Navy strengthens IT capabilities across fleet
New approach to applications development will keep pace with innovations
Rear Adm. Jerry Burroughs is the Navy’s program executive officer for command, control, communications, computers and intelligence, a position he has held since March 2010. Burroughs previously was chief engineer at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command.
The Navy Program Executive Office for C4I acquires, fields and supports networks; communications; and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems for the Navy and Marine Corps, and it includes 10 Program Management Warfare (PMW) offices. Burroughs recently spoke to Defense Systems Editor-in-Chief Barry Rosenberg about the PEO’s near-term priorities that involve technology upgrades, new development approaches and acquisition improvements.
DS: What’s at the top of your to-do list right now?
Burroughs: We recently signed out our new strategic plan, which concentrates in three areas: minimizing costs, rapidly delivering new capabilities, and developing our workforce and equipping them to achieve acquisition excellence. Most importantly, we are laser focused on providing innovative and integrated capabilities that reduce total ownership costs, because in today’s environment, cost has to be your first consideration.
DS: What are some of the cost targets you’re aiming at?
Burroughs: I don’t have an overall target for the PEO, but for every program that comes in, we set targets for what that program should cost and look for ways that we can reduce the costs. I don’t know if you read [Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics] Ashton Carter’s memo recently, but we are focused on what he said (regarding) the must or should cost [that gets technology to the field quicker]. The cost must be a key parameter that you look at as you go through all the milestones.
DS: Where within PEO C4I do you see an opportunity to reduce costs?
Burroughs: I think the biggest opportunity we have is reducing the number of programs we have. I have over 120 projects and programs, which is a tremendous amount to manage with the size of the workforce that I have. And a lot of them are legacy programs that take a lot of time and money in sustainment. And frankly, the older systems get, the more it costs to keep them going. So we have to get rid of the legacy systems and look for ways to transition to newer systems. If I could point to one thing and that will help us to reduce total ownership costs, that would be it.
DS: That is what the Navy has in mind with the Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services (CANES) program, in which legacy systems will be replaced by commercial hardware that can be easily upgraded.
Burroughs: Absolutely. You know, we have networks out in the fleet now that are 10-plus years old. You can imagine that if you have a home computer that’s 10 years old, it’s not working very well, if by chance it’s still working at all. And it’s probably not very secure and takes a lot of your time to keep it going. So CANES is absolutely pivotal to the first two priorities that I mentioned earlier. DS: What is PEO C4I doing to more rapidly deliver relevant capabilities to warfighters?
Burroughs: We have to look for more innovative ways within today’s acquisition framework to get capability out to the fleet, but more importantly, you’ve heard a lot of talk about acquisition reform, especially in the IT arena. So as that evolves, I think that will offer us a lot of opportunities to more rapidly field capabilities.DS: The topic of acquisition reform seems to come up every few years, as does the desire to rapidly field new capabilities. So what is it about the acquisition process now that prevents you from doing that? In other words, how do you speed the introduction of new technologies while dealing with the existing system?
: Well, as you know, the existing system is very platform-focused, and it takes years to get through the requirements process, develop a design, and then field it. And that’s probably appropriate for a ship or an airplane that has to last 35 to 40 years. But my systems are obsolete in five to six years in many cases. If you look at the way we did CANES, it’s actually a pretty rapid program and is utilizing what was called the IT Box Acquisition Initiative. I don’t know if you are familiar with that one.
DS: Tell me about it.Burroughs
: It was signed out last year as an initiative for IT systems that are software intensive and [commercial], and CANES luckily enough fit both of those, so we’re taking advantage of that. IT Box is codified under [the Joint Capabilities Integration Development System]. While JCIDS can be quite cumbersome and at times appear to be overly bureaucratic, the IT Box was a fix/solution to accommodate the uniqueness and the frequency of technological innovations and capability/performance improvements associated with IT-related capability development. Additionally, [the Joint Staff’s Force Structure, Resources and Assessment Directorate] just launched its communitywide effort to review JCIDS and develop recommendations to increase its responsiveness and decision support.
In addition, the Defense Science Board last year took a look at IT acquisition and came out with some recommendations that would condense the requirements process. It eliminates all the massive amounts of [Joint Requirements Oversight Council] oversight and implements a philosophy where you build a little, test a little, go back to the user and get some input from them, then go back into the lab, and develop a little more.
Most of the systems that we develop and build are really applications, frankly. With a few exceptions, most of our hardware will be limited to CANES. Everything else is just an application that we develop to write on CANES. So it is ideally suited to that and is where we are going in that area.
DS: What are the C4I technology enablers that are most important to the Navy and Marine Corps?
Burroughs: I would say first — and really most of these get back to what we are doing with CANES — is service-oriented architecture. It offers a great opportunity to more rapidly develop and fill applications. Next is virtualization, which is also a big enabler for the CANES construct and allows us to more efficiently utilize our hardware resources, if you will.
In addition, new visualization technologies are certainly key to where we’re trying to go in the intelligence area, as well as developing a common operational picture.
DS: CANES is clearly your No. 1 program today. What would you say is No. 2 at PEO C4I right now?
Burroughs: Another one of our very important programs would be [the Navy Multiband Terminal]. And that is key as we talk about necking down systems. NMT replaces three or four legacy satellite terminal programs, so it’s a new capability that we’re rolling out. It’s far superior to what we have out in the fleet today and is a win-win not only from a capability perspective but also from a total ownership cost perspective.
DS: What’s the near-term road map for NMT?
Burroughs: It is just now going into [low-rate initial production]. We will be doing the testing over the next year or so and then full production after that.
DS: How many NMT units are being procured?
Burroughs: The Navy Multiband Terminal will be fielded on 276 ships.
DS: What’s new with the Navy’s primary command and control system, the Global Command and Control System-Maritime (GCCS-M) program?
Burroughs: We are continuing to build capabilities into that, and we will morph it into an application that will ride on CANES. The key there will be a more streamlined system that better integrates with CANES and provides not only more capability but also a better user experience and more robust reliability. Further down the line, we’ll go into the Maritime Tactical Command and Control System, which we see as a follow-on to GCCS.
DS: We have talked a lot about the C4 aspect of PEO C4I but not much about the intelligence aspect. How do you view the connective between C4 and I?
Burroughs: Well, I’ll put it this way. I don’t know if you’ve read a lot of the precepts related to information dominance that have come out of the N2N6, [the Navy's offices for intelligence and information technology]. One of their precepts is that every ship is a sensor, and every sensor is a node. So if you think of it that way, it’s absolutely critical how you link those ships and nodes together. And intelligence is just information that we’re passing between those nodes with some analysis that goes on top of it. So C4 and intelligence really go hand in hand because intelligence absolutely depends on the ability to rapidly move the right information to the right places.
DS: You recently created a new office, the Information Assurance and Cyber Security Office. Can you tell me what that’s all about? What prompted it? What do you expect it to do?
Burroughs: Yes, PMW130 was in response to the Defense Department standing up the Cyber Command and the Navy, in turn, standing up the 10th Fleet in January 2010. So in line with that, we needed to have a greater focus on cyber, security and cryptographic systems. That had traditionally fallen in with our networks program, which was part of PMW160. To give that greater focus and to have a program manager who is directly responsible for those areas, we decided that standing up PMW130 was the right way to go.
DS: What specifically might PMW130 do that was not done when they were part of one of the other PMW offices?
Burroughs: I wouldn’t say that there is anything that they’re specifically doing that they weren’t doing before, but you now have a program manager and a deputy program manager who are solely responsible for that and who are solely concentrating in those areas.