Navy-Marine Corps Intranet Signals Things to Come

The Navy-Marine Corps Intranet project is a harbinger of the coming convergence of the telecommunications and information technology markets, according to a leading telecommunications analyst.

"The telecom industry has been making a lot of noise about convergence lately, which generally refers to the provision of voice, data and video on the same platform," said Warren Suss, president of Suss Consulting Inc., Feb. 22 at a telecommunications conference in Reston, Va. "The NMCI program represents a different type of convergence ? the convergence of the telecom and integrator market segments."

NMCI is a five-year, $4.1 billion program to provide voice, video and data services, networking, training, and equipment to some 350,000 sailors and Marines around the world. Systems integrators, not telecommunications companies, were the primary bidders on the contract, which was awarded to Electronic Data Systems Corp. of Plano, Texas, in October 2000.

Suss said that federal customers are moving away from viewing telecommunications and information technology as separate systems. Instead, the agencies are seeking solutions that provide bundled telecom and IT services in a single package. Consequently, in the case of NMCI, the major telecom carrier on the project, Worldcom Inc. of Clinton, Miss., is a subcontractor to EDS.

Those who consider NMCI to be a test case ? where failure would derail the convergence experiment ? are fooling themselves, Suss said.

"The best answer I've heard so far to industry's wish that NMCI would just vaporize came from a retired admiral. He said, 'This program will succeed because the Navy paints over rust,'" Suss said. "In other words, no matter how bad NMCI gets, and the program is certainly fraught with risks, the Navy will simply declare victory and move on."

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