Navy intranet sets sail

The massive Navy intranet project, awarded this month to Electronic Data

Systems Corp., could be a model followed by the rest of the Defense Department

and federal civilian agencies, Navy and industry officials said.

The $6.9 billion Navy Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI) is supposed to replace

up to 200 disparate networks within the Navy and Marine Corps with one seamless

network. The single system, according to military officials, will provide

greater network security, improve the flow of information between ships

and bases, and save money and time. EDS and its contracting team will build,

own, operate and maintain the intranet, making NMCI the largest IT program

ever to be outsourced to private industry.

"Probably the most important part here is that [NMCI] is a new high-water

mark, if you will, on where we're going in the [military] services — how

we intend to provide technology to the department," said Art Money, the

Pentagon's chief information officer.

Military and industry officials as well as outside experts agree that

NMCI will be a model for other services and agencies within the Defense

Department and the federal government. Others outside the Navy and Marines

could become customers, which is a Pentagon requirement for systems built

as part of the Global Information Grid.

EDS officials are also relishing the possibility that NMCI might be

expanded beyond the Navy and Marine Corps into other DOD offices and services.

"This can be a smashing success in that other people outside the Navy

and Marine Corps could join into this, so the real measure of success for

me is how willing other people are to do that," said Bill Dvoranchik, president

of EDS Federal.

Olga Grkavac, executive vice president of the Information Technology

Association of America's Enterprise Solutions Division, said other agencies

should view NMCI as a model for how to build intranets. "From everything

I hear, the Army and the Air Force are definitely looking at doing something

similar, so they'll be watching the Navy to see how it goes," she said.

Navy and industry sources concede a number of challenges must be met

in building the intranet, not the least of which will be managing change.

"The whole change management environment around NMCI is our future challenge,

just managing change on the people side so that customers have confidence

in the new vendor and understand how to use the contract and how to get

services from the contract," said Bonnie Bowes, the NMCI transition manager

at Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, Md.

The Patuxent River installation will be the first to install NMCI. EDS

has met with Navy officials to hammer out details of a deployment schedule,

but EDS is expected to immediately take over ownership of the existing networks

at Patuxent River and put the NMCI architecture in place by February, after

which they will take a "strategic pause" for about three months while the

Navy certifies that their objectives have been met.

"I will gauge [success] by the changes I see in our ability to more

effectively deal with the issues that we face across the Navy," said Adm.

Vern Clark, chief of naval operations. "And I'm talking about readiness,

I'm talking about manning, I'm talking about retention and all the things

that are at the top of my priority list. I fully expect this capability

to change the way we do business."

EDS officials insist they are up for the challenge. "This is not a gun

or a ship, but it is an enabler, and if what we do will enable the warfighter

to be more effective, then that is certainly one way to measure success,"

said Andrew McCann, EDS director of business development for the federal

government.

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