Payment due despite NMCI delays

John Stenbit's answers to the Senate Armed Services Committee

The lingering dispute over how the Navy Marine Corps Intranet will be certified could have severe financial penalties for the Navy—potentially costing as much as $728 million.

NMCI officials insist that they are working to resolve the testing and certification issue and do not expect that the matter will reach such a dire situation. The ongoing dispute, however, has the potential to be a significant roadblock in the massive effort to modernize the Navy's information technology infrastructure.

Officials at the Defense Department, the Navy and the NMCI contractor, Electronic Data Systems Corp., have held semiweekly meetings in an effort to resolve the conundrum about how NMCI will be tested and certified.

As detailed by a June 29 memo by acting DOD chief information officer Linton Wells II, DOD leaders have argued that NMCI must prove itself before moving forward.

Navy officials have argued that they should use a commercial approach to testing that would let EDS and the Navy conduct tests.

However, more extensive testing—such as using the same regimen that DOD uses for weapons systems—could prevent EDS from continuing its work. And the Navy would have to continue to pay the contractor even while NMCI work would be on hold pending results of the tests, NMCI officials said.

"We're working toward a solution," said Capt. Chris Christopher, a Navy deputy program executive officer for information technology.

In response to written questions posed by the Senate Armed Services Committee, John Stenbit, the DOD CIO nominee, said systems such as NMCI "must demonstrate that the capabilities satisfy user requirements and that interoperability with military systems are fully demonstrated."

He did not hint whether he supports the full-blown tests. DOD staff members are working to "develop a final strategy that is consistent with a reasonable fielding rate for NMCI," he told lawmakers in his responses, which were posted Aug. 1.

Under the NMCI contract, EDS is scheduled to be paid $728 million in fiscal 2002. EDS has been paid $29.9 million so far, company officials said.

Chip Mather, senior vice president of Acquisition Solutions Inc. and a former senior Air Force procurement official, said that the government does not have experience dealing with performance-based contracts. Under those contracts, the government is supposed to get out of the role of conducting extensive tests. Instead, the impetus is on the vendor to demonstrate results.

"The only way this program will be success if they do adequate testing, not hyper-scrupulous testing," he said.

About the Author

Christopher J. Dorobek is the co-anchor of Federal News Radio’s afternoon drive program, The Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, and the founder, publisher and editor of the DorobekInsider.com, a leading blog for the Federal IT community.

Dorobek joined Federal News Radio in 2008 with 16 years of experience covering government issues with an emphasis on government information technology. Prior to joining Federal News Radio, Dorobek was editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week, the leading news magazine for government IT decision-makers and the flagship of the 1105 Government Information Group portfolio of publications. As editor-in-chief, Dorobek served as a member of the senior leadership team at 1105 Government Information Group, providing daily editorial direction and management for FCW magazine, FCW.com, Government Health IT and its other editorial products.

Dorobek joined FCW in 2001 as a senior reporter and assumed increasing responsibilities, becoming managing editor and executive editor before being named editor-in-chief in 2006. Prior to joining FCW, Dorobek was a technology reporter at PlanetGov.com, one of the first online community centers for current and former government employees. He also spent five years at Government Computer News, another leading industry publication, covering a variety of federal IT-related issues.

Dorobek is a frequent speaker on issues involving the government IT industry, and has appeared as a frequent contributor to NewsChannel 8’s Federal News Today program. He began his career as a reporter at the Foster’s Daily Democrat, a daily newspaper in Dover, N.H. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California. He lives in Washington, DC.


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