USA: SPAWAR’s Senior Leaders Discuss Information Dominance Technology at C4ISR Symposium
Senior leaders from the U.S. Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) joined panel moderator Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy Dr. John Zangardi for discussions on rapidly advancing global Information Dominance technology across the fleet at the 2014 AFCEA San Diego C4ISR Symposium, April 22.
Victor Gavin, program executive officer for Enterprise Information Systems, stressed the importance of leveraging industry capability to help bridge the gap as Navy investment and budgets in research and development (R&D) decline.
“Comparing the buying of ships to IT won’t work,” said Gavin “Our challenge is in determining how to take advantage of investments already out there in the commercial world and applying them to our environment.”
Most of the panel’s participants agreed the Navy lags behind major commercial enterprises, such as Intel and Qualcomm, in innovation technology investment, with acquisition bureaucracy and budget shortfalls convoluting much of the effort.
SPAWAR’s Executive Assistant, Capt. D.J. LeGoff, said the current process supports the rapid transfer of technology to the fleet, but the evaluation process gets in the way and bogs it down.
“Yes, our processes do support the rapid introduction of capability to the fleet,” said LeGoff. “But there are some forces that keep us from taking advantage of that flexibility. Those forces are process bureaucracy and budget bureaucracy.”
It is estimated that DOD will spend approximately $63 billion on research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E) in the coming year. That amount equates to approximately $36 billion less than the amount spent on procurement in 2014. With the ever increasing pace of current technology, major Navy information technology investments cannot keep up. Today’s procurement process, designed for the acquisition of platforms like ships and aircraft, slows the transfer of important Information Dominance capability to the warfighter, with some programs taking upwards of five years to reach significant milestones toward implementation across the fleet.
Priority investment decision-making is essential and a capable workforce vital to keep the warfighter from engaging in what is called “an unfair fight,” said Capt. Kurt Rothenhaus, commanding officer, SPAWAR Systems Center Pacific. Meeting the Navy’s R&D needs in the current austere budget climate are challenging, while at the same time maintaining existing systems, modernizing and introducing new technology.
“We approach agility and acquisition by providing domain experienced engineers, scientists and other professionals to solve maritime, C4I, cyber and other technical challenges,” said Rothenhaus. “Our strength is our ability to rapidly move folks around to where the work is needed and the priorities are. We work hand-in-hand with industry to meet that mission.”
Zangardi summed it up by concurring that the process and the budget are part of the problem.
“It takes a lot of heavy lifting at the top to make it all work. I want to echo what was said: it is the process; it is the budget. Those are the things that make it very difficult,” said Zangardi. “When we want to move faster, it takes guys like us to go in there and put a concerted leadership effort into it with our limited bandwidth to move things. It’s not that we don’t want to or that we’re against it, it takes a lot to move it.”
As the Navy’s Information Dominance systems command, SPAWAR designs, develops and deploys advanced communications and information capabilities for the warfighter. With nearly 10,000 acquisition professionals located around the world and close to the fleet, the organization is at the forefront of research, engineering and support services that provide vital decision superiority for the warfighter.
Press Release, April 24, 2014; Image: C4ISR Symposium