DAHLGREN, Va. – For several dozen engineers at Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD), bringing in the New Year also means settling in at new workstations on the base. A recently completed electromagnetics integration facility in Dahlgren, Virginia houses modern computer stations, a laboratory, and team meeting rooms. When fully occupied post-Covid, the new facility will provide workspaces for approximately 50 personnel specialized in Electromagnetic Environmental Effects, or E3.
“We provide a full range of testing and systems engineering resources to ensure that ships, weapons systems, and ordnance are safe, reliable and interoperable,” said Katie Willis, who leads these projects as the Electromagnetic Effects Division Head at Dahlgren. In its simplest conceptual form, E3 works with the wide variety of equipment found on a modern warship, and helps ensure that the electronics on one system do not interfere with those of its neighbors. The idea, as Willis put it, is “to make sure that the systems can all work together.”
Putting that simple concept into practice, however, presents an engineering challenge beyond the imagination of non-technical specialists. It is also a task that has only grown more complex in recent years. The personnel seated in Dahlgren’s new facility will focus primarily on systems located on the topside of ships, but even that relatively compact space can now sport high-energy laser weapons, unmanned systems, and sensors that the Navy did not have to contend with in prior generations. The topside work also needs to mesh with equipment internal to the ship and under the water line. Every new layer of equipment brings new capabilities to Navy warfighters, and also translates into the increasingly complex projects within Dahlgren’s Electromagnetic Effects offices.
The new construction at NSWCDD is one of several recent investments that Willis said will “position Dahlgren to continue excellence in the E3 line of work.” In addition to new capabilities and efficiencies that come with a modern office environment, the new space also represents an investment in the needs of the Navy’s most important resource: its workforce. “It’s a significant improvement on the physical environment that people are sitting in,” said Willis. “Employees have noted that it is very nice to have office spaces that they look forward to coming into each day.” Good morale supports employee retention, and both of those are critical ingredients for accomplishing the larger national security mission.
The recently completed building comes amidst a burst of related construction activity for electromagnetics integration work at Dahlgren. By the spring of 2021, NSWCDD will occupy a second new facility with workstations for 66 people. In 2022, a third facility with 65 seats will also be completed.
All three projects are funded through the Navy’s Capital Investment Program, which supports infrastructure reinvestments that improve government operations by replacing outdated facilities. Across the base as a whole, NSWCDD supports contracts totaling approximately $2 billion in a given year. NSWCDD hosts more than 11,000 civilian, contractor, and active duty military personnel and constitutes the largest single employer in King George County, Virginia.
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