Connecting lots of high end users spread across the globe in constantly changing configurations is a challenge that the Navy tackles every day. Picture this: 300 ships moving in and out of geographic regions, connecting and disconnecting to a varied structure of military and commercial satellites. Add to the mix an average three-year rotation onboard for each sailor, ensuring that at least 30% of the crew will be in training-mode at all times. Do you ever wonder how these critical networks remain connected, despite this hostile environment?
Years ago the Navy created a cadre of technology superstars called the Fleet Support Engineering Team, or FSET. By using a contract with a hand-picked company, Navy leadership were able to hire the dream-team and permanently deploy them to the critical nodes on ships and shore sites. Connecting the team under a firm leadership with constant training and coordination, they were the voice of experience always there for deployments, cutovers, upgrades, etc.
To be an FSET has always been a status symbol in the Navy. Mostly the FSET team was picked from the ranks of former Information Technologists (IT’s). Only the very best could apply, and if you were selected, you were guaranteed long hours and deployments at sea, but also impressive remuneration coupled with top of the line training and a respected status among your peers.
As the Consolidated Afloat Network Enterprise Services (CANES) program rolls out standard equipment onboard the ships, creating a Common Computing Environment (CCE), some of the complexity onboard and ashore should be diminished. When completed, CANES should align the Navy with standard equipment and services and remove the dreaded “one-off” design of so many of the Fleets Communications Suites. The first ship is just completing the installation (see: Moving Out With CANES). However, the entire fleet won’t be outfitted until 2021.
Meanwhile, Navy is already trying to capture the savings that a CCE promises – long before any real benefit is visible. The newly awarded FSET contract was announced this month and went to the incumbent. The genealogy of this elite team might appear to be in place (the original Darlington contract begat the EDO contract begat the ITT contract begat the Excelis contract – all with the same leadership in place). However, this time, the contract was awarded with significant cuts and will be subjected to a ruthless regimen of tripwires and cost ceilings that will surely erode the capabilities and reduce the talent of the FSET team.
Even in today’s austere budget environment, there are SOME things that should be held to a higher standard, and therefore be exempt from the ruthless funding pressures. In the Navy IT world, that would be the FSET team.
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