Ron Vien, Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Division Newport’s newly appointed technical director, addressed defense industry representatives at the Atlantic Resort in Middletown, R.I. on June 5 as part of the “Tech Talk” series sponsored by the Southeastern New England Defense Industry Alliance (SENEDIA).
Vien, who also serves as the deputy warranting officer for the Naval Sea Systems Command’s (NAVSEA) Undersea Warfare Systems Engineering, discussed NUWC Newport’s important role in serving the U.S. Navy fleet. He presented an overview of the Division, noting that it is the only Navy laboratory dedicated to full spectrum undersea warfare (USW).
“NUWC’s focus is on innovation as the Division partners with industry and academia to put undersea warfare solutions in the hands of the fleet,” Vien said. “We’re a $1.1 billion organization that produces products and seeks innovative solutions to the fleet’s biggest challenges.”
Among NUWC Newport’s customers are Navy program sponsors, the intelligence community and foreign navies. NUWC’s unique facilities include the Atlantic Underwater Test and Evaluation Center in the Bahamas, which Vien described as a “one-square-mile mini city where range systems provide accurate underwater and in-air tracking for both firing platforms and targets using a variety of acoustic beacons and sensors.”
NUWC Newport also has a significant financial impact on southern New England, contributing $712 million to the local economy for payroll, contracts, construction and services purchased.
More than 50 people attended the “Tech Talk,” representing 40 companies and organizations, including Raytheon, SAIC, Booz Allen Hamilton, General Dynamics Information Technology, McLaughlin Research Corp., Nautilus Defense and PURVIS Systems. The monthly talks highlight a technology or organization and allows for networking and collaboration across industry, academia and government.
Molly Donohue Magee, SENEDIA’s executive director, introduced Vien, who began his talk with a description of his background. Vien, who earned bachelor’s degrees in electrical engineering technology in 1988 and in electrical engineering in 1989, both from UMASS Dartmouth, began his career at NUWC as a part-time intern in 1987. He worked with the “shake and bake” group testing submarine systems, then became a full-time electrical engineer in 1989 in the Submarine Combat Systems Department, now the Undersea Warfare (USW) Combat Systems Department.
In 1996, he earned a Master of Business Administration from Bryant University, and in 1997, he became operations manager for the AN/SQQ-89 Undersea Warfare Combat System program. He was promoted to branch head in Operational Systems Engineering in 1998.
Vien also discussed his experience in the Secretary of Defense Executive Leadership Development Program in 2003 and described it as the most “influential opportunity” of his career, where he gained a real appreciation for what warfighters go through.
In 2004, Vien “went to the sonar side” for 10 years, in what he describes as a “really cool job.”
In 2014, he became department head and a senior scientific manager in the Sensors and Sonar Systems Department.
Vien’s enthusiasm for NUWC is apparent as he describes the past 31 years as a “great ride.”
Since April 2018, Vien has worn two hats, as NUWC Newport’s Technical Director and as NAVSEA’s Deputy Warranting Officer for Undersea Warfare Systems Engineering.
As technical director, he is responsible for providing research, development, test and evaluation, engineering, analysis and assessment, as well as fleet support capabilities for submarines, autonomous underwater systems, and offensive and defensive undersea weapon systems. He also stewards existing and emerging technologies to advance the state-of-the-art in undersea warfare.
As deputy warranting officer, he is responsible for oversight of 12 technical warrant holders who ensure that the Navy maintains its position as the foremost technical authority over a broad portfolio of USW systems.
Vien talked about NUWC’s workforce and its makeup. Among NUWC Newport’s more than 3,000 civilian employees, 74 percent are scientists and engineers, and 32 percent have advanced degrees.
NUWC Newport is working to overcome an aging workforce, Vien said, and to address this, the command has been allowed to hire over its attrition rate.
“Our adversaries are learning things very quickly, and we need to fill the vacancies of knowledge,” Vien said.
NUWC Newport has also placed an emphasis on initiatives defined by the Chief of Naval Operations — high velocity learning and creating a culture of affordability. Another major focus is improving cybersecurity in products and processes.
Vien believes an important part of his new role as technical director is maintaining the Navy’s technical stewardship in the undersea domain. This requires strength in both the technical and business elements of the organization, he said.
Vien is also a firm believer in collaboration. “We need to have a strong relationship with the contractor workforce,” he said.
He talked about various innovative programs at Division Newport such as the investigation into biosensing technology. This field includes examining how seals use whiskers and bats use echolocation so that it may be applied to sonar.
NUWC Newport is also able to support technical innovation because of its state-of-the-art facilities, Vien said. An example is the Rapid Innovation Center, which he described as a “Google space,” that offers an open think tank and prototyping environment to support NUWC Newport programs.
Vien concluded his presentation with the announcement that this year’s Advanced Naval Technology Exercise (ANTX), which demonstrates future of naval technologies, will be held in collaboration with SENEDIA. This year’s theme is “Human Machine Interaction” and will kick off during SENEDIA’s Defense Innovation Days at the Newport Marriott from Aug. 27-29 and continue at NUWC Newport from Aug. 29-31. For more information on the event, visit http://www.navsea.navy.mil/Home/Warfare-Centers/NUWC-Newport/What-We-Do/ANTX-2018/
NUWC Division Newport, part of the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), is one of two divisions of the Naval Undersea Warfare Center. NUWC Division Newport’s mission is to provide research, development, test and evaluation, engineering and fleet support for submarines, autonomous underwater systems, undersea offensive and defensive weapons systems, and countermeasures. NUWC’s other division is located in Keyport, Wash.