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CHIPS Articles: NUWC Keyport Does 'NISE' Work

NUWC Keyport Does 'NISE' Work
By Nathanael Miller, Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division, Keyport Public Affairs - January 28, 2020
KEYPORT, Wash. (NNS) -- The Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Division, Keyport is able to quickly pivot and respond to emerging technological challenges through the Naval Innovative Science and Engineering (NISE) program.

The NISE program enables DoD laboratories, such as NUWC Keyport, to foster creativity and develop cutting-edge scientific and technological solutions while acting as a proving ground for new ideas, even in potentially high-risk experimental projects.

Dr. Aaron Darnton, NUWC Keyport’s chief technology officer, said the NISE program was created to help speed the well-managed development of technologies and systems that would aid the naval warfighter and expand the fleet’s advantage.

“NISE was established to build Science and Technology capability within the DoD labs by funding projects which develop the capabilities of the workforce and infrastructure,” said Darnton. “Additionally, emphasis is placed on providing benefit to the warfighter. NISE projects should not be adjunct resources for an established program office. Rather, NISE funding means these projects can provide a benefit across a range of programs.”

Although funding for most projects is tightly scoped, Darnton said NISE allows local NUWC Keyport and the Navy’s other warfare centers a large amount of leeway. This, in turn, lets the warfare centers focus on items that can offer a specific benefit or address an emergent challenge faced by the warfighter.

“The NISE program provides a means for developing and demonstrating new tools to enable our workforce to be more effective and efficient,” said Darnton. “One great example is in torpedo analysis. The project team developed a machine-learning tool which cut down the amount of manual analysis significantly. The initial work proved successful enough that our customer provided additional funds to further develop the capability, and it resulted in an overall increase in our performance as well as a significant decrease in cost to the program and tax payer.”

Darnton said the flexibility of NISE enables NUWC Keyport to maintain a culture of affordability by allowing it to nimbly develop and field solutions in a timely manner.

“Prior to the NISE program, we had limited opportunities to learn about and explore applications of new technology until they became part of a program we support,” Darnton said. “The NISE program allows us to develop capabilities in parallel with their incorporation to programs of record. This way we’re not only prepared to support the program when new technologies are integrated, but we can actually become subject-matter-experts and support the programs throughout the development process. We’re able to save time and money, both of which mean the warfighter is getting better resources in the fleet.”

Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Research, Development, and Acquisition) James Geurts launched the NavalX initiative last year to speed development of new technologies. As part of this effort, NUWC Keyport was named one of the first five Tech Bridges—centers of innovation and conduits for interaction with industry and academia while also reaching out to non-traditional partners. Darnton said NISE projects are an excellent way to bring aboard new partners.

“NISE allows us the ability to collaborate with non-traditional partners and Tech Bridge provides a platform to develop those relationships,” Darnton said. “For example, Tech Bridge is supporting our Range of the Future initiative, which will result in an environmental scan of underwater range technologies. Through this process collaboration partners may emerge, and NISE funding can allow our research to start engaging right away.”

Finally, Darnton said that NISE funding can be seen as a recruiting tool by allowing NUWC Keyport to engage with academic research projects. As students complete their work, a relationship develops between them and their mentors at NUWC Keyport, a relationship that might result in a new scientist or engineer joining the team at NUWC Keyport or another NAVSEA warfare center.

“One of the other great parts of the NISE program is that it's well suited to support PhD research,” said Darnton. “We have two students now supporting their dissertation research through NISE. This is an opportunity we're underutilizing and hopefully will expand in the future.”

NISE funding allows research laboratories like NUWC Keyport the innovative flexibility to develop a wide range of technologies that will benefit the fleet. From machine-learning tools that can increase the efficiency of analyzing torpedo data, to new means of decreasing the Navy’s environmental footprint while increasing the efficiency of testing new systems, NISE funding is a tool being used to support the warfighters on the tip of the spear.

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