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Examining the Modularity and Commonality of SeaWatch – the U.S. Coast Guard’s Command and Control System

by LCDR Jeffrey J. Chonko; LCDR Jonathan D. White; Andrew Lambley

The SeaWatch Program is the Coast Guard's effort to modernize shipboard Command and Control (C2) systems throughout its cutter fleet. Originally started in 2008 as the C2 system for the acquisition of the Fast Response Cutter, SeaWatch has since been adapted to eight additional cutter classes through a concept of modularity and commonality. Commonality ensures operators can easily transition between cutter classes without additional training, hence significantly reducing training costs while increasing system familiarity. Modularity makes the system flexible, scalable, and portable across multiple ship classes by tailoring the system to each cutter's slightly different requirements set, mission needs, and onboard sensors. Commonality and modularity were achieved in the initial design, but once the scope of the program grew to sustaining nine cutter classes the maintenance and support of the system became significantly more challenging. The program adapted to this challenge by transitioning from a traditional Spiral to an Agile Development Methodology. Agile Methods reduced the level of governance overhead and allowed for the program to easily respond to system bugs, improve the Cyber Security posture, and overcome obsolescence. Along with these added benefits, the program was also able to expand the modularity of the system to meet new and emerging requirements. The adoption of virtualization technology was a critical step in the program’s most recent increase to modularity. Virtualization enables the operating systems and applications to become hardware agnostic. A system that is agnostic of the underlying hardware has significantly less Total Ownership Cost (TOC) through simplification of obsolescence mitigation. SeaWatch also introduced the development and use of modular applications that can be installed and configured based on the requirements of the cutter or mission. This moves away from the monolithic design approach of most C2 and Navigation systems enabling C3CEN to deliver targeted capabilities to the user in less time and with less risk. Overall, C3CEN’s Agile approach to Program Management has increased commonality and modularity while driving down TOC. This resulted in the fielding of a system that is more capable than any other C2 system in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard. This paper outlines C3CEN’s approach to Agile Development while introducing the modern technologies that increased modularity and commonality.