Magazine article National Defense

Navy Kicks off $7B Intranet Project

Magazine article National Defense

Navy Kicks off $7B Intranet Project

Article excerpt

The U.S. Navy moved a step closer toward its goal of having a service-wide intranet, operated entirely by the private sector. The project is known as the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet, or simply NMCI. The intranet will act as an information portal or exchange, providing data and video and voice communications for some 360,000 users. If successful, it will consolidate many disparate computer networks into a single information grid.

NMCI will be run by Electronic Data Systems (EDS) Corporation, of Plano, Texas, in what has been labeled the largest government information technology contract to dare. EDS received a five-year, $6.9 billion contract--$4.1 billion initially, with an additional three-year option--to meet security and quality-of-service requirements, train Navy-Marine personnel and maintain and operate the system infrastructure. Thus the Navy is buying a service, which officials compared to buying a utility, such as electricity or water. NMCI will replace the Navy's existing shore-based command data networks, officials said.

The Navy investigated more than 100 potential contractors in determining who would best fit its needs, said officials.

The EDS-led contracting team--The Information Strike Force--includes Raytheon Company, WorldCom and WAM!NET. In addition, 40 percent of the work will be subcontracted to small businesses, said officials.

Consolidation

Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig called the NMCI "an immense achievement," for it will simplify some rather complex operations by breaking down the old, stove-piped way of doing business and combining data systems.

"NMCI will make information instandy accessible to all certified users throughout the department," said Danzig. "The consolidation of scores of separately purchased and maintained systems will yield valuable short-term gains in economy, efficiency and security. Our decision to contract for guaranteed levels for service from a private manager [EDS], transcends our often-cumbersome procurement techniques and links us to the rapidly evolving private sector. We have therefore found a mechanism for greatly increasing the speed and flexibility with which this technology will be refreshed.

"But substantial as these benefits are, they are dwarfed by implications of empowering instantaneous information access throughout the whole Department of the Navy. A highly structured, stove-piped, hierarchical organization has put itself on the path to being highly flexible, intimately integrated and organized in flat networks."

While Danzig believes the tides are turning [excuse the pun] as information-sharing becomes a less-burdensome chore, he promotes this network as an instrument of change.

"This 'net' is essential, but it only facilitates change, in much the same way that telegraphs and telephones opened opportunity, but were, themselves, means, not ends," said Danzig.

Some Defense Department officials expressed their anticipation for, or went so far as to predict, the developments or changes that may be triggered by this intranet.

"The Navy-Marine Corps Intranet will revolutionize the way that we look at the process of sharing information," said Deputy Secretary of Defense Rudy de Leon. "It gets the government out of the business of owning and operating information technology systems, and instead transfers that function to a fee-for-service contract with private industry. …

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