SAN DIEGO, Cali. The U.S. Navy is improving the quality, speed, cost and efficiency of putting command, control, communications, computers and intelligence (C4I) systems on its surface ships as acquisition authorities roll out an innovative process approach.
At the heart of that new approach is the recent establishment of the Integration Center of Excellence (ICE), which will serve as an epicenter of subject matter experts, resources, best practices and support to deliver faster, more affordable, inter-operable systems.
ICE is the brainchild of Roland Feghali, the technical director for the Navy's Carrier and Air Integration Program Office (PMW 750). PMW 750 is part of Program Executive Office C4I (PEO C4I) and partners in the ICE effort with the Navy's Ship Integration Program Office (PMW 760), which also falls under PEO C4I.
"We are striving to unify against the adversary of obsolete processes and system-of-systems complexity," said Feghali.
ICE structures and centralizes error-reducing and configuration management processes for shipboard C4I installations. ICE's new installation planning processes are intended to save the Navy time and money by reducing errors during installation and optimizing the re-use of installation planning documentation and drawings across ships of the same class. ICE also brings together installation planners by leveraging common workspaces, procedures, terminologies and planning tools.
To launch the effort, the ICE plan relied on no new staffing or office resources. Within PMW 750, managers prioritized tasking for ICE efforts and re-aligned existing personnel. In the future, personnel who previously engaged in similar but separate work in the two different PMWs will work in adjacent proximity to one another, creating efficiencies in time and products, especially in the ship drawings used to plan where systems will be installed onboard platforms.
"PMWs 750 and 760 are striving to be more common," said John Falbo, principal integration platform manager, PMW 760. "It's about common processes and common products and efficiencies."
A ship's C4I baseline can include more than 30 different C4I systems. With more than 160 unit-level ships in PMW 760's portfolio and another 24 large-deck platforms in PMW 750's, delivering individual drawings for all of them has caused a daunting C4I integration challenge to the planning yard entities for both new ships and upgrades to current ships. ICE is moving more activities specifically related to this type of work into the PEO C4I sphere of responsibility, reducing errors and installation time.
Issues extend beyond the ship configurations. The PMWs and other installation partners including the Fleet Readiness Directorate (FRD) and the shipyards lack a common vernacular for the various types of C4I drawings. That means two people could be using the same term, but talking about different items. To address this challenge, the two program offices have combined forces to develop a common Standard Operating Plan (SOP), with agreements for common references and processes.
The current environment involves systems that were fielded and funded in a product-centered model. PEO C4I is changing, command-wide, to manage efforts at more of a capability-centric level while continuing to execute the system-of-systems (SoS) at the program level. Feghali explained that there have been successes in the past with this type of approach to integration and installation, but because they were not documented fully, they were not fully repeatable.
"Now we are institutionalizing best-of-breed practices," said Feghali.
ICE aims to get after the current challenges by aligning activities, establishing common terms and driving commonality to reduce variants. Feghali and Falbo anticipate saving various Navy program offices significant amounts of money and cutting production time by more than a third when ICE is fully up and running. Currently, the center is in the early phases and developing a complete implementation plan. However, the PMW 750 ICE team delivered the first-of-its-kind, C4I-baseline, platform-wide drawing for pilot ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) in March 2018. PMW 760 ICE teammates have since completed USS John S McCain (DDG 56), USS Paul Hamilton (DDG 60) and USS Momsen (DDG 92) similarly.
"We are so stoked that we can, for the first time, see an end-to-end C4I baseline on a large deck amphibious platform" said Feghali.
Falbo added, "So let's make sure we get the ICE process right, where we leverage the information and lessons from new ship construction design packages to develop modernization designs for the same ships later when they are in-service."
Part of getting it right is acknowledging that ICE won't resolve every installation challenge. It will go a long way toward removing many planning errors in part because of the focus on the human element. ICE leadership is empowering the workforce by helping to define spheres of responsibility not only in PMWs 750 and 760, but across other involved partners as well. Currently, organizations work without an end-to-end SoS or C4I baseline perspective. ICE aims to move to a more integrated, interoperable approach so when all the nodes are in place, the network functions as a whole.