2015 Rising Star Awards

Michael Wheeless

Principal systems engineer, Oceus Networks

Rising Star 2015

The Navy is wrestling with the challenge of securely outfitting its ships with modern IT, and the service has found an ally in Michael Wheeless. The principal systems engineer at mobile communications firm Oceus Networks has managed to engineer a low-latency, high-bandwidth 4G LTE communications system for a Navy ship.

The project, which Wheeless said combined different technologies that "ride a single backbone," demonstrated that commercial smartphones and tablets could work securely at sea. That is no small thing, considering that Navy officials are concerned about the vulnerabilities inherent in having sailors connect to devices while at sea.

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2015 Rising Star Awards
Click here for profiles of all the 2015 winners.

But security and ease of access were compatible in this case, and the network connected to a satellite, which "allowed the ship's crew to access whatever sites they needed to," Wheeless said.

He added that many of the project's challenges involved linking with networks ashore. "Some of the hiccups that we ran into were just coordinating with the dry side," he said. That included connecting with the networks of the Defense Information Systems Agency, which is in charge of the Pentagon's IT infrastructure.

The project complied with all the Navy's security specifications and also took advantage of the National Security Agency's Commercial Solutions for Classified Program, Wheeless said.

His work earned him special recognition by the Navy's 7th Fleet commander. Given the service's demand for secure mobile technology, Wheeless might just be getting started.

About the Author

Sean Lyngaas is an FCW staff writer covering defense, cybersecurity and intelligence issues. Prior to joining FCW, he was a reporter and editor at Smart Grid Today, where he covered everything from cyber vulnerabilities in the U.S. electric grid to the national energy policies of Britain and Mexico. His reporting on a range of global issues has appeared in publications such as The Atlantic, The Economist, The Washington Diplomat and The Washington Post.

Lyngaas is an active member of the National Press Club, where he served as chairman of the Young Members Committee. He earned his M.A. in international affairs from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and his B.A. in public policy from Duke University.

Click here for previous articles by Lyngaas, or connect with him on Twitter: @snlyngaas.


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