CNO calls China Lake ’crown jewel’

Adm. Greenert, Rep. McCarthy hope DC finds alternative to sequestration

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

CNO calls China Lake ’crown jewel’Two high-ranking officials from Washington, D.C. — House Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert — reported out of last week’s tour of China Lake by reaffirming its value to national defense and the importance of avoiding the massive cuts that will kick in if Congressional sequestration hits.

“If we can, we need to get away from the whole idea of sequestration,” said Greenert, describing it as an algorithmic cut of 9 percent across the board, applied without an assessment of value.

But the China Lake geography, workforce, speed to fleet and unique capabilities of taking a project from concept to delivery were all listed as reasons to protect the local mission.

Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division Commander Rear Adm. Paul Sohl and Executive Director Scott O’Neil led the visitors on a tour that included an overview of some of the headlining programs and facilities at China Lake.

“What I’m always so proud of is that you can’t reproduce this any other place in the country,” said McCarthy.

“You can call it a crown jewel, all of those things. It’s unique. You can’t relocate this anywhere else in the world,” said Greenert.

“We will look for those means to make logical, deliberation reductions, if that’s the order of the day, to keep a place like this going. If anything, we would probably want to increase the investment here.”

Political deadlock, and a Congress that has been unable to pass a budget since 2008, has for years plagued the Department of Defense and other federally funded agencies with uncertainty.

But McCarthy noted that both the $53 million in DOD grants to rebuild local schools and some $250 million in new labs and facilities gained from the last BRAC process bode well for the nation’s commitment to continuing the mission at China Lake.

Greenert also gave a hint about some of his priorities in modern warfare that could have a positive impact on China Lake’s future.

“A while back I wrote an article about payloads versus platforms — and from my view it’s payloads OVER platforms.”

His paper supported the need “to move from ‘luxury-car’ platforms — with their built-in capabilities — toward dependable ‘trucks’ that can handle a changing payload selection.”

Maintaining existing platforms (both ships and aircraft) is less expensive than investing in development of a single vehicle weighted down with features — which can ultimately increase its heat signature and limit stealth capabilities.

Greenert said he would like to see the Navy take this modular approach, relying on new technology to put in the necessary sensors instead of requiring a new vehicle. “That’s precisely what this institution does — and you do it really fast. You get the genesis of an idea, you test it and certify it right here. And that’s what is desperately needed.”

Some China Lakers have speculated that could be good for the F-18 program, which could be considered the “truck” in that analogy, and costs about a third of what it takes to put a single F-35 (broadly considered the luxury car Naval aircraft) into the fleet.

Both Greenert and McCarthy also commented on the passion and sense of ownership of the China Lake workforce.

“When we’re in Washington — Congressman, I think you will agree with me — accountability is sometimes hard to find. The brilliance of people who come out here to the desert and take something from birth to delivery … it is very impressive,” said Greenert.

McCarthy said that he will continue to work toward an alternative solution to sequestration. “We can’t spend more money than we have, but sequestration is something that came from Harry Reid. It is not something the House believes in.

“The deadline is March 1, so we still have time to find something different.”

He said that operating the country on a continuing resolution rather than a budget is a terrible way to manage and that it only creates more uncertainty.

“This was a great opportunity. I am very impressed with the admiral. He tells stories about people from Burroughs, he knows what’s going on. That’s the individual I want making these decisions for our future,” said McCarthy.

“I am looking forward to coming back,” said Greenert. “I’ve only whetted my appetite.”

Story First Published: 2013-02-06