Five firms get $2.5B contract to install new network on Navy ships

Thursday - 8/21/2014, 2:48pm EDT

Jared Serbu reports.

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The Navy on Wednesday took a major step toward full deployment of a wholesale replacement of most of the information technology on board its ships, awarding a contract worth up to $2.5 billion to five different vendors.

The new common shipboard network, known as Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services (CANES), has been in a development phase for several years and has already been installed on nine ships in the program's limited deployment phase. Wednesday's award will allow the Navy to begin more installations in five separate locations.

While the program was still under development, Navy officials frequently touted CANES' reliance on commercial off-the-shelf hardware, open systems architecture and a philosophy of constant competition, and pointed to those factors as reasons the system's costs were well below initial projections.

Competition will continue during the production phase, officials said. The five firms who won places on the eight-year indefinite-delivery/indefinite quantity contract will compete for individual delivery orders for new installations on each ship. The Navy expects to install CANES on 180 surface ships, submarines and shore-side operations centers between now and 2022.

The program's main objective is to begin replacing a hodge-podge of IT in which very few of the Navy's shipboard networks are designed in the same way. Officials have previously estimated that there are more than 630 separate technology baselines in the Navy's tactical networks today. Under CANES, they will all be replaced with one identical architecture.

"The operating systems that exist today on some of those legacy networks are not sustainable. CANES allows us to deploy current operating systems and then upgrade or stay current with future changes to those operating systems in a more cost effective and timely way," Rear Adm. Christian Becker, the Navy's program officer for command, control, computers, communications and intelligence, said in a statement. "As we deploy CANES, we create a platform where we can increase our speed to capability, and where we can control more effectively our cost of capabilities that ride on top of that platform. And then, of course, that brings with it our ability to defend our capabilities — our cybersecurity posture — in ways that are more effective both for cost and the mission."

The five winners of Wednesday's contract include:

  • BAE Systems Technology Solutions and Services

  • General Dynamics C4 Systems

  • Global Technical Systems

  • Northrop Grumman Systems Corp

  • Serco, Inc.

For Northrop Grumman, the award is a continuation of CANES work. That firm won the initial award to design the original systems architecture, but that development contract stipulated that the Navy would own the data rights to CANES, so it will be able to continuously plug new technologies into the design and compete the work of performing installations and conducting technology refresh among several vendors.

"CANES is a significantly faster, more secure and flexible network," Dave Wegmann, Northrop Grumman's director for maritime command and control systems, said in a statement. "Our original network design remains important to ensure CANES affordability and agility in delivering the next generation of C4I capabilities."

CANES is still, technically, in a "limited deployment" phase until the system finishes undergoing initial operational test and evaluation. That process began on Aug. 11 aboard the destroyer U.S.S. Higgins. The Navy expects the "IOT&E" process to be wrapped up and a final full deployment decision made by the third quarter of 2015.

So far, the system has been installed aboard nine destroyers in the early stages of the program, and work has already started on eight more destroyers, three carriers, one amphibious assault ship, one landing dock ship and one cruiser.

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