June 21, 2024

When the Admiral Speaks, Everyone Listens

Vice Adm David Dunaway

Posted for The Patuxent Partnership
Pax Leader II
By Jay Friess

Vice Adm David Dunaway

Vice Adm. David Dunaway

It was a packed house at the Patuxent River Naval Air Museum in Lexington Park, Maryland Wednesday night as local military and industry leaders gathered to hear Vice Adm. David Dunaway’s vision for the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), headquartered at Naval Air Station Patuxent River.

Vice Adm. Dunaway took command of NAVAIR in September and immediately laid out his priorities for the coming three years – increasing the speed with which new technologies reach the Navy fleet; delivering integrated and interoperable (I&I) capabilities; and improving affordability of both purchase and maintenance costs of new systems.

Vice Adm. Dunaway again laid out this priority list at a panel discussion held by The Patuxent Partnership and Association of Naval Aviation Wednesday. But, this time, his words fell under the shadow of sequestration budget cuts and the probability of spending the rest of the fiscal year under a continuing resolution that holds federal spending to last year’s levels.

“Tonight, we’re going to talk about the part of the cup that’s half full,” he told the audience. “We sit in a pretty good position here at Pax River.”

Diane Balderson

Diane Balderson

The vice admiral warned that NAVAIR needs to face disruptive threats; protect and cultivate innovation; and get its fiscal house in order while getting through the budget crunch and emerging as a relevant organization. “If we don’t plot a way through this, we are headed for demise. … It’s real important that we get this right. … We’re ready to quit just playing defense.”

From an asset standpoint, Vice Adm. Dunaway said that NAVAIR sits in a “pretty nice place,” but it needs to sort its books. “If we don’t get sustainment costs under control, we’re going to break. … It’s amazing to me how we don’t know how we spend our money.”

Diane Balderson, NAVAIR’s Assistant Commander for Contracts, estimated that NAVAIR buys $27 billion worth of products and $3 billion worth of services each year.

Vice Adm. Dunaway said he wants NAVAIR to take control of its software development and get all of its sensors, computers and other hardware to talk to each other more effectively.

Rear Adm. Mark Darrah

Rear Adm. Mark Darrah

“I’m dead serious about making sure our systems work as systems of systems,” he said, noting that its mostly old hardware and ingrained ways of doing things that have prevented this. “This is not a tech problem; this is an organizational and infrastructural problem.”

Rear Adm. Mark Darrah, head of the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD), agreed. Paraphrasing an old cartoon, he said, “We have met the enemy. It is us.”

However, Rear Adm. Darrah confidently stated, “We are going to get to the point where we are the architects of naval aviation standards.”


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