NGEN's risky choices

The Navy is confident that the successor to the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet is sound, but its short span and emphasis on cost worry some observers.

Navy personnel IT

Navy personnel aboard the USS George H.W. Bush collaborate on evaluating IT network security in this 2013 photo. (Navy photo)

With the Navy's landmark Next Generation Enterprise Network contract finally awarded, those in government IT will be watching carefully as the next steps unfold.

NGEN's predecessor, the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet, is the largest computer network in the world other than the public Internet. NGEN, which will be run by a team led by Hewlett-Packard and will serve 800,000 users, marks a new path in a number of aspects as a major IT contract awarded in a shifting fiscal environment.

The contract was awarded based on "lowest price technically acceptable," a controversial measure that some critics suggest rules out options that offer better services for higher costs. In addition, the multi-phased approach to the project and the intense spending scrutiny raise questions.

The LPTA trend is gaining momentum as agencies look for savings everywhere possible, and NGEN program managers reported significant savings through the approach. According to officials, it is part of the reason the contract's maximum value is roughly $3.5 billion, as opposed to speculative figures as high as $10 billion that some had expected.

"This contract is achieving greater than $1 billion savings for the Navy, and in this fiscal environment that's as critical as it gets," Sean Stackley, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition, said in a conference call with reporters on June 27.

Stackley said that officials used previous NMCI budgets as a baseline, extrapolating costs over future years to the 2014 budget and using those figures as a comparison. "So in fact we actually reduced our budget based on anticipated savings from this contract award; and then with the award itself, we get to harvest additional savings," he said.

On the flip side, some fear that the decision could mean trouble later on. Navy officials insist that the thorough approach to its requests for proposals – which were revisited a number of times throughout the process amid ongoing discussions between government and industry – will mitigate issues that could require changes to the contract or scope. However, others say such changes are likely.

"Unfortunately what often happens subsequent to the award is that the government realizes that it has not explicitly defined all the requirements in the document, which leads to the need for modifications, negotiations and often creates ongoing problems," said Warren Suss, president of Suss Consulting. He acknowledged that the Navy put significant work into providing detailed requirements information, but nonetheless, "I would not be surprised to see a great deal of back and forth between the government and HP on this deal."

Another concern is the incorporation of new and emerging technologies throughout the relatively short length of the contract – five years if all options are extended. One source said that under the contract, the process of making the transition from NMCI to NGEN is much clearer than the transformation that should come after that.

"A big question mark is, how will the government handle transformation, how will they handle the shift to the next-environment involving wireless?" Suss said. "How will they handle transition to the cloud environment, and how will the government handle the need for next-generation identification and authentication?"

Navy officials seemed to dismiss the notion that five years is too short of a window, and said that the length of time that went into preparing NMCI for transition and the NGEN contract itself – several years – means that future transitions will be shorter and easier.

"The big difference...is knowing what the network is. There were [years] as part of that [request for proposal] development that the government had to figure out exactly what it had," said Victor Gavin, program executive officer-enterprise information systems. Now that there is a better understanding of what assets are part of the program, "we're at a much better position not only to shorten that period but to actually make the next competition at a much faster pace," he said.

Still, the short timeline creates new challenges, particularly with such a big and expensive project, analysts noted. Moreover, it could push contractors to question how much to invest in enhancing capabilities and upgrades for a relatively brief contract period.

Those and other issues are symptomatic of a larger issue: the intense focus on costs rather than the product and impact.

"When you're really just trying to focus on how much you're spending on IT versus what kind of productivity and mission effectiveness you're making, you end up getting what you pay for," Suss noted.

And it is not just the Navy or even the Defense Department this conundrum affects. With budgets squeezed throughout the government, it is a much broader issue.

"This applies across the board. Instead of looking at it as the government equivalent of a profit center, a way to do better in the mission...you're focusing on actual dollars spent, and as a result, you tend to limit investments that could generate greater efficiencies and effectiveness," Suss said. "It's kind of overlooking the force-multiplier potential for IT investment, and this is just one manifestation of the problem across government. It takes a brave executive to stand up to cost measures and see IT as an investment and force multiplier, rather than just [being] cost-centered where the job is to squeeze the last dollar out of your investment."

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.