NEWPORT, R.I. —
If the United States is going to win the great power competition that is ongoing in the world today, government, industry and academia are going to need to work together just as they did in helping this country triumph in World War II and the Cold War. That was the message Dr. Michael Griffin, Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, delivered to a capacity crowd of Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Division Newport employees and dignitaries on July 22.
Among those in attendance were Senator Jack Reed, the Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee; Rear Adm. Eric Ver Hage, Commander, Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) Warfare Centers; Don McCormack, SES, Executive Director, NAVSEA Warfare Centers; NUWC Division Newport Commanding Officer Capt. Michael Coughlin; Brown University President Dr. Christina Paxson; and Dr. Donald DeHayes, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at the University of Rhode Island.
“Today, we see more separation between the university and government than we should want,” Griffin, who has experience working in all three sectors, said. “We see more separation between industry and university, and we see a more adversarial relationship between government and industry.”
Griffin opened his talk by acknowledging the dignitaries in attendance — particularly Reed, who in 2017 was a driving force for re-establishing the position Griffin currently occupies.
“This reflects a renewed emphasis on the part of key leaders on the role of science and technology — specifically converting all that into practical engineering,” Griffin said. “The U.S. won the Cold War, and we thought that was the end of history. A lot of things have laid fallow for a long time since then.
“The ability of the U.S. to innovate is what ended World War II and the Cold War,” Griffin said. “That was fostered by a unique collaboration between university and academic research applied to problems of the day, government to wave the baton and industry to manufacture with pace.”
The increased competition in today’s world has necessitated a need for renewed collaboration, particularly so that technology is researched, developed and acquired more rapidly.
As examples, Griffin highlighted instances where entire projects were completed in significantly faster timeframes, including the F-117 Nighthawk and SR-71 Blackbird that were finished in 16 and 28 months, respectively.
Griffin also pointed out that there are benefits for industry and academia to collaborate with the government, most notably that the government works at the forefront of innovation.
“Some of the most revered names in science, technology, engineering and mathematics were people who worked on practical problems,” Griffin said before citing Sir Isaac Newton and Carl Gauss as examples. “In government, we are working at the very cutting edge of what is possible to do, and some of what we do proves not possible to do.
“When academia joins us in our work, you are collaborating on what is possible in the day.”
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. NUWC Newport 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.
Currently celebrating its 150th anniversary, NUWC Newport is the oldest warfare center in the country, tracing its heritage to the Naval Torpedo Station established on Goat Island in Newport Harbor in 1869. Commanded by Captain Michael Coughlin, NUWC Newport maintains major detachments in West Palm Beach, Florida, and Andros Island in the Bahamas, as well as test facilities at Seneca Lake and Fisher's Island, New York, Leesburg, Florida, and Dodge Pond, Connecticut.