By: Samuel J. Cox Rear Adm., USN (retired) Director of Naval History, Curator for the Navy Director, Naval History and Heritage Command
It is with deep regret I inform you of the passing of Rear Admiral Dennis Michael “Denny” Dwyer, U.S. Navy (Retired) on April 14, 2020 at age 68. Denny entered the U.S. Naval Academy in June 1969 and served as an Engineering Duty Officer and Acquisition Professional until his retirement in October 2005 as Program Executive Officer for Aircraft Carriers.
Taking the oath of office at the U.S. Naval Academy on June 30, 1969, Midshipman Dwyer earned a Bachelor of Science in Operations Research, graduating and gaining his commission on June 6, 1973. Ensign Dwyer’s first assignment was Communications Officer on the guided-missile destroyer-leader Luce (DLG-7, later DDG-38) with two deployments to the Mediterranean and additional operations in the Caribbean. In September 1976, Lieutenant (junior grade) Dwyer reported to the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif. where he earned a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering and was selected to be an Engineering Duty Officer (EDO). In December 1970, Lt. Dwyer attended the Engineering Duty Officer School in Vallejo, Calif. In February 1979 he reported to the Naval Ship Engineering Center Washington, D.C. as a Project Officer, followed in April 1979 by duty at Naval Sea Systems Command as the Tactical Data Systems Project Officer.
In December 1981, Lieutenant Commander Dwyer reported to the Naval Electronic Systems Command as the Shipboard Integration Manager for Joint Tactical Information Distribution System (JTIDS). In October 1983, he became the Basic Course Director at the Engineering Duty Officer School in Vallejo. In November 1985, Lt. Cmdr. Dwyer was assigned to the Supervisor of Shipbuilding, Conversion and Repair, Newport News, Va. as Assistant Engineering and Combat Systems Officer, and he was promoted to commander in September 1987.
In March 1988, Cmdr. Dwyer assumed duty at Fleet Technical Support Center Atlantic as Combat Systems Officer, followed shortly thereafter in October 1988 as Combat Systems Officer at Naval Shipyard Norfolk, Va. with additional duty as Business Manager and Planning and Engineering Officer. In August 1991, Cmdr. Dwyer returned to Washington, D.C. as the Commander of the Naval Electronics Systems Security Engineering Center, responsible for U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard cryptographic equipment and computer security software.
In 1993, he was designated as an Acquisition Professional, and in August of that year reported to Director Strategic Systems Programs (SSP), Washington, D.C. as Head of the Trident Fire Control and Guidance Branch, and was promoted to Captain in September 1993. In April 1995, Captain Dwyer became the Executive Assistant to the Commander of the Naval Sea Systems Command. In October 1996, he returned to Strategic Systems Programs as Head of the Trident Missile Branch, and in 1997 became the Technical Director for SSP.
In April 2000 he was designated a rear admiral (lower half) for duties commensurate with that rank and that same month became the 10th Director of Strategic Systems Programs, responsible for the U.S. Navy’s sea-based deterrent missile systems, and the joint U.S./United Kingdom Polaris Missile Program. He was promoted to rear admiral (lower half) on November 1, 2000. In August 2002, Rear Adm. Dwyer became the 3rd Program Executive Officer for Aircraft Carriers, responsible for the development, acquisition and life-cycle maintenance of aircraft carriers and aviation platforms. He was promoted to Rear Admiral (two star) on October 1, 2002 and continued to serve as PEO Carriers until his retirement on October 1, 2005.
Rear Adm. Dwyer’s awards include, the Legion of Merit (at least two, although I can’t find his level of award retiring from PEO Carriers), Meritorious Service Medal (2), Navy Commendation Medal (2), Navy Achievement, and the National Defense Service Medal (2).
I can’t find information of Denny’s post-retirement employment, but from his obituary his time was extensively devoted to his family.
Rear Adm. Dwyer served our Navy and nation with distinction for over 36 years, many of them successfully grappling with the extremely challenging task of rapidly implementing cutting edge technology to stay ahead of adversaries. History shows that the “first in class” technological innovations in the U.S. Navy have been fraught with challenge, and in many cases led to technological dead ends at substantial cost and howls of critics who weren’t in the arena. Denny made his greatest contributions to our national security in the “no-margin-for-error” realm of strategic nuclear missiles and the high-wire act of developing the next generation of aircraft carrier. During his time as PEO Carriers, Denny was responsible for the delivery of the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) laying down the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) the Complex Nuclear Refueling Overhaul of USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) and the development of the “6 plus 2” carrier surge plan, which enabled the scale of the Navy’s carrier contribution to Operation Iraqi Freedom. However, as the late Congressman Murtha noted, Denny’s most lasting legacy will be the revolutionary design and advanced computer modeling for the CVN-21 (USS Gerald R. Ford-class) Program, which will get through the (historically less-than-normal) first-in-class teething problems and go on to provide many decades of extraordinary service to our nation in the same way Denny did. His legacy will most definitely live on.
Rest in Peace Admiral Dwyer.