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CHIPS Articles: Modernizing the Fleet: Revolutionary Approach Needed

Modernizing the Fleet: Revolutionary Approach Needed
By Heather Rutherford - October-December 2017
The U.S. Navy fleet is Bruce Urbon’s passion. Urbon is the program manager for Navy Maritime Maintenance Enterprise Solution - Technical Refresh (PMS 444), a program that’s especially distinctive due to its status as a combined effort between Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) and the Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems (PEO EIS). “It’s a natural combination as NAVSEA decided to pursue an enterprise solution,” Urbon said.

“The purpose of NMMES-TR is to maintain the world’s finest Navy,” Urbon said of the first-of-its kind program at a Norfolk, Virginia AFCEA event in September.

The NMMES-TR program has several objectives, including increasing operational performance and stability, improving cyber resiliency, supporting digital environment information for new classes of ships and submarines, providing data analytics, and complying with federal and Defense Department laws and regulations for financial auditability and interoperability.

“The fleet maintenance process is supported by antiquated tools created to do local jobs, with some applications and code dating back to the 1960s and 1970s — which was cutting edge at the time,” Urbon said.

“Funding constraints have hindered the Navy’s ability to keep pace with industry,” Urbon said.

NMMES-TR seeks to change that. The program’s initiatives call for modernizing the current toolset that enables depot and intermediate level shore maintenance for submarines, aircraft carriers, and ships for 50+ systems and applications for more than 51,000 users worldwide.

As a Navy captain, Urbon served as commanding officer of SPAWAR Systems Center Atlantic, followed by an assignment as chief of staff for PEO EIS, where he led the integration of the Outside the Continental United States (OCONUS) Navy Enterprise Network (ONE-Net) with the Navy Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI). Upon entering the civilian world after retirement, he became Program Manager for Navy Enterprise Business Solutions Program (PMW 220) before his current position.

Given his wealth of experience with acquisition and integration, it’s no surprise that Urbon doesn’t believe in “rolling in and dropping a solution,” as he put it.

“The Navy’s mission is to come up with a methodical way to modernize the fleet,” he said.

The crux of the problem is that the Navy is using old, legacy systems that are barely secure, according to Urbon. “The systems are almost unsustainable in some ways,” he said.

That’s where industry comes in.

“The program office wants quality proposals to lead to good contracts,” Urbon said. A request for proposal (RFP) package is in development, set to be finished later this year.

According to Urbon, industry know-how is needed in several critical areas, including:

  • Developing enterprise architecture to integrate commercial off-the-shelf and legacy products and services, cloud-based hosting, functional applications and services, and phased modernization for the shore maritime maintenance operating environment;
  • Cybersecurity, including capabilities and tools for entire computer network defense framework;

  • Speed to capability and end-of-life issues, including products that facilitate quicker deployment, longer product life cycles and sustainment models that fit funding profiles and environment, applications and services that are operating system agnostic or facilitate rapid changes in an operating system;
  • Data analytics.

“The Navy needs to identify products that can be quickly fielded, maintained and sustained and that keeping the agile delivery cycle in place so that the Navy is always keeping pace with technology,” Urbon said. “Earlier this year, the DoD acknowledged the unique aspects of IT business system acquisition. The way we do agile type development, it’s more cyclical. As an acquisition guy, I’m excited about that.”

According to Urbon, the Navy needs a “little bit of a revolutionary approach,” and that includes finding ways to leverage the commercial and private sectors.

“We have a big user community — it’s global,” Urbon said.

One way to leverage that community is participation in industry days, which bring together industry and government employees face-to face to collaborate and brainstorm solutions. Past industry days have been hailed as a success.

Virtual industry days are also a popular option; they will continue to take place. “Going virtual allows for more private Q&A where people will have meaningful dialogue,” Urbon said.

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