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Collaboration forum brings researchers from Navy labs to Carderock

By By Kelley Stirling, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division Public Affairs | NSWC Carderock Division | Aug. 7, 2018

WEST BETHESDA, Md. — The Naval Research and Development Establishment (NR&DE) held a Collaboration Forum July 31 to Aug. 1 at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division in West Bethesda, Maryland. The event included science and technology (S&T) representatives from Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), the Office of Naval Research (ONR), the Naval Research Lab (NRL) and the Navy’s Warfare Centers.

Organized through a dialogue between Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. David Hahn and NAVSEA Warfare Center Executive Director Don McCormack, the purpose of the collaboration forum was to discuss and share research happening across the Navy, specifically within the NAVSEA realm.

“We are involved in the full lifecycle, and I think that’s unique for any of the Navy’s activities,” McCormack said, speaking of the Warfare Centers’ reach across the Navy. “We go from S&T all the way through in-service, and ultimately, disposal of those parts. We have a pretty good understanding of the lifecycle of the products you’re trying to get out. You understand how the warfighter uses them, and you have all that performance and reliability data. You have all of that information in the Warfare Centers.”

Presenters from ONR, NRL and the Warfare Centers talked about the areas they are investing money, specifically briefing projects that fall under the Naval Innovative Science and Engineering (NISE), Section 219 funding, the idea being to communicate across the NR&DE where they are focusing their efforts and to see if there are opportunities to work together. Other investment resources, like in-house laboratory independent research, were also discussed during the forum.

“We’ve been thinking about the portfolio and how we align our efforts across the board,” Hahn said, adding that in looking at the challenges going forward, he and McCormack decided the collaboration forum was necessary. “I’ve been on this windmill push and effort to try to knock down those things that either structurally prevent us from working together, or behaviorally prevent us from working together, to include the fact that we each come from different organizations. I want to make sure that we understand how we, together, are moving forward and where we’ve been so that we can continue to move forward.”

Breakout-session topic areas during the two-day event included unmanned systems and autonomy; quantum sciences; decision science; distributed research and collaboration; artificial intelligence and machine learning; model-based systems engineering and set-based design; digital science and strategy; virtualization and live-virtual constructive; and hypersonics.

In the unmanned systems and autonomy forum, Lee Mastroianni talked about what interests him as a program officer within ONR's Expeditionary Warfare and Combating Terrorism Program.

"Platforms that can operate multi-domain," Mastroianni said. "What do we want these platforms to do in the autonomy and the C4 (command, control, communications and computers) that enables that? It's the brains behind the operation. That's where, from my perspective, I want to put the investments and the areas I think we can collaborate on."

Another area Mastroianni said he was interested in is the test facilities for unmanned and autonomous systems. These types of tests are very complex and are made even more difficult by range restrictions and policies.

Dr. Tom Devine, a naval architect in Carderock’s Advanced Capabilities Branch, agreed and suggested that the Warfare Centers have test facilities that might be useful to other Navy labs and programs.

“Each of these Warfare Centers and each of these activities have unique test ranges that don’t exist anywhere else in the world,” Devine said. “And it would be a mistake not to take advantage of those test ranges.”

In the breakout session for model-based systems engineering and set-based design, Mike Traweek, a program officer in ONR's Ocean Battlespace Sensing Program, said he thinks the collaboration forum was motivated by the idea that ONR program officers should be more closely connected to the laboratory or the Warfare Centers. He said the advantage of being there was that he can communicate directly to the researcher about what he's investing in and why.

"Along the way, by necessity, I've invested in the development of methodologies intended to efficiently connect and communicate the lowest-level observable and controllable parameters that describe system components to high-level mission objectives that we seek to obtain in the actual employment of the systems" Traweek said, meaning that he wants set-based design and systems engineering programs to succeed because it is essential to have the warfighter involved and the mission in mind from the beginning of the design process.

When Hahn spoke at the beginning of the program, he reminded people what the ultimate objective is.

“At the end of the day, we are in a great power competition. And the other guys are also in a great power competition,” Hahn said. “The objective is not to be in a competition; it’s to win the competition. For us to do our part of this, we have to rethink our activities, our behaviors, inside of our resource alignments and our resource allocations, so we get our people working together on important stuff.”

The collaboration forum is intended to be the first of a series of recurring NR&DE events, likely expanding to include other Systems Commands, including Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) and Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR).