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C4ISR symposium

Navy aims to modernize IT infrastructure with shrinking budgets

“Today more than ever, firepower alone cannot determine who wins wars,” said Dr. John Zangardi, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Information Operations and Space. “Information is the arms race of this century, and we need a strategic focus on the information dominance warfare domain.”

But the problem is that shrinking Department of Defense budgets makes it increasingly difficult to procure and onboard these top-of-the-line technologies designed to give the warfighter a distinct advantage by coupling information and analytics with his local knowledge and skillset.

“Today’s military operations are very complex and involve a warfighter with numerous roles,” at a time when minimal-manning ships like the Littoral Combat and Zumwalt classes are starting to come online in force, Zangardi said. “These many roles mean the warfighters need the right information and support to succeed in their assigned tasks. The role of the programs under my purview is enabling warfighters to fill many of those roles, and synchronize their contributions.”

Zangardi outlined some of the systems the Department of the Navy already has in place or is working toward at the 2014 AFCEA C4ISR Symposium Tuesday, but made one thing clear: The department cannot, and will not, be cost agnostic in its acquisition of new systems.

The Global Mobile Command and Control System -- Maritime (GCCS -- M) is in use, and serves to provide commanders a single, integrated, scalable command and control system, according to Zangardi.

The follow-on suite, Maritime Tactical Command and Control (MTC2) will add mission management, planning, assessment and monitoring capabilities to the platform when it becomes available to the fleet.

Additionally, Zangardi said the Distributed Common Ground System-Navy (DCGS-N) has its Increment 2 in the “starting gate and is getting ready to go.” This update to Increment 1 is expected to fill capability gaps and include the ability to process sensor data from both manned and unmanned sensors, and contains an analytical tool that will improve the fleet’s ability to detect and identify tactical theater data.

One system that is needed but still in the development phase at the Office of Naval Research, with no plans of becoming an official project anytime soon, is the tactical cloud. This would provide more secure access to a greater amount of data with the ability to analyze it in more dynamic ways. Zangardi said he predicts it’s years away from reality, even after the ONR’s roughly $40 million investment in the technology, especially since he said there is no technology transition agreement in place to take it from something in development to an actual project.

“So no, it’s not a program, it still has a way to go -- the path forward is through Increment 2, in my opinion,” he said.

Other information technology systems due for an upgrade include the Navy’s Tactical Command Support System (NTCSS). Zangardi said there is a “strong desire” by leadership to advance this system, and its Marine Corps counterpart, to a more modern architecture that will allow the Joint Task Force Commander the ability to ensure the platforms are properly equipped.

A Joint Information Environment (JIE) wherein the Department of Defense would deliver its services and capabilities locally, has been top of mind recently, and represents a major shift to a single security architecture to ensure a more secure and agile IT infrastructure.

Zangardi said that Next Generation Enterprise Network (NGEN) is the way for the Navy to move forward with JIE.

“NGEN represents the Navy’s evolutionary path to JIE,” he said. “Let me say that one more time: NGEN is our path to JIE. Once we can understand what the standards are. ... And they become available, NGEN will procure to those standards.”

Here again Zangardi echoed what he pointed out several times: “We will not be cost agnostic in our approach to JIE; cost is important, but we will continue to press in this area to ensure our networks and architecture are agile and responsive and secure.”

Zangardi said a large part of the Navy and entire Department of Defense’s ability to stay ahead of the curve while staying in the black falls to industry.

“We look to you, industry partners, to help us to find ways to evolve with technology and help facilitate a path forward,” he said.

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