Langston conducts IT-21 ensemble

Marv Langston the Navy's chief information officer likes his jazz smooth and mellow not loud or brassy. But even in smooth jazz it pays to follow the bass line which in Langston's case means following the Information Technology for the 21st Century (IT-21) theme laid down by Adm. Archie Clemins commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet (CINCPACFLT).

Langston deputy secretary of the Navy for command control communications computers intelligence electronic warfare and space programs before he also donned the CIO cap spent the past year observing Clemins' efforts with IT-21 and decided to turn the program to base CINCPACFLT ashore and afloat IT systems on commercial technology "into a broad-based Navy program."

Once he signed on to this effort he applied his leadership skills to ensure that all the players - within the service as well as within industry - join the ensemble. He is doing this not by brute force but by asking everyone to play along to contribute their own riffs to the common theme. Langston helped pull the Atlantic Fleet into IT-21 and gained industry's cooperation by including it in the planning process.

But even the most improvisational of ensembles sets its own boundaries which is how Langston views the interim IT-21 standards which are based on Intel Corp. hardware and Microsoft Corp. software. "You can't pick a standard without making someone mad " he said but the Navy "had to put a stake in the sand.... If you don't have standard architectures you don't get to a critical mass."

Langston said he expects to revise those standards this fall when he issues the final IT-21 plan. He believes network computers (NCs) which are inexpensive to acquire and maintain could play a key role in the Navy's future architecture. Due to high administrative overhead "PCs are very expensive and complicated to keep running on a network " Clemins said.

"We already have an NC in the CIO office " Langston said.

Langston has a lifetime of experience with Navy systems. He started as a seaman recruit in 1966 after a short stint in college in Utah that ended abruptly because "in those days you had to maintain at least a C average." Once in the Navy however Langston embraced education signing on for the rigorous nuclear power school then on to a commission and four years at Purdue University to earn an electrical engineering degree.

Langston did a tour as the electrical maintenance officer on the carrier USS America and then went to the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey Calif. followed by a Washington D.C. tour where he went to the Defense Systems Management College. He then had the opportunity to put this education into practice working on the integration of the Joint Tactical Data System with the Tomahawk missile as well as working on "systems engineering at the battlegroup level."

During his active-duty career Langston has had ample opportunity to observe how systems did not work together which is one reason he has not only embraced IT-21 but has solidly backed it. He realized that it did not make much sense to "do IT-21 afloat and not also do it ashore.... We have to bring technology to bear in a networked fashion " he said.

In his view the Navy's IT-21 approach to network-centric warfare has one logical conclusion: "We are trying to raise the ante. We're trying to get [IT-21] into the [Defense Department] level " Langston said.

If Langston succeeds in his effort to spread IT-21 throughout DOD he will not have an ensemble but the IT equivalent of a big band.

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