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Magnetic Silencing Complex Opens with Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony

Wavelengths: An Employee's Digest of Events and Issues (NAVSEA Carderock)

October/November 2002

By William Palmer

WEST BETHESDA-On October 7, under a blue sky and a white tent, a dedication was held to commemorate the opening of the Magnetic Silencing Complex.

This facility is crucial to the mission and safety of Navy ships and their crews, because its unique features help reduce steel-hulled vessels' susceptibility to magnetic-influence underwater mines and magnetic detection systems. It does this by measuring magnetic fields of physical scale models of ships and submarines, to validate analytical models used in the design of signature control systems and lead to system evaluation with full-scale measurements on ships and submarines.

The value to the Navy is the design of affordable and effective signature control systems with minimal expensive full-scale testing. Another valuable feature of this complex is that it is sized to accept actual shipboard components and provides a means of rapid testing and analyzing of prototype equipment under actual operating conditions prior to permanent installation in the Fleet. The facility can also simulate the ambient magnetic field properties of any geographic location on Earth, adding to the base of information about how a steel-hulled vessel would fare magnetically at a remote duty station.

Captain Steven Petri, Carderock Division Commander, said, "The 21st Century facility looks to the future and supports the capabilities that we know the Next Navy, and the Navy After Next are going to need. That's exactly what this facility has been designed to do and built to do, and will do, with the men and women of Carderock Division to make it work." Also, these unique capabilities make this complex the only one of its kind in the Navy's research and development inventory.

The facility is also an important addition to the Division, because, for the first time, magnetic silencing scientists, engineers and technicians, relocated by BRAC base closings and brought here, are able to work under a single collective, dedicated-facility roof. The complex and the personnel who work there will be reorganized under the Signatures Directorate, Code 70, an organization which already deals heavily and directly with signatures of both submarines and surface ships.

Completed after extensive planning, surveying and construction, the complex was officially opened for business with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, attended by U.S. Senator Paul Sarbanes (D-MD); Congresswoman Constance Morella, Maryland's 8th Congressional District representative; Rear Admiral Mike Mathis, Commander of the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC); Mary Lacey, Technical Director of NSWC; Petri; Gary Jebsen, Signatures Directorate Head; Pete Brown, NAVSEA Executive Director; former NSWC Technical Director Dr. Ira Blatstein; Gregg Hagedorn (NAVSEA 05B); and approximately 200 guests, including employees, sponsors, and retirees.

Sarbanes lauded the excellence with which the Division has approached its many projects, particularly in the area of magnetic silencing. "Today's ceremony marks an important milestone in the long and distinguished history of the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division," he said to the audience. "The origin of this complex that we dedicate today can be traced back to WWII when the need arose to develop countermeasures for German mines triggered by magnetic fields. The Navy chose to place these research and development efforts here in Maryland, and cutting-edge laboratories were established both at Annapolis and White Oak. Many critical innovations in the field of magnetic silencing were brought about by those working at these laboratories. And we were able to bring magnetic silencing scientists and engineers together here in order to carry on this very important research with respect to magnetic silencing. I'm certain that the work that is done in these new buildings will continue to advance our understanding of this complex science, and further the capabilities and safety of our Navy, and we are deeply appreciative to all of you in that regard."

Morella cited the exciting educational possibilities now available for Washington area students because of the presence of the new complex: "I recently commended the mentorship program that the Division had set up with Winston Churchill High School, which allowed students to intern with some of the most talented Navy scientists. The students, because of that, have a tremendous opportunity to pursue actual research projects in a real-world lab environment working under the direction of some of the Navy's finest experts in ship and submarine technology. And now, these students may have an even more amazing environment to study in, with the addition of the Magnetic Silencing Complex. I do want to commend you for the work you do with young people, as somebody who cares very much about our military and civilian personnel that are in our public sector."

Petri said during the ribbon-cutting ceremony, "I'm proud to host this significant event, for this marks both a beginning and an end. It's an end in that it's one of the final stages we've come through from Base Realignment and Closure activities of the late '90s, where the former Naval Ordnance Laboratory at White Oak, and the former Carderock Division detachment at Annapolis were relocated here, and put in this brand new state-of-the-art facility."

Mathis commented, "A lot of hard work has gone into this organization. It's an esoteric science, very complex, but absolutely vital as we fight what is still a very viable threat out there in our oceans." He then presented Code 75 department head Gilbert Garduno with a folded American flag, encased in a shadow box. This particular flag was flown first over the White Oak facility, then at Annapolis.

Lacey spoke of the sacrifice NSWC employees had made to bring this facility to fruition. "I was at the Annapolis closing and at the White Oak closing," she said. "Both of them were bittersweet events. I realize that it meant that many of you had to make personal sacrifices in moving from one place to another place, but I'm glad you did. Because what we're here to celebrate today is the fact that you all have met the nation's needs by bringing together pieces of Annapolis and White Oak to continue to make sure that our Sailors are protected. Silence is golden when it comes to the signatures of our ships and submarines, but again, facilities don't just make that happen. Carderock Division is also one of the hotbeds of creative thinking and spin-off technologies. You folks were the ones who came up with ideas around special metals and special materials that have unusual applications, and by bringing together the new sciences and some of the new thinking from both mathematics and physics, you're able to take a very complex problem and reduce it to a tractable practice."

After the dignitaries finished their comments, a red, white and blue ribbon, stretched across the walkway between Buildings 81 and 82, was cut, officially opening the complex.

Three buildings comprise the new complex. Building 80, the Electromagnetic Signature Facility, is on the north side of Bill Morgan Road. Building 80 has office space for engineers and scientists, and additional laboratories, such as the Electrolytic Tank Lab, where the electrical potential, or the ability of dissimilar metals to chemically generate small voltages, of scale models of surface ships and submarines is measured.

Buildings 81 and 82, the Magnetic Fields Laboratory and the Deperming and Assembly Building, respectively, are on the south side of Bill Morgan Road. Building 81 houses two independent facilities. One, the Full-Scale Measurement facility, tests full-size shipboard equipment for magnetic properties, and the other, the Large Scale Model facility, has a structure which can test specially-built models of a ship or submarine. These models can be up to 12 feet long and weigh as much as 1,000 pounds. In Building 82, magnetized items as large as 24 feet long can be magnetically neutralized, or depermed. The full-scale half of Building 81 and all of Building 82 can support equipment weighing as much as 44 tons.

A fourth part of the facility, the Background Sensor Building, is a small structure located beside Building 80, and houses a very sensitive instrument which senses the Earth's magnetic field in the area of the complex. This sensor acts as a "baseline" by which to compare magnetic field strength measurements conducted in other buildings of the complex.

The firm of Hayes, Seay, Mattern and Mattern, of Roanoke, VA, designed the buildings with direction from the Naval Facilities Command Engineering Field Activity, Chesapeake. J.A. Jones Management Services Company constructed the complex, with construction costs totaling $7.6 million.

Two men in particular are glad to see the new facility come to life. They are department head Garduno, and surface ship electromagnetic Program Manager Michael Gresco (754). Garduno said, "The facilities are now being used, and we have sponsors availing themselves of our technical capabilities in terms of both people and facilities. The basic fact is that we have been able to preserve the core of our talented workforce. When BRAC happened, people had to move. We lost a minimal amount of people, so we still had a strong pool of talented scientists and engineers. Now we have the facilities where they can conduct their work in a more effective way, and we are poised for the future. That is the key thing for me."

Gresco echoed the satisfaction of having the facility up and running: "Right now, we have funded projects for both the Large-Scale Model facility and the Full-Scale Measurement facility in Building 81, and we're looking to get continuing work for both surface ship and submarine sponsors. We're also getting contacts from some shipyards and private-sector concerns who would like to use our facility for making measurements on their equipment. I think this will develop into part of the business base as well."

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