House DOD bill slashes 2007 NMCI funding

The House Armed Services Committee slashed funding for major Navy and Defense Information Systems Agency programs in the version of the 2007 Defense Authorization bill it passed last week. But it boosted funding for Air Force combat communications systems and Army and Marine tactical radio systems.

The committee budgeted $245 million for the Navy Marine Corps Intranet in fiscal 2007, down $70 million from the Bush administration’s request, saying in a report that it remains concerned about the cost of the contract and “the enduring nature of legacy programs that a now mature NMCI was supposed to replace.”

In March, the Navy gave EDS a $3.1 billion extension to the NMCI contract, originally awarded in 2000 with a value of $9 billion and designed to connect 500,000 Navy and Marine personnel worldwide using tightly configured PCs designed to deter hackers and control viruses.

The procurement budget for DISA’s Net-Centric Enterprise Services (NCES) program was cut from the $41 million the committee requested down to $26 million. The House kept intact the requested NCES research, development, test and evaluation funding of $28.6 million.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Charles Croom, DISA’s director, said earlier this year that he viewed NCES as the agency’s No. 1 project. It will provide all four military services with a wide range of Internet tools and services.

In its report, the committee said that although it generally supported the broad goal of network-centric operations throughout the Defense Department, it believed a “prudent pause” was needed in some information technology programs to further develop the umbrella Global Information Grid. The committee backed the view with cuts, such as the one imposed on NCES.

The committee also chopped the procurement budget for equipment to support the Army Global Combat Support System from a request of $139.2 million to $89.2 million. The committee added $3.5 million to the Army Knowledge Online budget, for the AKO Disaster Recovery initiative.

It boosted the Air Force’s combat communications budget $30 million above the $1.6 billion the service requested, saying that systems used to support combat control teams who call in air strikes, Air Force special operations teams and weather teams are critical defense assets, the committee’s report states.

Tactical radio equipment used to support Army and Marine forces also received a sharp boost in the House authorization bill. The committee authorized $68.1 million for the Marines’ procurement of tactical radios, an increase of $48.1 million, and budgeted $142 million for Army tactical radios, up $50.6 million from the Bush administration’s request.

The U.S. Special Operations Command will be able to use wireless local-area networks capable of top-secret encrypted communications because of the addition of $1.8 million to the command budget for the purchase of SecNet 54 gear from Harris.

The equipment supports top-secret communications using 802.11 wireless LANs, 802.16 WiMax long-range wireless equipment and Ethernet in a compact, external cryptology module.

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