(by Nick Chiosie) In follow up with Dr. Wells’ “Celebration of 50 Years of Federal Service” last Wednesday, I recently sat down with Dr. Linton Wells to discuss his 50 years of service and the project he started, TIDES.
Q: What was behind your decision to join the Navy?
Dr. Wells: I can tell you that I knew from a young age that is what I wanted to do. I remember when I was in 7th grade one of my favorite hobbies was educating myself about ship design, ship building, and the like, it just seemed like a good place to start and build upon an already established interest. It was something that fascinated me early on and when I was old enough I made a personal decision to go to the Naval Academy. Essentially, have the Navy further my interests and come out of it with an ability to advance other goals that I had obtained through the years.
Q: What was your favorite place that you have traveled while you were in the Navy?
Dr. Wells:Well, I now that is a very difficult question to answer. While I was in the Navy I traveled to many places and each destination I hold special for various reasons. There are places that I traveled to that hold a personal sentiment towards because of the time and age I was when I traveled there. When I was younger, 14-16 years old I lived and studied on a transatlantic cruise liner, where I traveled across the Mediterranean multiple times as well. I have crossed the Atlantic 28 times so when I think back to my time in the Navy when we would have port call in all these places I was already familiar with it brought back good memories that I had as a kid. Because of the destinations that I traveled to as a kid when I later went back to them again when I was in the Navy it was a great experience. With that said, Japan and Singapore are also fantastic places to travel to as well. Both places are beautiful and have such rich backgrounds. They are truly amazing places to visit. I don’t think I will be able to give you my all-time favorite but I can say that the Mediterranean, Japan, and Singapore are my top 3 if you are forcing me to give you an answer.
Q: Why did you start TIDES program?
Dr. Wells: I ended up working for the Secretary of Defense for over 16 years and I was getting tired of watching those in need, die. People were dying from basic necessities, such as food, clean water, shelter, too hot/too cold, power, light, sanitation and information communication technology. People who wanted to help where out there and technology is always being developed but developing cross cutting strategies on how to effectively utilize resources weren’t being addressed. Like all operations, people get channelized when working on a project and although they see the big picture sometimes it is difficult to elicit change on a grand scale when you get stuck because a specific problem is not ‘in your lane’. I always told myself that if I ever got into the position, I would try to addresses the specific issues that I saw within Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Relief. One of which was the need to reach out and build upon public-private partnerships. As we know not all innovations and solutions come from within one firm of agency. The larger network there is, the larger pool of talent that we can draw from in providing and implementing sustainable solutions within disaster relief and humanitarian aid.
Q: What would you have done differently when TIDES was getting started?
Dr. Wells: Everyone that helped build TIDES and the larger STAR-TIDES network has been unbelievable. The amount of effort and dedication that everyone had getting TIDES off the ground was simply amazing. That said, I believe that during my time at Office of Secretary of Defense I would have built up more institutional support for TIDES. There is plenty there now but as with all ventures, the more people know about it, the more willing they are to be on board. As is the case most of the time, it is easier to elicit change from within an organization rather than outside of it.
Q: How do you see TIDES progressing in the future?
Dr. Wells: Right now TIDES is poised for a significant take off and hopefully will in the near future. Our website is being reconstructed so it will be easier to navigate technologies and resources that we have at our disposal that the larger community can use. Also the website will include a database that will allow the larger STAR-TIDES community to access technology and innovative ideas easier than before. The staff here at CTNSP have been fantastic with bringing in new organizations into the STAR-TIDES network and really letting people know what it is we are trying to accomplish here. The DoD recognizes our importance here at TIDES and we can leverage that standing to effect more sustainable change in a wider area. The low-cost, rapidly deployable and collaborative solutions that STAR-TIDES brings to the table, are significant in an austere environment that we are currently in. In the coming year I believe that we will be able to catalyze delivery of technology and solutions on many fronts in an extremely diverse environment.