NMCI delays give Marines pause

A delay in rolling out the Navy Marine Corps Intranet is forcing the Marines to create and institute contingency plans to enhance some parts of the service's aging information technology infrastructure, officials said.

The contingency plans will not cost the Marines any additional money, said Maj. Gen. Robert Shea, director of command, control, communications and computers and the Marine Corps' chief information officer. Instead, the Marines will redirect funds that would have been used for NMCI, Shea said April 11.

NMCI is a $6.9 billion initiative to create a single network for all of the Navy and Marine Corps' shore-based facilities. The Marines represent only about 68,000 seats of the overall 411,000 seats that make up NMCI. But the Marines have always been a priority because of its aging IT infrastructure. Some Marines are still using PCs running Microsoft Corp. Windows 95, said Col. Robert Baker, chief of network plans and policy.

Under NMCI's original schedule, the Marine Corps was supposed to begin adopting the intranet this month. But the rollout has been delayed primarily by the enormous number of legacy systems at the first sites to begin using NMCI. By law, Pentagon officials must sign off on the feasibility of the project based on those pilot sites before NMCI can proceed. That decision is expected May 3. If the project is approved, the Navy Department could lease another 100,000 seats, some of which would go to the Marines.

Shea said NMCI's delay would not cause an enormous problem for the service, but it does mean that the Marine Corps will have to do some work on its existing infrastructure.

The delay is "only affecting us to the point where some of our legacy systems...are starting to degrade," Shea said. Therefore, the Marines are developing plans to improve some of that infrastructure to support the service until NMCI takes over.

The Enterprise Sustainment Initiative will be detailed in a Marine Administrative Message that should be distributed to the fleet soon, a Marine spokesman said. Baker said the plan is more of a bridging strategy to carry the corps until NMCI seats begin to roll out.

That bridging strategy is designed to "stabilize, sustain and improve the current IT infrastructure until the current planned transition" to NMCI, expected to take place in the second quarter of fiscal 2003 and conclude in the third quarter of fiscal 2004, according to a statement from the Marines.

"This effort is a significant undertaking," the statement said. "The benefits, however, of successfully implementing all aspects of the plan will significantly improve the health of our information technology infrastructure."

The plan includes buying some new PCs, although only in the most critical situations, Baker said. The First Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton in California will get laptops to replace their existing outdated computers.

The contracting method the Marines will use is unclear at the moment. The Marines were considering leasing equipment under General Services Administration contracts, but the recent freeze on leasing has forced the service to look elsewhere, Baker said. Contracting officials are reviewing the NMCI contract to find provisions the Marines can use.

Overall, Shea said the Marines are well positioned to begin the transition to NMCI. "When it comes in, we're ready to move," he said.

Unlike the Navy, which has had to deal with thousands of legacy applications and hundreds of networks, the Marine Corps streamlined its operations several years ago. That work will likely make the NMCI transition much easier.

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Milestones for NMCI

Under the Navy Marine Corps Intranet contract, the Navy is authorized to initially roll out 60,000 seats. The first sites must pass certain tests before the initiative can proceed to other sites. Pentagon and Navy officials have established three milestones for the contract:

Milestone 1 — Adding 100,000 seats, bringing the total to 160,000 seats. Decision expected May 3.

Milestone 2 — Adding 150,000 seats, bringing the total to 310,000 seats. Deadline has not been determined.

Milestone 3 — Adding 101,000 seats, completing NMCI’s rollout across shore-based facilities by December 2003.

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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