HERNDON, Virginia - The Department of the Navy's (DON) vision to develop a comprehensive Navy Marine Corps Intranet [NMCI] continues its march from concept to reality. The Information Strike Force, a partnership of companies led by Texas-based EDS, includes industry leaders WorldCom, Raytheon, WAM!NET, Dell, Cisco, Microsoft, Dolch, Dataline and a host of small businesses. The team has nearly completed the first major phase of the project to consolidate more than 200 disparate Navy and Marine Corps computer networks into a single, enterprise-wide managed service for voice, video and data information exchange. At $6.9 billion, the NMCI project represents the largest federal information technology contract ever awarded, ultimately serving approximately 360,000 Sailors, Marines, and civilian employees at installations in the United States and several overseas locations when complete.
"We have achieved Assumption of Responsibility [AOR] at 26 sites across the United States and more than 42,000 seats - all without any disruption of service," said NMCI Program Executive, Rick Rosenburg referring to the operation of a site's computer network environment in an "as-is" condition. "This important step took less than six months and we are confident our timelines to provide those locations with the full range of NMCI services will be achieved on time."
AOR is achieved when the Strike Force takes responsibility for the operation and maintenance of the system and assumes all applicable NMCI-like contracts and leases. It is the first major step in the incremental deployment of the NMCI environment. Congress limited first increment installations to 15 percent of the 360,000 desktops that will eventually comprise the NMCI system. Once those sites are operating in the NMCI environment, the system will undergo an Operational Test and Evaluation (OT&E). Only after the test is satisfactorily completed will the remainder of the implementation be authorized. The evaluation takes place this summer.
The innovative approach offered by EDS uses an incremental delivery plan to create a single, integrated network IT environment. With standardized software suites and one security architecture, NMCI will enhance interoperability and security across the department.
"Our business model and our business strategy was to focus on what we wanted to do versus what we wanted to buy," said Joseph Cipriano, DON Program Executive Officer for Information Technology. "We sought to buy a service that would change with our needs rather than buy something we had to keep modernizing to meet our needs."
Price and performance drive the NMCI contract. The contract contains 37 Service-Level Agreements [SLAs] that could result in significant bonuses or penalties for the Strike Force. EDS was so confident in its ability to create and deploy an innovative technical solution to meet the measurement standards, it accepted higher penalties for non-performance. It was only one of the many unique solutions the Strike Force offered.
"We believe we put together an innovative partnership proposal," said Strike Force Chief Financial Officer, Pam Fenrich. "The Strike Force offered shared cost savings, accepted all terms and conditions of the contract without changes, exceeded the 35 percent small business requirement, guaranteed three years employment for government IT employees impacted by NMCI, and committed to meet or exceed the service levels by proposing an aggressive incentive and penalty plan," she said. "We also offered a flexible and scalable technical solution that accommodates the unique requirements of the DON."
The economic benefits of NMCI are fixed per-seat pricing; the economy of scale - buying from a single provider; shared cost savings; and regular technology refreshes to upgrade hardware every three years and software every two years at no additional cost.
The Strike Force knows the proof will be in the performance and an undertaking of this magnitude can be an arduous process as both parties learn the nuances of each other's core businesses.
"Certainly, unforeseen requirements have emerged since October," said Rosenburg, "but we are managing them in a spirit of partnership and cooperation. The contract was designed as an 80 percent solution in order to mitigate issues as they arose. It has worked very well thus far."
Cipriano agrees. "There has never been a contract written that 100 percent reflected what somebody really wanted and needed," he said. "We tried to leave enough room in the way we wrote this contract that we could work together to find a match that was a win-win for both of us and that satisfied our requirements."
The ability to negotiate is crucial when dealing with legacy applications, those programs and systems that are used in very specific, highly specialized tasks. At some locations, the number of legacy applications is staggering.
"When NMCI begins operations, all IT legacy systems will continue to operate throughout the DON," said Rosenburg. "We will ensure that current connectivity requirements and operations are maintained throughout all transition and migration periods and in the NMCI environment."
The Strike Force established a Legacy Application Working Group to determine the processes necessary to move legacy applications to the NMCI environment. That process will include recommendations to the DON on where it can reduce reliance on legacy systems.
"NMCI offers the DON an opportunity to employ a state-of-the-art infrastructure to reduce the number of legacy applications," said George Sibley, Deputy Program Executive. "The important thing to remember is that NMCI is about procuring a service for a full range of voice, video and data communications to support warfighting and business functions for the Navy and Marine Corps. It will allow Marines and Sailors to focus on their mission rather than be concerned with IT services."
Reaction to NMCI has ranged from initial resistance to almost giddy enthusiasm. EDS recognized the importance of change management and augmented its site transition teams with dedicated client advocates. The client advocates act as ombudsmen to the Navy or Marine component, providing guidance and advice, throughout the implementation of the NMCI.
"People tend to see NMCI only as a desktop rather than a full-service contract providing hardware, software, security, connectivity, service, repair, and the manpower to make it all work," said Sibley. "Theirs is a very personal concern, seeing only how NMCI affects them, their department, or their command. The client advocates work to help people view the program from an enterprise-wide perspective."
Commander in Chief of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet, Admiral Robert J. Natter, encourages Sailors and Marines to keep an open mind. "Implementing NMCI globally across an organization as large as the Navy and Marine Corps requires cultural change, which, understandably, does not come without some degree of anxiety," Admiral Natter said. "I'm confident this anxiety will be displaced by enthusiasm when our people see how NMCI will help them perform their mission. The long term results, in terms of potential cost avoidance, increased security and interoperability, and advanced capability, far outweigh this near term discomfort."
To learn more about the NMCI program and the Information Strike Force, visit www.eds.com/nmci.
Kevin Clarke is a senior public relations representative for the EDS-led NMCI Information Strike Force.