The Navy’s continued push to modernize its outdated network architecture will require more flexible acquisition processes that allow for rapid procurement , according to the service’s chief information officer. 

Aaron Weis, the Navy’s first CIO, laid out his modernization outlook during a virtual Government Matters event Tuesday, detailing plans for a future software-defined network built on a zero-trust architecture.

Aaron Weis, the Navy’s chief information officer

“We have an acquisition process that’s really sized to be able to buy an aircraft carrier. When it comes to information technology, where cycles are measured in weeks or months versus buying something that’s going to last you for 45 years, you’ve got a different set of needs,” Weis said. “It’s a matter of getting flexibility from the financial side and also from the congressional side, to give us the flexibility to move at that speed.”

Weis said the state of the Navy’s IT is “pretty far off from where we ought to be,” with a goal to move away from a “monolithic outsourced approach” to more agile, software-based network construction.

“I think we’ve got outmoded architectures and outdated network topographies that are being supported by manually-intensive network operations. Today we have this construct called [Navy Marine Corps Intranet], which was put in place probably 20 years ago, and it is a very monolithic outsourcing approach,” Weis said.

The Navy’s network modernization is intended to enable a greater embrace of distributed maritime operations, including the Marine Corps’ effort to retool toward a naval expeditionary force design by 2030.

“That need to be able to operate as a unified Naval force is what feeds into that new architecture and the theme of modernization,” Weis said. 

Ken Bible, the Marine Corps CIO, said last week the Marine Corps’ plan to redesign its force by 2030 will include divesting from legacy communications equipment and overhauling its tactical network to enable new, lighter formations and littoral regiments (Defense Daily, April 20). 

Weis said the Navy’s network of the future will need to be “a lot flatter,” with modernization efforts to be built off Leidos’ [LDOS] work on the Next Generation Enterprise Network Re-compete (NGEN-R) contract to provide new IT capabilities and support. 

“We need a flatter network. It also needs to be more performant, no more or no less security than is required. It must work, but we may not need the belt and suspenders that we do today. It will also need to have a software-defined network architecture, so that we can create enclaves and segment the network at will,” Weis said.