Budget boosts key Navy IT initiatives

The Defense Department's proposed fiscal 2000 budget, being unveiled today, boosts funding for Navy initiatives to supply its forces with computers and advanced communications equipment.

The budget earmarks $135 million for Navy's Information Technology for the 21st Century (IT-21) project, which will outfit its front-line ships as well as key bases with advanced data networks, high-speed satellite communications links and top-of-the-line PCs.

The Navy also plans to pump an additional $500 million over the next five years into an enhanced communications suite. The suite is for deployed Marine forces on the first three vessels in a new class of amphibious ships now under construction. And the Navy said it planned to add two Joint Command Ships featuring advanced command and control systems to the fleet in 2004 and 2005.

The funding increases for IT-21 and Marine communications suites on new amphibious ships reflect the Navy's thought that it needs to "leverage [the] information revolution for greater effectiveness and efficiency," Adm. Jay Johnson, Chief of Naval Operations, said in a speech last month. IT-21 suites aboard ships operating in the Persian Gulf have "a favorable impact on operational capability...[and it] contributes to operational primacy," Johnson said.

The Navy said the increased IT-21 funding in fiscal 2000 "accelerates network connectivity efforts, installing ATM LAN [Asynchronous Transfer Mode local-area network] and satcom [satellite communications] terminals to support network-centric warfare for deploying battle groups,'' Johnson said.

Electronic Data Systems Corp. holds the current Navy contract to install the high-speed ATM LANs on the ships which make up those battle groups.

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