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CHIPS Articles: SPAWAR Single Technical Authority for IT Systems

SPAWAR Single Technical Authority for IT Systems
By Rear Adm. Patrick H. Brady, Commander, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command - October-December 2012
In a letter titled “Navy Information Dominance Way Ahead” dated Sept. 8, 2011, the Chief of Naval Operations directed the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Dominance (OPNAV N2/N6) to seek of Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development & Acquisition (ASN RDA) support for a plan to unify technical authority for IT/information systems, communications and networks under SPAWAR.

Since then, OPNAV, ASN RDA, Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) and SPAWAR have been working together to develop guidance to implement this task, and I believe it is one of our most important efforts to fundamentally improve the way the Navy develops, procures, installs and sustains IT systems and networks.

Establishing a single Technical Authority (TA) will provide the architectures, requirements, interfaces, technical standards, tools, and systems engineering and integration processes that are in conformance with applicable policies and will drive effectiveness and efficiency into our IT development and acquisition, across the Navy.

Building the single TA for information technology, communications and networks is a prime enabler to achieve the Navy’s information dominance vision. Lack of consolidated authority, responsibility and accountability for information and communication systems, ashore and afloat, creates economic inefficiencies, interoperability issues, and hinders our progress toward information dominance.

The power of a single TA leverages sound system engineering principles to impact acquisition decisions at the Navywide level through individual programs. Developing the single TA aligns with the previous work SPAWAR has been doing in this area while better preparing the Navy to meet fiscal pressures.

From our perspective, TA encompasses a few key elements. First, it assures adherence by programs and projects to prescribed technical standards and policy. IT systems and networks are pervasive throughout our operations and are central to the information dominance warfare area. Standards and policy keep these systems interoperable, capable and secure. Second, it ensures that support continues throughout the life cycle of the program or project.

One-off or non-program of record system buys may fulfill an immediate fleet requirement at a favorable short-term cost. However, the preponderance of system acquisition costs occurs during the in-service sustainment phase. Adding a new system without a resourcing plan in place for sustainment is asking for problems in the out-years.

The final and broader advantage of a single TA is that it ensures practical and complete solutions to programmatic technical needs and solutions that fit into the bigger picture. This drives solutions that complement or leverage existing systems, avoids redundancy and fields systems that enhance the operational excellence of our IT systems and networks. The bottom line is better capability for the fleet with less overhead and cost.

System of systems (SoS) engineering is SPAWAR’s central approach that addresses the required elements of a single TA. A government study showed that when a project spent 10–15 percent of its budget on systems engineering, the project came in on time and on cost. The analysis and insight provided by a sound SoS approach from top-level requirements down to the project level is essential in the technical, fiscal and security environment for IT systems and networks.

There are challenges in establishing a single TA. The large number of IT systems and because IT is elemental to so many other weapons systems and platforms make codifying the scope of governance complex work. SPAWAR is working with the OPNAV staff and partner commands to establish the governing instruction and supporting documentation for a single TA with incremental establishment of the authority through fiscal years 2012 and 2013.

The bottom line is that when the single TA is in place, the Navy will be able to better provide cost-effective information dominance capabilities to the fleet. It’s a very important effort with tremendous potential for our Navy.

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Rear Adm. Patrick H. Brady
Rear Adm. Patrick H. Brady
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