Navy Shocked as House Panel Cuts Marines Out of NMCI

The House Armed Services Committee Aug. 2 recommended that the Marine Corps be released from the $6.9 billion Navy-Marine Corps Intranet outsourcing initiative. The committee cut President Bush's fiscal 2002 budget request for the NMCI program by $120 million, authorizing $527 million.

In completing its portion of the defense authorization bill, the committee criticized NMCI's "lengthy program delays" and raised questions about the Navy's funding and budget strategies.

The delays first came up in a memo last month from Linton Wells II, acting Defense Department chief information officer, who said more rigorous weapons systems testing would have to be conducted to exit a Congress-imposed "strategic pause" that limited the amount of contractor work.

The Defense Department "is following the Congress' considerations closely, as we do with each portion of the legislation," said Susan Hansen, a Pentagon spokeswoman. "We will carefully review all of the revisions."

The Navy disagreed with the committee's findings. Officials said that they and prime contractor Electronic Data Systems Corp. are testing NMCI, and that more extensive tests could wait until next year. Navy and department officials have been meeting several times each week to work out a compromise.

Navy Capt. Chris Christopher said the Navy was shocked by the recommendations. He partly blamed the service for not "doing a good job in keeping Congress informed" of NMCI developments, which he said has led to a false belief that the contract is behind schedule.

"Obviously, we did not get the right story to them," Christopher said. He added that cutting the Marine Corps from the program is a bad idea.

"NMCI is an enterprise intranet that incorporates all shore activity of the Navy and Marine Corps," Christopher said. "Cutting the Marines out, we just don't think is a good idea. The Marines say they didn't ask for it."

The only program delay Navy officials said NMCI has faced was the contract award, which was pushed back four months, from early June to Oct. 6 of last year.

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