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NEWS | Sept. 28, 2021

NUWC Division Newport employees receive Department of Navy Civilian Service Awards

By NUWC Division Newport Public Affairs

Two retired Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division Newport employees recently received Department of the Navy (DON) Superior Civilian Service Awards, the second highest honorary civilian award bestowed by the U.S. Navy. Dr. Gerard “Jerry” Exley, former head of the Undersea Warfare (USW) Electromagnetic Systems Department; and Mark Snyder, who formerly held several positions and was head of the Sensors and Sonar Systems Department, received the awards during the command’s Annual Awards ceremony held July 15, 2021.

DON Meritorious Civilian Service Awards, the third highest honorary civilian award bestowed by the U.S. Navy, were also presented to two current Division Newport employees and one retired employee during the event. The award winners are Dennis Tierney, head, Infrastructure Division; Rebecca Chhim, director of cybersecurity for USW Systems Combat System Integration for Submarines and USW​​ and a senior scientist and technical manager; and Cheryl Robinson, a retired engineer from the Undersea Warfare Weapons, Vehicles and Defensive Systems Department.

Exley, who retired in August 2020, earned his award for accomplishments from February 2001, when serving as the SSTM for submarine communications and head of the USW Electromagnetic Systems Department. As SSTM, he was the technical leader and innovator who forged the transition of submarine communications from the archaic low data-rate past to the modern high-bandwidth networked architecture. As department head, he continued to lead the way in adapting the communications architecture to emerging counter-detection, jamming and anti-satellite threats.

One of Exley’s most notable contributions, in his nearly 40-year career, was to the submarine IXS to IP transition, a revolutionary change in submarine communications at the turn of the century. To improve interoperability and better leverage commercial technology developments, the U.S. Navy had mandated that all communications were to transition from the old stove-piped “IXS” architecture to a modern networked commercial-off-the-shelf based architecture. This enormous and fundamental change needed to be accomplished within two years. Exley helped to overcome two major technical hurdles, including leading an innovative effort to increase data rate through a new modulation technique and working with commercial network vendors to add an asymmetric option in the protocol stack.  With the technical challenges resolved, Exley embarked on what has become his most impactful and sustaining contribution, the OPNAV End-to-End Assessment process, which he developed to help effect the IXS-to-IP transition.

Snyder earned a Superior Civilian Service Award for his contributions from August 2018 through January 2021, when he served as both the director of programs and the technical department acquisition advocate for the Sensors and Sonar Systems Department. In other departments, these roles are filled by two people. He was recognized for his seamless management of these two roles, which in other departments are filled by two people, and his many achievements.

Snyder, who served Division Newport for 37 years, postponed retirement until July 2021 to help the department adjust to a maxi-flex and maximum telework environment because of COVID-19. To avoid any interruptions, he quickly transitioned communication to Microsoft Teams and Fusion Chat formats. He also established virtual procurement training sessions, which taught more than 20 additional department employees procurement processes, and he spread responsibilities to others to foster efficiency. In August 2020, following the sudden passing of the department head, Snyder again postponed his retirement to take on a third role as acting department head. He ensured that the department had the support it needed to deal with the tragedy, and also reached out across Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) to reassure customers that the critical missions they entrusted to the department would carry on.  Under Snyder’s leadership, the department maintained 100% operations in major service cost centers and successfully supported all in-service engineering agent roles. As acting department head, he identified an opportunity to address strategic planning efforts that had not been revised in several years.

Tierney was honored for his efforts during his 37-year federal career in helping to help build the Division Newport campus into its current state-of-the-art U.S. Navy research and development center. He was specifically honored for his efforts as head of Division Newport’s Infrastructure Division, from June 2015 to December 2020, his role as Military Construction program manager, and his leadership of minor construction projects.

His expertise as a professional engineer was critical in dealing with the complexity of numerous projects, the award states. “His skills facilitated the successful management of construction, base realignment and infrastructure support of an essential Navy research, development, test and evaluation center. His extensive engineering knowledge resulted in safe, secure and efficient projects, substantial cost savings for the taxpayers relative to certain projects and expedited the development of imperative Navy products and services.”

Tierney helped author legislative proposals to aid the Navy with efforts for the Laboratory Revitalization Program and the National Defense Authorization Act Section 233 Authority.  “These dedicated efforts have helped Division Newport address many critical infrastructure and equipment installation requirements, and have assisted all of the other NAVSEA Warfare Centers in their infrastructure efforts,” the award states.

Chhim, who has worked in the cybersecurity domain for most of her 21-year career at Division Newport, is a proven leader, innovator and trusted advisor in the cybersecurity and technology space. Currently serving as a senior scientist and technical manager, and director of cybersecurity in the USW Combat Systems Department, she was recognized for her achievements from February 2017 to December 2020, when she was serving as deputy head, Cybersecurity Division; activity chief information officer; and acting head, Information Technology/Cyber Division of the Corporate Operations Department. 

Chhim’s success “can be attributed to her unique combination of technical and management skills, forward-thinking approach and drive to modernize and protect the technology and capabilities of Division Newport and beyond,” the award states. “Her achievements are abundant, including a major modernization effort to upgrade an aging computing infrastructure; leading Division Newport to achieve 98% Authority to Operate for the Risk Management Framework; developing the Division’s Cybersecurity Program and framework, placing Newport on the leading edge of the cybersecurity domain; and leading the IT Infrastructure Workgroup for the Undersea and Surface Warfare Center’s One-Team.”  

Robinson, who retired in August 2021, consistently demonstrated her technical expertise and commitment to excellence during her 37-year career at NUWC Division Newport, the award states. She received the Meritorious Civilian Service Award for her outstanding achievements from October 2014 through March 2021 as the test and evaluation lead for the Mark 48 Mod 7 Advanced Processor Build Five Alternative Anti-Surface Warfare Mode system. 

“Her many contributions helped to rapidly transition the system from a future navy capability to a program of record, demonstrating Warfare Center commitment to getting capabilities to the fleet faster,” the award states.

Robinson led numerous testing and analysis efforts which greatly influenced the development and assessment of the system and were critical to ensuring readiness to proceed to operational testing. 

“She provided solutions to issues and new technologies to the Environment Centric Weapons Analysis Facility, helping it to offer a true end-to-end torpedo simulation. Her use of modeling and simulation provided significant cost savings to the Navy.”

Robinson also successfully built a new team, developing them into remarkable contributors capable of rapidly responding to the needs of the Undersea Weapons Program Office.

NUWC Division Newport is a shore command of the U.S. Navy within the Naval Sea Systems Command, which engineers, builds and supports America’s fleet of ships and combat systems. NUWC Newport provides research, development, test and evaluation, engineering and fleet support for submarines, autonomous underwater systems, undersea offensive and defensive weapons systems, and countermeasures associated with undersea warfare.

NUWC Newport is the oldest warfare center in the country, tracing its heritage to the Naval Torpedo Station established on Goat Island in Newport Harbor in 1869. Commanded by Capt. Chad Hennings, NUWC Newport maintains major detachments in West Palm Beach, Florida, and Andros Island in the Bahamas, as well as test facilities at Seneca Lake and Fisher's Island, New York, Leesburg, Florida, and Dodge Pond, Connecticut.

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