Nearly a decade ago, I sat in the middle of the Saudi Arabian desert with an archaic laptop that transmitted rudimentary e-mails of classified information. (I cant tell you any more than that or Ill have to kill you.) After our little skirmish was over, I discovered there were only fifty military personnel out of the 500,000 in the theater who used this technology.
Luckily, part of the military has decided to increase these capabilities. Richard Danzig, Secretary of the Navy, announced a five-year contract with Electronic Data Systems (EDS) to provide an integrated platform for better communication and movement. The contract is worth more than $6.9 billion. In the new agreement, EDS will build and maintain a department-wide Navy and Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI). At the same time, the Navy will boost output, cut costs and advance on the technology front.
EDS and its partners (Worldcom, Raytheon and WAM!NET) bring the concept of seat management to the government by providing and maintaining all the equipment and infrastructure as well as training personnel. The partners, calling themselves Information Strike Force, are also responsible for security.
The deal marks the first time the federal government has outsourced its IT needs as it transitions the department from a government-owned and -operated environment to buying a service. NMCI will connect more than 360,000 sailors, Marines and civilians while providing them with data, voice and video communication capabilities.
The majority of military forces play non-combat, logistical roles. The new technology will increase their ability to procure and process material more efficiently. NMCI will take the military complex into the world of online procurement and supply chain management in addition to making them a more efficient fighting force.
"NMCI will provide a global network architecture to enhance interoperability with shipboard IT-21 and Marine Corps Tactical Network capabilities," said Danzig. "It enhances and enables our sailors, Marines and civilians to increase their productivity and access resources that extend throughout the Navy-Marine Corps team and our nation. But substantial as these benefits are, they are dwarfed by the implications of empowering instantaneous information access throughout the whole Department of the Navy."
This contract signals a major shift in the way the Navy and Marine Corps use technology to become more efficient, and we expect other federal agencies to follow suit, said EDS Chairman and CEO Dick Brown. Beginning with this contract, the federal government is well on its way toward employing the best practices from the commercial sector to improve defense readiness while increasing savings for American taxpayers.
Another first in this deal is the intention to share productivity gains with the Navy, according to Rick Rosenberg, EDSs program director for the project.