WEST: Cyber Conflicts Will Test Military Readiness

February 12, 2015 9:20 AM
US Fleet Forces Command head Adm. Phil Davidson. US Naval Institute Photo
US Fleet Forces Command head Adm. Phil Davidson. US Naval Institute Photo

SAN DIEGO, CALIF. – Confrontations await in cyberspace, and those encounters will test military readiness, speakers said Wednesday at the WEST 2015 convention.

“The challenges of our age are immense, and they’re changing all the time,” said Adm. Philip Davidson, head of U.S. Fleet Forces Command, in the morning keynote address to military members, academics and defense industry representatives.

He said the U.S. cannot discount the intention of terror groups to acquire high-end technology, whether stolen or purchased. That has created a need for the sea services to be ready for contested environments of all kinds.

In a panel discussion later Wednesday morning, top commanders said their experience showed that while technology has changed war fighting in myriad ways, more remains to be done to allow forces to make full use of it.

Rear Adm. Marshall Lytle, the Coast Guard’s assistant commandant, said making the services nimble is of high importance, as is getting networks better able to talk to each other. That means overcoming the obstacles presented by equipment that was bought at varying times and under varying standards.

For a glimpse into the Coast Guard’s world, Lytle explained that connections to commercial operations and local governments are critical. He said port operations in the United States – including power, water and the movement of cargo — “depend entirely on cyber,” so interaction is key to responding to threats.

In a luncheon panel discussion, defense industry leaders provided their perspective on how best to move technologies to the people in the services who need them. They also talked about how things differ for commercial developers, the defense industry contracting process and the difficulty that small, innovative companies have in getting noticed.

Defense industries and the commercial corporations that make their homes in Silicon Valley play by different rules, which affects how soon things get into the hands of users, said Jerry DeMuro, president and CEO of BAE Systems.

“Let’s not forget that (defense) is a very, very highly regulated industry, including how your systems will operate, what profit you can or cannot make, and coming back and reviewing that three years later,” DeMuro said. “I would tell you that Google does not have that restriction.”

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