Letter to the editor
I disagree with the nameless writer of the "NMCI disappointments" letter posted June 7.
There has been a plethora of information (positive and negative) published
on the Navy Marine Corps Intranet. Thanks to writers, like our unnamed protester,
almost every government information technology industry trade magazine has
published the good, the bad and the ugly of the Navy Department's attempts
to initiate this change.
It is true there have been a number of press release-based articles
posted, but if the writer knew anything about the journalism business, he
would know that press releases provide a foundation of basic factual knowledge
upon which a journalist builds a story. To characterize reporters as journalistic
automatons who only print what they are given is offensive in addition to
being flatly wrong.
As the outgoing NMCI action officer for the Office of Chief of Naval
Operations, I believe I'm qualified to offer an opinion on NMCI. As someone
who has provided IT services to more than 5,000 users afloat on an aircraft
carrier and 1,200 users ashore, I reported to the chief of naval operations'
staff thinking NMCI was a bad idea.
After a few days of a crow's-nest review of the state of Navy IT, it
became painfully clear to me that the Navy needs NMCI in a bad way. In fact,
every complaint about why doing NMCI is so hard or why people don't like
the NMCI concept is testimony that it is necessary.
The anonymous writer of "NMCI disappointments" is either uninformed
about the program beyond the latest hot gossip or has chosen to ignore what's
been made plainly evident. NMCI is intended to provide the Navy Department
with a secure, reliable and interoperable network infrastructure to begin
transformation to a network-centric business model.
Let's look at his points:
* No added value: This statement completely discounts the value of a
significantly improved security, guaranteed reliability and interoperability.
* Network operations centers (NOCs) performing no useful function today:
NOCs are part of the infrastructure necessary to support the first seats
deployed and end-state network capacity. EDS was paid to construct and maintain;
the utilization rate now is not the Navy Department's problem.
* Kiosks: The NMCI request for proposals (RFPs) called for a single
operating system network. Anything that won't work in a Microsoft Corp.
Windows 2000 environment must be kiosked or connected via CLIN 32 (external
network connection) or CLIN 29 (legacy system support). Beyond that, applications
that present a significant security threat to the network are also kiosked
or quarantined until they are remediated or sunsetted. Ticked off that your
Navy legacy application has been kiosked? Order the right contract line
item number or call and complain to the application developer who failed
to ensure that it meets basic Defense Department security requirements.
* Almost no one thinks NMCI is a good idea or necessary: Refer to comments
of the secretary of the Navy, the chief of naval operations, the commandant
of the Marine Corps, the commanders of Naval Air Systems Command, Naval
Sea Systems Command, Naval Warfare Systems Command, the Atlantic and Pacific
fleets, and the rank-and-file IT administrators who have had to deal with
the Navy's legacy flea market-like IT infrastructure and application environment.
* Management reorganizations signal a project gone awry: Change in leadership
signals fresh growth and new understanding of what's required to successfully
implement this initiative.
* Contract is grossly behind schedule: Execution is behind the initial
schedule, which was entirely too optimistic. I challenge anyone to schedule
implementation of a 400,000 seat intranet and anticipate every possible
contingency and delay.
* Not delivering desired functionality: The NMCI contract RFP was developed
based upon network requirements collected from every Navy Echelon II and
Marine Corps major command.
* NMCI is not a complete IT solution: Couldn't agree more. NMCI was
never billed to be such. NMCI will be the foundation upon which each Navy
Department business community can build enterprise business solutions.
* We should be able to buy what we want: An optional approach toward
IT infrastructure would doom us to more flea market-like IT with hundreds
of disparate networks with greatly varying degrees of security, reliability,
and no guaranteed interoperability.
* Entire budget stolen by the program office: NMCI seat services funding
is budgeted through and obligated by each individual claimant not centrally
by the program office. There can be no denying that consolidating an IT
infrastructure through outsourcing is a painful and distasteful thing to
those who have been managing their own IT. It has been entertaining to watch
the Navy's leaders break out into cold sweats as they realize they have
to relinquish control and management responsibility for the networks they
use. Vice Adm. Richard Mayo, the commander of the Naval Network Warfare
Command, was right on the mark: "NMCI is not about technology it's about
I am more convinced than ever that NMCI was the right choice. So why
all the venomous letters to the editor? Rick Rosenberg, the NMCI program
executive for EDS, said in an NMCI leadership meeting that negative press
from the constituents receiving service should be welcomed as an indication
that real change is taking place. I sure hope there is a lot more complaining
Cmdr. Steve Mackie
Outgoing NMCI action officer
Office of the Chief of Naval Operations