Navy sails forward with future infrastructure

Military service asserts greater control over hardware acquisition, intellectual property

The Navy Marine Corps Intranet is one of the world’s largest intranets with about 700,000 users and 370,000 devices, such as desktop and laptop computers, according to the Navy. HP Enterprise Services, formerly EDS, is the prime vendor that supplies NMCI hardware and services. In October, the Navy signed a continuation of services contract (COSC) with HP to continue managing NMCI through the transition to the Next Generation Enterprise Network. With NGEN, the Navy is changing the acquisition model for its intranet, and the military service also will own all its hardware.

Capt. Scott Weller, program manager for NMCI, NMCI COSC and the Navy’s network for units outside the continental United States, and Capt. Timothy Holland, NGEN program manager, briefed Defense Systems Editor-in-Chief Barry Rosenberg on the acquisition and technology strategies and latest status of their respective programs.

DS: What is HP Enterprise Services tasked with under NMCI COSC?

Weller: In order to enable the NGEN acquisition strategy, we needed to make a few changes, and it was timely to do that in the NMCI contract as that contract came to a statutory close. We wanted that same level of service and performance, and to control the transition environment. We also wanted a couple of things new. We wanted to have the ability to acquire the infrastructure, which the prime vendor supplied under NMCI. And we also wanted the ability to purchase any intellectual property that we thought we would need in order to execute NGEN. So both of those will occur during the COSC period of performance, a $3.4 billion, 43-month contract that primarily enables those two things.

DS: What does the Navy mean when it describes NGEN as a capabilities-based requirement?

Holland: We have to sustain the capabilities that currently exist in NMCI. We also have to provide continued information assurance, which means addressing ongoing mandates that we get regularly from Joint Task Force-Global Network Operations, [a formerly subordinate command to the Strategic Command that became part of the Cyber Command in September]. We also have to add for the Navy an independent verification and validation capability, something the Marine Corps already has. That is a third-party entity that assists the government by looking independently at the security posture of our network at regular intervals and tell us how the network is doing. The other piece from a required capability that we wanted to implement was operational command and control.

So what does that mean from a solutions perspective? Basically, when we started the venture down the NGEN road a couple of years ago, we realized that we needed to take a systems approach given what we wanted for a capability. We knew we needed to leverage the existing NMCI infrastructure, which is why the COSC contract was put in place. We wanted to establish IT governance, which specifically helps us with the command and control, as well as an oversight function because of the volume of dollars we’re spending and the impact we’re having across the entire Department of the Navy.

DS: The network isn’t changing under NGEN, just the acquisition process. Can you provide some details about how that process will change, other than the Navy and Marine Corps being responsible rather than the prime vendor?

Holland: We have a very robust and secure thin-client technology that’s currently out there. That’s a very good basic design that we want to continue with. What NGEN brings to the table is modeling the acquisition after industry best practice. And when I say industry, I’m talking industry CIOs — the users of the technology. I’m not talking technology providers. We are modeled after that because it’s an industry best practice that allows an individual organization, specifically the Department of the Navy in our case, to manage its core competencies where it needs to manage them.

Ultimately, under NGEN, we want the ability to rapidly move toward other technologies if they make sense, where they make sense for the right price. Another way of looking at that is if technologies like cloud computing make sense at the right place, by managing transport separately, we can manage that as a performance area and bring in those other technologies where and when it makes sense at the right price.

DS: NMCI has been around for a decade, and I would imagine that the Navy has always incorporated best practices and new technologies into the intranet as they became available. In that respect, what will you be doing different with NGEN that you weren’t doing two, five or 10 years ago with NMCI?

Weller: The way you said that was interesting. NMCI is not a 10-year network. The NMCI program is 10 years old. NMCI is a completely modern, 5-minute-old network. It’s been upgraded, maintained and cutting-edge technologies deployed on it since the beginning, so there’s very little on NMCI that’s not state of the art. We’re not replacing an old network with a new network; we’re not upgrading an old network with a new network. We’ve been introducing new technology, and we’ll continue to do that all through NMCI. The way that we introduce them from the acquisition perspective is different.

Holland: I guess a simple way of looking at it is as we move forward under NGEN is that the Department of the Navy will decide when, where and how to insert new technologies, whereas in the past that was somewhat left up to the vendor’s discretion where it makes sense to fit within the performance of the contract. We were allowed a certain level of control of that, but under NGEN, we will have full control of that, which comes with full responsibility — and that’s a big difference.

Weller: The contractor was allowed in the service-level agreements to deliver the service in the way that they felt was appropriate. The government always had the ability to step in and disagree or change it. Under NGEN, the government will be managing those SLAs directly, making the decisions and taking advantage of business case analysis directly where it applies.

DS: I don’t mean to beat a dead horse, but does the transition to NGEN mean the Navy wasn’t satisfied with how the prime vendor was managing the SLAs?

Weller: We’re completely happy with the way the vendor was managing it. There’s absolutely no issue whatsoever with the relationship between the former EDS and now HP [and the Navy]. That is not the reason that a change is being made. The change was being made for two basic reasons. One, statutorily, we had to recompete the contract at the end of 10 years. And secondly, since we’re going to do that anyway, we would like to have a higher degree of flexibility. Instead of a single contract to purchase all of our services as a service, we’re going to have the ability to purchase segments under multiple contracts.

Right now, by the way, it’s not one vendor. HP is the prime vendor, but there’s a whole bunch of subcontractors supporting them. That relationship will continue in the future. There will be prime vendors for a segment with subs supporting them. It’s just that in the future we will have multiple segments contracted that way.

About the Author

Barry Rosenberg is editor-in-chief of Defense Systems. Follow him on Twitter: @BarryDefense.

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