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Military Marches Forward With Major IT Projects

A sluggish economy and the threat of war may have caused the business world to postpone some IT projects, but the U.S. military is moving forward with major initiatives.
While the business world has been hit hard by a sluggish economy this year, U.S. military organizations are moving forward with elaborate initiatives that will unite disparate IT networks and better manage the movements of troops and supplies. Projects initiated by the Navy, the Marine Corps, and the Army were under way before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Now the threat of war has heightened the military's reliance on IT as a tool for intelligence gathering and dissemination.

The Army's primary organization for developing and managing IT systems, the Program Executive Office for Standard Army Management Information Systems, last week signed a $277 million contract to hire KPMG Consulting and Titan Corp. to provide management and consulting services for support and further development of applications that track the movement of Army personnel, equipment, and suppliers to field locations.

On Oct. 6, the Navy and the Marine Corps will reach the one-year anniversary of their five-year, $6.9 billion IT outsourcing contract with EDS and a number of subcontractors. EDS's marching orders are to provide an intranet that will link Navy vessels and installments worldwide, including more than 360,000 desktops in the United States, Puerto Rico, Iceland, and Cuba. To date, EDS, as well as partners such as Raytheon, WorldCom, and Dataline, have built and staffed two network operations centers and migrated about 42,000 users to an EDS-hosted IT infrastructure; about 700 users will be live on the intranet by the end of October.

The common thread of these two projects is activity on the part of U.S. military forces to better aggregate and disseminate data to their members, making up for years in which different military operations ran their own IT networks with little communication among one another. The Navy and Marine Corps intranet "is a tool for disseminating information to Marines, sailors, and their officers about their situation, both operational and tactical," says Vice Adm. Dick Mayo, the Navy's chief information officer. "More and more, everyone is dependent upon information. If that information is delivered to the right people early enough, it can be used as intelligence."

The terrorist attacks have also brought continuity of operations and contingency planning to the forefront, says Kevin Carroll, Standard Army Management Information Systems program executive officer. "We're moving away from just focusing on firewalls and more toward physical security, to the extent that we're now even locking down our building during the day. We're also monitoring more closely who has access to our facilities."