House members voice concerns about Navy intranet project

Inadequate testing methods and a failure to identify tens of thousands of existing legacy applications have hampered the Navy's efforts to transition all of its information systems to the Navy-Marine Corps intranet (NMCI), the House Appropriations Committee has said last week.

In a report that accompanied the House-passed fiscal 2003 Defense appropriations bill, H.R. 5010, committee members said they are "concerned that this problem has limited the current state of the [NMCI] network's capabilities to such a degree that the system has significantly impacted operations."

The spending bill would limit the rollout of the program to the 160,000 NMCI "seats," or workstations, that already have been authorized by the Pentagon. The bill would prohibit the Navy from ordering more seats until many of the current NMCI problems are resolved.

Navy officials did not immediately return telephone calls seeking comment Wednesday.

The Navy eventually plans to deploy 411,000 NMCI workstations, creating seamless interoperability among more than 300 Navy and Marine Corps bases in the United States, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Guam, Iceland and Japan.

A key goal of the $7 billion NMCI project is to make the Navy and Marine Corps' critical infrastructures less vulnerable to cyberattack, while providing the civilian and military workforce with real-time, universal access to voice, video and data services.

Navy and Marine Corps officials have touted NMCI as a critical component of their "transformation" efforts to move the U.S. military into the information age.

But House appropriators said that despite making "significant progress ... in establishing the beginnings of the [NMCI] network," Navy officials--and their NMCI contractor, EDS--have encountered "unforeseen challenges" in their initial rollout of the network.

Committee members said in their report that they had heard "repeatedly" from Navy and EDS officials that efforts to deploy the NMCI network have been "severely inhibited" by a "failure to identify the existence of tens of thousands of legacy applications, and how or whether they could operate on the network."

The committee noted that in one office where NMCI is in the testing phase, dependence on legacy applications is so pervasive that more than half the workstations require two computer terminals--one for legacy systems and one for NMCI.

"While this problem exists, the Navy has proceeded with additional seat orders for additional locations, creating the potential for this crisis to grow exponentially," the committee said in its report.

In addition to barring the Navy from ordering more NMCI seats, the bill would require operational tests after a full NMCI transition for at least 20,000 workstations.

House appropriators said in their report that "the delay in seat orders that will result will ... provide the Navy and the contractor much-needed time to address the legacy-application problems which will arise from the order of the first 160,000 seats."

Committee members added that in order for NMCI to succeed, "progress must be at a more moderately measured pace, and with far greater emphasis on understanding the networks' capabilities and limitations."

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