Marines can't wait for infrastructure revamp

The Marine Corps is stepping up its program to replace its aging information technology infrastructure as it awaits the arrival of the Navy Marine Corps Intranet.

The Marines will replace nearly all of the service's 68,000 seats under the program, called the Enterprise Sustainment Initiative, even before the service changes over to the new NMCI network, currently slated to begin in the second quarter of fiscal 2003, said Debra Filippi, the Marine Corps' deputy chief information officer.

In addition to replacing antiquated systems, the plan will enable the Marines to cut the number of applications the service uses by more than 90 percent, from 7,876 to about 400, Filippi said in a press briefing last week.

Legacy applications — older programs that will not be incorporated into NMCI — have proven to be a real headache for NMCI, especially in the Navy, which had tallied nearly 100,000 separate applications. The time-consuming process of streamlining those applications has slowed the rollout of NMCI. But the new plan is the Marine Corps' effort to stay ahead of that issue, Filippi said.

NMCI is a $6.9 billion initiative to create one network for all of the Navy and Marine Corps' shore-based facilities. Although the Marines represent only about 68,000 seats of the 411,000 seats that make up NMCI, the service has always been a priority because of its aging IT infrastructure. Some Marines still use PCs running Microsoft Corp. Windows 95.

NMCI's delays put the Marine Corps in a difficult position because the service had been counting on the program to replace its aging infrastructure. So Marine Corps officials have decided to upgrade now.

The Marines are in the process of finalizing a contract award for about 60,000 PCs, officials said. In May, the service awarded a $17.8 million contract to Dell Computer Corp. for 9,940 notebook computers. Dell is a subcontractor to EDS for NMCI.

Under NMCI's original schedule, the Marine Corps was to begin NMCI implementation earlier this year. The Enterprise Sustainment Initiative was created to deal with that delay.

Filippi said the service is implementing its legacy application reduction initiative so that the Marines will be prepared for the NMCI transition when it begins in fiscal 2003.

The Marines are prepared to make the transition to NMCI. 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. And the Marines have been working to get ahead on their legacy applications.

A staff member on the House Armed Services Committee said that although the Navy seems to have been overwhelmed by the legacy application issue, Marine Corps officials have been aware of the problem and have taken steps to address it.

As part of the service's effort to deal with legacy applications, the Marines created a Legacy Applications Re-education Initiative in July 2001. The initiative included a transition team staffed by subject matter experts from across the Marine Corps, the staff member said.

Initially, the team asked commands to inventory and identify applications that would change over to NMCI. Of the 7,876 applications across the organization, nearly 80 percent were commercial software products, and many in that subset were duplicative, outdated or nonstandard applications, said Col. Robert Baker, chief of the Marine Corps network plans and policy division.

By eliminating those applications, the service was able to nearly halve its application inventory — dropping the total to about 3,400. Applications are not officially eliminated until they are moved to the new PCs.

The service already had established enterprise software standards, but they did not cover all of the applications used across the organization. So as service officials reviewed the legacy applications, they decided which products were most widely used and had the most capabilities and established those as the standard, at least for now, Filippi said.

By eliminating other products, officials were able to get the tally down to just more than 400.

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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