Building the Pacific Future

October 2003
By Maryann Lawlor
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Command says aloha to state-of-the-art facility.

When U.S. Pacific Command personnel move into their new headquarters building early next year, they will be doing more than just shifting operations to a different location. Featuring an architectural style that is harmonious with the surrounding Hawaiian landscape, the Nimitz-MacArthur Pacific Command Center will be filled with cutting-edge technology that will project the staff’s virtual presence across the Asia-Pacific theater. It has been designed to support Joint Vision 2010 operational concepts.

Scheduled to open next March, the center will bring the Special Operations Command, Pacific, and the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM), Camp H.M. Smith, Hawaii, literally under one roof. It replaces a building complex that began as the U.S. Naval Hospital, Aiea Heights, during World War II and served as the home of U.S. Marine Forces Pacific before becoming headquarters for U.S. Defense Department operations in the region. The new state-of-the-art command and control headquarters will be a model for future military command, control, communications, computers and intelligence (C4I) centers, earning it the moniker HQ21.

The building’s design was conceived with technology in mind, and the investment in information systems makes up nearly 60 percent of the center’s total cost of $86 million. When complete, the facility will house more than 1,300 workstations, 97 executive offices, 23 conference rooms and numerous operational rooms and “breakout” areas.

PACOM personnel will see an improvement over their current equipment at all levels—from the physical infrastructure to the desktop software that supports decision-making processes. Fiber optic connections will provide a higher capacity for communications than currently is available in the old complex, and new visualization tools will enhance situational awareness. The joint operations center (JOC) and conference rooms will be linked electronically, and shared information-management tools and connectivity will facilitate collaboration.

Lt. James P. Crowe, USNR, project manager with the resident officer in charge of construction, Pacific Division, Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Honolulu, explains that from the beginning of the project, all work areas were planned to provide access to multiple networks. The new facility significantly increases videoconferencing availability and will allow simultaneous real-time data, such as relational databases and tactical imagery from the field, to be shared on large displays, he adds.

Data exchange will take place primarily over the secret and nonsecure Internet protocol router networks, which involve a variety of technologies, including twisted copper and fiber optic wiring as well as microwave. Voice communications will be carried on traditional twisted copper pair and Category 5 cabling. Security concerns preclude the use of wireless technology.

The headquarters building will feature a large war room, and each directorate or department command conference room will link directly to the war room to increase the command’s flexibility. As a result, each directorate will be able to receive tasking orders and provide input while directors and department heads continue to work in their own conference room with their staffs on specific issues, Lt. Crowe explains.

Neal Miyake, project management team leader, HQ21, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR), San Diego, elaborates on Lt. Crowe’s point, adding, “The new headquarters will feature vast amounts of audio-visual capabilities, including streaming video and shared video sources such as briefings, maps and data. Directorate conference rooms will double as battle cells. This configuration will allow for the overflow of crisis support beyond the four walls of the JOC because multiple crises can be handled using the battle cells. In addition, the breakout rooms can be used for training or will be a place where coalition partners can participate in exercises or events,” he says.

Occupation of the facility will be the culmination of work that began with concept development in June 1997. Functional analysis concept development sessions took place during the planning stages to ensure that the C4I capabilities in the new facility would meet PACOM’s operational demands. Command personnel were interviewed to determine the functional relationships between departments, particularly in the JOC, Miyake offers. In addition, SPAWAR received input from other large command and control centers, including U.S. Southern Command, U.S. Space Command and the Pentagon. At that point, the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center, San Diego, the key designer and integrator of the building, worked with industry to explore state-of-the-art and state-of-the-shelf commercial products. In mid-2000, the design-build contract was awarded to Dick Pacific Construction Company Limited, Honolulu, and a groundbreaking ceremony for the six-story structure took place in February 2001. PC Enterprises, Belmar, New Jersey, is providing the telecommunications and network installation.

One of the capabilities the HQ21 team knew it wanted from the beginning of the planning was an audio-visual control center. In its current facility, personnel must go to individual rooms to operate equipment. This center will allow personnel to manage all audio-visual technologies within the command as well as the gateways to entities outside the facility from a single location.

In addition to providing the capability to share information, the C4I designers also addressed the issue of protecting it. Arthur Nakagawa, C4I project manager, HQ21, relates that the cabling infrastructure setup ensures information security, and signals will be carried above the secret classification level. Although the facility does not feature redundant systems, diverse cabling systems minimize the impact of a single point of failure. In addition, personnel in the C4 coordination center will oversee connectivity and the status of the network and maintain cyber situational awareness to determine the operational impact of outages, he explains.

Lt. Crowe says the physical infrastructure to support the technical capabilities is at the heart of the facility’s design. “From a physical construction point of view, the use of access flooring and a network of cable trays have greatly increased our capability to have system flexibility for the future,” he offers.

Although the original plan called for building in enough space to allow for an additional 15 percent of information technology infrastructure in the future, this goal has been difficult to achieve in all areas of the structure. “The amount of conduits required to support that growth is significant, and as some areas of the building’s design changed, the physical space required for the network wiring was squeezed,” Lt. Crowe relates.

Nakagawa explains that the information technology crew had to ensure that plans were in place for the cabling between the specific C4I-intensive areas such as communications for the technical control facility, the local area network server room, the JOC and the commander booth.

According to Lt. Col. Toi Screnci, USAF, C4I coordinator, HQ21, this has been one of the few projects she has worked on that included information technology as such a large part of the overall military construction (MILCON) funding line. This situation has posed a challenge because the team’s business processes are tied to the MILCON rules of engagement.

“For other projects, C4I has been an after-design element that was brought in after the building was complete. Here, it has been brought in from the ground up, and there are pros and cons to this approach. This project is a design-build project where you don’t have a thoroughly mature and detailed C4I design going into the construction phase of the project. You don’t make it up as you go along, but you don’t have all the details up front, so you plan based on some of the high-level design elements that lack detail. As your overall design starts maturing, you realize that you may have overlooked some elements because you weren’t thinking in that manner as you were going down this road early on,” the colonel says.

Miyake explains that initially the planning teams designed about 30 percent of both the building and the telecommunications infrastructure. At that point, a request for proposals was issued and the winning contractor completed the design work. This approach streamlines the MILCON process and allows for contractor input; however, the C4I team must determine its basic requirements early in the process. One disadvantage of the design-build method is that it does not allow for the inevitable changes that take place between the planning and construction of a building, he points out.

The Navy/Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI) also will be part of the information systems of the facility. Col. Screnci points out that the program’s processes have added a degree of complexity to the overall C4I design of the headquarters. Because the NMCI is a relatively new program and the headquarters is new construction, marrying these two projects poses challenges.

If the NMCI contract was a little more mature and negotiated costs already identified, the process would be simpler, the colonel notes.  Some equipment and systems have not been priced, and this can present design issues that must be addressed, which complicates the matter. In addition, NMCI is a sea services program that is going into a joint command, consequently the technologies designed for the Navy and Marine Corps must support the joint environment. Once the initial hurdles are overcome, however, the colonel believes that NMCI will improve how the command conducts business in the future.

Miyake points out that the capabilities of the new facility could not be designed in a vacuum. “Interoperability and open communications are critical for command and control capability. It is imperative that PACOM maintain connectivity to the Pentagon as well as with the subunified commands and joint task forces. Also, coordinating with coalition partners has always been a key focus of PACOM, especially since the area of responsibility encompasses half the world. There have always been challenges with maintaining interoperability between forces with varying levels of technology, but PACOM has tried to be backward-compatible as well as to harness the latest technologies,” he states.

In addition to information technology, security was a priority in the facility’s design. The $5.4 million security package features a proximity badge with an intrusion alarm system and surveillance cameras. Biometric technology is being integrated with the military’s Common Access Card. The majority of the building will be a secret-classification work space.

Although the building’s architecture is uniquely Hawaiian, Lt. Crowe notes that his organization will be sharing its design methods and lessons learned during the project with other military headquarters facilities.

One specific area that needs to be reviewed will be the use of the design-build contract approach for atypical facilities such as HQ21. “I think you’ll hear often mentioned, especially with this project, that for a nonstandard building like this, the design-build process was not the ideal way to go,” Col. Screnci indicates. “This is not a cookie-cutter type building. If it were, and all your requirements were simple, yes, it’s a great way to do it. But for a very complex C4I facility like this, the design-build is not the way to go, and our lessons learned and recommendations to others who follow with requirements like ours is not to do it with this type of a project.” Although the one-size-fits-all approach of the design-build contract is a sensible general approach, it does not lend itself to the detailed planning that is needed in C4I, she adds.

Additional information on the U.S. Pacific Command’s new headquarters is available on the World Wide Web at

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