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Many Issues Cloud the Future for the Military

January 31, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman
E-mail About the Author
  • John Smart, president of the Acceleration Studies Foundation, tells the keynote luncheon audience that dramatic change is evolutionary and inevitable.
     John Smart, president of the Acceleration Studies Foundation, tells the keynote luncheon audience that dramatic change is evolutionary and inevitable.

West 2013 Online Show Daily, Day 2

Quote of the Day: “How can you help me make the least-dumb decisions quicker?”—Terry Halvorsen, chief information officer (CIO) for the Department of the Navy, requesting cyber security solutions from industry

The defense budgetary crisis is one day closer in time yet no closer to a resolution, but other issues confront defense leaders as they address a major transitional period for the U.S. military. Action items ranging from cybersecurity to personnel retention all require action as the military winds down from a decade of war only to face draconian spending cuts.

The second day of AFCEA/USNI West 2013 in San Diego returned to the budget issues, but on this day other topics were covered by two keynote speakers and three panels. Unlike the first day, when audiences were hit with blunt assessments about sequestration and continuing resolutions, Wednesday’s discussions delved into more detail about the budget effects and other issues.

Innovation was a key topic for both a panel discussion and a keynote address. The dichotomy for the defense community is that, while it needs innovation more than ever with the budget crisis looming, the military is structured to inhibit or even reject innovative activities.

In the panel discussion, Rear Adm. Terry B. Kraft, USN, commander of the Navy Warfare Development Command, pointed out that large organizations find it difficult to embrace innovation, as they prefer stability to change. Maj. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., USMC, Marine Corps representative to the quadrennial defense review, enlarged on that statement by noting that military organizations are hierarchal—and hierarchal organizations tend to punish those who challenge the hierarchy, such as innovators.

Panelists discussing the need for innovation in the military are (l-r); Dr. Matthew E. Gaston, director, Software Engineering Institute Innovation Center; Maj. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., USMC, Marine Corps representative to the quadrennial defense review; Rear Adm. Matthew L, Klunder, USN, chief of naval research; Rear Adm. Terry B. Kraft, USN, commander of the Navy Warfare Development Command; and panel moderator Jay M. Cohen, principal, The Chertoff Group.

Adm. Kraft noted that the military used to drive innovation. Now that role is performed by the private sector. The admiral called for making innovation a culture that will empower change.

Gen. McKenzie added that people innovate when they feel threatened. The Marine Corps, which operates “in a boundary condition” that is turbulent and chaotic, constantly feels threatened organizationally, so it often turns to innovation.

Panelists noted that several systems already have the potential to bring revolutionary changes to warfighting. Gen. McKenzie cited the MV-22 Osprey as a game-changing platform that “will have profound effects in the Pacific.” Another system that may generate benefits not yet envisioned is the F-35b fighter aircraft.

Adm. Kraft offered that systems that enable better management of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) may be key to warfighting. The ability to manage ISR is all the more important “when the first person who sees the other will have a significant advantage,” he stated.

On the heels of that panel came a keynote luncheon address that delved deeply into the very essence of innovation. John Smart, president of the Acceleration Studies Foundation, told the audience that 95 percent of change is evolutionary in that it comes from the bottom up. The top two drivers of change are information technology and nanoscience/nanotechnology, Smart said, adding that these two will have revolutionary effects that will touch on all corners of society.

Ultimately, society will undergo a revolutionary change based on networking. Smart predicted that, by 2040, 2 billion children will be learning to speak English through the use of wristborne personal computers that will display translations and accompanying imagery to their users. With this capability, these 2 billion will become employable in a range of professions in the Western world.

The driver for this development will be Google distributing wrist PCs worldwide, Smart said. As a result, these children will be connected with each other and with all others who are networked, one way or another. This ubiquitous networking will spawn network groups of individuals who will develop groupthought as information cells. It will affect mental illness and treatment, as sufferers can be connected to “normal” people who would help them reorient their thinking. Alternatively, it could have negative effects as well, Smart warned, citing the al Qaida cell in Hamburg that hatched the 9/11 attack plans as a result of its members’ personal networking.

Smart closed his presentation by challenging the U.S. Navy to implement a global sea service—not a military service, but an architecture that serves the global populace. The Navy would offer a Google-type information service to the world by organizing its diverse data in a form that would serve individuals, businesses and people. The Navy would create a public geospatial information system (GIS) map of the oceans and populate it with vital information—all unclassified—that would be useful for anyone entering the maritime environment.

No suggestion was offered on how that system would be funded, and funding issues were discussed in other panels and speeches. Navy and Marine Corps officers on a panel discussing how to recruit and retain the best people admitted that concern over the fiscal crisis is affecting existing personnel. Lt. Cdr. (sel) Andrew B. Koy Sr., USN, deputy executive assistant, commander, Naval Surface Forces, Pacific Fleet, related that a 2nd class petty officer already had asked what the continuing resolution would mean for his ship. That level of awareness among sailors illustrates the concern they have for ramifications from the budget cuts. Lt. Brendan O. Negle, USN, officer, Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures Standardization, added that the information is available, so even junior sailors will draw their own conclusions.

And, while cyber has been cited as the one defense arena that actually may see its funding increase, any growth in its spending will affect other areas. Terry Halvorsen, chief information officer (CIO) for the Department of the Navy, declared plainly that there is no new money; there is less. If the services spend more on cyber, then it will have to come from somewhere else.

Halvorsen added that the Navy will need to make decisions in the short term that will not be good in the long term. Addressing industry, he asked, “How can you help me make the least-dumb decisions quicker?”

Amid all the discussions about fiscal Armageddon, the cyberspace threat and the need for technological innovation, one Wednesday speaker did address issues stated in the conference theme of the strategic rebalancing toward the Pacific region. Adm. Cecil D. Haney, USN, commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, described how the Pacific Fleet is trying to address its new mission areas. This includes an enhanced ability to operate in a contested environment with low-signature interoperability, as well as being able to integrate data to deliver integrated fires rapidly.

Yet, budget issues loom large with that fleet as well. Adm. Haney stated that both the continuing resolution and sequestration offer distinct challenges to the fleet’s ability to meet its obligations amid the strategic rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific region.

Sequestration is “a whole new ballgame,” the admiral said. It could bring an additional $4 billion to $5 billion in cuts this year alone. And, if both the continuing resolution and sequestration are coupled together, the result will be a true worst-case scenario.

Coming up on the final day of West 2013: Three blockbuster events: a cyber fireside chat with the deputy defense CIO and the deputy commander of the U.S. Cyber Command; a luncheon town hall with the service chiefs of the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard; and a panel on the Chinese Navy.

 

 

 

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