congress about the contract's performance-monitoring

provision, which stipulates that if the winning vendor does not perform

well, the alternate vendor has the chance to take over the contract. "That's

really a recipe for problems in terms of public accountability," Simon said.

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