Located aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, the General Alfred M.
Gray Marine Corps Research Center (GRC) opened in May 1993, to support the growing professional military education and academic
needs of students, faculty and staff at the fully accredited Marine Corps University (MCU).
The GRC resides under the Marine Corps Training and Education Command (TECOM) along with seven other Education Command
(EDCOM) divisions, including the MCU Headquarters, Command and Staff College, and Marine Corps War College.
to develop, deliver, and evaluate professional military education and training through resident and distance education programs
in order to prepare leaders to meet the challenges of operational environments, the GRC is designed to be the central research
facility for Marines in operational units around the world.
The GRC includes a comprehensive collection of library, research, and archival
material with emphasis upon the study of amphibious and expeditionary warfare. As an educational resource, the GRC links
scholarly research and professional military education with operational lessons learned to stimulate the development of successful
concepts, doctrine, tactics, techniques, and procedures.
The GRC consists of three distinct components: the Marine Corps University
Archives, Library, and Conference Center. To assist staff, faculty and students
with information processing requirements, the GRC established a management architecture in 1993. With expanding IT needs,
the GRC knew that the enhancement and augmentation of this architecture would be necessary to improve the effectiveness of
staff, faculty and student business processes. This information management architecture, built upon a Windows 2003 LAN architecture,
utilized advanced communications and cooperative work technology to provide users with information access, cross-association,
manipulation, aggregation and retrieval, and storage capabilities.
The data communication-processing environment within the GRC encompasses two
platforms: microcomputers and Local Area Network/Wide Area Network computers. The GRC’s LAN runs Windows 2003 network
operating system under Ethernet topology. The network consists of 10 servers, 150 personal computers, 50+ printers (including
7 color printers), and scanners (grayscale and color), all connected by level 5 unshielded twisted pair premise wiring connected
to Bay and Cisco switches. This network had been connected to the Marine Corps
Enterprise Network (MCEN), giving users access to more than 65,000 other users, worldwide, who consequently had access to
the Research Center.
In the late-1990s, the GRC began a six-year approval process for plans to bolster
its existing IT infrastructure in support of growing information needs. During
that time, the GRC resided on the World Wide Web with a .mil Internet domain designation, while all information services were
carried over the closed MCEN. Because of the system’s configuration, vital
online services were limited and/or unavailable to many remote users as well as users outside of the MCEN. In addition, the network made online communication impractical for many of the base’s transient population,
including international students, commuting students, and other out-of-town visitors needing to access and send email.
While the rest of the Marine Corps prepared to convert to the new Navy Marine
Corps Intranet (NMCI) and remain on their current .mil domain, the GRC needed a better solution. The .mil NMCI had several shortcomings and would not serve the GRC’s current and future requirements. First, the NMCI was not designed for use in the complexities of an accredited academic
environment. Second, an NMCI implementation would result in significant loss
of capabilities at the GRC. Third, there had already been five unsuccessful NMCI
Naval Library conversions attempted at other bases, creating a need to operate both legacy and NMCI workstations on all desks
in order to access information. Finally, NMCI would greatly reduce government
mandated public accessibility to the GRC Archives, and place the GRC Library’s Federal Depository status in jeopardy.
“No one at TECOM had ever attempted such a complex task before so we were dealing with many unknowns,” said
Satch Bridenbaugh, Anvicom program manager, and the information systems coordinator for the .edu project. “Maintaining the integrity of and access to the existing network resources was a major concern. The lab provided a protected environment for testing and debugging, while the GRC
went about its usual, day-to-day business.”