West 2018

April 1, 2018
By Ali Cybulski, Robert K. Ackerman and Beverly Cooper
The heads of the three U.S. sea services (from l)—Adm. Paul F. Zukunft, USCG, Gen. Robert B. Neller, USMC, and Adm. John M. Richardson, USN—discuss the challenges they face in a town hall session moderated by Adm. James G. Stavridis, USN (Ret.), at West 2018.  Michael Carpenter

Money might buy badly needed fleet upgrades, but it won’t buy fixes for problems that have been building in the sea services over the past decade. Reforming technology acquisition, speeding up innovation and reclaiming combat supremacy will require shifting away from traditional approaches, said the chiefs of the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard and other experts at the West 2018 conference, co-sponsored by AFCEA International and the U.S. Naval Institute.

February 8, 2018
By Beverly Cooper
The AlphaGo Zero initiative exceeded human level of play in the game of Go, with the machine playing itself and learning how to win from its own experience. Credit: Saran Poroong, Shutterstock

Artificial intelligence, machine learning and neural networks are already influencing decision-making processes for both military and business, yet all of the benefits and consequences are far from understood. The way these technologies will be applied will have a profound effect on service personnel as well as civilians, and the timeline is accelerating, driven by the exponential growth in sensors, big data and simulation algorithms.

February 9, 2018
By Robert K. Ackerman
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.

West 2018 SIGNAL Magazine Show Daily, Day 3
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February 8, 2018
By Robert K. Ackerman
From l-r, Adm. Paul F. Zukunft, USCG, commandant, U.S. Coast Guard; Gen. Robert B. Neller, USMC, commandant, U.S. Marine Corps; and  Adm. John M. Richardson, USN, chief of naval operations, discuss sea service challenges and opportunities in a town hall forum moderated by Adm. James G. Stavridis, USN (Ret.), dean, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University.

The U.S. 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.

February 8, 2018
By Robert K. Ackerman
Hyperwar and its ramifications were the subject of a West 2018 panel comprising (r-l) Capt. Sean Heritage, USN, Navy and IT portfolio lead, DIUx; Amir Husain, founder and CEO, SparkCognition; August Cole, senior fellow, Avascent/Atlantic Council; and panel moderator Capt. David Adams, USN (Ret.), program manager, Western Pacific Oceaneering.

Not only will the race for AI go to the swiftest, military superiority may follow suit, according to a panel at West 2018 in San Diego on February 8. Hyperwar, or combat waged under the influence of AI, 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.

February 8, 2018
By Robert K. Ackerman
James F. Geurts, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition, offers solutions to vexing acquisition challenges at West 2018.

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, speaking to the audience at the final morning keynote in West 2018, being held in San Diego February 6-8, described several approaches the Navy wants to take to improve acquisition and enhance innovation.

February 8, 2018
By Robert K. Ackerman
Vice Adm. Jan Tighe, USN, deputy chief of Naval Operations for Information Warfare (N2N6), reviews the complexity of information warfare.

West 2018, SIGNAL Magazine Show Daily, Day 2

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February 7, 2018
By Robert K. Ackerman
Vice Adm. Jan Tighe, USN, deputy chief of Naval Operations for Information Warfare (N2N6), describes the challenges facing Navy information warfare during her keynote luncheon speech at West 2018.

New technologies, capabilities and tactics will be necessary for the U.S. Navy to prevail in the burgeoning arena of information warfare. But while some needs are obvious, the course for the overall way ahead remains elusive.

Explaining the complicated nature of naval information warfare was Vice Adm. Jan Tighe, USN, deputy chief of Naval Operations for Information Warfare (N2N6). Speaking at the Wednesday keynote luncheon at West 2018 being held in San Diego February 6-8, Adm. Tighe outlined a series of challenges and potential options, beginning with the state of the realm.

February 7, 2018
By Robert K. Ackerman
At West 2018, panelists discuss how to prevail in the gray zone (l-r): Kathleen Hicks, International Security Program, Center for Strategic & International Studies; Vice Adm. John D. Alexander, USN; Vice Adm. Michael M. Gilday, USN; Vice Adm. Fred M. Midgette, USCG; Rear Adm. Tim Szymanski, USN; and Nina Hachigian, former ambassador to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

As if the changing nature of warfare didn’t pose a big enough challenge, U.S. security is challenged by peer and near-peer nations operating just below the threshold of conflict. Some areas of contention literally have no rules, while others are constantly shifting and posing a dilemma for uniformed and civilian planners alike.

Operating in the gray zone was the focal point of a panel comprising military and civilian experts at West 2018, being held in San Diego February 6-8. The discussion largely focused on challenges, but some potential solutions were offered as these leaders exchanged views on this undefined domain.

February 7, 2018
By Robert K. Ackerman
Lt. Gen. Robert S. Walsh, USMC, commanding general, Marine Corps Combat Development Command, discusses Marine Corps innovations in the Wednesday keynote address at West 2018 in San Diego.

The already-complex Marine Corps mission is about to become more intricate as the Corps strives to incorporate new methods of warfighting and countering enemy capabilities. Viewing adversaries has given the Corps a glimpse of the future, and major changes lie over the horizon.

These points were hammered home by Lt. Gen. Robert S. Walsh, USMC, commanding general, Marine Corps Combat Development Command, speaking at the day two morning keynote address at West 2018 in San Diego. From amphibious assaults to information warfare, the Marines are incorporating new capabilities that will lead to an entirely new way of waging combat, the general allowed.

February 7, 2018
By Robert K. Ackerman
Panelists discussing how to use the network to build maritime power are (l-r) moderator Lt. Gen. Robert Shea, USMC (Ret.), AFCEA president and CEO; Kenneth W. Bible, deputy director, C4/Deputy CIO, U.S. Marine Corps; Kelly Fletcher, acting Department of Navy CIO; Vice Adm. Matthew J. Kohler, USN, commander, Naval Information Forces; and Rear Adm. Kevin Lunday, USCG, assistant commandant, C4&IT and commander, U.S. Coast Guard Cyber Command.

West 2018 SIGNAL Magazine Show Daily, Day 1

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February 6, 2018
By Robert K. Ackerman
Panelists discussing the effect of technology on Navy operations are (l-r) moderator Lt. Gen. Robert Shea, USMC (Ret.), AFCEA president and CEO; Kenneth W. Bible, deputy director, C4/Deputy CIO, U.S. Marine Corps; Kelly Fletcher, acting Department of Navy CIO; Vice Adm. Matthew J. Kohler, USN, commander, Naval Information Forces; and Rear Adm. Kevin Lunday, USCG, assistant commandant, C4&IT and commander, U.S. Coast Guard Cyber Command.

Now that the U.S. Navy is networked and fully cyber-enabled, it needs to ensure that its technologies improve efficiencies and effectiveness to a greater degree. How that is to be achieved was the topic of discussion by an afternoon panel of experts at West 2018, being held in San Diego February 6-8.

February 6, 2018
By Robert K. Ackerman
Adm. Scott H. Swift, USN, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, shares his views on the China challenge at West 2018.

War with China is not inevitable, but the United States is in a competition with which it is unfamiliar, U.S. Navy Pacific Fleet Commander Adm. Scott H. Swift, USN, told the audience at the keynote luncheon at West 2018. China is using its own means to coerce others as it pursues its long-term goals, the admiral said at the conference, taking place February 6-8 in San Diego.

February 6, 2018
By Robert K. Ackerman
Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan explains key elements of the new U.S. National Defense Strategy at West 2018.

Speed, efficiency and innovation are the cornerstones of progress necessary for the new U.S. National Defense Strategy to succeed, according to the deputy secretary of defense. Speaking at the opening keynote address at West 2018, being held in San Diego February 6-8, Patrick Shanahan told the large audience that internal changes will be as important as external approaches.

“It’s not about China; it’s not about Russia: It’s about competing, and there are no such things as fair competitions,” Shanahan said of the new strategy.