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CHIPS Articles: Transforming the Naval Network Experience

Transforming the Naval Network Experience
By Louis Koplin and Andrew Tash - July-September 2020
The Need to Modernize

The Navy – Marine Corps team is faced every day with a jarringly different IT experience at work and, especially in the age of mass telework, at home. Most of us have probably asked why IT at work can’t work as well as IT at home. Is the problem that we’re not spending enough money on our enterprise networks? Surprisingly, perhaps not – the Department of the Navy spends about 6% of its overall budget on IT. That’s around $11 billion per year, which is in-line with other IT-intensive world-class commercial organizations. But if the spend is right — and the outcomes are wrong — there must be another problem.

The DON Chief Information Officer leadership team found the department continues to invest in outdated commercial technologies that are 15 to 20 years behind industry standards, while the department’s technical debt continues to climb. Therefore, it is time to transform the DON’s approach to investing in digital platforms.

The DON Information Superiority Vision describes how we must Modernize, Innovate, and Defend: this is the heart of Modernize.

Vision for Transforming Naval Digital Platforms

DON CIO and the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition (ASN(RDA)) are in lockstep to move from a culture of delivering one-of-a-kind products for each DON community of interest to one of delivering high-quality services that can support multiple communities by reusing a common solution. This means a purposefully architected set of core services — across compute and store; data and analytics; workplace automation; management and security; app development and deployment; identity, transport and communications; and end user devices — that can span programs of record (and non-PoR IT efforts).

The delivery of these services must be in line with how industry delivers services, in terms of the end-user experience and the cost of doing business. To get there may require changing roles, responsibilities, service models, and funding models.

Does this mean one-size-fits-all? No! But it is a shift from defaulting to always building technology solutions from scratch to one of using shared services and only building additional technology solutions to extend, enhance, or integrate with enterprise solutions.

Blueprint for Transformation

The scope of transformation extends from ship to shore, from foxhole to flagpole — across the Navy and Marine Corps; public, controlled unclassified, secret and above; the RDT&E community; battlespace awareness; combat systems; unmanned vehicles; and tactical networks.

Transformation will be incremental much like the Transcontinental Railroad was built with teams starting from both U.S. coasts, on standard gauge, and then hammering in the unity spike at Promontory Summit. In the DON’s digital transformation, we can have multiple teams working toward the center from their respective starting points.

Over four months from February to July 2020, the Program Executive Office (PEO) Digital and Enterprise Solutions’ Naval Digital Platform Transformation (NDPT) cross-functional team brought together networking, security, and data subject matter experts to design a modern network architecture that enables cloud services and allows for flexible access according to zero trust principles.

As the COVID-19 pandemic spread and maximum telework became a priority for workforce productivity, the NDPT team focused on the unclassified ashore environment to deliver Microsoft 365 and the Integrated Network Operations / Command and Control (INOCC) executed by the Next Generation Enterprise Network Re-Compete (family of contracts) for Service Management, Integration and Transport (NGEN-R SMIT). (Other related contracts were implemented as needed.) These concepts and designs are applicable to the whole scope of network modernization, and reflect PEO Digital Modern Service Delivery (MSD), shown in Figure 1.

In addition to the creation of the target architecture blueprint, success was also achieved in the methodologies embraced in the course of this effort:

  • Cross Naval engagement, considered the Naval enterprise at large.
  • Agile project management – work decomposed to epics, features, and sprints, with product owners able to flexibly prioritize. (Epics are large complex bodies of IT processes that can be broken down into a number of smaller tasks.)
  • Modern Service Delivery was embraced and now defines the foundational design principles of NDP. MSD is the design approach applied to all services. It ensures strategic alignment, interoperability, and integration across the DON and the DoD.
  • Virtual and physical government laboratories were established and leveraged to validate the design and for improving government ownership of the technical details. Completion of the government laboratory is being finalized and will be used for future network modernization testing. Hands-on government lab participation translates into a smart buyer model that reduces costs and validates technical solutions.

These methodologies will serve as a catalyst for larger organizational change.

New PEOs

In May 2020, PEO Enterprise Information Systems (EIS) was disestablished and replaced by the PEO for Manpower, Logistics, and Business Solutions (MLB) and the previously mentioned PEO Digital. PEO Digital was created to provide a permanent organization for service delivery, including the NDPT scope of work. The NDPT Team’s work will transition into PEO Digital to take the target architecture and continue to design, delivery and broker services in the NDP.

Moving Forward

The architecture blueprint is Epic 1 of 6 in the larger NDPT vision and framework. Future epics will deliver additional blueprints for other mission areas, operating environments and digital services. This technology blueprint takes the direction — the North Star — of the DON’s Information Superiority Vision and grounds it in a specific place so that we can begin to design roadmaps to transition our current portfolios of enterprise and shore infrastructure; application development and deployment; data and analytics; and digital workplace to a modernized digital destination.

Louis Koplin, is the Deputy Chief Technology Officer (CTO), and Andrew Tash, is the Chief Architect in the office of PEO Digital.

Editor’s Note: Please see "Navy Establishes Two New IT Delivery Offices" for more information about PEO Digital and PEO MLB - https://www.doncio.navy.mil/CHIPS/ArticleDetails.aspx?ID=13570

Figure 1. Illustration of the PEO Digital Modern Service Delivery Model
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