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National Defense > Blog > Posts > Pentagon Gives Navy Go-Ahead to Outfit Ships With New Computing Network
Pentagon Gives Navy Go-Ahead to Outfit Ships With New Computing Network

By Dan Parsons


An acquisition decision handed down by the Pentagon Dec. 14 will allow the Navy to begin installation this month of its newest shipboard computing system.

The Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services program will move to production, deployment and limited fielding, according to a memorandum from Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition,Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall.

The decision gives the Navy authority to purchase up to 29 additional computing systems that will simplify the variety of shipboard networks currently in use. Funding was authorized for the installation of 23 of those systems, depending on ship availability, said Rear Adm. Jerry Burroughs, the Navy’s program executive officer for command,control, communications, computers and intelligence.

“This system consolidates five networks into one,” Burroughs told National Defense. “That allows us to get standardization across the fleet, so we get reduced variants and improved training and sustainment plans. All that results in reduced total operating cost. That’s the name of the game for CANES.”

The system will provide each ship in the Navy’s fleet with a common computing environment, allowing the Navy to field applications without having to develop new hardware in the future. By relying almost entirely on commercially available technology, the program has a built-in technology refresh schedule for which companies will continuously compete. Both aspects are aimed at keeping costs manageable as hundreds of systems are installed and deployed aboard a variety of ships.

The systems are scheduled to begin operational testing later this fiscal year, “which will feed a full deployment decision in [fiscal] 2014,” Burroughs said.

Northrop Grumman was awarded the contract to develop and implement CANES earlier this year after Lockheed Martin Corp. withdrew a protest.

An announcement of the February contract award stated that full production could bring contracts worth a total of  $637.7 million.

A Rand Corp. study published in July found that development and procurement of the system would cost at least $1.5 billion, not including software applications.

Burroughs said when procurement, development, installation, testing and sustainment were taken into account, CANES “will cost significantly more than that $1.5 billion figure.”

“But we have already realized significant savings from the initial estimate to develop and procure the systems,” he said. “The strategy of using continuous competition … is paying off for us and we will continue to pursue that aggressively.”

Entering production and deployment allows CANES installation to begin immediately, Burroughs said. Work will begin this month to install 18 racks of computing equipment and the necessary fiber-optic cable and other hardware aboard the USS Milius, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer. That ship will be out of commission for about 18 weeks during the installation process. The work will be performed while the ship is at port in San Diego.

Plans are to install the systems on five destroyers, two aircraft carriers and perhaps an amphibious combat ship this fiscal year if time and ship availability permit, Burroughs said.

Eventually, about 190 ships and submarines and two maritime operations centers will be outfitted with CANES equipment. Burroughs said there may be other ships that could receive the equipment, depending on available resources. Installations have been scheduled through fiscal 2020, but Burroughs did not immediately know the funding amount authorized.

Work to install CANES equipment on the carriers USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and USS John C. Stennis will begin in May and June, respectively.

Because installation is much more involved for carriers, their timeframes will be significantly longer than destroyers — about a year versus 18 weeks, Burroughs said.

The process involves removal of old computing systems, modification of the foundation for the processor racks and the reinstallation of the new systems. Modifications to the ships’ heating and cooling systems and installation of miles of wiring and cable are also necessary. Once the system is in, software must be loaded onto it and everything has to be tested, all of which takes time.

“It is a pretty significant industrial effort to do these installs,” Burroughs said. “We have them factored in to what we call major availabilities. As long as the ship’s availability is long enough to accommodate the CANES install, we’ll do it. We’re trying to be aggressive with the installation schedule … but we don’t want to get so many started at once that we don’t have time to implement lessons learned.”

As more systems are installed, Navy officials will apply lessons from earlier ships with the aim of bringing down the time a ship is out of service.

“That is a major thrust for us because as we can work that installation timeline down, it will allow us to get to more ships faster,” Burroughs said.

Together with the Next Generation Enterprise Network — the ashore counterpart to CANES — the two systems will dramatically update and replace the current Navy-Marine Corps Intranet and 11 other networks at sea and ashore. NCMI represents about 80 percent of the Navy’s intranet infrastructure with a user base of about 800,000 personnel.

Photo Credit: iStockphoto

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