By Jason CutshawSeptember 19, 2018
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Alabama - The Navy's top civilian leader looked through the Army lens to explore solutions to military challenges and to forge partnerships in shared endeavors.
Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer visited leaders at the Army Materiel Command and U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command Sept. 18 where he was introduced to each command's mission as well as ongoing Army technology efforts.
Spencer compared notes with Army Materiel Command's Gen. Gus Perna and senior staff as they examined the information and tactics behind recent, significant improvements to the Army's supply chain.
"I came down here to see how we can learn what the Army has done in their attack on the logistical supply chain," Spencer said. "The Army has done a terrific job and we wanted to get some 'best practices' and start the conversations going between our two organizations."
Perna recounted how 17 years of war led to an auto-pilot mentality that caused logistics and sustainment skills to atrophy. But a renewed focus over the past 18 months has increased supply availability and built breadth and depth into the supply chain.
"We had to see ourselves to start," Perna said. "We've been leading our way through this. It has been a cultural realignment."
Spencer recalled his previous visit to Rock Island Arsenal, part of the AMC-managed Army Organic Industrial Base, as the leaders spoke of challenges similar in both services. They also discussed the use of additive manufacturing, and the opportunities it posed for the future.
Both leaders committed to continuing the logistics conversation as Spencer commended AMC's efforts to boost sustainment and improve Army readiness.
"This has been great. We're in the throes of rethinking how we do business," Spencer said. "It's not just talk. We have to do it."
"We are here to partner," Perna replied. "We will learn from what you're doing too."
After his time with AMC, Spencer visited USASMDC/ARSTRAT to get a better understanding of its ongoing science and technology efforts related to directed energy and hypersonics.
During the official stop, SMDC leaders briefed Spencer on its hypersonic program. The command conducted the nation's first successful Advanced Hypersonic Weapon test in 2011 and SMDC is working to coordinate planned flight tests of the Navy's intermediate range system, which is similar to the Army's in design.
The Department of Defense; Departments of the Army, Navy and Air Force; as well as the Missile Defense Agency signed a memorandum of agreement in June to co-develop a hypersonic vehicle. SMDC will lead that effort for the Army.
"The Navy, Army, Air Force and MDA efforts in hypersonics are seamless," Spencer said. "It doesn't seem like there is any daylight between them at all. It truly is a poster child of success about how four organizations can get together, share not only technical data, but also resources to get something out the door as quickly as possible on a demonstrable basis."
Command leaders explained how SMDC is directing the Army's high energy laser research and development efforts with systems capable of defeating threats such as rockets, artillery, mortars and unmanned aerial vehicles. Spencer viewed video demonstrations of vehicles successfully engaging targets during multiple experiments and assessments.
"The Army's high-energy laser program is very impressive," Spencer said. "If you look at how each service is attacking directed-energy, they are three very separate and distinct environments. You have Army, which wants it mobile on the ground; you have the Navy, which wants it on the ocean; and the constraint differential in the Air Force, that wants it in the air, are tremendously different.
"On a ship you have the easy ability produce lots of power and you have space. On the ground where you have to have it mobile you are constrained and when you take it up in the air you have thermal considerations to take into account," he added. "But we are all working together and taking into consideration each one of our various and different environmental challenges."
Before departing, Spencer shared his appreciation for what the Soldiers and civilians of AMC and SMDC do for the defense of the nation.
"It is great to be here," Spencer said. "The people are tremendous. I am very impressed with everyone I've met with. It is great to see what the Army is doing and we will see what happens on Dec. 8 (during the Army/Navy game)."