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NSWCDD Profile: Dr. Daniel F. Wallace

By NSWCDD Corporate Communications | Jan. 31, 2018

Technical Warrant Holders (TWHs) are Navy engineers and recognized technical experts in their fields across specific technical domains. TWHs are the independent technical conscience for the Navy to make sure systems being designed, produced and delivered to the Fleet are as technically sound and as safe as possible.

Dr. Daniel F. Wallace - Technical Warrant Holder for Displays and Human Factors Engineering-Surface Ship Warfare Systems (SEA 05W), at NSWC Dahlgren Division

What is your educational background?

My undergraduate degree is a Bachelor’s of Arts in mathematics and psychology from Cedarville University, and my master’s and Ph.D. are from the University of Maryland in cognitive/experimental psychology with an emphasis in human factors engineering. Education should never stop, of course, so I continue to take online classes and read a lot. There is also continual “on-the-job training” as I interact with subject matter experts and Fleet representatives on a regular basis. That is one of the fun parts of my job: I’m always able to learn something new.

What was your career path prior to becoming TWH?

Right out of graduate school I considered taking the academic route and had a stint as a professor at the University of Maryland teaching statistics, and I also worked for IBM in its Usability Testing Lab. But I soon had an opportunity to do some research and development and human factors engineering at a defense contractor, supporting a Navy customer in Dahlgren, Va. That gave me a solid understanding of the contractor side of the world. In 1996, my Navy customer asked if I’d be willing to work for the government. I did and have never looked back. Over the years I’ve worked on a wide variety of programs; ship platforms (e.g., DDG 1000, LCS, SSC), combat systems (e.g., Aegis, SSDS), combat elements (e.g., AIEWS/SEWIP, Phalanx BLK(1B)), and research efforts (e.g., Manning Affordability Initiative, Human Performance Laboratory). This background in research, academia, corporate, contractor, and government has served me well in being able to see the many facets to issues and solutions.

How did you become interested in your particular field of expertise?

I was on a mechanical engineering track in undergraduate school, and took “Psychology 101” to complete a breadth requirement. A paper was assigned to write about “How is Psychology Applicable to Your Discipline.” At the time, my assumption was that psychology was all about Sigmund Freud and “Why do you hate your mother?” – how could that deal with engineering? Well, I did a literature review and found out that there was an area called engineering psychology, or human factors engineering, that addresses how to design systems that take into consideration the inherent capabilities and limitations of the human user. These factors could be physiological or psychological, but they all still deal with the “fit” to the human. This made great sense to me and I got hooked; 35 years later, it still excites me.

What does a TWH do?

We balance our technical knowledge against the programmatic constraints of cost, schedule, and performance to render a judgment as to whether the system design meets the needs of the Navy and the user within an acceptable risk. Where there is residual risk, we characterize that risk and make recommendations as to how it can be mitigated. We write and maintain specifications and standards for our warranted technical area.

Why is the role of TWH important to the Fleet?

The TWH serves as the independent technical conscience for the Navy. In the case of human factors, it is critical to have an advocate to ensure that the operators are efficient and effective in their jobs, and that is realized through a design that is tailored to the physiology and cognitive abilities of the actual Sailors that will use it. This reduces errors and accidents, and improves warfighting effectiveness.

What goals do you have in your position as TWH?

Systems that are designed with the Fleet operators and maintainers in mind. Designers and acquisition community who are sensitive to the needs of the user community and who understand that engineers do not always think about the system in the same way as the Fleet users.