History of the AEGIS Program at Dahlgren
By Tom Clare, Special Guest Writer
As can be well imagined, we were not lacking for issues and problems in starting the program at NSWC. I would say they could be lumped into four main areas: a) attracting and retaining employees; b) building trust within the larger AEGIS Program; c) creating a long-term role for ourselves in the AEGIS Program; and d) getting the AEGIS facilities in place at NSWC.
Attracting and retaining employees was obviously critical to our success. Two main impediments were a lack of facilities and equipment at Dahlgren, and a lack of or limited knowledge about the system and the program by managers and supervisors. They knew the technology or scientific or engineering principles, but not as it applied to AEGIS.
As I said earlier, we recruited many of our early senior personnel from other programs and departments at Dahlgren. The programs or projects they came from were for the most part mature: they usually had some equipment or laboratories or simulators etc. as part of their work. We had none of that! As a result, we went through several phases where we had significant numbers of these people wanting to transfer back to their original programs or projects. Our attrition rates were pretty volatile in those days. It is really a credit to some of the senior people I mentioned earlier that we were we able to get thought this period intact.
The other major issue regarding attracting and retaining employees was our general lack of knowledge and insight into the AEGIS Program at large and the AEGIS Weapon System in particular. New hires from college looked to their supervisors for leadership and management, which required, among other things, technical competence and knowledge of the work we were doing. We were all learning at the same time!
Creating a role for ourselves was a real challenge given our newness to the program and the existing cast of players and their roles. The idea of life support engineering was a new concept that included some in-service engineering of tactical computer programs, development, and prototyping, and looking at deployed and upcoming blocks of the system and the ships. The development of this concept was mainly due to the efforts of Jim Francis and Bob Gray, as well as the senior leadership across the NSWC program. This work was done in concert with NSWC Port Hueneme. It was not without its speed bumps to say the least.
Getting AEGIS facilities and equipment in place was critical on a range of fronts: from carrying out our newly defined role, to attracting and retaining employees, to executing our technical work. The AEGIS Computer Center ended up at Dahlgren, and the AEGIS Combat Systems Center, while originally planned for Dahlgren, ended up at Wallops Island. The person most responsible for our ability to get these facilities built, including
wading through the complex and political process of military construction, was Larry Kuty. Without him, we would not have been successful.
After “The Beginning”…
The early days laid the foundation, in terms of people, competence, and credibility with the program office, organization, facilities, and momentum. Others followed me and made the program at Dahlgren the success it has enjoyed over the decades. These individuals include but are not limited to Charlie Yarbrough, Reuben Pitts, and Dawn Murphy.
Following are additional photos of early AEGIS people and equipment.
About the Author
Thomas A. (Tom) Clare began his career at the then Naval Weapons Laboratory in Dahlgren, Virginia, in 1970 after graduating from the University of Notre Dame with a Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering. While there he performed research and development in Aeroballistics and served in management positions at the branch, division, and department head levels, including as the first head of the AEGIS Program at the then Naval Surface Weapons Center (NSWC). In 1989 he was selected as Technical Director of NSWC, and during his tenure he successfully led the Center through three rounds of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC).
In addition to his work at Dahlgren, he has been a key advisor and leader in the Navy and DOD scientific and technology community and served on various Navy and Marine Corps executive committees, with the focus of these activities on visions, strategic planning, systems engineering, programmatic and organizational strategies, and reorganization approaches and philosophies. In 1998 he retired from a position as an advisor to the DOD systems engineering community, addressing the need for greater systems engineering and management policies and practices across the services.
A version of this article was previously published as an NSWCDD blog in February of 2018. Reused with permission.