Navy tardy in Web-enabling apps

The Navy has been slow in transferring its applications to the World Wide

Web, according to a former Pacific Fleet commander, who said the service

also trails industry in remaking its business practices to save money and

boost performance.

"Why is the Navy still paying for client/server technology?" said Archie

Clemins, an admiral who retired last December after pushing for the Navy

to modernize during his final years of active duty. As far as he knows,

"the Navy is not developing a single Web-based or Web-enhanced database,"

Clemins said Tuesday while speaking at the Navy's Connecting Technology

conference in San Diego.

"There are places for client/server architecture, but let me tell you,

they're getting smaller every day," Clemins added.

While head of Pacific Fleet, Clemins wanted the Navy to take chances

and use his "Information Technology for the 21st Century" program for installing

Asynchronous Transfer Mode networking and Microsoft Corp. Windows NT Workstation

4.0 aboard ships.

His penchant for risk-taking is reflected in his current job: Clemins

is president and chief operating officer of Bot Inc., a start-up that employs

six people at its Seattle headquarters and 60 software programmers in Krakow,

Poland, in part because of the low job turnover rate there.

Adm. Vern Clark, the service's chief of naval operations, has called

on the Navy to Web-enable its applications by 2003. Clemins, however, said

that transition represents just one part of the revolution in military affairs.

The service could save billions of dollars if it implemented a supply

model similar to those of Dell Computer Corp. or Wal-Mart, in which suppliers

stock products and deliver them only as needed, according to Clemins. "Any

vendor that does business with Dell must be able to deliver to Dell within

90 minutes of an order" being placed, he said.

Clemins also said the Navy could save $3.75 billion by not replacing

50,000 of its 75,000 civilian workers eligible to retire within five years.

That money could then be used on information technology and other programs,

he said.

He downplayed the resulting loss of institutional knowledge from those

retired workers by noting that when he turned 50 years old, 85 percent of

what he knew consisted of concepts and facts that didn't exist when his

mother was 50.

If the Navy wants to compete with industry for young IT workers, it

must also modernize its facilities, Clemins said. At present, too many Navy

personnel work on bases that look like industrial facilities where he "wouldn't

keep a horse," he said.

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