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Innovate or Face Defeat

The U.S. Navy needs innovative ideas to bolster its cybersecurity and recently shared how it is carrying out its digital transformation.
Digital transformation panelists discussed the Navy's innovation. Photo By: Diego Laje.

Digital transformation panelists discuss the Navy's innovation at the AFCEA NOVA Chapter Naval IT Day. Credit: Diego Laje

The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps technology program executive offices are running pilot programs to find new ways to keep ships at sea. As all services digitize, including their weapons systems, operations are deeply impacted. The Navy and Marines face a simple choice: modernization or obsolescence. 

“Digital transformation without focus is just following a bunch of buzzwords,” said Jason Hunter of the Navy Program Executive Office Integrated Warfare Systems. 

Kevin Allen, Department of the Navy (DON) Naval Applications and Business Services program manager, clarified the mission while addressing the audience at the AFCEA Northern Virginia Chapter Naval IT Day: “We enable sailors and Marines to do their jobs to execute the DoN’s mission."

Justin Fanelli, Technical director, PEO Digital, U.S. Department of the Navy.
There is a negative effect to doing nothing
Justin Fanelli
Technical director, PEO Digital, U.S. Department of the Navy

Once the decision is made to move forward with an innovation, the first obstacle isn't technical, but human. Harder than solving engineering puzzles is changing people's minds for technology adoption and increasing capabilities. 

“The cultural change that we introduced, where there are technologies out there that could let us do things better; we had traditionally contracted out with industry, big industry partners, to come in and do those big things, and they would often mold themselves to the government,” said Khoi Nguyen, technical director, Marine Corps Forces Cyberspace Command. 

Small businesses are among the most culturally innovative, as they develop new ideas and need to keep their teams on the cutting edge of development. 

“We use different things to bring in other industries: small businesses outside of just the big industry partners, to both help educate and start some of that cultural change on the government,” Khoi told the audience. He was part of a panel discussing technology and digital transformation. 

And one of the keys for small businesses entering digital business with the Navy is in innovative technologies to simplify and, equally important, save. 

“Show us how to save money off something that is currently in the stack,” said Justin Fanelli, technical director, PEO Digital, U.S. Navy. 

The winning offers will come from those who help integrate and simplify data management and services. “[We] contract the right innovation components merging performance portfolios that will help us leverage economies of scale while making efficient enterprise business applications and services, and reducing maintenance and administrative burden associated with managing multiple solutions,” Allen said during his speech. 

As the Navy pushes toward innovation, speakers on the Digital Transformation panel explained that the biggest shift is a greater acceptance of failures as part of a learning process, leading to better applications. The biggest enemy is accepting no change, as “there is a negative effect to doing nothing,” Fanelli said.