Three Supply Corps Officers Lead Navy’s IT Acquisitions

Cmdr. John Windom

Cmdr. John Windom

The largest purchase most of us will ever make is our home.

 Home purchases ranging from $250,000 to more than $1,000,000 are being negotiated by Sailors and Marines every day.  However, a select few Supply Corps officers hold a Contracting Warrant, enabling them to make multi-million dollar acquisitions on behalf of the Government.  In 2010, according to personnel at the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) Office of Defense Procurement Acquisition Policy (DPAP), I set a record for negotiating the largest contract ever signed by an active duty Supply Corps officer when I awarded the NMCI Continuity of Services Contract (CoSC).

 However, Cmdr. John Windom is about to make history by breaking that record and awarding an estimated $5 billion contract(s) to operate the Department of the Navy’s (DON) Next Generation Enterprise Network (NGEN).  A quick history provides the backdrop to the Navy’s largest Information Technology (IT) purchase in history.

 When I joined the Navy in 1986, Storekeepers used punch cards aboard ship, typewriters were a Yeoman’s best friend, and hand written letters were the only way to receive word from home while on deployment.  However, you can attend any Supply Corps officer’s retirement these days and hear that story.  I am here to write about the acquisition of the largest network in the world … the Next Generation Enterprise Network.

 NMCI IS BORN

In 1999, the Navy and Marine Corps operated a hodgepodge of more than 15,000 separate systems at bases around the world.  Each command purchased its own software, computers, servers and printers, and tried to keep track of them on controlled equipage cards.  It was the wild west of IT and an information security nightmare.  In an effort to rein in costs, control information, and create a single, manageable network, the Navy awarded a contract to Enterprise Data Systems (EDS) (later acquired by HP).  Thus in 2000, the Navy and Marine Corps Intranet was born.  A single IT company would own all of the gear – from keyboards to routers and services – and operate it on behalf of the Department of the Navy (DON) for a set price per workstation.  The contract combined the entire Navy’s IT into a single, manageable network; enabling a single system administrator to operate a less costly, yet more secure network.

 By 2007 when I joined the NMCI program office as its Deputy Procuring Contracting Officer (PCO), the network supported more than 700,000 Sailors, Marines and civilians on nearly 350,000 computers.  According to Capt. Scott Weller, NMCI Program Manager at the time, the network had more than 4,000 servers, handling more than two petabytes of data.  In seven years, the NMCI program office and HP inventoried and consolidated all assets on the network, and was busy refreshing the network to meet new cyber threats.  Since 2000, NMCI had grown into the second largest network in the world, second only to the internet itself!

 THE FUTURE OF NAVY IT CONCEIVED

Having built a healthy secure network, DON leadership made the decision to stand up the Next Generation Enterprise Network Program Office, and reacquire the network from HP.  With only three years remaining on the existing NMCI contact with HP, the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) announced its intention to negotiate a Continuity of Services Contract (CoSC) that would allow HP to continue to provide IT services during the transition from the existing Navy and Marine Corps Intranet to the Next Generation Enterprise Network (NGEN).

 From March 2008 through March 2010, I assembled a negotiating team of IT Service, IT Infrastructure and IT Intellectual Property experts.  For 18 months, the team visited Data Farms, Server Farms, Network Operating Centers and bases all over the U.S. to develop negotiating positions on all aspects of the network.  After presenting the DON’s position to OSD, I lead the team in formal negotiations with HP.  We worked around the clock for six months in hotel and conference rooms, finally reaching a $3.6 billion deal with Hewlett Packard in July 2010 to acquire all of the existing NMCI infrastructure and intellectual property (IP), while ensuring continued end-to-end IT services until the NGEN competitions could be held.  With my tour complete, it was time to turn the $14.5 billion NGEN competitions over to Cmdr. John Windom.

 The NGEN acquisition is being executed by the newly formed Naval Enterprise Networks (NNE) Program Office, PMW-205, that manages the acquisition life cycle of the DON enterprise-wide information technology networks, including both NMCI and NGEN.  But before the DON could award an NGEN contract, huge amounts of work was required.  With the award of CoSC, the race was on to fully understand the network that was owned and operated by HP for the past decade.

 To fulfill the program’s goal of shifting from a contractor owned and operated network to a government owned network, Cmdr. Windom opted for a low cost, technically acceptable approach.  His goal was to use the IP acquired from HP combined with the government’s own subject matter experts within the program office and out in the field, to build a Request for Proposal (RFP).

 NGEN BECOME REALITY

Using Hewlett Packard’s IP, combined with the Navy and Marine Corps’ team of IT professionals, the DON expedited developing its NGEN requirement.  Once completed, the final RFP totaled more than 1,100 pages with a referenced repository of more than 10,000 additional documents.  On March 16, 2012, Cmdr. Windom released the documents to the public in a draft RFP to provide industry the opportunity to improve the DON’s strategy for transitioning the largest network in the world.  Leading up to the final RFP, Cmdr. Windom hosted several industry days where over thousands of industry representatives provided real time feedback to the government, and gained the most up to date information on the program.

 With several rounds of information exchanges with industry partners, the DON was ready to solicit proposals to operate the Next Generation Enterprise Network.  Cmdr. Windom issued a formal Request for Proposals (RFP) documenting the requirement to connect more than 800,000 users utilizing 384,000 workstations at more than 3,000 shore-based locations throughout the Continental United States, Hawaii, and Japan.  Capt. Shawn Hendricks, program manager for the NEN program office, said, “Throughout our development of the RFP, we have gained insight from our industry partners as we progressed toward competing services for the world’s largest enterprise network.”

 With the NGEN acquisition, all of the services currently provided by NMCI will transition to NGEN, which according to the RFP, will be managed differently than its predecessor.  In addition to being government owned, press releases by the program office indicate that periodic competition for the network’s services will decrease costs and will drive technological innovation.  The Navy will operate a Contractor Operated, Government Owned (GO-CO) network while the Marine Corps will operate a Government Owned, Government Operated network (GO-GO).

 As of the writing of this article, Cmdr. Windom and his source selection team were unavailable for comment due to the nature of their duties.  According to information obtained from public sources, Cmdr. Windom is expected to award one or more NGEN contracts totaling more than $14.5 billion in May 2013.  This historic moment will make Cmdr. Windom the contracting officer who awarded the contract(s) to run the Department of the Navy’s intranet for the near future, and the largest IT contract in our Navy’s history!

By Cmdr. Dave Murree, SC, USN

Assistant to the Deputy Director of Contracts

Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command