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CHIPS Articles: Designing a Network to Empower the Fleet

Designing a Network to Empower the Fleet
Challenges, Opportunities for NNFE Year 2
By Steven A. Davis, SPAWAR Public Affairs - April-June 2007
The FORCEnet construct began as a systematic methodology for the Navy to optimize information for tactical advantage. Since the early days of the Copernicus concept for redesigning post Cold War C4I, or command, control, communications, computers and intelligence, the role of the network and technology was a means to an end rather than the ultimate goal.

The "center of the universe" was, and remains, the warfighter. But the challenge continues to be the development of the most capable, effective network to empower the warfighter with a superior edge over an adversary.

Early in his tenure as Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Michael Mullen challenged Navy leadership to improve readiness, to become more efficient, and to identify resources to recapitalize the future Navy. In response, each of the Navy's acquisition organizations that support the air, surface, submarine, expeditionary and network communities realigned under an enterprise model to improve speed to capability for the fleet at the right cost.

"We can't stay bogged down in discussing network-centric versus platformcentric warfare," said Mullen in January 2006 at a major defense conference held in San Diego. "We must design the fleet to exploit the network and design the network to empower the fleet."

The NNFE Is Born

To meet the CNO's vision, the Naval NETWAR FORCEnet Enterprise, the Navy's enterprise approach to implementing FORCEnet and delivering network-centric capabilities for the fleet, was established to assess current network-centric capabilities, consolidate, or eliminate systems where advantageous, and to recapitalize funds for initiatives that will directly address the needs of Sailors and Marines.

An undertaking of this magnitude required collaboration from across the Navy. The Naval Network Warfare Command (NETWARCOM), Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (OPNAV N6), the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) and a host of additional stakeholder organizations were called upon to make it happen.

Much of the NNFE's 2006 efforts have been focused on developing processes and metrics across the enterprise, such as capability-based assessments and gap studies, to help the Navy better understand the costs of conducting business and how these costs relate to readiness.

This approach will allow the enterprise to make better decisions when applying critical resources — both dollars and manpower — and provide the right products and services to the fleet faster and more efficiently.

"This has been an exciting first year for the Naval NETWAR FORCEnet Enterprise, and we are already beginning to see the benefits of this collaborative effort," reflected NETWARCOM Commander Vice Adm. James D. McArthur, who also serves as the NNFE chief executive officer. "While we are still shaping alignment, we are always looking at resources, funding technology in the future, and how we can meet fleet requirements. We are on the cusp of dramatic changes in C4I and making huge leaps in providing capabilities that support the warfighter."

In recognition of the strategic importance of a comprehensive enterprise approach, the Navy Enterprise Executive Committee met for the first time in November 2006 to discuss how to achieve an integrated, aligned and focused enterprise operating model across the Navy.

Composed of senior leadership from the Navy secretariat, the Navy staff and the fleet, the executive committee is laying the foundation for a business model based on measurable outputs, processes, impactful metrics and accountability.

The NNFE's sister organizations — the Surface Warfare Enterprise (SWE), the Undersea Enterprise (USE), the Naval Aviation Enterprise (NAE) and the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) — have progressed through varying degrees of maturity. The more established enterprises, such as the NAE and the SWE, have been fully implemented throughout their respective communities for several years. The more recently established enterprises — the USE, NECC and the NNFE — are beginning to assess their communities' landscape.

One of the most difficult challenges for the enterprises has been to establish meaningful metrics to assess performance and change behavior. While other enterprises can lay claim to "Aircraft Ready for Tasking" or "Ships Ready for Tasking," the challenges are perhaps greater for the NNFE because C4I capability spans virtually all platforms in the Navy.

The problem is further complicated by the fact that the NNFE is not the sole provider of C4I capability within the Navy — a situation the NNFE would like to change.

A preliminary set of metrics governing the measurement of effective C4I capability has been developed, but it is recognized by NNFE leadership that further refinement and definition of metrics are necessary before they can be published and evaluated by Navy leadership.

A NNFE leadership off-site meeting took place in early March to review progress so far and to evaluate what remains to be accomplished in this vital area. It is one of the highest priorities of the NNFE for its second year of operation.

Adjusting the FORCEnet Model

The enterprise model is changing the culture of how FORCEnet products and services are delivered to the fleet. Success will be determined not through the eyes of the acquisition community but by stakeholders and customers.

SPAWAR Commander Rear Adm. Michael C. Bachmann notes that the definition of customers, the end users of products and services the NNFE delivers, has expanded considerably over the past few years. Combat operations, homeland security and business applications must now be designed with an eye toward inter-service and government agency interoperability, as well as the fleet.

The NNFE must ensure that the products and services delivered fulfill a variety of customers' missions requirements. The key to which is built upon effective and aligned partnerships to maximize capability within cost and schedule.

Bachmann's role as the NNFE's chief operating officer "has afforded me the opportunity to work directly with the fleet in areas that in the past would have been considered outside of my lane," he said.

Bachmann has established a corps of readiness officers who provide critical C4I updates to support deploying carrier and expeditionary strike groups. The readiness officers work with combat systems officers over the Fleet Response Plan cycle to ensure that systems are manned, the ship's crew is successfully trained and the material condition of the systems is as close to 100 percent as possible.

"That's been a real success story — our interactions with the fleet have been very positive," Bachmann said.

Results from the annual Trident Warrior series of operational experiments have also produced positive results, particularly in the field of Maritime Domain Awareness. Trident Warrior has assessed many technologies since its first experiment in 2003, a number of which have been "fast-tracked" to the fleet. Examples include Subnet Relay and High Frequency Internet Protocol, which are line-of-sight communication systems that support ad-hoc, common operational picture networking between U.S. and coalition forces.

Initiatives such as the Automatic Identification System, a maritime tracking and identification system for vessels based on similar principles employed by air traffic controllers, have proven their value both in terms of capability and rapid deployment.

The Combined Enterprise Regional Information Exchange System-Maritime, or CENTRIXS-M, which allows high-speed data exchange among coalition navies, was also developed and fielded through Trident Warrior experimentation.

These capabilities significantly improve the ability of U.S. and coalition forces to work efficiently and effectively together and are another step on the road to establishing the "1,000-ship Navy" as envisioned by the CNO.

Capturing the Money

In May 2006, the CNO announced a realignment of the OPNAV structure in recognition of the critical role of networks. A three-star deputy CNO for Communication Networks organization was established to serve as the principal adviser for network-centric, C4I, surveillance, reconnaissance, space, information operations, information assurance and business information systems.

"Networking the naval warrior through communications networks has become a linchpin in effective leadership for the 21st century," stated Vice Adm. Mark J. Edwards, OPNAV N6 and NNFE chief financial officer. "Getting the greatest return on the Navy's C4 investments requires a unified information technology strategy."

As reported in the CHIPS January-March 2007 issue, one of N6's first initiatives was to identify, migrate and reduce legacy systems in use throughout the Navy. This process is referred to as "capturing the money," or maximizing the Navy's investments in information technology.

Many of the legacy networks in use today use vendor-specific applications or hardware. Through the development of service oriented architecture, the Navy can identify a common set of core services that all applications can use. Thus, shore sites, and particularly ships at sea, which have a finite amount of data storage capability, can reduce the number of networks required to operate applications while concurrently increasing the number of applications that run on the reduced number of networks.

The NNFE has embarked upon an ambitious course to deliver widespread service oriented architectures to the fleet. As Bachmann explained, "We want to get to the position where we tell the Marines, 'Don't bring your systems on board, just bring your software. We'll load it for you, we'll host it, we'll protect it — and you will have uninterrupted service.' "

By reducing the number of networks needed to operate systems and applications, the Navy can then recapitalize resources into critical needs that the warfighter has already identified, such as improved bandwidth and satellite communication availability and real-time collaboration capabilities.

Reinvesting funds into Navy initiatives, such as Sea Warrior, which allows Sailors at sea to complete long-distance education, training and orders processing requirements, is high on the list of NNFE priorities.

"It is my intent to find IT investments that not only meet our warfighting requirements, but also provide our Sailors with the access they need to advance their careers and conduct their personal lives," Edwards said.

Today's bandwidth availability on Navy ships presents both mission and quality of life challenges. Edwards has noted that computers aboard aircraft carriers download information at 3.7 megabytes per second, while cruisers download at 0.64 megabytes per second and destroyers download at 0.128 megabytes per second. In comparison, the average college campus can download information at more than 45 megabytes per second and the average cell phone downloads at .4 megabytes per second.

Therefore, maximizing bandwidth is key to ensuring that a technologically savvy generation of Sailors and Marines is not disadvantaged while at sea. "It's hard for our new Sailors not to be discouraged when they find out that our cruisers, destroyers and frigates have less bandwidth than they typically have at home or on their cell phone," Edwards explained.

Shipboard and strike group networks have evolved to an essential part of the sensor-to-shooter information chain. Not surprisingly, networks have further evolved into providing far-reaching quality of life, educational, and recruiting and retention support. They are essential in coalition operations and in working with other federal agencies in support of homeland defense.

NNFE leadership and the organizations they represent have made tremendous progress. They have established discipline in the procurement process where there was little; they have brought rigor to discussions of capability, entitlements and requirements where there were none; and they have planned a roadmap for the future. The task will continue to be challenging because information technology is the fastest growing, most rapidly changing element of our society.

The needs are many, but the NNFE is dedicated to providing all these tools, and more, to the warfighter.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Mullen testifies on the 2008 National Defense Budget Request before the House Armed Services Committee. Mullen joined Secretary of the Navy the Honorable Dr. Donald C. Winter and Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James T. Conway in testimony before the committee. U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Shawn P. Eklund.
Dr. Dov S. Zakheim, former Under Secretary of Defense (Controller) and chief financial officer for the Department of Defense speaks with Vice Adm. John G. Morgan, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information, Plans and Strategy, and Rear Adm. Michael C. Bachmann, commander of the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, during a luncheon panel at West 2007. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Omar Alexander Dominquez.
Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Communications Networks Vice Adm. Mark Edwards discusses OPNAV N6’s plan to recapitalize funds by replacing Navy legacy systems to reap the huge benefits of new technology and cost savings, and reinvest in the needs of Sailors and Marines. Increased bandwidth capacity for Sailors at sea is just one of Edwards’ top priorities. The admiral laid out his plan to an audience at West 2007, co-sponsored by AFCEA International and the U.S. Naval Institute, Feb. 2 at the San Diego Convention Center.
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