Navy Prioritizes Boosting Capability Above Growing Fleet Capacity; Stresses Innovation

Sailors aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG-81) on April 6, 2018. US Navy Photo NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – The Navy is emphasizing the development of technologies that can rapidly increase the capability of today’s force, but they are finding this drive for innovation must also come with enough structure to keep high-risk and high-reward programs on track.

Recent examples of innovation at all levels in the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard are not hard to find, with many speakers at the Navy League’s Sea Air Space 2018 symposium this week highlighting innovation within their portfolios. For the Navy in particular, with leadership looking for an exponential increase in fleet capability that comes faster and cheaper than the traditional approach of building more ships and planes, accelerated acquisition and innovative solutions to operational problems are an attractive approach.

Vice Adm. Bill Merz, the Navy’s deputy chief of naval operations for warfare systems, said this week at the symposium that, after funding readiness as a top priority in the past three budget requests, “capability is where we would really like to put most of our energy – that’s where we can turn the capability and make our fleet more lethal much more quickly than just building capacity. And then there’s the capacity piece, the 355-ship navy.”

The Navy is not seeking the fastest-possible approach to reaching its stated 355-ship requirement, but is instead looking to boost the lethality of existing ships through investments in unmanned systems, new weapons like lasers, additional ways to network together ships and sensors, and more.

Merz told USNI News on Monday that he is looking to invest in projects that will boost fleet “capability, which is a slightly higher priority for us than capacity.” Subscribe 84 U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. David Bobbie with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, replaces the battery for an InstanEye quadcopter during a Quads for Squads training event on Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., Feb. 28, 2018. US Marine Corps Photo “We can turn those much more quickly than building a whole new ship and getting it fielded,” he told USNI News after his Monday panel talk.
“If you just add new ships, that’s just a linear improvement to what we’re already doing. If you can build ships and put this kind of capability on it, now you get a geometric improvement or maybe even an exponential improvement.”

To give the innovations some top-cover from Navy leadership – and also to provide some oversight – the Navy and Marine Corps are working through an Accelerated Acquisition Board of Directors that meets quarterly and votes on which projects to take a chance on. Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition James Geurts chairs the board alongside either the chief of naval operations or the commandant of the Marine Corps, depending on whose project the board is considering.

Merz said during the symposium that, thanks to acquisition authorities Congress gave the military services, they can […]

 

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USS Churchill DDG 81
USS Churchill DDG 81
USS Churchill DDG 81
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