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CorrDefense Featured Interview:

Q and A With Rear Admiral Thomas J. Eccles

Rear Admiral Thomas J. Eccles
Rear Admiral Thomas J. Eccles

In March 2009, officials at Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) announced a change in the way the Navy coats an array of ship tanks and voids, a process that accounts for the majority of NAVSEA’s corrosion costs. By September 30, 2009, NAVSEA officials mandated that all seawater ballast tanks on submarines, surface ships, and aircraft carriers in service must be coated with rapid-cure, single coat paint. In January 2009, NAVSEA also announced the appointment of Navy Corrosion Executive Dail Thomas to comply with the 2009 Defense Authorization Act.

In light of each of these seminal developments in the Navy’s battle against corrosion, the CorrDefense Editor at Large approached NAVSEA’s Chief Engineer, Rear Admiral (RADM) Thomas J. Eccles, on the subject of corrosion prevention. RADM Eccles shared his views about corrosion costs, what the Navy is doing to improve corrosion prevention on its fleet of ships, and how the Navy’s maintenance and engineering community feels about partnering with the acquisition community on new designs that minimize corrosion.

CorrDefense: How important is corrosion among the Navy’s predominant concerns?

Corrosion control is extremely important for us. Achieving continuous improvements in corrosion control is vital to the success of the CNO's [Chief of Naval Operations’] goal of building and sustaining a 313-ship fleet. Recent Congressional and DoD language has been written to ensure this importance, and the Navy has designated a Department of Navy Corrosion Executive. I see this development as monumental in that the Navy has made significant progress in corrosion, but there are also amazing opportunities for us to make further substantial advancements. I believe that balancing acquisition, maintenance, and, ultimately, life-cycle costs will be critical as the Navy fields new systems in the current economic environment.

CorrDefense: What actions have you taken or do you intend to take to address corrosion?

As NAVSEA Chief Engineer, I am fortunate to have an outstanding technical staff and a clear mandate from COMNAVSEA [Commander of Naval Sea Systems Command]. Vice Admiral McCoy has communicated the need to focus on coatings and corrosion as issues that eat up 25 percent of our total maintenance budget. Coatings and corrosion control improvements are underway, and the push for NAVSEA, the Fleet, and industry toward the use of new coatings technology and processes that save resources are being explored. Other initiatives have been stood up, including the Paint Task Force, the Mega Rust conference, and Painting Center of Excellence, which further the communication, emphasis, and technology development that the Navy needs.

CorrDefense: In your view, what element is key to reducing the cost of corrosion to the Navy?

I believe that the way to reduce corrosion is to better define strategies in order to sustain and afford maintaining the Fleet we have. The acquisition side is pretty straightforward and I am confident that we are going to make major improvements in the upfront design aspects. Sustaining the in-service Fleet for full, expected service life is where the real challenges lie.

CorrDefense: How important is it to emphasize corrosion early in the design stages of a new weapon system?

Emphasizing corrosion planning early in the acquisition cycle is a significant strategy in reducing total ownership costs. As stated in DoD Instruction 5000.02, “Each ACAT I program shall document its strategy in a Corrosion Prevention Control Plan. The Plan shall be required at Milestones B and C. Corrosion considerations shall be objectively evaluated throughout program design and development activities, with trade-offs made through an open and transparent assessment of alternatives.” With this update, the Navy is currently defining specifically where these parameters and decision points lie. Previously successful efforts in corrosion control prove that a significant long-term return on investment is achieved for each dollar spent on early, accurate design decisions.

CorrDefense: How important is it to get the Navy acquisition communities involved and interested in designing out corrosion up front? Second, how important would it be for the Navy to instill a greater sense of corrosion awareness among contractors who build the missile and radar systems?

It is essential to work with the acquisition community to make investments in corrosion prevention during the design of Navy systems. The engineering community is extraordinarily capable and is engaged with the Programs [within the Defense acquisition community] to define the most effective investments in materials selection and corrosion control. In the area of combat systems, we need to complete a cost of corrosion study and identify our primary metrics for a focused effort. I look forward to a lively discussion as we develop the plan ahead.

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