Bill boosts NMCI oversight

Conference committee reaches agreement on the National Defense Authorization Act

The Navy's massive $6.9 billion effort to outsource its shore-based information technology infrastructure will get additional oversight as a result of the fiscal 2002 Defense authorization bill.

Members of the House and Senate conference committee reached an agreement Dec. 12 on the much-watched National Defense Authorization Act (S. 1438).

The House version of that bill included a provision to pull the Marines, naval aviation depots and shipyards out of the Navy Marine Corps Intranet. However, the final version, which still must get approval from the House and Senate, includes the Marine Corps.

A summary report released by the House Armed Services Committee suggests that the bill also includes an agreement negotiated between the Navy and the Pentagon regarding the testing of NMCI systems. Pentagon and Navy officials had reached an agreement on how the Defense Department chief information officer will oversee the massive project. That agreement seeks to put the initiative on an event-driven schedule in which the DOD CIO will review the project's progress when NMCI reaches certain milestones.

But concerns about "lengthy program delays and questions about the Navy's funding and budgetary strategy for NMCI prompted the conferees to reduce funding and improve oversight of the program," the summary report says.

The conferees call for DOD to "maintain responsibility for each new phase" of NMCI, and for Navy Secretary Gordon England to appoint a program manager whose "sole responsibility is to direct and oversee the program," the summary states.

The authorization bill allocates $582 million for "phased implementation and supervision" of NMCI -- about $65 million less than the Bush administration had requested.

A final decision remains unclear on the controversial provisions that would make it virtually impossible for DOD to use multiple-award contracts. The provisions -- generally known as Section 801 and Section 803 -- are not mentioned in the summary, and the final language will not be released until it is introduced on the House floor.

The Senate's version of the Defense authorization bill included two provisions that sought to eliminate the practice of agencies using multiple-award contracts to avoid competition and to sole-source task orders from those governmentwide acquisition contracts (GWACs) to specific vendors.

House and Senate staff members had negotiated a compromise agreement last month, but it is unclear if any changes have been made to that agreement, industry officials said.

The House and Senate are expected to act on the bill this week.

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