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CHIPS Articles: Interview with the Department of the Navy Chief Information Officer Mr. Robert J. Carey

Interview with the Department of the Navy Chief Information Officer Mr. Robert J. Carey
By CHIPS Magazine - July-September 2007
Mr. Robert J. Carey became the sixth Department of the Navy Chief Information Officer November 2006. Reporting directly to the Secretary of the Navy, he is the principal adviser to the Secretary in all matters related to the mandates of the Clinger-Cohen Act; Chapter 35 of Title 44, United States Code; Section 2223 of Title 10. In his position as DON CIO, Mr. Carey is also designated as the DON Critical Infrastructure Assurance Officer and the DON IM/IT Workforce Community Leader.

CHIPS interviewed Mr. Carey in December 2006 several months into his deployment to Iraq as the plans officer for a construction regiment. While serving in Iraq, Carey worked closely with the Seabees providing engineering support to I Marine Expeditionary Force (IMEF) (Fwd)/Multi-National Force West.

Now that he has been back and leading efforts detailed in the DON Information Management and Information Technology Strategic Plan for FY 2006-2007 , CHIPS asked Mr. Carey about technology successes and challenges in Iraq and the DON's ongoing work in support of the warfighter.

CHIPS: Has serving in Iraq brought any new insights into the way the DON CIO should focus support for Sailors and Marines on the ground?

Mr. Carey: Emphatically, yes! Being a consumer of IT on the ground at the tip of the spear, afforded me an opportunity to understand what tools are used by the Sailors and Marines we support in that part of the world. It has allowed me to understand that infrastructure requirements in theater are similar to those that exist on smaller ships that have limited bandwidth.

I can equate my experience in Iraq somewhat to that of a Sailor on a small deck ship like a frigate. My ability to get to the Internet and use Web-based applications was limited.

Things like the Next Generation Enterprise Network (NGEN) are vitally important to overcome the gaps that exist in connectivity between the warfighter at the tip of the spear and CONUS (continental United States) and afloat forces. We have near infinite access to data and information whereas downrange we have finite access to data and information for decision-making.

The NGEN is intended to connect networks in Iraq to networks on gray-hulled ships to networks that are OCONUS (outside the continental U.S.) and not in the war theater to networks that are in CONUS.

Interconnecting our network, using it around the globe, and making it fungible and agile will allow us to better support the warfighting mission. Information is at the heart of every warfighting mission so getting information to warfighters from wherever it exists will be realizable with the NGEN. Things like reachback and security are in the front sites and are going to be accommodated by the NGEN design.

CHIPS: Is the NGEN going to connect shore activities and the fleet across the globe seamlessly?

Mr. Carey: Yes, if it does not, we have not served our Sailors or Marines well. We have had shortcomings with connectivity in theater; network infrastructures in Iraq are limited to the servers they connect to and they are not on the same domain as people here in the United States, so information access is somewhat limited.

The NGEN should be the vehicle that would enable information access globally through the use of transparent computing environments. They would have a common set of standards that would exist shipboard, CONUS and OCONUS so that if a Sailor or Marine needs information on the ground in Iraq and has role-based access to that information, he or she should be able to get to it.

Lessons learned from the Navy Marine Corps Intranet will be integrated into planning; NGEN will consider those lessons learned and work to remedy them to the extent that we can.

CHIPS: Is there an implementation time line for the NGEN?

Mr. Carey: We, the Navy staff and the Marine Corps staff, are establishing a strategy in conjunction with working on requirements. The strategy will guide which requirements we pursue and employ and which requirements we don't. It will give us a prioritization model for NGEN requirements. At the same time, the acquisition community, led by the Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems (PEO EIS) is developing the acquisition strategy.

The plan is that NGEN will be in place before the NMCI contract expires because it is not a renewable contract. By October 2010, NGEN has to be operational and running smoothly because so much of the Department's mission is fully embedded in IT processes and networks.

The Department of the Navy is ramping up the number of people working on NGEN, working on the requirements and trying to sort out how this network will connect and knit together the ONE-NET networks, the ISNS (Integrated Shipboard Network System), parts of the MCEN (Marine Corps Enterprise Network) and the NMCI. The plan is to span Iraq to the gray-hulls — to OCONUS to shore — to CONUS ashore.

I am dedicating staff to this vital effort and PEO EIS, OPNAV N6 (Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Communication Networks), and Marine Corps C4 are also putting resources into this effort.

Looking back at NMCI, it required many people aligned to bring it to fruition.

CHIPS: Will it also run Navy Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)?

Mr. Carey: Yes. It must run all Navy and Marine Corps applications. The thought and planning that has to go into the bandwidth, the server farms and basic infrastructure requirements to run these applications are tremendous.

We will have a seamless network infrastructure, a set of common standards, and a much reduced set of applications and portals by the time this network environment takes off. We know we have too many now, and we have to consolidate servers, applications, portals and Web sites so that we buy only what we need.

People running portals have to be concerned about the content on the portal and not so much about the server down the hall and the sys-admin guy in charge of it. This is about trust, using Defense Knowledge Online and having more enterprise solutions that cost less money and require less stovepipe command-specific solutions.

NGEN will be the next forcing function, much like NMCI was, to continue to streamline and make our IT infrastructure more enterprise in nature and less specific. NGEN affords the opportunity to fulfill the need for enterprise solutions, standard desktops, standard security practices, and to recalibrate the Department of the Navy's IT infrastructure.

CHIPS: Will users interpret this effort as more restrictions on the network?

Mr. Carey: I hope not. I hope this provides avenues to get our mission done more efficiently and more effectively and to have greater access to data and knowledge.

We have to adopt an enterprise view where it is appropriate to align training and align the skills of our IT workforce. We need fungibility across the Navy, Marine Corps, civilians and contractors in the IT workforce so that if I have an IT problem in Charleston and I have a Navy civilian, a Navy lieutenant and a contractor, I could use any of those three to solve it.

Moreover, if they have come from one of the three communities — overseas, ashore or afloat — I should have a reasonable expectation that I won't have to do a lot of training to get them to work in a different niche on the same network environment.

CHIPS: Are you also looking at implementing voice-over-Internet Protocol on the NGEN?

Mr. Carey: Yes. VOIP is a powerful technology that, applied correctly, will deliver voice communications that are efficient and effective. We need to examine business cases to invest in VOIP so that it makes sense.

We used VOIP in theater for SIPRNET access, and it worked well. Network reliability has to be high to deliver voice, and the bandwidth has to be available to support this requirement.

Will we employ VOIP across the Department? We need to be sure, as we deploy any new technology, that the business case makes sense.

CHIPS: Can you talk about the technology successes that you saw in Iraq?

Mr. Carey: There was a vast amount of success inserting technology into Iraq — the use of robots, which you may have seen in the news, and the use of semiautonomous or autonomous vehicles with communications links are a couple of examples. This technology requires significant IT skills on the part of the operators.

Troops on the ground are operating toys that aren't actually toys; they are high technology tools of war. We have robots being operated by 19 year-olds to examine an IED (improvised explosive device) that is 200 meters away. It is an impressive use of technology.

We used chat and IM (instant messaging). I have gone into places and watched a young Sailor or Marine operating 10 to 12 chat sessions at once and monitoring what is going on in various functional areas that he is responsible for. That is the fastest and most efficient use of his time. Previously, he would have been trying to call people to gather information. Now he monitors chat sessions and he can send chat signals if he gets information that he needs to send to the rest of the people on those networks.

Satellite phones are used in theater for MWR (morale, welfare and recreation) purposes. Small UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) are used, and what were formerly large drones in the sky are getting smaller, and the fidelity of their transmission of information, whether it is video, still photos or infrared photos (or whatever communications path they use), gets better and better.

There is a lot of good technology insertion over there, but all of it has to be balanced by having a logistics support tail to take care of it. Organizations like the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab, the Marine Corps Combat Development Command, the EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) Technology Center in Indian Head, Maryland, the Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Virginia, and the Joint IED Defeat Organization are all heavily engaged in delivering solutions. I work with all of them and the singular focus of delivering to the guys on the ground is apparent.

We are testing the technology before it gets into theater as opposed to testing it on the ground and risking malfunctions in theater. This has to be done while balancing the need to speed the delivery of solutions to meet the urgent needs of the people on the ground.

CHIPS: I know that the DON CIO team is working on the upcoming World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC) in which many spectrum issues will be addressed. Do you foresee that some of the problems with spectrum used by ground troops will be resolved?

Mr. Carey: The WRC is the culmination of over four years of work and negotiation within the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the leading United Nations agency for information and communication technologies. As the Department's representative to the ITU, the DON CIO's job is to affect the process to promote and protect the interests of not only the DON, but also our DoD and national priorities on spectrum-related issues.

Will we resolve some things at the upcoming WRC? Yes, we will be improving our Maritime Domain Awareness posture and creating allies to our positions on preserving high frequency communications, critical to our global operations.

We are using the ITU and each WRC to step into the future. We are increasingly engaged now and looking forward. Spectrum is a limited resource and over the last 10 or 12 years we have aggressively participated in this space. The ITU did not have the attention that it does now because commercial and military technologies had not matured to the point that there was significant competition for spectrum. This competition impacts Navy, Marine Corps and DoD assets.

We are working to ensure that we can continue our mission while existing in a world that wants to use the same resource.

CHIPS: In view of the rapid pace of technology development, is the DON IM and IT Strategic Plan FY 2006-2007 a fluid document? Is the DON CIO working on the next plan?

Mr. Carey: The heart and soul of the plan stays stable, but it will have some teeth in it so people understand that we are holding ourselves accountable for delivering the performance that IT is intended to deliver to the Department. The most important change will be the incorporation of key performance indicators for each of the goals.

We will assess what we're doing against these performance indicators or metrics and make Department-level decisions on what we find. If we find something that is not aligned like it should be, it becomes an opportunity to further investigate whether to put money on it or not.

Some things are going to be emphasized more than they were in the past — like security and privacy — both important but becoming even more so in the future due to the proliferation and sensitivity of information. Additionally, we are issuing a DON CIO Campaign Plan that speaks to some specific goals and quick wins we will accomplish in the next 12 to 18 months.

CHIPS: Each of the warfare domains and echelon II commands have their own strategic plan for how they want to accomplish their mission. How would you advise commands to use the DON IM and IT Strategic Plan to accomplish their mission more effectively?

Mr. Carey: One of my tenets has been 'connect to the warfighter' and connect what occurs inside the beltway to help the warfighter more directly than it has in the past.

As I look at these other plans, I see that there is opportunity to leverage the DON IM and IT Strategic Plan as well as the Campaign Plan. If you drill down into the IM/IT plan, it is not a DON CIO document; it is a DON document. The N6 staff, the Marine Corps C4 staff and the echelon II CIOs offer us advice and counsel on what they want in the plan.

I see it as a lever. IT crosses every domain in depth and in breadth. It is overarching across all the warfare domains. Commands can leverage the plan as they see fit. I hope that if someone is looking across these plans, they don't see any discontinuities across warfare areas.

They will see common themes by design and purpose and some level of coincidence. We don't coauthor each other's plan, but we are all using the same type of technologies that we know will facilitate mission success.

For more information about the DON CIO, go to the DON CIO Web site at

The Department of the Navy Chief Information Officer Rob Carey leading the DON Information Management and Information Technology Workforce Town Hall at the DON IM and IT Conference at the Virginia Beach Convention Center, Virginia Beach, Va., June 20, 2007.
The Department of the Navy Chief Information Officer Rob Carey leading the DON Information Management and Information Technology Workforce Town Hall at the DON IM and IT Conference at the Virginia Beach Convention Center, Virginia Beach, Va., June 20, 2007.
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