level manager for current submarines and one for
future submarines, and proposes to align the surface
ship acquisition community in the same model.
Etter and Vice Adm. David Venlet, commander of the
Naval Air System Command, told Seapower that the Navy
needed to increase its expertise in systems engineering,
which had been reduced by downsizing, and improve
oversight by a more dynamic shifting of personnel.
“Everything is a balancing act because when you
have more people in the program, those dollars have to
come from somewhere,” Etter said. “We’ve got to figure
out priorities and solve some of this through our own
internal decisions on priorities and what paths we do
take. If you take on too much, and you can’t increase
your resources, then you’ve got too many challenges.”
Venlet said, “We need to look program by program and
make sure we have the right talent [in each program].
Making sure we’ve got them assigned to the right places
is a daily challenge.”
Etter noted that the increased complexity of new
systems combined with reductions in the acquisition
force have been damaging.
“As our systems get more complicated, we have to
have the ability to really work the systems engineering,
the integration components,” she said. “I think we lost
a lot of that capability over the last decade.”
Venlet said similar problems exist in industry.
“The presence of systems engineering strength”
varies widely throughout industry, he said.
“A lot of times people get the title ‘systems engineer’
but it’s not the systems engineering we need,” Etter said.
“We [need] to evaluate both our government teams and
industry teams and make sure the folks that appear on
the charts as systems engineers really have that expertise
to help with the integration of complex programs.”
In acquiring a new system, such as an aircraft or
ship, Etter stressed the need to restrain requirements
growth — the tendency to pile on more capabilities in
a system — by including only key capabilities and then
using spiral development, the incremental addition of
capability to a system in manageable segments.
“That’s how you keep the schedule,” she said. “That’s
how you keep cost under control. It’s the right way to
think about doing these complex programs.” ■