Data Packets

Navy blazes trail for joint network

At the Navy’s recent Next Generation Enterprise Network industry day, Navy officials laid out their latest plans for NGEN and told industry representatives that the impact of the network services fielded under the program would be felt across the Defense Department.

Robert Carey, chief information officer at the Navy Department, said NGEN’s goal of accessing applications and data anywhere on the network by swiping a Common Access Card is one that extends well beyond the Navy.

“We’re going to be the trailblazers for that activity,” Carey said March 31.

Officials from the Navy’s NGEN System Program Office organized the industry day. The NGEN SPO is a new organization created last year to encompass all aspects of the NGEN project and the transition from its predecessor, the Navy Marine Corps Intranet. In February, Rear Adm. Bill Goodwin was named assistant chief of naval operations and is responsible for overseeing the NGEN SPO.

To gain more control over and visibility into the operation of the network, the Navy is looking at several acquisition models for NGEN. But in all of them, the Navy Department will have overall responsibility for network operations. Although the Navy is seeking to have contractors perform much of the on-site labor required to maintain NGEN desktops and other systems, the Marine Corps will largely use its own Marines for that role, with assistance from contractors as required.

That’s a major shift from NMCI's outsourcing strategy. Under a commercial-services contract with EDS, which is now a unit of Hewlett-Packard, EDS handled almost all of the operation and maintenance of the network and its component services. Bringing operations back in-house carries with it perhaps more complexities than Navy officials had anticipated.

Because of the size of the NGEN contract, it falls under the governance of Defense Department Directives 5000.01 and 5000.02. That has added more compliance requirements and complexity to the acquisition, as the Navy must have its acquisition strategy approved by the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.

NGEN SPO officials announced at the event that they would seek a sole-source contract with HP’s EDS unit to continue to provide contracted services for more than three years after the end of EDS’ NMCI contract. Navy officials don’t anticipate awarding contracts for NGEN until 2011, after which, NGEN will be phased in during a 28-month period.

NGEN program manager Capt. Tim Holland said the contract would include a government-use license for the intellectual property associated with running NMCI. Many competitors consider that information to be critical for the NGEN contract, because NGEN will need to integrate with NMCI services when the contract begins and then match or exceed NMCI's service level.

Carey told industry representatives that they should not view NGEN as separate from the Navy Department's Naval Networking Environment 2016 (NNE 2016) strategy. Rather, NGEN is a step toward the capabilities that the Navy seeks to achieve through that strategic goal.

“This isn’t just a cookie-cutter replacement [for NMCI]; this is the opportunity to break out and create capabilities that don't exist today,” he said. “You will see the NNE 2016 tenets in this acquisition, so just be mindful of that.”

— Sean Gallagher

Navy issues RFP for shipboard network

The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command released a request for proposals April 3 for the Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services (CANES) program’s Increment 1. The RFP covers the design, development, integration and production of a common computing environment and tactical network for Navy ships.

CANES is the shipboard counterpart to the Navy’s Next Generation Enterprise Network (NGEN) and a component of the Navy’s Naval Networking Environment 2016 (NNE 2016) vision, as described by Navy Department Chief Information Officer Robert Carey.

Although the Navy has previously moved toward commercial hardware for much of its shipboard command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) infrastructure, Spawar spokesman Steven Davis said CANES represents a major shift in the way the Navy buys C4ISR systems.

Because CANES will allow the Navy to add new applications as components of a network instead of stand-alone systems, officials of the Navy’s Spawar and Program Executive Office for C4I Tactical Networks said they believe that CANES will yield “significant financial savings for the government and [speed] the delivery of required capability to the fleet,” Davis said.

Although CANES is a separate system from NGEN, which is designed to deliver network services ashore to the Navy and Marine Corps, the Navy is doing a lot of work to align the two programs, said Rear Adm. Bill Goodwin, assistant chief of naval operations, who is responsible for overseeing the NGEN System Program Office (NGEN SPO). “That’s my part in the vision of the common environment of 2016,” he said at the NGEN industry day March 31. “There are teams looking at how we integrate the two, maybe not complete integration but at least interoperability."

Interoperability is critical to ensure that units such as aircraft deployed to carriers can move from ashore to afloat and have at least a compatible network environment to plug into, he said.

CANES' design will need to deviate in many ways from NGEN’s approach, if only because of bandwidth, said John Gauss, head of the NGEN SPO's acquisition division.

“You’re tethered with a satellite network that doesn’t have the bandwidth of the terrestrial environment,” Gauss said. “That said, there are a lot of things that can be done to achieve [interoperability] between afloat and ashore.”

Gauss said one hurdle to interoperability is Common Access Card single sign-on. “There are technology issues that have to be resolved so that that CAC will work,” he said.

— Sean Gallagher

Administration approves spy satellite program

A plan from the director of national intelligence and the Defense secretary to modernize the country’s spy satellite architecture has the backing of the Obama administration, and the program is expected to win congressional approval.

The electro-optical satellite modernization program involves building new satellites that the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) would operate and expanding the use of imagery from commercial providers, according to a statement the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released April 7. Under the plan, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency would continue to integrate imagery products for government customers.

If Congress approves funding for the satellites, officials said that within the next several months, the program would start working on the commercial imagery aspects, which could become operational in the next several years. They expect the entire program to be deployed before the end of the next decade.

A senior intelligence official speaking on background said that given the backing of the Defense Department, ODNI and the Obama administration, lawmakers are expected to approve the plan.

The program’s cost is classified. However, media reports estimate the program could cost as much as $10 billion during the next five years.

The plan's objective is to prevent gaps in coverage if repairs are necessary to satellite systems for which many parts are no longer available, the senior intelligence official said. The proposed satellite constellation would provide equivalent functionality to what the government has now, the official said.

The official said a decision has not yet been made on the acquisition approach for the program. However, ODNI and NRO would oversee the acquisition strategy for the new government-built satellites and a contract would likely be awarded within months. The official added that DOD would handle the procurement of commercial image providers, and the new program would probably involve expanding the government’s agreements with GeoEye and DigitalGlobe.

The official also said the new plan is careful to avoid the problems that plagued the Future Imagery Architecture project, an earlier modernization effort. ODNI said in its April 7 statement that the current plan resulted from studies that examined needs, alternative architectures, costs, technological risk and industry readiness.

— Ben Bain

DOD pulls plug on TSAT

After years of increasing doubt, cuts and redrafting the Transformational Satellite (TSAT) program – once considered such a vital part of the future net-centric battlefield – finally seems to be dead. Defense Secretary Robert Gates axed it in an April 6 program review.

The program could still be revived by Congress during its upcoming budget considerations, but that’s unlikely. Lawmakers have consistently cut funding for TSAT over the past few years, and attitudes there do not seem to have changed.

Added to that is the latest analysis of defense programs from the Congressional Budget Office, which called for buying existing communications satellites while canceling TSAT.

Gates did exactly that. At the same time that he wiped the $26 billion TSAT from the books, he recommended the purchase of two more Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellites, bringing the planned total of that fleet up to five.

TSAT would have nearly doubled the 30 Gigabits/second bandwidth available from existing satellite programs. The two extra AHEF satellites will add another 17 Gigabits/second.

Explaining his reasons for the decision during a recent tour of military war colleges, Gates said his approach was based on several criteria.

“The first was to halt or delay production on systems that relied on promising, but as yet unproven, technology,” he said, “while continuing to produce – and if necessary upgrade – systems that are best in class and that we know work.”

Although the available bandwidth from current military satellites and planned systems such as AEHF, Wideband Global SATCOM and Mobile Objective User System are considered enough for future needs, what’s not clear yet is what impact of the loss of more innovative aspects of TSAT will have.

The program was meant to extend the Internet-like capabilities of the Global Information Grid to users in the field through such things as space-based packet routing, for example. Commercial satellites could provide that kind of service, but not to the assured, secure and jam-resistant standard that TSAT would have delivered.

Also up in the air is if and how other elements of the TSAT program could be repurposed. In particular, the TSAT Mission Operations System is being developed by Lockheed Martin as the network management link for a broad spectrum of mission areas that would have been connected through TSAT.

Brian Robinson

Report: DOD needs social-networking strategy

The Defense Department needs to develop a strategy for using social-networking software to achieve its mission goals, according to an advance copy of a paper written by security researchers at the DOD-funded National Defense University (NDU).

The researchers examined how the U.S. government, its allies and potential enemies are using social-media tools and concluded that DOD must be prepared to buy or build such tools and educate the department’s workforce on how to use them. The authors recommend that DOD develop a strategy that would guide social-media software use for specific problems and make the organizational and cultural changes needed for information to flow more freely.

“Experimentation with social tools is educational and should be encouraged; however, experimentation alone is tantamount to tactics in search of a strategy,” the report states. “As in the private sector, starting with a strategy for using social software that includes vision and planning will form a foundation for both downstream tactics and upstream organizational changes and cultural buy-in.”

Mark Drapeau, an associate research fellow at NDU’s Center for Technology and National Security Policy, and Linton Wells, a distinguished research professor at the university, wrote the report.

The report represents the initial findings of research for DOD policy-makers that began in April 2008 and focused on tools such as blogs, microblogs and social-networking Web sites. The research is an effort to conduct an inventory of available social-media technologies, identify impediments to DOD personnel using such software, engage with the private sector, and advise senior DOD leaders.

The authors recounted many ways that social-media tools have been used to influence public opinion and politics and support causes. They concluded that DOD should encourage the use of such tools. However, they also said that before pressing for widespread adoption, officials must address strategic, tactical and operational issues.

Drapeau and Wells said that because national security efforts increasingly expand beyond fighting wars to include peacekeeping, humanitarian efforts and reconstruction, a DOD strategy for incorporating social-media tools into its missions should also benefit other government agencies.

— Doug Beizer

DISA shops for emerging technologies

The Defense Information Systems Agency is seeking research proposals on technologies that can improve command and control and information sharing, according to a recent announcement on the Federal Business Opportunities Web site.

One area DISA is interested in is Web 2.0 technologies, according to the announcement first posted in January and revised April 3.

The agency is seeking proposals for research into social-networking techniques and Web-oriented architectures. Technology that lets users designate what content they want, also known as a mashup, is another goal of the project, the announcement states.

“This project leverages the Web-oriented architecture and provides the warfighter, from analyst to decision-maker, with the ability to ‘mash up’ these services and content in a rapidly comprehensible manner that enables social networking and global awareness,” the announcement states. Officials also want network infrastructure improvements to address the intelligence community’s need for larger bandwidth and storage capabilities.

The new capabilities must provide the mission-support services necessary to achieve interoperability and integration goals for working with coalition forces, especially for counterterrorism, and they must enhance homeland defense and security.

DISA’s Advanced Concepts Office issued the announcement for the project, called Rapid Architecture and Web Support. The deadline for proposals is Jan. 14, 2010. The agency expects to issue multiple awards and plans to test the research efforts through the Broad Agency Announcement process.

Doug Beizer

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