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Command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence (C4I) systems — the lifeblood of naval ships — have evolved at a rapid pace over the last few decades. To keep up with technological advances and to take advantage of improvements nurtured in the civilian marketplace, the U.S. Navy extensively uses commercial hardware and software for its C4I systems. However, the cost of keeping these products up-to-date is high.

In their search for factors that influence the cost of upgrading C4I systems, the authors considered both new-ship construction and installations aboard in-service ships, identifying such issues as design margins, access to C4I spaces, and challenges associated with configuration, integration, and testing. Looking across a specific set of completed C4I upgrades, the authors searched for factors (such as hull type and ship age) that may have influenced the labor cost to install the upgrades. They also attempted to identify biases and other influences that may have led to misestimates.

Overall, the authors found some evidence that costs decreased across certain successive upgrades, but they were unable to identify consistent cost trends associated with the upgrade factors they studied. The analysis uncovered both a high level of variability in costs and a trend toward overestimating the installation-labor costs of upgrades, particularly for certain hull types.

The research described in this report was prepared for the United States Navy. The research was conducted in the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Department of the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.

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