Now, remember this, I spent 30+ years hanging about the U.S. Navy, full or part time. I point this out sort of like a sociologist so that you can judge whether or not my perceptions are not "value free" but carry a bias toward the naval side of the spectrum.
Having taken care of that, this is a big show. There's a large exhibition hall full of a variety of vendors of various goods and services that might be of interest to military professionals - and these vendors help defray the costs of the conference.
In the first morning session, the speaker was Army Lt. Gen. Michael L. Oates of the Joint IED Defeat Organization. His organization put out a press release on his speech:
The director of the organization tasked with overcoming the challenge posed by improvised explosive devices (IED) spoke about the future of counter-IED efforts to kick off the 2010 Joint Warfighting Conference (JWC) today in Virginia Beach, Va.One audience member asked whether IEDs are really "new" - a point earlier made by General Oates when he mentioned Japanese Kamikaze attacks off Okinawa during WWII - but it does suggest that the naval mine warfare is very similar to the current land IED issues. Perhaps there is some common area of interest between those communities. General Oates did point out that as compared to "booby traps" in Vietnam and other mine warfare, the key issue with IEDs is increasingly sophisticated weapons and remote triggering techniques.
The theme for this year’s three-day conference is “Combatant and Coalition Commanders: What Will They Need Five Years from Now?” Army Lt. Gen. Michael L. Oates, Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) director, told the audience that IEDs represent a threat that will grow in number and complexity in coming years.
“We will see IEDs or their derivatives find their way into civilized society in greater numbers,” he said. They’ll be used by criminal enterprises. They’ll be used by hybrid threats that seek to seek partners – either in the drug trafficking enterprise or other commercial business – to destabilize societies. We will certainly see them in the combat sphere for years to come and we’re going to see the technology of these devices become more difficult to defeat.”
Oates said that information sharing and analysis is crucial in enabling tactical commanders to stop IED networks. “I absolutely believe that we have got to find a way ahead immediately to improve our information fusion, these databases for our tactical commanders,” he said. “There is no shortage of data. There is a dearth of analysis.”Oates also focused on the need to deliver battlefield requirements quickly.“We have got to rapidly receive demands from the field and turn a product back to the wartime commander in a time that he can use it,” he said. “The timeline at JIEDDO is zero to 24 months and I think we are failing. We need to turn some of these capabilities much faster. Days are like years for combat commanders. Their sense of urgency has got to be replicated within the industrial portion of the U.S. and our allies.”
Oates concluded his remarks on a note of optimism.”I do believe that this is winnable. I do believe that if we put our efforts together as partners with industry, academia, media and the national security apparatus, I do believe that we can make great progress toward defeating this capability or at least rendering it much less effective in the very near term. That is what I believe we need to provide to the combatant commanders, not in the next five years, but certainly in the next year to 18 months.”
With ground forces, the need to get inside the enemy's OODA loop by cracking networks and taking out key nodes (by co-option if possible, but if not, then ...)
As with sea mines, the IED weapons are both tactical and strategic - and play hell with maneuver warfare.
The second session was a panel on "Power Shifts: Who's Up? Who's Down? What's Changing?" Here a panel of experts got to expound on the upcoming threats or concerns. As MG Scales referred to it, the 800-pound gorilla in the discussion was China. And China. And China and, by the way, India, and, maybe North Korea (because of current instability). So, the "Ups" were China, India and the U.S. NATO was sideways and Russia "down" (but maybe working back into "Up." Until an audience question there was no discussion of Mexico (that unstable country on our southern border) - this prompted some brief discussion about the potential problems, but . . .
Panel: What Should Be Done to Secure the Homelands?Opened with some historical look at the issues that faced the U.S. right after 9/11 and the massive restructuring of the government that resulted in the Department of Homeland Security. Phased into a discussion of risks now facing the U.S. - WMD, homegrown or naturalized citizens and self-taught wackos. Better info sharing helps defeat most of these - and a great of luck. China pops up again as Admiral Keating gets asked about it. Apparently, China treats "transparency" differently than we do.
Moderator: David Hartman, former host, Good Morning America (Confirmed)
ADM Timothy J. Keating, USN (Ret.), former Commander, Northern Command/U.S. Pacific Command (Confirmed)
The Honorable Michael Chertoff, former Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Founder & Chairman of the Chertoff Group, LLC (Confirmed)
Chertoff takes off on Chinese cyber attacks on U.S. government sites and industrial sites - information being power, after all, including info on how to get into such systems if - you know- there were some urgent need on China's part. Like a war, perhaps? Transparent like lead. Keating asks if cyber attacks constitute an act of war. Hartman asks who it is who addresses such issues. Hard to say, I gather.
UPDATE: Hartman being funny as he asks Chertoff to comment on the current offshore oil spill and to compare an contrast with Katrina. Chertoff is polite - "black swan events happen only very rarely." Keating gets to take a shot at the fact that the initial reaction to Katrina was a sigh of relief that Katrina missed New Orleans - until the levee broke . . .
UPDATE2: Hartman how do you deal with the unpredictable? Keating (essentially): "Be prepared. Be flexible. Have good people." Amen to that.
Remember, USNI is sponsoring my presence at this thing.