The commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, and the sergeant-major of
the marines, are going around giving pep talks to the troops about the new
computer system the navy and marines are using. The troops don't like it, but
the commandant tells them there isn't any money to redo it, so get used to NMCI
(Navy Marine Corps Intranet) the way it is.
is so user unfriendly that many sailors and marines are communicating via
commercial email accounts, rather than use their government issued ones. NMCI
is a project that has the navy spending nearly $9 billion to connect some
400,000 PCs into one large, and secure (all data is encrypted) Internet like
network. This will provide high speed, hassle free communications for everyone
involved. At least in theory. After six years of effort, users have a growing
list of complaints. For example, because the navy found that there were over
100,000 different bits of (previously unknown) software being used on navy PCs,
making the new network function at all proved much more difficult than
anticipated.. Some of these 100,000 program were created by sailors to make
their work easier, but the navy never really knew about this home brew stuff.
At least not until they tried to get all navy PCs to communicate as a form of
super-Internet. Initially, all the disruption caused by standardizing PC
operating systems and software upset a lot of users. In late 2003, some 50
percent of navy PC users were unhappy with NMCI. But by early 2004, 60 percent
were satisfied, and as of June, 2004, 80 percent were satisfied. However, the
improvement was not all it appeared to be. Users were asked to rank their
satisfaction on a 1 (not) to 10 (very) scale. Anyone who comes in at 5.5 or
higher, on average, was considered "satisfied." In reality, most users are not
happy with NMCI. Users don't like the idea that they have lost some control
over their PC (which now has a lot of network standards to conform to), and
that their computers are slower now because of all the network software.
the Department of Defense wants all the services to be able to communicate with
each other quickly, easily and at high speed via a special military Internet.
But first, each service has to get all of its own people working together. In
the navy, this is not working. This failure has been something of a dirty
little secret. No sailors or marines wanted to risk their careers by going public
about it. That is, except for a navy reservist who happens to be a member of
Congress. That would be Republican Mark Kirk of Illinois. He's a reserve
officer, and he made public the "user unfriendly" nature of NMCI, and how
sailors and marines use civilian Internet resources to avoid having to use the
new navy network. Over the next three years, the navy plans to more than $3
billion on NMCI. The navy says it will make NMCI more user friendly.
Eventually. Meanwhile, the marines are being told to suck it up, and carry on.