Executive Spotlight: Dr. Mark Lewellyn, JHU/APL Analysis Head, On the DoD Acquisition Frontier

Dr. Mark Lewellyn spent 30 years at the Center for Naval Analyses, where he earned the Navy Meritorious Public Service Award, prior to joining the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab to head the National Security Analysis Department.

In this position, Lewellyn is in charge of 200 personnel dedicated to defining emerging national security challenges, characterizing the operational context for future systems and assessing the effectiveness of new technologies, operational concepts and integrated systems on joint force effectiveness and national security policy.

In his Q&A with ExecutiveBiz, Lewellyn touches on important previous analysis work that he has done for the Defense Department, what he sees as current and emerging trends in the defense acquisition market and the unique capabilities of the facility he helps lead.

 

ExecutiveBiz:  Can you describe your position at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab and explain some of the contributions the Lab makes to the DOD and other federal agencies?

Dr. Mark Lewellyn:  I’ll start with a bit about the Laboratory itself.  The John Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab is known as a university affiliated research center (UARC) — a class of organizations that is governed by a management plan overseen by the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.  The management plan constrains the type of work that we do.

Basically, we do engineering, technology, research and development work primarily for the United States Department of Defense.  Our biggest sponsor within that world of sponsors is the United States Navy.

We are celebrating our 70th year of service to the nation.  And when we go back to our start, the very first thing that we worked on was the variable timing (VT) proximity fuse, which developed ordinance to destroy airplanes attacking Navy assets more effectively.  The VT fuse also could be used against moving ground targets such as enemy tanks.

The VT fuse was a great success.  The model for this success effectively combined development work done at APL with manufacturing in the private sector. We follow a similar model in much of the work we do today developing technologies in various areas of importance to our sponsors.

We also play what’s called a “trusted agent” role assisting in testing equipment that the private sector develops for the Navy or other sponsors.  When equipment is tested, we are often involved in helping to structure the tests and to collect and analyze the test data.

My role at the Lab is to head the National Security Analysis Department.  What we do here is a little bit different than what the rest of the Lab does.  Most of the folks at the Lab are involved, as I said, as engineers, testers, and developers of systems and technology.

Our  job in the National Security Analysis Department is to look for the trends that might affect the science and engineering work the Lab will be doing down the road.

We try to look out 10 to 20 years to identify what trends are coming that will affect what the Lab needs to be working on.  Of course, we also listen to what our sponsors say.  Many of them are looking out 10 to 20 years as well. Our work also draws on thinkers and leaders in the defense community more broadly — both inside and outside the government — to see what trends they are projecting as well.

 

ExecutiveBiz:  What sorts of weapons and technology do you think will be in the highest demand for the DOD going forward?

Lewellyn:  We are moving into a period where there is going to be more pressure on the defense budget. Proportionally less money is going to be spent on major end items such as ships and airplanes.  There will still be big programs, but several defense leaders have noted that we should focus on improving the systems that go on planes and ships that the Navy, in particular, already has.

Many of these systems and their associated technologies will focus on what people refer to as maintaining access.  How can we ensure that naval forces of the United States can go where they need to go and that we can maintain the oceans as the avenues of trade among nations?

There are similar issues for other elements of the global commons, space and cyberspace as well as the oceans.  What can we do to preserve access to cyberspace and defend our networks?  And what can we do to maintain our capability in space?  We rely heavily as a country on space not only for military purposes but also for commercial purposes.  What can we do to preserve our critical infrastructure in that area?

We also have a part of our work focused on improving the delivery of Navy healthcare.  We’ve got a small group of industrial engineers who are looking at ways to make Navy hospitals more efficient in the way they deliver care. This is a small piece of a larger issue that the country is worried about, namely, how to make healthcare more affordable for our citizens.

 

ExecutiveBiz:  Since Executive Mosaic’s 4×24 program is geared towards the executive, if you were in a room with some top level GovCon executives in some of these major firms, what advice would you give them about future military acquisitions?

Lewellyn:  I think unmanned systems will continue to be important. Some of the legal and policy dimensions of using unmanned air systems are already being raised in the press, of course, in terms of the government’s use of particular unmanned systems to attack terrorists.  APL is often engaged as a thought leader in discussions related to unmanned systems.

How should we use these capabilities going forward?  Might there be autonomous use of unmanned systems?  One can envision unmanned systems going out and coordinating with each other as opposed to being directed by humans.  What laws and policies might restrict such autonomy?

Technlogies that reduce weapon payloads such as directed energy and electromagnetic weapons will remain of interest as will understanding the best ways to defend our computer networks and cyber capability.

We continue to see growth in the cost of the all-volunteer force and looking at ways to reduce this growth, such as making the healthcare component more efficient, will be important.  Also, anything we can do to reduce the number of soldiers, seamen, airmen and marines. Executing our strategy in the long term will depend on our ability to buy the defense we need in an era of declining resources.

 

ExecutiveBiz:  Can you highlight some of your analysis that has affected acquisition decisions?

Lewellyn:  My personal work goes back a way – to the late 1970s.  One of the first big efforts I engaged in with the Marine Corps was a cost and operational effectiveness analysis of their procurement plan for wheeled vehicles — trucks.  And that might seem sort of boring when you compare it to airplanes and tanks and things of that sort.

But the Marines need a large number of vehicles – humvees and various sizes of trucks and trailers — to move their equipment around in the battlefield.  I took a comprehensive look at the number and types of wheeled vehicles the Marine Corps needed and their costs.  It was an interesting project that got reviewed, eventually, at the highest levels of the Marine Corps and influenced the purchase of thousands of vehicles.

Twenty-five years later, while still at C.N.A., I led an effort for the Navy to identify requirements for an enterprise IT system to replace the Navy and Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI), the Department of Navy’s current enterprise IT system.  And that was interesting as well.  Much of of what NMCI is used for is what we would call business as opposed to war fighting purposes.  This may seem mundane compared with some of the weapons systems I have worked on over my career.

But looking very carefully at what drives investments in IT and ways to lower or control those costs going forward was very interesting.

In between these efforts, I worked on a range of ship and aircraft acquisition projects.

Here at APL I have done less direct analytical work.  Members of my department are  doing the interesting work!

 

ExecutiveBiz:  You’ve won the Department of the Navy Meritorious Public Service Award, can you describe that, and what you think are your biggest accomplishments from your time at the C.N.A.?

Lewellyn:  That public service award was primarily for the work I did examining requirements for the replacement of NMCI.  That was several years of work that I found to be very challenging and interesting.  I also did some very interesting work on the Navy quadrennial defense reviews.  That was important for me because I found myself briefing some of my findings at very high levels, the Deputy Secretary of the Defense, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff level. Having some impact at high levels of decision-making was very satisfying for me because for most of my career I was being trained to answer questions at that level of government.

 

ExecutiveBiz:  You said you are mostly in a managerial role now and you lead an organization of about 200 people. Can you explain how you group this organization of 200 people and what makes the Lab unique?

Lewellyn:  In terms of my department at APL, we have four major technical groups that do the work.  These include a modeling, simulation and gaming group; an advanced concepts and irregular warfare group; a naval mission analysis group, and a resources and affordability group.

Most of APL’s technical staff work for four major sectors, which focus on force projection, air and missile defense, asymmetric operations, and space, respectively.  Each sector has around 900 people.

My department supports those four sectors by identifying future trends that will affect investments in their respective areas.  We do also lead studies, which we call cross-sector, that cut across the seams between one or more sectors.

For example, some of the work we’re doing on preserving access involves not only offensive systems of interest to our Force Projection Department but also defensive systems of interest to our Air and Missile Defense Department.

 

ExecutiveBiz:  Where do you get most of the talent that are currently working under your leadership? 

Lewellyn:  The Lab recruits the college/university graduate community as well as individuals with prior experience in business and/or government.  In addition to these sources, I recruit talent from other parts of APL.  These staff members have a fair amount of experience already that they’ve developed in their time at the Lab. Primarily, I am looking for folks with experience doing analytical and system engineering work in the national security arena.

 

ExecutiveBiz:  What makes the Warfare Analysis Laboratory unique and how does it aid in your mission? 

Lewellyn:  The Warfare Analysis Lab (WAL) was developed in the 1990s by one of my predecessors at APL.  It provides a venue for collaborative development of new operational concepts and strategies.  The Warfare Analysis Lab allows participants to listen to information being briefed or presented in some form and then comment on it via a group of networked laptops.  This allows junior officers to comment on statements that an admiral or a general might be making in a briefing more candidly than they otherwise might. These collaborative capabilities have proved to be powerful in terms of developing new ideas for addressing particular issues or problems be they technilogical, tactical, or operational.  And because all the comments and notes are captured on laptops and they’re non-attributable, we can get a good record of the real discussions that are going on during a meeting.

We can also do surveys and votes and collect information that can be used to help leaders from the Navy, other services, and civilian agencies of the government come to grips with some fairly difficult problems that involve cross-agency coordination issues.

In short, the WAL has proved to be a valuable tool that a lot of people use.  The Warfare Analysis Lab is in use about 80 percent of the time, generally at least four days a week.  By and large, the bulk of the customers are people in other sectors at the Lab or government, not just people in my department.

 

ExecutiveBiz:  You mentioned the process of The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab developing technologies and getting contractors to build them, can you explain that process in a little more detail?

Lewellyn: The way it generally works is that the Navy or some other government organization will come to us with a technical problem or an operational problem that may be addressed by a technical solution. We will work with the government sponsor to address the problem and in many cases will develop a prototype solution.  And if we are successful, then the government, in turn, will engage with industry to identify parties interested in manufacturing systems based on the prototype solutions.  Once they are contracted for through government processes, we will work with manufacturers in terms of technology transfer and coordination of development where required.

That’s generally the way things work.  We look to the government to be the main interface with the private sector.

 

ExecutiveBiz:  Is there anything else you’d like to touch on? 

Lewellyn: As I said at  my 4×24 orientation meeting, one of my goals is to get greater exposure to the thinking going on in the private sector in terms of what they see as emerging trends affecting national security.

A lot of trends these days, of course, arise in the private sector before they do in the government or the public sector, which was the opposite of the way things seemed to be when I started in this business back in the ’70s.

Many of the big developments were still coming out of government labs and government thinking, but that’s changed remarkably in the 35 years or so I’ve been in the business.  A lot of the creativity and thought leadership now is in the private sector.  I’m looking for ways to tap that as best as I can in terms of what’s generally available publicly.

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