How do we make sure that it is properly balanced so
we’re not doing science for the sake of science; we’re
doing science for the movement and recognition of the
importance of doing that science for naval power?
The long answer to a short question is that innovation comes from the people in the triangle of industry,
government and academia. If we keep those in balance and we connect our network of today to a larger
and larger network of people, then we can continue to
innovate, and any and all bureaucracy that would tend
to get in the way of that and slow it down dissolves
away because we’ve connected the folks working the
problem at the right level. It is just keeping those lines
of communication open between those groups of people, always being on the lookout for talent and bringing
that network of talent to help solve these problems.
Is the Naval Research Laboratory
[NRL], a working capital organization,
kept busy with research?
HAHN: I consider the Naval Research Lab a crown
jewel. That is an organization that is responsible for
Nobel Prizes. It has been responsible for some of the
groundbreaking things that have been not just applied
to the Navy, but to commercial technologies across the
years. That organization is unique in the Navy because
that is where we actually do a lot of research.
ONR, by its charter, houses program officers who
reach out and create the networks of performers. The
Naval Research Lab, by contrast, is where many of
those performers are. You have some of the brightest,
most talented, accomplished physicists, chemists and
scientists across all disciplines working Navy problems. They run at full tilt every single day. They are
only limited by their imagination. The more we can
do to resource that organization, the better off we’re
going to be as a country.
Do ONR and NRL have challenges
with attracting talent?
HAHN: We’re always going to struggle with that
because we’re in a competition for the most talented, the brightest, the most motivated scientists
and engineers. We compete with Google, Amazon,
the groundbreakers in the auto industry — folks like
Tesla. We have an additional challenge of not being
able to compensate these folks the same way that
some of those other organizations may be able to
I will tell you, the people here at ONR or NRL are
patriots who are doing this because they understand
the mission and the mission transcends any amount
of compensation. The sacrifices these folks make every
single day are truly inspiring. The mission and sense of
accomplishment are things we can provide that some
of those other organizations cannot.
Being able to deliver a technology or an operating
concept or an improvement to a Sailor and a Marine,
and knowing that that is going to make a difference
— save a life, provide the advantage in wartime and
provide our country an advantage — is pretty compelling. That is what brings a lot of these folks into this
service and then, once you get a taste of it, you stay.
Does ONR actively recruit or just
rely on people showing interest?
HAHN: We actively recruit. It is imperative for us to go
out and find not just any talent, but the right talent. As
you’re going to go look for an expert in, say, energy,
we need to be able to have somebody who is accomplished in an area like energy and then figure out how
we apply that to our unique naval challenges.