Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, July 8, 2002

Ford Island to house new naval data central

By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer

FORD ISLAND — Roll back the doors on Hangar 87, little changed with its World War II-era green, metal-framed windows, and it's not what you expect inside.

Terminals demonstrate the Navy Marine Corps Intranet Oahu Network Operations Center to be housed at Ford Island.

Cory Lum • The Honolulu Advertiser

In the building within a building on historic Ford Island lies the future of Navy and Marine Corps communications, and possibly all services to come — a $75 million-plus secure data, video and voice information services nexus that will link Pacific Command naval forces through a single cohesive network.

Through hubs like the one on Ford Island, the $6.9 billion Navy Marine Corps Intranet is expected to eventually link 400,000 desktops across the United States, as well as in Puerto Rico, Iceland and Cuba, replacing a hodgepodge of 200 computer systems.

Each of two 7-foot backup "silos" at Ford Island holds 240 terabytes of information — equivalent to 8,000 30-gigabyte hard drives. Two other silos, at Camp Smith and the Marine Corps Base at Kane'ohe Bay, have backup space equal to roughly half the information contained in all reference libraries and universities in the United States.

"This is a pioneering effort, a pilot effort, that if it succeeds will become the basis upon which we will move to expand what is being done here to the entire United States military," said Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawai'i, at last Tuesday's activation of the O'ahu Network Operations Center.

Abercrombie, who is on the House Armed Services Committee, complained of the communications gap the military suffers.

"It's one thing to have a joint team, it's one thing to have an infrastructure. ... Organizationally speaking, that says we are an integrated force capable of meeting what the strategic interests require of this nation," Abercrombie said.

"But the plain fact of the matter is that in terms of communication we are unable to do so."

Abercrombie called the combining of communication and intelligence "the single most important function of a modern military."

Navy personnel stand at attention during ceremonies at the new intranet center at Ford Island. The network will link Pacific Command naval forces through a single system.

Cory Lum • The Honolulu Advertiser

With classified and unclassified information serv-ers, the Navy Marine Corps Intranet is expected to provide streamlined contact with commanders-in-chief, while deployed personnel will be able to reach experts and databases anywhere in the world.

Several hundred people, including Navy and Marine Corps officials, Hawai'i's Washington congressional delegation and members of the Information Strike Force team led by contractor Electronic Data Systems Corp. of Plano, Texas, were on hand for the opening.

Tours were given of new computer work stations and humming server farm, where 25 miles of fiber-optic cable snake between systems.

Pacific Fleet commander Adm. Walter F. Doran said the intranet "brings about an era of information management that will give the war fighter what he needs in this new world — a single, secure, Navy-wide network."

Among the examples of its possible uses:

  • Aboard an aircraft carrier where a sailor has severe internal bleeding requiring immediate surgery, the ship's surgeon is guided through video teleconference by the head of vascular surgery at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland.
  • En route, a ship's petty officer traces a fault in the air search radar to a component not available aboard or in the battle group. Accessing a worldwide naval supply database on the intranet, he is able to find the nearest part and arrange its delivery to the ship.
  • An intelligence officer deployed with a Marine Expeditionary Unit receives orders to assemble intelligence information quickly for the evacuation of U.S. civilian and diplomatic personnel from an island nation in the Pacific. From the intranet the officer gets the needed information from classified Defense Intelligence Agency and State Department Web pages.

"The real result will be seen in better integration of our forces, the saving of lives in combat, as well as victory on the battlefield," Doran said.

The U.S. Air Force is looking at an intranet of its own, and the Army is weighing a similar move. Navy and Marine Corps intranet hubs were set up previously in Norfolk, Va. and San Diego.

Doran said it is fitting to have the Hawai'i network operations center on Ford Island.

"The very land that you are standing on ... represents a period of our history which clearly transformed our nation from the age of the battleship to the age of the aircraft carrier," he told the assembly. "We stand here today in the midst of yet another transformation."

The 450-acre Ford Island is part of a more than $100 million joint plan with developers to consolidate operations and build housing and office space.

Because it is part of a National Historic Landmark District, the network operations center was built inside the 1942 hangar without disturbing the exterior appearance. Flooring posts were even glued down to prevent damage to the concrete pavement.

The 40,000-square-foot center will initially have a staff of 75. Ultimately, the facility will employ some 200 people in a variety of information technology jobs, the Navy said. The center will have an annual operating budget between $13 million and $18 million.

Nationwide rollout of the intranet has seen some delays and glitches as users transfer from older systems. Officials with contractor EDS said that in Hawai'i the network operations center is "scaling up" to support 15,000 computers this year. By 2004, they said, 30,000 to 40,000 users across the Pacific basin will be connected.

Reach William Cole at wcole@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-5459.