A new agreement is in the works for a direct partnership between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Division Newport, which would increase and improve knowledge sharing and allow for more real-time collaboration between the two entities.
Rear Adm. Nancy Hann, acting director for NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations (OMAO), took the stage at NUWC Division Newport on June 21 to share her group’s mission and explain the important role NOAA plays in data collection.
“We touch pretty much everyone’s life, every day,” Hann said and cited the wide range of services that NOAA provides.
NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans and coasts; to share that knowledge and information with others; and to conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources, Hann said.
Hann is responsible for the leadership and management of OMAO’s operational assets, including a fleet of 16 research and survey vessels and nine aircraft. She also visited Division Newport in May to discuss mutual capabilities and interests and to begin a more formal partnership between NOAA and the Division.
NOAA’s current presence in Newport includes two ships homeported at Naval Station Newport’s Pier 2 on Narragansett Bay — the NOAAS Henry B. Bigelow (R 255), supporting the science and research missions of NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center, and the NOAAS Okeanos Explorer (R 337), known as “America’s ship for ocean exploration,” which conducts operations around the globe, mapping the seafloor and characterizing largely unknown areas of the ocean.
Hann reported plans for an expanded NOAA presence in Newport, pending budget appropriations, which would include two additional ships and a shore-side facility. This, in addition to a pending formal agreement between NOAA and Division Newport that would foster a closer, more robust relationship by ensuring greater awareness of data being collected and access to subject matter experts.
“Any data we have, you’re welcome to it,” Hann said during the presentation.
“This agreement will allow NOAA and NUWC Division Newport to leverage each other’s technical expertise and infrastructure to enable innovation and advance our missions,” said Sarah Blackstock, an oceanographer in Division Newport’s Chief Technology Office. “NOAA’s expanded presence in Narragansett Bay presents a valuable opportunity to work more seamlessly with our new neighbors, and communicate in real time about our technical objectives and needs. These two visits from Rear Admiral Hann demonstrate that there are abundant areas in which NOAA and NUWC efforts can be aligned to provide maximum benefit to both parties.”
The agency, which sits under the U.S. Department of Commerce, a fact that Hann admitted may seem odd, supports “economic vitality and affects more than one-third of America’s gross domestic product,” according to the NOAA website.
“All of the things we do drive commerce,” Hann said.
Uncrewed systems (UxS) is NOAA’s first key science and technology focus area out of six total, with other areas aligning to the Division’s capabilities such as artificial intelligence (AI), data, and “citizen science,” or open collaboration between individuals and organizations participating in the scientific process.
A segment of Hann’s visit highlighted collaborative partnerships with industry and academia. Paula Bontempi, dean of the University of Rhode Island (URI) Graduate School of Oceanography (GSO), and Andrew Greene, senior technologist for Division Newport’s Undersea Warfare (USW) Tactical Oceanographic Sciences Branch, discussed efforts between Division Newport and URI GSO’s tactical oceanography program.
“Oceanography is a well-established discipline internal and external to the Navy,” Greene said about the collaboration efforts. “Tactical oceanography is a field in its infancy and requires integration of oceanography with sub fields of expertise in acoustics, weapons, signal processing and electromagnetics.”
Division Newport is working to establish tactical oceanographic rigor throughout its technical departments to support their technical domains. The current workforce development approach is to recruit oceanographers from nationally recognized oceanography programs and build the additional skill sets through mentoring. The purpose of the GSO/NUWC collaboration is for the university to take on the role of preparing oceanography graduates with the aforementioned skills sets. In the future, this will create and establish pipeline of tactical oceanographers for Navy and the Department of Defense.
Division Newport’s Chief Technology Officer Dr. Jason Gomez also provided an overview of the command, and Dr. Elizabeth Magliula, director of Division Newport’s Naval Engineering Education Consortium and SMART program, spoke about the National Institute for Undersea Vehicle Technology (NIUVT)
, a collaboration between Division Newport, URI, the University of Connecticut, and Electric Boat, and the Marine and Undersea Technologies (MUST) partnership with University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth.
The visitors also toured the Marine Mammal Laboratory, the Unmanned Underwater Vehicle Laboratory and other facilities at NUWC.
During her presentation, Hann also discussed the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps, which is separate from military branches like the Navy or the Coast Guard, there are 330 uniformed officers within NOAA, including Hann, who are trained in engineering, earth sciences, oceanography, meteorology and fisheries science. Onboard ships, they operate alongside wage mariners who perform the deck, engineering, steward and survey tech functions, and when assigned, ships can also host scientific parties of up to 28 additional people and associated equipment for data collection.
The presentation, aimed at new professionals at the Division, was attended by about 125 employees.
“These types of events open my eyes to the partnerships we have, help my understanding that our work is part of a bigger picture, and are opportunities to learn about different possibilities to tailor my career path to work on projects that I would be passionate about,” said Vince Legaspi, a new professional and program analyst in the USW Electromagnetic Systems Department.
NUWC Division Newport is a shore command of the U.S. Navy within the Naval Sea Systems Command, which engineers, builds and supports America’s fleet of ships and combat systems. NUWC Newport provides research, development, test and evaluation, engineering and fleet support for submarines, autonomous underwater systems, undersea offensive and defensive weapons systems, and countermeasures associated with undersea warfare.
NUWC Newport is the oldest warfare center in the country, tracing its heritage to the Naval Torpedo Station established on Goat Island in Newport Harbor in 1869. Commanded by Capt. Chad Hennings, NUWC Newport maintains major detachments in West Palm Beach, Florida, and Andros Island in the Bahamas, as well as test facilities at Seneca Lake and Fisher's Island, New York, Leesburg, Florida, and Dodge Pond, Connecticut.