Peer Command Supports Fleet Networks

December 2002
By Maryann Lawlor
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New organization shores up assistance to techno-convoy of information systems.

Move over ships, aircraft and submarines, and make room on the waterfront for the latest component in the U.S. Navy’s fleet—information systems. Although information technology has long been an integral part of the Navy, the service’s newest command brings an increased level of support to fleet commanders and creates a clear operational focus for its networks, space activities and information operations.

The Naval Network Warfare Command (NETWARCOM), Norfolk, Virginia, opened its doors this summer following two years of discussion but only four months after Secretary of the Navy Gordon R. England gave formal authorization. Although it falls under the auspices of the commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, Norfolk, Virginia, it will support all fleet commanders. The organization is equivalent to the Navy’s force-type commands that oversee the surface, submarine and air warfare communities.

For decades, the Navy has been assembling individual information systems to meet the specific needs of various commands. However, the concept of network-centric warfare brought to light the power that these systems bring to the battlespace. Although groups of systems were connected to enhance effectiveness, the responsibility of ensuring that these networks stayed operational continued to be dispersed among the commands. NETWARCOM changes all of that.

Under a realignment of responsibilities, the new command has authority over the Naval Network and Space Operations Command, Dahlgren, Virginia; the Navy Component Task Force for Computer Network Defense, Washington, D.C.; and the Fleet Information Warfare Center, Norfolk, Virginia. In addition, the NETWARCOM commander serves as the Navy’s component commander of the U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM), Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska.

Existing Navy activities now have additional roles that support NETWARCOM’s mission. For example, the commander of the U.S. Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) will assist in matters related to fleet support and execution-year requirements, and the commander of the Naval Security Group Command will act as NETWARCOM’s director of information operations.

NETWARCOM is led by Vice Adm. Richard W. Mayo, USN, who explains that work at his previous command, the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) N-60, exposed the need for a single leadership entity that would pull together space, information warfare and command and control. “All three of those are critically important to network-centric warfare, but I saw an integration of them not just as stand-alone functional areas but related to one another horizontally, and they related to the success between operations. So, I felt there should be an operational focus given to these functional areas,” Adm. Mayo explains.

While at the N-60, the admiral found himself performing operational activities, and although the job got done, he observed that it was not an ideal approach because the CNO staff’s focus is planning and not operations.

In his current position as commander of NETWARCOM, Adm. Mayo wears several hats. First and foremost, he is operationally responsible to each of the fleet commanders at U.S. Naval Forces Europe, U.S. Pacific Fleet, U.S. Atlantic Fleet and U.S. Naval Forces Central. NETWARCOM is in charge of the day-to-day functionality of their networks as well as ensuring that they receive the space assets they require and that their networks are in a constant state of readiness.

“If something is affecting their network ashore or afloat, I am the go-to guy. I would be the single belly button that their staff or the fleet commander himself can go to and say, ‘NETWARCOM, I’ve got a problem. I need immediate help. Please fix it,’” Adm. Mayo says.

For example, if a major communications station ashore could not transmit a message to ships at sea, NETWARCOM must determine an alternate route to send the message and then work on fixing the problem. The problem could be as common as a malfunctioning server, for instance, but Adm. Mayo points out that recurring reports like these could indicate a systemic problem that could affect the entire Navy. “That really deserves my attention,” he states.

In addition to the daily operational support NETWARCOM provides to each of the fleet commanders, Adm. Mayo reports directly to Adm. Robert J. Natter, USN, commander of both U.S. Fleet Forces Command and U.S. Atlantic Fleet. Adm. Mayo’s responsibilities include organizing and equipping ships in the areas of space, information technology and information operations and ensuring that training keeps pace with system installations so equipment can be skillfully operated and sustained. “In that hat, I am very much a type commander like the other platform commanders,” the admiral notes.

In addition to his responsibilities to the fleet, Adm. Mayo supports joint forces in his role as functional component commander to USSTRATCOM. His duties within the command reflect NETWARCOM’s focus areas of space activities, information technology and information operations.

The Navy/Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI) is by far one of the biggest projects unfolding in the Navy today, and NETWARCOM finds itself in the thick of it. As new NMCI seats are rolled out incrementally, Adm. Mayo is the designated approval authority for the intranet. “So I am the security guru for NMCI and that’s a pretty heavy hammer. I have to make sure that all of the hardware in NMCI is tight and secure and that the contractor is adhering to the service-level agreements with respect to information assurance,” he says. Adm. Mayo also is involved heavily in the red teaming that the Fleet Information Warfare Center conducts to test NMCI security.

On the applications side, it is the admiral’s responsibility to make sure that applications installed on the NMCI conform to U.S. Defense Department directives regarding security and meet information assurance standards. In this role, he works closely with SPAWAR.

NETWARCOM’s connection to the NMCI does not end at seat cutover time. In fact, the job is just beginning. Once the seats in specific commands go live within the intranet, they become the command’s responsibility, and it is Adm. Mayo who ensures that the NMCI’s network operations centers are responsive to the fleet commanders.

In many ways, NETWARCOM brings the same order out of chaos to the Navy’s overall information technology, space activities and information operations that the NMCI program is bringing to the service’s networks. And the admiral believes the establishment of the command will allow the service to get a better handle on configuration management.

This is an important step in light of how the Navy’s leaders envision the future of the service. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Vernon E. Clark, USN, outlined his plans for the Navy under what he calls Sea Power 21 (SIGNAL, September, page 43).

Sea Power 21 comprises three primary focus areas. Sea Strike involves the capabilities to strike precisely and persistently the targets designated by the U.S. government’s leaders. Sea Shield includes defending not only U.S. battle groups and joint forces but the homeland as well. Sea Basing will allow the Navy to operate unconditionally on the ocean in support of joint forces.

“As we develop Sea Power 21, we’re going to have to be a netted force. We’re going to have to really count on the ability to exchange information and use all of our assets and all of our resources. That is a capability that we call FORCEnet, and that’s going to help us achieve Sea Power 21,” Adm. Mayo explains.

Part of realizing this vision will include experimentation to determine what types of next-generation technologies and applications will be needed to progress along the path of Sea Power 21.

“It’s going to be more disciplined than what we have today. Because of that discipline, we’ll have a better handle on the legacy systems so that when we get ready for the insertion of new technology, new applications into FORCEnet, into Sea Power 21, we’ll be better able to manage it,” the admiral says.

One of the problems the service faces today is the plethora of existing hardware and software. However, when the shore systems of NMCI and the sea systems of Information Technology 21 come together and become one network, and once the Navy moves toward Sea Power 21 with a disciplined process of experimentation, dealing with legacy systems and applications will improve, Adm. Mayo states.

Although a timeline has not been specified for the implementation of Sea Power 21, the admiral says the Navy is moving on it very quickly. With the vision established, the service’s leadership is already working on the core capabilities to make it a reality. Adm. Clark has identified specific organizations within the Navy to take charge of each of the supporting programs of experimentation, training and business efficiencies.

“At NETWARCOM, we’ll have a principal role to play in the development of FORCEnet, which is the glue that holds all of these core capabilities together, and in my mind the network comes first. As we move out on Sea Power 21, we’re going to have to enable the work for Sea Strike, Sea Shield and Sea Basing with a first-generation network that has some FORCEnet-like capabilities.

“But the ‘net’ part of FORCEnet is going to be a continuous work in progress. Don’t think of FORCEnet only as a network. The value is greater than the network. The value comes from netting the entire Navy with weapons, command and control systems, sensors—for example—so we get to a state where we have pretty darn good situational awareness and pretty quick means to take action,” Adm. Mayo relates.

NETWARCOM’s responsibilities extend beyond ensuring that communications can take place within the U.S. Navy. Future operations will involve coalition forces and allied partnerships, and it is important that the various nations be able to share information. The degree to which U.S. forces can accomplish this depends, however, on the capabilities of other countries, the admiral points out.

“They all have different capabilities, but the effort that SPAWAR, the fleets and we [NETWARCOM] have embarked upon is to get the Navy one suite of equipment that can be fielded on our ships that then can be tailored as required to operate with each of the different countries.

“As much as possible, we want to network our Navy ships with coalition and allied ships because it’s just better to have as many of the ships networked as possible so they’re all going to share some degree of common knowledge about the task at hand,” Adm. Mayo notes.

The admiral is very candid about the challenges that lie ahead for NETWARCOM and the Navy, and all of them are equally important in his eyes. “One that really concerns me a lot is protecting our networks. Information assurance—making sure that the networks cannot be hacked, that we are up to speed on the latest updates to servers and updates to applications to prevent an attack—is important.

“Getting sufficient bandwidth to our ships at sea is something that I continually worry about and that will be a primary focus area as we start to look at Sea Power 21 and the development of FORCEnet,” he shares.

In addition, the admiral believes that the reliability of networks is of primary importance. The networks must be combat survivable and able to withstand both cyber and physical attacks, he says.

Industry can help address these challenges by providing solid feedback about computer network defense, developing new technologies that use bandwidth more efficiently and producing technical and network tools that are less daunting to naval personnel. “Making technology more transparent would be extremely valuable. … If we could ever get to a state called plug-and-play, it’ll be nirvana,” the admiral offers.

Although the admiral is passionate about how technical capabilities support warfighting, he is equally zealous about military personnel who he says are the ultimate key to success. “We can talk about FORCEnet, Sea Power 21, NETWARCOM, but it all comes down to smart, talented, skilled people to pull it off. They are the absolute essential cog to make network-centric warfare work. It always takes a smart person in the middle to decide how to connect unmanned aerial vehicles, airplanes, ships and important command centers ashore and then how to process and how to get the right information to the commander. Smart people not only have to do the networking and make the network come together, they then have a responsibility to the commander to make sure they provide the commander with the right kind of information and sort out the important information from the information that’s not important at that time,” he says.


Additional information about the Naval Network Warfare Command is available on the World Wide Web at