Four-star Adm. Clemins starts C2 revolution with IT-21

PEARL HARBOR Hawaii - Not many four-star admirals bother to burrow down into the technical underpinnings of their command and control (C2) systems. Adm. Archie Clemins commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet (CINCPACFLT) headquartered here has not only mastered arcane technical jargon but he has kicked off a revolutionary approach to the development and fielding of C2 systems dubbed Information Technology for the 21st Century Navywide.

Outlining his views of the power the fleet will derive from IT-21 Clemins peppers his conversation with the need to install powerful Asynchronous Transfer Mode switches on broadband OC-3 to OC-12 circuits. When asked how the Navy will extend such pipes to ships at sea Clemins fires back: "Bandwidth is not going to be a problem...it's a modulation problem we can change a card in the modem and throughput goes up exponentially."

While this might seem like a dramatic switch in expertise for a lifelong submariner with an electrical engineering degree it dovetails nicely with lines that Clemins likes to quote from the poem "The Misty Island."

"Ours was the fate of the restless wanderer the skyline is never an end but only a bound and something - so much - lies beyond."

Stretching his boundaries Clemins preaches the power of PC-based workstations coupled with such enabling technologies as the World Wide Web and electronic mail as viable solutions for the Navy's tactical and nontactical C2 systems. But Clemins has done far more than postulate solutions - he has demonstrated them in real-world situations with real-world users far from the Beltway.

IT-21 grew out of the Global Network Initiative a project Clemins kicked off during his tour as commander of the 7th Fleet just prior to taking command as CINCPACFLT. GNI equipped the 7th Fleet command ship the USS Blue Ridge as well as the aircraft carrier USS Independence with prototype IT-21 systems that harnessed the power of PCs interconnected via high-speed backbones to C2 systems.

GNI proved itself last year when the Independence "showed the flag" in the Taiwan Strait as China test-fired missiles near the island of Taiwan. Clemins called the use of GNI during that period "the first major evolution of C2 by e-mail and browsers."

Clemins does not want sole credit for the development of GNI and the nascent IT-21 which was tested successfully earlier this year during Operation Tandem Thrust off the Australian coast. "I invest in smart people and good ideas " he said.

Now that GNI and the initial version of IT-21 have proven themselves Clemins wants to deploy the architecture to the whole Navy - and for very solid reasons. "We can't do this one ship at a time " Clemins said. "We have to do it by entire battle groups and we have to do it ashore as well as afloat.... We have to do it in the 3rd Fleet the 7th Fleet and the 5th Fleet and the Atlantic Fleet. It does not do me any good if I can't communicate with the Atlantic Fleet."

In launching IT-21 Clemins has challenged the traditional Navy way of developing information technology systems putting the fleets not the Beltway solidly in the captain's chair.

Since boldly taking IT-21 public in March Clemins and the program have taken hits from the vendor community and some Beltway Navy commands that are concerned with what one insider called "real rice-bowl issues." But that does not seem to phase the square-jawed admiral who oversees the 258 000 Navy and Marine personnel in his command from the same headquarters occupied by predecessor Adm. Chester Nimitz.

Clemins whose first ship was the submarine USS Lewis and Clark takes inspiration from those early-American pioneers. In a speech earlier this year to the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps detachment at the University of Illinois (his alma mater) Clemins said Meriwether Lewis "approached that journey across an unexplored continent with great optimism. We must follow his example. In all of Lewis' journals there are recurring themes of adequate preparations of great joy adventure and continuing innovation."

Clemins said he has learned not to assume "that the way it's always been done is the only right way or the best way. In this time in our history the Navy needs individuals with the courage to look for creative solutions.... I challenge you to think of the unbounded skyline."

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