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The lead officer in charge of the Navy's enterprise IT networks was relieved of his responsibilities on Monday, just days before the Navy is due to announce a major contract award for its Next Generation Enterprise Network (NGEN) program.
Capt. Shawn Hendricks, the program manager for the fleet's naval enterprise networks program, was dismissed "due to a loss of confidence in his ability to lead," said Victor Gavin, the Navy's program executive officer for enterprise information systems.
The decision followed an investigation by the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) which concluded Hendricks had been involved in "an improper relationship and unprofessional behavior," according to a Navy news release. The relationship was with a subordinate contractor and was personal in nature, a Navy official told the Navy Times. Hendricks will be reassigned to SPAWAR's Washington Liaison Office while his case is processed.
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Hendricks' dismissal is not expected to impact the Navy's plans to announce a long-awaited decision, due on or before June 30, on who will carry out the Navy's next generation of IT transport and enterprise services, according to Edward Austin, PEO-EIS public affairs officer.
The Naval Enterprise Networks Program Office manages a portfolio of programs, including the Navy Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI), the OCONUS Navy Enterprise Network (ONE-Net) and the Next Generation Enterprise Network (NGEN) contracting vehicle.
But the timing of the dismissal comes at an awkward moment as the Navy prepares to announce the outcome of its award decision. The planned announcement comes after repeated delays for modernizing a system that is regarded as one of the world's largest enterprise networks, which has been derided for years by the sailors who rely on it.
At one point, NMCI connected more than 800,000 users utilizing 384,000 workstations at more than 3,000 shore-based locations throughout the United States, Hawaii and Japan, according to Navy figures. It was originally regarded as the ultimate IT outsourcing project when the Navy commissioned it more than a decade ago.
Since then, however, the network's cumbersome performance and outmoded applications have made NMCI an albatross for the Navy, as has the Navy's entangled relationship with Hewlett-Packard, which owns and manages the network. Keeping the system operating until a replacement could be developed has cost the Navy billions of dollars.
The Navy expects the next generation system to be managed much differently. In addition to being government-owned, Navy officials say that periodic competition for the network's services is expected over time to drive down costs and make it easier to incorporate new technological innovations, including evolving solutions to defend against cyber threats.