NMCI budget larger than expected

The Navy Marine Corps Intranet will see a financial windfall if Congress approves the funding President Bush is seeking for the Navy Department's networking project.

Earlier reports that the Pentagon had given approval to seek funding of $1.1 billion were a half-billion dollars short. When the Defense Department unveiled its proposed fiscal 2004 budget Feb. 3, it showed that NMCI is slated to receive $1.6 billion, pending congressional approval.

According to a Navy Department breakdown of its fiscal 2004 budget, the $1.6 billion will support the implementation of about 365,000 seats, phased in quarterly.

The $1.6 billion marks a nearly $1 billion increase in funding over the $646 million NMCI received in the fiscal 2003 budget.

Kevin Clarke, a spokesman for EDS, the Plano, Texas, company that won the $6.1 billion contract to develop the Navy-wide information network, late last month confirmed that $1.1 billion had been submitted by the comptroller's office for approval. He later deferred questions to the NMCI program office.

NMCI officials would not say what the $1 billion bump in funding might do in terms of accelerating the rollout of the program, and they refused to speculate on how much the project would receive until Congress approves the final budget.

"The president's budget request is our budget and it is our job to work within those numbers," said Capt. Chris Christopher, NMCI's deputy director of plans, policy and oversight. "Any opinion as to questions such as 'would we be able to increase rollout, reduce legacy applications more quickly, etc., with a budget increase' would be pure speculation.'"

NMCI has produced mixed results since its inception, but has made significant gains during the past several months. The program recently received approval to cut over as many as 160,000 seats, and EDS executives expect that amount could rise by another 150,000 in the next several weeks. To date, about 57,000 seats have been cut over.

That additional cutover of 150,000 seats will depend on EDS meeting certain service level agreements.

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