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Navy Embarks on Operational Sea Change

May 2003
By Maryann Lawlor
E-mail About the Author

Increased connectivity shores up power of maritime force.

Military transformation may begin with a vision developed by U.S. Defense Department leaders, but it is in the individual services that the rubber meets the road or—in the U.S. Navy’s case—the keel meets the water. All of the service’s transformation efforts are aimed at achieving specific goals that will make the Navy more agile and increase strike precision.

In recent years, the Navy has introduced several programs that will change the way it operates. Many of these initiatives are well underway and are influencing the service’s contribution to the war on terrorism and homeland security. Earlier this year, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Vernon E. Clark, USN, issued a list of actions he would like to see accomplished in 2003. Many of these objectives are assigned to specific naval organizations with a designated deadline.

Several of the Navy’s transformational efforts fall under the Sea Power 21 concept, which comprises Sea Strike, Sea Shield, Sea Basing, Sea Warrior, Sea Enterprise and Sea Trial. The concept provides the framework to align, organize and integrate the service to meet future challenges. Operational concepts and technologies will be accelerated to improve warfighting effectiveness and homeland security, to shape and educate the force, to sustain readiness, and to take advantage of efficiencies that result in financial savings that can be invested in the future.

During 2002, the Navy moved forward on the elements of Sea Power 21. For example, it established the Naval Network Warfare Command (SIGNAL, December 2002, page 24) as the fleet’s coordinator for information technology, information operations and space activities. The commander, Fleet Forces Command, was designated as the lead agent for Sea Trial to formalize experimentation and fully integrate concept development and technology insertion for the fleet. The N-6 and N-7 communities merged to enhance integration of platform and network requirements and resource planning and programs. The N-6/N-7 is the director of FORCEnet, considered the next generation in network-centric warfare.

One of the Navy’s recent initiatives is the combined enterprise regional information exchange system, or CENTRIX. According to Monica R. Shephard, who is the director of Task Force Web, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, CENTRIX is one of the most significant transformational efforts currently underway in combat operations. Shephard also is the director of command, control, communications, computers and combat systems for commander, Fleet Forces Command; director of command, control, communications, computers and combat systems for commander, U.S. Atlantic Fleet; and director of command, control and communications for commander, West Atlantic of NATO.

CENTRIX is the global architecture in use by U.S. Central Command and the U.S. Pacific Command that allows U.S. forces to share information and operational planning with allies. “That [capability] has an ongoing transformational effect because it makes us one force. This isn’t a science fair project. It’s real; it’s deployed; and it’s in theater. And it’s providing capability because a number of operations, including maritime intercept, are being supported by the allies. The CENTRIX architecture is the system that allows us to work with them very seamlessly,” Shephard says.

The development of the architecture also took place in a transformational way, she states. It is the result of collaboration between the Atlantic and Pacific fleets and the Office of the Secretary of Defense staff. “Everything about it was transformational, not only the concept but even the way it was deployed. It was done quickly and as a joint effort, and the NSA [National Security Agency] and the various oversight organizations were intimately involved in the planning from the very beginning,” she offers.

“We thought very much outside the box, and we took the CENTRIX architecture and tried to figure out if speed mattered, how would we deploy it?” she explains. Working with some Pacific Fleet coalition architectures and the NATO architecture, the team found a mechanism to make all of the efforts at the Atlantic and Pacific fleets meld, then it morphed them into an architecture that fully supports CENTRIX. Approximately 180 units were deployed in six months to all maritime forces and allies in the theater of operations, which Shephard points out is global.

Like Task Force Web, the architecture is scalable, and the Task Force Web portal and other initiatives such as Collaboration at Sea can be shared through CENTRIX. This allows coalition partners to be part of the overall strategy of both dominant presence and decisive power projection and access. “This is a much more powerful action-outcome-oriented position that we’ve established for ourselves,” Shephard says.

CENTRIX has been installed on every unit in the Persian Gulf and in the Pacific Ocean. Shephard explains that the only units that do not have the capability are those that deployed before it could be installed, and all future deployed units will have CENTRIX. Coalition architectures are in place with Japan, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and Germany. Architectures currently are being developed that would allow U.S. forces to share information with any potential member of a coalition. “We’re trying to develop an architecture that would allow us to design coalitions of maritime forces on the fly at the appropriate level of classification and the appropriate level of sharing,” she says.

The concept of the CENTRIX architecture is one of creating an environment where information can be shared by various types of organizations and as such could have applications in the homeland security arena. Because it is broader than an enterprise architecture, Shephard describes it as an information-exchange environment that resembles the Internet and allows the right information at the right security level to reach the right people.

Capabilities such as CENTRIX are one example of how the Navy is achieving its transformation goals. The Navy/Marine Corps transformation road map, a plan the Office of the Secretary of Defense required each service to develop, outlines specific objectives that are aimed at ensuring that the Navy reaches the transformation destination it desires, Cmdr. Brad Buswell, USN, assistant for force transformation, Warfare Integration and Assessment Office, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, the Pentagon, explains.

According to Cmdr. Buswell, one goal is for the Navy and U.S. Marine Corps to conduct operations in several locations concurrently. “We’re already seeing it in the global war on terrorism. We have to operate in more places than ever before. So the ability to operate in a dispersed manner is important to our providing the full combat power to all the places that we’re going to need to be in the future,” the commander says.

In addition, the Navy will have to provide greater operational availability, a capability that is being accomplished through creative crewing concepts, which involve swapping crew members in forward-stationed ships. Leaving the capital assets in place cuts down on travel time for the ships, he explains.

The Navy also aspires to change its concept of defense. Rather than projecting a defensive bubble only around a Navy task force, the Sea Shield concept extends protection around the other joint force constituents operating ashore, including allies and other coalition workers. “We think that the capability would allow us to have access to places that land forces may not be able to reach. So that’s a change from a task-force self-defense-centric view to a sea shield around a much bigger area,” Cmdr. Buswell says.

From the strike perspective, the Navy’s goal is to increase precision, promptness and volume. “We’re talking about precision from meters to feet, promptness from days to hours or even minutes, and volume from how many sorties per target to how many targets per sortie,” the commander relates. World War II strike capability, for example, involved a thousand bombs to destroy one target. “We can now do that with one, and the only difference is the information technology that’s associated with applying that weapon,” he points out.

The Sea Basing concept addresses amphibious operations. The Marine Corps seeks to change the traditional landing procedures to a ship-to-objective maneuver method (see page 43). Marines would disembark directly from a ship or submarine to the area of operations by way of helicopter or landing craft, air-cushion vehicles rather than fighting their way across a beach. Once they have secured an area, they can return to the vessel, reconstitute, reorganize then proceed to their next mission.

FORCEnet is the glue that will hold all of these capabilities together, Cmdr. Buswell states. “The ability to operate in a more dispersed way; the ability to increase the precision, promptness and volume of our fires; and the ability to do mobile support and sustain the Marines from a sea base really requires us to be fully networked, not just within the Navy but also within the larger force. If we’re talking about supporting the [U.S.] Army and the Marines ashore, the network can’t be Navy-centric,” he says.

From an organizational standpoint, the Navy has realigned the way it thinks about developing requirements around the pillars of Sea Power 21. Warfare sponsors at the rear admiral upper-half level are in charge of Sea Shield, for example. Under their purview are theater air and missile defense, undersea warfare, combating terrorism and mission capabilities, which fall within the Sea Shield portfolio. “Even though the admiral is also a resource sponsor for surface or submarine programs, he’s a warfare sponsor for Sea Shield. That’s a fairly dramatic change in the way that we’re approaching capability development in the Navy staff,” Cmdr. Buswell explains.

Shephard shares that all of the Navy’s transformational efforts address common realities of today’s battlespace. “Speed matters from a warfare perspective, from a perspective of providing information and delivering information. A seven-year acquisition cycle doesn’t cut it anymore. Being able to identify these key golden nuggets and get them into the fleet for direct use in operations in a national and international mission, that’s pretty transformational. Establishing speed and agility and visibility and extraordinarily high security as the foundations for the future and not being willing to compromise on any of them, that’s transformation.

“The other thing that’s really transformational is that most people within the government and certainly within the Navy have viewed IT systems and the measurement of their contributions in some pretty esoteric ways. Here in the fleet, and with Task Force Web, we’re measuring the contributions in terms of direct and delivered combat capabilities. We’re tying everything to the bottom line, which is decisive power and decisive combat results. That’s never been done before,” she says.

Collaboration Ensures Joint Transformation Success

Experimentation is becoming fundamental to transformation in all of the armed forces, and the U.S. Joint Forces Command’s Joint Experimentation Directorate, or J-9, is working to ensure that individual efforts are born joint. David J. Ozolek, assistant director of experimentation at the directorate, explains that the U.S. Navy’s Sea Trial initiative displays clear links between where that service and the J-9 are going with information technology.

This summer, the Navy will conduct a series of experiments that will explore the nature of joint force maritime command. One focus will be the collaborative information environment so that, as the Navy develops initiatives like FORCEnet, the connection between the maritime forces and the joint communities will be secured.

Additionally, in September, the Joint Forces Command (JFCOM), Norfolk, Virginia, and the Navy Warfare Development Command, Newport, Rhode Island, will co-sponsor a transformational war game similar to one that JFCOM held earlier this year with the U.S. Army. “What we’re trying to do there is to shape a common vision of joint operations across these forces so, as the services begin their concepts, they’re starting with the same understanding of joint operations,” Ozolek says. This type of collaboration has never occurred before, which has resulted in interoperability problems, he adds.

During the past several years, JFCOM has been developing concepts such as operational net assessment; effects-based operations; and rapid, decisive operations (SIGNAL, August 2001, pages 53 and 57). For these new tactics to be successful, individual transformation efforts must support the common joint context, Ozolek says. “Each service has to understand the impact that it has on joint operations so that, as it builds the service’s transformation concepts, it is building them to be consistent with this vision of joint,” he explains.

The exploration of the J-9’s concepts takes into consideration the individual service’s capabilities as well. “It’s not going to do any good to create a joint concept that the services can’t execute. Nor is it going to do any good if the services’ capabilities don’t mesh within the overall context of the warfighters’ needs for information,” he says. Instead of each service working in isolation, the J-9 is bringing the family together into an operational environment, not just an information environment, he offers. Learning has been a two-way street as the services come to understand what is required to support joint operations and the J-9 gathers insight about service capabilities.

The work is not without problems. Radically changing the paradigm challenges the cultures within each service where the work is perceived as both helpful and a threat. The truth lies somewhere in between, Ozolek says.

Perhaps the biggest challenge, he shares, is figuring out how to bring together independent but not always consistent processes into an arrangement that really makes sense. The work completed to date has already yielded benefits, he says, and the ultimate benefit will be a coherently joint force for the first time in history. An ancillary, yet equally important, benefit will be the ability to preclude interoperability problems, he adds.

Although experimentation focuses on future missions, industry can support transformational efforts by proposing technical solutions even though they are not yet fully developed. Ozolek reveals that some of the transformational concepts the J-9 has been developing already have been employed in current operations, and prototype technical capabilities are supporting these efforts. The technologies may not provide a 100 percent solution; however, in some ways this is beneficial as it allows users to contribute input about the technologies so the final product truly meets their needs, he states.