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CHIPS Articles: Rear Adm. Brian B. Brown

Rear Adm. Brian B. Brown
Commander, Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command
By CHIPS Magazine - April-June 2013
In August 2012, Rear Adm. Brian B. Brown assumed duties as commander of the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command (NAVMETOCCOM). Operational oceanography enables the safety, speed and operational effectiveness of the fleet by illuminating the risks and opportunities for naval and joint forces posed by the present and future natural environment. Operational oceanography includes: oceanography, hydrography, meteorology, geophysics, astrometry and precise time. Rear Adm. Brown responded to questions in writing in late February.

Q: Can you discuss how operational oceanography enables the warfighter?

A: The Navy’s operational oceanography program focuses on generating competitive advantage across the physical maritime warfighting domain by providing our commanders a deep understanding of the current and future conditions of the battlespace to enable force maneuver, effective platform sensor and weapon systems employment, and operational safety. As the Navy’s physical science team, our highly educated Sailors and civilians measure and collect meteorological, oceanographic, hydrographic and other data relevant to the physical battlespace. They use the data to analyze and determine current conditions, forecast the future state, and provide mission-focused impacts that enable commanders to make well-informed operational decisions across the entire spectrum of warfare.

Operational oceanography operates along eight distinct lines of operations: maritime operations, aviation operations, fleet operations, navigation, precise time and astrometry, expeditionary warfare, anti-submarine warfare, and mine warfare. Maritime operations enable the safe operation of ships and submarines at sea through individualized forecasts, monitoring of their movement relative to hazardous weather, and alternate route advisories as warranted. Aviation operations are similar, but focus on the safe navigation of aircraft. Fleet operations represent our oceanography forces deployed on aircraft carriers, amphibious assault ships, independent deployers and task forces. Navigation enables safety of surface and subsurface navigation through hydrography.

Precise time and astrometry are foundational to the battlespace framework we use and support the Global Positioning System, networks, communications, and space-based systems. Expeditionary warfare (amphibious warfare, riverine warfare and special operations), antisubmarine warfare, and mine warfare (offensive mining and defensive countermeasures and clearance), as their names imply, support their respective warfare areas via a mixture of forward-deployed and reach-back capabilities.

Q: I understand that operational oceanography is multidisciplinary, incorporating physical oceanography, meteorology, hydrography, geophysics and precise time and astrometry. Could you discuss how each discipline is important to naval operations?

A: Yes, operational oceanography encompasses a number of scientific disciplines that are based in the physical sciences. To understand and predict the future state of the physical battlespace, expertise in physical processes from the sub-atomic level to the entire expanse of the universe is required, with specific focus on geophysical and fluid processes in the maritime domain.

Since the Navy operates globally under, on, and above the world’s oceans, from blue water to the littorals, operational oceanography maintains expertise in geophysics (sea floor sediments and morphology), hydrography (ocean depths, navigation hazards), physical oceanography (ocean properties and motion to include currents, tides, waves, sea ice formation, and underwater acoustics), and meteorology (atmospheric properties and motion to include severe weather, tropical cyclone forecasting, and the electromagnetic spectrum). These disciplines are underpinned by our precise time (precision atomic clocks), astrometry (celestial reference frame mapping), and earth orientation (the time-varying alignment of the Earth's terrestrial reference frame with respect to the celestial reference frame) missions that enable our geospatial reference framework and support our national and Department of Defense space-based environmental collection capability (electro-optical and infrared weather satellites, altimetry, sea surface temperature, radar imagery for sea ice).

Additionally, our time, astrometry and Earth orientation missions directly support national and DoD networks, communication systems, navigation, targeting, platforms and weapon systems.

We tie these disciplines together to provide the Navy and joint forces with an unparalleled view of the current and future maritime battlespace so our commanders can make better operational decisions regarding force maneuver and employment faster than the adversary.

Q: NAVMETOCCOM employs a concept called Battlespace on Demand to aid in operational decision making. I discussed the concept briefly with your PAO; she said graphically, the concept is depicted as a pyramid with a base (0) and three tiers. Can you describe how the BonD concept aids warfighters and operational commanders?

A: Battlespace on Demand is an operational concept that we use to describe how the Navy Operational Oceanography Program is aligned to provide the warfighter with superior knowledge of the physical maritime battlespace. Through our work with our warfighting partners, we have developed a deep understanding of the decisions they are required to make based on the physical environment to ensure the effective and/or safe employment of their capabilities. These decisions serve as the basis for BonD.

We describe BonD as a pyramid (or value chain) and with the decision space at the top with distinct layers or tiers that move us from data to decision. Briefly, these tiers are described below:

  • Tier 0, the foundational data layer, in which data from various sources are collected, assimilated and fused to provide initial and boundary conditions that accurately describe the current ocean and atmosphere environment, as well as the celestial and temporal reference frames.
  • Tier 1, the environmental layer, where the data from Tier 0 is quality controlled, analyzed and processed using our unique high performance, scientific computing capabilities. It is in this tier where we run world-class atmospheric and oceanographic numerical models to continually forecast and verify the future state of the ocean and atmosphere.
  • Tier 2, the performance layer, takes into account how the environment modeled in Tier 1 will impact sensors, weapons, platforms and people. Tier 2 incorporates the influences of planning, force structure, targeting, timing, maneuver, tactics, techniques and procedures. The result is a 'performance surface' that accounts for both the predicted environment and the capabilities and behaviors of the force — both allies and adversaries.
  • In Tier 3, the decision layer, performance surfaces are applied to specific decision-making processes to quantify risk and opportunity at strategic, operational and tactical levels to provide timely and mission-specific courses of action for the warfighter. We strive to rapidly transition technology into operational capabilities that enable the decision layer.

In application, we work closely with our warfighting customers to understand their decision space and then execute our operational oceanography program using the BonD construct to give the customer the best courses of action and ensure mission success. BonD helps us ensure the highest return on investment for every dollar invested in the program.

Q: I understand NAVMETOCCOM has some unique collection capabilities at the BonD Tier 0 level. Can you describe some of them?

A: Certainly! We leverage national and international data sources like satellites, oceanographic buoys, expendable bathythermographs, surface observing systems/networks, and other sources of critical environmental data. In addition, we maintain world-class, and in some cases, unique capabilities to collect oceanographic, meteorological, hydrographic and astrometric data.

In consonance with the Military Sealift Command (MSC), we execute the scientific mission of six multimission military oceanographic survey vessels designated as T-AGS. The six ships of the USNS Pathfinder (T-AGS 60) class (with a seventh currently under construction) are continuously forward deployed and conduct hydrographic, oceanographic and acoustic surveys in all the oceans of the world. Their science teams are comprised of civilians and military from the Naval Oceanographic Office and are operated by civilian mariners under contract to MSC. These ships have modern full ocean depth multibeam and single-beam sonar systems for accurately measuring bottom depths and features, towed side-scan sonar systems for acoustic imaging of bottom features and navigation hazards, ocean current profilers, sub-bottom profilers for measuring stratification of seabed sediments, and over-the-side devices that collect physical ocean parameters such as temperature and salinity with depth.

These ships are capable of hosting a number of roll-on/roll-off systems, including systems for collection of seismic data and unmanned underwater vehicles. The ships are also equipped with C-band communications to send data directly back to the Naval Oceanographic Office for immediate processing and use in BonD. Three of the ships are complemented with hydrographic survey vessels — smaller craft for shallow water hydrographic collection.

We have been operating unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) for well over a decade. Our inventory consists of propelled vehicles, such as various models of the Remote Environmental Monitoring Units (REMUS) UUV for collection of sonar, sub-bottom and optical data in addition to buoyancy controlled, high endurance UUVs, such as the Slocum glider and wave-powered Sensor Hosting Autonomous Remote Craft (SHARC) vehicles, which collect and transmit ocean and atmospheric data in real time for satellite transfer back to our operational production centers. In addition, we use UUVs for direct support to operation missions, like mine countermeasures, where we not only characterize the battlespace but conduct mine hunting/find and fix missions as part of the warfighting team.

As part of our hydrographic capability, we also employ unique jet ski variants we call 'expeditionary survey vehicles’ or ESVs. Outfitted with single-beam and side-scan sonar, in addition to accurate Global Positioning System navigation, ESVs can be rapidly deployed and conduct hydrographic survey into the surf zone, to places where traditional systems can’t go. This data is extremely useful for supporting expeditionary warfare and enabling missions like humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. ESVs proved extremely useful for getting supplies to the beach in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake in 2010.

Lastly, we also employ a unique airborne hydrographic survey capability called the Coastal Zone Mapping and Imagery LIDAR (CZMIL) system. Using laser technology, in the right water conditions, CZMIL can rapidly survey the near-shore region, both topographically and hydrographically to safety of navigation specifications in water depths of up to 50 meters.

Q: NAVMETOCCOM is headquartered at the Stennis Space Center, which is home to the Navy Department of Defense Supercomputing Resource Center that Navy, Army and Air Force scientists and researchers use to design tools and weapons systems that support DoD's global mission. I understand the DSRC recently completed a significant upgrade. What is NAVMETOCCOM 's role with DSRC, and can you talk about what the new systems will mean to the Navy and DoD?

A: The Navy DSRC is a premier provider of high performance computing services and support to DoD scientists and engineers. It is one of five supercomputing centers established under the DoD High Performance Computing Modernization Program (HPCMP). CNMOC maintains oversight of the Navy DSRC systems that have been operational since 1997.

The Navy DSRC provides a highperformance computing capability with primary emphasis on support of the largest, most computationally-intensive HPC applications. Our center leads the way for numerous HPCMP-wide initiatives and provides our users with in-depth computational expertise and support.

While the HPCMP is primarily focused on DoD research and development programs, the Navy DSRC is unique in that approximately 15 percent of its total capability is apportioned for operational use by naval operational oceanography. Today, the Navy DSRC enables, on a daily basis, operational, global, regional and port scale ocean circulation, [and] wave and sea ice forecast numerical models supporting worldwide Navy and DoD operations. Of note, our global ocean forecast capability only became a reality a few years ago as the Navy DSRC’s computational capacity reached the 200 trillion floating point operations per second (teraflops) level.

This year, the Navy DSRC’s total computational capacity reached over 950 teraflops. This affords us computational space to not only improve our ocean models, but to bring online world-class atmospheric models within the DSRC and begin to more tightly couple ocean and atmospheric physics and energy exchange to provide a more accurate, longer range future state of the atmosphere. It is truly exciting times to be in our business.

Q: It is astonishing what NAVMETOCCOM can accomplish given its small footprint, forward robust reach-back and a combined military-civilian workforce. How is the command organized and what are its contributions to the Navy, DoD, the nation and the international community of nations?

A: Operational oceanography delivers our products and services through a small embedded footprint forward with the fleet and robust reach-back capability ashore through our highly educated, professional civilian and military workforce.

Under the guidance of the Naval Oceanography Operations Command and its subordinate commands, small teams of aerographers’ mates (AGs) and oceanography officers embed forward with the mission commanders in units, such as aircraft carriers, destroyer squadrons, Navy Special Warfare Teams and mine countermeasures squadrons, and provide the essential link between our capabilities and operations. They also leverage reach-back to operational production centers, like the Naval Oceanographic Office or Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center, for obtaining products. This allows our forward-deployed teams to effectively employ the expertise of our CONUS-based, largely civilian scientific workforce and our high-performance scientific computing capabilities. Our civilian team contributes Ph.D. level expertise to warfighting problems while our military professionals contribute their operational forecasting experience and an insight into Navy operations, platforms and weapons systems. It’s a great pairing.

Q: Your command has more than 40 cooperative agreements with nations around the world, and the Navy partners with other U.S. federal agencies, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, for example. What do these partnerships bring to the table?

A: As a small organization with a global requirement, we find our partnerships essential to sustaining our operations. They provide access to data sources key to our operational support, insight into emerging science and technology, and help all parties leverage limited budgets by reducing redundancy and pooling capabilities. Being a part of the national and international science team really has its advantages in enabling naval operational oceanography to meet our warfighter’s requirements.

Naval operational oceanography has a long history of executing cooperative military hydrographic and oceanographic surveys, as well as data, product and subject matter exchanges with our international partners. Our ability to provide emerging partners with improved capabilities in the areas of meteorology, oceanography and hydrography is unique and is highly regarded by combatant commanders and naval component commanders as an outstanding tool for strategic engagement. In turn, our partners provide access to information vital to our forward-deployed naval operations.

We also maintain strong interagency partnerships. The National Unified Operational Prediction Capability (NUOPC) initiative exemplifies how naval operational oceanography interagency partnerships contribute to enhanced capabilities. [With] the integration of modeling efforts among the Navy, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and U.S. Air Force, NUOPC provides an unparalleled global modeling capability that can be adapted by individual agencies for specific applications, like warfighting support. Another strong example is our partnership with NOAA and the U.S. Coast Guard in operating the U.S. National/Naval Ice Center, providing ice analysis and forecasts to support safety of navigation for public, commercial and DoD use in the Arctic, Antarctic, Great Lakes, and all other large bodies of water affected by ice.

Q: The NAVMETOCCOM traces its ancestry to the Depot of Charts and Instruments. What can you tell me about the history of the command?

A: Yes, the Depot of Charts and Instruments was established in 1830 with a primary mission to care for the U.S. Navy's chronometers, charts and other navigational equipment. In the 1840s, the superintendent of the Depot of Charts and Instruments was Lt. Matthew Fontaine Maury, who created and published a revolutionary series of wind and current charts. This information, which is still resident in modern computer models of ocean basins and the atmosphere, laid the foundation for the sciences of oceanography and meteorology.

In 1854, as its mission evolved and expanded, the depot was reestablished as the U.S. Naval Observatory and Hydrographic Office. The Hydrographic Office became its own entity in 1866 and ultimately became the Naval Oceanographic Office. Both of these organizations are now part of NMOC.

Atmospheric science was further developed with the birth of naval aviation early in the 20th century. During World War I and the following decades, naval aerological specialists applied the fledgling concepts of air masses and fronts to warfare, and provided forecasts to the first transatlantic flight.

The Navy's weather and ocean programs contributed greatly to Allied victory in World War II. In the Pacific, Navy forecasters cracked the Japanese weather code. Hydrographic survey ships, often under enemy fire, collected data along foreign coastlines for the creation of critical navigation charts.

In 1978, the Navy’s meteorology and oceanography programs were integrated in a single organization reflecting nature's close interaction of sea and air, which today is the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command.

Q: Is there anything else that you would like to discuss?

A: Naval operational oceanography is a key enabler of the Navy’s information dominance strategy and a member of the Information Dominance Corps. The strategic tenants of ID concentrate on providing the warfighter with assured command and control capabilities, enhanced cyber and electromagnetic kill capabilities integrated with more traditional kinetic kill capabilities to broaden warfighting options, and to provide predictive, battlespace awareness across all warfighting areas. In this sense, the battlespace includes the physical as well as the cyber and electromagnetic domain.

Naval operational oceanography is the key contributor to providing the predictive, physical maritime battlespace awareness capability. But that is only part of the answer. We continue to strengthen our ties with the intelligence and cryptology/signals intelligence communities, which provide the human-influenced part of the maritime battlespace, to deliver fused battlespace information relevant to the warfighter. This partnership existed prior to the IDC but has been enhanced in many areas due to the Navy’s focus on ID.

In the future, vital information from both intelligence and oceanography professionals will be fused into the same common operational picture afloat, providing a view of the battlespace we can only imagine today, ensuring better and faster warfighting decisions.

For More Information


CNMOC Public Affairs Office -

Rear Adm. Brian B. Brown
Rear Adm. Brian B. Brown

The Navy DoD Supercomputing Resource Center (DSRC) is home to three IBM iDataPlex supercomputers with a total theoretical peak performance exceeding 954 teraflops (trillion calculations per second). This world class scientific computing environment provides the capability for DoD scientists and engineers
to accelerate delivery of new technologies and for the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command to deliver oceanographic products that support the safety, speed and operational effectiveness of the fleet. Photo courtesy of Navy DSRC by Lynn Yott.
The Navy DoD Supercomputing Resource Center (DSRC) is home to three IBM iDataPlex supercomputers with a total theoretical peak performance exceeding 954 teraflops (trillion calculations per second). This world class scientific computing environment provides the capability for DoD scientists and engineers to accelerate delivery of new technologies and for the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command to deliver oceanographic products that support the safety, speed and operational effectiveness of the fleet. Photo courtesy of Navy DSRC by Lynn Yott.

NORTH SEA (Sept. 17, 2010) Naval Oceanographic Office surveyors John Suslavage and David Small prepare to launch autonomous underwater vehicle, REMUS 600 aboard the Military Sealift Command oceanographic survey ship USNS Henson (T-AGS 63). They are in search of the remains of John Paul Jones’ Revolutionary War ship Bonhomme Richard, which was lost off the coast of England in 1779 after a decisive battle with HMS Serapis. Jones won the battle and seized HMS Serapis as Bonhomme Richard was heavily damaged and sank 36 hours later. U.S. Navy photo by Rebecca Burke.
NORTH SEA (Sept. 17, 2010) Naval Oceanographic Office surveyors John Suslavage and David Small prepare to launch autonomous underwater vehicle, REMUS 600 aboard the Military Sealift Command oceanographic survey ship USNS Henson (T-AGS 63). They are in search of the remains of John Paul Jones’ Revolutionary War ship Bonhomme Richard, which was lost off the coast of England in 1779 after a decisive battle with HMS Serapis. Jones won the battle and seized HMS Serapis as Bonhomme Richard was heavily damaged and sank 36 hours later. U.S. Navy photo by Rebecca Burke.
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