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CHIPS Articles: Transforming Our Future

Transforming Our Future
By Rear Adm. Chuck Munns - July-September 2002
Edited from a keynote presentation from Connecting Technology Spring 2002

Many have asked why NMCI? And the answer is—because society is changing due to technology--and current and future technology are leading us here. The Navy's existing infrastructure is unsatisfactory—we have about 1,000 networks—some without system administrators, some with incompatible computers and systems, and most importantly unsatisfactory security.

Future information technology (IT) must support a Navy that is really what we are: Proactive, Agile, Forward, Mobile, Dispersed, Information Dependent. NMCI is going to be a transformational enabler—for the Department's Culture, Technology and Management through enterprise level improvements in Security, Interoperability, Knowledge Sharing, Productivity, Reliability and Cost. NMCI requires hard work from all of us to effect change. NMCI will change the nature of the way the Navy and Marine Corps do business; for example, imagine the process and procedural changes which occurred when navies went from sail to steam.

Soon one of the next battlefields where the DoN will wage war will be on our network—a cyber 9/11 and NMCI will help us prepare for that through the following initiatives:

• Defense-in-Depth
• DITSCAP – DoD Information Technology Security Certification and Accreditation Process
• NSA-approved products.
• DoD Public Key Infrastructure (PKI)
• Computer Network Defense (CND)

The interoperability provided by NMCI is another key component to assure that our data is secure. The hope for NMCI is that it will be the Department's configuration control mechanism—we will be interoperable inside our own house and with the rest of the Global Information Grid (GIG). The other Services are also engaged in expediting interoperability but in some areas we are leading DoD in this effort.

NMCI the Enabler

NMCI will be the mechanism for facilitating knowledge sharing, productivity and reliability.

Knowledge Sharing

Here's how it will work using a real life scenario from Afghanistan. One of our missiles would not properly discharge so it couldn't be used. What would have happened before the technology we have now is that the missile would have been sent home for repair and probably wouldn't have been ready to use for 18 to 24 months. But what actually happened this time is the deployed Sailors aboard ship in the Gulf of Arabia got into a Web-based chat room with NUWC [Naval Undersea Warfare Center] back in the United States and they troubleshot the problem, and within 24 hours the missile was back on the line. This kind of sharing is already taking place in many sectors and with NMCI it will be even better.


This example ties with knowledge sharing and how it will increase productivity. While afloat, Petty Officer Smith has a winch motor to repair. He hops onto his computer and within minutes is in contact with a NSWC [Naval Surface Warfare Center] Tele-Maintenance expert. He's solved his problem within the hour without requiring a tech assist visit. Again this is already being done.


Battles in the Pentagon are fought with PowerPoint slides so you work very hard to make them look good. The night before a presentation your hard-drive crashes. You think your presentation is lost. It's 2 a.m. and your LAN Support is long gone. You think that you have lost your presentation and need to start over again. With NMCI, a quick call to the 24-hour Help Desk and you can log onto another seat with the last back-up version of your presentation waiting for you in your e-mail inbox. Your profile will have your settings already in place and you can finish up from where you left off.


NMCI will actually be less costly in the end state than what we previously had. But everyone has a different perspective, especially on cost. NMCI does cost more per seat so from that perspective it appears more expensive. But if you look at mandated cost – the things that the DON has been mandated to do even without the NMCI – plus the additional services, not mandated, but things that make good business sense – three-year technology refresh, 24x7 help desk support, on-demand bandwidth, etc., you can see what we actually have is a bargain.

But most people perceive NMCI as the technology on their desktop – their Dell laptop, but that is only 30 percent of the cost of NMCI – NMCI is really about the services that come with it.

NMCI is a network and services, including: (1) Security (firewalls, intrusion detection, encryption); (2) All network infrastructure; (3) Pier services (connectivity Network Operations Center/Joint Forces Tactical Operations Center interface); (4) Enterprise support functions (help desk, tech support, etc.); (5) Joint and industry interoperability; (6) Desktop hardware built with built-in refresh; (7) Common desktop software suite with built-in refresh; (8) Domain Name Service; (9) User training; (10) Messaging; (11) Directory services; and (12) End-to-end network management.

Change Management

Each of us has challenges to overcome for the success of NMCI – at the command and claimancy levels, but from the DON perspective the three biggest challenges are: legacy applications, seat rollout rate, and usability.

Legacy Applications – It is safe to say that none of us in the department had any idea of the number of legacy applications that were in use in the DON. Initial data calls revealed the Navy had a staggering number of databases – 100,000 – we went down to 60,000 and then 45,000, but that is still too many. Private industry has the same problem. I’ve asked a number of industry executives, including at IBM, they had 50,000 and are down to 500, and hope to be at 100.

Commander in Chief U.S. Atlantic Fleet (CINCLANTFLT) reduced to less than 200 applications – if Fleet headquarters can run on less than 200 – I know we can do better. This is all about change management – when you look at all those applications – you realize that somebody likes those applications and to take them away will be painful. But we actually starting examining some of these “mission critical” applications we found that they had no user – what does that tell us?

Lou Gershner, former CEO of IBM, said that IBM would have gone bankrupt in a few years if they had continued this way. They wouldn’t have survived. The Navy must survive so we must change – effectively and efficiently. We must drastically reduce applications and this is a Navy problem, and the applications we do have must be web-enabled.

Seat Rollout – We need a less elaborate process for ordering a seat and the applications that go with it. Seat rollout takes effective leadership – another change management issue. Once the seat is installed, the seat has to be certified and we are looking at a less complicated way of doing this. Finally, the seat has to be packaged and placed on the NMCI. In the beginning, we were loading every application individually; now what we are doing is looking at the applications in terms of the enterprise and what we want to take with us into the 21st century. These applications will be given to the NOCs for downloading to the desktop. The only applications that will be loaded locally will be those with a small number of users.

Usability – If NMCI were just bringing a faster computer, this would be easy, but it is doing so much more than that. It will require change from all of us at all levels. Those of you who love and use WordStar will have to use Microsoft products. We recognize that this will be very hard for some users.

You probably like your desktop the way it is. We are asking you to take your work to the NMCI machine. Time and effort will be required from you to make this work. At the end of the day what we want to achieve with NMCI is satisfied users. That’s why this is really all about change management. And that is why effective leadership at all levels is required – the focus of the next 18 months must be on reducing legacy applications and the continuation of seat rollouts.

So again, why NMCI?

The Navy’s antiquated IT infrastructure is unsatisfactory – we have about 1,000 networks – some without system administrators, incompatible computers and systems, and most importantly, inferior security. The department is committed to the success of NMCI, but we need change managers at all commands and all levels to help ensure its success.

Rear Admiral Chuck Munns
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