Stackley: Navy Must Innovate Faster Or it ‘Will Lose the Competition’

By Yasmin Tadjdeh
Sean Stackley speaks at an event in Annapolis, Maryland.

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The Navy must get at innovation more rapidly or it will fall behind technological strides made by foreign adversaries, the acting secretary of the Navy said April 5. 

“I’m thinking about these high-end, complex system of systems that we’ve got to develop faster to stay ahead in terms of technological superiority based on the threat,” said Sean Stackley. “We do need our best and brightest working on those and we cannot take 10 to 15 years in the development cycle to get it there or we will lose the competition.”

Stackley pointed to the famous Doolittle Raid of World War II as a classic example of military innovation. During the raid, the U.S. military flew land-based B-25B bombers off aircraft carriers to allow the warplanes to reach Japan, drop bombs and then continue to China to land. 

“As we look back upon the Doolittle Raid, it’s fair to ask, 'Could we pull this off today?'” he said at the Navy League’s annual Sea-Air-Space Conference in National Harbor, Maryland. 

Stackley said he had no doubt U.S. warfighters could do so. “I’m concerned, however, that our establishment back home fails to match that same sense of urgency — that same degree of intensity,” he said.

While the United States provides advanced capabilities to warfighters, “one need look no further than our budget process to get my point.

“Here we are in the third quarter of the fiscal year operating again under a continuing resolution that threatens in the best case to curtail our training, to clip our maintenance, to slow our weapons system development and procurement, to weaken our industrial base and erode our readiness,” he said. 

During a question-and-answer session after his remarks, a member of the audience told Stackley that her specialty lubricants and sealants company had faced nine years of delays trying to get its products approved by the Navy. 

“There’s no way it should take nine years to approve anything outside of perhaps medicine,” Stackley told her. 

He recommended that companies be impatient. “We have great people throughout the organization and in most cases they’re overworked. And so you have to be impatient, you have to be persistent, you have to be demanding — and when all else fails — get ahold of the secretary of the Navy and he will help you.”

The military as a whole has two main goals at the moment: To rebuild and to reform, Stackley said. A decade and a half of war and high operational tempo has placed a great deal of stress on the force and there is a critical need to rebuild readiness, he added.

While the Navy is currently in the end game of its fiscal year 2018 budget request, it is challenged by uncertainty around not knowing the outcome of the ’17 budget request, he said. 

“That uncertainty aside, we’re intent on holding the gains we’ve laid in for readiness and we’re intent on adding wholeness by addressing our end strength needs, filling magazines and spare parts bins, and shoring up our infrastructure,” he said.

Stackley noted that the service currently has 275 ships against a requirement of 300. This year it has 60 ships under contract or under construction, putting the service “on an irreversible path to a 300-ship Navy by the end of the decade.”


Topics: Navy News

Comments (0)

Retype the CAPTCHA code from the image
Change the CAPTCHA codeSpeak the CAPTCHA code
Please enter the text displayed in the image.