The Navy’s NGEN Program is Contrary to DoD Policy
The original $8.8 billion NMCI contract with EDS expired in September 2010. Three years before that NGEN (New Generation) replacement program was launched. Until 2011 NGEN has spent $432 million on work preparing for the transition. With NGEN now scheduled to start in 2014, the original NMCI contract has been meanwhile supplemented by and additional $5.5 billion.
Does NGEN hold up to the promise of providing the Navy and the MC with information superiority that meets 21st century requirements? We do not think so. What we are getting is a rehash of what is now an obsolete approach.
When EDS took over NMCI, it assembled thousands of disaggregated networks and turned them into a unified program with a common level of security and service. However, the Navy and the MC didn’t get an understanding of what made up NMCI because EDS held that. There was no understanding of what was the cost of the system, how many people it took to run it, and what are were the contributions to the users. When a continuity of the contract took over in 2010, NMCI was broken up and divided it into services. One segment was transport, which was the wires, fibers, routers and switches that are on the base and local area networks. For wide area networks DISA offered services. Help desk, email, data centers, video teleconferencing, voice-over-IP and the deployments of end-user devices was organized separately. In addition that was a hardware segment, which is mostly hardware on people’s desks as well as a software segment that delivers the software for end-users and the software required to operate the network. As result NMCI was broken into 38 services. As result the total cost of NMCI was finally known but still without a comprehension of how it all fit together.
The objective of NGEN is not only to know what the pieces of NMCI cost but also how the fits together, which should enable to compete separate pieces and parts. The forthcoming RFP competes the transport and enterprise services portions separately. This includes a 35% of total award for small business, which further complicates the entire bidding process.
The latest version of the NGEN RFP was released on May 9, 2012, allowing bidders additional weeks for questions. Final proposals are due July 18. The source selection process will then proceed to completion in February 2013. At that time, there will be a contract award to begin executing the transition plan starting in April 2014.
The Navy and the MC have already purchased the lion’s share of the infrastructure—routers, switches, cables, as well as computer hardware to reduce costs. The government now owns the infrastructure as well as the NMCI intellectual property how the network operates. There is a corpus of 450,000 documents available to bidders for guiding their directions. By owning the infrastructure, by purchasing the government rights to the NMCI intellectual property and by making the intellectual property available to industry NGEN is now largely defined to operate similarly as NMCI.
NGEN is proposing to replicate the NMCI infrastructure. It imitates the NMCI operating methods. It hopes to reduce server costs through virtualization, which can deliver only minor savings. Despite of its age of over 15 years, NGEN does not represent innovation but a reversion to cold-war thinking.
NGEN directions deviate from the following small selection of the OSD strategic directions:
1. Individual programs will not design and operate their own infrastructures to deliver computer services. NGEN persists in operating a program-level infrastructure.
2. DoD will operate an enterprise level cloud-computing infrastructure. NGEN will be only Navy/MC used.
3. DoD will make possible to rapidly construct and then to deploy applications. NGEN has been broken up into 38 separate services. This requires extensive integration before a new application can be launched.
4. Global data and cloud services will be available regardless of any DoD access point or device. NGEN will be built to support primarily the Navy and MC.
5. The OSD CIO will be responsible for the Enterprise Architecture that will define how the DoD cloud is designed, operated and consumed. NGEN is architected to imitate NMCI.
6. DoD will implement enterprise file storage to enable global access to data by any authorized user, from anywhere and from any device. Enterprise-level data interoperability is not a NGEN objective.
7. DoD-wide computing will not be limited to Components but also to others such as throughout the Federal government, mission partners and commercial vendors. Universal connectivity is not included in NGEN.
The latest DoD “Cloud Computing Strategy” mandates system implementation that differs from the directions that NGEN is taking. NGEN is continuing with a relatively low level of funding because it preserves much of the current NMCI infrastructure and does not make a decisive commitment to major cost reduction available through cloud computing. To conform to OSD directions NGEN will have to re-examine its current approach.