Contact Us   |    Join   |    Donate


I read with some interest Lieutenant Buchanan’s essay in the January 2000 issue of THE SUBMARINE REVIEW Submarine Information Technology: It Begins With the Backbone in which he discusses the IT revolution and the introduction of Local Area Network capabilities in various attack submarine classes, especially the Virginia class SSN.

While I have no direct knowledge on this score, by this late date Virginia certainly ought to have a fairly detailed network architecture on the drawing boards. If not, however, a model that is somewhat simpler and perhaps more secure than Lieutenant Buchanan’s is certainly feasible, as long as we pay heed to some fundamental network security principles.

Instead of four networks, three are suggested:

  • A purely unclassified, general-purpose local area network (LAN) to host ship’s administration, management, and general-purpose processing (FITREP and Evals, Planning Maintenance System, etc.). Users of this LAN are the entire crew. This system is equivalent to Lieutenant Buchanan’s Quality LAN.
  • A Secret (and below) LAN hosting general operations, planning, much propulsion plant information (usually caveated as Restricted Data or NNPI), information on the status of weapons , and any classified PMS (if they are required on Virginia). If the classification level of this LAN is kept to the Secret level and below, the bulk of the crew could also utilize this LAN, since all personnel is subjected to an ENTNAC upon entry into active duty. This investigation is virtually identical to the NAC, which is used to grant access to Secret and Confidential classified information. Moreover, once the boat is underway, generally the entire crew is privy to a great deal of classified information as a matter of course. Future connection to the SIPRNet (Secret Internet Protocol Routed Network) is also somewhat simplified.
  • A Top Secret SCI LAN. hosting sensitive compartment information (SCI). TS collateral intelligence. and special access program mission planning information. Users of this LAN would require standard SSBis, fully adjudicated for SCI access. Since physical access to networks or their components operating at this level is tantamount to granting access to the data itself, these systems are always confined to exclusion areas such as radio and ESM, or tactical sensitive compartmented information facilities (SCIFs), generally established on submarines only when underway. again, usually in radio and ESM. Depending upon the final implementation of several of the network component lock-out scenarios described in Lieutenant Buchanan’s paper, however, a very reasonable risk assessment could be made to argue for additional network drops or installations in the CO and XO staterooms, sonar, and the wardroom, obviously dependent upon final Virginia class configurations.
  • Lieutenant Buchanan is right on target when arguing that networks (and their often long support tails) be treated like any other ship system. Likewise, his conceptual Knowledge Acquisition and Analysis Center (KAAC) has great merit. However, the notion that LAN operations and the cadre of personnel who support it be housed in the Weapons Department ” … since [it supports] the largest weapons system (the ship)” is either illogical or tongue in cheek. By this measure, everyone works for the Weapons. rm guessing the rest of the wardroom won’t go for it, but it was a decent try.

    No, this team belongs in operations because that is what connectivity is all about-supporting operations and facilitating communications. And not nearly all of our operations are weapons-related. Moreover, there is a rating that already does this work: that amalgam of ET and RM. Information Technology (IT).

    Also, co-locating classified and unclassified systems or PCs in immediate proximity to each other {as Lieutenant Buchanan suggests) is a salient reason that classified information continues its steady migration over to the Internet. Users get confused enough about which system they are on in the luxury of an open office, on the surface. Submarine network users engaged in operations, or pushed by fatigue will inevitably make errors like everyone else, and type the wrong information on the wrong system (fortunately, on a submarine, your contamination problem is definitely localized!). The aggravation and loss of information and resources during the system sanitization are extensive.

    Finally, laptops should be cable-locked down, or they will walk away. The only advantage a laptop brings to a submarine is its compactness, not its portability. No classified information should be put on laptops for just this reason. And physically lockdown or disable those floppy or tape drives, to arrest the inevitable virus problem before it ever breaks out.


    William Bud Gruner, World War II submariner and skipper of USS SKATE (SS 305), has authored a small, 19 page, unbound pamphlet containing the best encapsulation of historical facts and data surrounding the greatest untold story of World War II.

    Some topics included are: WWII history in the Pacific Theater, U.S. submarine warfare directives, WWII submarines (fleet/S class boats), torpedo problems, Japanese ship losses to U.S. submarines, number of patrols, and personnel losses.

    This pamphlet is available through the San Francisco Chapter of U.S. Submarine Veterans of WWII. A $2 donation covers printing, collating, folding, stapling, and postage. Make checks payable to U.S. Sub Vets WWII-SF Chapter. Send requests to Everett Bud Burchell, Past Pres., SF Chapter, U.S. Submarine Veterans of WWII, 701 Second Street, Gilroy, CA 95020-4904 .

Naval Submarine League

© 2022 Naval Submarine League