Agreement targets IT-21 buy-in

HONOLULU - Top Navy officials have agreed to focus funding from disparate information technology programs as well as research and development dollars on the Information Technology for the 21st Century (IT-21) project, one of the key management tasks necessary for the Navy to accomplish the ambitious goal of fielding a global, high-speed communications network.

The commanders in chief of the Atlantic and Pacific fleets, as well as program managers at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (Spawar) and the Naval Computer and Telecommunications Command, agreed in October meetings that were held in Seattle to make IT-21 a top priority.In an interview with Federal Computer Week at his Pearl Harbor headquarters, Adm. Archie Clemins, commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet and the driving force behind IT-21, characterized the meeting as a literal and figurative "buy-in" at which all the players agreed to focus funds from stovepipe programs as well as research and development dollars on the common IT-21 goal.

Shifting the EmphasisParticipants at the meeting agreed to shift their emphasis to "buying capabilities," Clemins said. "And we're only putting money into certain assets."Those assets consist primarily of 23 ships equipped with Asynchronous Transfer Mode local-area networks linked to each other and to the rest of the Navy by powerful commercial and military satellite systems. These ships, operating in carrier and amphibious battle groups in both fleets, will provide the Navy with the "critical mass" necessary to achieve the benefits of network-centric warfare, Clemins said.

A former Navy official with years of experience building and developing Navy systems called the buy-in agreement "unprecedented and absolutely necessary. You have a lot of people at Spawar that in the past have not worked together well or at all because they wanted to protect their rice bowls. It was absolutely necessary to get this agreement because without it, the bureaucracy could kill IT-21 through benign neglect.

"Clemins acknowledged that his two-year schedule to field IT-21 "is ambitious.... But we would waste money if we did not do it because the program managers would spend their money [anyway]."Capt. Tom Traverso, director of command, control, communications, computers and intelligence for the Pacific Fleet, characterized the result of the Seattle meeting as "getting people to work toward common goals." The Navy, Traverso added, had to coordinate the IT-21 effort "because we don't have the money not to do things right the first time.

"Rear Adm. John Gauss, the director of allied and fleet requirements in the Navy's Space Information Warfare Division who is slated to take over as the Spawar's commander in March, said management was key to meeting the "challenge" of the IT-21 goals over the next two years. "It's a matter of getting the money in place [and] the equipment out and deployed."

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