Connecticut, one of 11 battleships built over the
course of a three-year period [1904-1907] was coal-fired. Within a year of that Great White Fleet coming
back in 1909, the Navy made the decision to move the
propulsion systems of ships from coal to oil-fired.
That ship, a huge capital investment, was obsolete just
about the time she sailed and, certainly, by the time
she came back. She was decommissioned in 1923.
Our Navy today cannot suffer the same fate as that
ship because we’re not thinking forward about what
capabilities we need. And we cannot match our ability
to absorb technologies at the rate they’re created and
then create the right kind of platform to absorb those
over time with our capital investment, our ships and
airplanes. That is our challenge.
You can point to all sorts of spots in our history
where, if we don’t take those lessons to heart, we’re
going to repeat the same mistakes. We’re at one of
those moments now, especially as we consider how we
potentially build more ships and submarines. How do we
do that smartly so that, as these ships are turned over
to the next generation of officers — and then they’re
turned over again to that next generation because they’ll
be around that long — how are they still at the bleeding
edge from a capability perspective?
For example, the Columbia-class [ballistic-missile
submarine] has a no-fail mission where we’re going
to invest a lot of treasure into doing it properly and
then it will be here until 2082. That’s a daunting challenge for the whole community, but we’re up to it. You
couldn’t ask for a more talented and dedicated set of
people to be working that problem.
How do you promote innovation
without a bureaucracy stifling it?
HAHN: The key to innovation goes back to how we
were organized and some of the groundings that we
had in our World War II experience, when we grew a
“golden triangle” of government, industry and academic institutions. By managing the interactions
among those, you create a powerful network and the
innovation comes from that network of people.
Our challenge, as our task has become broader and
deeper, is how do we manage that network of people?
Tom Boucher, second from right, program manager for the Electromagnetic Railgun at the Office of Naval Research, talks with Rear Adm. David
Hahn, chief of naval research, during a visit to the railgun facility onboard Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren, Va., Division, Jan. 12. The railgun
is a long-range weapon that fires projectiles using electricity instead of chemical propellants.
WWW.SEAPOWERMAGAZINE.ORG 12 SEAPOWER APRIL 2017