Navy to Re-Compete NGEN Piece by Piece
The Navy and Marine Corps are looking to leverage the latest innovations in cloud technology innovations when the multi-billion Next Generation Enterprise Networks Re-compete (NGEN-R) contract comes up for bid next year.
Instead of one massive program, officials are considering breaking NGEN-R into four to six functional blocks, beginning with end-user hardware and continuing with productivity services, enterprise cloud services, IT and transport service management and overall NGEN services integration. By engaging more support partners, the Navy hopes to expand its options, improve services and cut costs.
The first draft request for proposals will probably be for end-user hardware, and is due by March 2017 and the remaining RFPs will follow over the course of 2017. The services intend to to award contracts in early 2018, enabling a a smooth transition to the new structure by June 2018.
Much remains undecided, but some things are clear: NGEN-R will incorporate Windows 10 across the enterprise and will be tightly integrated with the Joint Regional Security Stacks (JRSS), the security gateways linking the open internet to the Defense Department’s overall Joint Information Environment (JIE). NGEN-R will also deliver faster, more flexible networks to better support delivery of enterprise services, officials promise.
“The Chief of Naval Operations has expressed a clear desire to increase our abilities there, and the things we do in the re-compete will be aligned with that vision, to give access to the right people at the right time, anywhere,” said Naval Enterprise Networks Program Manager Capt. Michael N. Abreu (USN). His office is overseeing the redesign and recompete of Hewlett-Packard’s $3.4 billion NGEN contract, which runs through mid-2018.
For Abreu, success will be measured by how the program drives down costs and increases performance all across the government-owned Navy Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI), the services’ shore-based enterprise network in the continental U.S. and Hawaii. He aims to build on what NGEN has already achieved, such as networks that have successfully kept pace with a 30 percent increase in throughput since the contract was put in place in 2013. Those demands will only increase under NGEN-R, as demand for higher-bandwidth network services continues to increase.
NGEN-R will be the third generation of Department of the Navy-wide effort to manage a global enterprise network. The Navy was years ahead of its time when it launched the original Navy Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI) program, which sought to privatize the Navy and Marine Corps IT infrastructure. NMCI faced a host of technical, process and service hurdles, and its next-generation replacement, NGEN, demonstrated those challenges could be overcome. That’s set the stage for the NGEN Recompete, or NGEN-R.
“Simply put, NGEN is a success story,” said John Zangardi, acting Navy CIO and deputy assistant secretary for C4I & Space, of a system that supports more than 800,000 users, 400,000 workstations and more than 2,500 locations across the continental United States, Hawaii and Japan. “The NGEN contract demonstrates continued innovation and exemplary acquisition practices.”
NGEN-R, Zangardi told the House Armed Services Committee in February, will “drive future innovation and price reduction without sacrificing performance or security of the DON’s network.”
It will do so by leveraging new advances in cloud and virtualization technologies that weren’t mainstream when NGEN was awarded back in 2013, and by making sure that future technologies can be adopted as they become available. In the past, emerging technologies were locked out simply because they were not specifically included in the original contract.
“We need to have language in there that allows us to change, to adopt new technologies and to shift over time,” Abreu said. “The contract language has to include the ability to make those changes. For example, we want to be able to request priced and un-priced options for a given piece of work. That allows me to think ahead. Now, if I decide to move ahead and do this thing, I don’t need to create a whole new statement of work.”
NGEN-R planners are looking to cloud technologies to support virtual machines, enhance productivity and host shared application services. Managers want to have the flexibility to host applications in government data centers, private clouds, secure commercial clouds – in short, wherever it is most cost-effective for the given use.
“We have a limited number of hosted virtual desktop machines on the network today, and we have been doing that for the last couple of years to understand how virtual desktops would work,” Abreu said. “What are the technical conditions for success?”
Those lessons will be incorporated into NGEN-R, he said, with an eye toward extending virtualization more broadly throughout the enterprise. At the same time, NGEN-R also will be responsive to Defense Department initiatives, such as the migration to Windows 10.
The Navy is pushing to ensure all its systems are Windows 10-compatible before NGEN-R comes online. Calling the Windows 10 migration a “significant challenge,” Abreu said, “We have begun the efforts to ensure that applications are compatible with Windows 10 and we intend to get to first test users in the first quarter of FY17.”
NGEN-R also will align with the Joint Information Environment (JIE), DoD’s vision for a unified enterprise information environment for command, control, communications and computing. While not a program of record, JIE does encompass a set of standards and programs that all of the armed services and defense support agencies must support. DoD’s Joint Regional Security Stacks (JRSS) are the first hardware manifestation to emerge from the JIE effort. “The first task is to align with the JRSS approach, and we are doing just that,” Abreu said. “Our intent is to align our boundary security with the JRSS capabilities, starting with JRSS Version 1.5 which is being tested today, and followed by JRSS 2.0 in 2018.”
Practically speaking, that means ensuring that JRSS security protocols do not disrupt activities currently supported by NGEN networks. “We are engaged in making sure the applications we are using that have to transit the network continue to perform as advertised and will not be disrupted by that security technology,” Abreu said, adding that NGEN planners have a positive working relationship with JRSS managers. “We have good communication and participation inside the effort.”
JIE also provides a common approach to Identity and Access Management, providing shared security controls over who has what kinds of rights to data and services throughout the defense enterprise. “We know that we have work to do to continue going down the road toward the next generation of identity access management,” Abreu said. “We are working with groups within the DoD to understand how to better stay ahead of our adversaries on that.”
All this must play out in a dynamic environment in which time never stands still. Missions are ongoing, as are system changes and upgrades. NGEN managers oversee some 700 upgrades and changes to network capabilities at the command level annually, along with more than 100 enterprise-level modernization projects; NGEN-R will be just as demanding.
Breaking NGEN-R into multiple, specialized contracts should yield greater specialization, more choice and lower prices, the Navy believes. Abreu acknowledges that multiple contracts could potentially create contractual and functional gaps and overlaps between mission areas, as well as more complex service management integration challenges. But he said the Navy anticipated those concerns and is developing contract terms to ensure vendors interoperate seamlessly.
“If you are going to do this you have to have a robust ability for the contractor to do the integration work,” Abreu said. “We also will have rules that we put in place to allow contractors to work together well. This includes associated contractor agreements, operation level agreements and the tried-and-true service level agreements and service level requirements.”
Given all these moving parts, NGEN-R clearly is a complex piece of contracting work that the DoN is working diligently to get right. At the core, though, the intent is direct and straightforward: “We want to balance the need for speed with security, while lowering total cost of ownership, in order to get the best value for the dollar moving forward,” Abreu said.