England: NMCI on satisfying track

NSPS Web site

Secretary of the Navy Gordon England believes the Navy has "turned the corner" with its Navy Marine Corps Intranet program.

In an interview with Federal Computer Week, England said that many negative user comments about NMCI are justified but added that "it's much better than what we had before, and we could not function without NMCI." The intranet was developed for the Navy by EDS under a contract with a total value of more than $8 billion.

The locked-down nature of the NMCI system and desktops has proved a boon for the Navy in a virus-prone world, England said, but also has led to some frustration from users who, before NMCI, were able to load myriad programs on their PCs. More than half of the Navy's and Marine Corps' employees use the network, with more than 193,000 seats residing on it.

Kevin Clarke, a spokesman for EDS, said company officials agree with England's assessment that NMCI is now on track in terms of satisfying top Navy officials and end users. He added that EDS also sees revenue growth from NMCI, which has plagued the company's bottom line. For the six months ended June 30, EDS reported operating losses of $316 million from the intranet, according to a financial report issued last month.

That report also states that EDS has $775 million in assets committed to NMCI, and if cutovers to NMCI fall below expectations, the system does not pass a Navy operational evaluation or EDS cannot satisfactorily resolve cost reimbursement and service-level issues with the Navy, those assets could be significantly impaired. Despite this grim language, Clarke said he was the most optimistic he has ever been in his four years working on the NMCI program.

FCW recently received a complaint from an NMCI user about the limitations on the size of file downloads allowed on the intranet. Rear Adm. James Godwin III, who took over as program director for NMCI this month, said such restrictions are typical on large, enterprise networks, adding that users of an Australian defense intranet are limited to 1M downloads, while NMCI users can send files in the 5M to 6M range.

Godwin said he was one of the first flag officers to use NMCI and considers himself as pioneer on the system. He said he does not plan to manage NMCI from just inside the Beltway, but also plans to assess the status of the system from the perspective of users at bases, camps and stations, with his first visit most likely to Naval Air Station, Lemore, Calif.

England is now in the midst of a Navy-led program to reform the Defense Department personnel management system, a task he described as "more complex than designing a submarine or aircraft carrier."

The revamp, officially called the National Security Personnel System (NSPS) is the largest personnel management change in history, with some 700,000 DOD civilian employees covered by the system, mandated by Congress in a bill passed in November 2003. The main change the workers face is replacement of annual raises by Congress with a pay-for-performance system designed to recognize and reward those who make an extra effort.

Despite this radical change in how raises will be handed out, England said that neither he nor the NSPS program office, headed by Mary Lacey, who previously served as the technical director of the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Washington, D.C., has received only one constituent complaint from Congress.

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), praised Lacey earlier this year for her "impressive leadership ability and unmatched ability in her field." Lacey lives in Hoyer's suburban Maryland Congressional district.

NSPS is being developed with input from unions and DOD workers nationwide working on integrated project management teams, England said. NSPS staff will produce a draft of DOD's new personnel management policy by year's end with a plan to convert all department employees to the new system by 2008, he added.

Lacey and the Navy are developing the system in conjunction with the Office of Personnel Management, and England said it could serve as a model for reform of personnel systems governmentwide.

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