- By Dan Verton
- Jun 12, 2000
NSA Breaks Ground
The National Security Agency's announcement last week that it intends
to move forward with a 10-year, multibillion-dollar information technology
outsourcing project known as "Project Groundbreaker" has some people wondering
if the agency has learned anything about large-scale outsourcing deals from
its brethren in the Pentagon.
Congress has been pushing NSA to defrost itself from the Cold War. But
it's possible that certain parties on Capitol Hill won't view the loss of
several thousand government IT jobs as progress.
Industry observers said they hope NSA has taken a lesson from the Navy/
Marine Corps Intranet play book and will deliver a full business case analysis
before it asks Congress to fund the new deal.
"I applaud NSA's decision," said Ken Ammon, chief executive officer
of Network Security Technologies Inc. and a former NSA official. "My only
concern is pricing. My experience has been that many government agencies
set unrealistic pricing goals for the cost of IT services and receive substandard
The Navy recently learned a lesson in pricing and has been forced to
"burn the midnight oil" to respond to an endless series of congressional
inquiries, another industry source said.
A source within one of the three contractors vying for the NSA deal,
which are Computer Sciences Corp., AT&T Corp. and OAO Corp., said the
lessons of N/MCI have not been lost on NSA. "They've done a better job"
than the Navy did on N/MCI, the source said.
There's No Place Like...
...N/MCI in August. Ron Turner, the Navy's deputy chief information
officer for infrastructure, systems and technology, told the Interceptor
last week that the Navy could still make its original award date of early
July for the N/MCI contract, but that it will be tough to achieve given
all of the hoops established in the March 8 Memorandum of Agreement between
Congress and the Navy.
"We could still be ready to make an award pretty much on our original
schedule. But when we look at the number of detailed answers we have agreed
to provide Congress, the Office of Management and Budget and [the Defense
Department], our completion time line is June 21," Turner said.
The Navy also has to brief Art Money, assistant secretary of Defense
for command, control and communications, in order for the business case
analysis to go forward. Turner said the Navy "appreciate[s]" the House Armed
Services Committee's proposed language in the fiscal 2001 authorization
bill for a 60-day hold on N/MCI and the requirement to have the General
Accounting Office review the Navy's business case.
"It would be unwise to not give them a chance to do that in [fiscal
2000] after we deliver all of that info to [the office of the secretary
of Defense] for approval," Turner said. " So, even though I'm not in the
acquisition chain...my crystal ball guess [on when the contract will be
awarded] is [about] August."
The House Appropriations Committee has agreed to "withhold judgment"
on N/MCI until the Navy can deliver the information.
The Great Breakup
After Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson of the U.S. District Court for
the District of Columbia decided last week to give the government the go-ahead
to erect a barbed wire fence through the middle of Microsoft's Redmond,
Wash., headquarters, my law school intercept station reports that current
antitrust laws give the software giant a better chance of success on appeal
than the Justice Department.
"I'd give Microsoft something like 63-35 odds of winning on appeal,"
said Anthony D'Amato, Leighton Professor of Law at Northwestern University.
"The original history of the Sherman Antitrust Act, at least on my reading
of it, does not show an economic motivation but rather a political motivation,"
But the government may have better odds if the case reaches all the
way to the Supreme Court, according to D'Amato.
"Translated to today's terms, the Supreme Court might actually look
at Microsoft as simply too big. Now bigness isn't a sin in itself, but
from the government point of view, it surely doesn't want Microsoft to
be a bigger player in international communications than, say, [DOD] or the
State Department. Microsoft is not there now, but who knows how big it could