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Naval Secretary Discusses Role of Business in Military Success

Contact: Jeff Murphy
WARRENSBURG, MO (June 2, 2008) – Stressing the important role private businesses play in providing timely, quality products for the theater of operations, U.S. Secretary of the Navy Donald Winter presented the keynote remarks at Ike Skelton’s annual Procurement Conference. He spoke to a crowd of about 300 people who attended a luncheon Friday, May 30, in the University of Central Missouri’s Elliott Union.

U.S. Navy Secretary Donald Winter

Dr. Donald Winter

Delivery of Key Products Critical to Naval Successes

“Most of the business community, quite understandably, looks at the Navy as a business opportunity. But for us, the delivery of critically needed products, equipment, and services to the Navy and Marine Corps is much more than a matter of cash-flow and profits. We are supporting troops in the field who have gone into harms way,” Winter told the gathering.

He said quality is vital to maintaining fleets of ships and airplanes to ensure they are ready for combat. If parts and materials aren’t delivered on time, or if quality is impaired, it could mean halting or aborting an important mission.

“So, for us in the Department of the Navy, procurement is a very serious matter, much more than just business. We do want new companies to compete for Navy contracts, and in that regard, we need you. But it must be understood that the Department of Defense and the Department of the Navy have unique expectations,” he said.

Failure to Deliver Can Cost Lives

He noted that in the civilian world, in many cases, a deficiency in quality or failure to deliver a product on time is typically redressed financially. But, he added, “We’re different. Lives are on the line and no amount of financial payments can bring back a life. Mission accomplishment is the overriding objective, and that puts huge premium on quality and reliability.”

Winter said the best systems are not always the most complex or the most expensive. For example, he cited the AK-47, which was designed in the former Soviet Union, and became one of the most widely used firearms in military history, while also being known for its simplicity and affordability.

“Its amazing reliability under combat conditions is such that it is often considered one of the most successful weapons programs ever carried out. And that history contains lessons for our own Navy procurement program, lessons that I have tried hard to apply during my tenure as secretary,” Winter said. “In an age where our presence matters more than ever, reliability and the ability to maintain equipment in theater are at a premium.”

Market Driven Competition Aids in Development

He emphasized the value of a market-driven competition of ideas in helping to develop new concepts and new systems for the military, but noted that competitiveness has declined over the past 15 years with the consolidation of many companies.

“With fewer suppliers in the market, we have lost some flexibility, and we are looking at ways to expand the industrial base. We want you to bring your innovative ideas to our Navy,” he told the audience.

Winter is the 74th secretary of the Navy. As such, he is responsible for a $125 billion budget. He oversees the Affairs of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, including recruiting, equipping, training, mobilizing, and demobilizing. He also oversees the construction, outfitting and repair of naval ships, equipment and facilities.

Immediately following Winter’s remarks, he and Congressman Skelton left campus to attend another luncheon hosted by the Whiteman Air Force Base Community Council.

Skelton’s annual Procurement Conferences are coordinated on campus through the UCM Small Business and Technology Development Center as a way to help small business owners expand their markets by learning how to secure government contracts.