For years the US Navy has outsourced its Navy/Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI), paying private defense contractors, most notably HP Enterprise Services, to manage hundreds of thousands of computers in hundreds of locations in the US and Japan. According to one estimate, in 2008 the NMCI networked handled 2.3 petabytes of data. Put simply: NMCI is big, and running it is big business. However, the Navy is now looking to replace NMCI with a new, even bigger, contract and it plans on weighing one criteria over any other in determining the winning bid: price.

This new contract, called the Next-Generation Network (NGEN), The Naval Enterprise Networks Program Office estimates NGEN will cost around $10 billion over five years, double that of NMCI. The NGEN contract will cover more than 400,000 computers and three-quarters of a million Navy and Marine Corps users. The application period for bidders is open until late December, but don’t expect a surge of contenders: according to a Navy spokesperson, only a handful of companies have the qualifications to win the contract. The NGEN contract is set to begin in April of next year.

The Navy’s emphasis on the bottom-line comes at a time when all federal agencies, including the Department Of Defense, are facing significant budget cutbacks. While the defense IT sector has largely fared better than other areas in terms of funding, it cannot ignore the need to keep costs down. This new age of austerity will require defense contractors focus on demonstrating the economic benefits of their proposal rather than quality or increased capabilities.

IT job seekers should also keep their eyes open in late December as the winning bidder starts posting NGEN-related job openings.

More generally, the growing importance of the bottom-line creates an opportunity for cleared job seekers. As the cuts start to dig into agency budgets, potential employers will likely start putting more emphasis in finding candidates able to fulfill their commitments while keeping costs low. Smart job candidates, even ones in technical fields like network infrastructure or cybersecurity, can take advantage of this and shape their resume accordingly to appeal to budget conscious employers.

Mike Jones is a researcher, writer, and analyst on national and international security. He lives in the DC area.

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Mike Jones is a researcher, writer, and analyst on national and international security. He lives in the DC area.