Home » News & Analysis » Navy Disestablishes DASN Unmanned Systems Less than 3 Years After Creating Office

Navy Disestablishes DASN Unmanned Systems Less than 3 Years After Creating Office

Two unmanned rigid-hull inflatable boats operate autonomously during an Office of Naval Research (ONR)-sponsored demonstration of swarmboat technology held at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story on Sept. 30, 2016. US Navy photo.

The Navy disestablished its office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Unmanned Systems less than three years after standing up the organization.

Former Navy Secretary Ray Mabus announced in October 2015 that retired Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Frank Kelley would serve as the first DASN Unmanned to “create and implement a strategy for development of this technology that links all domains.”

“Unmanned systems are inherently different from their manned counterparts. Policies and procedures designed to ensure safety of manned systems must not be allowed to impede the design, development, deployment, testing and evaluation of unmanned systems,” Mabus said at the time.
“My goal in creating the DASN for Unmanned Systems was to streamline our current programs and drive a strategy for development that is deliberate and thoughtful. Currently, our various communities – air, sea, undersea and ground – are all doing incredible work on their unmanned systems and integrating them into the existing architecture within their own framework, but as this technology becomes more complex and widespread, ensuring we have a cohesive management function is critical to maintaining our superiority across all domains, and possibly even multiple domains.”

In June 2015 the Navy also created a Director of Unmanned Systems (OPNAV N99) position, which was eliminated in February 2017.

Brig. Gen. Frank Kelley speaks during the Marine Corps Systems Command change of command ceremony July 11, 2014, aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. Kelley, a native of Philadelphia, Pa., who served as commander since July 2010, relinquished command to Shrader, a native of Princeton, W.Va. US Marine Corps photo.

During Kelley’s time as DASN Unmanned, he oversaw the drafting of an Unmanned Systems Roadmap, which USNI News understands has been completed but is classified. Under Mabus and former Navy acquisition chief Sean Stackley, the Navy was taking a long view of looking at the role of unmanned systems, with Kelley telling USNI News that Stackley “has told me this (roadmap) would be a living document, so that means there will be other workshops in the future, and one of the things we’ve discussed is that we’d really like to open that up to industry.”

Kelley also told USNI News in 2016 that his office was looking at the ideas of swarming unmanned system technologies and multi-domain unmanned systems, such as an aerial vehicle that is launched from a tube from a submarine or unmanned undersea vehicle, or a robot that marches along the sea floor and then continues marching up the beach and onto land.

Like What You've Been Reading? Get Proceedings Today
Categories: News & Analysis, U.S. Navy
Megan Eckstein

About Megan Eckstein

Megan Eckstein is a staff writer for USNI News. She previously covered Congress for Defense Daily and the U.S. surface navy and U.S. amphibious operations as an associate editor for Inside the Navy.

  • D. Jones


    When I was young, back in the dim time, the longest word we knew was “antidisestablishmentarianism”

    Didn’t spell check, it might be wrong, but what a silly constellation of verbiage.

    Imagine someone uttering, “antidisLCSmenariasm”.

    People would be flummoxed.

  • MDK187

    Good move. Sounds to me like the Navy is putting an end to the rabid visions of the unmanned bullschit-industry, which has infected the Marines in particular so deeply.

  • airider

    I think the interesting question will be: where does unmanned sit in general for the Navy? The Air Force has figured it out and has more unmanned pilots now than regular pilots. For SWOs and Submariners, the progression of the ranks and leadership have always been tied to the size of the ships and boats (as well as number of crew) they command. With unmanned, that progression could be changing.

    Removing the DASN for this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since there really is no reason that this can’t be managed within the existing DASN setup. However the Navy has kept unmanned under the “catch all” Program Executive Office, Unmanned and Small Combatants, which means from an R&D, Field and Sustain perspective, this is big enough to have its own PEO. Is the Navy ready to embrace unmanned as a viable career path for officers and crew that leverage these assets?

    If they don’t, this will likely go the way of other “innovations” in the past and be a dead end for careers as well as the technology.

    As a seperate point. FFG(X) needs to sit under PEO Ships. It has no business sitting in its own PEO with seperate oversight, policies, and governance than all other surface ships except Carriers.

    • NEC338x

      Agree on PEO Ships.

  • b2

    Notwithstanding the Unammed DASN breakup, a “Marine Corps Systems Command”? Didn’t know they had one….Hmmm. I nust be oughta touch, lol.

    Recommend the DoN transfer all USMC aviation platform and weapons responsibility the Navy now holds at NAVAIRSYSCOM to this command. That way the US Navy will be unencumbered to develop really combat capable, purpose-built USN aircraft, vice understanding frivolous USMC requirments and power point level needs as depicted on colorful slides similar to science fiction…