WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. John Richardson attended the Reagan National Defense Forum (RNDF) in the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif. and participated in a discussion panel on military innovation, Nov. 7.
CNO spoke on the panel, Harnessing Innovation for Defense: the Role of Defense and Non-defense Companies, a topic which complements his stated belief in the importance of creativity and initiative to the future of the U.S. Navy.
The panel also included Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall; William Brown, chairman, president and chief executive officer (CEO) for Harris Corporation; Wes Bush, chairman, CEO and president for Northrop Grumman; and Gwynne Shotwell, president and chief operating officer (COO) for SpaceX.
In his remarks, the CNO emphasized that with the current speed of change, learning faster on both the individual and the team level is key to keeping pace with and enabling innovation.
"I see the pace of technology picking up very very quickly," said Richardson. "How can we better learn how to acquire systems, so we can ride this technology curve, and have even the faintest hope of keeping up with the technological advances that are going on?"
"It's about the team that can bring the people, the technology and the processes together to learn the fastest--that's the team that has the advantage," said Richardson.
CNO noted that innovation is commonplace in the Fleet, likening the ingenuity with which Sailors accomplish the Navy's objectives using their available tools to the Apollo 13 mission.
"There's a tremendous amount of creativity going on at the fleet level," said Richardson. "They're the end users of all that we send them, and sometimes those tools are ideally suited to the situation that they face. Oftentimes, the situation has changed, and they have this toolkit that's been given to them-then the ingenuity starts. It's like the Apollo 13 scene in the movie where they just dump all this stuff on the table and say 'OK, this is what we have, how are we going to make this work?'"
A challenge the CNO addressed is connecting the innovation occurring on the tactical level to the operational and strategic levels as well as the Navy's acquisition system.
"The first step is getting visibility on this fleet-level innovation," said Richardson. "I had a chance to go and see some of that innovation firsthand, and I'm happy to use whatever top-down pressure I can to inject that into the acquisition system. There's a lot of 'HOV lanes' being created around the more traditional acquisition system, just because speed is of such an essence."
CNO highlighted new communication technologies as key to gaining visibility on and connecting with tactical innovation, and sees opportunity in connecting the Sailors using systems in the Fleet directly with the Navy's industry partners and their teams responsible for designing and developing Navy systems.
"One of the most rewarding things that I've been able to do is bring some of the people that do this research and development out to the waterfront--on that carrier, that submarine, that destroyer or aircraft--and say 'Hey look, this is what you did.'" said Richardson. "Then they get to interact with the Sailors that are using that equipment, and that's a very powerful dynamic."
As the panel addressed creating environments that cultivate innovation, the discussion touched on the role of failure, a fear of which can stifle cutting-edge ideas.
"Experimentation and failure is appropriate early on in the development process," said Richardson. "That environment needs to be a little more agile and perhaps a little bit riskier. Going through that, we actually gain confidence and field a much better tested product, so that when it goes forward into the fight, it's completely tested. So failure at the proper point is key to getting to a higher level of confidence faster."
RNDF brings together leaders and key stakeholders in the defense community, including members of Congress, military and civilian defense officials and leaders in the defense industry, to address the health of American national defense and stimulate discussions that promote policies to strengthen the U.S. military.
The full video of the forum discussion can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/WLfL5lNCoLU?t=47m8s