Posted: April 3, 2017 3:20 PM

Task Force Aims to Advance Navy Ocean Science, Understanding

By JOHN C. MARCARIO, Seapower Special Correspondent

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — As adversaries continue making gains in understanding ocean and atmosphere variabilities, the U.S. Navy has established Task Force Ocean to try stem the tide.

“We want to right the ship here, and that’s exactly what we are going to do,” Rear Adm. Timothy C. Gallaudet, Oceanographer of the Navy, said during an address at the 2017 Sea-Air-Space Exposition at the Gaylord Convention Center.

The task force, which was announced on March 24, is part of an effort to further assess the state of ocean science in the Navy, which encompasses its oceanographic infrastructure, technologies, technical workforce and how they are applied to naval operations. 

Gallaudet said the primary focus will be undersea, but he wants to advance the Navy’s understanding of the ocean and atmosphere, and their ability to exploit that knowledge for a competitive advantage.

“Why now? Our competitors are catching up, especially in the undersea fight,” he said.

Specifically, adversaries are using survey ships, unmanned vehicles and are using modeling to understand the ocean better. “They are equaling, or coming up very closely, in their efforts to predict and to observe the environment. … Our adversaries are catching, up so we want to stay ahead,” Gallaudet said.  

Gallaudet and Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. David Hahn will co-chair an executive steering committee for Task Force Ocean comprised of senior leadership representatives from U.S. Fleet Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet, the U.S. Naval Academy and Naval Post Graduate School, the Navy said.

The executive steering committee will develop a five-year ocean science roadmap designed to advance ocean science that supports the Navy's mission.

The findings will focus on the Navy’s capability to observe the ocean environment, process the collected data into products that can be used by operational commanders and further strengthen the Navy’s ocean science technical workforce. 

Gallaudet said resources being allotted to understanding the ocean and the atmosphere has declined over the last three-plus decades.

“Industry is outpacing the Department of Defense. … We have kind of gutted the force” he said. 

About 5 percent of the world’s oceans have been explored, and 20 percent of the world’s sea floor has been mapped to modern standard. Gallaudet said there’s a lot of information that we don’t know and the Navy needs to have a better understanding of it.

The Office of the Oceanographer of the Navy is the chief of naval operations’ resource, requirements and policy adviser for the Navy’s oceanography program. The oceanographer also serves as the Navy’s senior policy adviser for issues related to national ocean policy, governance and interagency ocean activities.

The Office of Naval Research reports to the secretary of the navy through the assistant secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition.

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