The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command expects to receive comments from industry this fall on a much-awaited draft request for proposals, released this month, marking the start of a campaign to develop a Navy-Marine Corps intranet (N/MCI).
The draft request represents a milestone in a two-year effort to transform the services into "a knowledge-based" organization, according to Joe Cipriano, the Navy's newly appointed program executive office for information systems.
Following consideration of the comments from contractors on the draft, the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command plans to release a formal request in November. Proposals will be due in December, and the command plans a contract award in May 2000. The winning industry team will get a five-year, fixed-price contract with three option years, to provide end-to-- end information services for up to 450,000 Navy and Marine Corps personnel. The network is scheduled to become operational in December 2001.
Proposals will be evaluated based on considerations of security, including: measures that protect the network and the information that moves on it; interoperability and reliability in terms of assured access to the desktop for voice, video; and data communications. Network operations and maintenance constitute a critical consideration: The request will require guaranteed network response time, hardware and software technology upgrading as needed, plus on-call help.
The N/MCI vision, Cipriano says, is to provide a wide array of information services that will be turned on "like electricity" and run directly to the desktops of all users. It will be a highly common set of information-transfer capabilities with some special functions as required. Cipriano, who until May served as executive director in the office of the deputy for warfare systems in the Naval Sea Systems Command, had not seen such broad-based support for any government program. He points out that "All the things the Navy wants to do are based on the ability to move information around."
Last July, more than 250 companies sent representatives to an industry day at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, for briefings by Cipriano, Vice Admiral Robert Natter, Director of Space, Information Warfare, and Command and Control on the staff of the Chief of Naval Operations (OpNav), Brigadier General Robert Shea, assistant Marine Corps Chief of Staff for Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (C4I), and key Navy and Marine Corps information-- systems planners.
Navy officials say that current intranets operated by the Naval Sea, Air, and Supply Systems Commands, the services' base-- area networks, and the Marine Corps "Enterprise" network use dissimilar operating protocols and formats that prevent them from sharing information. The existing networks provide inadequate security and different levels of capability for information management. "We're finding a lot of the same problems with the business systems that we found with combat systems," Cipriano says. The use of multiple dissimilar systems of varying levels of capability limits the flow of information and raises the costs of training and maintenance. The overall level of capability is "not optimal," according to Navy officials, and the services' networks lag considerably behind those employed in private industry.
The Navy/Marine Corps intranet will link all the users of current systems and beyond. It will be a Department of the Navy-- wide network interoperable with those of the other services that also enhances business processes and improves security. The system will provide voice, video, and data information-transfer services for all customers. The N/MCI will extend from the base-area network level (at individual Navy and Marine Corps bases) to metropolitan area networks, i.e., groups of adjacent bases and facilities, and then to a wide-area network, encompassing all shore-based sites.
The network also will extend to the deployed fleet, and will be capable of passing tactical operational information through integration with shipboard information-management systems. The system, Cipriano says, will extend "right up to the teleports" of shipboard systems. A key challenge, he says, is ensuring interoperability between the shore-based business network and the new systems being developed and deployed through the Navy's Information Technology 21 (IT-21) strategy. Scott Randall, director of SpaWar PD-15, which oversees the IT-21 initiative, has been named Cipriano's deputy for the N/MCI. His group will be responsible for achieving the smooth marriage of the shore-based business network with fleet information systems.
The Marine Corps will be a key customer. Marine information-systems officials say that the system must serve as an information continuum that supports Marine Corps business practices but that also provides reach-back linkage to deployed units from support establishment to the field and the foxhole.
The Marines want a system that provides connectivity not only with shore sites and IT-21 compliant systems, but also with joint-service, coalition-force, and host-nation systems. The system must extend the secure internet protocol router network (SIPRNET) connectivity. It also must support secure video-teleconferencing and telemedicine, as well as distance learning to permit training at remote sites.