Net-centric dream team?

Some government information technology luminaries have formed a new company to bid on the Defense Information Systems Agency’s Net-Centric Enterprise Services (NCES) content discovery request for proposals. The company founders are retired three-star Air Force Gen. Al Edmonds, who headed DISA from 1994 to 1997, and retired two-star Navy Rear Adm. John Gauss, who worked for Edmonds as DISA’s director of engineering and interoperability before moving to head the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command and then serve as chief information officer for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The partnership makes a lot of sense because DISA built the Common Operating Environment (COE) for the Defense Department’s Global Command and Control System during the Edmonds/Gauss era.

NCES is designed to move the COE and many applications from the computer and onto the network. Edmonds and Gauss via their new joint venture, Mirius (, bring a lot of insight, not to mention firepower, to bear on NCES.

Some folks say the Edmonds/Gauss combo might be too much firepower for any venture. They advise these two sometimes-volatile folks to approach their NCES bid with as much gentleness as they can muster.

To make Mirius more interesting, I suggest they hire Emmett Paige, former assistant secretary of Defense for command, control, communications and intelligence as chairman emeritus. Edmonds will serve as chairman of Mirius, a joint venture that FGM supports, while Gauss will serve as president. David Kellogg, founder of Solers, an employee-owned software development and systems integration company founded in 1999, will be its chief executive officer.

The Mirius demonstration at AFCEA’s TechNet International 2006 in Washington, D.C., last week impressed the Interceptor, especially with its ability to use data harvested through DOD’s Discovery Metadata Specification with commercial search tools, such as Google and Google Earth map software.

Other NCES wannabes

The Interceptor picked up medium to high signals at AFCEA’s TechNet conference last week that SRA International plans to bid on the NCES content discovery job. SRA, which former Social Security Administration systems czar Renny DiPentima heads, should provide tough competition for the Edmonds/Gauss team.

I’m told BEA Systems is also eager to bid on the NCES content discovery RFP.

These folks must wait until next year to sharpen their bidder pencils. Rebecca Harris, DISA’s program executive officer for Global Information Grid-Enterprise Services, said at TechNet that she expects to see a draft RFP hit the streets by the end of this month. A final version could be out in the first quarter of 2007.

DATS lives!

Cindy Moran, chief of network services at DISA, assured me at the TechNet conference that the $3 billion Defense Information Systems Network Access Transport Services (DATS) buy, which celebrated its one-year anniversary this month without an award, will get out of the Defense Information Technology Contracting Organization procurement shop, as she put it, “within my lifetime.”

I tried to narrow this down a bit — to this year or the next — because according to my wife, I will still be writing Intercepts 20 years from now when I turn 82.

Moran, for the record, refused to bite. I have a feeling the contract will be awarded sooner rather than later, but only after a painful round of best-and-final offers because all the bidders have been gobbled up in a round of telecommunications mergers.

Marines missed net-centric war in Iraq

That’s the assessment of plain-spoken Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Joseph Dunford on histories he read about the march to Baghdad at the start of the Iraq war.

Net-centric warfare gadgets and gizmos enabled the Army’s operation. But although soldiers may have had a lot of net-centric gear, Dunford said during a TechNet conference panel session that the Marine unit he commanded relied on tools more familiar to the World War II Battle of Guadalcanal than a high-tech 21st-century March on Baghdad — that is, standard yellow military messages carried to his command post by courier.

As any Marine knows, this is because the Army always gets the newest toys first.

A too-familiar ring

Air Force Brig. Gen. O.G. Mannon, deputy director of special operations at the Joint Staff, said at TechNet that special operators work in an information space in which “there are too many systems that don’t talk to each other,” a comment that I must have heard at TechNet 1996 and TechNet 1986.

Army Brig. Gen. Susan Lawrence, director of C4 systems at the Central Command, expressed similar sentiments when she lamented the multiple systems her command has to cobble together to communicate with allied partners.

Maybe, just maybe, NCES is the way to go to resolve this mess. But just in case, I plan to save this column so I can cut and paste it into my TechNet coverage in 2016.

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