West 2014 Coverage

February 13, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman

Storming ashore from the sea is becoming increasingly difficult for the U.S. Marine Corps as it faces new missions on the heels of personnel cuts. The nature of Marine assault from the sea is changing, and its aging fleet of amphibious ships are losing their effectiveness both chronologically and evolutionarily.

New technologies and capabilities may be necessary to address both challenges. Gen. James F. Amos, USMC, commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, told the audience at the West 2014 Thursday luncheon town hall in San Diego that the Corps needs connecting vessels to bring its force from the sea to the shore quickly and effectively.

February 13, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman

China is pursuing a strategy of regional expansion into its neighbors’ territories that is spelled out in the country’s own open-source publications, according to a U.S. Navy China expert. The past year saw many provocative acts by the Chinese military and its government, and these fall in line with plans and policies enunciated by even English-language Chinese publications.

Capt. James Fanell, USN, deputy chief of staff, intelligence and information operations, painted a menacing picture of Chinese intentions in a Thursday panel discussion at West 2014 in San Diego. The canvas he used was taken from Chinese publications that describe aggressive plans to “restore China to its rightful place” by the middle of this century.

February 13, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman

The threat of armed conflict arising from China’s disputed assertions of territorial claims could be defused if all parties concerned agree to use international law institutions, said a U.S. Navy attorney. Capt Stuart Bell, USN, deputy assistant judge advocate general (international and operations law), told a Thursday panel audience at West 2014 in San Diego that the rule of law can be applied in most cases involving disputes between China and its neighbors to achieve a peaceful resolution.

February 13, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman

The U.S. Navy will depend heavily on technology innovation to meet increasing operational demands on a fleet that is aging and suffering from budget constraints, according to the vice chief of naval operations. Adm. Mark E. Ferguson, USN, told the audience at the Thursday luncheon town hall that the Navy needs to work cooperatively with industry to develop the innovative technologies and capabilities it needs.

“The best ideas come out of your laboratories,” he said, addressing industry representatives. “The edge we will need will come from innovation.”

February 13, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman

The U.S. Coast Guard wants contractors to provide it with affordable systems instead of top-of-the-line technology solutions, said its commandant. Adm. Robert J .Papp Jr., USCG, told the audience at the West 2014 Thursday luncheon town hall in San Diego that everything the Coast Guard does is within a constrained environment, and it needs solutions that don’t strain its already tight financial resources.

He explained that many contractors apply the Defense Department model to Coast Guard acquisition, but the same rules do not apply and many great technological solutions just cost too much. The Coast Guard will be scrutinizing bidders on its upcoming programs, he added, because affordability is the number-one requirement.

February 13, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman

China’s People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), growing rapidly but still only a fraction of the size of the U.S. Navy, might be able to prevail in an ocean battle between the two forces. Several factors would work in China’s favor to tip the balance toward the Middle Kingdom in an intense regional conflict.

February 12, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman

The realm of cyberspace, created by the United States, could be the undoing of its next major military operation unless the country regains control of its own creation. The virtual realm was let loose on the world where it was embraced by all manner of users, and some of them are counting on their expertise in it to overcome the overwhelming power of the U.S. military.

February 11, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman

Unmanned systems for reconnaissance, surveillance and warfighting have grown so quickly in popularity that they are spawning a familiar list of challenges that must be met sooner rather than later. Many of these issues have arisen with other military technologies that became popular quickly, and planners found that fixing these problems was significantly more difficult the deeper the technologies were embedded in everyday military operations.

February 13, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman

The U.S. Defense Department needs a new acquisition model to speed systems to warfighters while maintaining an effective industrial base, said industry leaders. The current model, based on competition, actually is counterproductive for what the government hopes to accomplish for procurement.

Three industry leaders outlined this and other problems during the Thursday morning keynote panel at West 2014 in San Diego. They expressed concerns over both short- and long-term consequences, with the government customer ultimately suffering from the well-intended but misguided policies.

February 13, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman

U.S. foreign military sales are less robust than they could be because existing rules are applied inconsistently, which in turn is compelling customers to buy less effective technologies from other nations. This trend has long-term negative implications for the U.S. defense industrial base, say industrial leaders.

February 13, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman

Buying commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) technology offers great advantages for both government and industry, but both parties could benefit from greater cooperation in this realm. This would help expand COTS into new areas, with resultant savings in cost and time to deployment.

February 12, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman

The U.S. Navy must “achieve a balance” between using custom information technology and adopting commercial products, according to its chief information officer. Terry Halvorsen, appearing in the Wednesday keynote panel at West 2014 in San Diego, told the audience that this balance must weigh all factors in determining the Navy’s information technology direction.

“We are going to be in a declining resource environment,” Halvorsen said. This will require understanding the value of all data from all aspects. Even cyber, funding for which will increase, also must be balanced.

February 12, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman

The U.S. Navy of the future will strongly resemble the U.S. Navy of the present, according to a group of admirals. Budget cuts and changing missions are impelling the Navy to rely on its existing platforms and improve them by implementing new technologies.

Vice Adm. Thomas H. Copeman III, USN, commander, Naval Surface Forces, told a Wednesday panel audience at West 2014 in San Diego that the Navy will not see an increasing budget any time in the next 20 years, so it must “squeeze the best” out of what it has.

“The surface fleet we have sitting in the harbor now is the surface fleet we will have 15-20 years from now,” he predicted.

February 12, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman

The U.S. Marine Corps is considering a new relationship with special operations forces as it faces a personnel drawdown, said a Marine Expeditionary Force commander. Lt. Gen. John Toolan, USMC, commanding general of the I Marine Expeditionary Force, told a Wednesday panel audience at West 2014 in San Diego that the Corps is looking harder at how it integrates with special operations forces.

Gen. Toolan stated that the Corps has special operations force elements that tie into Marine forces directly when the Corps deploys. The next deployment of the 11 Marine Expeditionary Unit will feature these new ties, he said.

February 12, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman

The U.S. Navy is developing a new fleet readiness plan that aims to enable more operations amid less funding. It is designed to avoid redundant activities or situations that might delay operations, and it will provide structure as well as flexibility in a coordinated effort across the fleet.

This endeavor was described by Adm. William E. Gortney, USN, commander of the U.S. Fleet Forces Command. Speaking at the Wednesday keynote luncheon at West 2014 in San Diego, the admiral said the command faced some tough choices when confronted with substantial funding reductions.

“We can complain, or we can lead,” he offered. “We’re choosing to lead.”

February 12, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman

The U.S. Navy’s focus on information dominance is increasing along with its reach. Having organized the force along its lines, the Navy now is applying new operational tasks to its menu.

Vice Adm. Ted Branch, USN, deputy chief of naval operations for information dominance and director of naval intelligence, declared at a West 2014 keynote panel that information dominance is a warfighting domain just like air, sea, land and space. And, being successful in information dominance is as important as being successful in those four other warfighting domains. Cyber is just a component of information dominance, the admiral pointed out.

February 12, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman

Having vast amounts of intelligence data will not serve U.S. military needs if it is applied only tactically, according to a U.S. Navy information dominance leader. This data must be used to understand an adversary’s strategic intent, or leaders may not act effectively.

Rear Adm. Paul Becker, USN, director for intelligence, J-2, Joint Chiefs of Staff, raised that issue during the Wednesday morning keynote panel at West 2014 in San Diego. Adm. Becker warned that military leaders must be able to glean a deep understanding of an adversary’s mindset, strategy and intent. “We often are at an information deficit in that area,” he stated.

February 11, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman

A panel of officers at West 2014, co-sponsored by AFCEA International and the U.S. Naval Institute and being held February 11-13 in San Diego, discussed these challenges and explored potential remedies. Lt. P.J. Leon, USCG, team lead, Maritime Law Enforcement Force Protection One, cited what other panelists agreed was “the loss of a level of sincerity with leadership.” When lower ranking personnel lose faith in their leadership, hope for their military careers usually follows.

Career paths often become hazards because they are so regimented. And, if personnel change their specialties, they could lose the chance for advancement. “If you change your specialty, you have a short ticket out of the service,” Lt. Leon offered.

February 11, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman

The U.S. Navy is counting on industry to provide the leading-edge information technologies that it will need to maintain superiority for the foreseeable future. Yet, if those technologies do not meet specific and broad-reaching criteria, they will not be serving the Navy, according to a Navy fleet commander.

February 11, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman
Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., USN, uses Google Glass as a teleprompter at WEST 2014.

The Tuesday luncheon speaker at West 2014, co-sponsored by AFCEA International and the U.S. Naval Institute and being held February 11-13 in San Diego, demonstrated his view of the potential for innovative technologies by donning the latest in visual display systems.

Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., USN, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, began his luncheon address wearing a Google Glass wearable computer, which was provided by the Space and Naval Warfare Command (SPAWAR) at his request and that he used as a teleprompter. During his address, he doffed the Google Glass and replaced it with a tablet for his speech. Near the end of his talk, he put down the tablet and resorted to paper notes, which he then tore up at the end.

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