US Navy kicks off radical intranet buy

The US Navy plans to use a radical strategy to build its much anticipated mega-intranet, which will provide 450,000 users worldwide with items ranging from PCs to communications pipes and could cost as much as $US2.2 billion.

In an industry briefing set for July 7, the Navy plans to back what it described as a "sweeping shift" in its information technology infrastructure and management. While avoiding the use of the word outsourcing, which could raise political opposition, top Navy officials, including Navy Secretary Richard Danzig, have given the plan their endorsement.

"The biggest shift we've made is in what we will acquire," said Joe Cipriano, appointed this month as the Navy's new program executive officer for IT. "We're no longer looking to build and own infrastructure. Rather, we are going to specify and buy a service. We anticipate a basic set of shared services that will be provided to all naval organisations.'' The Navy plans to design the Naval Intranet, formerly called the Navy Worldwide Intranet, to support enterprise resource planning within the department. Navy leaders and industry executives believe the Navy needs ERP to better manage its IT.

Industry will be given "maximum flexibility" to propose the best price/performance package for the service, said Cipriano, who was tapped to lead the Naval Intranet effort. Cipriano plans to hold the industry briefing at the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia. Industry sources predict the briefing will be packed with integrators, communications companies, network equipment vendors and PC hardware and software companies hoping to grab a slice of the billion-dollar-plus project.

The new Naval Intranet will encompass the Navy's Information Technology for the 21st Century project and the Marine Corps' Enterprise Network, Cipriano said, and it "will complete the interconnection to achieve an end-to-end capability across the department".

Warren Suss, a telecommunications consultant, described the structure of the Naval Intranet as "an enormous change" for the Navy that will present industry with challenges on a similar scale. "This is industry's dream come true," Suss said. But the massive scale of the Naval Intranet project will present potential bidders with challenges they have rarely encountered before in the federal arena.

"Integrators will have to lead the teams," Suss said, adding that the Naval Intranet will provide opportunities for a wide range of companies, including telecommunications providers, network security companies and infrastructure suppliers. Computer Sciences Corp and Electronic Data Systems indicated their interest to pursue the project. GTE Government Systems, which along with Lucent Technologies holds the Navy voice, video and data contract, believes that contract could satisfy the requirements.

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