SIGNALScape

Fiscal Crisis Threatens Military Recruitment, Retention

January 30, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman
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The looming fiscal crisis that threatens to eviscerate defense budgets may be starting to have an effect on the personnel who are on active duty. Some service members are beginning to question what impact the budget cuts will have on their units, and others are concerned that force reductions might affect their own military goals.

A Wednesday panel at AFCEA/USNI West 2013 on "what will it take to keep the best of the best" related how the uncertainty is beginning to grip the force. Navy leaders cannot address these concerns in large part because they do not know exactly which catastrophic budget scenario will unfold.

Lt. Cmdr. (sel) Andrew B. Koy Sr., USN, deputy executive assistant, commander, Naval Surface Forces, Pacific Fleet, said that the Navy must empower its leadership teams with honest assessments. He 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.

Panel moderator Vice Adm. James M. Zortman, USN (Ret.), former commander, Naval Air Forces, noted that this uncertainty comes at a time of significant and unrelated change. He pointed out that, for the first time in U.S. history, the country is coming out of an extended conflict and will be reconstituting the force using volunteers exclusively.

Futurist Calls for U.S. Navy to Go Global to the Public

January 30, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman
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The U.S. Navy could offer a Google-type information service to the world by organizing its diverse data in a form that would serve individuals, businesses and people. This would place the Navy in the realm of geospatial information system (GIS) providers whose services are sweeping the globe.

This brand innovation challenge was offered by John Smart, president of the Acceleration Studies Foundation. Speaking to the Wednesday keynote luncheon audience at AFCEA/USNI West 2013 in San Diego, Smart suggested that the Navy could become an agent of change by organizing data collected by its numerous sensor systems and making it available to the public at large.

The service would be built around the concept of open, safe, lawful and sustainable seas for all people, Smart said. The Navy would create a public GIS map of the oceans and populate it with vital information—all unclassified—that would be useful for anyone entering the maritime environment.

This product would comprise grid maps bearing information fed by Navy-run sensors. It would be improved as new means of collecting data generated more expansive information. The Navy would design the information architecture for the system and maintain it as a global public service.

Innovation Is Evolutionary, Not Directed

January 30, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman
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Change is coming, and it will define its arrival despite best efforts to manage it. As much as 95 percent of change is evolutionary in that it comes from the bottom up. Innovation is happening constantly, and everyone must pay attention to it.

John Smart, president of the Acceleration Studies Foundation, offered those strategic outlooks in the Wednesday keynote luncheon at AFCEA/USNI West 2013 in San Diego. A series of technologies are driving change, and people and organizations must pay attention to those long-term changes.

The top two drivers of change are information technology and nanoscience/nanotechnology, Smart offered. These two will have revolutionary effects that will touch on all corners of society. Other drivers include resource technology, engineering technology and health technology. In some cases, innovation will be cross-pollinated among these drivers.

Smart cited as an example Google Glass, which will equip people with eyeglass-borne cameras that will record whatever they see. People will use this without thinking where it might lead, and innovations in the use of the imagery will have far-reaching effects. He noted that Gmail effectively has turned every customer into a life blogger, as every piece of email ever sent over Gmail has been archived for whatever purposes may lie ahead.

Connectivity to Become Truly Global

January 30, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman
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By 2040, 2 billion children will be learning to speak English through the use of wrist-borne personal computers that will display translations and accompanying imagery to their users. In effect, these 2 billion will become employable in a range of professions in the Western world.

That far-reaching forecast was delivered by John Smart, president of the Acceleration Studies Foundation, in the keynote luncheon at AFCEA/USNI West 2013. Smart cited this case as an example of how change is happening constantly, and people must prepare for it rather than try to outlast it.

The driver for this development will be Google distributing wrist PCs worldwide. As a result, these children will be connected with one another and with all others who are networked, one way or another. For example, they will be able to sit for interviews wherever they are located, but interviewers must assume that these are “open book” interviews in which the networked person has access to whatever information he or she needs.

This ubiquitous networking will spawn network groups of individuals who will develop groupthought as information cells. This will affect mental illness and treatment, as sufferers can be connected to “normal” people who would help them reorient their thinking. This 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 their personal networking.

Systems in the Pipeline Offer Innovative Effects

January 30, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman
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A handful of military technologies could have revolutionary effects on the force beyond those already anticipated, according to a panel of experts. Speaking to the audience at AFCEA/USNI West 2013 in San Diego, these military and civilian officials emphasized the need for innovation for the force in times of fiscal shortfalls.

Maj. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., USMC, Marine Corps representative to the Quadrennial Defense Review, offered that the MV-22 Osprey “will have profound effects in the Pacific.” This aircraft is changing the way that Marines operate from the sea, and more changes will come.

The F-35b fighter aircraft also will be a game changer. Having a vertical/short takeoff and landing aircraft will introduce a vital capability, the general offered.

Systems that enable better management of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) may be key to warfighting, said Rear Adm. Terry B. Kraft, USN, commander, Navy Warfare Development Command. The ability to manage ISR is all the more important “when the first person who sees the other will have a significant advantage,” he allowed.

The Navy remains open to innovation, said Rear Adm. Matthew L. Klunder, USN, chief of naval research/director, innovation, technology requirements and test and evaluation. “We know there is no golden bb,” he said, “but if you bring me that secret sauce [innovative item], I’ve got time for that.

“A large portion of my budget is seed corn, and I throw that everywhere,” he declared.

Military Organizational Culture Fights Innovation

January 30, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman
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The military needs innovation more than ever, but it is less equipped to take advantage of it by nature of its structure. Overcoming that institutional inertia will be absolutely essential for the military to meet its mission needs against the backdrop of severe budget cuts.

The importance of defense innovation was the focus of a Wednesday morning panel discussion at AFCEA/USNI West 2013 in San Diego. Rear Adm. Terry B. Kraft, USN, commander of the Navy Warfare Development Command, set the tone for his fellow panelists when he 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, allowed that military organizations are hierarchal—and hierarchal organizations tend to punish those who challenge the hierarchy, such as innovators. He added that people innovate when they feel threatened. The Marine Corps constantly feels threatened organizationally, so it often turns to innovation.

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.

Rear Adm. Matthew L. Klunder, USN, chief of naval research/director, innovation, technology requirements and test and evaluation, called for using innovation to turn the tables on adversaries. The days of developing multimillion-dollar systems to counter adversaries with inexpensive asymmetric systems are gone, he posited. Instead, the U.S. military should counter them with inexpensive innovations.

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