• Sea service leaders addressing challenges and opportunities in a town hall format are (l-r) Adm. Paul F. Zukunft, USCG, commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard; Adm. John M. Richardson, USN, chief of naval operations; Gen. Robert B. Neller, USMC, commandant, U.S. Marine Corps; along with moderator Adm. James Stavridis, USN (Ret.), dean, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University.
     Sea service leaders addressing challenges and opportunities in a town hall format are (l-r) Adm. Paul F. Zukunft, USCG, commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard; Adm. John M. Richardson, USN, chief of naval operations; Gen. Robert B. Neller, USMC, commandant, U.S. Marine Corps; along with moderator Adm. James Stavridis, USN (Ret.), dean, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University.
  • Exploring the exotic world of hyperwar are (r-l) Capt. Sean Heritage, USN, Navy and IT portfolio lead, Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx); Amir Husain, founder and CEO, SparkCognition Inc; August Cole, senior fellow, Avascent/Atlantic Council; and panel moderator Capt. David Adams, USN (Ret.), program manager, Western Pacific Oceaneering.
     Exploring the exotic world of hyperwar are (r-l) Capt. Sean Heritage, USN, Navy and IT portfolio lead, Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx); Amir Husain, founder and CEO, SparkCognition Inc; August Cole, senior fellow, Avascent/Atlantic Council; and panel moderator Capt. David Adams, USN (Ret.), program manager, Western Pacific Oceaneering.
  • Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition James F. Geurts outlines potential changes in Navy acquisition processes.
     Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition James F. Geurts outlines potential changes in Navy acquisition processes.

Navy Veers Away From Linear Modernization

February 9, 2018
By Robert K. Ackerman
E-mail About the Author

Replacing older assets must be teamed with a host of new capabilities and doctrines.


West 2018 SIGNAL Magazine Show Daily, Day 3
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The U.S. Navy is facing difficult choices as it sails into a complex future. It must bring its existing fleet up to par after years of overuse; it needs to replace older platforms with more capable successors; and it faces adversaries that are rewriting the book on conflict resolution to suit their goals. Improvements must partner with innovations—some not even defined yet­—as the sea service assumes a greater role ensuring international security.

These points were the focus of speakers and panelists on the last day of West 2018, held February 6-8 in San Diego. While all the services are counting on increased funding to help modernize, that alone will not meet the challenge facing the force. Acquisition reform, especially for innovative technologies that may define the future battlespace, must play a role.

The Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard all are targeting badly needed upgrades using funds proposed in the latest defense budget. But money alone won’t solve problems that have been building for more than a decade. And, potential adversaries have changed the international security game with new forms of combat that will require shifts in focus away from traditional approaches.

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert B. Neller, USMC, said of Congress, “If they can do a multiyear budget without having to deal with the budget control act, that will help us because we can plan. The adversary out there is making big investments.

“Looking at the joint world, we have to have reliable command and control,” Gen. Neller continued. “From the naval perspective, we need more attack submarines. We will have to fight to get to the fight.”

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John M. Richardson, USN, offered specifics on Navy priorities. “Replacing Trident SSBNs is the number one acquisition program in the U.S. Navy,” he declared. He added that some of the rapid acquisition programs for directed energy weapons and unmanned undersea vehicles are changing Navy acquisition.

However, he warned not to expect a 355-ship Navy too quickly. The Navy must replace older ships as it adds to the force, and the shipbuilding industrial base is only one-third of what it was in 1955. The Navy is looking at alternatives to linear shipbuilding production. “We have a family of plans, some status quo. It takes a long time to get to 355 ships. Every trick in the book is on the table,” he stated.

Adm. Paul F. Zukunft, USCG, commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, offered a global view of the downturn in shipyards. “If someone were to pose an existential threat to the United States, would it wake up that lion that the Japanese did in 1941? Do we have the surge capability?” The Coast Guard clearly needs to build new icebreakers, he added. And, he warned that the sealift fleet is so old that there are few mariners left who can operate these steamships.

Yet Adm. Zukunft offered that the services must strive to build strength using alternative methods instead of ruing shortcomings. “The more we bemoan our readiness, the more an enemy is incentivized,” he said.

Both China and Russia are potential adversaries, and they aren’t holding back in their efforts to claim military superiority over the United States. “As Russia continues to fund and advance in the maritime, particular their undersea capabilities, we have to keep up with them,” Adm. Richardson said. Gen. Neller pointed out, “The adversary we had in the 1980s went away, and then it came back in another form. We now have other adversaries, and they’ve got game. We have to compete.”

When queried, all three sea service chiefs stated they did not support the creation of a separate Cyber Force. In this, they disagreed with moderator Adm. James G. Stavridis, USN (Ret.), dean, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University. Adm. Stavridis offered a prediction for all to consider: “In 50 or 100 years, we’ll look back and say, ‘What were we thinking that we didn’t have a cyber service?’”

Cyber is a growth domain in the battlespace, but a subset of it may define future combat. Artificial intelligence, or AI, is growing in importance exponentially as experts define its influence on combat as hyperwar.

Not only will the race for AI go to the swiftest, military superiority may follow suit. Hyperwar already is beginning to intrude on military operations. And other nations are devoting huge resources to military AI, which may tilt the balance of conflict in favor of them in little more than a decade.

Hyperwar can take the form of enhancements to existing systems as well as revolutionary approaches to conflict. “The concept behind hyperwar is to consider what happens when AI fuses with the needs of war,” offered Amir Husain, founder and CEO, SparkCognition Inc. “The advent of hyperwar opens up the reinterpretation of our geostrategic future.”

Panelists noted that China already has claimed to have a bomber that can conduct missions using AI. The Middle Kingdom has stated publicly that it wants to be dominant in AI by 2030. Capt. Sean Heritage, USN, Navy and IT portfolio lead, Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx), focused on that issue. “China has devoted $2.1 billion to develop an AI center. Where’s our AI center?”

Husain offered that U.S. efforts in AI will require fundamental shifts to succeed. “We need to fix acquisition,” he pointed out. “AI was invented in America. We have the largest number of AI researchers in America. But if you let those ideas die on the vine, what’s the point?”

August Cole, senior fellow, Avascent/Atlantic Council, was blunt. “We can’t warn congress enough of the consequences if we botch this critical moment in technology.”

And the technology already is becoming apparent. “The technology of hyperwar is real. It is consumable at any of a number of levels,” Husain said. “We’ve developed a capability that fuses image analysis with language analysis. You’ve removed any bandwidth constraint that comes with eyes in the sky.

“Decision making will become federated, inexpensive, universal and capable of becoming high-minded in swarms,” he continued. “Large-scale, swarm-based AI is the most viable way to deliver these capabilities today.”

Cole was candid about his views on the viability of hyperwar. “The decision-making speed of machines is going to eclipse the political and civilian ability.” he declared.

Husain offered that U.S. efforts in AI will require fundamental shifts to succeed. “We need to fix acquisition,” he pointed out. “AI was invented in America. We have the largest number of AI researchers in America. But if you let those ideas die on the vine, what’s the point?”

Improving acquisition efficiency in a time of high funding demands may begin with letting program managers manage, according to the assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition. James F. Geurts described several approaches the Navy wants to take to improve acquisition and enhance innovation.

Foremost among these is to decentralize decision making in programs. “The Navy is decentralizing control of programs so program managers actually can make decisions on their programs,” he stated, adding, “I’m looking at the decisions that I was making at my level that can be pushed down to the PEO level. And, we’re looking at moving decisions from the PEO level.” By pushing decision making down lower in an organization, issues are resolved quicker, and if mistakes are made, they occur as less critical levels.

The problems inhibiting innovation and rapid deployment are many, but Geurts emphasized that the Navy can put its own acquisition solutions into place quickly. “There’s a lot we can control within our own four walls. Let’s take those things on first,” he suggested, adding, “Congress has given us more authorities than we have figured out how to use effectively.”

In terms of agility, he was talking about not just products, but also process and ideas, he emphasized. Improvements in these areas will be necessary to achieve badly needed goals. “When you look at system cost these days, it’s unsustainable over the long term,” he stated. For example, he noted that existing plans called for moving all the Navy’s apps onto the cloud within five years. “We need to get all the apps on the cloud in three years or less,” Geurts warranted.

 

Mark your calendars now for West 2019, to be held February 13-15 in San Diego!

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