Top Navy Boss Visits FAU

Kelly Tyko

When Secretary of the Navy Gordon England toured the FAU SeaTech Campus, he was thinking about the future of the U.S. Navy.

For the past few years, the Navy has funded FAU‘s ocean engineering program so they can develop new technology such as underwater unmanned submersibles. On Feb. 16, England spent about an hour looking at the research, which includes devices designed to chart enemy waters and seacraft and search for mines — devices that are being developed by FAU students and faculty.

“I think you’re going to see a continuing emphasis on unmanned craft in all branches of the armed forces, especially the Navy,” said England, mentioning that it is one of the Navy’s goals to minimize the number of crewmembers needed to operate its ships so that personnel aren’t at risk.

England was in Florida for the day for a few events including giving a speech at the Palm Beach Council of the Navy League earlier in the day and the 100th anniversary ball of the Navy League after his FAU visit.

England was impressed with the campus.

“It was well-worth my trip. It’s very impressive. We have a number of contracts with FAU. It’s all very valuable to us. They FAU have some programs that are very important to the Navy,” England said.

Currently, FAU receives $6.45 million in sponsored research projects under contracts with the Navy, NASA, the National Science Foundation and other agencies. Specialized areas of research include autonomous underwater vehicles, materials testing, sonar systems, underwater acoustics and hydrodynamics.

In December, in an article for Sea Power, the magazine of the Navy League of the U.S., England wrote, “We must continue the transformation of our naval services and write the next chapter in naval history. This will be partly an issue of finding and developing the next technologies needed to continue our evolution.”

Among the lines of his article, England also talked about the war: “The nation is at war. We need the best technology available at our disposal.”

It’s possible that these technologies could be developed at FAU. The first university in the nation to have an ocean engineering program, FAU‘s program has 14 faculty members and about 220 students.

Students and faculty who were thrilled at the chance to show England what they were about.

“It’s a good opportunity to show what we can do down here. I think we have some potential here,” said Professor Alexander Leonesse.

Student Miguel Vidal agreed that it was a good opportunity to show what they can do. “It’s pretty exciting, though it’s not really surprising that he came because we are a leading university.”