RADM Mike Vernazza Discusses Mission, Role and Status of NIWDC at February Virtual Speaker Event

Rear Admiral Mike Vernazza, Commander of Naval Information Warfighting Development Center, provided a comprehensive overview of the Naval Information Warfighting Development Center (NIWDC) during NIP’s Virtual Speaker event on 25 February 2021. The event was another successful opportunity for NIP members to gather virtually and hear from one our senior leaders in our community. As the Admiral discussed the mission, role, and status of NIWDC, it was clear that the command is fully engaged in fulfilling its mission and is moving out with drive, tenacity and enthusiasm on multiple warfighting initiatives. Its primary purpose is to deliver the decision advantage to our Navy. 

 As background, Admiral Vernazza provided a brief overview of the genesis of NIWDC, which stemmed from CNO Admiral Greenert’s directive in 2014 to the stand-up of six Navy Warfighting Development Centers. Having achieved initial operating capability (IOC) in 2017, NIWDC is the Navy’s IW Center of Excellence, enhancing Fleet high-end warfighting capabilities and readiness across the operational and tactical levels of war—focused on providing full-spectrum, multi-discipline IW to our Fleet commanders. NIWDC has three locations – the primary location in Norfolk and a smaller footprint in San Diego and Suffolk (co-located with Navy Information Forces). 

Missions of NIWDC and Lines of Effort 

The four missions of NIWDC are: (1) training IW forces in advanced tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) at the individual, unit, integrated, advanced, and joint levels, (2) developing doctrine and TTPs, (3) providing operational support to the Fleet and (4) leading IW innovation and assessments. 

Toward that end, NIWDC is moving out along several lines of effort:

  1. Identifying & codifying high-end GPC IW competencies and proficiencies to inform the NAVIFOR IW Training Campaign Plan
  2. Codify training for Information Warfare Commanders (IWCs), a position which was established 5 years ago to integrate IW capabilities & operations at the tactical level. In addition to the O-6 IWC position on the carrier strike group staff, an O-5 IWC position is being added for the amphibious ready groups. 
  3. Develop IW Warfare Tactics Instructors (WTI) – Modeled on the WTI Program established by aviationand surface communities, IW WTIs develop deep expertise in IW disciplines and bring them to the Fleet.
  4. Team learning through the “Carrier/Gator Hunt” training. Developed by the Center for Naval Analyses, this training focuses on simulating the tactical implications of maneuver across both the physical and IW battlespace.

NIWDC is also pursuing efforts in support of high-end warfighting. The command is partnering with the OPNAV staff (on virtual IW Modeling and Simulation capability) and with MIT Lincoln Labs (on gaming applications to emulate tactical IW warfighting capabilities and enhanced team trainers). 

Looking Ahead

In addition to the various lines of effort, NIWDC is pursuing several initiatives across a broad spectrum of areas. These include: 

  • Developing Live, Virtual, Constructive (LVC) Training for IW teams
  • Increase WTI training by moving from two 10-week classes a year to three 14-weeks classes a year, incorporating U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Coast Guard IW personnel and expanding training to include space and cyber. 
  • Working on improving integration with the Marines and Coast Guard through experimentation, training and joint TTP development (in line with the Tri-Service Maritime strategy)
  • Partnering with Office of Naval Research to expand efforts in using AI/ML to improve data analysis and speed of decision making
  •  Developing narratives to help explain the role of various aspects of IW in warfighting, such as cyber and information operations
  •  In the longer-term, NIWDC hopes to expand its organizational and geographic reach to fleet IW hubs such MIDPAC [Hawaii], FDNF [Yokosuka], and PACNORTHWEST [Whidbey Island].

 As a final note, Admiral Vernazza discussed plans to hold INFOWARCON in late June/early July to bring Fleet IW stakeholders together, as this conference has proven to be extremely beneficial in past years. 

 For more on NIWDC, you can read Admiral Vernazza’s article in the next READBOOK, coming out in April 2021.