Navy charts course for faster tech innovation

Less than three months after forming a new Task Force Innovation, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus is expected this month to address plans for several low-risk but high impact technology initiatives that the service may fund for development.

The Navy’s innovation efforts are picking up steam. Less than three months after forming a new Task Force Innovation, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus is expected this month to address plans for several low-risk but high-impact technology initiatives the service may fund for development.

After months of meetings by members of the voluntary task force and coming on the heels of a recent industry day highlighting the requirements of the Navy’s new Innovation Cell, officials have started reviewing and ranking proposed initiatives from across the Navy and Marine Corps. It’s part of what the Navy is calling the discovery phase of a new rapid acquisition experiment.

“What we’re looking at is taking some initiatives and just doing sprints,” a senior Navy official said. The official, who was not authorized to speak publicly ahead of Mabus’ planned April 15 speech, spoke to FedScoop on background. “We just went through an exercise where we looked at the cost, schedule risk and the impact to the department, and we actually rated some initiatives.”

The proposals from the fleet have been posted to an internal Microsoft Sharepoint site and divided into different areas. Among those enterprise challenge areas, which were highlighted during a March 27 industry day hosted by the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command Innovation Cell in Virginia, are enhanced virtualized desktops, data analytics and unified communications architecture. Industry has until May 6 to submit technical solutions to the enterprise challenges.


“We’re looking at them now and ranking them. And what will happen is we will pull some of those initiatives, fund them and let them go forward,” the official said.


Chief Information Systems Technician Anna Douglas, information assurance manager for Commander, Mine Countermeasures Squadron (COMCMRON) 3, logs onto a computer to troubleshoot office connectivity issues at Naval Base Point Loma. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eddie Harrison/Released)

Virtualized desktop

The Navy is currently piloting a hosted virtual desktop as an alternative service for 2,200 Navy Marine Corps Intranet, or NMCI, users. But the challenge is finding products and services to improve the existing architecture, including increasing wide area network storage capacity, providing end-to-end performance metrics, integrating self-service application provisioning and developing an enterprise software license business model that can support software-as-a-service.

According to the Navy’s Innovation Cell, a virtualized desktop platform capable of providing users with an equal or better experience would include the following enhancements:

  • Scalable to an estimated 119,000 users across multiple geographic locations. Minimum personal file storage of 30 GB per user.
  • Customizable to support various user profiles. Configurable access to applications and general user privileges. Automated replication of user sessions across architecture.
  • Wide array of user devices, including Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) — desktops, thin clients, phones and tablets.
  • Compliant with Navy security requirements (Federal Information Security Management Act, DOD Instruction 8500, DOD 8510 DIACAP, and Security Technical Implementation Guides).

Data analytics

The Navy is drowning in data. It collects more than 100 terabytes of structured and unstructured data every day, and stores it across dozens of disparate databases. Despite the large amount of data it collects, the Navy lacks a digital analytics capability that would produce actionable insight and knowledge.

“Currently there is limited capability within the U.S. Navy to conduct detailed data modeling, mining and predictive analytics,” according to Laura Knight, the program manager for the Sea Warrior program in the Navy’s Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems. “An analytics capability must ingest large volumes of data, in various forms, and use statistical methods and visualizations in order to identify data relationships,” according to Knight’s March 26 presentation.



“An example is decision-making for retention and recruitment,” the presentation states. “Currently these decisions can be based on predictions regarding the force, while the Navy would like to add the ability to determine when and where to apply resources to reduce stress within at-risk personnel and their families. Such a capability is typical and implies use of new technologies to perform statistical analysis to derive cause-and-effect relationships.”

The Navy plans to leverage the challenge on behalf of workforce development, financial management, recruiting, training and education initiatives.

In a video posted March 3 on the Navy’s website, Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. Bill Moran likened the Navy’s current talent management system to “a ’57 Chevy” in need of a major overhaul. “Our current personnel system was built back in the 1940s. Fundamentally, it’s the same car,” Moran said. “The information system is cumbersome and slow, and people … do not have the data to make quick, smart decisions. And instead we rely, quite frankly, on using crayons and hammer and chisels to get information passed around.”

Network architecture

The Campus Network Architecture challenge seeks industry feedback on ways the Navy can deliver network services in a more cost-effective manner. The current NMCI base area network connects various buildings across individual Navy installations, providing access, distribution and core network services. A wide area network then connects the base networks together to form the NMCI.


The Navy now wants to modernize its approach to reduce total cost of operating and owning NMCI. The following requirements are outlined in the enterprise challenge:

  • Provides support for Unified Capability Requirements, campus networks such as 802.1x.
  • Quality of Service, and delivery of voice/video/data services to end user workstations.
  • Aligns to strategic goals and objectives such as Unified Capabilities, the Joint Information Environment, and the Mission Partner Environment.
  • Minimizes packet loss, jitter and latency.
  • Supports Navy security requirements (FISMA, DOD Instruction 8500, STIGs and Unified Capability Requirements).
  • Must be interoperable with existing technologies and capabilities (e.g., Network Access Control).

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