The NAC is kicking off a new blog series to bring you the latest information on all things related to the nation’s armaments priorities and needs. What better way to start things off than a Q&A with NAC Executive Director Charlie Zisette on our latest OTA partnership with Naval Surface Warfare Center – Indian Head Division (NSWC-IHD) on Energetics?

Q: For those that may have not heard about the Naval Energetics Systems and Technology Program, what should they know and why is it so important?

A: The Naval Energetics Systems and Technology Program is the first consortium-based, OTA program dedicated to energetic systems and energetic materials. It has the potential to unite the entire development community within the DOD and our U.S. Industrial Base. Under the leadership of the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Indian Head Division (NSWC-IHD), the NEST Program provides the linkage to our nearly 1000 member companies, encompassing the industrial base of energetic material developers, scalers and producers, including hundreds of Nontraditional Defense Contractors (NDCs).

The NEST OTA comes at a critical time. As our energetics infrastructure ages, there needs to be a collective conversation about the strategy to address all aspects of the energetic materials life cycle. Until now, no one organization has had the time to have such a broad focus on energetics. With Indian Head’s infrastructure, expertise and the technical capabilities, coupled with the broad, diverse, and complementary capabilities of our membership, I believe this collaborative effort is uniquely positioned to start the conversation and develop new technologies and products. I firmly believe this program will be a cornerstone of the overarching National Energetics Plan moving forward.

The vision of the NEST Program is to provide the U.S. warfighter with state-of-the-art technologies, prototypes, and products that support DoD and Naval energetic materials and systems with improvements to range, speed, kinetic effects, signatures, safety, detection, mitigation, storage and disposal.

Collaboration is the key to success.  The NEST Program will focus on innovation through collaboration, speed to capability, and the development of appropriate public-private partnerships.  Through our OTA model, NAC members collaborate with the DOD and each other to develop critically needed technologies and prototypes. This enables our NDCs, many of whom do not have the resources and capability to win government contracts through the FAR, to participate, collaborate, and innovate.

 

Q: The NAC, ATI and Indian Head Division made the initial announcement about NEST in late March. Fast forward to today- where does the program stand and what comes next?

Since our initial OTA award announcement, we have been working diligently with our partners at ATI and NSWC-IHD to build out the NEST organization and key organizational and business processes. Thanks to the excellent work from our Consortium Management Firm, ATI, and the forward leaning leadership and staff at Indian Head Division, I am happy to report that the NEST program is on-line and ready to go.

We now have a defined process from requirement submission through awards. The technical infrastructure is now in place to support that process. Additionally, Indian Head is hard at work developing the first set of requirements. We are very excited to announce that those requirements will be shared with our members at the NEST’s first collaboration event to be held in National Harbor, MD at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center on August 24th-26th.

I am proud of the progress we have made to this point. This is because of the commitment from all levels at Indian Head Division, which is moving full speed ahead toward the first set of requirements.

 

Q: The Navy and other DOD Centers and laboratories, have specific resources dedicated to Armaments. What makes this program different?

The thing that makes the NEST Program different is that it is focused on the critically important energetics component of all armaments. Energetics includes precursors, ingredients, propellants, pyrotechnics, explosives, bombs, warheads, fuzes, munitions, propulsion systems, cartridge activated devices, explosive ordnance disposal, insensitive munitions, safety, and a broad list of process and manufacturing technology, critical materials, supply chain, and national R&D and production capabilities and capacities. The fact that there is no commercial “energetics industry” that matches the DOD requirements, coupled with the fact that the DOD relies on its private sector partner companies to help meet its needs, makes the nature of energetics unique. The NEST Program will focus on strengthening these relationships to meet the Department of the Navy’s and DOD’s needs and goals in this critical area.

 

Q: NSWC-Indian Head is the pre-eminent player in this space for the Department of the Navy (Navy and Marine Corps). Can you speak to the opportunity for your member companies to collaborate with them to solve major challenges?

The opportunities for our members abound. Starting with the obvious: prototyping. At the end of the day, this is why we are doing this — to advance the state of the art in energetics in support of the men and women in the U.S. Navy.

Naval Surface Warfare Center, Indian Head Division (NSWC IHD) is the Center solely focused on Energetics, Energetics Manufacturing, and is the home of the Joint Service Program Offices for EOD and CAD/PAD. The installation is actively participating in R&D, scale-up, and the production of energetic materials. To be able to collaborate with a partner with infrastructure, scientists and engineers on that scale is an exciting opportunity for our members.

 

Q: What are some of the under the radar challenges that the NEST program can address?

One of the key challenges the NEST can help address is rebuilding our domestic, organic capability to develop and manufacture the energetic materials our armed forces need. How do we minimize our current reliance on overseas chemical manufacturing that could put us at a strategic disadvantage? This is a very real concern.

Of further concern, are our near-peer, or peer, competitors depending on who you ask. Russia and China are emphasizing these areas so we must do what is necessary to achieve a dominant position in energetics materials, technologies and systems. At the NAC, I believe that our membership has the will and the capability to produce what we need organically to achieve that position.

Finally, I believe there is a real need to develop the next generation of scientists and engineers who make this all possible. The NEST Program can be the forum through which we attract the best and the brightest to strengthen and replenish the bench. We do this by using the combined capabilities of the Department of Defense and the NEST Program to start having technical symposia where current scientists can share their work to inspire the next wave of innovators.

These challenges require ambitious goals to address them, that said, I have the utmost confidence in our industrial base, and NSWC IHD, and that we can work collaboratively to solve them through the NEST Program.