New Technology Approaches Can Solve Complex U.S. Navy Problems

By: Cmdr. Jamie Gateau, USN (Ret.), SIGNAL Magazine

“U.S. Navy commanders often struggle to deliver uninterrupted communications at sea without the added complications of providing command and control in denied or degraded environments. They face a double whammy of operational and technical hurdles.

Processes for developing concepts of operations are complex, painstaking and exacting. Although technology sets the boundaries for what is possible, most of the hard work is decidedly nontechnical. It lies in determining which signals and messages have priority, which data sources and destinations are critical, and which ones can be relegated—and for how long.

That is not meant to understate the technological obstacles Navy leaders grapple with—hurdles the private sector already has solved. Solutions can be found in software-defined networking (SDN), network function virtualization (NFV) and network policy orchestration. These technologies hold the keys to enabling command and control in a denied or degraded environment (C2D2E) afloat and enhancing security, mission capability and flexibility ashore.”

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Full Speed Ahead For Autonomous Countermine Technologies

By: Sandra Jontz, SIGNAL Magazine

“U.S. Navy researchers hope to advance maritime countermine technology by developing fully autonomous systems that support the service’s latest ships and doctrine. Both new threats and innovative naval systems are remaking the undersea arena in ways that render obsolete conventional countermine

The Navy has come a long way from the self-propelled torpedoes of the 1860s. With processors and sensors smaller, cheaper and more powerful than ever, fully autonomous weapon systems are not far from reality. Today, as Defense Department leaders wrangle with ethics and policy aspects of this brave new world—likely a decade off—Navy engineers push full speed ahead to create platforms that take humans out of the mission loop.

Scientists are sailing toward new expeditionary defense systems that augment the Navy’s littoral combat ship (LCS) mine and antisubmarine warfare mission modules. Comparable in size to frigates, LCSs—with their technological advances—require about half the crew of their larger cousins, putting fewer sailors in harm’s way and reducing logistical support requirements.”

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U.S. Navy Runs Interference on Signals Conflict

By: Sandra Jontz, SIGNAL Magazine

“Advances in a plethora of military communication and situational awareness platforms have created unintended repercussions for the U.S. Navy, from the “forest of antennas” that can consume a ship’s deck to the debilitating effects of radio interference that clog airwaves and impede critical links to vessels, aircraft, drones and even satellites. Navy engineers are toiling on a handful of projects to ensure effective and secure communication links, which are so fundamental to military operations.

Modern fleets rely heavily on communication, especially as the military grows its network-centric environment, says Andrew Robertson, a physicist for the System Integration and Instrumentation Group at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), who highlights several key projects underway.

He begins by relating details of the Navy’s Integrated Topside (InTop) communications platform, a collaborative research effort with the Office of Naval Research (ONR) to reduce the number of radio frequency (RF) and microwave antennas aboard ships.”

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Security, Modularity Drive Navy Cyber

By: Robert K. Ackerman, SIGNAL Magazine

“Cleaner, more modular software that can be updated with less fuss tops the U.S. Navy’s wish list as it girds its fleet for warfighting in cyberspace. These advances would not only help the service stay atop the wave of information system innovation but also contribute to better security amid growing and changing threats.

The Navy wants industry to develop operating systems and software from the start with fewer bugs. These software products should have fewer vulnerabilities that can be exploited by an adversary, which compound the service’s efforts at cybersecurity.

“We tend to continue to use code that has vulnerabilities over and over again in the commercial world, and industry can help drive the requirement to really clean up some of the code that’s already there,” offers Rear Adm. Nancy A. Norton, USN, director of warfare integration for information warfare in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (OpNav) and deputy director of Navy cybersecurity.”

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VCNO Moran: Navy is Less Ready Because ‘We’re Too Small’

By: Sam LaGrone, USNI News

“A historically small fleet and a relentless operational tempo are proving the Navy is too small to meet more than its bare minimum requirement around the world, Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Bill Moran told a Senate panel on Wednesday.

“We know we’re too small for what we’re being asked to do today,” Moran told the Senate Armed Services subcommittee on readiness and management support.
“A smaller fleet operating at the same pace is wearing out faster. Work has increased, and we’re asking an awful lot of our sailors and Navy civilians to fix [it].”

Currently, the Navy has about 275 active ships and about 322, 000 active duty sailors. According to Moran that’s down from a 2001 total of 316 ships and more than 400,000 sailors. That difference is also compounded by an increased demand on the service by the geographical combatant commanders – for whom the Navy can only meet 40 percent of their demand, he said.”

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Navy Will Be ‘Just Flat Out Out Of Money’ Without Supplemental Funding; Would Cancel Flight Hours, Ship Avails

By: Megan Eckstein, USNI News

“WASHINGTON, D.C. — Without a readiness-focused supplemental spending bill passed by lawmakers this spring, the Navy and Marine Corps would stop flying at home and ship and submarine maintenance availabilities would be canceled, the vice chief of naval operations and assistant commandant of the Marine Corps said at a hearing today.

The continuing resolution currently funding the government at last year’s spending levels is set to expire on April 28, 2017, and even if lawmakers could pass the Fiscal Year 2017 spending bill for the second half of the fiscal year, budget caps already in place mean that the Navy would receive about $5 billion less than it did in FY 2016. Having started the year, then, at a higher spending rate, dropping down to the FY 2017 budget would cause the Navy to almost immediately run out of operations and maintenance dollars in parts of its budget.

If the Navy did not receive a supplemental spending bill with additional funds for FY 2017, “within a month we are going to have to shut down air wings, we are going to have to defer maintenance on several availabilities for our surface ships and submarine maintenance facilities,” Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Bill Moran told the House Armed Services Committee today at a “state of the military” hearing.”

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Mattis Budget Guidance Prioritizes Readiness, Previews 2018 Defense Strategy

By: Megan Eckstein, USNI News

“Defense Secretary James Mattis released an initial budget guidance memo that prioritizes current readiness, filling in shortfalls and then building a larger and more capable force.

The Jan. 31 memo, released today, states that “the ultimate objective is to build a larger, more capable, and more lethal joint force, driven by a new National Defense Strategy,” though it does not preview the new strategy itself.

Rather, the memo calls for intermediate goals of addressing “immediate and serious readiness challenges” and “addressing pressing programmatic shortfalls.”

Phase 1 of this effort calls for a FY 2017 budget amendment that would be delivered to the Office of Management and Budget by March 1. This would increase current-year defense spending over what the Obama administration recommended and Congress marked up and approved, though that budget plan is not actually in use right now; rather, the federal government is still operating under a continuing resolution due to lawmakers not passing their spending bills last fall. For the budget amendment to have an effect, Congress would have to take action this spring.”

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NASSCO Starts Work on Fifth Expeditionary Sea Base

By: Sam LaGrone, USNI News

“General Dynamics NASSCO started work on the fifth mobile sea base to act as a lily pad for Marine, special operations forces and Navy mine countermeasure aircraft, the company announced.

The latest in the U.S. Navy’s Expeditionary Transfer Dock (ESD)/Expeditionary Sea Base (ESB) program began construction on Wednesday following an award of $106.2 million long lead contract for the program in June.

“The ship, ESB 5, is the fifth to be added to a contract between NASSCO and the U.S. Navy that originally called for two Expeditionary Transfer Docks: USNS Montford Point (T-ESD-1) and USNS John Glenn (T-ESD-2),” read the announcement.”

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Navy, Marines to Test, Stretch Aviation-heavy USS America Before Deployment

By: Gidget Fuentes, USNI News

“The 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit will experiment with two different mixes of aircraft during at-sea training exercises before leaving with amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA-6) for its first overseas operational deployment, officials told USNI News last week.

America is the first of two ships designed without a well deck for employing landing craft but with spacious decks for aircraft, repair and aviation fuel storage that will support more aviation missions than the Navy’s existing fleet of big-deck amphibious assault ships.

“We have a plan to experiment with two different kind of basic configurations for the first two at-sea periods, so by the third one, we are going to go ahead and try to validate what we think… our load plan is going to be,” Col. Joseph Clearfield, commander of the 15th MEU, said in a Jan. 19 interview.”

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Update to Navy Unfunded Priorities List Emphasizes Readiness; Would Add More Super Hornets, Additional Amphib

By: Megan Eckstein, USNI News

“The Navy wants $2 billion in additional funding this year for much-needed ship maintenance and fleet operations, and would also buy two dozen Super Hornets and an additional San Antonio-class amphibious warship if money were made available, according to an early January draft wish list obtained by USNI News.

While the list is not as official as the February 2016 Unfunded Priorities List from which it stems, it is meant to be a conversation-starter with Congress and the new Trump Administration on the Navy’s needs for today and in the near term, a senior service official told USNI News on Tuesday. The main message of that conversation is that current readiness must be addressed first, with acquisitions wishes being addressed afterwards with whatever funding may remain, a senior Navy official told USNI News.”

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