Home » Budget Industry » SPAWAR to Industry: ‘We’ve Got to Go Faster’ to Maintain Military Edge


SPAWAR to Industry: ‘We’ve Got to Go Faster’ to Maintain Military Edge

Rear Adm. Christian “Boris” Becker, commmander of Space and Naval Warfare (SPAWAR) Systems Command. US Navy Photo

SAN DIEGO, Calif. – The days of U.S. military supremacy might be over, but not if the military services and industry find ways to quickly innovate and rapidly deliver solutions to the fleet, the head of Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command told a defense industry audience on Tuesday.

“Strategic competition is driving the urgency for us to find our way to deliver, to modernize, to enable the joint force with a more lethal force, and to reach out for our allies and partners to be part of that lethal force,” Rear Adm. Christian “Boris” Becker, the SPAWAR commander, told an audience at the WEST 2018 conference, co-hosted by the U.S. Naval Institute and AFCEA.

It’s “strategic competition with a sense of urgency,” said Becker, echoing a theme in the 2018 National Defense Strategy signed by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. “It’s all about competition – competition that is closing the gap,” he added.

“There is no guarantee that we will have superiority or supremacy unless we make it so, unless we deliver on the capability,” Becker said, “…and we follow through to put that capability and capacity in the hands of our warfighting so that we can create that superiority at the space, at the time, for the duration and for the scope of what we need to affect our mission.”

“Whether that battlefield is on the ground, whether the battlefield is at sea, in the air, in space, or on the network, we are facing strategic competition. What are we going to do – what are you going to do – to make sure we can face that competition, that we can compete and win?” he said. In the audience were dozens of industry representatives, representing major defense firms and small businesses, the latter which received nearly 32 percent of the $5.2 billion in contracts issued by SPAWAR last year. “Let’s make it happen,” Becker said.

Becker, who took command of SPAWAR in March 2017, last fall issued SPAWAR’s “Strategic Vision, 2018-2027,” an update to a 2015 document.[http://www.public.navy.mil/spawar/Documents/Strategic_Vision.pdf]

“It’s not a technical vision. It’s a strategic vision,” he said, noting the rapid speed of technological advances. “And it’s not a tactical competition we are in today, it’s a strategic competition. We need to be better, faster, stronger.”

“We’ve got to take that cycle, and make it happen faster,” he said, especially with getting innovation, technology and systems the fleet needs, in hand and operational.

That includes delivering cyber resiliency – “meaning we can take a hit and still fight through it,” he said – against attacks that undoubtedly occur constantly and often. “Are we going to be ready and move forward through that? The answer is: We’d better be.”

“We have to deliver on this vision,” he added. “If we get to the ability to move at the speed that if we see a threat, if we see a need, if we see a problem, we can change that capability, we can test and integrate that capability. We can deploy that capability securely at the speed at which the fleet needs it – measured in days, maybe hours – not in fiscal years.”

  • DaSaint

    That’s a stark statement: ‘The days of US military supremacy might be over’. I’m not willing to concede that just yet. But the gap is closing, no thanks to our own commercial electronics industry which has virtually trained the Chinese.

    • Curtis Conway

      “…our own commercial electronics industry which has virtually trained the Chinese.” THAT was precious and right on target, which is why we have not moved in that direction. Thanks DaSaint! That “virtually” was precous and accurate.

      • Fred Gould

        More like our quest for cheap electronics has provided them with the technology.

        • Curtis Conway

          Opportunity and Exploitation are two parts (aspects) of the same equation. A wise man knows the difference . . . and takes full advantage. The opportunity once exploited rarely happens a second time, but if you’re third on a match, you deserve everything you get.

    • Zorcon, Fidei Defensor

      We have access to the same technology but the procurement process is totally broken. It takes so long to issue contracts and the requirements are so onerous that businesses don’t want to deal with the DoD. I can work on Defense or Commercial I will choose commercial every time. Industry can make a decision, they are not afraid to innovate and they can make decisions quickly and have you a PO. With the DoD it all about compliance with countless reams of Reps and Certs, SAM, WAWF, DSS, DCAA. The process has utterly lost sight of the mission and purpose. It is all about the process now and noncompliance is cause for destruction.

      I have seen small contracts take a year to fund. No small business can rely on that kind of latency.

      • DaSaint

        Totally agree. And those who have mastered the system guard it with parochial abandon.

  • kye154

    “The days of U.S. military supremacy might be over”. Well, the fact is, Becker is sleepwalking. Those days are long gone. If we couldn’t win wars in the Middle East, and get bogged down in fighting some one as militarily unsophisticated as the Taliban for 17 years,, or unable to handle the uprisings in Iraq and Syria, not to mention have some 3rd world country, like North Korea, hold us off in a nuclear standoff, what makes anyone think the U.S. has military supremacy?

    Even our war on drugs at home was never won, when we applied our military to fight it. And with the Navy’s smaller fleet of ships so thinly spread out, compared to the 1960’s American fleet size when it had over 1200 ships, not to mention so much of the Navy is falling apart, we simply don’t have much military projection around the world anymore to reign supreme in any sense of the word.

    If “It’s all about competition”, as Becker has pointed out. Then who is going to pay for that? American taxpayers are up to their eyeballs in debt, and struggling to meet their own bills now, muchless, to pay for something SPAWAR dreams up in their “Strategic Vision” to stay in the “competition”. So, either get out of the competition, and stop striving to be something you can’t achieve, or SPAWAR gets smarter about where to invest its resources and technological developments, and not be a burden to the U.S. taxpayer. What’s the point of having military supremacy when the country you are trying to protect is financially broke and in ruins back home?.

    • DaSaint

      Some good points there.
      But even in the 60’s with, as you put it, a 1200 ship Navy, we had Vietnam. So size doesn’t really matter especially in asymmetric warfare.

      There needs to be a balance between domestic imperatives such as infrastructure and education, and international might and stability.

      • kye154

        You are right in every aspect. Yeah, Viet Nam and our dominance of the sea, was a lesson to be learned. Despite our technological advantages, and numbers in the armed forces, we still did not win that war. We may have had “tactical supremacy” in a few battles, but certainly never had “strategic supremacy”. In fact, there was never any real strategy at all for going there. But, you are right about the strategic need for domestic imperatives. That is what really gives this country the edge in” Supremacy” over other countries, not just the military.

        • Zorcon, Fidei Defensor

          We didn’t win that war because of politics and politics alone.

          • kye154

            Well, from the American perspective, using politics is a good reason to cover some of the ineptitude that went on in the military, who operates under the premises of being apolitical. Of course, it does not discount that America didn’t have a strategy for even being there in the first place. ( I remember when I was there, politics was a trifling side issue to staying alive and meeting our military objectives, back then).

            But, you have to give the Vietnamese credit, they resisted us with what they had, regardless of our military superiority, and the odds being stacked against them, and despite whatever our political in-fighting was all about back home, and still won, The Vietnamese earned the reputation for being some of the best fighters in the world. If we really were truly “superior”, we should have won that war in 1964, instead of dragging it out to 1975 and loosing. Same can be said about the war in Afghanistan.

            I think Americans need to get more realistic about where they truly stand in the world, instead of deluding themselves by imagining that lofty perch of superiority that they think they are on.

  • MDK187

    The need for greater strides while marching in one place cannot be overemphasized. We also need much more waving of the arms in the process, so that we can sweat so much harder while going nowhere. And occasional frowning of the brows is absolutely indispensable. Because we’re dead serious about this pantomime, ya know.

  • DaSaint

    There has to be a balance. Thx.

    Have a good day 716.

  • Ed L

    Every thing ever written in history that no matter how well design the plan. It can be overcome. So the ability to adapt is essential for success no matter the environment. Anyone read fiction? How about the last 3 Dan Lenson stories by Coonts? That why Hand to hand combat is still taught and practice.

  • Leatherstocking

    Let’s see. We can’t compete with other western military/aerospace companies because of ITAR restrictions which are used not to protect technology but to punish/goad our allies. So our addressable market is smaller and our allies release RFPs requiring “no ITAR material”. We are hindered with budget problems every fiscal year since 2011 (actually back to 1978 but these most recent yo-yo budgets are ridiculous). Less money to invest in R&D, more unfunded regulations from DoD that we have to meet with less money from less business. It is Congress and the DoD that shackle innovation and superiority.