Senate staffer: Devil's in the details with Navy's unmanned systems

By Audrey Decker / October 27, 2021 at 4:47 PM

There is a lot of promise in the Navy's unmanned systems and the potential cost savings, but the "devil's in the details" when it comes to unmanned, according to Jason Potter, professional staff member on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The Senate Appropriations Committee’s draft of the fiscal year 2022 defense spending bill, released last week, recommended cutting funding for the Navy’s LDUUV Snakehead, due to limited deployment opportunities.

The committee is also concerned about the Navy’s Extra Large UUV Orca program due to schedule delays.

“The SAC-D marked both the Orca and the Large [Displacement] Unmanned Underwater Vehicle and both of those have challenges realizing the thing that we want them to be,” Potter said today at a Navy League webinar.

“Orca started out as an urgent need in the 2016 timeframe and it hasn’t been able to do the things, to date, that we need it to do,” Potter said.

The Navy needs to break some of these complex systems down into smaller pieces and understand them first on land before taking them to sea, according to Potter.

Technology that’s ready to go shouldn’t be handcuffed, but time and money shouldn’t be wasted in the process, he added.

There isn’t consensus between the Navy, Congress and industry about the time it takes to develop these unmanned systems in a sustainable and responsible way, said Jen Stewart, senior vice president at WestExec Advisors and previously staff director for the House Armed Services Committee.

“I don’t think that we have, across that whole ecosystem of stakeholders, White House level, [Office of the Secretary of Defense] level, service level, congressional level, industry level, I don’t think we have consensus on those timelines yet,” Stewart said at the webinar today.