Feature ArticlesNavy Web Portal Improves Access for Meteorology, Oceanography Professionals
By Paul Williams
Meteorology and Oceanography
The U.S. Navy relies on meteorology and oceanography (METOC) professionals and products when making important operations decisions. METOC professionals are involved in the planning activities of getting a ship under way or going into port safely. They also hold an integral role in flight-operations planning, landing craft air cushion operations, beach landings and anything else involving troop movement within and outside of platforms such as ships, submarines and aircraft. Every day, thousands of sailors rely on METOC professionals to keep them safe in rapidly changing environments.
METOC professionals provide mission-critical information to the fleet. They develop platform-specific forecasts, make in-situ observations and collaborate with reachback subject-matter experts.
METOC professionals depend on forecast charts, satellite imagery, weather applications, model outputs and many other products in order to perform their jobs effectively.
These products are critical to determining environmental impacts on platforms and mission-specific operations.
The products used by METOC professionals are generated by production centers located around the world. Historically, each production center was assigned a specific area of responsibility. With the combined output of all the production centers, they were able to provide global coverage. For example, the center in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, was responsible for the Pacific, and the center in Norfolk, Virginia, was responsible for the Atlantic. Each of these production centers published their products on custom Web sites.
Web publishing had been an effective way of disseminating information, but it resulted in a large suite of Web sites with varying levels of data quality, different themes, unique processes and nonuniform naming standards. Due to these inconsistencies, searching for the necessary data was time consuming, slowing the decision process.
In addition, the METOC community was burdened with the additional costs of maintaining multiple Web sites.
Another challenge was that METOC professionals deployed to ships or submarines were required to use the regional production center to get their products. As the ship changed regions, users were required to change production centers and therefore required to use a different production Web site. This required users to learn how to navigate a new region's Web site to locate necessary products. The user would encounter different navigation and searching mechanisms, inconsistent naming, product duplication and inconsistent product quality.
In addition to these challenges, the Commander Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command (CNMOC) reorganized the Navy METOC Enterprise. This reorganization included transitioning from a regional-based organization to a knowledge-centric organization focused around core warfighting areas. This reorganization changed the mission of the distributed production centers, requiring a realignment of their Web presence.
During this same time, in order to reduce the number of forward-deployed METOC specialists, CNMOC developed a new operational concept that leveraged reachback capabilities more than ever before. This change levied additional requirements on production centers to increase the operational tempo of production activities as well as collaboration with customers at sea.
Naval Oceanographic Portal
Geocent, in collaboration with the Naval Oceanographic Office and the Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Command, developed the Naval Oceanographic Portal (NOP) for CNMOC to accommodate changes to their concept of operations and to address the challenges associated with distributed production.
It was important to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of product discovery, provide collaboration capabilities and provide distributed production capabilities in this consolidated Web presence. The NOP accomplishes this, eliminating the need for regional Web sites while still providing distributed production. Additionally, the system allows for a high level of collaboration between forward-deployed METOC professionals and reachback centers.
The NOP uses commercial off-the-shelf portal and content management system (CMS) technologies to provide the necessary functionality to meet these goals. The CMS enables distributed production, allowing users to add and update content to the NOP from anywhere in the world using only a Web browser. Regional production centers are now able to create and publish products without hosting their own Web site. CMS technology also allows content to be organized by regional area, functional area and by production center, providing a standardized way to find information across the entire METOC enterprise.
NOP managers are also able to create customized views of content specifically required for an exercise or operation. Through a single page, forward-deployed METOC professionals can access all the mission-relevant products they require from the organization, making it faster and easier to make decisions.
The commercial off-the-shelf portal solution gives users highly customizable layout functionality, allowing users to gain further efficiencies by creating their own 'MyNOP.'
The knowledge-centric changes made by CNMOC created a new department organized by knowledge directorates. Each of these new directorates, as well as the production centers, has gained a work space in the NOP. This provides the directorates and production centers autonomy in the way they organize and produce products. By allowing these organizations to manage and publish content directly to the NOP, production imp-ediments once imposed by Web developers have been removed. This allows a higher level of collaboration between forward-deployed METOC professionals and reachback support.
CNMOC worked with the NOP team to create standards for publishing and discovering products through the NOP. Metadata standards were based on specifications provided by the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative and the Intelligence Community Metadata Working Group. Each product being entered into the system requires this standard metadata to enable discovery based on region, taxonomy or text keywords. A Navy METOC taxonomy was also created to categorize products into names that METOC professionals quickly understood. These metadata standards are applied to all products published to the NOP, making the products discoverable in a uniform way, regardless of the METOC professional's location and mission.
A global searching mechanism was developed to provide METOC professionals the ability to search all products produced by the organization. This search allows users to define both the 'where' (a given latitude and longitude) as well as the 'what' (taxonomy) of a product of interest. This is the first time users have been able to find every product produced by the Navy METOC enterprise with the click of a button.
Creating a single portal provides METOC professionals the ability to support warfighter missions more effectively by providing a single product source. Production centers are able to publish products directly to the Web through a centralized portal, eliminating the need for each production center to host its own Web site. Since creating the NOP, METOC professionals have been able to find mission-critical products in a single location using consistent navigation schemes, naming standards and user interfaces. The different centers producing products all publish their content into this single repository, making it readily available and easily discoverable.
Paul Williams, Geocent's lead meteorology and oceanography systems specialist, has 14 years of experience developing software for the Department of Defense and industry. He earned his master's degree in information technology from American InterContinental University and is certified in service-oriented architecture, Java programming, Security+ and as a scrum master.