Military Heroes of the Month: Team in charge of ‘Winning the Information War’

“Winning the information war,” that’s the vision of the Naval Information Warfare Center Atlantic is to win the “information war” for the United States.
Published: Sep. 6, 2023 at 7:13 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 7, 2023 at 8:41 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - “Winning the information war,” that’s the vision of the Naval Information Warfare Center Atlantic is to win the “information war” for the United States.

The Naval Information Warfare Center Atlantic is home to the Department of Defense’s top scientists, engineers and technicians.

“Our workforce here has a very vast, wide, diverse skill set across the information warfare domain -- things like communications capability, network administration, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and data science,” Brandon Pontius, NIWC Atlantic’s Military Deputy Chief Engineer, says. “So, we bring all those skills to bear to put forth some of the most sophisticated effective information warfare capabilities that you’ll see across any military across the world.”

The organization’s history dates back more than 45 years with connections to some of the Navy’s first electronic systems and information technology activities along the East Coast. Over time, the mission, name, and locations have changed in order to keep up with ever-changing technologies, budgeting constraints of the Department of Defense and the needs of the warfighter.

In February 2019, the Naval Information Warfare Center Atlantic name was applied – changing the organization from a systems center classification, formerly known as SPAWAR, to an information warfare center. The change represents the expansion and increased focus on cyber for not only the organization but also the Department of the Navy.

Five thousand people make up the Naval Information Warfare Center Atlantic’s total command, ensuring they are at the cutting-edge tip of the spear to engage the warfighter. Two of the biggest challenges the Naval Information Warfare Center Atlantic faces are ever-changing technology and the skillset of the workforce.

“We have to stay at the very cutting edge of technology to do that in the areas of information warfare command and control, intelligence surveillance reconnaissance, artificial intelligence, cyber all these different areas,” Peter Reddy, Naval Information Warfare Center Atlantic’s Executive Director, says.

The Naval Information Warfare Center Atlantic is involved from the very beginning of the process - imagining what a certain technology might do to help a warfighter in their mission.

“It’s imagining what could be and then prototyping and experimenting on what that technology does,” Reddy says. “Once we’re seeing success there, we’ll start to develop that to a more resilient, sustained capability through development testing, producing it, engaging with industry to build many versions of that product if they need or many copies of it. And then we field it, we deliver it. We help develop the training and sustain and support of the sailors, marines and warfighters would need. And then, while it’s in the field being used, we’re there to support it worldwide.”

Starting with equipment, the Naval Information Warfare Center Atlantic’s manufacturing engineering sector has grown exponentially over the years.

“We have additive, subtractive and advanced manufacturing equipment,” Hunter Smith, an On-Demand Manufacturing Engineering Lead at NIWC Atlantic, says. “So, additive being 3D printers, subtractive being your traditional machine shop equipment, and then advanced being everything that’s kind of like computer-controlled CNC equipment. They are higher level manufacturing pieces.”

The manufacturing lab’s journey began in 2018 with only one printer making between 10 to 15 parts in the first year. Now they have 15 3D printers and 12 subtractive machines. They have done almost 8,000 parts so far this year.

“We work with the vehicle integration folks a lot,” Smith says. “We’re doing a lot with the vehicles that you see going up and down the road on a regular basis, doing sheet metal components, but also printing for all the communications equipment that goes in those vehicles.”

The Expeditionary Warfare Department focuses on Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance making sure the users can securely and effectively communicate while also having situational awareness to what’s going on in the field. The Expeditionary Department does about $828 million worth of work. NIWC Atlantic does all of the Command, Control, Communications, Computers (C4) Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR).

“We do a lot of C4ISR integration onto various vehicle platforms and making sure that the users can securely and effectively communicate and also have situational awareness to what’s going on in the field,” Ashlee Landreth, NIWC Atlantic’s Expeditionary Warfare Department Head, explains.

The Test Cyber Forensic Center is where they do all types of tests regarding electronic systems. Those take place in what’s called an Anechoic Chamber -- meaning free from echo.

“My team’s job here is to ensure that every electronic system, that is to be installed on board a Navy ship, aircraft or vehicle operates to its peak performance,” Wayne Lutzen, NIWC Atlantic’s Test Cyber Forensic Center Manager, says. “Our job is to ensure and find the problems so that it does not interfere with other vital systems.”

The team at NIWC Atlantic is passionate about what they do, and they make it a mission to try and empower the next generation of students. Marcus Shoultz, the STEM Mobile Apps and Events Lead, says his favorite part is the opportunity.

“To be able to work with the students, to see the students’ engagement where they ask questions and also to where they come in and request to, ‘Hey, how can we interact and be engaging and be able to work here at NIWC Atlantic in the future,’” Shoultz says.

They have also printed about 4,700 3D puzzles that they give out at different school functions and community events. Those at NIWC say as technology is every growing and changing - it’s neat to see so many students already interested in the field.

“It’s funny, I mean, I don’t feel like I’m that old, but kids now have 3D printers at home already,” Aaron Ross, Deputy Senior Manager for Production, Quality and Manufacturing, says. “A lot of them are pretty well versed and kind of know what you can do with 3D printers.”

Those at the Naval Information Warfare Center Atlantic have impacted 42,000 students in the tri-county area and held more than 40 stem events.

Not only are they gearing up for more school visits, they also have three weekend events in September: the USS Yorktown Reading Day, the Summerville Sweat Tea Festival and Girls In Aviation Day.