William Blackburn, customer advocate at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Newport, has received the 2013 Bronze Medal from the National Defense Industrial Association. The medal recognizes outstanding individual achievements in science or engineering in the field of undersea warfare.
Blackburn, a computer scientist with 30 years of experience, has built a reputation as an expert for the Virginia Class Submarine Program and is recognized as a dedicated and skilled manager. He holds a B.A. in mathematics from Westfield State University and an M.A. in program management from the Naval Postgraduate School.
PBN: What do you find most rewarding or interesting about the program?
BLACKBURN: The most rewarding aspect is continuing the great tradition of the program. The tradition represents a diligent work ethic to deliver the best submarines in the world. When I came onboard in 2009, NUWC had a great team that supported the construction and development of Virginia submarines. I think we have continued that and even improved it in many areas. The interesting thing about working the Virginia program is the diversity of technical areas.
PBN: How did you become interested in undersea-warfare weapons systems?
BLACKBURN: Test and evaluation was one of the first opportunities I had for managing people. Test and evaluation on major weapon systems gave me the chance to work and learn about the entire system and see the impact of small changes on a large-scale system. It was during this time that I made the decision to get my master’s degree to learn more about program management rather than personnel/branch management. That is the great advantage of working at NUWC. There are opportunities everywhere and multiple paths to achieve them.
PBN: You manage a $100 million annual budget for the Virginia Class Submarine Program, a large staff and all the end-to-end facets of the submarine system. What has been the biggest challenge?
BLACKBURN: Mostly staying connected to all the customers. Every day, there could be a new issue that needs to be addressed. I meet these demands by seeing the issues through to the end. I also have a great respect for my customers in Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) and don’t want to let them down in any way. That helps me to keep my energy and focus on the tasks at hand. •