Letters to the editor

NMCI Flawed

The idea of the Navy Marine Corps Intranet as a Navy/ Marine Corps-wide network is an admirable one. However, there are so many flaws in the execution of this initiative that despite the cheerleading of top Navy brass, it is bound to fail.

It took them 18 months to find a leader for their runaway train, and only now do they hope that they can guide this juggernaut of government waste. It would appear to many, if not most people, that it would have been a better idea to formulate a command before committing to a solution.

After 18 months and countless millions of dollars, barely 2,000 users are on the new NMCI network. More than 90 percent of the systems that EDS has assumed responsibility for are still on their old networks.

Navy officials insist there are no "show stoppers" but have provided little to demonstrate that there are any "show makers."

They have not discussed the fact that even the performance of the contract line item No. 0001 computers has fallen woefully short of contract-mandated performance levels. The current EDS/ Information Strike Force offerings that top out at Intel Corp. Pentium IIIs at 1.13 GHz and are using shared video memory and synchronous dynamic RAM don't even come close to 75 percent of the performance of Dell Computer Corp.'s 2.4 GHz Pentium 4 Rambus Inc. systems available on Dell's Web site. (Dell is an Information Strike Force partner.)

Navy officials have never mentioned publicly or proudly that there is a nationwide network currently functioning for at least one part of the Navy — the Naval shipyard corporate network — that has been doing NMCI-like functions for many years. This network uses a mix of government and contract personnel, which seems much more appropriate than the "total-contract-out" approach they took with NMCI.

Perhaps the current review will realize that you cannot contract out leadership and cannot expect leadership to succeed if you have already committed to a course of action before you can provide a business case for that action. Then again, perhaps not.

Craig Hower

Computer specialist

Commander, Navy Region Northwest

The following letters are in response to an FCW.com poll question: Should government outsource more information technology services?

Contracting Out

I have worked in civil service since June 1988 in the systems analyst career field, including 10 years in the Defense Department, then the Small Business Administration. For 17 years before, I was a computer senior field service engineer and then a technical training coordinator in "private industry."

During that pre-federal time, most of the companies I worked for were contracted in part to federal and local government agencies.

In my experience, which included writing scope-of-work reports, I have seen that the contracted service of computer software and hardware support has always been more expensive and less vested in results than government internal support. This is partly due to the fact that government pay and benefits have always been less (some say as much as 28 percent) than nongovernment compensation for the same level (in terms of experience and training) of support.

The federal computer/IT specialist has a personal interest in the results and is held accountable by his supervisor. The contractor just does what is required in writing, which is limited by what is written and enforced or monitored. All of this takes expensive government oversight. Contractors seldom work on-site in every office, but federal [computer/IT specialists] usually do, so response from contractors is never as good.

When service is contracted out, the amount of oversight doubles: The company has its own, and the government must also monitor the work, so it pays for this oversight twice. The government must support workers' retirement and benefits programs, but the cost is indirect. The worker gets higher pay as well. The only winner is the contractor!

The federal shift to contracting eventually will be seen as more expensive, but the cost of that education will be very high. Right now, it is viewed as the political "good thing." Service and security levels will suffer in the meantime. Just look at the airport security issue for an example.

Ron Serafine

Small Business Administration

Too much contracting out of database administration and programming services is dangerous, especially when the contractor is the only one who truly knows what is going on.

I think we are opening ourselves up to corruption and scandal by giving too many contractors unlimited access to major database systems.

Name withheld by request

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