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CHIPS Articles: Capt. Michael Abreu

Capt. Michael Abreu
Program Manager, Naval Enterprise Networks Program Management Office (PMW 205)
By CHIPS Magazine - January-March 2014
Capt. Michael N. Abreu was appointed the Program Manager of the Naval Enterprise Networks (NEN) Program Office (PMW 205) in October 2013. In this role he is responsible for the program management of Department of Navy's (DON) Navy Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI), one of the largest corporate networks in the world.

The Department of the Navy (DON) awarded Hewlett Packard (HP) the Next Generation Enterprise Network (NGEN) contract on June 27, 2013. The NGEN contract represents the next phase of Navy NMCI services, providing continued IT operational support to Sailors and Marines. The transition of NMCI services to the NGEN contract officially started on Nov. 22, 2013 and will last no more than 13 months.

The NGEN contract includes a base year and four, one-year options which, if exercised, will have a potential cumulative contract value of $3,454,735,513. Work will be performed at nearly 2,500 Navy and Marine Corps locations throughout the continental U.S., Hawaii and Japan, from major bases to single-user sites. If all of the options are exercised, the work will continue through mid-2018. Based on historical budget data for the same services, the NGEN contract saves the DON approximately $1 billion over the five-year life of the contract.

The original contract for NMCI was awarded to Electronic Data Systems, now Hewlett-Packard (HP), on Oct. 6, 2000. On July 8, 2010, the Department of the Navy awarded the NMCI Continuity of Services Contract (CoSC), an Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract, to HP. The NMCI CoSC ensured the connectivity and security of the NMCI network at the expiration of the original NMCI contract on Sept. 30, 2010.

CHIPS senior editor spoke with Capt. Abreu January 13.

Q. The transition from the NMCI Continuity of Services Contract (CoSC) to the recently awarded NGEN contract started Nov. 22. Enterprise-wide services are scheduled to be transitioned over a period of no more than 13 months from the current CoSC to the NGEN contract. Can you discuss your priorities in meeting the goals of the transition period?

A: I have four priorities. We have a very tight relationship with network operations at Naval Network Warfare Command, and we support them very, very diligently each and every day on operating the [NMCI] network. That is my number one priority.

Secondly, I have to transition to the NGEN contract while meeting FY14 and beyond cost targets, and I have to do that as efficiently and effectively as possible to ensure the transition is absolutely successful for the fleet.

Third, I have to continue to develop a highly effective program team along with my mission partners and service providers. My mission partners are organizations such as the resource sponsors in OPNAV and Marine Corps, DON CIO, Commander, 10th Fleet, Naval Network Warfare Command, and others, along with Hewlett Packard, our service provider.

My fourth priority is to enhance the existing capability while planning the future network architecture. In addition, we must take the long view in everything we do in order to make our network vision a reality in future years.

Q: Planning for the future must be difficult because technology changes so fast. Do you have any assumptions that you base your decisions on?

A: The number one assumption is cybersecurity. Everything we put on the network must be secure, and we have very stringent security requirements. You can see from news reports, regularly, that there are attempts to intrude on various types of networks around the globe every day. So security is the primary concern. Also, we must balance security against our overall goal which is to deliver new capability to the fleet which meets mission requirements while controlling cost.

Q: How do you balance cybersecurity requirements with the needs of 800,000 NMCI users since everyone wants the latest and greatest technologies?

A: We have a very stringent process that we go through to certify and accredit devices and software that we put on the network called DIACAP (DoD Information Assurance Certification and Accreditation Process). We work very closely with Commander, 10th Fleet to ensure that everything we do on the network is certified and accredited from a security standpoint. We absolutely have to protect mission data on our system. We have to manage the risk between operational mission needs and those security requirements.

We can make a very, very secure network that isn’t very useful to many people because it is very difficult to get information from point A to point B. We are always managing that tension between providing that expected capability and providing the security for the data on our network.

This is one of the largest corporate intranets in the world. To do things at scale for expected capability and security is incredibly difficult, and we have to work very tightly with our service provider to ensure we do that successfully.

Q: Can you talk about the progress on some of the pilot programs underway, like the Hosted Virtual Desktop and cloud services? Do you have any other pilots planned? Will mobile devices ever be part of the network environment?

A: We are always evaluating new technologies, as we manage our security requirements. The mobility of our user base is critically important — as it is in any large global organization. Mobility on NMCI started with laptops. When requirements increased, we added BlackBerrys — and as that mobility use increased we added more services relative to the BlackBerry.

Today, we are evaluating the Hosted Virtual Desktop (HVD) to untether our users, as well as the use of iPhones and iPads on NMCI, in very small pilots.

HVD is a thin-client application, cloud-like solution that allows folks to access their entire suite of work files from any location. That is a pilot with approximately 2,000 users today — a combination of senior Navy officials to basic end-users. We are currently evaluating that pilot and assessing some technical issues that we found, which is what pilots are designed to do. The results will give us a good idea about things we need to improve technically in order to scale up to a larger number of HVD users.

On mobility with handheld devices, we have a very small iOS pilot to evaluate iPhones, and we have a very small iPad pilot as well. We began these pilots in June 2013 and they ran through the end of 2013. A very small set of mobile devices is approved to continue use on the network into 2014. Results of these pilots will factor into our larger strategy for how we offer mobility capability to the fleet going forward.

Much of our strategy will rely on DISA (Defense Information Systems Agency) and DISA’s approval of the standards that are used to manage mobile devices attached to the network. DISA is in the process of evaluating a new [security] technical implementation guide that will basically authorize the mobile device managers that are able to be used on the network. This is going to allow, within the next year to year-and-a-half, all of the military services to develop a path for connecting not only BlackBerrys and iPhones to the network, but Android and tablet devices which run on similar software. We are working very closely with DISA to understand what that guide is going to look like while we flesh out the strategy to allow more mobile options to the fleet.

Q: The original NMCI contract provided a contractor-owned/contractor-operated business model for the enterprise network. During the transition of services from the NMCI CoSC to the NGEN contract, the Navy is moving to a government-owned/contractor-operated business model with the government exercising full command and control of the network. Why did the DON choose this business model?

A: When we entered into NMCI CoSC, it enabled us to own the infrastructure which allows us to make decisions on a cost basis as to what and why we do things to the network behind the wall plug, so to speak, with IT equipment such as servers, switches, storage, routers, etc.

The NGEN contract allows us to continue along that path, providing us with advantages that we didn’t have in the past. First is the ability to compete certain pieces or services on the network which leads to reduced cost. It also leads to increased agility and flexibility on the network itself.

As you know, we are entering a period of reduced defense spending; we all must renew our efforts to control costs on our programs. The NGEN contract does that; the government-owned/contractor-operated business model will enable us to do that going forward.

We also have gained increased command and control on the network. We are gaining day-by-day increased situational awareness of what is happening on the network. We are gaining more and more ability to maneuver the network in close coordination with the operational commander’s intent in that structure. We work very closely with Commander, 10th Fleet and Naval Network Warfare Command to support their business operations at that level.

We also have a very close relationship with our Marine Corps partners on the NGEN contract. They have transitioned to a GO/GO model: government-owned/government-operated. They have finished their transition, and they will be buying services from the NGEN contract to support their system in support of the GO/GO model. We stay tightly coupled with the Marine Corps to make sure lessons learned are shared back and forth.

Q: The DON Chief Information Officer has said that the department will conduct a business case analysis to determine if there are cost savings for the DON to move to DISA Enterprise Email. Is your office involved in the analysis?

A: We are. We are supporting the DON CIO in conducting a business case analysis to understand the costs involved. As we talked about earlier, the structure of the NGEN contract allows us to potentially compete various services; email is just one of them. There are multiple email providers on the market, and we will evaluate those capabilities and associated costs as part of the business case analysis. Going forward we are constantly going to be in this mode of evaluating whether we have the right capability in place and whether we are meeting the fleet’s needs at an affordable cost.

Q: Mr. Victor Gavin, Program Executive Officer for Enterprise Information Systems, said in July, after the NGEN contract award announcement, that the lowest-price-technically-acceptable (LPTA) approach is critical to ensuring a competitive environment. He said the approach for NGEN was an innovative acquisition strategy. Can you talk about the acquisition approach and how you will continue to use competition to maintain affordability for NGEN? How often do you foresee competition in those segmented services?

A: First of all my priority is to finish this transition of our enterprise IT services from NMCI CoSC to the NGEN contract. Once we have finished transition over this year with our service provider, then we have to allow a little run time on the NGEN contract to gather enough data and insight to make business decisions about any of those areas we choose to compete. We have to have enough time in order to get stability on the NGEN contract and data to inform our path forward for that to be as effective as possible in driving down costs while incorporating new capabilities.

Q: Mr. Gavin said that innovation is another must-have for the network. Can you talk about innovation, in addition to the pilots; do you have any other technologies in mind? How do you evaluate innovative solutions?

A: We have to look across our network to figure out how to do things differently. [For example] an innovative approach, innovative technology, innovative business practice or business method — those are all things that can help us improve our network, whether they come from HP, whether they come internally from the program office, or our mission partners. All those things need to be taken into full consideration. I have a service strategy development group that is intimately tied to innovation activities within the Navy.

I have a tight relationship with SPAWAR, the 5.0 [engineering] directorate, which is very close to the research that the Navy is doing in information technology innovation. We also have relationships with SSC LANT and SSC PAC (Space and Naval Warfare Systems Centers Atlantic and Pacific) who are very involved in Navy innovation fronts.

My team works, as the rest of the IT world does, in close collaboration with a lot of different people to learn about these IT innovations, whether that be mobile devices, servers, switches or routers, or processes that we are using to do business. I was very fortunate in that my assignment prior to taking over the program was as a Secretary of Defense Corporate Fellow, with duty at Google’s Mountain View, California headquarters for one year. That experience opened up my eyes to executing the tenets of innovation which a large innovation leader like Google uses to bring game-changing capabilities to users.

Something that is currently in development to encourage introduction and analysis of new technologies that might benefit multiple programs is an Innovation Cell. The Innovation Cell would provide a structured framework and process for introducing innovative government and commercial capabilities into the network environment. This will create a center of gravity for [the] DON and industry collaboration to take advantage of innovative solutions while reducing cost. Ultimately, the Innovation Cell could make [the] DON a ‘better buyer’ through the industry engagement, while accelerating integration of new solutions into a fielded network.

Q: So you are looking at the technology and innovation beyond what industry has to offer, you are looking within the Navy as well?

A: Right. I think we have to because the governance structure that we are putting in place requires it by its very definition — innovation is required. We are going to have a new governance structure in terms of how we are making decisions about the technology we are going to put on the network. So that is new, and we are going to have to innovate there. There is an awful lot of innovation that can take place, other than on the technology front.

Q: Is reducing costs one of your goals?

A: Absolutely. Once we better understand what it takes for our service provider to meet our agreed-upon requirements of the NGEN contract, we can start to make informed decisions on how we can reduce future costs. As we streamline our business models, eventually it becomes more of a discussion about maintaining or improving your capability while controlling cost. What that means is that, as technology evolves over time, it becomes cheaper to inject new technology than maintaining an old technology.

The real issue there is that technology is evolving on a shorter cycle than some products that aren’t supported past a certain period of time. We are seeing that on many fronts: we are seeing that with routers, servers, switches; we see that with software; we see that with mobile devices. In order to drive down costs you have to keep a pulse on the changing market with devices and software that will no longer be supported, so you can make business decisions at scale and buy those things that are good for the network in a competitive market at a competitive cost.

Q: Since you assumed command of the program office have you had any surprises — anything you weren’t expecting? You talked a bit about your great team.

A: I do have a great team, and I’m excited that we’re on this journey together of taking the network to the next level. I talk about that regularly with my staff, about what a great opportunity this is and what a great time this is to be working on our network. I’m very surprised at the scale of our system. There are very few corporations in the world with the number of corporate users we have that provide service at the levels and scale that we do. To consistently succeed at scale is incredibly difficult to do.

The tight relationship with the fleet is also very surprising; in terms of how very connected they are to what is taking place with the network day-to-day, as well as what my program office is doing with regard to technology initiatives. I’m very excited to see that. With the fleet, I have the toughest customers in the world, and because of that it makes us get that much better as a program office team.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to discuss?

A: I am very fortunate to be part of the Navy’s IT world at this juncture and very grateful to be at the helm of a ground-breaking program. We have an incredible opportunity with the NGEN contract structure to architect the Navy’s network of the future. The NGEN contract gives us the opportunity to put the right technical standards in place to ensure the fleet gets what they need, improving their ability to do their jobs at an affordable cost. Technology has moved so quickly in the last five years, and the next five years it will move even faster, so it’s an exciting challenge to keep up with it. My team is looking forward to doing great things with the network with our service provider and mission partners.

Capt. Michael Abreu, Program Manager, Naval Enterprise Networks Program Management Office (PMW 205).
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