The United States Navy has released an updated timeline for the award of two parts of the Next Generation Enterprise Network contract recompete (NGEN-R). According to the updated timeline, the two parts of NGEN-R will be awarded in November and December of 2018.
NGEN-R transforms the way the Navy procures and operates its Navy/Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI). The NMCI is the backbone of the Department’s IT infrastructure, responsible for delivering the IT services and capabilities that warfighters and Naval personnel rely upon.
Since 2000 when NMCI was initially awarded, the network and the contract supporting it have evolved dramatically. The primary purpose of the network was initially envisioned to serve as a single entity designed to support the Navy’s shore-based infrastructure and the “business of the Navy,” not necessarily the Navy’s direct warfighting mission.
Nick Trzcinski, CSRA’s Vice President of Navy / U.S. Marine Corps Business, notes how the network has evolved from those days. Today, NMCI “straddles the fence between an administration network and a warfighting tool,” he says. “It’s an enabler for the Navy to complete its kinetic mission of supporting soldiers, sailors and marines afloat and ashore, deploying ordnance, and performing other essential missions and tasks.”
NMCI was revolutionary in its scope and complexity when it was introduced. Hundreds of individual enclaves, thousands of software applications, and little standardization were transformed over a period of just a few years into a single, comprehensive network with a common set of operating standards. The way the Navy procured NMCI was also revolutionary—the original NMCI contract was essentially Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).
“The Navy's intent was to purchase IT as a service back before Infrastructure as a Service was really a thing,” says Scott Weller, CSRA Senior Director, Navy Programs. “Their intention was to pay a price per user, not a price per device, and there were different tiers of user with different prices per tier. And that price covered everything including infrastructure, networking, end-user devices, software, services, and even the helpdesk. That was NMCI.”
Over the 10 years of the original NMCI, the network has matured, grown, and become more complex. The Navy moved about 70 percent of its IT infrastructure and users onto NMCI. Data centers grew and were consolidated to meet demand. Cybersecurity was strengthened as the threat increased. All of this was accomplished without a significant change to the basic contract.
Not everything was perfect of course: the user experience was less than ideal, often sacrificed to increase security. The ordering and change process on the contract was inelegant and administratively burdensome, and there was a strong perception that NMCI was not as economical as it should have been. Most significantly, the Navy felt that they didn’t have the control they needed over NMCI—that control had been ceded to the prime contractor.
These concerns were at the forefront of the Navy acquisition community when the NMCI contract was first recompeted in 2010. The recompete was designed to ensure that the NMCI network and services continued without interruption, that many of the design elements that needed to be modernized were addressed, and, perhaps most significantly, that the basic contract structure was changed to be more responsive to the Navy’s needs. Ironically, this changed NMCI away from IaaS and moved it to a more traditional IT procurement model. The IaaS model of NMCI, although in many ways it provided an excellent platform for the Navy’s IT needs, did not allow the level of control, transparency, or ability to recompete that the Navy desired.
CSRA’s Weller says, “In order to recompete the contract, they needed to know what physically existed and how many of each item they had - services, switches, routers, racks. Under NMCI that was all owned by the contractor. So, part of CoSC [Continuity of Service Contract] was to assign all of that a value, as well as assign a value to all of the intellectual property. The Navy felt this gave them the ability to have better transparency when they went into the NGEN contracting process and to have a fair competition, since they could now tell a potential competitor what was out there.”
The Navy’s requirement to avoid “vendor lock,” achieve agility and speed in making changes to the network (contracting agility), reduce cost, and maintain a modern infrastructure became more acute as NMCI matured into a vital Command and Control (C2) element within the Navy and Marine Corps. The Big Bang approach - achieving these requirements in one big contractual leap at recompete - was not achievable. CoSC was the solution.
CoSC was much more than a bridge between NMCI and NGEN. It also allowed the Navy to change from a FAR Part 12 services contract to a more traditional FAR Part 15 contract, enabled accurate valuation of the intellectual property and contractor owned equipment, and introduced new ordering processes which provided more transparency into fulfillment timelines. CoSC achieved the Navy’s goals and enabled NGEN to be awarded, extending NMCI into the next decade.
This evolution continues now, as the Navy works to develop an RFP for the next iteration of NMCI, NGEN-R. This follow-on contract ironically is expected to have many elements of a modern IaaS model. But with the foundation in place now from CoSC and NGEN, the Navy will be able to achieve its technical and contractual goals. That means a future network that is secure, reliable, and defendable—one that supports the Navy business and Command and Control requirements, has robust and transparent cost controls, is agile, and responds quickly to the demands of threats and mission needs.
In our next post on Thinking Next, we’ll explore the movement from NGEN to NGEN-R, how it will benefit the Navy, and what the Navy has to consider when choosing a partner for the new NGEN contract.