SAN DIEGO, Feb. 22, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The book on establishing and maintaining naval supremacy may need wholesale revision as planners confront the challenges facing the U.S. maritime forces. What worked in the past might be, at best, obsolete and, at worst, counterproductive, as the U.S. Navy deals with two potential peer rivals and possible conflicts ranging from asymmetrical sparring to overt maritime control.
These were among the topics panelists and keynote speakers discussed at WEST 2016 in San Diego last week. The three-day sea-services-centric conference, cosponsored by AFCEA International and the U.S. Naval Institute, centered on the theme, "How Do We Make the Strategy Work?" Experts examined issues through that lens, but suggestions outweighed conclusions.
During the conference's opening keynote address, former Supreme Allied Commander Europe Adm. James G. Stavridis, USN (Ret.), said the threat picture largely influences the U.S. Navy's strategy. The strategy, "A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower," was published in March 2015. Adm. Stavridis, who is now the dean of The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, described North Korea as the most dangerous country in the world.
Yet other threats loom large on the international stage. China continues to flex its muscle building islands to claim territory in the South China Sea. China's claim to the South China Sea is unsupportable, Ad. Stavridis offered, adding it will lead to conflict not just between the United States and China but also with other Pacific partners.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) also poses a new type of threat. Along with its viciousness, ISIL has access to considerable resources. "The Islamic State is different because they raise money like a machine," Adm. Stavridis stated.
Rear Adm. Lorin Selby, USN, commander, Naval Surface Warfare Center, bluntly stated the need to look forward instead of back for solutions. "We're playing a 21st century game with a 20th century rule book," he told the audience during a panel discussion. "We're going to get our clock cleaned." The admiral's long-term assessment reflected this sentiment. "The nation that can find and implement innovations quickly will lead this century."
Information warfare (IW) is one area that is defined by technology, and the Navy is focusing on it across the entire breadth of operations. Vice Adm. Ted N. Branch, USN, deputy chief of naval operations (CNO) for IW and director of naval intelligence, explained that the Navy is looking to incorporate greater IW capabilities on existing platforms.
"Information is a warfare domain and cyber is as important as the next missile or platform … it's now commander's business, requires an all-hands effort and a cultural change throughout the Defense Department," the admiral stated. "If an unmanned system does ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance], you should think IW," he said.
The strength of the U.S. military lies in the ability to combine forces across domains; the key to success in that endeavor is effective use of information.
CNO Adm. John M. Richardson, USN, told the audience that this capability is "the secret sauce of the United States." He added, "Information has to be in the DNA" of U.S. forces.
Adm. Richardson noted that information is a rich area for experimentation, and people often do not realize the potential of capabilities. "Every time we estimate our technology capability, we underestimate it by a factor of two," he observed. "There are some amazingly sophisticated technologies" that can enable improvements in cyber and other information realms, he said. "I think this conference is just terrific. Bringing everybody together—active duty, industry—this is an innovation lab in and of itself."
Additional coverage of WEST 2016 is available online.
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SOURCE AFCEA International