It is important that we reflect on the requirements generation process within the Navy, particularly as it impacts on high priority R&D programs for submarines. I could have entitled my very short remarks, From MREs to the New Attack Submarine and I will try briefly to give you a couple of vignettes to make a few points.
I would submit that the requirements generation process hasn’t been working very well in the Navy staff. I believe the last reorganization reduced the visibility of that requirements process considerably. So what do MREs have to do with it? Well I recently had the opportunity to talk to a Navy medical officer who served in Somalia whose job was to check on the support being provided to troops. One of the big issues was MREs. [Editor’s Note: Meals, Beady to Eat] Every one out of two MREs was considered to be unsatisfactory from a standpoint of taste and quality. They brought a team in and after interviewing a number of Marines and soldiers and SEALS, decided that they needed to figure out a solution to this problem. They observed the people eating these MR.Es and found out that the solution was very simple from the troop standpoint; they just added Tabasco sauce to the MRE. They thought about this for a little while and further noticed that the Marines made a lanyard to carry the little bottle of Tabasco sauce so that they had immediate response to it. They also checked around on the other MR.Es in the area and found that the French were malting some that were very tasty. So tasty in fact that the troops would trade five U.S. MR.Es for one French gourmet meal. They said, “I think we’ve got the corrective action for this problem”. The solution as recommended by this team of experts was to make a little packet (like we do with mustard and ketchup these days) of Tabasco sauce and add it to the MR.Es. So that being the solution, they went away and patted themselves on the back for solving another critical problem. But they never got to the root cause of what was wrong with the MRE.
Let me jump off a little bit. That’s a case where the French did one better than us in MREs. But our reputation for MREs is on the bottom in the world stacking order of meals for troops. The Dutch do better, the Norwegians, the French obviously, and even the Swedes. A couple of years ago the French were having a problem cleaning blood supplies. The U.S. had developed this process. They could clean the blood supplies. particularly with the HIV virus and there were serious problems in France because of the blood supply being contaminated. The French R&D community in effect refused to use the U.S. process. They could not convince themselves that they couldn’t come up with a better way of doing it. So for about 15 months, they worked on it until they developed their own internal process-during which time a lot of people died. When this came to light, the Minister of Health was forced to resign and a few other people got tired. There was a good example of the not invented here syndrome. But I wonder to what extent the not invented here syndrome applies at times within our own community. The French, for example in their new SSBN, are using high strength alloy steel that replaces HY130 at about half the price and it is easier to fabricate. I wonder if any of us have looked at that. There are certainly advanced welding processes which exceed what we use commonly in the United States. We are now 1 percent of the shipbuilding industry in the world, so it isn’t surprising if our industry is not in the forefront of these technologies. If you ask, the type commanders would say they had a requirement for a less expensive bull, one that might even have a double hull capacity. We now have automated welding in Japan, Korea and Sweden, that can do double hull welding easier than was ever imagined in some time past. I think the type commanders would say, “Yeah we have a requirement.” So I’d submit the requirements process, to some degree, is broken. There are other examples of the problem.
An advanced concept technology demo these days is, in effect, a vehicle to bypass the R&D process. It is driven by the R&D and the acquisition communities, but it bypasses the normal processes because the normal processes take too long. We now have the CINCs, the five regional CINCs, and the four functional CINCs in the requirements process. They’re warfighters; they’re supposed to do the day-to-day business, but why are they in the requirements process? Because the process doesn’t appear to be working well enough at the normal level. If we put all of that together we can see we’ve got some problems.
Four or five years ago, when I was in the job that Vice Admiral Cooper had before me and that Admiral Owens has had since me, a commission was set up headed by Admiral Al Whittle, whom many of you know. That commission was to look at the R&D process and say how well do we do R&D within our community. The answers weren’t particularly welcome. Whittle’s group said we go out and look at a problem; we identify something that we really need to do, (for which there is a valid requirement) and then we write up this solution and we throw it over the transom, (those were his exact words) and we wait for an answer to come back. Many times the answer doesn’t come back.
The question I would leave you with in this Technology Symposium (and clearly we are talking about being responsive to the type commanders’ requirements in this new age when the recycle time of R&D efforts is getting quicker and quicker) is “How can we do this thing better once we have the new ideas?” A lot of the new ideas will be talked about in various forums, but we need to do more than produce good reports and an aggressive R&D cycle. We need the products for our type commanders to use. The Submarine Force, although we are leading in the paradigm shift from the Cold War, has a lot of competition out there. That competition is from the other services as well as within the Navy for the limited amount of procurement dollars that are going to be around. I think that’s a great challenge for all of us and I welcome the participation of all members of the submarine community in its solution. Thank you.