Naval network maneuvers

If you buy the notion that the Internet will ultimately be connected to

everything, if not everybody, then the Navy's desire to roll out a monolithic,

all-purpose service network might seem prudent. After all, the Navy/ Marine

Corps Intranet (N/MCI) hews the line of modern business networking: It would

create IP connecting tissue supporting the computing and communications

requirements of 350,000 Navy and Marine personnel. Office workers to war

fighters would be able to simply plug into a universal interface and get

connected.

That has become the way of the business world, so why not the Navy?

For Capitol Hill watchdogs, the answer is that Navy brass have not followed

Robert's Rules of Order in making a fiscal 2001 budget for N/MCI, nor has

the service adequately explained why the system is needed so fast. The latest

estimates are that N/MCI has a $16 billion price tag. Consider that the

Navy's IT budget for fiscal 2000 is $2.1 billion.

For its part, the Navy has been weak in defending its proposal, saying

that the funding is there if one looks hard enough. But in order to get

the plan off the ground, the Navy needs to do a better job of explaining

the costs and benefits of the plan to Congress.

The Navy is making a bold, but ultimately highly practical, investment.

Extending the existing system of tying in and maintaining separate networks

is an invitation to future waste and inefficiency. There is no doubt that

over the long haul, a uniform network system would save money over the costs

of the current hodgepodge of networks.

The toughest argument to make in defense of N/MCI might not be how to

fund the network but how to make it secure. Having one uniform network system

might make the job of monitoring and securing the breadth of network operations

easier. But it could also make attacking the network a simpler or more basic

challenge and therefore the consequences of a successful intrusion more

grave. In making the case for N/MCI, the Navy should heed the security threat

to both the network and the plan.

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