Email this Article Email   

CHIPS Articles: Building a Web-Centric Navy

Building a Web-Centric Navy
Transforming Business and Operations with Web Technology
By Sharon Anderson, CHIPS senior editor - January-March 2002
Momentum is building and Navy leadership is focusing on bringing Web-enabled processes to afloat and ashore forces via the Web Enabling the Navy (WEN) initiative. This ambitious initiative began with the establishment of Task Force Whiskey by the Vice Chief of Naval Operations (VCNO) on December 15, 2000. Its objective was to propose policy, organizational, and programmatic changes necessary to fully exploit Web Technology in the U.S. Navy. Task Force Whiskey succeeded in its objective and created an architectural framework for Web-enabling the Navy's business and operational processes.

The VCNO accepted Task Force Whiskey's recommendations and kept up the momentum of this initiative by immediately establishing another task force -– Task Force Web (TF Web). TF Web's mission is "To provide integrated and transformational information exchange for both the ashore and afloat Navy to take full advantage of Navy's IT 21 and NMCI infrastructure investments."

What benefits will WEN bring to the Navy and how will it provide these benefits?

When fully implemented, WEN will significantly improve the way the Navy operates and conducts business at all levels. At the organizational level, the Navy benefits include:

• Improved interoperability brought about by the use of industry standards such as XML and Java.
• Improved quality and consistency of data because units will not be accessing the same data from different data sources.
• Improved situational awareness provided by the ability to easily aggregate information from multiple data sources that today's applications find hard to accomplish.
• More timely and accurate decision-making brought about by the improved situational awareness and data accuracy.
• Improved ability to conduct collaborative planning.
• Reduced information technology (IT) costs due to the adoption of the Web browser as the primary software application on most PCs. As new services are provided, there will be no requirement for loading additional software on all PCs in the Navy. Technical support and help desk costs should also be reduced. Another cost reduction will accrue from eliminating the need to fund the maintenance of duplicative databases.
• Providing the Navy with another tool that supports the implementation of business process reengineering.

At the Sailor level, WEN benefits include:

• Improved quality of life made possible by receiving services via the Web versus having to visit service centers. Examples include distance education; pay inquiries, personnel actions etc.
• Improved job performance by taking advantage of the collaboration and knowledge management tools within the portal.
• Access to a much larger amount of information than currently afforded. This access will also be made easier by the use of single sign on technology which eliminates the need for multiple user IDs and passwords when visiting Web sites.
• Increased productivity due to the ability of the portal to provide relevant information in a more timely manner.
• Enabling individual users to personalize their home page on the portal, providing them with information tailored to meet their specific needs.

The WEN architecture will establish a Navy wide enterprise portal through which existing and future programs will provide information services to all Navy users across classified and unclassified networks. The portal provides capabilities that include intelligent information search, video teleconferencing, cross-collaborative planning/training efforts, database access (personnel, medical, meteorological, etc.) and specific combat/mission service requirements.

These services will seamlessly cross both the IT-21 and NMCI infrastructures, therefore providing an integrated Navy wide information infrastructure. Access to these services will be made easier by the incorporation of a single sign-on capability that will be provided by the Department of Defense (DoD) Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) on the Common Access Card (CAC).

In the future, the portal will also provide the ability to support joint/NATO/coalition operations via the use of common collaboration standards which support multiple languages.

The WEN architecture consists of three layers: presentation layer, enterprise layer and the data layer. The presentation layer consists of the end user devices that display the information services being provided by the enterprise layer. Examples include Web browsers and other thin clients, and computing devices, such as PCs, personal digital assistants (PDAs), and even cellular telephones.

The enterprise layer is the set of infrastructure components that coordinates all of the actions required to provide timely and relevant information contained in various information stores at the data layer to users via the enterprise portal. These components provide authentication services, directory services, protocol translation, information retrieval and aggregation, security services, data replication, and other application services.

It is significant to note that this architecture is standards driven as a way of reducing future costs arising from the use of proprietary APIs (application program interfaces)—a set of routines, protocols, and tools for building software applications.

Finally, the data layer consists of the existing and future data sources containing both structured and unstructured data. This architecture is shown in Figure 1.

Another key element of this initiative is the conversion of the Navy’s existing applications into Web-based services. Each of the Navy’s Echelon II commands must convert applications they have developed so that they are Web-enabled and integrated as services into the enterprise portal.

Capt. Maureen Copeof, Task Force Web executive officer, in Washington, D.C., said, “We are very closely with the Echelon II commands. As we migrate to a Web-enabled Navy and have enterprise-level services, we will be able to eliminate duplicative applications. We will also be able to establish single authoritative databases. But this also involves cultural change. It will be hard for some to give up their databases because we are so accustomed to controlling our own data, and it is difficult to give up that authority.

“But we have strong Navy leadership who is raising awareness to the benefits of centralizing authoritative data and making it available across the Navy,” she said.

At a recent Department of the Navy (DON)-sponsored Knowledge Management Community of Practice (KM CoP) meeting, Ms. Monica Shephard, director of Task Force Web, spoke about the significance of this initiative and the challenges of moving to single authoritative data sources within the Navy.

“Implementing the technology is transform the environment is easy. The difficulty lies in our ability to trust the information and processes, and the organizations responsible for the accuracy of the information,” Shephard said. “We must learn to build relationships of trust. I don’t know how to convey to you just how profound this transformation will be to the mission of the Navy.”

These authoritative data sources will be maintained by the data owners, but will be stored and replicated at the Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Master Stations (NCTAMS), NMCI Network Operations Centers, and in some cases, onboard ships.

Some of the advantages provided with this data architecture include:
• Global redundancy of data;
• Elimination of duplicative unsynchronized databases;
• Automatic load balancing among replicated sites for ease of access;
• Improved security by implementing global standard firewall configurations for the data centers;
• Timely access of relevant authoritative mission critical data;
• Ease of coordination with afloat until operations centers for smart database replication and updates; and
• Avoidance of oversaturation by users of single authoritative data sites.

The pace of activity within the task force has been and continues to be very aggressive. According to Mr. David Coleman, A MITRE Corporation contractor supporting the effort, “The entire Task Force Web team has worked diligently over the last several months to get this initiative off the ground.

“The great strides we’ve made so far would not have been possible were it not for the cooperative efforts of many organizations, including SPAWAR, NAVAIR, DON CIO, PEO-IT, and the organizations in each of the Echelon II commands,” he said.

Having just received funding, the current focus of Task Force Web is getting the portal in place and supporting the Echelon II commands in migrating their applications to the enterprise portal.

The next major milestone is to have 50 applications integrated into the enterprise portal as a pilot demonstration of the architecture by November 2001.

Task Force Web plans to have the full architecture in place with all Navy applications migrated into the portal by 2004. When completed, TFW will be disbanded and operational management of the WEN will be turned over to a permanent organization.

Hang on to your hat; change is coming!

Figure 1 shows the architecture of presentation, enterprise and data access layers.
Figure 1.
Related CHIPS Articles
Related DON CIO News
Related DON CIO Policy

CHIPS is an official U.S. Navy website sponsored by the Department of the Navy (DON) Chief Information Officer, the Department of Defense Enterprise Software Initiative (ESI) and the DON's ESI Software Product Manager Team at Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific.

Online ISSN 2154-1779; Print ISSN 1047-9988
Hyperlink Disclaimer