Navy IT Priorities Stress Security, Efficiency

By Lloyd Mccoy
With the Navy projecting flat spending over the next few years, it will be looking to information technology to help meet its goals.  

Recently, the Navy has more overtly aligned its IT requirements around the joint information environment (JIE), a vision centered on universal interoperability, standardizatio and visibility within the Defense Department. The service has four priorities related to the JIE: security, network normalization, infrastructure consolidation and enterprise services.

Its most visible component is the single security architecture. This is intended to allow defense cyber operators at every level to see the status of their networks for operations and security and enable commonality in how cyber threats are countered. The Navy recently decided to be involved in what is the likely the biggest JIE-related project: ongoing installations of joint regional security stacks.

These security nodes enable network security to be consolidated to approximately 23 locations with a standardized security network platform for improved situational awareness. The latest iteration of this approach will include web content filtering, wide-area network acceleration and enhanced intrusion detection and prevention.

The single security architecture is also reflected in the Navy’s emphasis on shared situational awareness. One example is the Marine Corps network operations and security center. This organization is tasked with defending the Marine Corps network, addressing vulnerabilities and providing network support. The Marine Corps has designated the center as their version of the new JIE enterprise operations centers which perform the same function.

Overall funding in fiscal year 2015 for the center declined 6 percent from 2014 but saw a slight uptick in capital expenditures. Requirements for this activity include network security, perimeter security, data protection, continuity of operations, continuous monitoring, malware defense and mobile device security.

Network normalization is another key theme. This is reflective of the JIE view that the Defense Department’s current system of disparate networks, processing and storage infrastructures are too diverse to protect and defend. Two of the Navy’s largest investments address that very problem.

Consolidated afloat networks and enterprise services (CANES) is a program to replace the Navy’s five afloat networks with one network and upgraded IT and sensor capabilities. The Navy wants to host or connect hundreds of warfare, command and control intelligence, logistics, business and administrative applications across multiple security domains.

Fiscal year 2015 funding for CANES increased nearly 10 percent to $423 million from 2014. This includes a spike of nearly $40 million dedicated to capital expenditures, totaling a whopping $393 million for 2015.

Another area of focus is the next-generation enterprise network (NGEN), the replacement for what was the world’s largest intranet, the Navy-Marine Corps intranet. NGEN provides voice, video and data to Navy and Marine Corps personnel worldwide. The program saw the 2015 budget request drop about 23 percent from last year as it completes its transition from the old intranet. The technology upgrades for this program will double as major modernization initiatives.

The next aspect to the Navy’s strategy is infrastructure consolidation, with an emphasis on data center and network consolidation as well as cloud computing. While cost savings is a major driver, IT infrastructure consolidation is also about reducing the number of vulnerable seams through a smaller footprint.

The Navy’s approach to data center consolidation follows a four-step process of evaluating application inventory, modernizing applications, virtualizing applications and migrating to core or commercial data centers.

The service also applies some of the same thinking to its push for network consolidation. Consolidating the Navy’s disparate networks will mean better security and reliability, less network vulnerability and improved standardization.

Like many other organizations, the Navy is making a strong push into cloud computing. Most of the Navy’s data is controlled unclassified information, one step above public facing information in terms of sensitivity. For that reason, the Navy is looking at pilot programs through some commercial cloud providers to determine best practices for infrastructure sharing with other systems, personnel investigation requirements and computer network defense, among other areas.

The Marine Corps will primarily rely on its private cloud for hosting applications, primarily through the Marine Corps enterprise IT services. This is a program encompassing the Marine Corps’ core data center and private cloud. It provides application hosting, shared services and information access capabilities for the Marine Corps war fighter and business domains. The global combat support system-Marine Corps and other programs of record are being incorporated into it.

Funding has declined about 38 percent in 2015, dropping from $60 million to $37 million. Since the program aims to expand its capabilities to accommodate the Marine Corps private cloud computing environment, expect funding increases for it in the near future.

The Navy’s enterprise information services are home for many programs and initiatives that reflect the JIE’s strategy for enterprise services. The Navy enterprise business systems office in particular has a $3 billion portfolio of systems to manage the Navy’s money, materiel and manpower. 

These are fertile hunting grounds for selling asset management, logistics and data management tools, to name a few. The future electric procurement system is one notable example. The new system replaces the legacy contract writing system that’s been around since the 1990s. It will support over 17,000 contracting officers across more than 440 sites. The request for proposals for this program is expected in the fourth quarter of this year, with an award in early fiscal year 2017.

It will be interesting to see whether these four IT investment areas will in fact help the Navy meet its expanding role in the armed forces while working in a stagnant budget environment.

Lloyd McCoy Jr. is a consultant with immixGroup.

Topics: Infotech

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