Quote of the Day: “It's not a war that we can win as a coalition—it's a war that must be won by moderate Muslims.”—Gen. James T. Conway, USMC, commandant of the Marine Corps, on the Global War on Terrorism

February 8, 2008

West 2008 Online Show Daily
Day 3
By Robert K. Ackerman

Gen. James T. Conway, USMC, commandant of the Marine Corps, speaker at the Fast-track Breakfast Address on the final day of West 2008.

Everyone—soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and civilians—is a combatant in the Global War on Terrorism. While military personnel take the fight to the enemy overseas, civilians on the home front have their own duties to deny success to extremist evildoers.

That message was hammered home by speakers and panelists on the final day of West 2008, the annual conference and exposition sponsored by AFCEA International and the U.S. Naval Institute. Discussion points ranged from how the services face challenges adapting to this new type of warfare, to how commercial capabilities and technologies affect homeland security.

One panelist even offered that the U.S. government might shut down cellular service to an entire city if it believes that the population is in imminent danger from a weapon of mass destruction that might be triggered remotely.

Gen. James T. Conway, USMC, Marine Corps commandant, characterized the Global War on Terrorism as far-reaching and long-term. Iraq and Afghanistan are the front lines in this long war, but leaving those two battlefronts will not end the war—the terrorists will take their fight elsewhere, probably to the homeland United States. These terrorists hate America and Americans with such a passion, they will continue to try to kill us relentlessly, the general charged.

Gen. Conway cited progress in Iraq, noting that many areas have seen the populace turn against the terrorists and help coalition forces pacify once-difficult regions. However, while the tide may have turned in Iraq, the trend is in the opposite direction in Afghanistan. Where in the past the Taliban used to conduct hit-and-run operations, it now is holding ground in several areas.

The fight in Afghanistan is ideally suited for the Marine Corps, its commandant declared. The conflict is expeditionary and operations tend to be off-road and in rugged terrain. However, the Corps cannot operate effectively in both Afghanistan and Iraq simultaneously, so its troops would need to leave Iraq    to apply force in Afghanistan.

Information security and cyberwar were the topics covered by a panel comprising (r to l) moderator Vice Adm. Herbert A. Browne, USN (Ret.), former deputy commander, U.S. Space Command and former AFCEA CEO; Brig. Gen. Jon Davis, USMC, deputy commander, Joint Functional Component Command (network warfare), U.S. Space Command; Rear Adm. Janice Hamby, USN, director of global operations (N3), Naval Network Warfare Command; David Wennergren, deputy assistant secretary of defense and deputy CIO; and Steve Cooper, former chief information officer, Department of Homeland Security.

And, the Corps’ expeditionary nature is in need of a boost. Gen. Conway warned that the Corps has an entire generation of Marines who are combat-hardened but never have set foot on a ship. The Corps is losing expertise and is becoming “out of whack” with its expeditionary nature, he charged. They have become land warriors, and they need to get back to a lighter, faster Marine Corps.

The relationship between the Marine Corps and industry is pretty good, the general allowed. Two things sit atop the Marine Corps’ wish list: a way to defeat improvised explosive devices, and a new helmet that can stop a 7.62-millimeter round that is the favorite of enemy snipers. Gen. Conway also called for the development of asymmetric ways of countering the enemy’s own asymmetric warfare tactics.

Technology, particularly from the commercial sector, will be one of the key tenets in the strategy to defeat terrorism, said a former U.S. Army general now working for the world’s largest software company. Lt. Gen. John M. McDuffie, USA (Ret.), vice president, U.S. Public Sector, Microsoft Corporation, said that technology standards are key to an enterprise as large as the Defense Department, and much remains to be done in that arena.

Lt. Gen. John M. McDuffie, USA (Ret.), vice president, U.S. Public Sector, Microsoft Corporation, gives a luncheon audience the commercial technology perspective.  
Gen. McDuffie stated that technology exists to drive collaboration, but the Defense Department “must get serious about [collaboration].” Existing technologies can run mobile systems on the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNET)—“It should already have been here,” he charged.

For future technologies, visualization tools will evolve and change everyone’s lives, Gen. McDuffie predicted. Coupling geospatial technologies with simulation will lead to incredible capabilities. Parallel computing holds great promise for solving the problem of excessive heat generation from increasingly dense processors.

However, the United States is threatened by its increasingly lackadaisical attitudes about government-funded research and development. Bell Laboratories achieved many breakthroughs over the years, but now that largely is history. Microsoft alone spends $7 billion on research, and the government must find a way to leverage that and other commercial research and development, he warranted.

—Plan now for West 2009, to be held February 10-12 in San Diego, California.

Full coverage of West 2008 can be read in the April 2008 issue of SIGNAL Magazine.