Thank you and welcome. It is a privilege to be here tonight and it is good to see all of the distinguished guests from industry, academia, the Submarine Force, and our Sub League members. Most importantly, thanks to Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and the Naval Submarine League for their unswerving support of this great event and the Submarine Force.
It is right that we pause, come together, review and lash up on each other’s notes and leave with one voice.
In a dynamic time, Johns Hopkins University and The Naval Submarine League are a consistent and vocal advocate.
It took a lot of hard to work to make this happen. Tim Oliverat the Naval Submarine League, in the spirit of innovation, worked to get the registration fee reduced this year ($600 vice $650).
LCDR Bob Good and the whole Sublant team, for the months of coordination to get CNO and SECNAV approval for the event.
At Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Brad Mitchell, for fitting in all the exhibits.
Most of all I want to recognize Admiral Emery, who has run the Sub Tech Symposium since 2004, and is ready to pass on the torch. Admiral, thank you for your leadership in making this truly a world class event. A tremendous effort to make a tremendous event. Thank you.
This year, a timely theme, “Technological Innovation to Influence Offensive Operations”. For my part I’ll focus on one word, innovation.
We have a proud history of innovation, both on this campus and in the Navy. I’ll offer some examples from the past, a few illuminating stories about innovation and winning wars on the backs of emerging technologies. In fact, some technologies that did not even exist before the first shots were fired.
I’ll also mention some examples from industry, and tie it all together with a discussion on the family values or principles that bind us all together as innovators.
I recently spoke to another young team, the trident scholars, who are a select group of engineers in their third and fourth year at the United States Naval Academy.
Midshipmen who are amazingly smart, talented, dedicated, and energetic, and who have grit and perseverance beyond their years. They are ready to learn and already advancing the technology so important to our navy.
I should tell you, I was a Trident Scholar in 1982.
But the current generation of Trident Scholars is on the cutting edge. Lasers, unmanned vehicles in the air, on and under the ocean; exploring the electromagnetic spectrum; rail guns; and advanced fuel and propulsion systems.
A quick example. Midshipman Chris House (class of 2014), and a future submarine officer I might add. His research involved Sonic Actuation of Small-Scale Robots in a Fluid Environment. Essentially, these are Micro-robots that could be used for medicine and micro-assembly, powered by acoustic fields. The advantage is safe power delivery within the human body.
And if you look in your water glass, I actually embedded some of these microscopic prototypes in everyone’s ice cubes. I’m not kidding. And if you start to doze off or chit-chat too much during my remarks, the acoustics in this room will actually start up the micro-robot. And I won’t tell you where they are programmed to go, but suffice it to say it should be enough to wake you up, and maybe even get a standing ovation out of this group.
There is a lot of excitement about innovation around our Navy.
Research is important to advancing our Navy. This spirit of innovation is not a new thing. It has been in our DNA from the beginning. The CNO and Admiral Klunder at the Office of Naval Research are great advocates.
At naval reactors, we know Admiral Rickover was born with a principle-based, production mentality and that these skills became highly valued and refined while he was the head of the Bureau of Ships Electrical Department during WWII.
He and another NR legend Jack Grigg participated in the salvage and recovery of the electric drive battleship USS CALIFORNIA, which was sunk at Pearl Harbor. This is where these two men deeply ingrained the DNA for how to get things done, right and quickly.
It was a principle-based approach, putting the nation’s interests first, shared by men like Admiral Rickover, Vannevar Bush, General Groves, and Admiral Samuel Robinson.
There was a great entry on the Navy Live blog, about a month ago, by the Naval History and Heritage command titled Game Changing Navy Technology. I encourage you all to check it out. (April 9th, 2014).
It mentioned radar. Before radar, Navy ships could only track other ships and aircraft with their eyes and their ears. It wasn’t until 1922, when the Naval Research Laboratory pioneered the first detection of a moving ship by radio waves and, along the way discovered the principles of radar. In 1935, $100,000 was allocated to naval research lab to begin the development of radar. The blog goes on to say that by the time our country was entering WWII, 20 radar units were in operation and contributed to the victories of the U.S. Navy in the battles of the Coral Sea, Midway, and Guadalcanal.
From interwar to WWII to Cold War period, innovation came in the form of radar, atomic weapons and power, sonar, coding and code breaking, and computers. Sometimes it was developing new technology, sometimes just thinking differently about new ways to use current technology.
It depends on looking at things in a new way. Consider the prosthetic foot. The old spec was that it should look like a human foot or a leg. The new spec is that it must work like a foot or leg and it has. These advanced new prosthetics can be seen on Olympians, wounded warriors, and Boston marathon bombing survivors, to name a few.
Other examples of innovation in the interwar period include developing the rainbow plans at the Naval War College, devising Blitzkrieg from German general staff, individual radars versus a coastal defense network for the Brits, and submarining—we got it wrong at first, and it took three years to get it right, but then it was one of the most effective weapons in the war.
One area near and dear to my heart is weapons fuzing; it was one element of our collective failure in developing torpedoes before WWII.
You’ve heard me speak about torpedo fuzing before and the story of the MK41 torpedo. Enough said. Let’s discuss another case: proximity fuzes. A great example of an innovation success.
And it happened right here at Johns Hopkins University. It is a great example of an alliance among military, academia, and industry that brought about the proximity fuze.
I recently read a great case study by Robert Lynch about Merle Tuve, the brilliant scientist and motivator. Tuve built a diverse team at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory comprised of scientists and engineers, military and ordnance experts, even amateur radio operators. Quite the alliance of many.
By 1942 the team had grown to about 200 people and their sole mission was to contribute and act on ideas.
They had a fluid organizational chart where individual status was irrelevant, everyone pitched in and no one was exempt. Vital to his team was a belief that this problem could be solved.
Tuve said, “one of the greatest new developments of the war…was the rediscovery of an old principle… that in directing a group of people all you need to do is: Tell the group what the needs are, make the goals conspicuously clear, and invite them as individuals to contribute in the best way they can.”
Let’s compare performance before and after. The proximity fuze: Once deployed the proximity fuze coupled with radar gun directors was astoundingly successful. It was first used in the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944. Then between December 1944 and April 1945 (4-5 months) the fuze was credited with shooting down 1000 German aircraft.
In the second battle of Britain (summer 1944) and later in the defense of Antwerp (December 1944) the fuze enabled 90% success rates: it took 40 rounds per hit. That compared to almost 20,000 rounds needed just four years earlier.
What did Tuve’s team learn? What can we take away?
– That saving time is more often more important than saving money. And first to market is more important than perfection. 80% effectiveness now is more valuable in wartime than 100% later.
– Parallel discovery and development are essential for rapid innovation. We must design and build. “This is a war pro-gram – not a scientific program.”
– The trouble is always at the top. Take responsibility and don’t blame subordinates.
– A good short paper in your hand at the right time and place is a marvelous hatchet for cutting through red tape.
– The cardinal rule: Ownership, responsibility, accountability and authority must have the same boundaries.
– Our moral responsibility goes all the way to the final battle use of this unit. If there is failure there, it is our failure.
WWII may be the only war in history where the outcome was largely decided by technologies that did not exist when the war broke out. The atomic bomb, radar, sonar, the proximity fuze, computers, code breaking. We simply innovated more and faster than the enemy.
And an innovative environment does matter! Let’s compare the typical R&D job today against the proximity fuze project of Tuve.
For the typical government R&D project, you have a specific job with a written job description, specific roles for the team members, most aspects of the job are pre-planned, and everyone has specific performance expectations.
Compared to Tuve’s group where everyone was expected to contribute and act on ideas, there was a two-way flow of information, contributors were considered people not workers and no one had fixed job assignments, if trouble was encountered, the team’s responsibility was to identify alternatives.
As another comparative example, the U.S. and German systems during WWII were quite different.
The U.S. system was team-based and shared ideas. We had a competent staff and people were loyal to democratic principles. The best scientists were put to use in labs and there was an overall sense of urgency to the cause. Everyone shared a vision to see technology transformed into inventions, then to have those inventions produced and deployed in the war.
Compare that to the German system where there was very low sharing amongst individuals. Their government was autocratic and led by people loyal to the cause rather than the brightest and best decision makers. Their top scientists were sent to the field not the labs. Combine all of this with a low expectation that the technology they created would make it to service in time for the war.
Despite our differences, WWII and even the Cold War were closer than we would like. The Fleet boats came on line just in time, despite the depression. Shortly after Germany surrendered, a U-boat full of uranium bound for Japan surrendered to the U.S., showing that Japan also had plans for nuclear weapons. The Japanese were also introducing proximity fuzes of their own. Luckily, the surrender occurred as they were perfecting this technology. As a lesson going forward, we must guard against innovative surprise and mirror imaging.
It is clearly evident that research has always been important to our Navy. And our Navy has been important to the direction of research, a great symbiotic relationship.
My point is that we need innovation, even under financial stress and outside the military. We can look to industry for some other good examples of teamwork, hard work, and brilliant minds, to create value both for the shareholder and for the common good.
Let’s look at Hewlett Packard. Their culture of innovation led to unparalleled success for decades. But they had tough times too. The company product line morphed at least six times through the years.
And Apple collapsed in the late 1970’s and grew stagnant and faced rocky sales and low market share through the 1990s. But they are now flourishing with I-tunes, I-pad, and more.
What does this mean for our Navy?
It reminds us that innovation is really a new way of seeing old things. To do this, you need a structure to innovate like Tuve’s. There has been a lot written about it including works by Tang and Ideo. Innovators know how to minimize the cost of failures and get back to the drawing board.
The bottom line is that you can succeed in times of financial hardship through creativity and innovation. This SubTech team of military, academia, and industry has done it before, we are doing it now, and we will do it in the future.
It is a world-class team and like so many teams in the Navy, it more resembles a family than anything else.Like HP and Apple we have adapted with time. Look around, generations of people here, welcoming the new arrivals to the family.
If this is your first or second SubTech symposium, raise your hand. And if you were at the first or second SubTech symposium, raise your hand.
The principles that fueled Tuve are familiar to us through the generations; they ring familiar.
– Our standards are very high
– We work hard
– We don’t make excuses; anything worthwhile only comes with hard work
And it must be so. We operate powerful and complex technology. We operate in hostile environments, far forward, at sea, in the air, perhaps submerged, at high speed, unsupported. The nation counts on us to deliver when called, safely and reliably.
– We are highly selective, recruiting the very best people in the country. People want to be part of our team and grow to be a leader. They have moral courage and want to grow stronger.
– We strive for excellence. We celebrate finding problems when they are small and swarm to fix them so they don’t happen again. We use initiative to look for ways to improve.
– We are always teaching and learning. Our people become technical experts and members of high-performing teams. Individuals and teams teach and learn from one another, it’s a constant in our business.
– We work in teams, and build our next generation. We respect every member as a potential future leader. We take every opportunity to pass on experience, because there is not a moment to lose. And we teach people our core values by our example.
– Above all else, we are honest, we are addicted to integrity. Our program is powered by truth. Face the facts, no matter how grim.
These principles, these family values, are what enable us to do great things, to advance our selves, and along the way advance our Navy and our Nation. They bind us together, they make us great.
The pressure is on innovation. It has never been more important than now to understand the important role of innovation, R&D, and technical work in the face of budget stressors.
Research and development is always the first thing we cut in rough times; we must avoid this tendency. And not just cuts in funds, I’m also concerned about cuts in attention, cuts in our dedication to innovate. The bottom line is we cannot zero R&D budget and mortgage the future.
Further, our R&D and testing community is under cost and schedule pressure. There are pressures to reduce the number and rigor of tests. We rely more and more on powerful computers and their powerful modeling and simulation, instead of actual testing. This can be a sound approach, as long as we validate the code with data from prototypic tests.
Our sense of optimism and our history of success can also work against us here, giving us a false sense of certainty going forward.
To do what is technically correct we must be judicious, but not cheap; efficient, but not sparse; challenging, but not unrealistic.
The timing matters; now is the time for the Ohio replacement. now is the time to continue to challenge and improve on Virginia class successes.
The Navy, the Defense Department, and the Nation, look to us to uphold the standard. The stakes are more than just financial; the lives of our Sailors and survival of our nation are in the balance.
In a January 1970 memo to young engineers, Admiral Rick-over said, “our engineers fail to realize that our designs in the past have worked primarily because there were large margins or safety factors to offset our ignorance and because we had some good luck.”
As we go forward, let’s be the ones to try to balance the discussion. We in this room need to ensure our leadership in the government, academia, and private sectors, we must maintain visibility into the decisions that are trading away performance and margin; we must understand the specific nature of the risk we incur; and we must communicate that risk to one another; most importantly to the person who owns and is accountable for that risk.
Let’s not forget that we are warfighters, and to be successful we are charged not only with taking risks but with seizing opportunity.
What we do involves an element of risk. To do our part, we must seek to drive the engineering risk to near zero so that when ordered, we will answer ahead flank, push the system to its limits, sprint to the nearest crisis, dive to the deepest depths and will have no doubt that we’re ready and will be there.
As we gather in the conference and education center, there is another voice from which we can draw inspiration: Kossiakoff said, “today the Applied Physics Laboratory spirit still burns strongly. The drive to solve problems of national importance continues to guide our priorities. The spirit of adventure has carried us beneath the seas, to the borders of the solar system, and into the human heart and brain.”
Those are the words of legendary scientist and Applied Phys-ics Laboratory director Alexander Kossiakoff. Words he shared in 1982, the year I graduated from the United States Naval Academy, and they are words that still resonate today. The Applied Physics Laboratory and SubTech spirits burn strongly.
It has been a tremendous honor to be here tonight. Thank you Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and The Naval Submarine League. This simply cannot happen without you. Thank you.