Security is top priority for Victor Gavin, the Navy's PEO for Enterprise Information Systems. (Rob Curtis/Staff)
Victor Gavin, a member of the Senior Executive Service, is the Navy’s program executive officer for Enterprise Information Systems (PEO EIS). He oversees a $2 billion portfolio of programs designed to enable common business processes and provide standard IT capabilities to the Department of Navy. PEO EIS programs include Navy Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI) and the follow-on Next Generation Enterprise Network (NGEN), as well as enterprise resource planning systems and Department of Navy enterprise software licensing.
C4ISR & Networks Editor Barry Rosenberg sat down with him at his office in Arlington, Virginia, to discuss network modernization and visibility, enterprise systems and the use of lowest price/technically acceptable contracts.
With support of the warfighter as a given, what are your top priorities?
GAVIN: In a word I’d say security ... keeping not only our network safe, NGEN and ONE-Net [OCONUS Navy Enterprise Network], but also the 60-plus applications inside the PEO that we provide to both of those networks. That’s number one. Then 1A is speed the market because I truly believe that a key component of keeping the network safe is our ability to change when new threats arrive. Speed to market is key to that.
Looking at other military PEO EIS organizations, such as the Doug Wiltsie-led Army PEO EIS, they have a portfolio that includes significant funding for purchasing computing hardware. You don’t do that at Navy PEO EIS, do you?
GAVIN: Yes and no, in that we have two different business models associated with how we buy the network. Doug and I both deliver the network. He delivers it for the Army. I deliver it for the Navy. Historically over the last 10 years, what this PEO has done and what the Navy has done is consolidate all the network infrastructure. Every base and facility had its own network and over the last decade we have consolidated those. Where Doug is in his evolution is that he is trying to get there. He is doing exactly what we were doing several years ago — taking all these bases and trying to consolidate them down to a single network.
We have that now, and we are at the point of managing that under our new contract called NGEN. We both deliver the same product, but because of where we are in that evolution our business models of how we deliver that are different. He is doing it more from a component level because he is consolidating. Ours is based on a commercial service delivery model.
How will NGEN interact with the other enterprise systems, such as Defense Enterprise Email?
GAVIN: We’ve done a couple things with Defense Enterprise Email specifically over the last several months. We have just completed a pilot where we’ve taken Defense Enterprise Email into our [naval facility] in Bahrain, and we’re going to study the results to see if that changes our direction.
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What was the point of the pilot?
GAVIN: If you recall, the DoD CIO sent a letter saying that everyone has to go to Defense Enterprise Email or explain why they’re not.
Or come up with your own enterprise email.
GAVIN: Right. So we clearly have an email system inside of the network today with NMCI. We need to understand the differences between Defense Enterprise Email and what we have, both functionally as well as differences in cost. So we started this pilot in [Central Command] outside of NMCI in our ONE-Net environment overseas. I expect shortly that you’ll see an announcement from us as to the direction the department plans to head when it comes to email.
How does the Navy CIO’s business model differ from the other services in terms of enterprise IT acquisition, and why is the approach different?
GAVIN: I contend, as I said earlier, that we are at a different stage than where the Army and Air Force are; our networks are consolidated. We’ve looked very closely at how industry delivers IT services. In fact, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition Sean Stackley has a training class he sends all of his acquisition professionals to in order to understand your industry environment. And what we’ve learned, not just from that class but also from my experience with industry, is that delivering these products as a service is the direction things are going. That’s how we set up NGEN as a service-type contract delivering up to 34 services. That’s how we acquire those services.
Additionally in our model, we reserve the right to compete any of those services just as you would do at home. Think of services as the same way you buy IT at home. Most people have Verizon or Comcast and they bundle phone and Internet because of the price difference. If you pull out the phone and buy it someplace else for better performance, you could get better performance but very often that comes at a higher price. So what we’ve said is we want to make that decision consciously, as opposed to trying to build it up ourselves.
But again, that’s an element of where we are because our network is already consolidated. We think about this a little differently than we would have five, six or seven years ago when we were in the process of consolidating ourselves because there are some savings associated with economic quantity buys, which is what Doug and the Air Force are trying to accomplish.
So your networks are all consolidated?
GAVIN: The majority, about 70–80 percent.
And I would imagine that NGEN will take that to another level because with NMCI you don’t necessarily have the full enterprise capability to gain visibility into networks and data.
GAVIN: You are spot on. The one area that we all need to improve, and I think you’ll see it all across all of DoD, is how do we provide central visibility into all of our networks? And that is the area we will continue to work with DISA in providing those types of capabilities. In the past, technology hadn’t been to the point where you could do that at the scale that we have, but we are seeing technologies that are going to allow more and more of that. And that’s clearly one of the efforts of JIE that the Navy is in full support of.
Doug Wiltsie talks a lot about network modernization, and Army PEO EIS is working closely with DISA and the Air Force on strategies like the joint regional security stacks (JRSS). What is the network modernization path that the Navy is taking? Is it going to JRSS and the single security architecture? You mentioned the Joint Information Environment.
GAVIN: Absolutely. I share a view of modernization with Doug and Maj Gen Craig Olson [PEO for Air Force C3I and Networks]. We all agree that the more we can leverage each other’s experiences the better off we all will be. In fact, we have a quarterly meeting from an acquisition perspective with Doug, myself, General Olson, as well as Robert Shofner [Air Force PEO EIS]. The only daylight you see between us is where we are in the maturation of our consolidation of networks, and the changes that drive our business models of operations.
As far as working with DISA on joint regional security stacks, the Navy is taking a hard look at that. In fact, [we joined recently] with our counterparts in Arizona to look at the design. I am confident that we can probably come up with something that is useful for all of us in that realm, especially when it comes to providing visibility. A big part of the joint regional security stacks is providing that visibility and the analytics necessary for folks to use. I’m confident we’ll come to some common ground there.
At almost every conference I attend, the industry people in the audience want to hear about how the services plan to use contracting vehicles like lowest price/technically acceptable contracts (LPTAs) and joint enterprise licensing agreements. There’s a lot of worry on their part about how you’re going to buy IT going forward.
GAVIN: LPTA is simply one tool that we have in the acquisition toolbox, not the only tool, but it is simply one. Just like with the hammers and screwdrivers there are specific cases where you should use those tools.
Have do you use them?
GAVIN: Our NGEN contract was an LPTA-based contract. We have 10 enterprise service license contracts that we’re developing right now, which will all probably be LPTA. And the requirements are simple. If I can clearly define what my requirement is, for example, licenses (then LPTA contracts are appropriate). There are X number of computers on people’s desks therefore there are X number of Microsoft products I need to support those computers. I am not looking for any difference in that Microsoft product. The requirement is simple; therefore, I’m not expecting a difference in delivery mechanism. It is simply procuring that product. LPTA is a perfectly viable option for those types of acquisitions.
The challenge comes when you try to use that tool in an environment where the requirement is not as well defined and there is a development aspect of it. I think you would tend to have negative consequences by trying to use it there.
Yes, that is what industry is concerned about.
GAVIN: We need to be very careful how to use which tools in that acquisition toolbox.
Your PEO has responsibility for four enterprise resource planning systems. ERPs have taken a lot of heat over the years for busting their budgets and going years over schedule. Why is it so challenging to keep ERP programs on track?
GAVIN: The challenge is this. All these tools, specifically on the DoD side, were built for commercial industry. Commercial industry deals with profit motives, and debits and credits. In government, we don’t necessarily talk that specific language.
The other key to ERPs is that you need to adopt the approach of modifying your processes to adapt to the tool, as opposed to modifying the tool to adapt to your processes. That’s a very hard lesson to learn.
What we’re used to when we build planes and other things is that we build them to our specifications and our requirements. Getting into ERPs is very different. I think we learned the hard way over time that if you want to use this tool it’s up to you to change your processes and leave the tool alone, and select your tool with that in mind. What tool best fits your processes, and best fits the change in your process that you want to make?
It sounds like a lot of customization is required to do that, though.
GAVIN: That’s what we want to get out of. What we’ve seen is that a lot of failure is coming with the customization, not just from a delivery standpoint but also from a sustainment standpoint. It clearly raises your sustainment cost. So, as we continue to move forward, that’s exactly what we’ve learned in our implementation and we will be using as we continue to deploy or build new tools.■