Navy to finish moving IT network to NGEN contract by September

Monday - 4/7/2014, 4:31am EDT

Listen to Jared's radio report.

Download mp3

Following a long series of delays, the Navy says it intends to fully migrate its massive enterprise IT network onto a new contract structure known as NGEN by the end of September.

The Navy originally had hoped to transition its one million user Navy-Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI) to the Next Generation Enterprise Network (NGEN) contract by this month. But retaking control over what had been the largest outsourced government IT program in history turned out to be a more complicated task than the service hoped.

The Navy delayed its initial request for proposals by several months, as was the final award of the NGEN contract. Then, late last year, all work had to stop for another four months until a protest of the $3.5 billion award was resolved.

Now, the Navy and its prime contractor, HP, are racing to move NMCI to NGEN's government-owned, contractor-supported model by the end of this fiscal year. That will mean shaving about three months off of the contract's original transition schedule.

Capt. Michael Abreu, the NGEN program manager, said he thinks that's achievable.

"There are two key enablers to that: One is that the incumbent won the competition, and we had built the RFP based on a non-incumbent winning," he said. "So when we were able to talk to HP once the protest was lifted, we immediately started asking them what they could to do accelerate the transition internally. They did that. The other piece was an awful lot of hard work and planning since we started in November. We've had to work constantly as a team to plan how we're going to execute this transition on an earlier timeline."

10th Fleet has high level control

The Marine Corps finished its transition from the contractor-owned-and-operated model last summer. It now owns and operates its network itself after having purchased its portion of the network assets from HP in one lump sum.

The Navy's successor to the original NMCI contract will be different. The service is buying back network infrastructure and intellectual property from HP via an ongoing payment plan, and the 10th Fleet — the Navy's cyber command — will have high-level control over how the network is run. But HP still will handle most of the daily touch-labor required to keep things running.

While the prime vendor hasn't changed, Abreu said the Navy now estimates the NGEN arrangement will save the service about $1 billion over the next five years, so it is anxious to avoid any further delays.

"The price reduction we got was a result of the completion we just went through," he said. "The price differential is about $20 million a month, so that's my incentive to move our network from our old contract to the new contract as quickly as I can. I want to do that efficiently though, and without introducing risk to the fleet."

The Navy doesn't want its users to get the idea that their IT experience will change, for better or worse, once the NGEN transition is finished — at least not right away. NMCI still will be NMCI, just under a different management structure that will, it hopes, be transparent to users.

But that doesn't mean the transition will be a simple affair behind the scenes. Abreu said the Navy is taking several significant steps to make the change, two of which it completed last week when it crossed the finish line on significant bureaucratic mileposts, passing both its critical design review and contractor-readiness review.

"One of those reviews was on internal government readiness since we've increased our internal command and control responsibilities, but we also needed to make sure the contractor was ready to start the actual transition," he said. "The transition essentially is going to happen in two major phases. The first one started back in November, which was planning, and the second one is actual execution, which we'll start in May. We've identified no major issues, and we're ready and poised to start on May 1 to start the actual transition work."

Fundamental rules changes

Officials say the transition also includes a huge amount of workforce development for the Navy's own IT staff as they prepare to take greater control of the network, including taking over responsibility for many functions the Navy didn't have to worry about while the entire operation was the hands of an outside vendor.

Bill Toti, HP's vice president for its Navy and Marine Corps business, said the change is not simply a matter of making sure the Navy's own people have solid, fundamental IT skills. Rather, he said, they need to know how to run something at the scale of NMCI, which is the biggest internal IT network on the planet.