A glimmer of success

Naval Air Facility, Washington, D.C.

Just miles from the nation's capital, a Navy group has gone where no one has gone before: Their facility was the first to switch to the new Navy Marine Corps Intranet.

The Naval Air Facility Washington at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., has been at the leading edge of the Navy's $6.9 billion initiative to create an enterprisewide network across more than 400,000 seats at the service's shore-based activities.

NAF Washington accounts for approximately 650 seats, but despite its small scale, officials say that the site has provided many lessons as they move forward with the project.

The facility was selected, in part, because it encapsulated many of the challenges faced across the service, said Capt. Scott Beaton, NAF Washington's commanding officer.

"If we could do it there, we could do it anywhere," said Capt. Fred Mingo, chief information officer for the Naval Reserve.

The complications are numerous. For starters, the naval facility is located on an Air Force base, which meant coordinating some activities with Air Force officials. And because of the relatively small number of computer users, the site houses no servers; instead, data is stored at the Naval Air Station at Patuxent River, Md. Furthermore, the site is staffed by a mix of both enlisted and reserve personnel. Some reservists work on weekends and are not in the office during business hours, and many need access to the network from home or other remote locations.

Difficulties both small and large arose as the facility prepared to roll over to NMCI. For example, some users had trouble understanding that they had to move their data, said Petty Officer 2nd class Rosanna Ruiz, an information technology specialist. The biggest challenge was the so-called legacy application issue, said Petty Officer 1st class Euaristo Bonilla, an engineer at the site.

Legacy applications, which have become enormous hurdles to NMCI's rollout across the service, were not included in the standard NMCI software suite.

Those applications can be moved to the new NMCI environment, but they must adhere to Navy standards and Defense Department security requirements. Navy officials have been overwhelmed by the number of existing applications that meet neither set of standards.

NAF Washington had to ruthlessly cut the number of legacy applications it uses, Beaton said. So people accustomed to using their own version of electronic calendars, for example, had to switch to Microsoft Corp. Outlook, which is part of the NMCI suite of software.

NAF Washington started with more than 600 legacy applications. Now only 17 still need to be transferred to the NMCI network, he said, but those applications are essential to enabling employees to do their jobs.

However, updating people about the status of their legacy applications has proven to be a continuing challenge. For example, Paul Vining, assistant administrator for the Naval Aviation Logistics Command Management Information System, which houses electronic maintenance data for the Navy's aircraft, said he did not know why the system could not be shifted to NMCI.

Capt. Chris Christopher, NMCI's deputy director of plans, policy and oversight, acknowledges that it has been difficult to track the status of legacy applications, in large part because of the overwhelming number of them. Although the Navy has cut its legacy applications by more than 70,000, prime contractor EDS is still testing about 35,000.

The company continues to operate NAF Washington's former network, which has been "quarantined" from NMCI, so employees can continue using legacy applications.

But because some programs cannot be shifted to NMCI, some employees have two PCs sitting on their desks — a new black Dell Computer Corp. machine and an older beige computer that is not connected to the NMCI network.

Beaton said he was pleased to have gone through the rollout process sooner rather than later. NMCI is important to the Navy, he said. But he spent an enormous amount of time each week overseeing NMCI and said the initiative requires the involvement of local commanders.

NAF Washington is one of three locations at the forefront of the NMCI initiative. EDS has rolled out approximately 13,000 seats so far, officials said.

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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