May 20, 2022

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Moran: Navy’s Future Is Sustainability & Interoperability


VADM Mike Moran, the Principal Military Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Research, Development and Acquisition), said it all boils down to sustainability and interoperability.

Those elements impact the Navy’s budget, every platform and program, and the future vision, he hammered home at The Patuxent Partnership webinar moderated by retired RADM Bert Johnson and attended by more than 100 virtual participants.

The future must be interoperability to the point that all platforms share data at machine speed with sustainability built into every platform from the start. First, VADM Moran said, the Navy must reestablish ownership of all of its guiding programs.

“We have to change the way we work. We fund via platforms not via interoperability.”

The first step, VADM Moran said, is to return to each program’s baseline, “reestablish our ownership of the program,” and ask, “What is executable? What is making some difference?” NAVAIR is already moving all programs back to baseline to understand the drivers and costs of the programs as they advance.

Once the baseline is reestablished, the next step is learning to go faster. “The Hill,” VADM Moran said of congressional appropriators, “is supportive of technology taking more of a lead role. … To take a lead role …. [you must] learn first.”

The admiral sees this as good news, especially for the Navy. He believes technology will bridge the current gaps in interoperability and sustainability and this is already where the Navy shines. “There is an educated Navy worker talent pool. The other services don’t have the technology capabilities of the Navy,” VADM Moran said. The Navy also boasts worker centers and laboratories of excellence, including Pax River.

Once the baseline is reestablished and the Navy regains the “authority of the architecture” of its platforms, sustainment must be addressed. “We’re not budgeting for sustainability,” he said, “it needs to go in at the baseline.”

Government must emulate industry which builds in sustainment at the design stage. An aircraft maker brought this home to the admiral, telling him, “We can’t afford to have a jet down.” Meanwhile, VADM Moran noted, the Navy had such large numbers of undeployable aircraft as to be publicly embarrassed in the media, and not mission ready.

“We have failed to fully deliver. This goes back to the Navy, not the defense industry. The Navy must work out how to share data. This is the challenge.”

Asked about unmanned and artificial intelligence platforms, VADM Moran said both platforms are increasingly important to the military and figure integrally into the Navy’s interoperability mission. “There’s no question we’re transitioning to unmanned.” The challenge is demonstrating “command and control” of the technology in “multiple ways.” Once that is done, he said, Congress will release the funds.

Even so, he warned, unless sustainability is dealt with, Research and Development budgets will be squeezed. Excluding manpower, 54% of the Navy’s budget goes to sustainment, the admiral said. “If we don’t get in alignment, we won’t be getting anything new.”

The same misalignment was apparent 25 years ago but attempts to reach interoperability was “not that effective.” Technology needs to step in and make the Navy architecturally different.

“We have to get our hands around it,” VADM Moran said, “or we won’t have a future.”

Patuxent Partnership Executive Director Bonnie Green wrapped up the webinar reminding attendees, despite the limitations imposed as a result of COVID-19, TPP continues to hold virtual programs and share updates on resources for TPP members and colleagues in defense, industry, and academia.

The Patuxent Partnership is a nonprofit member organization that fosters collaboration between government, industry, and academia to advance education through STEM-based initiatives; to advance technology through speaker programs, forums, and networking; to advance science and technology transfer through the exchange of ideas, information, and data related to technologies; and to increase workforce development through an array of initiatives.

To learn more about The Patuxent Partnership and its programs, visit its Leader member page.

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