Navy labors over legacy systems

Legacy applications still stand as the major obstacles to rapid adoption of new technologies in the Navy's transformation plan, several high-ranking officers said today.

The difficulty surfaces in determining when to integrate legacy applications into a new network and when to terminate them, said Rear Adm. Jay Cohen, chief of Naval Research, speaking at the second annual Naval IT Day, organized by the Northern Virginia Chapter of AFCEA International.

Implementing transformation, what the Navy calls FORCEnet, will not be a wholesale change, Cohen said. Rather, it will involve integrating some legacy systems as a carryover until new technologies are ready to replace them. He cited the Navy Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI) as a good example of the Navy's eliminating legacy systems that are redundant or incapable of interoperability.

When the program first started, NMCI officials discovered about 100,000 legacy applications throughout the force. The goal is to reduce that number to about 3,000.

Rear Adm. Kenneth Slaght, commander of the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, said a delicate balance needs to be formed involving legacy applications and new interoperable applications. However, discovering that balance takes time, he said.

"We have to evolve around our existing systems," Slaght said. "There are good examples of this out there that have proven we can continue to evolve. This is going to be a fragile network for a while — maybe forever."

Also important, Cohen said, is the fact that information assurance and best practice standards need to be put in place and enforced. He says the Navy has had difficulty with this in recent years.

"We seem to be going in the wrong direction," he said. "We do well in knowledge and we do well in superiority. We do not do well in assurance. That bothers me, and we need to do something about it."

The Defense Department recently issued guidelines for information assurance, calling for commanders to be responsible for the data that passes through their commands.

But Cohen asserted that only part of true information assurance is being addressed, and it should be the first step taken in the technological transformation process.

"If you don't have assurance, nothing else matters," he said. "Information assurance and the ability to have sustained network-centric warfare is critical to the future warfighter. We need to figure out all aspects of assurance, and that is a high priority on my list."

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