All hands and computers on deck
- By Colleen O'Hara
- Apr 10, 2000
The Navy wants to issue every sailor a computer as part of a plan to prepare
for network-centric warfare.
For the Navy, computers are as essential to new sailors as their uniforms
and standard-issue duffel bags and supplies.
The Navy intends to ask Congress to include in its fiscal 2002 budget
$20 million for its Cyber Seabag initiative, which would increase every sailor's
clothing allowance — now used to buy uniforms and supplies — to include
money to buy a computer.
"The intent of the [initiative] is to say, "In tomorrow's Navy, your understanding
of how to use a computer is as important as your uniform,' " said Ron Turner,
the Navy's deputy chief information officer.
The Navy has yet to determine if it will issue sailors laptops, handhelds
or something similar. It plans to issue about 7,000 high-end wireless devices
to enlisted personnel per month, Turner said. The funding request would
require a change to the clothing allowance, he said.
The Navy plans to lease the units, which would allow sailors to trade
them in for new ones every two years. The Navy would compete the contract
with a vendor, much like Ford Motor Co. and Delta Air Lines did when they
contracted with PeoplePC Inc. to provide employees with PCs and Internet
service. Vendors or organizations such as Best Buy or CompUSA would provide
Working with the Education Department and vendors, the Navy plans to
distribute the used computers to schools nationwide. The vendor would receive
a tax write-off and Education would use the devices to connect school districts
to the Internet.
The Navy intends for sailors to use the computers primarily for personal
use. The Cyber Seabag initiative is an acknowledgment that future recruits
have grown up using computers and the Internet and that a computer can be
a valuable recruiting tool.
"They know how to do business on the Internet, talk to their friends
and family," Turner said. "I can't solicit those people to join the military
and then cut them off from that. I have to give them the capability they
enjoyed when they were kids."
In addition, the Cyber Seabag effort will help prepare sailors for
the Navy's strategy to fight future wars using computers, Turner said. The
Navy is preparing for what it calls network-centric warfare, in which tactical
intelligence and logistics information sent over computer networks becomes
as much a weapon for the warfighter as light arms or heavy armor.
To prepare for network-centric warfare, the Navy has begun to connect
its ships and bases using commercial desktop systems under a $1 billion-plus
initiative called Information Technology for the 21st Century. The Navy also
plans to award a contract in June for the estimated $16 billion Navy/Marine
Corps Intranet, which would connect 700,000 Navy and Marine Corps users
at bases in the continental United States and Hawaii. The intranet would
connect ships at sea, Navy bases and units using IT-21.
"If we look at the way the Department of the Navy is structured for
overall warfare in the future, we're very network-centric," Turner said.
"So the better equipped [the sailors] are at using the machines and understanding
the technology, the more successful we will be in accomplishing that shift
to a network-centric environment."
Sailors still may be able to use the computers in their work in certain
circumstances and as part of the Navy intranet program, Turner said. Sailors
would receive a smart card with a security token on it to authenticate them