Navy Begins Rebuild Of Digital Backbone; Likely SecNav Appears Onboard

From Our Media Partner: Breaking Defense

A Navy technician wrestles with an unwieldy mass of electronic cables.

WASHINGTON: The Navy is breaking up its IT office into two distinct entities that manage its most critical IT and networking efforts, part of the service’s push to more closely align information sharing between the Navy and Marine Corps, and to drag the service’s business practices into alignment with commercial standards.

The move, announced in a memo earlier this week from the Navy’s acquisition chief James Geurts, breaks up Enterprise Information Systems, which has managed the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet, while creating the Digital and Enterprise Services office, along with the Manpower Logistics and Business Solutions office.

The moves should be complete by August.

“Each new PEO will consider an organizational framework based on industry best practices for digital transformation, agility and modern service delivery constructs,” Geurts said.

All of the offices relating to networks and digital infrastructure will transition to Program Executive Office Digital, while existing program offices relating to manpower, logistics and other business solutions will transition to PEO Manpower Logistics and Business Solutions.

A Navy spokesman, Capt. Danny Hernandez, emailed me that “the split allow us to better focus on digital transformation and IT application delivery, as technology evolves. With two PEOs we can better align to mission and deliver capabilities to the Fleet customers more effectively.”

Revamping the service’s cyber efforts and streamlining how it moves information has been a focus of Navy leaders for years and ramped up after a critical report last year found the Navy was falling down in protecting its digital infrastructure. The Navy’s Cyber Readiness Review released last March delivered a scathing critique, calling weak spots and persistent holes in the system an “existential threat” to the existence of the Navy and Marine Corps. The unsparing 80-page assessment concluded the Navy is under “cyber siege” and has so far failed to secure its IT systems.

Geurts’ moves appear to have the backing of presumptive Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite, who had his nomination hearing earlier today in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee. In written responses to members before his hearing, Braithwaite wrote that one of his priorities is “accelerating our Navy and Marine Corps digital transformation.” 

“Digital technologies have the potential to be a force multiplier, putting data at the center of all Departmental decisions and transforming how the Department fights, stays ready, and conducts business operations,” Braithwaite wrote. The Navy and Marine Corps “cannot afford to cede the competitive space of data and technology to our Nation’s adversaries. Leveraging a deliberate cycle of prototyping, experimentation, exercises, and war games, the Department will accelerate its ability to adapt and rapidly develop the systems and processes that are needed to fight at the speed of information.”