NMCI finds middle way

Navy's NMCI Web site

Middle managers within the Navy and Marine Corps have, until recently, had few avenues to voice concerns, problems or questions about policy in regard to the Navy Marine Corps Intranet. That changed, however, with the implementation of the Integrated Service Center (ISC), an organization intended to handle issues on a scale larger than individual users, but smaller than the entire enterprise.

When NMCI was conceived, the help desk was determined to be the best way to handle the day-to-day questions of individual users who have problems or questions about the system. Larger problems -- those that affect a large command, what the Navy refers to as an Echelon II command -- are addressed by the Stakeholders Council, a group of individuals from the major commands that deals with problems, questions or issues that could affect either the entire Navy/Marine Corps team or a large portion of it.

"We determined that left out the middle ground" for individual commands, said Navy Capt. Craig Madsen, the Navy's NMCI program manager.

So in December 2003, the Navy opened the ISC to address individual commands' queries.

"This is a central support site that is not intended to take over the 24-by-seven of the help desk or the network operations centers," Madsen said. "We have representatives covering all of the various areas of NMCI: legacy applications, program support, technical assistance, lessons learned and frequently asked questions."

The ISC is open during business hours Monday to Friday, and is staffed by subject matter experts who can answer specific questions about a command. For example, one of the jobs of certain Navy commands in the Washington, D.C., area is to monitor congressional hearings that impact the Navy. To do that, those commands need access to streaming media, something not generally needed or used on the NMCI network. Because the question involved more than just a handful of work stations, but less than the entire Navy and Marine Corps, the ISC was determined to be the best place to turn to for problem resolution.

David Murray, a department head in the NMCI program office, said that before, issues such as this would have fallen between the jurisdictions of the help desk and the Stakeholders Council.

"The problem would have been referred to the help desk, which would have passed it on to the council," Murray said. "It would have to go through the chain up to the Echelon II level, and a solution could take two, three, four weeks to get back down the line."

The average time for a problem to be solved by the ISC is three days, according to Madsen.

Since its launch, the ISC has fielded about 300 calls and averages nearly 60 per month. Madsen said the number has increased steadily as the word has gotten out about the service, which is run by Navy personnel.

The need for an ISC -- or some other middle-tier response center -- was not addressed in the NMCI contract with lead contractor EDS. When the center, which is housed in San Diego, was launched, a determination was made that staffing should be the responsibility of Navy personnel rather than EDS contractors.

"Questions come in concerning contract policy and Navy policy," Madsen said. "It wouldn't be appropriate for EDS to answer Navy policy questions."

However, he said, center officials would look to eventually add an EDS representative who could answer EDS-specific problems. The Marine Corps has also expressed an interest in adding a Marine-specific member to the ISC team when more Marines are transitioned to the NMCI network.

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