Now that the path forward appears clear following a U.S. court’s rejection last week of a protest, Leidos [LDOS] is planning to accelerate its transition onto the Navy’s nearly $8 billion program to modernize its enterprise network.

Leidos won the potential $7.7 billion Next Generation Enterprise Network (NGEN) Service Management, Integration and Transport (SMIT) contract in February but subsequent award protests, including two by incumbent contractor Perspecta [PRSP], delayed the start of full implementation until now. The U.S. Court of Federal Claims last Thursday denied the latest protest by Perspecta, seemingly clearing the road ahead for the transition to Leidos unless Perspecta decides to protest again.

Despite the country still being in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic, Leidos has for months been developing and finding workarounds and has plans in place to lean in immediately.

“We actually briefed the Navy on Friday on that and they accepted the recommendation that will allow to maintain and accelerate the transition,” Gerry Fasano, president of Leidos’ Defense Group, said in an interview on Monday. “We intend to transition early.”

After the Government Accountability Office in June denied separate award protests by Perspecta and General Dynamics [GD], which also bid on the SMIT contract, Perspecta in early July protested the award to the Court of Federal Claims. Despite the second protest, the Navy awarded some funding to Leidos to begin pre-transition work but at a reduced rate.

Fasano said that Leidos has more than 100 employees working under the contract, which will provide end-to-end information technology services to more than 400,000 hardware devices used by more than 650,000 users worldwide on the Navy Marine Corps Intranet, the Outside of the Continental U.S. Navy Enterprise Network, the Marine Corps Enterprise Network, and other legacy networks. These services will essentially modernize the network infrastructures.

The Navy last Thursday awarded Perspecta a potential $797.3 million contract to continue NGEN work through Sept. 30, 2021, while Leidos comes up to speed.

“That is the latest and we intend on being well inside that” date by “multiple months” to complete the transition, Fasano said.

The long lull between the original award selection in February and now has given Leidos plenty of time to plan for how it will implement the NGEN SMIT program, Fasano said. The company has 74 workbooks detailing its plans, has done job fairs and had incumbent staff applying for the jobs so, “we feel really comfortable that we’re going to accelerate transition,” he said.

The upfront planning was driven by the need to help fulfill the Navy’s information superiority vision to modernize, innovate, defend,” Daniel Voce, Leidos’ senior vice president for Enterprise IT and Cyber Solutions business for the Defense Department and NATO, said during the virtual interview with Defense Daily. “We want to take over as quickly as possible so that we can implement that vision alongside the Navy.”

Currently, the Navy is frustrated with the latency in the existing networks and also wants increased network security, Fasano said. Voce said that Leidos will “flatten” the network, which Fasano said “will allow us, with modern tools, to reduce the number of hops between a database and an end user on the desktop, which is really what the latency is reflecting.”

Fasano said that this modern infrastructure will also expose data so that Leidos can apply its artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms to better manage a network to understand why there are latencies and where security vulnerabilities are so that fixes can be installed. Now, network operators can’t see the network data they need to, to better manage operations and “drive efficiencies.”

Leidos has a 30-, 60- and 90-day plan to staff up, integrate with its partners and ramp up with the Navy, Fasano said of near-term transition plans. Voce said the company’s execution early on will be measured by taking over services and operations, and also providing solutions to begin modernizing the networks through the first half of 2021.

Leidos expects to be fully ramped up to take over the network next summer, Fasano said.

The contract potentially runs for eight years and six months.