By Cynthia L. Webb washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Thursday, June 24, 2004; 4:23 PM
Electronic Data Systems's $9 billion contract to build and manage the Navy Marine Corps Intranet has been mired in controversy practically from the start, with the Plano, Texas-based contractor getting blasted by Congress and the Pentagon for technology glitches, blown budgets and missed deadlines.
This week brought fresh criticism from the officer in charge of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command: "I believe that EDS was not prepared to implement the contract. Whether it was due to not understanding the process or lack of internal oversight, it has been rocky and problematic," Lt. Gen. Edward Hanlon Jr. said Tuesday at the NMCI Industry Symposium in New Orleans, as quoted by Government Computer News. GCN's piece noted that Hanlon "partially blamed lead contractor EDS Corp. for what he called a lack of preparedness in undertaking the development and management of the largest IT seat management project in the world."
"It is not going as smoothly as we hoped and expected," Hanlon told the gathering, according to GovExec.com. "I believe that EDS was not prepared to handle the implementation." Tops on his complaint list? Poor connectivity to the network, slow delivery of services and other glitches, according to the article.
The network computer plan – often referred to by the acronym NMCI – is a large-scale effort to link Navy and Marine Corps computer systems on bases, boats and offices around the world.
Hanlon criticized NMCI's performance in managing communications with military commanders in Iraq. "I use my NMCI seat every day to talk to combat leaders in Iraq, and there have been far too many occasions where my seat has failed," he said, according to Federal Computer Week.
Hanlon said having enough dough for NMCI "will be a big hurdle to overcome," the FCW article said.
Meanwhile, the glitches could lead to job losses. "Navy and Marine Corps workers will begin leaving in droves if the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet doesn't begin to drive up efficiency and user satisfaction, a senior vice commander with the Naval Sea Systems Command warned," Government Computer News reported in a separate article on Wednesday. "We will lose the government workforce if we don't very soon start to produce the same level of efficiencies that they've had before," said Rear Adm. Anthony Lengerich.
EDS tried to be diplomatic about Hanlon's stinging criticism. "The reason we hold this symposium is to help us solve the challenges that are out there," spokesman Kevin Clarke told GCN. "We acknowledge that there are challenges and we'll work with the Marine Corps to solve them." He also produced this gem: "It is far more challenging than we anticipated."
The problems have not only put EDS in the spotlight, they have taken their toll on the company's bottom line. The Washington Post reported in February that the "[then] $6.9 billion contract, which requires EDS to make a large upfront investment in computer hardware, software and time, has been weighing on the company's results for several years. EDS said it is working closely with the Navy to hold down costs on the contract and announced a series of measures to increase management's supervision and decrease the risk of further losses."
The Dallas Morning News today said that the Navy is working to change some of the contract's requirements to make it easier for EDS to comply with what the Navy is looking for. "EDS would gladly welcome a less complex version of the massive contract to build and run a computer network for the Navy and Marine Corps. The planned changes could help EDS regain control of a contract that has struggled under delays and management problems. The company has never made money on the contract, which it won in 2000, and expects to lose $300 million or more on the deal this year," the paper said.