The Navy this week announced an adjustment in the award schedule for the primary contract in its Next Generation Enterprise Network Re-compete (NGEN-R), a broad effort to update and enhance Navy and Marine Corps information technology services.

Instead of awarding the two primary contracts by June 2018, as originally planned, the Navy now has contract awards slated for late 2018. The End User Hardware portion of the contract, covering hardware-as-a-service and hardware-for-purchase, is now set for November 2018. The Service Management, Integration, and Transport piece, which covers print services, software core build services, service desk and computer network defense, is scheduled for December 2018.

Navy says the purpose of the delay is to allow for deeper interactions with industry.

“The schedule change allows for the implementation of a new ‘sprint’ contract development process that includes significant interaction with industry through weekly industry conference calls, one-on-one industry question and answer sessions, and a forthcoming Engineering Day,” according to a Navy press release.

This increased interplay with industry “encourages and promotes industry input early on in the process to develop better acquisition documents for government and industry alike,” Navy officials said.

NGEN-R leaders have sought to maintain a focus on industry as they explore technology alternatives.

“We are trying to align with industry best practices today and in the future,” then-Naval Enterprise Networks Program Manager Capt. Michael Abreu told C4ISRNET last fall. “The areas we are focusing on are intended to allow us more flexibility, more speed to outcome and potentially lower cost of ownership.”

Those industry engagements already have shaped the NGEN-R effort.

In a January roundtable with reporters, Abreu described a plan to approach NGEN-R along two avenues: Services management and transport, and end user hardware. The decision to tackle end-user issues separately came after discussions with industry, he said.

Some have questioned the wisdom of this move, however.

“The military has never demonstrated a capability to manage large-scale IT projects,” writes Daniel Gouré, senior vice president of the Lexington Institute. “Splitting this contract into parts creates additional seams in the system with a heightened chance of technical problems.”

NGEN-R is the follow-on to the current NGEN contract. Planners say it will provide enterprise-wide information technology services to the Navy Marine Corps Intranet, Marine Corps Enterprise Network, and the Outside of the Continental United States Navy Enterprise Network, or ONE-Net. Hewlett Packard Enterprise holds the present $3.5 billion contract to manage NMCI.

Navy leaders are pinning high hopes on an enhanced IT capability driven by industry insights, especially around the emerging cyber threat.

“The improved situational awareness capability in NGEN-R will provide … the ability to make better informed network operational decisions, improving our network response actions, reducing the network intrusion attack surface and decreasing response time,” Vice Adm. Michael Gilday, commander of Fleet Cyber Command/10th Fleet, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in May.