Unfortunately, the CNO said, those days are over. American naval forces now face a new era of competition from rising and resurgent naval powers--citing recent examples such as a bilateral exercise in the Baltic Sea involving the Russian and Chinese navies, and a Chinese live-fire exercise in the Mediterranean Sea.
"Take the example of a large, dominant company that becomes complacent as it gets bigger," said Richardson. "That makes you vulnerable to disruption. How can we avoid that fate? How can we restore our agility and competitive edge to maintain superiority?"
The answer, Richardson said, lies in three key components, each of which expands current naval strength and readiness:
- More ships: "By increasing the number of naval platforms, you increase naval power."
- More capable ships: "You're seeing this with directed-energy weapons like LaWS [laser weapon system], and the electromagnetic railgun and its high-velocity projectile. Other advances include additive manufacturing, which could revolutionize logistics at sea. Being able to 3D print a part on a ship is more efficient than carrying it in a locker."
- Networked ships: "How do you make all these platforms work together and network everything to everything?"
The biggest and most important challenge, the CNO said, is keeping up with adversaries who are moving quickly to advance their technological capabilities. The pace of technology development and delivery in the Navy and Marine Corps must speed up in order to maintain maritime superiority for U.S. naval warfighters.
"I'm not a scientist or technologist," said Richardson. "I'm here to define a problem for all of you [in attendance]. I want to bring science, technology and industry into the conversation early, so we can come up with the best solutions."
Richardson gave his remarks at the Future Force Expo, which is the premier science and technology event for the Navy and Marine Corps. The Expo is co-sponsored by the Office of Naval Research and the American Society of Naval Engineers and convenes every two years.
At the Expo, Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. David J. Hahn unveiled his new guidance for the U.S. Navy's research and development establishment. Titled "Naval Research and Development: A Framework for Accelerating to the Navy and Marine Corps after Next," the Framework outlines new ways to accelerate technologies from basic research into finished products, and into Sailor or Marine hands.
Senior naval leaders see the Framework as a new way to bring together all the central players in naval research, including government labs, academia and industry.
Involving innovators in the discussion earlier will increase the likelihood that a business product will make it to the finish line--increasing the chances that research will make it to full-scale production and, ultimately, to Sailors and Marines.
Watch a video of Adm. Richardson's presentation.