Rapid R&D: NRL Researchers Tour Navy Destroyer for Operational Exchange

NORFOLK, Va. — Researchers from the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory attended an operational tour of the USS James E. Williams (DDG 95) in response to need for more rapid transfer of science and technology (S&T) to the Navy’s fleet.

In a recent address James Geurts, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research and Development and Acquisition (ASN (RD&A)), emphasized the importance of experimenting with the fleet.

During the operational tour NRL researchers directly interacted with USS James E. Williams (DDG 95) crewmember’s who maneuver ship systems. The opportunity for operational exchange with actual Sailors will aid researchers considering user-interface in their research, design process. (Photo Credit: Sara Francis, NRL Strategic Communications Office)

During the operational tour NRL researchers directly interacted with USS James E. Williams (DDG 95) crewmember’s who maneuver ship systems. The opportunity for operational exchange with actual Sailors will aid researchers considering user-interface in their research, design process. (Photo Credit: Sara Francis, NRL Strategic Communications Office)

"When you hear the Chief of Naval Operations talk about high-velocity learning, to me that equates to high-velocity experimenting in everything we do. Whether it's a business process or a prototype," said Geurts. "When we are doing this high-speed experimentation stuff [in the fleet], success or failure isn't whether it worked. It's whether you can tell me it worked or not [and how we can improve the processes]."

With these expectations in mind NRL has made strides towards aligning itself with rapid S&T acquisition, having researchers participate in tours of Navy ships.

Commander, Naval Surface Force Atlantic approved NRL’s request for researchers to step aboard USS James E. Williams, while it was pier-side for an in-depth operational exchange between ship systems and Sailors who use them.

“I’ve been interested for a while in getting aboard Navy ships and talking to Sailors working with sensing systems,” said, Dr. Steve Bennett, material scientist in the Material Science and Technology Division at NRL.

This style of event allows researchers, potentially too busy for an underway period, to embark Navy ships and still engage with departments in use of specific S&T.

(from left to right) Drs. Luciano Boglione, Louis Pecora, John Rodgers, and Steve Bennett stop for a pose just before their operational tour aboard the USS James E. Williams (DDG 95). All four researchers work in divisions part of the Material Science and Component Technology Directorate at NRL. (Photo Credit: Sara Francis, NRL Strategic Communications Office)

(from left to right) Drs. Luciano Boglione, Louis Pecora, John Rodgers, and Steve Bennett stop for a pose just before their operational tour aboard the USS James E. Williams (DDG 95). All four researchers work in divisions part of the Material Science and Component Technology Directorate at NRL. (Photo Credit: Sara Francis, NRL Strategic Communications Office)

According to Bennett, the visit gave him foresight into the Navy’s current and future S&T capability needs, especially in his research field.

“Before, I had a theoretical idea of how my research is applied to the Navy, but this first-hand experience provided the clarity necessary to focus my research in a way that would lend itself to more rapid transfer to the fleet,” said Bennett.
Bennett attended the engagement along with three other NRL researchers: Dr. Louis Pecora, research physicist from the Material Science and Technology Division; and Drs. Luciano Boglione and John Rodgers, both research engineers from the Electronics Science and Technology Division.

Rodgers, currently working on technology supporting the Aegis combat system and AN/SPY-1 radar system, both found on USS James E. Williams, cited his benefits from the tour.

“As a researcher it was motivational to meet and hear the perspective of the outstanding Williams crew members,” said Rodgers. “During the tour I was able to interact directly with the technicians and operators that rely on technology we at NRL develop, their feedback was insightful, helpful and inspiring.”

NRL plans to coordinate more operational tours with pier-side Navy vessels in accord with the Department of Navy’s push for more rapid acquisitions.

For more information on how to can get involved in participating or coordinating operational tours of Navy ships with NRL researchers, contact jonathan.holloway@nrl.navy.mil or 202-404-8121.