Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Non Mission Capable Internet

Ya think?
Someday, somehow, the U.S. Navy would like to run its networks — maybe even own its computers again. After 10 years and nearly $10 billion, many sailors are tired of leasing their PCs, and relying on a private contractor to operate most of their data systems. Troops are sick of getting stuck with inboxes that hold 150 times less than a Gmail account, and local networks that go down for days while Microsoft Office 2007 gets installed … in 2010. But the Navy just can’t quit its tangled relationship with Hewlett-Packard. The admirals and the firm recently signed another $3.3 billion no-bid contract that begins Oct. 1st. It’s a final, five-year deal, both sides promise, to let the Navy gently wean itself from its reliance on HP. But that’s what they said the last time, and the time before that.
Just to make sure its core networks keep running – to make sure marines and sailors can keep e-mailing each other on Oct. 1st — the Navy is paying Hewlett Packard $1.788 billion. (Booz Allen Hamilton, another outside contractor, handled the negotiations with Hewlett-Packard for the military.) The service will spend another $1.6 billion to buy from HP the equipment troops have worked on for years, and to license the network diagrams and configuration documents, so that the Navy can begin to plan for a future in which they’re not utterly reliant on HP for their most basic communications. In essence, the Navy is paying to look at the blueprints to the network it has been using for a decade.
We told you it was a bad idea. We warned you.
HP — which acquired Electronic Data Systems and its Navy contract in 2008 — still operates under performance metrics set a decade ago. A typical workstation on the network costs the Navy $2,490.72 per year. That includes an e-mail inbox with a 50-MB capacity (Gmail’s: 7,500 MB), and 700 MB of network storage (compared to Evernote’s unlimited, free plan). Anything above that is extra.

A year’s use of a “high-end graphics” workstation sets the Navy back $4,085.64. Extra applications on a laptop or desktop computer can run anywhere from $1,006.68 to $4,026.72 annually. A classified Ethernet port — $9,300 to $28,800 per year, depending on where it’s located.

What’s more, HP isn’t required to take security measures like hard disk encryption, threat heuristics, and network access control that are common today, but were exotic in 2000. “Anti-spam services” runs the Navy $2.7 million per year under the contract. Cleaning up a “data spillage” – classified information that got placed an unclassified network – costs $11,800 per incident. In 2008, the Navy paid about $5 million to wipe the data from 432 compromised computers. That’s “almost 10 times the cost of simply destroying the affected machines and replacing them with new ones,” the Washington Times reported.
This topic deserves a full reading.

Laugh, cry of scream. Let's laugh (standard Kristen warning).


UltimaRatioRegis said...

NMCI isn't like the video at ALL.  Let's be fair.  The guy on the video actually answers the phone....

Andy said...

Morning Sal.  Rather than scream my rage at some of the silly comments over on Wired-Danger Room (usually a 75-25% mix of stupid to thoughtful) let me make a few observations here.  First, NMCI began in the late 90's.  I know, becuase I was briefed in well before the 2000 Presidential election, so the usual "It's all Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld's fault!" stuff is utterly non-germaine.  Second, as a couple of former EDS employees posted, they did exactly what was asked of them by the Navy.

What I witnessed at PEO-IT was the Navy's own, unique brand of unicorns and rainbows that seem to follow any new tech.  (can we say "UAV" and "LCS" boys & girls?) Being as I was at that time considered be, ahem, a bit more mature and responsible by virtue of flaws in the promotion system, I held in the inner JO in me who wanted to scream "WTF!?!" when I was told, with utterly straight faces, how this was all going to work so smoothly with contractor "ownership" of hardware, possesion of software and, did I mention, trouble calls.  Having been around IT/IW from its infancy, albeit as an early PC-adopter and builder at home, I had a hard time accepting this incredible leap of faith that would have left Kirkegaard breathless.  This is a melding of hardware and software.  The more physically remote those who are responsbile for its care and feeding are from the site, the less "ownership" they feel for the user's needs.  Even if they care, there's very frequently simply not a lot they can do until a tech arrives.  Good luck with that when the node that's gone down is, literally, thousands of miles away from the trouble desk. Among the motivational tools available to the Navy, the sight of a very, very grumpy Chief can, in the right circumstances, be the best we have.  Hard to communicate that to a 22-year old civilian gamer sitting in a cubicle farm somewhere, when a Third Class Petty Officer, who, by Navy fiat is supposed to know how to do this stuff, sits idly by on site shrugging his shoulders and saying "gee, I dunno Chief, we were told never to touch this stuff at A School."  Let me put this in web-speak: EPIC FAIL.

And one more parting shot, NMCI was supposed to be the leading edge of how to do it for the entire DoD.  Once we did it, the Army and USAF were supposed to enter the same garden of joy, perfect comms and instant oversight and perfect customer service.  Weren't you, guys?  Guys?  Uh, where'd everyone else go?

The one good thing from over ten years ago?  The discussion, even then, of certain enterprise applications. (gmail now is the best example) Of course that posulated perfect connectivity, 100% of the time.  Sigh.

cdrsalamander said...

I was there at the birth too.  I remember it well.

Grumpy Old Ham said...

<span><span>It is the very same mindset that causes the USAF to send an F-16 pilot to a ten month course in cyber security to claim that such gives the graduate equal or better understanding of security, network attacks, and vulnerabilities as someone who has been in on the ground floor of the development of the technology</span></span>

That's because the members of the Royal Order of the Flying Radiator (aka wearers of the silver plated leg-spreader badge) can lead and/or manage anything they can touch, dontcha know?

It's OK, poor downtrodden 33S support types are now real live operators, too:
I often predicted that a cyberops AFSC would be created; 'tis something of a shame that it didn't happen until after I retired (or maybe that was intentional :) ).

Grumpy Old Ham said...

<span>The more physically remote those who are responsbile for its care and feeding are from the site, the less "ownership" they feel for the user's needs.</span>

That synopsis of human behavior there is why the majority of outsourcing operations are doomed to mediocrity at best, and most often "epic fail"...

ShawnP said...

To quote Dave Ramsey we got snookered. Worse than getting snookered we allowed ourselves to get there. Everyone knew from day one NMCI was a dismal failure. So instead of getting rid of it the Navy decides to extend the contract.

B. Bob said...

Until the Navy goes back to building ships in Navy Yards these problems will not go away.  Private enterprise has a far different goal than the government; profit is not patriotism.  A Navy that can't build ships is no navy at all.  We don’t have a Navy, we have techs riding crap built by the military industrial complex.

When the sovereign built his ships, Britannia ruled the waves.

If Navy ships need computers; the Computerman and his mates should build them.   Find a computer better designed than the Mark 1, Fire Control Computer, an unsung hero of WWII’s Pacific Theater.  

Kristen said...

I always appreciate my warning, but sometimes when you warn me off I laugh because it's so obviously a naughty link.  In this case I definitely would have clicked, and probably been scarred for life and needed analysis and all that.  So...many thanks.

And one more thing:  I really want you to consider posting a piece of good news about the Navy.  It would help all of your readers to take a step back from the ledge, and you are a full-service site, no? 

SNAnonymous said...

Like I've said for a while, and which definitely applies to this situation:  If any multinational corporation were run like the Department of Defense, it would have gone bankrupt long ago.  DOD fraud, waste, and abuse hotline anyone?

SNAnonymous said...

Just read this snippet:  "Dove's company claims that 87.5 percent of NMCI users surveyed said that they're happy with the service."  Well that's because anyone with a real job to do doesn't have the time to wait for the *#*@ survey to load on the ridiculously slow network.  

cdrsalamander said...

I do ... and I'm looking ......

Mike M. said...

What I recollect followed the usual Navy pattern...Admiral X gets a bee in his bonnet about this New Improved Software/system/whatever.  And demands that it WILL be adopted on This Date Certain.

Ready or not.  And it's usually NOT ready. 

The fact that Admiral X and his SES counterparts may well wind up working (indirectly) for the vendor of the mess of pottage is entirely beside the point.

Southern Air Pirate said...

Okay some reality check here. First off there seems to be four different systems out there with NMCI. First is NI or Navy Internet, IT21 holdovers (most of the networks on the ships), MCI or Marine Corps Internet, and finally the bastardized way that SPAWAR wants NALCOMIS/3-M to work on a completely seperate network. Now having to deal with NMCI and all its issues in the last 12 years I am amazed to begin with on how complicated the folks over at SPAWAR have made this. In the aviation community we have had to deal with computers that were so bloated with patches/updates/critical fixes that they couldn't run, Latest generation of NALCOMIS which is supposed to be Win2000 compatable is not able to properly interface with the shipboard NALCOMIS since there are issues with how the ships are wired or that the servers onboard the ship can't handle nine other servers trying to interface into it at the same time, the almost constant spam from NMCI about updates/fixes to issues, the fact that NI computers can't properly intergrate with MCI computers (having done dets to MCAS stations like Yuma, Miramar, Iwakuni, we had to border our host computers or just went Green MAF until the MCI rep at those stations got us our own VPN).  Then the failure of the CAC cards to properly intergrate into the networks at times. "I don't have credentials, when I try to log in" "Not my issue sir, talk to PSD." "Not my issue PO1, talk to NMCI." "Chief I need to leave at noon today to get a new ID cause no one can fix that I can't log on with this new ID card that I got last week"
Oh and lets not talk about the fact the we could still had thumbdisks and floppy disks if SPAWAR, NMCI, and whoever else had properly intergrated security into the system. Death by power point about what we can and can't plug in to the computers, and yet there are some things that I can't email myself and I can't trust to save to the laptops cause I don't know if it will survive packout to/from home/det. To try and burn all my stuff at times will take up a full 50CD spindle from supply. Then the classic share drive/email size issue. Always love it near the end of the a det/deployment, the emails from the IT Officer saying we need to downsize the share drive at a certain point cause it is currently 10MB over its 10MB maxium. These folks that were behind this need to be drug out into the street, tarred and feathered, and then given a chance to either commit seppuku or be drawn and quarter.

Southern Air Pirate said...

D'oh. Meant to say "Borrow our Host squadrons computers or use Green MAFS" need to proof-read my posts some more.

Kristen said...

Hmmm.  Looking and can't find any?  Even worse. 

Thanks for not telling me to mind my own business and start my own site.  :)

UltimaRatioRegis said...


That hearkens to a comment I heard from customer service at the local veterans' hospital.

"I have never, ever heard a complaint about VA healthcare!"

Andrewdb said...

URR - Helen Keller works at the VA?  Who knew.

Andrewdb said...

I wear green, not blue, but I am sure the USNR sorts can add their stories too.

In the Guard, IT support works 0700 - 1600, M thru F, and certain specified, previously scheduled drill weekends.  Lord help you if something needs doing on a weekend (in a non-active duty unit) outside of their normal schedule.

UltimaRatioRegis said...

Yep!  Does double service as a claims rep and surgeon....

Southern Air Pirate said...


There is plenty of good out there that the Navy is doing. I mean everything from our aviators violating governmental rules to continue to fly rescue missions during Katrina, to the arrival of the USNS Mercy off the coast of Indonesia back in 2004, to the ops in Haiti where ACU and Beachmaster units started bring in needed supplies on the ground. The problem is that classic line of "You can destroy 1000 atta boys with 1 screw up." It has just seemed in the last 10 years the hits just keep on coming with regards to the screw ups.

Curtis said...

When I worked at SPAWARSYSCOM I used to look forward to NMCI outages.  I would undock the laptop, cross the railroad tracks and sit on balcony of the great hilltop hotel with the WIFI connection, drink coffee and work from there in the sunlight with a view overlooking OTC and San Diego Bay.  At one point my cube was right across the hall from the conference room used by the SPAWAR/PEO IT contract trouble wranglers.  It was terribly distracting when they were conferencing.

Curtis said...

Evaluated EPLRS as a potential IFF/BFT system and went to Pendleton to observe 11th Marines.  They had their cisco routers in plastic bags in mud puddles on the ground and the system worked flawlessly.  All set up, operated and maintained by an E4 and 3 junior marines.  Extremely impressive.  Ditto the half dozen Marines I interacted with at MCTSSA.  Not a contractor in sight.

surfcaster said...

Dell / HP. Macht Nichts at the desktop level. Server, directory, rights / permissions management, end to end security, DR/DP, CRYP, messagin, redundancy, blah yada, make up 750 of the 800 pound gorilla anyway. Dell in 2000 could not implement something like that (apparently HP didn't either).

Combat Wombat said...

Byron; As someone who tried to put sense into this development and was rewarded appropriately..., HP was chosen becase they bought EDS; because they set up a division that captured the pre acquisition buzzwords, and because the original definition of what was the contractor's "intellectual property" in the contract was written by EDS lawyers and accepted by Navy Flags and would make your eyes bleed. They own(ed) everything about the network! The mandate for NGEN was "Don't Break NMCI!"; the development was done by the same smart people who earned their spurs on NMCI, only they now wear suits, not khaki; ITIL was going to save the train wreck, etc. etc.  Current NGEN is merely a stopgap to try to allow Navy to both kick the can down the road, and to gain enough insight into what they want to pay for to figure out how/why the network works.

Case in point- all those "seats" that were of different types- kinda made sense in 2000, when a laptop was ~ $5500, and a desktop $2100. Now that everything is ~$800? Not so much, but to "Not Break NMCI", a lot of the seat categories were maintained.

Oh- and as this is a shore network, it isn't necessarily compatable with CANES. Oh, and as it is a CONUS/some OCONUS network, the rules are different in Europe. Oh, and as this is a multiple management domain network, USMC and USN aren't necessarily compatable and are operated by separate NOCs. Oh, etc..

Buying systems ain't the same as understanding them, which ain't the same about making sense of how the enterprise ought to look at them and or provide them to the users.

Doing the same things the same way by the same people and expecting a different result is the definition for what....??? =-X

Dave Navarre said...

I don't think that putting people in Fed-paid seats instead of contractor-paid seats is the solution. At some point, it becomes the same pool of people, and if it isn't working when the Feds could tell a contracting company to fire someone who screws up, it won't get any better when a similar person is a Fed five years down the line and can't be fired because they're a Fed.

Dave Navarre said...

I've been thinking of asking any who want to expand government (in health care, in taking care of consumer credit, or whatever) to remember what it's like going to the DMV and imagine that level of effectiveness in whatever expansion they're asking for....

Kristen said...

Thanks for the nice response, CDR.  One of these days, you'll find something good to report and I'll do a happy dance around the room, which will amuse my babies enormously.  In the meantime, I sincerely believe that when you shine your flashlight on some of this nonsense, it can make a real difference.  So I'll struggle along through the bad news.  :)

Casey Tompkins said...

It's probably outside of the time frame in question, but back in the day HP used to make industrial-strength computers designed by engineers, for engineers. Alas, the same thing used to true for Compaq as well. For a while IBM was even playing catch-up with Compaq, but that was 20 years ago. Ok. 25 years ago. Sigh.

As for the tech in the video, I would personally like to bust his chops. Maybe is the dumb SOB had listened, and asked one or two intelligent questions -as oppposed to mucking around with first-person shooters- he might not have screwed the pooch so bad. The crowning touch was his blatant finger-pointing with respect to taking down the web server "like you told me to." Dolt.

Curtis said...

no no,

where they went they insisted on pulling their very own cable and replaced perfectly good cat 5 with more cat 5 and then they insisted on replacing on a 1 for 1 basis all computers/laptops and printers.  Talk about scammed.  Dinasaurs were hauled out of every closet.  Still, took them more than 10 years to do nmci sipr....bastards!  I could have done that with a KIV 7 years earlier.

OTOH, reminded me of first major staff.  We were all on sipr but had zero niprnet.  Unless we went through the army at 1200  baud.

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