Interview: SPAWAR Commander Rear Adm. Michael Bachmann

Testing the Navy's integrated future

Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command oversees transformational push afloat

The Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) heads the formation in the Navy’s efforts to transform how it uses information technology at sea. SPAWAR’s two systems centers and the organizations that make up Team SPAWAR are responsible for providing development, testing and procurement of the systems that will be the basis of the Navy’s future command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance infrastructure.

Beyond CANES

Major Team SPAWAR programs include:

Common Submarine Radio Room. The CSRR system is a network-based communications architecture that uses bandwidth effectively and supports the Navy's portion of the Global Information Grid architecture. The CSRR system successfully completed several interoperability tests and is undergoing more evaluation..

Commercial Broadband Satellite Program: The Navy has begun to buy and install a new generation of shipboard satellite terminals that will produce an almost 10-fold increase in capability. That will enable ships to transmit voice, video and data faster and in greater volume. There are plans for 49 terminals to be installed under the program's Rapid Deployment Capability phase. The Navy plans to install more than 200 terminals when the Commercial Broadband Satellite Program becomes a program of record.

Navy Multiband Terminal: The Navy Multiband Terminal is the next-generation military satellite communications terminal to be deployed onboard submarines, ships and shore installations to provide maritime communications using the Milstar, Advanced EHF, Defense Satellite Communication System and Wideband Global SATCOM families of satellites. 

Distributed Common Ground System: DCGS-N integrates proven capabilities from the commercial sector, joint intelligence community and other government initiatives in a user-friendly package for Navy intelligence and cryptologic professionals to use in support of Navy afloat and ashore operations.

Source: Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command

Leading that team is Navy Rear Adm. Michael Bachmann, SPAWAR's commander.  In an interview with Defense Systems in December, Bachmann laid out Team SPAWAR’s road map for the coming year — a road map that has several significant milestones. 

Those milestones include the expected selection of two vendor teams in January, as Defense Systems was going to press, for the Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services program’s technical development phase. CANES will provide a way for the Navy to streamline many of its programs, providing a common hardware and network platform for future C4ISR systems. (See story page 26.)  

CANES is a major architectural element of the Navy’s future programs, and it is one of several high-profile programs at SPAWAR.  But the programs of record are just the beginning.

“Just as importantly, we do a tremendous amount of work outside of the department,” Bachmann said. “We support the Coast Guard, and certainly within the Department of the Navy; we support the Marine Corps pretty heavily. We've been partnered with them for the past three and one-half years on the integration of all the C4ISR and counter-IED systems on the [mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles], and we’re getting ready to start punching out the Marine Corps all-terrain vehicles — we're actually doing that now. We do work for the Homeland Security Department, for the White House, and other agencies.”

Bachmann’s tenure has been remarkably long — February will mark his fourth anniversary as SPAWAR’s commander. “They either forgot I was here, or they like what I'm doing. I'm not sure which it is,” Bachmann said.

As SPAWAR commander, Bachmann said he has two hats: “One is from the assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition, where I’m accountable for tech authority and support of programs of record.  And I also have a hat from [the Chief of Naval Operations] for sustainment of the systems we deploy.”

Since arriving in February 2006, Bachmann has overseen the transformation of Team SPAWAR, with the vision of establishing the organization as the recognized leader in delivering integrated systems for decision superiority. That includes its evolution in the Competency Aligned Organization initiative, which calls for adopting the integrated product team model within the command, and its expanding role in developing cyber defense capabilities.

Bachmann maintains that the organization’s progress with respect to the Competency Aligned Organization initiative and integrated product team model “has really morphed well. It's not just at headquarters -- this is a construct we've driven down into the warfare centers, the system centers, across sites, vertically as well as horizontally here at headquarters. It's allowed us to really understand what our people's skills are and start to build competency development models for our discrete communities, such as information assurance, networks, communications, ISR and cyber.”

The recent completion of Team SPAWAR’s transition to an SAP-based enterprise resource planning tool is a major step toward meeting those goals, he said.

“We made it appear seamless, in contrast with a couple of other activities that went before us that experienced significant issues,” he said. Having two and a half years to prepare helped make the transition uneventful, he added. “But nonetheless, a tremendous amount of effort and detailed planning went into that … and the engagement of all hands.”  The result has been “really good visibility on not only what our people are working on” but also on the fact that “we've actually put in an engineering change proposal that they've delivered on.”

The new system “give us a 2-D view that will let us look at our workforce from a competency [perspective] — whether it's logistics, engineering, legal, or whatever it is; then more importantly, what projects those folks are working on. We're pretty excited about that,” he said.

That transformation also helped Bachmann buttress some of SPAWAR’s capabilities, particularly with system testing. “I can't think of one operational evaluation for our programs that we've flunked here since we really put our testing cadre in place. And that's critical. In the operational tests, failures really set programs back. So we feel like we're moving very well, and it's showing in the new programs.” 

One of the programs that Bachmann said has benefited from the testing is the Distributed Common Ground System-Navy. That system, which had its first operational deployment aboard the USS Harry S. Truman last summer with a full deployment decision expected in March, is expected to become a software-only program that the Navy will deploy on the CANES infrastructure.

DCGS-N has its own service-oriented architecture (SOA), Bachmann said . “But those will be harmonized with CANES. That's the vision: That all [shipboard] systems, like DCGS-N, will just be focused on software. CANES will become the basic infrastructure, and then we'll harmonize on the services piece. We've got a lot of experience in this with [the Global Command and Control System], GCCS-IQ, and our SPAWAR teammates [are learning how] to migrate DCGS-N applications right on its own hardware and software into the CANES environment.”

The goal of migrating to a services-based architecture for all of the Navy’s systems puts additional importance on the role of SPAWAR’s test labs.

“As we continue to move to this environment of Web services, having the test environment in place is equally important,” Bachmann said.  “We've done that with PEO C4I over the last two years under the technical leadership of Steve Hunt, [now chief systems engineer at SPAWAR Systems Center Pacific]. We have fully replicated afloat and ashore test environments across both SSC Pacific and SSC Atlantic. And that couldn't have come at a better time, because as we migrate to the CANES architecture — with the mandate to ensure we're fully interoperable with [the Next Generation Enterprise Network] architecture -- we have a requirement to make sure that there's seamless interoperability from ship to shore. So we have to test to do that right.”

SPAWAR’s technical expertise and testing capabilities have significantly evolved when it comes to conducting experiments and exercises that test advanced technologies early. Bachmann cited Trident Warrior, annual network-centric warfare experiments run by the Naval Network Warfare Command, as an example.

SPAWAR also has been conducting joint lab exercises during the past two years with other agencies that are yielding significant advances, including an ongoing experiment named the Joint Rapid Architecture Experimentation. The Defense Department sponsored JRAE to be a laboratory-based experiment to develop capabilities that promote interoperability among service architectures.

For example, as part of JRAE 2009 and 2010, National Security Agency scientists embedded in the SPAWAR unit are working with the services “on a standard for crypto binding on SOA. This year, they took it one step further and associated it with access-based controls,” he said, allowing “someone sitting at an unclassified machine to access classified data.”

Bachmann said that although crypto binding on SOA has been demonstrated in the labs, it’s still undergoing NSA certification. ”It's nonetheless exciting as it's coming at the right time [when] we increasingly need to look at information across domains and need to protect it.”

SPAWAR’s growing role in cyber defense development is inextricably tied to the goal of protecting information.

“We play a major role in cyber, too,” Bachmann said. “We don't always advertise that, but we do a considerable number of programs of record in the cyber domain for the DON in our afloat environment. We also do a lot outside, supporting DHS, DIA and some of the other intelligence communities.”

Bachmann said he’s eager to share SPAWAR's cyber defense capabilities with other Navy programs. “We just recently had [Navy Rear] Adm. [William] Shannon, who's Program Executive Officer for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons out to visit,” Bachmann said , “and his socks were knocked off by what we’re doing in cyber. People don't have a real appreciation of our capabilities at the labs, at the systems centers. So we're going to continue to open that aperture up to the other systems commands and start to work.”

Bachmann said he believes that SPAWAR’s reputation for “delivering quality products and doing it rapidly” helped the unit land a number of major projects, including the Central Command’s forward headquarters operation center, a commercial broadband satellite program, and the upcoming Navy Multiband Terminal.

As part of its sustainment role, SPAWAR has relied heavily on reservists to provide systems training to the fleet. 

“We've had some real success stories utilizing our reservists…with technical skills that we're able to deploy," he said. With the “turnover on ships, where you're losing a third of your crew every year, the training aspect in our business becomes critical. Our reputation hinges on it a lot of times. We're actually going in with a request to increase the number of reservists that we use,” to support as many carrier and expeditionary strike groups as SPAWAR can, Bachmann said.

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