NEWPORT, R.I. —
The heat of the day did little to suppress the spirits of those who attended the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Division Newport’s 150th anniversary celebration and monument commemoration on July 29. Dignitaries extolled the virtues of the command’s work both in the past and the present, emphasizing the workforce’s dedication to the mission as a critical aspect of Division Newport’s success.
About 500 employees, dignitaries and alumni attended the event in support of the command’s historic accomplishments since its inception in 1869 as the Naval Torpedo Station on Goat Island in Newport. The diverse careers represented by the crowd — full of engineers, scientists, technology experts, divers, writers, administrative staff and accountants — were indicative of Division Newport’s importance in supporting a comprehensive naval fleet.
“What unites us all is the fact that what you do here gives our men and women at sea the tools, the weapons and equipment they need not only to contest our adversaries, but to prevail,” Sen. Jack Reed, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said. “For the people who have worked here in the past 150 years, it wasn’t a job; it’s a vocation and a commitment to the country. I honor you for that and thank you for that.”
Reed was part of the leadership group charged with removing the blue fabric concealing a 150th anniversary monument, a dark granite submarine sail-shaped slab situated on an 18-foot, ground-level, three-tone, granite compass rose. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse; Rep. Jim Langevin, member of the House Armed Service Committee and House Committee on Homeland Security; Rear Adm. Eric Ver Hage, Commander, Naval Sea System Command (NAVSEA) Warfare Centers; Don McCormack, Senior Executive Service (SES), Executive Director, NAVSEA Warfare Centers; Division Newport Commanding Officer Capt. Michael Coughlin; and Division Newport Technical Director Ron Vien, SES, also took part in the unveiling.
“Throughout our 150-year history, tens of thousands of employees have proudly served our nation by advancing the state-of-the-art in undersea warfare, making our Navy No. 1 in the world,” Vien said. “This is the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, Division Newport: Undersea superiority — yesterday, today and tomorrow!”
Division Newport cybersecurity specialist Anthony Porter didn’t fully understand how impactful his work, and that of the entire division, was until he heard about it from the congressional delegation and leadership in attendance at the event.
“It’s so good to see this, and see why our work matters,” he said at the commemoration. “It reaffirms what we do, and puts emphasis on our work for the fleet and how [Division Newport] impacts it.”
Financial analysts Tess Heidel and Ann Tetreault similarly felt inspired.
“This keeps us motivated and gives purpose to what we do,” Tetreault said.
At around 9:30 a.m., employees began situating themselves in seats underneath the large tent as the Brass Quintet from the Rhode Island Army National Guard’s 88th Army Band played. Seats quickly filled up, and a large crowd formed behind the tent.
Public Affairs Officer Jeff Prater, who served as the master of ceremonies, opened the speaking portion of the dedication ceremonies by introducing Coughlin, who recognized those in attendance, as well as the workforce, past and present.
“We modified our standard vision of undersea superiority today and tomorrow to add in the yesterday piece,” Coughlin said about planning for the 150th anniversary. “There really isn’t too much yesterday about the folks who preceded us, but rather an enduring contribution to the common defense that they made through their accomplishments and to the today and tomorrow generations. They trained, they inspired, and they mentored to this day.”
Reed then discussed how whether it was producing gun cotton in 1893, military equipment during World War I or the nearly 19,000 weapons during World War II, Division Newport has always been at the forefront at developing technologies to “give our servicemen and women the cutting edge, the decisive edge in battle.”
In closing, Reed turned his attention toward the present and future, noting that America’s edge in global undersea superiority is diminishing.
“We’re still ahead, but now we have to renew our efforts to lengthen our advantage to be absolutely dominant underwater,” Reed said. “I’m committed to ensuring NUWC has whatever it needs to provide our men and women at-sea with all they need to win the battle and deter the war.”
Reed’s cohort in the Senate, Whitehouse, shared impactful words as he discussed the importance of ocean research with respect to climate change.
“We know less about the bottom of our oceans than we do about the backside of the moon, and we are changing our oceans dramatically right now,” Whitehouse said. “We’re pumping so much excess heat into the oceans right now that it amounts to four Hiroshima-sized nuclear devices going off every single second. If that all turned into heat, that’s how much we’re warming the oceans.
“We are going to need to know as a species a lot more about the oceans. The types of technologies that are developed here not only have the national security uses that Jack talked about, but they will be very important for scientific research and exploration,” he said.
Building off the words of Reed and Whitehouse, Langevin focused on innovation through collaboration between government, academia and industry. These partnerships have been a hallmark at Division Newport throughout its history, Langevin noted.
“In World War II, demand for torpedoes increased significantly, and the Naval Torpedo Station was at capacity. As a response, industry stepped up,” Langevin said. “Pontiac Motor Division at General Motors and the International Harvester Company supplemented production and filled the gap. Collaboration with industry and academia is obviously not new at Division Newport, however, today we can all recognize that it’s at a whole new level.”
The development of a wide array of undersea weapons and sensors will be critical to combatting declining force structure and strike capabilities, Langevin said, as well as increased adversarial abilities.
“It’s more important than ever that we press on by making investments in both research and development of advanced technologies, and transition them as quickly as possible to the warfighter,” Langevin said. “We have to pursue systems that are unmanned, that operate at an extended range and are all-observable.
“These undersea warfare advancements and the complex systems engineering and integration required to develop them I know will help protect our allies, control our adversaries, combat instability, keep the homeland safe and, ultimately, give our warfighters every advantage.”
In his remarks, Ver Hage gave some examples of the operational importance of Division Newport and how, like Langevin noted, this command has worked to give our warfighters every advantage.
Ver Hage discussed the April 14, 2018, coordinated strike on chemical weapons facilities in Syria in which Division Newport supported the submarine USS John Warner.
“USS John Warner launched six Tomahawk land-attack missiles and struck all of its assigned targets,” Ver Hage said. “Behind the scenes, the men and women of NUWC Newport helped make this operation a success.
“NUWC Newport not only provided critical support during the employment of the undersea strike capability, it also supported the broader task to develop, field and sustain the system as well.”
Ver Hage also cited the Submarine Harpoon Demonstration Team’s rapid updating of the legacy harpoon launching system as an example of its operational importance.
“The United States has — by any objective measure — the finest undersea force in the world,” Ver Hage said. “And, while we face significant challenges to maintaining our undersea superiority, we clearly understand those challenges and are working to address them.
“Nowhere is that more apparent than here in Newport. A place rooted in tradition but fueled by innovation. A place where people do the strategic and critical thinking necessary for innovation to flourish.”
For McCormack, Ver Hage’s civilian counterpart at NAVSEA warfare centers headquarters, the day’s events held particular importance.
“I am especially happy to be here today because as many of you know, my roots are right here at Division Newport,” McCormack said. “When I started my federal career back in 1985, we were still in the Cold War, so we had that sense of patriotism and urgency that we are feeling again today.”
In looking toward the next 150 years, McCormack said, the Navy and Division Newport are going need courage at a number of different levels. The courage to:
- challenge the status quo;
- look outside ourselves to our partners for great ideas;
- collaborate and learn from others;
- fail, learn from that failure and try again;
- tell leadership when they may be wrong;
- conduct unbiased analysis, and then tell sponsors and program officers the technical truth, no matter how disruptive;
- do what is right for the fleet that we serve, even when it is unpopular.
“Throughout our rich history, we have sometimes been called technically arrogant, but I would argue that we need to be in order to do our jobs for the Navy,” McCormack said. “We know that to accelerate innovation, we need diversity in our people and approach.”
Vien closed out the speaker portion of the ceremony by providing perspective of just how long ago it was when Division Newport began. In 1869, the first U.S. transcontinental railroad was built, the first professional baseball team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, debuted, and The Breakers mansion in Newport was still four years away from starting construction.
Vien proceeded to outline some of Division Newport’s technical achievements throughout its history, as well as some of its current areas of prowess.
“Throughout our 150 years we’ve become much more than just torpedoes,” Vien said. “Today, Division Newport’s undersea expertise includes sensors and sonar systems, combat systems, electromagnetic systems, platform and payload integration, mission engineering, ranges, and unmanned vehicles and defensive systems.”
After the memorial was unveiled outside, the celebration continued with an exhibit of Division Newport’s historic accomplishments. The history exhibit included panels of a timeline of technology to guide attendees through the decades since 1869. The display included a rack of torpedoes including an historic Schwartzkopff purchased from Germany in 1873 and models of two U.S.
Lightweight torpedoes from 1967 and 1992. An OV-1 Tow Body from the 1920s, originally towed by a dirigible, was one of the first devices to use sound for detecting ships at sea. A 1930s-era Royal typewriter, once used to prepare contracts, highlighted the administrative support team crucial to the technical departments. The Submarine Force Library & Museum in Groton, Connecticut, contributed data collection devices from the 1950s and 1960s. An 1874 payroll ledger from the Naval Torpedo Station showed the pay scales for many of those early employees including a chemist who made $2000 per year and an electrician who made $5.50 per day.
Tom Carroll, who serves as the Other Transfer Authority (OTA) program manager, said his greatest reward is being part of the Division Newport family’s wealth of knowledge.
“I have seen [Division Newport] make a difference,” Carroll said. “It is really a unique place, and it grows on you. Newport is considered the best and the brightest, out of all 10 warfare centers. So when you get to work for the No. 1 division, it’s easy to come to work.”
In his speech, Langevin praised the OTA as a significant milestone. The Congressman was at Division Newport earlier this summer when the OTA was announced at the creation of the Undersea Technology Innovation Consortium (UTIC).
“DOD acquisition is often lampooned as the epitome of cumbersome bureaucracy. Both Congress and the department recognized that we have to make the process more efficient and agile to the services,” Langevin said. “I can think of no better use of flexibility than an OTA contract to promote technology development and prototypes in undersea technology and innovative maritime systems, several things at which the Ocean State is obviously very, very good.
“It’s so good at it, in fact, that the NUWC UTIC team has 50 contracts underway and has awarded $10 million to prototyping, with another $175 million in awards planned for the very near future,” Langevin said.
Retired U.S. Navy Capt. Todd Cramer, who served as Division Newport’s commanding officer from 2010-14, said that it was an amazing opportunity to be part of Division Newport.
“This is a wonderful way to look back and remember what our mission was, and still is,” he said. “We are always advancing to the future — for our systems and for the fleet.”
NUWC 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. It 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.