The U.S. Navy is on a course designed to rule the information arena.
With information operations growing increasingly critical to combat operations, the United States cannot afford to be anything less than number one in the data wars. And the U.S. Navy is implementing several measures to ensure information dominance. Measures include dramatically reducing the number of data centers and legacy networks, further developing the Information Dominance Corps and building an unmanned vehicle capable of being launched from sea. These efforts all are under way while the Navy also is modernizing networks both ashore and afloat.
“If you really want to be information-dominant, you cannot be number two. Number two is not good enough. We don’t want to be number two in the world in either cyber or electronic warfare,” emphasizes Vice Adm. Kendall Card, USN, deputy chief of naval operations for information dominance and director of naval intelligence.
The service is undergoing several sweeping changes to gain greater control over—and security of—the reams of data coursing through its networks while also enhancing its ability to gather intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) data at sea. For example, the Navy currently is on a course to eliminate some of its legacy networks and the number of data centers over a five-year period. The service seeks to eliminate the vast majority of existing centers, saving money, streamlining networks and better securing data by moving to cloud computing. The Navy currently owns between 120 and 150 data centers, “… depending if you count those that are just in closets as actual data centers,” Adm. Card says. “I’d like to get them down to single digits within the next five years.” He adds that the service eliminated 17 data centers over the past year.
“As you consolidate, the goal is to get a lot of savings from actually turning out the lights on some facilities. There is plenty of work to be done over the next three or four years, but it’s very necessary in creating efficiencies,” the admiral indicates. “If your information is in a smaller number of facilities, you can assure it with a smaller number of people.”
The personnel who are collecting, disseminating and protecting the data are part of the Navy’s Information Dominance Corps (IDC), which includes elements of intelligence, networking, cyber operations and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), as well as oceanography and meteorology. The IDC was established in 2009 to gain a deep understanding of the inner workings of adversaries, develop knowledge of the battlespace, provide naval operating forces with sufficient over-match in wartime command and control and project power through and across the network. Most—but not all—IDC cyberwarriors will serve a defensive mission. “There will be a few people who are exploiting and will be on the offense, but mostly it will be network protectors, and by consolidating these data centers and consolidating our networks into fewer networks, we’re able to do that more efficiently and effectively,” Adm. Card says.
Training IDC personnel is a high priority, and Adm. Card describes his goal as turning network apprentices into journeymen, or journeymen into masters. For officers, the service is developing some master’s- and doctorate-level courses in the cyber realm. The Center for Information Dominance at Corry Station, Pensacola, Florida, leads, manages and delivers naval and joint force training in information operations, information technology and cryptology.
Adm. Card specifies the school’s Digital Trainer as one tool already proving its worth. The trainer is a pilot program developed by the Naval Research Laboratory and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency that is being used to model computer-based training for the next generation of cyberwarriors. The digital learning tool incorporates cutting-edge teaching tactics into a mild form of artificial intelligence, which will enable the tool to teach each student one-on-one in a computer-based environment. “Digital tutoring is an important piece because it judges best how people learn. That’s been very successful down in Pensacola for training our folks. We’ve gotten great results from it,” Adm. Card reports.
Unmanned vehicles also are critical to gaining and maintaining information dominance. The Navy’s Unmanned Carrier-launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) program is developing a fighter jet-size UAV capable of being launched from sea. “This is an ISR vehicle from the sea that has good range and great endurance and persistence. It will be a multi-intelligence platform that will be critical to the warfighter because there will be some areas of the world where we need ISR from the sea,” Adm. Card offers. “The strike capability is also part of that global war against terrorists that provides insecurity to those terrorists from wherever they’re operating.”
UCLASS is expected to be a multibillion-dollar program with possible buy-in from the Air Force. It is the U.S. Defense Department’s primary UAV development program, and it has drawn interest from Northrop Grumman, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and General Atomics.
Northrop Grumman is flight testing two X-47B aircraft to illustrate UAV carrier-based launch and recovery capabilities. The company was awarded a contract in 2007 for a demonstrator program known as the Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstration (UCAS-D). The effort is designed to reduce risks associated with developing future unmanned, carrier-compatible systems. Lessons learned from the UCAS-D will be made available to all competitors.
The goal of UCAS-D is to safely get an unmanned or unpiloted vehicle on and off the carrier, taxi it around and integrate it with the rest of the air wing, Adm. Card says. “But the two most important pieces are the control system to fly it around the carrier and get it onboard and off the carrier and the capability to control the vehicle out on its mission. Those are the pieces that UCAS-D will give us. UCLASS will move that technology along into an ISR and precision-strike-capable aircraft.”
The admiral also emphasizes the importance of the RQ-21A Small Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System (STUAS). The system will provide persistent maritime and land-based tactical reconnaissance and surveillance as well as target acquisition data collection and dissemination capabilities to the warfighter. For the Marines, the RQ-21A will provide the Marine Expeditionary Force and subordinate divisions and regiments with a dedicated ISR system capable of delivering intelligence products directly to the tactical commander in real time. Additionally, the Air Force may use the system in support of security forces, integrated base defense, convoy protection and meteorological survey and weather data analysis.
Critical technological advances for the Navy fall under five major categories—sensors, processors, transport, people and training, Adm. Card says. “Where technology is really helping us is in making these sensors smaller. It’s giving our smaller ISR platforms, like ScanEagle and STUAS, much more capability to gather different sources of information,” he says.
Processor improvements, he notes, are taking place every day. “That’s key because the amount of information coming in from sensors is going up exponentially. The amount of information we’re able to transport might be going up linearly at the very best, probably just above flat. So, what’s going to make up the difference? Processing power,” he says.
The Navy also is consolidating information technology development and purchasing power under the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, which has been designated the single technical authority and single procurement authority for information technology. “We need to know what we’re buying. In the past, everybody was incentivized to do their own thing, and in doing so, we really haven’t developed the standards that we’ve needed to, and we haven’t logged what we’ve done,” Adm. Card says. “We still have folks buying applications and other things on their own, and we need to pull that into the enterprise and find out what folks are spending all of that green money on and make sure we can use that from an enterprise perspective and save some money.”
In addition, the Navy is modernizing its shipboard networks through the Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services (CANES) contract and its ashore networks through the Next Generation Enterprise Network (NGEN). CANES is the consolidation and enhancement of five shipboard legacy network programs and will provide the common computing environment infrastructure for command, control, communications, computers and intelligence applications that currently require separate infrastructures. Consolidation through CANES will eliminate legacy, stand-alone networks and will provide an adaptable and responsive information technology platform to meet changing warfighter requirements rapidly, according to Navy documentation. The Navy awarded a contract potentially valued at more than $637 million to Northrop Grumman in February that will allow for limited deployment. Another competition is planned for a full-deployment contract to be awarded in the third quarter of fiscal year 2013. “CANES is our future,” Adm. Card declares.
NGEN is part of the Navy Enterprise Networks program, which is intended to establish an acquisition approach to provide more flexible and adaptable information technology network services for the entire Department of the Navy. It essentially gives control of the Navy and Marine Corps networks back to the services. Contractors largely have been in charge of the networks under the Navy/Marine Corps Intranet program, NGEN’s predecessor. “As we took this on, the goal was for us to own the network, to move everything under the enterprise and to create efficiencies by doing so. The biggest challenge will be that overnight the network is going from being theirs to ours, and we have to make sure in advance that we really understand what we’re gaining and what we need to do to immediately get into those efficiencies,” Adm. Card explains. The NGEN contract is expected to be awarded in February 2013.
As the nation shifts its strategic focus toward the Asia-Pacific theater, Adm. Card says he does not see the service’s requirements changing much because the Navy has been focused on that region for a long time. He declines to speculate whether the strategic shift will protect the Navy from budget cuts more than the other services. “We’ll just have to wait and see. That’s all I can say,” he concludes.