Tackling the Big Questions of NAVAIR’s Future
Posted for The Patuxent Partnership
By Jay Friess
When embarking on a strategic plan for the future of the Naval Air Systems Command and Southern Maryland, a good place to start is examining the strategic questions the Navy and the region face and then analyzing the likely political, economic, social and technological environments of the near future.
Dale Moore, director of NAVAIR’s Strategic Initiative Coordination, walked members of The Patuxent Partnership through this process Thursday at the Wyle Conference Center in Lexington Park, Maryland. The session was the third in a series of “Brown Bag Lunches” Moore and the Partnership have held on strategic planning.
“The community and the base really have a synergy and a mutual responsibility to one another,” Moore said. “Why couldn’t we be a Silicon Valley for aerospace?”
Mr. Moore warned that the future would be one of increasing change and constant paradigm shifting, saying, “The ones who get ahead are the ones who can continually transform.”
Mr. Moore opened the floor up for brainstorming on strategic questions and was immediately greeted with the biggest one in the room, sequestration. Automatic defense cuts of up to 10 percent of the defense budget are set to hit next year if Congress does not act to prevent them.
“What’s the world going to be like Jan. 3?” one participant asked.
Another participant asked, “How many people can the Southern Maryland peninsula sustain?” Land, water, school capacity and infrastructure could limit growth, he said. “It’s a question that many communities ignore until it’s too late.”
“It’s interesting that there has been an assumption of population growth,” another participant said, noting that virtual collaboration across the Internet could eliminate the need for physical co-location of employees.
Mr. Moore noted that complexity is another question to consider, saying, “We’re coming into a software-intensive world. … When does it become unmanageable?”
Given the rise of drones and long-range networked weapons, another participant asked if the aircraft carrier has a future. “Is NAVAIR going to be relevant in 20 years? … Somewhere between now and Star Trek, aircraft carriers are not going to be needed.”
Another participant asked how the Navy and industry can protect its intellectual property. Still another wondered if the government or industry will lead the direction of innovation in an age of shrinking public budgets.
The industry/government power balance made it on the list of political issues in the future environment as well as the possibility of another round of Base Realignment and Closure.
Mr. Moore noted that future projects are going to have to move at a faster pace, saying, “I started working on the [Joint Strike Fighter] in 1992. We can’t do that anymore. … The future is going to be directed energy, laser, speed-of-light type stuff, so there’s not much time to make decisions.”
When considering the future technological environment of inter-connectivity and information dominance, one participant invoked Star Trek again, asking, “How do we make sure we’re the good Borg and not the bad Borg?”
The group will continue developing its plan in a future Brown Bag session.