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Navy Uses Information Technology To Enable Information Technology

Many of the challenges wrought by new capabilities can be met by information innovation.
Rear Adm. Kurt Rothenhaus, USN, program executive officer (PEO) C4I, speaks at WEST 2022. Photo by Michael Carpenter

Rear Adm. Kurt Rothenhaus, USN, program executive officer (PEO) C4I, speaks at WEST 2022. Photo by Michael Carpenter

Those in charge of command, control, communications, computers and intelligence (C4I) for the U.S. Navy are tapping their own assets to solve issues brought about by the implementation of new systems. More data means more work for warfighters without some kind of technological assistance, and greater capabilities on the edge could be vexing if sailors and Marines are hindered by operational burdens.

How the Navy is meeting these challenges was the focal point of a discussion by Rear Adm. Kurt Rothenhaus, USN, program executive officer (PEO) C4I, on the third and final day of WEST 2022, the conference and exposition hosted by AFCEA International and U.S. Naval Institute in San Diego February 16-18. Adm. Rothenhaus related how many of the new and upcoming technologies hold great promise for enhancing warfighter operational capabilities.

And this is essential for a widely dispersed force. As more capabilities are delivered to the warfighter, distance becomes an issue. Individual warfighters must know how to get the best out of their technology on-site. “How do we make sure the sailor has what they need in that contested environment where we won’t be able to send a technician out to help them?” Adm. Rothenhaus asked.

Training will be a part of that. Warfighters need to learn their technology hands-on before they are deployed. The admiral said that the Navy is using a cloud-based environment so each student can emulate a CANES ship they are going out to.

This becomes vital in dealing with software and the cyber threat. Project Overmatch software will be a key enabler to getting software into the hands of the sailors, Adm. Rothenhaus said. It would be delivered to the sailor on time with everything they need to use it.

And that will be a key part of ensuring warfighter adoption of these new capabilities. “We have to build trust with the warfighter that, using these technologies, the outcome that is expected will happen,” the admiral maintained.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) will play significant roles. “We are fascinated and intrigued by AI/ML,” the admiral allowed. “We are clearing the decks to be ready to use more AI/ML. It’s a powerful mechanism to meet our C4I challenges.”

He noted that early uses for AI/ML involved using it to generate predictive models to avoid preventive maintenance. Early results were mixed. “When we first started doing it, the predictive models were awful,” he admitted. “But, over time we improved.”

And AI/ML will help reduce the warfighter’s workload at the edge. “[We’re] really excited about the possibility of those edge technologies extracting more from the sailor and making their job easier,” he suggested.

From industry, the Navy seeks both capabilities and expertise. “We love your new gear, but we also learn from you your best practices,” he told business leaders. “DevOps has been business as usual for industry. We’re making it business as usual for us,” he declared.

Cyber defense looms above all C4I systems. Adm. Rothenhaus cited the cyber defense analysis enclave SHARKCAGE as an important future development. Network situational awareness is vital to combat increasingly hostile adversarial action in cyberspace.

“The cyber threat is real,” he declared. “It’s varsity, and it goes on every day.”