Navy to focus only on open systems

The Navy will acquire only systems based on open technologies and standards.

Vice Adm. Mark Edwards, deputy chief of naval operations for communications, broke the news March 5 to a Navy IT Day audience in Vienna, Va., sponsored by AFCEA International.

“The days of proprietary technology must come to an end,” he said. “We will no longer accept systems that couple hardware, software and data.”

The Navy’s decision was informed by a combination of motivations, including the desire to provide the latest capabilities to warfighters and control the costs of its information technology operations, he added.

“We can’t accept the increasing costs of maintaining our present-day capabilities,” Edwards said. “In the civilian marketplace, it’s just the opposite. Some private-sector concerns are cutting their costs by 90 percent while expanding their performance.”

Edwards noted that the Navy has cut the number of databases and applications it maintains and has reduced its networks by 40 percent. “But it is not enough,” he added. “We would have to double our IT budget over the next several years just to run in place.”

By using an open network architecture, the Navy could rapidly upgrade its capabilities and handle increases for demand, Edwards said.

“Above all, we must break the stovepipes of data so that we can share information across domains,” he said.

The failure to lead in technology could have dire consequences, Edwards said.

“The situation is very similar to that of the Soviet Union at the end of the Cold War,” he said. “Because we put them in a position of always having to catch up, the mere threat of the Strategic Defense Initiative crippled the Soviet ability to continue the arms race and enabled our side to dictate terms. If we remain behind in technology, a future adversary will eventually bring terms to us.”

Buxbaum is a freelancer writer in Bethesda, Md.

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Peter Buxbaum is a special contributor to Defense Systems.

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