Posted: April 3, 2017 4:55 PM

Lack of Ship Availabilities Impacting Information Warfare

By SARA FUENTES, Seapower Correspondent

NATIONAL HARBOR Md. — Rear Adm. Nancy Norton told an audience at the IW Pavilion on the Sea-Air-Space show floor April 3 that one of the biggest impediments to upgrading legacy systems is ship availabilities.

“Part of it is definitely funding, developing the capability. And then we stretch out the funding … but at some point availabilities become a constraint, no matter what we do, no matter how much money you throw at it,” said Norton, who is director of Warfare Integration for Information Warfare and deputy director, Navy Cybersecurity.

Norton said the Navy has more than 200 different software systems, a majority of which are legacies that cannot be retired despite being out of date. These legacy systems are on a number of different ships and planes, and, due to the time needed to install new systems, ship availability has become a primary factor in installing upgrades. 

“We’re pretty good at fighting for money; time is much harder to find,” she said, confirming that a lack of funds is not the primary culprit. The admiral expressed a strong preference for retiring legacy systems more quickly to get new capabilities out to the fleet. Significant portions of the Information Warfare budget are devoted to maintaining legacy systems, and Norton said she would like to invest those funds in newer technologies.

Ship availabilities have become a problem for the Navy, as increasing demand and a smaller fleet have led to extended deployments over recent years, with the seven-month deployment goals stretching to eight or nine months. The Optimized Fleet Response plan, the Navy’s fleet deployment and maintenance blueprint, is designed to alleviate these issues.

Norton is looking for industry to provide technology that can help alleviate the availability problem. With software that can be added to the existing hardware, upgrades take significantly less time.  

Additional needs from industry include reducing the manpower requirement; any automation that can allow the sailor to focus on analysis is an important feature. The Navy is especially focused on the space constraints of their hardware. With over 5,000 people aboard a carrier, sleeping 60 to a room — space is at a premium on Navy ships   

Upgrades and agility are a serious concern for the Navy. Beyond the normal user-friendliness goals, the Navy also is tracking user-friendly training capability as software systems are upgraded. Agility within the system itself is important, as the Navy faces evolving threats. Norton stated that as they look for unique and new solutions, small business frequently has the type of innovative ideas the Navy is looking for. The challenge for the Navy is to “find those small businesses and get them into our system,” she said. Interoperability remains the primary requirement for the Navy, the Joint Force and U.S. allies.

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