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 cultural change."

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 to come.

Cmdr. Steve Mackie
Outgoing NMCI action officer
Office of the Chief of Naval Operations

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