Capt. Mark Vandroff answers a question during the first presentation of the Rear Adm. David W. Taylor Naval Architecture Lecture Series, held Feb. 15, 2018, at the West Bethesda, Md., headquarters of Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division. (Photo by Monica McCoy)
WEST BETHESDA, Md. —
A new series of lectures with an emphasis on preserving knowledge and lessons learned of naval architecture began Feb. 15 at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division in West Bethesda, Maryland.
Capt. Mark Vandroff, Carderock's commanding officer kicked the series off talking about his experience as the major program manager for the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer (DDG 51) program.
The Rear Adm. David W. Taylor Naval Architecture Lecture Series was standing room only for the first event.
"There will be no Reynolds numbers, there will be no Froude numbers," Vandroff said, referring to specific calculations used in naval architecture. "It's not really a naval architecture brief because I'm not sure I'm entirely qualified to give such a brief."
Vandroff said he intended to communicate to the audience lessons learned from his time as a program manager of the DDG 51 program, a ship that has been part of his life for the majority of his naval career, which spanned 27 years before he arrived at Carderock in September 2016.
"Twenty-three of those 27 years I spent in the DDG 51 program in one way or another, either as part of the wardroom on one of the destroyers, or at a Supervisor of Shipbuilding where those ships were being built, or in a program office where the ships were being managed, or in the Pentagon as an action officer where that program was in my portfolio," Vandroff said.
The first DDG 51 was funded by Congress in 1985. Vandroff noted that about half the audience wasn't even born before then and a handful of the audience actually was part of the early design efforts of DDG 51.
"I know of no program in the history of the Navy that benefited more from solid up-front systems engineering than the DDG 51 program," Vandroff said, adding that this was an emotional statement without factual basis. "Its longevity is a testament to that systems engineering."
Vandroff said the ship benefited from great systems engineering and great design, down to the way the berthing was designed in order to be more survivable and to be more redundant, to the overall survivability, reliability and ease of maintenance, to the hull form and to the propulsion system.
"It was a disciplined process and most importantly, it had, throughout its lifetime, good engineering, good systems engineering, disciplined approach to design, disciplined approach to change, that served the program well," Vandroff said.
Vandroff described the acquisition process of the DDG 51 and how the acquisition strategy changed over time as the quantity, the industrial base and the requirements changed. He also talked about the cost of the ship itself and how over the history of the ship, once the cost of initial design came down, there has been a fairly steady cost, which is also a testament to good systems engineering.
"It means you have to be disciplined in your change-management processes," Vandroff said. "And you can't be disciplined in your change-management process if you don't have engineers that understand the systems engineering behind the systems that you change or upgrade."
Vandroff said total ownership cost (TOC) has to be taken into consideration in systems engineering, adding that if something is very expensive to operate, even if it's free at the front end, it's no good to the customer.
"So, balancing what you pay up front versus what you pay downstream to operate whatever thing you're creating has always been a part of systems engineering," Vandroff said, comparing TOC to baseball. "It's a game of a lot of singles, I would urge you, don't look for the one big solution, the home run, it doesn't exist. You try to work it down one at a time, a little bit at a time and you never stop. The way you get the win is not with any one breakthrough. It's dedicated teams of engineers working those singles throughout the entire production run of an acquisition program."
Vandroff also used the teachings of Aristotle when talking about building ships. In Aristotle's Ethics, he said that virtue existed at the midpoint between two different vices. Vandroff used courage as an example.
"Too little courage and you're a coward, too much and you're a lunatic," Vandroff said. "True courage is the middle point where you're willing to take risks when it's prudent, when it means something, when there's some possible return for the risk."
Vandroff said he thinks that when designing ships, a good ship is a mean point between two extremes. A ship that's reconfigurable is a balance between it being overly malleable and overly survivable, and the balance between cost and performance is affordability.
He also said the longevity of the DDG program, which will probably span 40 years from funding the first ship in 1985 to funding perhaps the 90th ship in 2025, is pretty remarkable, adding that systems engineers should make that the standard.
"I want to design a ship that will be affordable today and then perhaps 40 years from now, people can still be buying some version of that and have it still be relevant and have it still be something that the warfighter needs," Vandroff said.
In response to a question about the ship requirements and engineering not necessarily going hand-in-hand, Vandroff said Rear Adm. Tom Druggan, commander, Naval Surface Warfare Center, is trying to drive that awareness across the Navy, trying to make systems engineering part of the requirements generation.
"I think that set-based design offers us a unique tool to help inform the requirements process," Vandroff said. "And I think we are starting to see that."