The Navy's CANES program encompasses the consolidation and enhancement of five existing legacy network programs and implements a single support framework for about 40 command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence (C4I) applications that require dedicated infrastructure to operate. CANES utilizes an innovative business model that includes continuous, robust competition, open architecture, government owned data rights and obsolescence and technology refresh that when combined, will increase the operational agility of the warfighter, as well as decrease total ownership costs for the Navy.
The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command announced Feb. 1 that Northrop Grumman won the CANES design competition. The next step is the completion of an operational assessment in SPAWAR’s enterprise, engineering and certification laboratory in support of a Milestone C decision forecasted before the end of the fiscal year. The Milestone C decision authorizes the program’s entry into limited deployment. Ultimately, the network will be deployed to more than 180 ships, submarines and maritime operations centers by 2020.
CHIPS asked LeGoff, CANES program manager, to explain the CANES unique acquisition strategy and its fleet implementation in a series of discussions that concluded in March.
Q: Can you discuss the CANES strategy?
A: We are using commercial off-the-shelf technology, government ownership of data rights, open architectures and constant competition to keep costs down. It helps us get out of the sole source negotiations and price creep issues that sometimes plague programs.
We have never had that issue on our legacy networks, they have always been government owned. In fact, until now, networks have always been government designed and mostly government built. But they were all GOTS — based on government designs. This is really the first time we're going to industry and saying, 'We want to hear what you guys have … and best practices that you’ve learned from integrating with major corporations, and we want to take advantage of all that.'
Q: Can you talk about sustainment once the network is built?
A: What we do at sea is fundamentally different from how you maintain and operate a network ashore. All of our systems, including our IT systems, are maintained by our Sailors. The average age of a Sailor today is about 20 to 21 years old. The junior ITs (information systems technicians) are probably younger than that, they’re somewhere between 18 to 19. And so we teach them as much as we can in schoolhouses where we give them all the certification training that an ashore IT professional would get. But we know that you can't put 20 years of experience into a six-month school. So we send the guys out with training, but we have a very significant trouble desk and trouble ticket system at sea so if there’s an issue, we work with them.
Q: Have you tried to reduce the equipment footprint or reuse equipment with CANES?
A: What we specified in our contract is a couple things. We mandated as much as is physically possible that the racks that house the system go where the racks for the legacy system was, we don’t want to do more foundation work or redo work if we don’t need to.
We also mandated that if it was in usable shape, we would reuse as much as possible of the fiber optic cable plants that already exist on platforms. Now, we have networks out there that are over 10 to 15 years old. The odds of being able to reuse a lot of that cable are probably minimal. So we'll replace it.
However, we also have our legacy systems in a form that’s fairly new that we’re still fielding today. So when I go and replace one of those, I fully expect to reuse the bulk of those cable plants. It's a hull by hull analysis.
Q: You talked earlier about rationalizing the software applications to reduce the number of fleet applications, estimated at 800, and said your office isn’t in charge of what goes on the ships — it is up to Fleet Forces Command. But are you leading the effort?
A: We are their technical arm. We execute their policies. So when Fleet Forces authorizes an application to go on a ship, then that application then enters our integration process so that’s kind of the check in the box. Unless they’re authorized by Fleet Forces, they [applications]
don’t even go into our integration process. They don’t get on the ship.
Q: Why is it so important to reduce the number of applications?
A: The hard part is getting the applications to work together. We would like to get down to 100. All the applications that we have on ships are in various stages of sustainment and development with multiple vendors. No two ships are the same. Information assurance is patched in. With CANES, IA will be ingrained. Every application will be tested, certified, accredited and supported with an ATO (authority to operate). We will have version control; we’ll avoid duplication.
Q: You said as part of the rationalization process that an application has to have a resource sponsor, it has to be accredited and have a logistics tail for installation on CANES.
A:Correct. That’s one of the things that we look at as we go through the testing process. So what we don’t want to do is put an application, or any kind of system, on a ship that has no owner because that means then all its care and feeding falls on the back of the Sailors. We want to make sure that when something goes to sea, it has a support infrastructure behind it just like we talked about the support infrastructure for the network. That has to be there for everything else that goes on the ship as well.
Q: You spoke a little bit about this; I asked you if you were interacting with the Next Generation Enterprise Network (NGEN) program office. Are you sharing ideas?
A: Yes. We absolutely are. There are a lot of places where we are similar and we’re sharing as much as we can there. But there are a lot of things that drive us to different solutions because of the environments that we respectively go to.
Capt. Shawn Hendricks (Naval Enterprise Networks program manager) and I have a routine dialogue on how we can compare and contrast things. The timing makes things a little bit difficult. One of us is entering source selection (NGEN); one of us is coming out (CANES). However, we are trying to line up things as much as possible.
Q: I wonder if you could run through the next competition and what that’s for and then the RFP date, award date.
A: The key part to remember here is we’re not down-selecting to a vendor. I’m down-selecting a design [Northrop Grumman’s design was selected Feb. 1]. That is a fundamental, foundational piece of the program. Now, as soon as we down-select, two things happen in parallel. One, we’re going to immediately put on contract production units. So the vendor whose design wins is going to get the first two years of production because I don’t want to lose any time in modernizing
In parallel, since I mentioned that everything that comes out of this design effort is government owned, I take that design package and it will become GFI, government furnished information, that
informs the RFP (Request for Proposal) for our next production contract.
So the limited deployment contract that we’ll execute as a result of this down-select will be in production for [fiscal years] ‘12 and ‘13. I fully intend our full deployment contract to pick up at the
beginning of ‘14 and take me out four years after that.
Q:And that’s going to be competed?
A: Absolutely. I own all the data rights, I own all the designs — and it will be open to everyone for full competition.
Q: And the RFP on that comes out?
A: The fourth quarter of FY 2012 with an award in the third quarter of FY 2013.
Q: So if I’m a vendor I might say, 'Gee, I went through all this effort, and you’re only going to give me two years worth of business?'
A: This was the strategy that was published from the very beginning. Now, on the other hand, if your team has the winning design, you’ve got to think that you potentially have a leg up on the next one as well. That would be a logical explanation.
But there’s no guarantee, that’s why it’s all competition. I’m trying to get the best price for the government. The best way to do that is to be constantly competing. You asked me for dollar figures earlier. The limited deployment contract ceiling is $690 million. That’s the government cost estimates figure.
Q: How many ships does that cover?
A: It is a notional schedule, and schedules change because of availabilities and deployments, but at the time of the contract, the notional schedule was 54.
Q: And you can do the build in two years?
A: Yes. We have more than that number of ships going through availabilities every year. Just remember we built this program after 10 years of history building networks on ships. In the heyday of the legacy system back in 2000, 2001, we were doing 35 to 45 ships a year. So we know that we have the industrial capacity to do that.
Q: What yards are you going to use?
A: I’m going to use AITs (alteration installation teams); I’m not using the yards. We’re contracting installation services off SPAWAR’s contracts. SPAWAR has a multiple award contract to do installation of C4I gear. And we’ll go to whatever yard the platform happens to be for its availability. And that’s a typical strategy that we use in the C4I world.
When a ship goes into an extended availability, however many months it happens to be, at one of the public yards, we contract these alteration installation teams to install our stuff.
Q: Do you already have your schedule for deployment?
A: We have a schedule for deployment that identifies hull number and installation windows that change very frequently based on the ship’s schedule so if ships get surged or their deployment goes later, or they get sent to do something that was unexpected, that perturbs the rest of the schedule. But we use it for planning purposes, and we update it every quarter.
Q: Which ships have priority?
A: I have multiple sets of priorities given to me by different leaders.
Q: How do you rationalize your priorities?
A: Well, first and foremost, go as fast as you can. That is the direction I’ve been given by the Navy leadership at the highest levels. The faster we get the new infrastructure out there, the faster we have to stop supporting the legacy and stop spending all that money, right? So first and foremost, don’t stop; go as fast as you can. While you do that, try to prioritize the older networks first.
So I mentioned we have networks that have been on board ships for almost 15 years. We still have ATM networks on ships, Asynchronous Transfer Mode on ships. Almost impossible to support at
this point, can’t get parts for them, training is difficult, they’re hard to use and they’re old. So while I’m going as fast as I can, I’m going to keep an eye out. If I have more availabilities than I have ships and I have to choose between platforms, I’m going to choose the ones that have the
oldest network first.
It’s not a single legacy baseline that we’re replacing. I’m replacing 20 odd baselines that have grown over the years. The latest ones that we’re fielding now, we actually took a lot of the technology that we thought was going to come into CANES and we backed it into our legacy design. So the ones that we’re installing over the recent past are fairly modern networks and are in good shape. It’s the baselines that are 10, 15 years old that I’m really anxious to get out of operation.
Q: You said you are using COTS equipment, but there is vibration on ships and other
environmental factors. Is there a rugged spec for CANES?
A: We do have a fairly high specification for the commercial gear; it’s within industry’s
capability and within their commercial offerings. We don’t ask them to do anything special for us. However, we do integrate into racks, where the rack really takes up the bulk of the environmental
protection. So we have to follow what we call 501D specification, which is grade A shock equirements for the system.
We [CANES] are a mission critical system because we have mission critical applications that rely on us. So that means that the system has to be able to take a hit and continue operating through damage. That includes shock and vibration, high temperature, high humidity; all of those things are environmentally tested before we field.
So that was part of our design criteria we gave to the vendors. They had to prove to us that their system would survive those environmental conditions and show us the test results.
Interesting question, again, why are we different from shore? We reject more products because of environmental shortfalls than we do because of performance. The environment drives different
Q: You mentioned mission critical. Is CANES going to run the ventilation system in the
ship or other life support systems? Could it combine with other shipboard systems? Or is it just specifically for warfighting systems?
A: Currently in the installation of this design we’re not doing the mechanical [hull, mechanical and electrical (HM&E)] engineering type of functionalities.
Q: Did you think you might take on those other things? I mean, if CANES proves to be a good business case and design?
A: Right, so there is a lot of dialogue around that. I can’t predict right now where that dialogue is going to go because the functional owners of that capability are in NAVSEA (Naval Sea Systems Command) and not SPAWAR. There are some that advocate consolidating into a common design.
There are some that advocate going further than that and consolidating to a common single network. I’m personally of the belief that we may in the near term get to a common design so that an HM&E network looks just like a C4 network, but I don’t think that we’re ready yet to converge
the two into a single one.
Q: On the LPDs (amphibious transport dock ship) and the flatbacks, does the CANES ugrade include the Marines’ spaces?
Q: Marines on amphibs always feel they’re getting the short end of the network stick.
A: It’s an ongoing discussion. I try to stay out of the middle because that’s an operational requirement issue. I do what the requirements folks tell me the need is. Fleet Forces works it out with the ACMC (Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps) in terms of what the allocations are between blue and green.
So the message that came out was not written by CANES, it was written by the fleet and it mentioned the Marines, here’s how things are. Now, that’s just from a critical perspective. The Marines also come on board with their own software, so we provide hotel services for that infrastructure in both our legacy network and our new network.
Q: Is there any exercise that you will be participating in once you have a sufficient
number of ships that have CANES loaded to test it out in the fleet?
A: Not scheduled around the deployment of CANES. So there will be ships with CANES in fleet exercises because that’s how they’re going to deploy. However, my first test is going to be in-lab tests with COMOPTEVFOR (Commander, Operational Test and Evaluation Force). So the operational test community is going to do an operational assessment (OA) of the network in the lab. We’re getting our lab certified by a representative.
We’re going to load the system and OPTEVFOR is going to do an evaluation of how well it performs. And that’s a gated function going into my Milestone C. Once we pass the OA, then we do our first installations. Once we complete our initial installations aboard a fleet destroyer, we’ll go into a formal at-sea operational evaluation.
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