Pacing the Threat
The Navy rides the exponential curve
of technology toward a networked force
As deputy chief of naval operations for communication networks
since 2006, Vice Adm. Mark J. Edwards has been guiding the
Navy’s evolution toward a more network-centric warfighting force, a
comprehensive effort to unite all platforms, weapon systems, and
command-and-control systems and architectures into a synergistic
web greater in capability than the sum of its parts.
A surface warfare officer, Edwards’ first assignment as combat information officer on a destroyer started him on the road to his current
position. He served on two more destroyers, including a tour as commanding officer, followed by command of a guided-missile cruiser
equipped with the Aegis Combat System.
As flag officer, he served as commander, Logistics Group Western
Pacific, and later commanded a cruiser-destroyer group. Edwards’
service as director of the Surface Warfare Division, acting deputy
chief of naval operations for warfare requirements and programs,
and director for warfare integration prepared him to refine the Navy’s
Edwards discussed the evolution of a networked Navy with Managing
Editor Richard R. Burgess. Excerpts follow:
How would you assess the Navy’s progress
toward a fully networked force?
EDWARDS: The question is: What is our ability in networks and communications to pace the threat? If the
measure of how we’re doing against the threat is our
ability to conduct all spectrums of warfare against a
threat, then we would be able to execute the war plans
we have right now. But we have to stay open to technology because it continues to advance at a rapid pace.
The way we buy platforms takes us such a long time;
there are a lot of reasons for that and rightly so.
We can’t afford to try to pace the threat with an acquisition system that can’t turn inside of Moore’s Law.
[Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel, said that the processing power of computers will double approximately
every 18 months.] We have to be mindful of some unique
challenges in communications technology and networks
in order to stay inside the technology of our adversary.
Is FORCEnet still the current vision of the
future for all Navy networks?
EDWARDS: FORCEnet is a construct and a warfighting
principle that gives us a way to analyze how we’re
doing against adversaries and to bring the results into
the [budget] process. We’ve gotten away from looking
at FORCEnet as a program, a way of acquiring things
in order to pace the threat. I would much rather talk
about the capabilities side in areas such as, how much
bandwidth do we need? What is the speed and reliabil-ity of our tactical networks and information technolo-