• The USS Abraham Lincoln is part of a pilot program that will facilitate the integration of more comprehensive capabilities to the greater fleet. Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Aja Jackson
     The USS Abraham Lincoln is part of a pilot program that will facilitate the integration of more comprehensive capabilities to the greater fleet. Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Aja Jackson

U.S. Navy Builds Flexibility Into Its Digital Transformation

March 3, 2020
By Kimberly Underwood
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The Navy’s C4I integration efforts will boost the service’s information warfare capabilities.


The U.S. Navy’s Program Executive Officer for Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, and Space Systems, or PEO C4I &SS, is pursuing an aggressive information warfare digital metamorphosis to support the Navy’s distributed maritime operations around the globe.

The PEO C4I & SS is employing industry best practices and incorporating sailor input as part of its so-called Information Warfare Digital Execution Plan (IWDEP), which will provide sailors with a framework of technologies and processes to enable coordinated information warfare effects.

As part of the IWDEP effort, PEO C4I & SS will offer: agile core services; application architecture; data strategy; development security operations, or DevSecOps; cloud computing; virtual training, as well as its groundbreaking digital twin capability with PEO Integrated Warfare Systems, explained John Pope, acting PEO and executive director, during a March 2 presentation at AFCEA and the U.S. Naval Institute’s WEST 2020 conference in San Diego. The PEO is deploying applications to the USS Abraham Lincoln and the USS Bataan in a pilot program that will facilitate the integration of more comprehensive capabilities to the greater fleet.

Providing agile core services will help cut down redundancies, Pope emphasized. “There are about 200 programs that ride the CANES [Consolidated Afloat Network and Enterprise Services] network on a carrier,” Pope said. “If every one of those 200 programs brought their own stack of services, such as mapping services, database services or track management services, why do I need to do that 200 times. So, one of the things we’ve been working hard with the industry on is evolving the agile core services."

Meanwhile, as the deputy PEO for technical direction and capability integration, Robert Parker is responsible for system-to-system engineering across the PEO’s portfolio. Parker is working to see how the Navy's strategies should drive system to system requirements between the programs, he told SIGNAL Magazine in an interview.

“For successive carrier strike groups, we're going to slowly, incrementally roll out a set of capabilities, in an effort called Digital Abe,” Parker stated. “For that we are bringing ACS [agile core services] and applications together for the first time. And we will also do a pilot on what a digital twin of the platform looks like, so we can test out the interaction between the applications in a virtual fashion.”

It would be a key transformation in how digital information warfare tools or applications are created, Parker said. “Let's say we have eight applications,” he offered. “Each one of them has their own code logic. They have their own services, they have their own data, but they don't share things. And when you have all of these applications that live in their own space, not only are you duplicating resources, and duplicating some of the expensive development, but we're forcing our sailors to be the integrating function between them, and you're not using the data to its full effect.”

Part of the digital transformation is providing a comprehensive integration—vertically and horizontally—across programs and functions. The agile core services provide the vertical integration through the CANES platform, so developers building applications do not have to repeatedly create same basic features. “If you're an application developer, I want you focusing on your core problem, bringing your expertise into solving a problem, whether it is for logistics, cyber, intelligence, or whatever, not doing the housekeeping,” Parker explained.

The horizontal integration will enable smarter development, he continued. “I want to get past simple applications,” Parker said. “Our sailors should expect that their applications reach out to all the data that is available and provide them with a workflow instead of them having to build their own workflow. And if you write an application, I want it to be able to go on a ship, I want to it to be used ashore, I want to be able to go in the cloud.”

Moreover, PEO C4I &SS created the application architecture in a way that builds in data sharing, Parker advised. “Applications don't necessarily normally start with, ‘How do I share all my data?’” he noted. “So, that's one of the things we have to bake into our application architecture; we have to give them the services to do that…. because you're now building in the ability for applications to be extensible across our platform.”

The architecture also leaves the door open for future uses of data, he added. “We don't know all the different ways our applications may need to interact in the future,” Parker said. “So that's why I wanted to build in the services to expose useful functions upfront so that later on we can find the value. We also want to expose data. Just because you'd think no one may have a use for your data, that's pretty hard to say upfront. So, the more openness we create there, then the more functionality we could add in later for essentially for free.”

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