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CHIPS Articles: NMCI Update from Connecting Technologies

NMCI Update from Connecting Technologies
By Steve Ehrler, Executive Director, Program Executive Office for Information Technology - January-March 2002
Mr. Ehrler was a featured speaker at Virtual Connecting Technology (CT) Fall 2001. This update has been edited from Mr. Ehrler's presentation at CT.


The Navy Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI) contract was awarded to EDS and its Information Strike Force (ISF) partners on October 6, 2000, and since then we have achieved many significant milestones along the way. The ISF has assumed responsibility for about 42,000 seats at 29 sites – about 10 percent of the eventual total that NMCI will comprise. About 80 percent of the work has gone to Small Business. This is significantly more than the contract requires and EDS has received its full incentive award for meeting that requirement.

In July 2001, the first NMCI Network Operations Center (NOC) was opened in Norfolk, Virginia, followed by the second NOC, at San Diego, California, in August. These facilities are located in the two main Fleet concentration areas and will be the main hubs of NMCI. Eventually, there will be six regional NOCs throughout CONUS and Hawaii. These hubs provide service crucial to the operation of the network, such as help desk support, user administration, network monitoring and maintenance. Not only are these centers important to the redundancy of the network - if one NOC has operational problems the other can take control, but they also serve as the two points of contact for help desk support to the entire network. In addition, there are 16 server farms operational.

The initial complements of Sailors have reported for duty at the Norfolk and San Diego NOCs. Designed to maintain an in-house information technology [IT] ability within the Navy and Marine Corps, these billets will provide not only shore assignment opportunities but also state-of-the-art training and certifications that will be used in follow-on tours. And to the extent that their contributions to the operation of the NOCs reduces overhead and drives down costs, the Department of the Navy (DON) will share in those savings. Our civilian employees have also received a very good proposal from industry to help us deal with the transition. Of the 215 civilian employees affected so far, 45 have accepted positions with the ISF. Not one DON civilian employee has been involuntarily separated as a result of NMCI.


On August 13, 2001, the Navy Designated Approval Authority (DAA) granted Interim Authority to Operate to the Norfolk and San Diego NOCs. Following this decision, the Defense Information Systems Agency Security Accreditation Group (DSAWG) granted these facilities an Interim Authority to Connect (IATC) to the Unclassified but Sensitive Internet Protocol Router Network (NIPRNET) on August 16.

To attain these certifications, the Program Manager and NMCI DAA had to provide the Defense Information Systems Network (DISN) DAAs with a full security testing report, risk assessment analysis and a system security authorization agreement. Satisfied with the reports received, the DISN DAA granted the NOCs and Help Desks the IATC, which allows NMCI to communicate with Joint users.

On Sept. 7, 2001 the first NMCI seats were cutover at Naval Air Facilities (NAF) Washington. The first end-user seat connection to the Norfolk and San Diego NOCs was established at 5:35 p.m. Aviation Machinist Mate 1st Class (AW) Ian Gehmann had the honor of sending the first message from NMCI to a host of DON recipients, including the Honorable Gordon R. England, Secretary of the Navy; the Honorable Susan Livingstone, Under Secretary of the Navy; Adm. Vern Clark, Chief of Naval Operations; and James L. Herdt, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy.

Cutover continues at NAF Washington and has also begun at Naval Air Station (NAS) Lemoore, California.

NMCI Advantages

The benefits of NMCI are numerous. Perhaps the best perspective on the advantages of NMCI was voiced by Secretary England in a recent message, “NMCI is an immense achievement, and it outfits the Navy and Marine Corps for their voyage through the 21st century. This intranet is essential, but it only facilitates change, in much the same way that telegraphs and telephones opened opportunity but were themselves means, not ends.

NMCI will be the secure tool for all certified users of the network to access the entire knowledge base of the DON with a few clicks of a mouse. In light of recent events, national information assurance, especially on a defense level has been pushed to the forefront of the minds of leadership.

While NMCI allows for greater flexibility and speed in technology refresh, cost savings and heightened security, according to England, “Substantial as these benefits are, they are dwarfed by implications of empowering instantaneous information access throughout the whole Department of the Navy. A highly structured, stove-piped, hierarchical organization has put itself on the path to being highly flexible, intimately integrated and organized in flat networks.”

England explained that as the world’s largest government organization, other than the Department of Defense (DoD) itself, the Navy values speed, unity of effort, and economy of effort, at least as much as, and often more than, any commercial entity.

“The consolidation of scores of separately purchased and maintained systems and applications will yield valuable short-term gains in economy, efficiency, and security,” England said.

A little simplified, but this conveys the idea of NMCI. Except, of course, that we are not actually “buying” components—we are buying service. Everything that goes into providing that service—hardware, software, network management, security, technology refresh, and more—comes as standard equipment with every seat. If you so desire, you can upgrade your seat to include optional services—and new items are being added all the time.

NMCI Decision Memorandum

On Sept. 5, the Principal Deputy Under Secretary for Defense Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (PUDSD AT&L) and the DoD Chief Information Officer signed an NMCI Decision Memorandum laying out the way ahead for NMCI. This document ties NMCI implementation to a series of testing and evaluation events.

The network infrastructure that the ISF has deployed to date is capable of supporting 160,000 seats. The ISF has conducted Contractor Test and Evaluation Phase 1 (CT&E1) which is designed to test network infrastructure robustness and stability.

Each site that is connected to this infrastructure will then undergo CT&E Phase 2 testing, which is designed to test system-wide connectivity to the end user.

The DON will then provide the Assistant Secretary of Defense (ASD) (C3I)/DoD CIO and PDUSD AT&L with the results of the customer test and evaluation (CT&E3) at NAF Washington, NARCEN (Naval Reserve Center) Lemoore, NAS Lemoore, and the test population at NAVAIR headquarters.

ASD C3I /DoD CIO and PDUSD AT&L will conduct a senior level review and provide within three weeks of receipt of the CT&3E report. The review will be based on CT&3E performance results. Based on successful review of the test results and a positive decision from the DoD CIO and PDUSD AT&L, the DON will be allowed to order an additional 100,000 seats. This combined with the 60,000 seats (15 percent of the workstations will be provided) that the DON may order until such time as the DoD CIO certifies compliance with the requirements of Sec 814(b)(3)(B) of Public Law 106, will equal 160,000 seats—the amount that the current infrastructure can support.

By March 2002, there will be 20,000 seats cutover and meeting Service Level Agreements (SLAs); this juncture provides a decision point for the ASD C3I/DoD CIO and PDUSD AT&L. If at this point there are no show stoppers to cause a delay, the DON will be given the authority to order another 100,000 seats. The ISF, of course, will continue to build out the infrastructure necessary to support the full NMCI end state of 411,000 seats.

Under the DON’s Budgeted Phasing Plan, NMCI is to be at 314,000 seats by the end of FY02; ISF will build out to stay ahead of this pace. The combination of 150,000 seats and the previously ordered 160,000 seats will equal 310,000 seats, consistent with the DON’s Budgeted Phasing Plan and the NMCI infrastructure in place.

This phasing of testing order provides a balance between technical and cost risk. Ordering at a faster pace increases technical risk without reduction in cost risk and ordering at a slower pace increases cost risk without significant reduction in technical risk. The DoD plan allows us to adjust ordering to keep these risks in balance based on test results.

NMCI Testing

With classic DoD 5000 procurements, testing is conducted along the lines of weapons system testing. NMCI is not a weapons systems, but a service-based contract with specific SLAs. Constant monitoring, specific penalties and incentives are attached to performance. This structure is designed to best satisfy the requirement to conduct an operational evaluation of the NMCI without over-interpreting that requirement and unnecessarily extending the certification process.

NMCI testing and evaluation uses an industry best practice enterprise test approach tailored to ensure that the specific NMCI testing objectives are met. The methods and processes contained within the approach have been aligned with the definitions and scope of CT&E phases.

The enterprise test approach includes testing of IT applications (commercial and government off-the-shelf software, and supporting tools), IT infrastructure components, system hardware and software as well as business processes and facilities. With the NMCI, the DON is receiving non-developmental communications and computing infrastructure. The testing and evaluation reflects efforts found to be effective and cost-effective in the commercial world when assessing the fielding of comparable infrastructures.

Crisis Support

With much of the Navy’s Pentagon communications capabilities destroyed in the terrorist attack of September 11, the DON was faced with a vast challenge—the immediate restoration and reconstruction of its leadership’s platforms. The most daunting and critical task to be conquered was the reconstruction of the Navy Communication Center (NCC) and Navy Budget Office, which were completely destroyed. Initial damage assessments also required the construction of the Navy’s classified and unclassified networks in temporary office spaces throughout the metropolitan Washington, D.C., area.

DON leadership quickly realized that by using the already existing NMCI contract to reconstitute their IT platforms they could cut recovery time by more than half. EDS set to work immediately on Wednesday morning to set up a temporary NCC in the Marine Corps Command Center in Arlington, Virginia. This temporary NCC was constructed and operational by midnight Friday, September 15.

On the morning of September 14, nine 18-wheelers rolled out of EDS’s staging facility in St. Louis, Missouri, filled with 860 portables, 355 desktop computers and enough cat-5 cabling (fiber optic backbone cables), to outfit five floors of office space.

A separate 18-wheeler also left Cisco Systems Inc. that same day with all of the routers and switches necessary for the completion of the outfitting. Early Friday morning, September 15, all of the equipment that had left St. Louis the previous day arrived at the Navy’s NMCI warehousing facility at NAF Washing and tear down began.

The shipment of Dell computers was accomplished on an emergency basis. With approximately 1,000 machines needing to be installed over the weekend, the ISF team knew that had their work cut out because there was no time for the pre-loaded NMCI software package to be uploaded to the central processing units before shipment. Over the weekend the ISF team began installing the infrastructure necessary to create a network and server farm from the group up.

By Sunday, September 17, 50 PCs were operational and a new server farm had been set up to support Financial Management and Budget (FMB), the Navy’s budget office. The backup tapes that had been stored offsite were then uploaded to the new servers and software and data were rebuilt.

With the DoD budget due to Congress by October 6, getting FMB up and running was the second highest priority. Additionally, 50 percent of the Navy’s relocated spaces in Crystal City, Virginia, were completely rewired and more than 450 NMCI portable seats were installed and outfitted with the NMCI software package by Monday morning.

The first two floors of the new spaces were ready for personnel to move in first thing Monday morning. Work continued on September 17 and 18, with the remainder of the portable and desktop machines being installed throughout the Capitol Region.

The Navy’s crisis relocation and reconstruction efforts were completed on Wednesday, September 19. Using the NMCI contract was a vehicle for a single point of implementation allowed the DON to rapidly recreate all of the communications capabilities it lost in the attack on the Pentagon, and roughly 700 people were back online conducting Navy business within a week.

Summary of NMCI Highlights

•Over 42,000 seats ordered in first increment
•ISF has assumed responsibility for running legacy networks for 42,000 users, or approximately 10% of users
•Sixteen NMCI server farms operational
•NOCs operational in Norfolk - 9 Jul 01 and San Diego - 6 Aug 01
•Initial complement of Sailors have reported to NOCs in Norfolk and San Diego
•Interim Authority To Connect to DISN granted - 14 Aug 01
–Supporting security analysis and testing completed
•215 civilian positions affected in first increment; 45 have taken positions with ISF. No employees involuntarily separated.
•PUSD (AT&L)/DoD CIO NMCI Decision Memorandum signed - 5 Sep 01
•First NMCI desktops cutover at NAF Washington - 7 Sep 01
•Cutover commenced at NAS Lemoore - 3 Oct 01

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