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CHIPS Articles: Marines Upgrade to More Secure, Innovative Information Technology System

Marines Upgrade to More Secure, Innovative Information Technology System
By Sgt. Justin M. Boling - July-September 2013
Marines took their information technology systems back from Navy Marine Corps Intranet, or NMCI, as a part of the Navy’s Next Generation Enterprise Network contract in June.

The new Marine Corps owned and operated information technology network will ensure greater control of a strategic command and control asset.

Robert Scott Jack II, the Marine Corps' deputy chief information officer, said June 1 was a milestone in the history of the Marine Corps.

"We will once again have our hands on the stick, flying the network,” Jack said. “We will take over the operation and defense of the Marine Corps’ enterprise network in total."

The Marine Corps’ information technology system supports approximately 800,000 users in locations varying from major installations to small workstations around the world. Combined with the Navy’s need for information technology, NMCI’s network is second in size only to the Internet.

“There is an old quote, ‘amateurs talk logistics — professionals talk command and control systems,’” said Col. Loretta Vandenberg, division chief for Headquarters Marine Corps C4 Network Plans and Policies and the resource sponsor for HQMC NGEN. “People have become so information-dependent and without our ability to access it we are almost paralyzed.

“The business of the Marine Corps is ultimately reliant on IT infrastructure,” she said.

Marines now also have complete control of the security of their network.

“In the past, many Marine Corps network operation and security centers could only let the contractors know about vulnerabilities we needed patched and sometimes they would be unresponsive,” Vandenberg said. “We could not function under this model. We could not keep the network as secure as we felt necessary.”

The Department of the Navy wants to have completely implemented NGEN in order to transition from the NMCI Continuation of Service Contract by April 2014.

“The transition is actually two-fold,” Vandenberg said. “We have the people and equipment to control the network, with some support from NMCI contractors until the end of the continuation of service agreement.

“We may potentially have a complete swap out of our vendors after the NGEN contract is finally awarded.”

Though the Corps still contacts NMCI for IT support, correcting discrepancies now ends in the hands of an IT support Marine.

“The commandant has said in the past that he wants everyone to get the same support he gets,” Vandenberg said. “There is no one better at taking care of Marines than another Marine.”

Department of the Navy information technology services have been provided via NMCI, since 2000. Though the transition may not be seamless, it will produce an endgame of an information technology system by Marines for Marines, Vandenberg said.

“We did not get back all the structure we gave up to afford NMCI,” Vandenberg said. “We put as much back into it as we could afford with current budget constraints. It all comes down to pride of ownership — if you want the network, work the network.”

Lance Cpl. Jarred Burnett, 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit intelligence analyst and native of Levittown, Penn., creates an intelligence brief during the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit’s interoperability exercise at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., June 12, 2013. Approximately 30 intelligence Marines from the MEU’s command and support element intelligence sections trained to efficiently mesh together in the fast-paced MEU setting for the unit’s upcoming deployment. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Austin Hazard.
Lance Cpl. Jarred Burnett, 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit intelligence analyst and native of Levittown, Penn., creates an intelligence brief during the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit’s interoperability exercise at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., June 12, 2013. Approximately 30 intelligence Marines from the MEU’s command and support element intelligence sections trained to efficiently mesh together in the fast-paced MEU setting for the unit’s upcoming deployment. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Austin Hazard.
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