At this agency, architecture runs deep
- By Wilson P. Dizard III
- Sep 24, 2003
'If the systems are not interoperable, my primes are going to be in serious trouble, and so are we.'
'Rear Adm. Patrick M. Stillman
Henrik G. de Gyor
A marble cake. That's how the Coast Guard views the way command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems are dispersed throughout a massive project to upgrade its fleet.
To assure that the C4ISR subsystems of the Integrated Deepwater System Program are interoperable and mesh with other Guard systems, the Deepwater team is relying on the agency's enterprise architecture.
Ultimately, the Coast Guard expects the program to run 25 years at a cost of $17 billion. But the cost of Deepwater's C4ISR systems cannot be broken out of that total project cost because of that marble cake approach, said Nathaniel Heiner, the service's chief knowledge officer.
'Unquestionably, the C4ISR capability is at the center' of Deepwater, said Rear Adm. Patrick M. Stillman, program executive officer for the project.Fresh fleet
Through Deepwater, the Guard will replace about 100 aging cutters and 200 aircraft and upgrade obsolete computers.
'The C4ISR system-of-systems approach is transformational,' Stillman said. 'The Deepwater platforms are, at the end of the day, platforms to carry C4ISR assets. Improved communications are central to success and include a whole litany of communications tools that manifest the need for greater bandwidth.'
Heiner downplayed the importance of specific types of hardware and software to be used in the Deepwater project.
'The way this program is structured the focus is on operational requirements,' he said. 'The key point is that the people on the bridge have systems that are intuitive to use rather than imposing themselves as an alien presence.'
Stillman emphasized that the Guard has mandated that Deepwater provide for an open-systems architecture using commercial products as much as possible. The agency wants 'to limit the nonrecurring engineering and development of software,' he said.
In mid-2002, the Guard awarded an $11 billion contract to a vendor team, Integrated Coast Guard Systems, led by Lockheed Martin Corp. and Northrop Grumman Corp.
'As part of the Integrated Coast Guard Systems joint venture, Lockheed Martin developed a command and control architecture for Deepwater,' Stillman said. 'That architecture is open by definition.'
Heiner added that the Deepwater enterprise architecture 'is attached to an enterprise architecture that drives across all our mission space,' including back-end systems.
But Heiner pointed out that both the architecture and Deepwater are moving targets, essentially projects that will never be done but always evolving.
'The world is changing too damn fast for us to ever finish an architecture like this,' he said. 'When we get it in a shape we are satisfied with, we will change it to meet new mission requirements.'
The enterprise architecture will nestle within the broader architecture of the Coast Guard's parent agency, the Homeland Security Department, and must be compatible with the Defense Department's systems architecture.
'If the systems are not interoperable, my primes are going to be in serious trouble and so are we,' Stillman said.
The Deepwater enterprise architecture allows system planners working for the Guard and the vendor team to track the development of command and control systems at a high level of detail, Heiner said.
'Tactical data interoperability is fundamental to the way ahead,' Stillman said.
'We basically have provided for two governing metrics,' Stillman said. 'One is control of total ownership costs'we know how much it costs to operate Deepwater and both the contractor and the Coast Guard are responsible for controlling and lowering that cost.'
The other set of metrics focuses on measuring operational effectiveness, Stillman said. This will let the Guard apply accountability to the program, he said.