At AFCEA’s annual Naval IT Day, held October 1, the theme of “Restoring Wholeness in Our Naval Force Through IT & Cyber Acquisition” resonated throughout the event. Adam Rosenbaum senior manager, federal programs & channels for SolarWinds was there, and he saw that the message was clear and consistent: the Navy and Marine Corps want to focus on what they do best – putting rounds on target — with the help of industry to advance the technology frontier.
Supporting the warfighter at the tactical edge is the bottom line, Rosenbaum said. That means, among other things, “freeing up manpower to execute on the core missions versus utilizing manpower to do additional duties that may not exactly add value to their overall mission.” From a technology standpoint, the way forward was summed up by Rear Adm. Danelle Barrett, who heads up the Navy’s cybersecurity division. She pointed to using commercial off the shelf software (COTS) tools to standardize data, share infrastructure, automate cumbersome processes and leverage commercial capabilities, such as cloud.
This approach requires some updates to procurement, to make it more agile and efficient. “With the constant rapid evolution of IT capabilities, I would say that the lifecycle management of systems of records can create some deficiencies in the process,” Rosenbaum explained. “From an acquisition perspective, it’s not necessarily just buying something, it’s, ‘How do I implement this across my organization. How do I train my Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Soldiers to use it? And then how do I support that capability over its life cycle, while transitioning to the next new capability?’”
Rosenbaum saw that the Navy has multiple channels to employ to meet these needs. He explained, “I think from an acquisition perspective they’re looking at utilizing OTA’s (Other Transactional Authorities) as rapid prototyping opportunities. They’re also leveraging the systems they have in place right now, like the ESI (Enterprise Software Initiative) contract.” Conference speakers made numerous references to the Next Generation Enterprise Networks (NGEN) contract, which is now being recompeted. Rosenbaum believes this vehicle is going to be a big driver for product options because those policies and procedures will be built-in to source, acquire, implement, train and then start all over with the next capability.
The most recent warfighting domain—cyberspace—adds another dimension to the issue. “I think there’s going to be a renaissance in the entire workforce management process across the DoD because we were looking at things as land sea air, and now it’s land, air, sea, space, and cyber,” he described. “So, I think as they utilize some of these contract vehicles like NGEN to gain capability and modernize, the logistics ‘tail’ will require doctrine changes, training changes, standards for jobs and new jobs in general.”
Ultimately, Rosenbaum said, the message that was repeated throughout the event was, “How does this benefit the warfighter at the tactical edge?”—that is, enabling warfighters to execute on their core missions. Central to that is the question of how policy decisions and acquisitions affect the tactical edge.
Vendors need to take this into account, Rosenbaum explained. Rather than focus on selling product or services, look at it from the Navy’s perspective: “How much training can we afford to give someone to manage and monitor and do all the things they need to do with the capabilities they’ve procured? Do they have the right skill sets? And just how long are they staying in—are they going past first term reenlistments?” Perhaps these are roles better filled by industry, he suggested.
In the end, Rosenbaum’s take on the event and its focus on the Navy’s core mission was also a reminder to the vendor community. “I hate to sound so clichéd, but America’s greatest resources are our fighting men and women. If we can’t help them with what we do, then we’re in the wrong industry.”
Want to learn more? You can catch a recent webinar on embedding InfoSec into IT practices here.