Navy Information Dominance: An Enterprise IT Use Case


In 2007, the Navy set out to transform the role of information in warfare from one as an enabler to one of information dominance warfighting domain that when integrated with its traditional ashore, afloat and aloft domains the Navy will continue to be unmatched in its speed, reach and agility in the maritime battlespace (Card and Rogers 2012). The Navy’s pursuit of Information Dominance is the sound case study  to investigate the issues, decisions and actions informed with an understandable view of an Information Technology Enterprise.

Shortly after becoming the Chief of Naval Operations in 2007, Admiral Gary Roughead used the term Information Dominance to convey his vision to “achieve the integration and innovation necessary for war fighting superiority across the full spectrum of military operations in the maritime, cyberspace and information domains” (USN FCC 2010). During his tenure as CNO, Roughead made several organizational changes to align the Navy operational and acquisition forces to this vision. The first step was to merge the OPNAV Intelligence (N2) and Communications (N6) elements under the Deputy CNO for Information Dominance (N2/N6). This step stressed the need to treat all information, regardless of classification, as critical to the Navy’s ability to operate in the information domain and that Navy resources must be integrated accordingly (Roughead 2009).

The next significant move was the stand-up of a numbered fleet focused on providing information operations as a war fighting element of the Navy. Roughead assigned 10th Fleet as the organization’s identifier to demonstrate how information in warfare is as important to current naval operations as information was in successful anti-submarine warfare during World War II (Roughead 2009); (USN FCC 2010). These actions set the foundation for a new non-kinetic warfare area that along with its traditional surface, air, subsurface and expeditionary warfare domains the Navy will continue to possess the tactical advantage required to win future conflicts with speed and agility (Card and Rogers 2012). Unlike many enterprise strategies, Admiral Roughead did not call for the invention of new technologies to solve a problem; instead, he set in motion material and non-material elements spanning the DOTMLPF spectrum all targeted on elevating information from a supporting role in warfare to a role of weapon system available to the naval commander (Roughead 2009). As Roughead states, “The technology I believe is going to be available to us. But the people who operate in this domain will be at a premium” (1). It is for this reason that Roughead organized Navy intelligence, signals and information professionals under a single Information Dominance Corps of 44,000 sailors (Roughead 2009). This move by the CNO established for the first time a TYCOM charged with training, staffing and equipping of an enterprise IT operational force.

In the period from 2010 to the time of this investigation, Navy leadership has continued to execute actions in support of achieving dominance in the information space, details provided in following sections. This sustained commitment by Navy leadership over a span of 10 years of time, changes in the political environment and changes in those charged with leadership demonstrates the importance of information in successful naval warfare.

The Navy Strategy for Information Dominance is the capstone document for describing strategic effects required to maintain naval supremacy in the information age (Card and Rogers 2012). A second document, the Roadmap for Achieving Information Dominance provides specific actions required to achieve the effects outlined in the strategy document (Leigher 2012).

In January of 2016, CNO Admiral John Richardson directed the change of the Information Dominance warfare area to Information Warfare and the Information Dominance Corps to Information Warfare Community, which further amplified the Navy’s vision for this transformation as a new warfare discipline (Branch 2016). For the purpose of this paper, the terms Information Dominance and Information Warfare are synonymous as the change in terms is not retroactive and full implementation of this change had not yet occurred at the time of this writing.

Card and Rogers (2013) assert that information has enabled military commanders to gain a tactical advantage in warfare long before the modern age. While the physical medium and transport mechanisms have changed with the use of technology, the ability to collect and exploit information about an adversary and prevent the adversary from knowing what is known was equally important in the past as it is today. Card and Rogers explain that what has changed is the quantity of information, how the Navy can use information offensively and the speed at which information transits the globe.

For more information on the use of information and technology by the military see Technology in National Defense

In remarks to the fall 2015 Navy Cyber Technical Exchange, Vice Admiral Jan Tighe used the term “home field advantage” to describe the Navy’s ability to have an operational advantage within its Cyber Key Terrain (Tighe 2015). In the physical domain, the military key terrain is any locality, or area, the seizure or retention of which affords a marked advantage to either combatant (DOD Joint Staff 2016). According to Tighe, the challenge for cyber is the ability to understand what constitutes the cyber key terrain, as it does not follow geographic boundaries. In the physical domain, the commander has responsibility for a specific geographic boundary and his assets are typically within that boundary. In the cyber domain, information assets spread across the globe with data that moves between shore, afloat and air platforms following a complex set of interconnected links that vary between platforms, data sets and geographic locations (Tighe 2015).

The Navy Strategy for Achieving Information Dominance 2013–2017 described ID and the ID capabilities that enable naval supremacy. Published jointly by the Deputy CNO (D-CNO) for Information Dominance and the Commander U.S. 10th Fleet, the document describes ID as the operational advantage gained from fully integrating Navy’s information capabilities, systems and resources to optimize decision making and maximize warfighting effects in the complex maritime environment of the 21st Century. The development of a Navy-wide Information Dominance capability responds to trends within the worldwide information and operating environments, predicted to stress U.S. Navy freedom of movement and capabilities in future conflict (Card and Rogers 2012).

The U.S. Navy Information Dominance Roadmap 2013–2028 March 2013 further expands the definition of ID by providing fundamental ID capabilities of Assured Command and Control (AC2), Battle Space Awareness (BA) and Integrated Fires (IF) (Leigher 2012).

Assured Command and Control provides robust, protected, resilient and reliable information infrastructure that enables the Navy’s overall information environment and allows uninterrupted worldwide communication between deployed units and forces ashore. Navy’s information infrastructure must be able to maintain essential network and data link services across secured segments of the electromagnetic spectrum in order to transport, share, store, protect and disseminate critical combat information (Leigher 2012).

Battlespace Awareness provides enhanced information content, and advanced means to rapidly sense, collect, process, analyze, evaluate and exploit intelligence regarding adversaries and the operating environment. Information content will serve as the basis for nearly all decisions, enabling Navy forces to more effectively maneuver and coordinate actions that target and engage enemy forces (Leigher 2012).

Integrated Fires provides the capability to utilize integrated information in warfare by expanding the use of advanced electronic warfare and offensive cyber effects to complement existing and planned air, surface and subsurface kinetic weapons within the battlespace (Leigher 2012).

Information Dominance [Warfare] is an example of a cross cutting, transformational initiative that the leadership of an IT enterprise requires visibility and understanding of the multitude of investments across the enterprise in order to achieve its strategic intent.

Policy Mandates

Acquisition professionals learn in their very first training class that system designs must respond to operational requirements. DOD and U.S. government policy makers often thrust requirements upon acquisition leadership. For example, in 2010, the U.S. government’s chief information officer published the government’s Cloud First policy. The policy directs each government agency to include “consideration and application of cloud computing solutions as part of the budget process” and to “modify their IT portfolios to fully take advantage of the benefits of cloud computing” (Kundra 2011). The DOD CIO has aggressively pushed for faster utilization of commercial cloud to host DOD data systems. The driver behind this urgency is the expectation that commercial hosting will save money while increasing the quality of service provided to data and application users. While these claims may be valid and may eventually deliver the projected savings in the cost to run data centers, there currently is no understanding of the full life cycle cost to move applications to a commercial provider (Foley 2012). This example is not intended to raise a debate on the validity or the value of cloud computing. This example demonstrates the complex questions that face a Navy acquisition leader charged with delivering capability to his end users while complying with higher-level mandates. In the case of cloud computing, the acquisition leader must still deliver within cost, schedule and performance requirements while understanding the impact of cloud computing on the ability to ensure data: is protected, available and trusted by the user (Gavin 2016).

Policy mandates represent a challenge faced at all levels of the IT acquisition leadership in which an understanding of the existing IT landscape is required to understand how these mandates apply to individual programs and the enterprise.

Enterprise Challenges

The Information Dominance vision communicated by Admiral Roughead in 2009 continues to resonate today with Navy leadership because the challenges faced by the Navy today resonate with his vision. These challenges include interoperability between systems, investments in duplicative systems, systems that fail to meet user needs and the inability to prevent unauthorized access to mission critical systems.

Cyber Security

The increase in commercially available products and the reduction of custom operating systems and hardware have resulted in the unintended increase in risk exposure to military systems. Many of the systems critical to the Navy’s ability to plan, conduct and sustain military operations are now using applications, software networks and hardware similar to systems deployed outside of the military. Using commercially available products reduces the need to invent computing technologies while reducing the learning curve associated with operating and maintaining systems. The move to commercial products has also reduced the learning curve for potential adversaries. Bugs, viruses and security vulnerabilities in the private sector quickly translate to military systems (Anderson 2014). Cyber security and the ability to provide secure, reliable assured capabilities to the fleet is an underpinning issue for all naval operations. In response to several cyber security incidents within the DOD and the Navy, CNO directed his deputy CNO for Information Dominance to stand up a task force to identify the critical issues facing the Navy and to establish the cyber security leadership for all Navy forces. Task Force Cyber Awakening (TFCA) was charged with instituting changes to the Navy’s resourcing, acquisition and readiness organization to extend cybersecurity beyond traditional IT to all combat and combat support systems (Anderson 2014). In the case of cyber security, there is the natural concern that locking down systems and adding devices such as firewalls and packet scanners will slow down or prevent time critical data exchanges.

The acquisition community, in particular the systems engineering stakeholders, must be able to understand the impact of cyber security measures on end-to-end system performance.

Budget Reductions

Reductions in defense spending are driving the need for more efficient and effective use of resources applied to IT programs. The DOD is coming out of prolonged period of wartime spending where money flowed freely in order to deliver critical capabilities to the war efforts. Historically, defense spending sees a dramatic reduction directly after a period of conflict. While defense spending is shrinking, the need to provide a strong defense remains. Defense leaders have a renewed motivation to identify and reduce potentially duplicative investments to free up resources for critical needs. Operational forces are increasingly willing to reuse or leverage existing capabilities to satisfy needs where in the past there may have been an inclination to insist that their solution must be unique because their needs are unique (Kundra 2011; Gortney and Harris 2014, 36).

Acquisition leaders must be able to evaluate an existing capability for suitability to a new problem space. Accurate assessment of capabilities requires a clear understanding of the execution of missions and the existing systems used to support the missions.

Integration and Interoperability

The Navy and DOD acquisition community has struggled to keep up with the rapid insertion of information and IT in DOD and Navy systems. The DAS focuses on delivery of solutions to a specific mission need and leaves little latitude for the project manager to address broader issues. Initial attempts focused on ensuring systems for use by multiple DOD elements were interoperable with other systems used at the joint level. Testing of systems for interoperability was limited to those systems deemed as joint systems (Undersecretary of Defense [AT&L] 2015). This policy left all other systems developed within the DOD components to their own devices to ensure interoperability. The result was an increased occurrence where systems built and tested as standalone systems failed to operate when installed in the operational environment. While the Navy is not the only component with this challenges, the deployment of systems to one platform at a time over several years has exacerbated the impact on performance in the operational environment. The commonly recognized root cause of this issue is the lack of integration and interoperability requirements and the testing against these requirements at the system level (Dunaway 2013); (Rodman 2012).

Integration and interoperability challenges provide another use case where a clear understanding of how missions are executed and the existing systems are used to support the missions are required by navy acquisition leadership.

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