Navy's IT-21 project could get accelerated funding

The Navy stands a good chance of obtaining the budget it needs to complete an enormous ship-to-shore automation project about five years ahead of schedule.

Vice Adm. Walt Cebrowski, director of the Space Information Warfare, Command and Control Directorate, said Adm. Jay Johnson, chief of naval operations, is a strong supporter of the project, called Information Technology for the 21st Century (IT-21), and intends to accelerate the budget. If that happens, Cebrowski, who spoke today at the monthly meeting of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association's Washington Chapter, said the Navy could deploy IT-21 as soon as 2002 but most likely by 2003—- five years before the planned 2008 completion date.

IT-21 will create a seamless computing environment for administrative and tactical applications on ships and ashore. The project will provide the underpinnings for the Navy's movement to "network-centric warfare," in which tactical intelligence and logistics information becomes as much a weapon for the warfighter as light arms or heavy armor.

Cebrowski declined to quantify how much IT-21 would cost. But Adm. John Gauss, director of the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, which is charged with developing the majority of the IT-21 systems, has estimated the total cost of IT-21 at more than $1 billion.

Turning to another hot topic, Cebrowski has rethought his definition of mission-critical systems, which under current policy must be the first ones fixed for the Year 2000 problem. Cebrowski said he once considered weapons systems, such as the Tomahawk missile, to be the Navy's primary mission-critical systems, but he has expanded his definition to include "the [systems] that support our people, such as personnel and pay systems.

"I don't know if I'm going to launch a Tomahawk missile on Jan. 1, 2000, but I definitely know I will have to pay people then," he said.

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