Naval Leaders Call for Innovation at NAVAIR Symposium

Naval Leaders Call for Innovation at NAVAIR Symposium

Against a backdrop of escalating world conflicts, an all-star lineup of senior naval leaders called for increased innovation and shared the secrets of their success during Naval Air Systems Command’s (NAVAIR) fifth annual Acquisition Leadership Symposium held Aug. 14 at nearby St. Mary’s College of Maryland.


The symposium focused on the theme “Supporting the Current and Future Capabilities of Naval Aviation” and provided a forum for leaders to share their insights with NAVAIR acquisition professionals, who are responsible for managing product and service procurements for the Department of the Navy — including the design and engineering of its major weapons systems.

The event, held in the college’s gymnasium, attracted more than 750 people and featured the Navy’s Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michelle Howard; Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition Sean Stackley; Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, deputy commandant for Aviation, Headquarters Marine Corps; Vice Adm. David Dunaway, NAVAIR commander; and retired Vice Adm. Joseph Dyer, a former NAVAIR commander who, after retirement, served as chief operating officer of iRobot and now chairs the NASA Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel.

“We must think and respond differently … create safe environments to innovate and experiment, while preserving airworthiness and safety of flight,” Dunaway said in his opening remarks to the audience. “We need leaders to provide context and boundaries to focus creative energy and inspire experimentation and risk taking. It takes good judgment to strike the proper balance between process and innovation.”

He also highlighted some of the NAVAIR’s program success stories, which include the Navy’s newest maritime patrol aircraft’s, the P-8A Poseidon, return from its maiden operational deployment in July, the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System’s ongoing sea trials and the multi-year procurement contract for 25 E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft announced in June.

Howard, who recently became the Navy’s first four-star woman admiral, presented “Leadership Challenges and Opportunities” via a history lesson on the evolution of naval aviation. She encouraged today’s leaders to think big and embrace technological change in order to maintain naval supremacy across multiple domains — maritime and subsurface, land, airborne and cyberspace.

Former NAVAIR commander Dyer was a crowd favorite as he delivered his presentation with Southern charm and timeless wit. He reviewed his popular 2003 “Pillars of a Good Program” manifesto, which still adorns many office walls at the command. He also shared his “Career Accelerators,” a list of provocative nuggets, such as “Never waste a crisis,” “Safe is risky” and “Get into a little trouble.”

Press Release, August 20, 2014; Image: Navair