After more than two years of hard work, the Naval Enterprise Networks (NEN) Program Office released a 1,100-page transport and enterprise services request for proposal (RFP) that establishes the acquisition approach for the Next Generation Enterprise Network (NGEN), the next step in the evolution of the Department of the Navy’s enterprise network.
Although the release of the RFP was a major milestone in its own right, the pace of work in the program office has increased and will only continue to ramp up as the August 8th proposal deadline approaches. At that point, the focus will switch from RFP preparation to source selection, contract award and the transition of the Navy Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI) services from the current provider to the winner or winners of the NGEN contract(s). The contract award is expected to be delivered by February 2013.
"Releasing the RFP is just the latest signpost in the path toward transitioning to NGEN,” said Capt. Shawn P. Hendricks, NEN program manager. “Clearing the high standards set by the DON and
the Department of Defense for the release of the RFP has been hard work. It’s hard because it’s important and it’s meaningful, yet at the same time information technology is the most mundane
thing that we buy in the DoD. But the work continues and the next hurdle is evaluating the proposals submitted by industry."
Some view NGEN as a completely new enterprise network, but it won’t be. NGEN will provide all of the same services that are available under NMCI. The big difference is NGEN’s acquisition approach that allows for the transition of the NMCI from a contractor-owned network to one that is fully government-owned with increased government management and control. In addition to being government-owned, NGEN divides network services into individual pieces allowing for periodic competition that will decrease costs, while allowing for technological innovation. NGEN will also provide for more flexible and adaptable information technology (IT) network services.
With NGEN, the DON will know exactly how much each of the individual pieces that make up the enterprise network costs, Hendricks said. "With NMCI, we’re paying a single price for everything.
I cannot tell you what email costs because it’s not broken down into that segment. Email is one service amongst many, such as help desk service and computer software, yet we pay one price and we get it all. We may have the most efficient help desk known to man and we might only be able to save $1 there, but I don’t know that because I don’t know what it costs."
Think of the NMCI contract like a jigsaw puzzle, Hendricks said. On the cover of the box you have a picture of the puzzle, but you can’t see the size or shapes of the puzzle pieces. Inside the box, you have a lot of pieces that need to be put together to match the cover on the box. The puzzle pieces represent the individual services of the network prior to the NMCI contract. The completed puzzle on the cover of the box represents the network post-NMCI contract.
"What we’re trying to do with NGEN is show you where the seams are on the pieces so that as and when circumstances dictate, whether technology, security, cost, enterprise-wide solutions, DoD mandates, whatever it is, that we can take one of those pieces and we can replace it with another one, and we’ll know exactly how to fit it in," Hendricks said.
When the full transition to the NGEN service providers is completed in April 2014, users should not notice a difference in the network, Hendricks said. "The computers on their desk will be the
same, their email will be the same and their other network services will be the same. So whether it’s the day before the transition or the day after, I hope they won’t notice a thing."
Currently, NMCI connects more than 800,000 users utilizing 384,000 workstations at more than 3,000 shore-based locations throughout the United States, Hawaii and Japan. Not only is the NMCI
the largest enterprise network in the Department of Defense (DoD), it is also the largest corporate intranet in the world second only to the Internet itself.
The NGEN RFP outlines two possible contract awards, one for transport services and one for enterprise services. Within those two contract segments, network services are broken up into 38
individual pieces so that the network can be competed collectively or individually on a service or segment level as needed.
Transport services — the physical wires, routers and cables used to transport network services — make up one-third of the overall NGEN contract. Enterprise services — the security encryption, software, the NMCI Service Desk and data storage servers — make up the remaining two-thirds.
Together, the estimated value of the transport and enterprise services is between $4.5 billion and $5.4 billion, but ultimately the value of the one-year contract(s) with four one-year options
will be driven by the competition and will be reflected in the bids.
The NGEN contract(s) will be awarded based on the Lowest Price Technically Acceptable (LPTA) source selection process, a standard which will provide the government with the best value according to the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), Hendricks said. “Some people argue that LPTA means we will receive an inferior product, but that’s not true. For a company to be considered
for a contract, their bid must meet the technical requirements before we’ll even look at their cost proposal.”
The requirements in the NGEN RFP are for a commercially available service that more than one company is capable of delivering, Hendricks said. “There isn’t an area that the DON could identify
where we would be willing to pay more for so LPTA was deemed the best-value approach for the government.”
Since the May 9th RFP release, the program office has responded to more than 210 questions and comments submitted by the bidders. The program office has also continued to make adjustments based on industry feedback,having issued 13 amendments to the RFP as of July 12.
"The RFP is good," Hendricks said. "The paucity of comments and questions we received after it was released is a testament to the hundreds of thousands of hours of work that the team put into
The DON took a deliberate, methodical approach in developing the RFP through a series of "Industry Days," requests for information, acquisition concept document releases, draft RFP
releases, the opening of technical data research facilities and opening a network operations center for industry tours. Along the way, industry was invited to ask questions and submit comments.
The dialogue with industry wasn’t just an exercise for show, Hendricks said. "The comments from industry have shaped the RFP based on the services that industry indicated it could and could not provide."
For example, one of the initial requirements was that a company must have experience running a computer network of at least 100,000 computers to even be eligible to win the NGEN contract. Based on industry feedback and additional analysis by the NGEN technical and management teams, the requirement was lowered to a minimum of a 40,000-computer network. In doing so, the potential field of bidders was increased without sacrificing any technical or security requirements.
Another change that was made based on industry feedback was the number of hosted virtual desktop (HVD) seats, a cloud-like solution. The draft RFP initially included 7,500 seats, the number
of seats participating in NMCI’s limited deployment of HVD that is currently underway. Two companies commented that they wouldn’t be able to drive down the price of the HVD seats if the
number of those seats on contract was limited to 7,500.
After completing an analysis of the HVD requirement, we realized the companies were right, Hendricks said. "We increased the potential number of HVD machines to 119,000 NIPR and 15,000
SIPR. The RFP doesn’t say that you have to do it, but it provides industry the flexibility to potentially drive down the price by hosting applications virtually."
Hendricks personally reviewed thousands of comments from industry and stakeholders, including those from the U.S. Pacific Command, a joint command of the Air Force, Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard with 3,000 NMCI seats.
"There is no other request for proposal anywhere in government that has had as many people interested in what is said as this one,” Hendricks said. “This affects every single Sailor, Marine and
civilian in the Department of the Navy."
Throughout the development of the RFP, the No. 1 concern of the program office has been ensuring a smooth and seamless transition of network services. As services transition from NMCI to the NGEN contractor, network services — operations, security protocols and email traffic to name a few — cannot stop for even one moment because everyone from a seaman to the Secretary of the Navy and a Marine Corps recruiter to the combatant commander of the U.S. Pacific Command depends on the same network services.
The network is a vitally important part of the daily business and mission critical operations of the DON. As services transition from NMCI to the NGEN contractor, network services — operations, security protocols and email traffic to name a few — cannot stop for even one moment because everyone from a seaman to the Secretary of the Navy and a Marine Corps recruiter to the combatant
commander of the U.S. Pacific Command depends on the same network services.
"I don’t want the customer to be impacted by something we’ve done because in the end, it’s about them," Hendricks said. "It’s not about me. I can award a contract, I can save lots of money, but if it doesn’t deliver efficiency, effectiveness and productivity to the users, it’s worth nothing and it costs a lot so it’s infinitely more expensive than it’s worth. Ultimately, only time will tell, but we have done our best to ensure the DON gets the best value from the network."
Naval Enterprise Networks (NEN) is part of the Department of the Navy's Program Executive
Office for Enterprise Information Systems (PEO-EIS), which oversees a portfolio of enterprise-wide
information technology programs designed to enable common business processes and provide
standard IT capabilities to Sailors at sea, Marines in the field and their support systems.
PEO EIS Public Affairs Office
Michelle Ku provides public affairs support to the NEN Program Office.