Navy on course for smarter shipboard networks

CANES offers common baseline for infrastructure, improved network visibility

Navy Capt. D.J. LeGoff is program manager of the Tactical Networks Program Office at the Navy Program Executive Office for Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence, and he is responsible for the Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services program, among others. He took that position this summer, moving from deputy program manager for command and control, a job he held for three years. CANES is the major program in LeGoff’s billet. He spoke with Defense Systems Editor-in-Chief Barry Rosenberg about overseeing the program’s key elements, ensuring that existing systems continue to work with the program’s new hardware and achieving the next contract milestones.

Under the $1.7 billion CANES initiative, the Navy is replacing five C4I networks with a single hardware infrastructure. The Navy will install the scalable, commercial hardware to be procured under CANES on approximately 300 Navy ships in addition to shore-based sites.

DS: What are the key elements of CANES?

LeGoff: If you look at the programs and the products across our legacy systems, you come up with 35 different types of racks associated with each one. When you think about the logistics costs, the training, affordability and usability concerns for a sailor, you find that is a pretty untenable situation we find ourselves in.

CANES takes that infrastructure and moves it to a common baseline. So there is obvious savings there, and we’re going through the process of identifying those. The key thing to keep in mind is that we’ve told our primes that we don’t want them to reinvent the wheel on this. This is predominately an integration effort using smart and current business practices. There will be nothing in the CANES program that has not already been approved. As we collapse our infrastructure and use cross-domain solutions, we’re not waiting for a technological breakthrough to make this program work. In fact, CANES is the only fully funded computer network defense program in the afloat Navy right now.

The other technical piece of CANES that is going to affect our users is that we are emphasizing the system management function more to reduce the operator and maintenance requirements for the network. That will help to make sure that fleet CIOs have visibility into the afloat network and can actively manage the network and to make sure we can provide a one-stop view into the afloat network for our commanders to manage the environment.

Every six months, we here in the program office have our stakeholder meetings. Right after I’d taken command, we had one where the flags were concerned about two things beyond cost. One piece is maintaining configuration management of the network. The other piece is the ability to have visibility into the networks from the command infrastructure ashore. Rear Adm. Edward Deets, commander of the Naval Network Warfare Command, in particular, wanted to have visibility into the network to see how they are operating and to be able to push policies out from a central command position to the afloat networks. We’re addressing those specifically with the system management piece of CANES, emphasizing the network monitoring, health assessments, asset tracking and computer network defense piece of CANES. Those are going to address concerns of flags.

DS: One of the interesting elements about the CANES competition is that the winner receives an award for the design and systems integration plan, but not any future production contracts.

LeGoff: Since this is a lot about commodity integration and conducting smart business processes, this program is automatically all about competition. We’re currently in a competitive phase right now where we’ve selected down to two industry primes: Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Sensors' Tactical Systems and Northrop Grumman's Space and Missile Systems unit. About nine months from now, we will have another competition and select a single design from a winning vendor. That design will be turned around as [government-furnished information] and then back over to industry to compete [to provide the commercial hardware]. We’re trying to get the boxes to be commodities so we can continue the competition and drive the cost down as we go through wartime.

DS: How do you ensure that both existing and new applications work on the CANES hardware?

LeGoff: The last part of this is not necessarily part of the program but is very much a critical piece and that is the application-hosting piece. CANES provides a network, a software infrastructure required to host these applications. Our job is to make sure these applications can run on our network and run in a mutually compatible mode. We’re going to be doing a lot more testing than we’ve done in the past to make sure the infrastructure provides what we call [end-to-end capability]…an integrated set of labs by which we are trying to simulate the afloat environment. Part of the CANES process — this business process I was talking about — is that every application that identifies itself as wanting to ride on CANES has to go through a formalized process whereby its hosting and connectivity requirements are identified. At that point, we schedule a test [of the software].

DS: Where is the laboratory where you do the testing?

LeGoff: Point Loma in San Diego.

DS: How many applications are we talking about?

LeGoff: One of the reasons we’re going down this path is to maintain configuration management because we really don’t have a firm control over what goes on our networks today. If you go on board a carrier now, you can probably find 750 to 800 applications currently riding our systems. Go back and talk to our type commanders and ask them which of those applications somebody actually approved, and the number will be somewhere between 200 and 300.

We’ve lost configuration management of our networks today. Too frequently, we have applications being loaded by the users for good reasons but in a noncontrolled manner. So every application that will go on CANES will go through an end-to-end test prior to being loaded into the architecture.

DS: What is the near-term contract road map for CANES?

LeGoff: From a schedule perspective, we are five or six months into our competitive phase. We completed two preliminary design reviews in mid- to late-July, one for each vendor. Both vendors did a great job, and we completed the PDRs on schedule.

We just finished a cost review board, and we now have an improved cost position for the program, which is another step forward. And our gate review with Sean Stackley, [assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition], was held in late August. After that, we enter into the Office of the Secretary of Defense stacking chain, and if things continue on pace, we are scheduled for a Milestone B with OSD’s Acquisition Technology and Logistics in mid-November. All that is going according to schedule.

About the Author

Barry Rosenberg is editor-in-chief of Defense Systems. Follow him on Twitter: @BarryDefense.

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