‘There is a sea change ... I ask for your participation’

‘There is a sea change ... I ask for your participation’By REBECCA NEIPP

News Review Staff Writer

Vice Adm. Mike Moran spoke at last week’s California Contracting-Acquisition-Procurement Industry Day Expo at the Kerr McGee Center to address the state of national security, China Lake’s role in the mission of defense and the ongoing recovery efforts to restore Navy assets after July earthquakes .

The former commander of the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division is now the principal military deputy for the assistant secretary of the Navy (research, development and acquisition) in Washington, D.C.

Moran drew on his history at China Lake and on his present responsibilities to tell his packed audience “where we are, where we are going and how this organization fits the priorities that move the Department of Defense and the Navy forward.”

He praised current China Lake leadership, primarily Rear Adm. Scott Dillon, for engaging in the recovery efforts.

“I am fairly confident that in this very, very difficult environment, there are going to be resources flowing this way.” The multibillion-dollar demand to repair infrastructure comes at a time of extreme budget scrutiny, he said.

“The crux of why we all exist is to deliver credible, relevant capability that wins the fight,” said Moran. “It’s critical now more than … well, ever is a strong term. But I think everyone in this room knows we are back to a great power competition. Let there be no question about that.

“The days of budget reductions and slowdowns have to come to an end if we are really going to be able to compete.”

Moran contrasted the reality of the United State’s struggle to retain dominance with news reports that our country spends 10 times more on defense than what the next 10 countries combined spend.

“You can’t compare dollar for dollar how China invests with how we invest.” Instead, he said, compare the assets deployed today with those in the field 20 years ago.

Back then, the U.S. and China were at an approximate one-for-one ratio for ships, aircraft, weapons, communication systems, radar and other equipment. “Go take a picture of their assets now,” he said. “It’s like 30 to 1. It’s a difficult place for the U.S. Navy to operate today, and really the first time in my 35-plus years in the Navy that I am not certain I can operate my group … because I am at risk. That’s the reality.”

Moran acknowledged that the quality and capability of U.S. assets is superior, but global adversaries have closed the capability gap in a shockingly short time frame.

“From an air-to-air perspective — which is what China Lake is known for — they may be ahead of us. We haven’t been in this position for 30 or 40 years.

“We have to change. We have to change the way we do business, work together and organize.”

Moran went into details on how government and industry could partner to build the effective weapons and systems needed while speeding up delivery to the fleet.

One of the focuses of defense over the last decade has been increasing integration and interoperability in the Navy, he said.

“We have failed. If we are going to win the high-end fight, it will be through capability — integrated and interoperable. We are not going to win the capacity fight,” said Moran.

“That is what our challenge is with China. God hope it never happens.”

Among the ideas floating through defense in recent years has been to bring some of the research and development — especially relating to design standards — back in house. The benefit would be in establishing more universally applicable interfaces, but also in bringing ownership of intellectual capability out of expensive proprietary hands and back into broader accessibility.

“So, what is that operation architecture that allows us to communicate the critical data that our weapons need, that our aircraft need, that our ships need to execute the mission set?”

The strength of the Navy rests on those capabilities, he said.

“We are powerful because we can bring the full power through distributed operations with coordination and collaboration. If we can’t, we are not going to win that fight.”

Moran said that in addition to his continued advocacy to bring to the Pentagon the unique capabilities at China Lake, he is doing his best to champion the technical talent of the warfare centers across the country. “DOD does not understand the depth and power of that expertise. We have to leverage the talent that we have.”

He challenged his listeners to partner with the endeavor to shift from a Navy of complacency to a Navy of excellence.

“If our Navy is not forward, where it needs to be — protecting our sea lanes, keeping them free and open to all — everyone in this country will be feeling the impact of that.”

If China controls the South China Sea and influences the 60 percent of U.S. imports and exports passing through the region, that could have a staggering impact on resource cost and availability.

“There is a sea change,” said Moran. “I ask for your absolute participation.”

Pictured: Vice Adm. Mike Moran at last week’s Industry Days Expo. — Photo by Laura Austin

Story First Published: 2019-11-15