Intranet Hub in Norfolk to change way Navy and Marine Corps Communicates

9 Jul 2001 | JO2 Roy C. Padrick

The Navy and Electronic Data Systems (EDS) reached a milestone today as the 73,000-square-foot Network Operations Center and Help Desk Norfolk officially opened its doors during a ceremony held at Naval Station Norfolk. Sen. John Warner, R-Va., and Rep. Ed Schrock R-Va., were on hand to give remarks.

The center will be one of two main connection hubs for the Navy/Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI) which will allow more than 360,000 sailors and Marines on installations in the United States, Puerto Rice, Iceland and Cuba to share voice, video and data information.

?One of the most important aspects of the intranet is that it provides these desktops with a very secure connection with other agencies,? said Dan Proctor, the Network Operations Center (NOC) manager. ?There are only two ways in and out of this intranet which provides for one of the most secure forms of information sharing in the world.?

The system works similar the Internet. It connects a series of computers to a central hub and stores information at one location that is available to everyone. User of the NMCI, however, will have the ability to access their files from any computer on the intranet. Software will be standardized throughout the Navy and Marine Corps, Proctor said, and will be updates so as to maintain no more than one upgrade away from the latest edition.

Hardware will also be upgraded. On all Navy and Marine Corps shore installation in the specified areas, old hardware, often times severely outdated and in need of repair, will be replaced with modern equipment, identical throughout. The old units that contain needed files and legacy software (software that is older than the ones that will be used on NMCI) will be updated and transferred to the new servers. The old computers and peripherals will then either be sold to Department of Navy personnel and businesses, reused if possible or donated to accredited organizations, such as schools.

The network servers, locate in Norfolk and at 17 other remote location along the East Coast, will be accessible from every desktop unit. Software and non-local files will be available via the servers as well. 

?Eventually, we would like to see all this connection potential used for transferring all kinds of information,? said Proctor. He went on to say that included the ability to order supplies and repair parts via the intranet and obtain personnel information like pay and service record issues. The ability to access these services is not available yet and is dependent on the individual agency?s ability to create the service, he said.

?A huge benefit of the intranet is its ability to interact with IT21,? said Proctor. IT21 is the intranet system currently used aboard ships. Once fully functional, ships will be able to connect to information from any other ship or shore installation in the U.S. or at sea. That ability, Adm. Robert Natter, Commander in Chief U.S. Atlantic Fleet said, is one of the cornerstones for making the project a success. ?Information management is an increasingly critical aspect of modern warfare,? he said. ?In this day and age, you cannot support or sustain our forces at sea and defeat the enemy without continuous access to secure, reliable information.?

With that transfer of information comes the technical support to maintain the systems that run it. The Norfolk help desk will provide technical assistance to the users at the remote desktops and at sea. Though not fully operational, the help desk has been online providing assistance for about two months. Several locations throughout the U.S. are already using the system ? which plans to be fully operational by December 2003, two years before the end of their contract with the Navy.

The help desk and NOC will have a staff of about 600 people, bringing roughly 550 new information technology jobs to Hampton Roads. Much of that is in the form of small businesses, which provide about 68 percent of the subcontracting for the system.

?We are glad this new system will be in Norfolk,? said Schrock during the ceremony. ?This area has always and always will foster great relations between the Navy and the community.?

Civilian jobs may account for the bulk of the staffing at the NOC and help desk, but military personnel will also benefit greatly in the form of a revised sea/shore rotation. Navy and Marine Corps information technology personnel will have billets available at the center and help desk. They will also receive highly-specialized training in network operations and administration without charge. Many will be able to get nationally-recognized certifications.

Still more than two years from full operation, the center continues to install equipment and bring in personnel to staff the facility. Once fully operational, the center and help desk will provide constant support and training for all users.

?This center will be a hub for one of the most important information technology endeavors in history,? said Natter.

The computers are not yet scheduled to be rolled out to the users yet and no timeline was available for when installations could expect to be ready, said Proctor. ?We plan on rolling out the equipment geographically, so it makes it easier for us to maintain control over the inventory,? he said.

The contract was awarded in September 2000 and is the largest government one in history. Incentives for completion times and efficiency were written into the contract to allow for the Navy to maintain control of the level of satisfaction. ?We have measures in place to evaluate EDS to make sure our customers ? the fleet ? is satisfied with the service,? said Capt. Chris Christopher, the Navy PEO-IT for NMCI. ?If they aren?t, EDS gets penalized. If they are, they get rewarded.

?So there?s definitely incentive to keep the customers satisfied with their work,? he said.

?We will provide the best service to our warfighters as possible,? said Proctor.

The next couple years will tell the tale when installations around the U.S., Iceland, Cuba and Puerto Rico come online with the intranet. Sailors and Marines will give the answer.

Headquarters Marine Corps