NMCI cap soon to be lifted

Navy officials anticipate that Congress soon will give its approval to lift its 60,000-seat cap on the Navy Marine Corps Intranet.

The Defense Department already has authorized the Navy to order 150,000 more seats to bring the total of authorized seats to 310,000. The actual move now hinges on the Navy secretary and chief of naval operations' sending a letter to Capitol Hill certifying that continuing NMCI is in the Navy's best interest.

The DOD approval was handed down by chief information officer John Stenbit and Michael Wynne, the deputy undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.

Rear Adm. Charles Munns, NMCI director, said the pending authorization "shows leadership support of NMCI at a critical time in cyberdefense."

EDS, the Plano, Texas, company that was awarded the contract to build out the Navy network, has cut over slightly more than 57,000 seats, but will be forced to stop at 60,000 if Congress does not give the go-ahead.

NMCI seat orders are based on a three-phased approach.

* The first phase of orders included the congressional limit of 60,000, or 15 percent of the total seats the Navy plans to cut over.

* The second phase of orders included 100,000 additional seats. That order occurred in May 2002 as a result of the successful completion of customer test and evaluation, but the Navy had to wait for approval before rolling out those seats. A Jan. 2 memo from Stenbit gave that approval. In it, the Navy's CIO said that the "NMCI project is sufficiently capable of...implementing appropriate mitigation activities, corrective actions and program improvements as the program continues to evolve."

* The third phase of orders—for 150,000 more seats—required a round of testing that has now been completed and reviewed by Stenbit and Wynne. Pending DOD notification to congressional defense committees, the Navy will begin to place orders for more seats, according to Capt. Chris Christopher, NMCI's deputy director of plans, policy and oversight. The next round of testing for NMCI begins this summer.

"Now more than ever, our country is reliant on maintaining the security of its defense information," Munns said. "NMCI will bring the Department of the Navy faster, more secure and reliable communications to enhance our warfighting readiness."

If President Bush's budget proposal for NMCI passes through Congress as is, NMCI will receive $1.6 billion in fiscal 2004, $500 million more than the fiscal 2003 budget of $1.1 billion.


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