NMCI software center coming soon

NMCI Web site

The military leaders of the Navy Marine Corps Intranet project expect to have a center for software approval running in a few months.

NMCI officials are finishing development on the NMCI Product Evaluation Center (NPEC), which will be based in New Orleans, said Capt. Chris Christopher, NMCI's deputy director for future operations.

Once established, the center will scrutinize vendors' software to make sure they meet basic criteria: Does the product work well with the Microsoft Corp. Windows 2000 operating system or future operating systems that the NMCI may migrate to; and, does the product open security holes? The Navy won't buy products that fail to get the center's approval, Christopher said.

At the NMCI Industry Symposium, to be held in New Orleans from June 20 to June 23, NMCI officials and industry representatives will discuss a framework of rules for how the product center will operate, Christopher said. Armed with industry input, Defense officials will then set policies.

Christopher said the Navy is trying to establish a more systematic approach than the service used previously. When the Navy launched the NMCI project, it had more than 100,000 applications running -- many of them duplicative -- and only a few of them interacting. Officials are about to embark on an inventory project to find out how many servers they have and where they are.

"In the future we don't want all these stovepipes," he said. "We want to be sure [that] if we buy software that it will run on NMCI."

Many businesses have been reluctant to approach EDS, the contractor that is building the NMCI foundation, Christopher said. EDS has been in charge of approving products for use, but competing companies are leery of sharing proprietary information with EDS, so Defense officials decided the NPEC needed a government face.

NMCI has been something of a quagmire for EDS. The company has long considered it one its problem contracts and this week posted a quarterly operating loss of $145 million on the program, contributing to a net loss of $12 million companywide. The company now expects to lose more than $465 million on NMCI this year -- previously EDS predicted an annual loss of more than $389 million.

The NPEC's own product will be a database of approved software, which will be maintained by the yet-unformed entity to be discussed at the Symposium, Christopher said.

There is no guarantee that the approach will accomplish all that officials hope it will, Christopher said, but it is "better than just going where the wind takes us."

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