Northrop Grumman snags $638 million Navy network contract

The initial award is to install communications infrastructure on 54 ships.

The Navy late Wednesday awarded Northrop Grumman Corp. a contract potentially worth $637.8 million to provide Navy ships with a networked common computing environment.

The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command awarded Lockheed Martin Corp. and Northrop Grumman prototype contracts for the Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services program in March 2010 and Capt. D.J. LeGoff, the CANES program manager, said last week this award represents "a down select to a design, not a vendor."

The Navy will own that design, LeGoff said at a press briefing last week at the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association conference in San Diego. He added SPAWAR intends to hold continuous competitions based on that design every two years until all 285 ships and submarines are equipped with the network.

CANES includes servers, computer terminals and software based on commercial standards. SPAWAR plans to award a follow-on CANES contract in the third quarter of fiscal 2013, he said.

The contract awarded today will cover installation of CANES on 54 ships, according to LeGoff, with 2,400 computer terminals installed on aircraft carriers, 200 on destroyers and 500 on amphibious ships, which carry Marines. The amphibious ships will have network connections for computers the Marines bring onboard, he added.

CANES will replace decades old shipboard systems installed in an ad hoc fashion over a decade and LeGoff conceded he did not have a good handle on the network infrastructure afloat today. "There's no way we can manage bits and pieces [of network equipment bought] from everyone," he said.

The standard CANES design makes better business sense and will ensure that no equipment or software is added to the network until it goes through a review and integration test. This includes software applications, and LeGoff said he expected the number of applications on a carrier equipped with CANES to drop from 800 today to between 100 and 200.

CANES also will include built-in information assurance equipment and software, a marked change to previous shipboard networks where information assurance "was an afterthought," he said.

Installation costs are expected to account for about half the total value of the contract, LeGoff said, and to save money the Navy wants to reuse as much of the existing shipboard infrastructure, including computer racks and fiber-optic cable, as possible.

SPAWAR also manages the procurement for the Navy's $10 billion Next-Generation Enterprise Network to serve land-based sailors and Marines and a replacement for the decade old Navy Marine Corps Internet contract held by HP Enterprise Services. SPAWAR had planned to release the request for proposals for NGEN in late December 2011, but has not yet done so.

A SPAWAR spokesman said he did not have a date for its release.

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