Navy satcom performance impedes warfighters

The performance of Navy shipboard satellite systems operating in the super high-frequency (SHF) and extremely high-frequency (EHF) bands is inadequate to support warfighting needs, according to a message the service sent in September.

The Navy sent the message internally to all commands but did not publicly release it. It summarizes the service’s top 10 command, control, communications and computer (C4) priorities and problems.

The message, which Federal Computer Week obtained this week, states that poor antenna reliability hampers EHF and SHF satellite communications. A lack of spare parts frequently prolongs outages on Navy ships.

The service also faces severe bandwidth problems for communications systems, the message states. Existing throughput to deployed units is “marginally sufficient to support the warfighters’ needs and woefully insufficient” for many other requirements, according to the message.

The message summarizes issues discussed at the fleet network and communications conference this summer. The message states that the Navy’s C4 priorities for this year seek to promote operations in joint and allied environments and improvements in the coordination and integration of systems on land and ships.

To address joint and allied operations, the message states that “all discussion and decisions [at the fleet conference] were framed with respect to warfighting in a joint and allied/coalition environment. It has never been more clear that our approach to C4 development, procurement and sustainment must use this imperative at its core.”

To push development of integrated systems the message states that “programmatic efforts in the C4 realm must focus on integrated warfighting capability, not specific portions of the network that will not yield gains without an end-to-end approach.”

“End-to-end procedures, doctrine and governance for C4 provisioning are lacking or inadequate with no single accountable owner,” the message adds. The Naval Network Warfare Command will be responsible for standardization, performance and development of all C4 procedures and doctrine, it states.

Fleet commanders will be accountable for the enforcement and adherence of all service-level agreements and related C4 doctrine, the message adds.

The Navy’s top 10 C4 priorities for this year that focused primarily on the joint/allied operations and integrated themes are:

* Coalition and multinational C4 interoperability. This calls for the development of an end-to-end Combined Enterprise Regional Information Exchange System to communicate with allies and coalition partners. In addition, the Navy should develop high-frequency and ultra high-frequency radio systems to handle systems traffic with allies that cannot afford satellite communications systems.
* Reliable satellite communications. The message requires the use of commercial satellite systems to retain a surge capability.
* Improved data throughput. There is “a continued critical requirement…for both optimization/compression software and local data replication of high-bandwidth applications,” the message states.
* Better computer network defense. The message calls for an automatic configuration control and router access control lists on all ships.
* Improved Common Operational Picture (COP) and Maritime Domain Awareness systems. This includes development of an unclassified COP to share information with allies and coalition partner nations.
* Use of real time collaboration tools. The message strongly endorses use of the Defense Information Systems Agency’s collaboration tool suite.
* Use of standards-based systems based on best practices. This section codifies the Naval Network Warfare Command’s role in standards development.
* Streamlined C4 administrative processes. This section states that current processes impede the Navy’s ability to quickly field new systems and technologies.
* Improved C4 training. This section calls for an alignment of formal Navy school training, current fleet training and an integrated battle force initiative.
* A holistic approach to warfighting network sustainment and life cycle management.

The final priority emphasizes the need for a system that breaks down barriers between ship and shore systems.

“It is absolutely vital to utilize a holistic approach to the C4 networked environment,” the message states. “Separating the shore from the ship or forward from rear is not a realistic way of ensuring reliable and redundant global communications and quickly leads to underequipped and underfunded nodes in the end-to-end network that adversely affect the entire warfighting capacity of the netted force.”

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