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Navy Combines Communication And Platform Power

September 2002
By Maryann Lawlor
E-mail About the Author

Merger reflects current needs, future plans.

The U.S. Navy is steaming full speed ahead to make network-centric warfare a reality by merging its directorate in charge of communications, computers and space with the warfare requirements and programs directorate. The move is at the center of a new operational vision for the service called Sea Power 21 outlined by Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Vernon E. Clark, USN, Navy Pentagon, Washington, D.C.

Network-centric warfare is a concept that originated at the Naval War College several years ago and has since been adopted by all of the services. The strategy is to leverage information during operations by sharing data and ideas. Information technology plays a critical role in its execution by facilitating communications.

This type of sharing has been going on in the Navy for some time. The move to merge the two directorates, the N-6 and N-7, into the new N-6/N-7 single organization brings the concept to the headquarters level within the service to ensure that the proper emphasis is being placed on policies and budgeting.

Vice Adm. Dennis V. McGinn, USN, leads the combined department and explains that the idea to merge the two directorates began in October 2000 when the warfare requirements and programs directorate (N-7) was created. Adm. McGinn, who is the deputy chief of naval operations for the N-7, and Vice Adm. Richard Mayo, USN, the Navy’s chief information officer and N-6 director, discussed the future of the service’s concept of operations in terms of network-centric warfare. If this strategy is truly to come to fruition, one group should own the networks for the purposes of policy, programs and resources, they concluded. If the concept is network-centric warfare, then N-7 should be the organization to take charge of the networks, Adm. McGinn and Adm. Mayo agreed.

“From a 3rd Fleet perspective and understanding of the operationalization of network-centric warfare, our priorities should be networks, sensors, weapons and platforms. So we started working plans to do two things: to blend the N-6 and N-7 organizations and to create a command outside of the Pentagon, which became the Network Warfare Command that Adm. Mayo was standing up in Norfolk,” he says.

Determining the pros and cons of this move required substantial work. But by September 2001, the space, information warfare, command and control division, or N-61, was transferred to the N-7 organization.  After the Network Warfare Command was established, the N-6/N-7 merger became official; however, Adm. McGinn points out that the two began working together on networks, sensors, weapons and platforms in the N-6/N-7 domain last September. They were merged into a single entity so people who work with the organization would know that it is one group, Adm. McGinn adds.

Since that time, several events have taken place to bring leaders in the department up to speed on networks and communications. Early this year, the group also began closely examining the latest developments involving space. “One of the key points to bringing the right kind of leadership to this N-6/N-7 organization was in fact the creation of the N-61 organization,” the admiral states.

“This does wonderful things in terms of bringing our traditional platform sponsors of expeditionary warfare, surface warfare, submarine warfare and air warfare into the same mobilization—the people who are setting our policies and priorities and putting the programs in place for our networks’ use of space,” Adm. McGinn says. This strategy ensures that the Navy’s investments in technology are done in a coherent way and with the right sense of priorities to make the network-centric capability real, he maintains.

Although the two directorates existed separately in the past, many of the tasks crossed the boundaries between them. By creating a single organization, budgeting will be integrated in a smoother fashion, the admiral adds.

While the Navy has been sharing information and collaborating on projects for many years, this is one of the first times this type of integration has taken place at this level—the corporate headquarters of the Navy, so to speak, he says.

“We’ve had enough time, first of all, to really think things through and second to do some experimentation, some prototyping and to really understand what the powerful implications for naval warfare capabilities are when going to a network-centric concept of operations. It was as we gained more knowledge about this that we said we’ve got to make our program of record—our policies at the headquarters—reflect our emphasis on network-centric warfare, and this was a very logical step,” he says.

Several tactics have been put in place to address the challenges that a change of this magnitude poses. For example, the N-6/N-7 board of directors, a group of division leaders, meets regularly to talk about common issues, challenges and opportunities. They discuss how to improve coordination, to synchronize investment plans and to blend investments of all the divisions into mission capability packages. This approach will improve the effectiveness of naval warfare capabilities and at the same time create efficiencies.

“It will be more efficient in terms of the cost to acquire, the cost to operate and maintain, and more efficient in a warfighting sense because we’re going to be able to do things faster, and that has a tremendous advantage of efficiency as well,” Adm. McGinn states.

“We’re breaking down some stovepipes. It’s all about interoperability in more than just the technical sense. It’s the ability to understand what is going on in another part of a battle force—whether that’s a joint force or a coalition force or a naval force—through networking, through the sharing of sensor information, through the development of a connected and interoperable set of databases,” he explains.

Several U.S. Defense Department leaders acknowledge that industry has solved many of the technical problems once experienced by the armed forces when deploying new systems. However, another challenge persists that must be overcome, and that is the resistance of personnel to changing the way they operate.

Adm. McGinn shares that within headquarters, cultural issues have not posed insurmountable problems; however, in the fleet, the technical challenges are far less daunting than the cultural problems.

While many organizations have addressed cultural change through increased training, the N-6/N-7 has taken additional steps. “We’re trying to shorten the cycle time from when we identify a requirement or identify an opportunity to do something better, faster, less expensively and the time we deliver that capability to the fleet. And we’ve found that rapid prototyping and the rapid insertion of technology into the fleet in the right size chunks is a nice way to do it.

“When you get the technology out there, you can say, ‘Look, this is a prototype, this is experimental in a sense. It will represent an improvement—potentially—to the way you’re doing business now. But, we also will provide you the opportunity to use this technology in different ways—to change your processes, to change your organization, to change your tactics, techniques and procedures so you can co-evolve doctrine and co-evolve the training requirements and the operations and maintenance protocols for this new technology.’ And it’s through that rapid prototyping, experimentation and co-evolution that we’re seeing the shorter cycle time. And we’re also overcoming those cultural issues, which are attendant any time you introduce new technology,” the admiral relates.

Adm. McGinn describes this strategy as the essence of spiral development—introducing systems that represent a better way of operating without trying to revamp the entire capability, training, maintenance and doctrines. Attempting to accomplish a 100 percent solution at one time results in adopting systems that are already out of date. “We are very aware at N-6/N-7 of Moore’s Law. And we are very keen on becoming as agile and as fast to move to the right kind of technology and the right kind of concepts of operations as we need to,” he says.

The admiral admits that spiral development is not a total solution to either the technical or cultural challenges. “This is an 80 percent solution, and it can be frustrating when people are dealing with some of the glitches of rapid technology insertion or rapid prototyping. But it’s far better and more realistic to do it this way than to hold out for the final answer while the world passes you by,” he maintains.

To alleviate some of the frustration, feedback mechanisms must be created so sailors and Marines can tell both N-6/N-7 personnel and the acquisition community what is and is not working and action can be taken, he adds.

The N-6/N-7 directorate is at the center of Sea Power 21, which is an umbrella title for various programs that have been under development for some time. At a presentation in June at the Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island, Adm. Clark unveiled this operational vision that addresses future readiness of the Navy.

According to Adm. Clark, Sea Power 21 requires three primary capabilities. Sea Strike is the ability to project offensive power, and Sea Shield involves defensive power. Sea Basing includes the capability to project sovereignty of the United States and to team with and provide enhanced support worldwide for joint forces afloat and ashore. All three of these concepts rely heavily on information technology to provide situational awareness and knowledge sharing.

These capabilities will be created and sustained by additional programs. Sea Trial involves the streamlining and integration of the Navy’s experimentation process. Adm. Robert J. Natter, USN, commander of Fleet Forces Command, and commander in chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, Norfolk, Virginia, will be in charge of this effort. The Sea Warrior project addresses the need to develop the full potential of the Navy’s people. The chief of naval personnel, supported by the chief of naval education and training, will lead this program. Finally, Sea Enterprise is the business piece of the concept and involves capturing efficiencies to increase the procurement of ships and aircraft. The vice chief of naval operations is responsible for this program.

According to Adm. McGinn, the N-6/N-7 as well as FORCEnet (SIGNAL, May, page 23) is at the center of this evolution of naval operations. In addition, he believes that industry can support the effort by developing standards of interoperability. The goal, the admiral says, is not to create a single standard, but rather to design systems that can interoperate. This will make the Navy a better customer and make it easier for businesses to meet its needs.