NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, PATUXENT RIVER, Md. — Against a backdrop of escalating world conflicts, an all-star lineup of senior naval leaders called for increased innovation and shared the secrets of their success during Naval Air Systems Command’s (NAVAIR) fifth annual Acquisition Leadership Symposium held Aug. 14 at nearby St. Mary’s College of Maryland.
The symposium focused on the theme “Supporting the Current and Future Capabilities of Naval Aviation” and provided a forum for leaders to share their insights with NAVAIR acquisition professionals, who are responsible for managing product and service procurements for the Department of the Navy — including the design and engineering of its major weapons systems.
The event, held in the college’s gymnasium, attracted more than 750 people and featured the Navy's Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michelle Howard; Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition Sean Stackley; Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, deputy commandant for Aviation, Headquarters Marine Corps; Vice Adm. David Dunaway, NAVAIR commander; and retired Vice Adm. Joseph Dyer, a former NAVAIR commander who, after retirement, served as chief operating officer of iRobot and now chairs the NASA Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel.
“We must think and respond differently ... create safe environments to innovate and experiment, while preserving airworthiness and safety of flight,” Dunaway said in his opening remarks to the audience. “We need leaders to provide context and boundaries to focus creative energy and inspire experimentation and risk taking. It takes good judgment to strike the proper balance between process and innovation.”
Stackley stitched his presentation with inspirational quotes, telling attendees, “These are tough times, but tough times don’t last; tough people do. You ensure America’s warfighters are well trained and equipped … that they can go into the fight with confidence and return home safely.”
He also highlighted some of the NAVAIR’s program success stories, which include the Navy’s newest maritime patrol aircraft’s, the P-8A Poseidon, return from its maiden operational deployment in July, the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System’s ongoing sea trials and the multi-year procurement contract for 25E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft announced in June.
Howard, who recently broke two “glass ceilings” to become the Navy’s first four-star woman admiral and also the first African-American in that rank, presented “Leadership Challenges and Opportunities” via a history lesson on the evolution of naval aviation. She encouraged today’s leaders to think big and embrace technological change in order to maintain naval supremacy across multiple domains — maritime and subsurface, land, airborne and cyberspace.
Davis focused on current and future readiness of Marine Corps aviation, saying he looked forward to Dunaway’s engagement in the service’s readiness meetings. “There’s no finer force on the planet than the Navy and Marine Corps,” he said. “It’s important we have a partnership with NAVAIR.”
Former NAVAIR commander Dyer was a crowd favorite as he delivered his presentation with Southern charm and timeless wit. He reviewed his popular 2003 “Pillars of a Good Program” manifesto, which still adorns many office walls at the command. He also shared his “Career Accelerators,” a list of provocative nuggets, such as “Never waste a crisis,” “Safe is risky” and “Get into a little trouble.”
“My favorite speaker … was [retired] Vice Admiral Dyer,” said Lt. Cmdr. Lisa Clark, who works as the Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) assistant program manager for Training Support in the Naval Aviation Training Systems Program Office (PMA-205). “He was an excellent speaker and kept the crowd engaged. He brought in a current business point of view, which I believe the NAVAIR acquisition workforce needs to understand. From him, I took that reducing resistance would make it easier to get where we want to go with less effort and longer lasting results. I also enjoyed hearing his ‘Career Accelerators,’ and will be looking to implement them as I continue my acquisition career.”
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