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
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.