The U.S. Navy wants an intranet; to ensure that the project sails smoothly, the Navy is soliciting help from private industry vendors to replace more than 1,000 local networks with a a single, secure intranet.

The infrastructure and basic applications for the intranet will be built by subcontractor Electronic Data Systems Corp. The Navy has requested all the bells and whistles: modern applications that offer Web services, efficient storage solutions through databases and consolidation of their 30,000 applications.

The Navy has been analyzing its networks since 1999 and recently determined that it desperately needs to enhance security and interoperability. Networks throughout the Navy are now governed independently, with each individual office using applications purchased locally. Integrating the systems via an intranet dubbed – with typical Navy efficiency – the Navy Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI) is the proposed solution, but officials do not think they have the resources to build the intranet themselves.

“We discovered two important details during this process,” says Capt. Chris Christopher, the deputy program executive officer for NMCI. “First, that shore-based IT maintenance and management is not a core mission of the Navy, and second, we do not have the up-front capital required to update our networks.” Translation: The Navy needs a hand.

The idea of outsourcing is certainly not new to the federal government, but Christopher says that as budgets tighten, the government has to control costs. If outsourcing makes sound business sense, that’s what the Navy will do.

Christopher says the Navy will consider working with both well-established technology companies and small firms. In fact, the NMCI contract mandates that 40 per cent of the work involved in building the intranet must go to small or disadvantaged businesses. These days, that clause could apply to most of us.