Copernicus Award

The U.S. Naval Institute and AFCEA International are honored to recognize individuals each year who are selected based on their sustained superior performance in a C4I/IT-related job. A board of judges reviews applications from the departments of the Navy and Coast Guard, including active duty and civilians, and makes the selections.

This award is presented at the WEST conference in San Diego CA and the DCOS conference in Baltimore, MD. 

Current and Past Winners

2019 Award Nominations Information 


Award Overview:

The Copernicus award was established in 1997 as a result of a discussion among Lieutenant General C. Norman Wood, USAF (Ret.), then President and CEO of AFCEA International, Captain James A. Barber, USN (Ret.), then Publisher and CEO of the U.S. Naval Institute, and the late Vice Admiral Art Cebrowski, USN, who was the Navy N6 at that time. The name for the award came from the Copernicus Architecture used as the blueprint for the future C4I structure of the Navy. Recipients are selected based on their sustained superior performance in a C4I/IT-related job. The selections are made each year by Navy judges who review applications from the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, including active duty and civilians. AFCEA and the U.S. Naval Institute present the awards at their annual Western Conference held in San Diego each winter.

While the award was established in 1997, its history with AFCEA goes much further back. The Copernicus Architecture (shifting the center of the universe) was drafted in December 1990, under the direction of the Navy’s Vice Admiral Jerry O. Tuttle. It was explained in the August 1991 SIGNAL and in the AFCEA International Press book Naval Command and Control, Policy, Programs, People and Issues (December 1991). This revolution in post-Cold War Navy C3 thinking, but without the name Copernicus, first appeared in the August 1988 Signal, in Strategic C3 Systems for the 21st Century, by Admiral Tuttle. A review of that architecture contains issues that resonate and are unsolved today.

It predicted “prolonged regional conflicts in the Middle East and Persian Gulf...a scramble for intelligence and resultant inundation of information.” It called for a modular approach to software with data in a common binary format and open system architectures. It recommended shifting investment away from "stove-pipe, vertical, end-to-end systems, in favor of horizontal building block programs and with off-the-shelf commercial equipment. It said the requirement for joint interoperability is greatly magnified in C4I systems, especially in the contingency and low intensity conflict environments... where a joint task force commander is likely to be the tactical on-scene commander."

Vice Admiral Cebrowski (a disciple of Tuttle’s) was honored in 2003 with a special award of merit for initiating these awards. His last major address was at West 2005 after leaving as the first Director of the Office of Force Transformation. The U.S. Naval Institute and AFCEA are honored to recognize individuals who continue to demonstrate in operations that Copernicus remains relevant today.


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