Pax River leaders visit Weapons Division

Visit reveals opportunities for collaboration, WD’s mission-centric focus in face of furloughs

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Pax River leaders visit Weapons DivisionLast week’s visiting military and civilian leaders from the Naval Air Systems Command Weapons Division’s Aircraft Division counterparts in Patuxent River, Md., revealed opportunities for leveraging diminishing federal resources by increasing collaboration, WD Executive Director Scott O’Neil told the News Review.

“That was a big part of the conversation the whole time they were here,” said O’Neil. “A lot of time AD and WD are working in similar areas, but not necessarily the same project. We might be working in biofuels from a research perspective, they are working on biofuels for testing purposes.

“But historically those efforts have not necessarily been collaborative. Now we are looking at ways to build better collaboration between East and West. And that is a good thing.”

The visiting dignitaries included Rear Adm. Mark Darrah, who not only commands NAWCAD, but also is the assistant commander for NAVAIR research and engineering. He brought with him his deputy assistant, Anthony J. Cifone. O’Neil noted that he and Cifone have similar responsibilities in overseeing R&D for their prospective commands.

“We do a lot of work for Pax River. And the two of them play a role in the flowdown of technical authorities and policy setting. So having them understand WD capabilities at China Lake and Point Mugu is very important,” said O’Neil.

Rear Adm. Paul Sohl, commander of NAWCWD, and O’Neil hosted the Pax River entourage three days at China Lake and one day at Point Mugu, giving the East Coasters a first-hand view of WD contributions.

“We didn’t want to just put them in a conference room and show them a bunch of vugraphs. What we really tried to do was have them walk around in our spaces, our labs, and meet the people who do the work so that they can get a feel for how motivated a workforce we have,” said O’Neil.

“When we wrapped up at the end, Darrah commented on the fact that not only is our workforce technically competent and astute, but they are also consummate professionals. Even with the opportunity to gripe about furloughs, it never once came up.

“Darrah was very impressed by the passion WD employees have for what they do for the warfighter and technology they work on. I think he was encouraged that in the face of furloughs and all this chaos, our people still have their eyes on the ball. Their dedication is remarkable. And I think it is good that he saw that.”

O’Neil said he, too, appreciates the sacrifices being made by WD employees. “It’s not that any of them like what’s going on. They are feeling it as individuals in their pocketbooks. But they are dedicated to the warfighter, and I have all the confidence in the world that we will be able to preserve that dedication as we work through this.”

That said, O’Neil acknowledged the current discussion regarding the legality and fiscal prudence of furloughs (see related story, this issue). “I don’t know if this furlough period will last 11 weeks or two weeks, but I hope DOD finds a way to resolve this issue so that we can relax furloughs,” he said.

“The effect on the community is huge. The Navy is the primary employer in this community, and for the next 11 weeks those employees are seeing a 20-percent reduction in their pay.

“NAWCWD payroll is approximately $390 million annually, so 20 percent for 11 weeks is not an insignificant amount, that’s for sure. People are going to see an impact from that reduction.

“But during this time we look for understanding and support from the community as well.”

Story First Published: 2013-07-17