NMCI navigates choppy seas

Despite a few speed bumps, the Naval Air Facility, Washington, D.C., has become the first site to roll out the Navy Marine Corps Intranet as part of the Navy's $6.9 billion effort to create an enterprise network.

The Naval Air Facility, a Navy activity at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., on Oct. 31 became the first Navy site to complete cutover of its 550 seats to the new NMCI network, said Capt. Scott Beaton, NAF Washington's commanding officer, during a presentation at the Milcom conference in Vienna, Va.

The transition marks an important milestone for NMCI as it begins rolling out to Navy sites across the country. But it also came with some "process speed bumps," Beaton said.

The entire rollout also was somewhat delayed by the Sept. 11 attack on the Pentagon. The NMCI Information Strike Force, the conglomeration of companies led by Electronic Data Systems Corp., was working to rebuild Navy operations following the terrorist attacks. The Navy lost about 70 percent of its Pentagon office space, and staff members had to be relocated and given laptop computers to continue work from a new site. Technical issues also arose, including problems with the system that EDS uses to load software onto the PCs under NMCI. Rick Rosenburg, EDS' NMCI program executive, said those problems are being addressed to improve speed.

A software issue involved a discrepancy in the required version of Adobe Systems Inc.'s Acrobat. The NMCI standard software suite includes Acrobat 4.0, but the Bureau of Naval Personnel system that notifies sailors about promotions or advancement exams requires Acrobat 5.0.

Also, some Web-enabled applications require certain Internet ports to be opened, but for security reasons NMCI currently prevents that, Rosenburg said.

Capt. Chris Christopher, deputy program executive officer for information technology at the Navy Department, said the issues faced at NAF Washington are typical in the rollout of this kind of program. And the rollout is further complicated by the increased security that accompanies the new NMCI network.

NAF Washington had to ruthlessly cut the number of legacy applications it uses, Beaton said. That meant people accustomed to using electronic calendars had to shift to Microsoft Corp. Outlook, which is part of the NMCI suite of software.

The rollover has resulted in changes in the operations at NAF Washington. People who formerly used on-site tech support now use a toll-free number to reach a help desk in Norfolk, Va., or San Diego. But, Beaton said, workers' main concern is that they have a PC that lets them do their work, and NMCI is providing that.

NAF Washington is the first of three locations at the forefront of the NMCI rollout. So far, EDS has taken responsibility for network operations and maintenance at 29 sites and for more than 42,000 seats. This typically requires that EDS take responsibility for individual contracts at each site.

Cutover, where all of a site's users move to the EDS NMCI network, is the second step. NAF Washington is the first site to take that step.

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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