Fighting the Silent Enemy
Navy seeks to bring together agencies to combat corrosion
By DANIEL P. TAYLOR, Special Correspondent
estimated $7 billion-per-year price
tag that comes with corrosion in
the Navy, said Stephen Spadafora,
the service’s corrosion control and
The 2009 National Defense Authorization Act mandated that each
military department designate a corrosion control and prevention executive, which falls under the office of
the assistant secretary of the Navy for
Research, Development and Acquisition. Spadafora, formerly NAVAIR’s
head of material engineering, has
held the post since January 2011.
That $7 billion figure, which just goes toward fixing
corrosion when it happens, does not tell the whole
story, he said.
“It doesn’t look at mission systems, it doesn’t look at
up-front investments, trade studies, things like that,”
he said. “So that $7 billion is essentially a low figure.”
Addressing a figure of that size is a gargantuan challenge that stretches across virtually every program in the
Navy. So Spadafora’s office seeks to increase collaboration and cooperation among programs and agencies.
“We already had a loose network, essentially,” he
said. “We had people doing [corrosion-related work].
The Department of the Navy operates in the most cor-
rosive environment, so we’ve had a lot of people work-
ing corrosion — a lot of interactions between them.
But there wasn’t anything formalized.”
The formalization that came with the signing of the
charter has allowed the Navy to start trying to get at
the heart of the issue: making sure systems are
designed from the ground up with corrosion in mind.
“If you look at corrosion, we can battle what is out
there today — and the problem is, we will always be
battling what is out there today,” Spadafora said. “So
one of the things we’re trying to do is get more emphasis on corrosion control in design.”
Corrosion is much more than a maintenance or nuisance issue. It
costs the sea services money, availability and, sometimes, lives.
; Its effects cost the Department of the Navy an estimated $7
billion per year.
; When ship and aircraft availability is reduced, that leads to a
direct loss in capability.
; The Navy has lost pilots to failures that have been related to
It’s the unseen enemy of just about every Navy plat- form with metal on it: corrosion. Every day, the harsh maritime environment in which the service
operates eats away at multimillion-dollar — sometimes
multibillion-dollar — aircraft, vehicles and ships, rendering them more expensive to maintain and less safe
to operate. And the Navy is trying to unite agencies
across the service to fight it.
In 2003, Congress first mandated that the Department
of Defense (DoD) appoint a senior official to oversee corrosion efforts across the DoD, and out of that eventually
emerged a Navy effort — among others at the Pentagon
— that brought together just about every concerned
agency in the sea service.
In 2009, the heads of Naval Air Systems Command
(NAVAIR), Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA),
Naval Supply Systems Command, Naval Facilities
Engineering Command, Naval Space and Warfare
Systems Command, the Office of Naval Research and
Marine Corps Systems Command signed the Navy
Corrosion Cross-Functional Team Charter. Last October,
the Coast Guard signed on as well.
Corrosion presents several issues that prompted the
large-scale effort to fight it, but one in particular gives
pause to acquisition officials and lawmakers alike: the