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Pace of Change Accelerates For U.S. Navy

December 2004
By Robert K. Ackerman
E-mail About the Author

 
The USS Tarawa sails under the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco Bay. The U.S. Navy’s transformation will network legacy systems and next-generation platforms in an architecture that brings to bear the full value of network-centric warfare.
Technology alters the face of the force for both materiel and personnel.

The U.S. Navy in 15 years will differ vastly from today’s Navy, states Adm. Vern Clark, USN, chief of naval operations. But, that degree of change pales in comparison to what will occur in the 15 years that will follow. And, information technologies will be at the core of all of these changes.

By the year 2020, the ability to perform reach-forward and reach-back operations will be unprecedented, networking will link sensor grids with platforms and bases, and situational awareness will encompass so much information exchange that the line between intelligence providers and consumers will blur to indistinction.

“We will apply speed to that ‘detect to engage’ cycle so that every target in the future will be viewed as a time-critical target,” the admiral predicts. “The fleeting nature of an enemy will become more of a reality, and we will see less force-on-force attrition warfare.

“This will not be theoretical. It will be a reality.”

In 15 years, the Navy still will have all of its guided-missile destroyers, almost all of its nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and half of its Los Angeles-class nuclear attack submarines. These platforms will change internally, while more advanced platforms will begin to join the fleet. The subsequent 15 years will see an accelerating pace of change that revolutionizes the Navy.

The admiral notes that one reason the pace of change will pick up over the second half of the 30-year period is that the Navy is a heavily industrialized service. Its primary platforms are ships and submarines that take longer to design, procure and build than other services’ platforms. As a consequence, the most revolutionary changes being planned today will be implemented later rather than sooner. Yet, the chief of naval operations (CNO) has some strong ideas about acquisition that could shorten that time line.

As fast as these changes are taking place, they are not taking place as quickly as the admiral wants. Adm. Clark offers that the biggest challenge facing the Navy in its transformation is speed of advance. Often, today’s needs must be met with a budget from the past, and the process of change hinders progress. In information technologies, significant changes take place on a yearly basis. “We can’t get there fast enough,” he says.

Achieving the transformation may require a major change in acquisition that speeds the process. Adm. Clark is calling for a transformation in the program and budget process to focus on investment streams instead of on individual efforts. For example, when the Navy buys an aircraft carrier, it must designate it and pay for it up front. That system can prove a significant drawback for rapidly changing areas such as information technology.

Instead of that methodology, the CNO wants an apportionment approach that would provide the Navy with the resources to obtain what it will need rapidly and efficiently. Under this system, the Navy would apportion, budget and program for a fixed amount of resources in a given area, such as command and control (C2). Leaving this blocked portion untagged would give the Navy the flexibility to select the most advanced and advantageous technologies and systems when the technologies become available.

“If I had this budgetary approach, I would have the resources bracketed for things that will become available to us in [fiscal year] 2006 that I don’t even know about today,” he declares. “I would be a better partner with industry; industry would like working with me a lot better; and we would all be moving a lot faster.”

The force that is truly built around the network will be a dramatically different Navy, Adm. Clark predicts. And, at the heart of the Navy’s transformation efforts is FORCEnet (see page 22). All of the ships in the future shipbuilding program—the Virginia-class submarine, the San Antonio-class LPD amphibious transport dock, the DDX destroyer, the CVN-21 aircraft carrier, the littoral combat ship and the Joint Strike Fighter—are FORCEnet enabled. The admiral describes them as pieces that, when put together, will change the face of the Navy.

“We cannot do the kind of things that we are going to be required to do in the future without living in a FORCEnet world,” Adm. Clark declares.

FORCEnet is more than just being joint, the CNO says. It involves sharing and generating information in a coalition world. A major requirement facing the United States is to enable future coalitions to function as a networked force, he offers.

The Navy is undergoing several major organizational changes to enable FORCEnet. It has restructured its headquarters, and the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) has stood up an entire organization to integrate the human into combat systems. This effort requires a new way of thinking about the process, the admiral observes. Combining the N-6 and the N-7 has enabled the service to look ahead to the future better. And, the Navy is not stovepiping combat systems development separately from C2 development.

“The biggest change is that we are not dealing with command and control in isolation anymore,” Adm. Clark warrants. “Every single combat capability that we are developing is being developed with an eye toward FORCEnet.”

Yet, even though the Navy spent $1.7 billion on it last year, FORCEnet remains relatively embryonic. “On a scale of 1 to 10, we’re in the 2 to 3 range,” the admiral offers. “We’re on a journey here, and it is a journey that will take us to a much more capable Navy, but we are at the beginning.”

A significant part of the FORCEnet Navy will involve the global war on terrorism. Adm. Clark believes that this war will last not just years, but decades. “I’m telling my Navy to be ready for 30 years, maybe longer,” he says.

This long-term commitment is spawning “a new major mission” for everyone in the Navy—intelligence generation. Where traditional roles defined most personnel as intelligence consumers, now intelligence generation is becoming a mission area. “It’s not somebody else’s job—it is our job,” the admiral emphasizes.

“A FORCEnet world will dramatically improve our ability to generate intelligence,” the CNO states. FORCEnet will enable Navy personnel to meet that new mission area in ways that cannot even be considered today, he continues. “The sailor is in the center of the combat system and not an appendage that is dragged in after the system is built,” he notes.

Adm. Clark says that the Navy/ Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI) will enable the Navy to channel resources more effectively and to create the Navy of the future. This is essential in how it enables the Navy to function as well as how it is showing the way to run an increasingly complex Navy. The changes that the NMCI will bring about are even greater than the project’s complexity.

“This is the hardest thing that we have ever tried to do—no doubt about it,” he declares.

The NMCI has produced a few surprises. For example, the Navy did not know how many software applications it had throughout the service until the NMCI effort confronted the issue in seat rollover. The fact that the Navy must eliminate tens of thousands of applications is both an embarrassment and an opportunity. A side effect of this discovery is that the NMCI has opened the door to business transparency. Adm. Clark states that “without the ability to dig through the financial underpinnings of the business, we’ll never be able to do it.”

The admiral offers that he would like to see the NMCI move faster. “I want all the seats rolled over, and I want the whole framework established,” he states. He adds that he wants the NMCI to be the framework around which a more effective Navy is built. The integration that NMCI represents will allow the Navy to see inside its business in a way that is not possible today. Now, the focus must turn to applications that allow the service to operate “in a dramatically more effective manner.”

 
Adm. Vern Clark, USN (c), chief of naval operations, is flanked by Brig. Gen. Joseph V. Medina, USMC (l), and Lt. Cmdr. Thomas W. Lechleitner, USN, on board the amphibious assault ship USS Essex in the Persian Gulf during operation Iraqi Freedom. The Navy’s transformation already is reaching forces in theater as new capabilities change the way they fight.
Running the Navy as an effective business is another key to ensuring that the service meets its mission requirements. Adm. Clark relates how he has established a “schoolhouse” for Navy admirals and civilian leadership to learn business practices that can be applied to the service. “We all are warriors; we come up as effective operators. What do we know about running a $120 billion business?”

So, he has created what is effectively a mini-graduate-school program for admirals and senior executive service personnel. This is distributed among several universities around the country and a private company. The curriculum includes specialized courses that address naval issues as well as a program to spearhead individual development for the students.

This approach to education extends throughout the Navy. The admiral reiterates that the service is committed to lifelong learning for its people, and it is committed to empowering its personnel with a legitimate opportunity to prove what they can do and to make a difference. This is only fair to those who have made a promise to support and defend the Constitution, he allows.

And, the future sailor will be different from the sailor of yore. The FORCEnet-empowered Navy of the future will feature platforms and facilities with far fewer operators than are needed today. So, those people crewing the ships will be different from those of today.

“I’m the only chief who is asking for fewer people,” the CNO relates. “I want to maximize the importance of every job that we have. I want the jobs that we give people to have incredible job content.”

People in the Navy will need to be “extraordinarily IT-literate” to succeed, and the Navy is changing the type of person serving in it with education. Adm. Clark relates how his college degree was the ticket to his becoming an officer. Today, many senior enlisted men and women have college degrees, and the day may come soon when all chief petty officers will require college degrees.

The CNO foresees a blurring of the lines between the officer and enlisted corps that will change the structure of the Navy’s human capital system. This will lead to role clarification issues and changes in duties and responsibilities for senior enlisted personnel and officers.

“Our promise to [personnel] is, ‘we’ll give you a chance to see what you can do,’ and if you succeed in our business, we’ll let you lead in our business. That is the highest compliment that we can ever give you.”

Navy Knowledge Online is a major delivery system for serving Navy personnel. It has 384,000 users that represent 71 percent of active-duty and 89 percent of reserve personnel. Sailors can outline their growth and development challenges on the Web with individual home pages. Distance learning is essential given the worldwide ship-borne nature of the Navy, the admiral observes.

“Of all the things that are happening in the Navy, the most important one is that we are winning the battle for people,” the CNO states.

The Navy’s human capital strategy is not limited to uniformed personnel, however. It includes civilian employees and private sector contractors who have the unique skill sets that the Navy will need in the future. The Navy is “building from the ground up a new understanding” of the partnership between the service and industry.

As with the other services, the Navy sees the need for a good partnership with industry. Adm. Clark cites the need for help in speeding up elements of the transformation. “I need industry to help me figure out how to deliver my product more effectively and faster,” he states.

The admiral also wants industry to help the Navy see the future. One of the service’s limitations lies in its ability to understand the art of the possible, he suggests.

High on the technology wish list are reach-back and reach-forward technologies, the admiral adds. For example, for Sea Power 21 to work, other elements must come together. To have the sea-basing world the Navy envisions, Sea Shield must work. Sea Shield eschews force-on-force attrition warfare in favor of distributed systems. These distributed systems in turn will require the development of airborne, sea-based and undersea sensor systems—along with the connectivity to link the network.

This is where industry must play a key role. Not only will industry help develop those sensors, it also will help the Navy determine just how to connect those sensors in the network that delivers their information to the warfighter and the decision maker. “This [networking] technology doesn’t exist yet, and industry is going to have to take us there,” the admiral warrants.

A Maritime NORAD?

Many officials believe that homeland security ultimately may depend on the forming of a maritime version of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). U.S. Navy Chief Naval Officer Adm. Vern Clark, USN, says that progress has been made on that front in the interagency arena and with the U.S. Coast Guard.

This type of organization cannot be built by the Navy in a vacuum, but instead it must be built in tandem with the other stakeholders in the maritime domain. Adm. Clark points out that two arenas give the United States the freedom of maneuver that it needs to exploit: space and the high seas. These two arenas lack sovereignty issues that could limit effective security operations.

The key to a successful maritime NORAD would be information. The aerospace-oriented NORAD works well in part because air traffic is identified easily as it moves through the airspace. However, an observer looking at an ocean radar display would see hundreds of contacts just off of the U.S. East Coast, and that observer would know little to nothing about what was aboard those contacts or, in some cases, even whom they were.

The International Maritime Organization has been placing identification systems aboard ships, the admiral notes. But, true maritime situational awareness for homeland security requires more than that. The U.S. Coast Guard should have the capability to instantly identify a ship and its characteristics as it comes toward a U.S. harbor. This intelligence will require pulling in data streams from all over the world that include information from container packing and loading points.

During a recent meeting in Europe, Adm. Clark supported the establishment of a virtual maritime traffic center. Some of the officials representing 25 nations questioned whether the establishment of this center would interfere with other efforts, he relates. “Wrong question, wrong time. Let’s go—let’s create what we can with agreements where we can,” he says, addressing those concerns.

Building a maritime NORAD will require international support, he states. Among the hard decisions to be made will be to take a tough stance that may have economic implications on seaborne shippers, who handle more than 80 percent of global trade traffic.

The Coast Guard and the Navy also will require agreements to delineate responsibilities for the two. Adm. Clark suggests that the Coast Guard may be placed in charge of coastal operations while the Navy handles more distant efforts, but even so there are some aspects of more distant operations that can be handled only by the Coast Guard. These include situational awareness specifics such as knowing the contents of a container in an overseas port.

Substantial steps toward a maritime NORAD are taking place, the admiral reports. The most important near-term step is to bring transponder technology to bear on shipping as rapidly as possible. The computing power exists to achieve this, but the challenge is to organize the network and build the architecture to track this information.

“We will not win the global war on terrorism if we cannot tell the bad guys from the good guys,” Adm. Clark warrants. “We have to develop the capability to do that.

“A maritime NORAD is essential.”

 

Web Resources
U.S. Navy: www.navy.mil
FORCEnet: http://forcenet.navy.mil
CNO Top Five Priorities: www.chinfo.navy.mil/navpalib/cno/cno-top5.html