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NAVSEA Commander Vice Admiral Moore talks work-life balance, independent technical authority, high velocity learning during visit to NUWC Division Newport

By NUWC Division Newport Public Affairs | April 15, 2019


Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) Commander Vice Adm. Thomas Moore’s visit to Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Division Newport on April 11 stressed the importance of maritime superiority but also focused on the need for employees to have other outlets than work. 

“We really are in an era of great power competition, and what NAVSEA is doing now has never been more important, but I need you to find some balance,” Moore said to the standing room-only crowd. “Work can’t be everything.”

Moore, who plays in a band and enjoys yoga and golf, spoke about the importance of striking a balance between work and life.

“Balance in my life helps me recharge my battery,” Moore said. “If your single measurement is how many hours you spend at work, you’re probably destined to fail.”

This concept played directly into one of Moore’s main points about the ability to get faster, not just on the margins, but by a factor of “5X, 10X.”

“This isn’t about working harder, and, in fact, it’s not about working smarter. It’s somewhat insulting to say that,” Moore said. “It’s not as if you aren’t out there working hard and smart. I’m amazed by your dedication, and you’re doing amazing work.

“It’s about a thought process that talks about radical change in the way we think about and solve problems. If we don’t start doing that, we’re going to get overtaken in this great power competition.”

Moore offered an anecdote to emphasize this from his time coaching little league baseball. If you have coached little league long enough, Moore said, you have seen a pitcher struggling to throw strikes. After walking a few batters in a row, some parent inevitably yells from the crowd, “throw strikes,” as if the child was not trying to do that all along.

Moore then suggested four thoughts to help ensure that NUWC Newport is throwing strikes:

  • Be willing to challenge all the assumptions out there today. Why am I doing something this way?
  • Be willing to think differently about problems.
  • If you really want to change, you better be willing to accept some risk every now and then.
  • You’re not going to get 5X or 10X better if you’re not willing to stop doing some things that you’re doing today.

“The current path isn’t going to get us there,” Moore said. “The gap between us, Russia and China is closing. If that doesn’t scare you, it should.”

Moore also emphasized independent technical authority, highlighting the NAVSEA Campaign Plan to Expand the Advantage 2.0. He explained some of the reasoning behind changes to the campaign plan like adding “improve warfighting capability of ships and systems” to the mission priorities section. This was done, Moore said, because of a shift in policy emphasis from combatting violent extremism.

“That’s still important, but it’s not an existential threat to the U.S. When former Secretary of Defense James Mattis came in, he coined the phrase ‘great power competition.’ The reality is, that’s where we are today,” Moore said. “Across various domains, China and Russia are competing with us at every level. That should be a concern to us.

“The only way we won’t have war is to make sure we’re so far out in front of everyone on every level. In that great power competition, it’s about winning and we’re going to win.”

In addition to the speed and innovation elements, that also means making the assets we have today more reliable, Moore noted. He emphasized the independent technical authority aspect in referencing the sinking of the USS Thresher on April 10, 1963, the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster on Feb. 1, 2003, and the collisions involving the USS McCain and USS Fitzgerald in 2017.

“When we look at Columbia, we really allowed the costly schedule and the production voice to override the engineers,” Moore said. “No one was allowed to stand tall and say, ‘we have to look at this before we bring the shuttle back.’”

Before departing for the remainder of his tour of Division Newport, Moore fielded a few questions from the audience.

A question from David Rubenstein, an employee in the Undersea Warfare Weapons, Vehicles, and Defensive Systems Department, about the recent installation of Rear Adm. Eric Ver Hage as commander for both the Naval Undersea and Surface Warfare Centers led Moore to discuss the importance of the One Team initiative while emphasizing each warfare center maintain its proud history.

“You are and will always be NUWC Newport. Having one flag officer in charge of the warfare centers is in recognition of the one NAVSEA concept,” Moore said. “We all work collectively together. You can’t work on all these foundational elements unless we’re working as one NAVSEA, and you can’t be a high velocity learning (HVL) organization if you’re not sharing across the warfare centers.”

In response to a question by Nick DelGreco, from the Corporate Business Office, about what can be done to maintain momentum with high velocity learning, Moore noted that in addition to the way at which we learn with speed, we also have to focus on the outcomes.

“If the activity is not leading to an outcome we need, then we’re wasting time,” Moore said. “What is it we’re trying to get to? How do we apply HVL principles to get to that outcome? We have to be a little self-critical. That’s an HVL principle.”

Dave Pistacchio, director of Science and Technology, closed the question-and-answer session by asking if Moore, in his dealings with Congress, sees the same passion in expanding the advantage?

“There may be some differences, but the overall sense from Congress is they recognize the great power competition and recognize that Navy readiness is not where it needs to be,” Moore said. “They constantly say, ‘what do you need and how can we help?’ You should be pretty proud of your representatives in this area, and they are absolutely asking tough questions.”

In addition to his all-hands talk, Moore also had the opportunity to tour some of NUWC Newport’s facilities, including the Virginia Payload Tube Facility and Combat Control Systems Laboratory. He also heard about electromagnetic warfare improvements and recorded a podcast.

NUWC Division Newport, part of the Naval Sea System Command, is one of two divisions of the Naval Undersea Warfare Center. NUWC Division Newport’s mission is to provide research, development, test and evaluation, engineering and fleet support for submarines, autonomous underwater systems, undersea offensive and defensive weapons systems, and countermeasures. NUWC’s other division is located in Keyport, Washington.