Navy Outlines $2B Intranet Program

Last week the Navy kicked off its plans to develop, acquire and deploy by the end of 2001 a high-speed intranet to serve 700,000 users at 300 onshore sites at a cost estimated as high as US$2 billion.

Joe Cipriano, the Navy's new program executive officer for information technology, said the Navy/Marine Corps Intranet should provide an "end-to-end solution for voice, video and data." At a packed briefing last week in Quantico, Virginia, Cipriano challenged industry to come up with a "knowledge-based solution" that is "a service, not a commodity."

The N/MCI is designed to serve Navy and Marine Corps users at bases in the continental United States and Hawaii. It will connect to deployed vessels and units through what Cipriano called the "fully funded" Information Technology for the 21st Century project, which will connect bases with ships using commercial networks. Naval and Marine bases overseas also will hook into the intranet, with installation and upgrades covered by other -- and in most cases existing -- contracts.

The Navy wants to acquire the 450,000- seat network at a "fixed price per seat," according to Ruth Ann Zambolis, the deputy program manager for the project at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (Spawar). Navy and Marine officials at the briefing declined to estimate the total cost of the network, which will be designed to provide end-to-end service, including regional and long-haul communications service, network hardware, desktop PCs and software. Cipriano said it "was in the billions of dollars."

Controlling costs is one of the driving forces behind the new intranet, and the Navy wants to acquire a world-class network at "equal or less costs than we are paying today," Cipriano said. Rear Adm. John Gauss, Spawar commander, last week said that within his command "I spend $6,550 per capita...and if it comes in less than that, I'll save money."

The Navy asked industry to come up with the most creative solutions it could for the intranet. For example, Gauss suggested that bidders could consider wireless local-area networks to serve bases, which would save the cost of stringing cable. Cipriano said the Navy will entertain solutions that include using existing Navy and Marine computers and software.

A requirement industry cannot ignore is building a mechanism to handle the "sea/shore rotation" for uniformed technical personnel, Cipriano said. Bidders must develop a solution that includes billets for sailors on shore duty as well as provides training for these personnel that will "keep their skills current," he said. Cipriano said the new contract "will not eliminate government jobs, except for local help desks. This is a new requirement."

Security and operational considerations have equal ranking with cost savings, according to Vice Adm. Robert Natter, the Navy's director of space, information warfare, command and control.

Brig. Gen. Robert Shea, the Marine Corps' assistant chief of staff for command, control, communications, computers and intelligence, said security needs to be built into the network up front because of continuing attacks against Defense Department networks. "We're at war already," he said.

If a multilayered security system is not built into the network, "we'll always be playing catch-up," Shea said.

The Navy plans to release a request for proposals this November and award the project to a vendor by May 2000.

Navy managers and some industry executives said protests could delay the intranet even before the Navy manages to issue the RFP, with small businesses the most likely leaders of the protest pack. Representatives of small business attending the briefing pointed out that the plan did not include any small-business component. Eric DeGraff, Spawar program manger for base-level infrastructure, said the Navy has "not finalized a strategy in regard to small business.... It will be in compliance with all statutes and policies."

GTE Government Systems and Lucent Technologies Inc., both of which hold the Navy's Voice, Video and Data (Vivid) contract, also could derail the procurement, one industry source said. "They could argue that the Navy should just write them a task order for the intranet," the source said. "Those companies both spent a riot of money bidding Vivid, and now a lot of the business they anticipated will go away."

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