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NEWS | Nov. 10, 2021

Deputy Secretary of Defense Hicks, RI congressional delegates visit NUWC Division Newport

By NUWC Division Newport Public Affairs

Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Division Newport welcomed Deputy Secretary of Defense Dr. Kathleen Hicks and members of Rhode Island’s congressional delegation on Nov. 9 for discussions on the warfare center’s mission and impact.

“There's some really impressive work here," said Hicks, who was joined by U.S. Sens. Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, as well as U.S. Rep. David Cicilline for the briefing. “At Division Newport, our Navy is ensuring undersea superiority through research, development and application of submarine warfare systems. Their collaborations with academia expand our research capabilities and help to attract new talent to our workforce."

Hicks’ visit to Rhode Island was part of a tour that included stops in Michigan and Connecticut. During this time, she met with lawmakers, defense industrial base partners and military leaders to deepen relationships, discuss department priorities to address future warfighting needs, and reinforce the importance of manufacturing, renewable energy and green technology to U.S. national security.

During the hour-long discussion, Hicks heard about how Division Newport is working to advance the state of the art in the undersea domain from Commanding Officer Capt. Chad Hennings, Technical Director Ron Vien and Chief Technology Officer Dr. Jason Gomez. Some of these topics included the future of unmanned undersea vehicles (UUVs) and systems engineering, as well as how Division Newport develops its workforce and collaborates with industry and academia.

“This is the center of underwater research in the country,” Reed said. “The composite industry also is strong because this region has been a center for building sailing ships and yachts, so they’re very active in this research.”

Hennings opened the briefing by talking about Division Newport’s departments and the types of work done at the warfare center. He described how Division Newport is the Navy's full-spectrum research, development, test and evaluation, engineering, and fleet support center for submarine warfare systems and many other systems associated with the undersea battlespace.

“We are continually pushing to maintain our edge,” Hennings said. “We will deter and defeat any entity that wishes to challenge the United States in the undersea domain.”

Vien expanded on these ideas, detailing Division Newport’s focus on applied research and system development. A workforce of more than 3,500 government employees — of which 72% are scientists and engineers — and 2,600 contractors helps make this happen. 

“It’s a proud group with lots of scientific expertise,” Vien said. “I have a lot of smart people on my team, but I don’t have all the smart people on my team, so we do a lot of outreach.”

Gomez explained some of the community engagement done at Division Newport, which increases both the size and technical knowledge of its workforce.

“One of the responsibilities of the chief technology officer is really to promote the health and well-being of our science and technology (S&T) community,” Gomez said. “We do that in a number of ways, including building a pipeline of the workforce, as well as expanding our research base into the universities.”

Each year, the Educational Outreach Program energizes more than 100 Division Newport scientists and engineers to go out into schools and interact with more than 5,000 students. These interactions can be more informal like judging science fairs, or formal opportunities through internships like the Naval Research Enterprise Internship Program (NREIP), Naval Engineering Education Consortium (NEEC) and Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation (SMART) program.

Division Newport is extensively working with universities throughout the country. This is done through the warfare center’s University Lecture Series, as well various partnership agreements. Also, there are 175 Division Newport employees currently pursuing advanced degrees at more than 30 different universities.

Gomez elaborated on some of these pacts, including Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs) and Educational Partnership Agreements (EPAs). Division Newport has 38 active EPAs and 64 CRADAs, of which 26 EPAs and 10 CRADAs are with universities.

A CRADA is an agreement that provides for joint research and development between a federal laboratory and a non-federal partner. The legal CRADA authority allows for Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) personnel and facility costs to be paid for by the non-government partner. CRADAs are executed by the warfare center commander and are legally binding contracts; however, they are not subject to competition in contracting requirements or procurement regulations.

CRADAs do not allow funds to be provided to the partner from the government laboratory, although funds can be provided to the partner from a government source. The primary purpose of a CRADA is joint development and sharing of facilities, knowledge, experience and/or intellectual property. The CRADA also provides data and intellectual property protection from the Freedom of Information Act for an established period of time.

An EPA allows for student and faculty participation in research, equipment loans and transfers, help with STEM course development, guest lectures and demonstrations, and workshops for teacher and student science and technology education. This allows warfare center scientists and engineers to work with an educational institution to enhance STEM education. Recently added provisions allow student participation in technology transfer and associated legal activities.

Gomez also discussed the Undersea Technology Innovation Consortium (UTIC), a national community of resources and relationships between government, industry and academia that promotes the rapid development, promotion and commercialization of innovative undersea and maritime technology. Contracting mechanisms like the other transaction authority (OTA) help facilitate this process.

Gomez highlighted three congressionally sponsored university collaborations that began in the past five years that have helped strengthen this bond.

The largest of the three, the National Institute for Undersea Vehicle Technology (NIUVT), works with partners from the University of Rhode Island, University of Connecticut and Electric Boat to address problems in a variety of technical areas. Similar operations are ongoing with the Mechanics of Undersea Science and Engineering (MUSE) and Marine and UnderSea Technology (MUST) collaboratives that operate with Brown University and the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, respectively.