Navy, HP tout NGEN as a model for IT services

Captain Michael Abreu

Capt. Michael Abreu caption says the average Navy user "won’t see any difference" with the new Intranet, but those higher up the chain of command will.

Capt. Michael Abreu, the man overseeing the massive migration of the Navy’s Intranet to a new acquisition vehicle, sees the project as a model for balancing cost and security and adapting to changing requirements that other parts of the Defense Department can emulate.

The Navy's Next Generation Enterprise Network, which is set to be available throughout the service on Oct. 1, is based on an IT Services Management model that is unique "within the DOD IT services industry," Abreu said at a Sept. 10 media briefing. "If you look at what … other services are doing within the DOD or even in the federal government, you’ll see that most of them are moving towards this … ITSM model."

That model draws on the IT Infrastructure Library, a set of best practices for managing the life of an IT project. Abreu said these guidelines have allowed the Navy some flexibility in handling what it describes as the government's largest IT outsourcing program, a $3.5 billion project that converts the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI) to a government-owned system with about 400,000 "seats," or computer stations.

The brunt of the work needed to transition the NMCI to NGEN has taken place over the last few months. The Navy has, for example, replaced Windows XP with Windows 7 for the NMCI, deployed tools to manage network traffic when it gets congested, and synchronized Navy and Marine Corps email address lists with the rest of DOD. 

The Navy has converted about 74 percent of the roughly 300,000 seats it plans to switch to the NGEN contract, said Abreu, who is program manager of the Naval Enterprise Networks Program Office. Every month, a certain number of Navy sites stop using the previous NMCI contract, known as the Continuity of Services Contract, and start using NGEN.

It was not all smooth sailing in implementing NGEN in that there was at least one example of flawed contract specifications. The Navy wanted to order VIP services for senior officials using NGEN. The service had planned to order 10 or so at a time, but the number of VIPs varied throughout the country, so the Navy had to adjust orders for those services to reflect demand, Abreu explained.

Change, not disruption

The implementation of NGEN is by its nature transformational, but the Navy does not want it to disrupt network service for its fleets.To handle the thorny task of keeping network devices under NGEN up-to-date without disrupting the user experience, the Navy asked Hewlett-Packard, the project’s lead contractor, to develop what Abreu calls a "tech refresh plan."

That plan will, over the next few years, help the Navy decide whether to leave an aging device on the network or replace it. It is important "for us to take a hard look at how we're touching the pieces of the infrastructure, [to] do that with system engineering rigor, to make sure that whatever we do, we do it in a controlled fashion so it doesn’t disrupt any of the user experience moving forward," Abreu said.

The average Navy user "won’t see any difference" between NGEN and COSC, he added, but the evident impact of the new contracting vehicle increases the further up the chain you go. A fleet CIO, for example, will see changes to how she or he can order IT products and services, he said.

And across the Navy as whole, Abreu expect NGEN to save the service $20 million a month compared with COSC.

About the Author

Sean Lyngaas is an FCW staff writer covering defense, cybersecurity and intelligence issues. Prior to joining FCW, he was a reporter and editor at Smart Grid Today, where he covered everything from cyber vulnerabilities in the U.S. electric grid to the national energy policies of Britain and Mexico. His reporting on a range of global issues has appeared in publications such as The Atlantic, The Economist, The Washington Diplomat and The Washington Post.

Lyngaas is an active member of the National Press Club, where he served as chairman of the Young Members Committee. He earned his M.A. in international affairs from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and his B.A. in public policy from Duke University.

Click here for previous articles by Lyngaas, or connect with him on Twitter: @snlyngaas.


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