The Navy League's annual Sea-Air-Space conference was held April 3-5 in National Harbor, Maryland. The conference provided a valuable forum for defense industry representatives and key military decision-makers to discuss critical policy matters, present emerging technologies, and explore collaborative opportunities. It underscored the significance of partnerships between the Department of Defense and the defense industry to drive innovation and tech development and adoption.
Current Navy and Marine Corps leaders, including the Secretary of the Navy, The Hon. Carlos Del Toro, the Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Mike Gilday, and the Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. David Berger, used the forum to communicate their progress and visions for the future of the naval services. Defense leaders focused on investing in personnel and modernizing training and education, with an emphasis on emerging technologies such as Gaming, Experimentation, Modeling & Simulations (GEMS) and Live Virtual Constructive environments. In addition, the Secretary of the Navy and Chief of Naval Operations announced the expansion of Task Force 59 into the 4th Fleet, which will integrate unmanned systems and artificial intelligence into maritime operations in the Caribbean, Central and South America and surrounding waters to counter illegal drug transportation, human trafficking and illegal fishing by the People’s Republic of China.
Representatives from the Naval Postgraduate School and Naval Postgraduate School Foundation engaged in discussions and meetings with current and potential industry partners to expand and strengthen long-term strategic partnerships in support of interdisciplinary, classified and applied work that meets the specific needs of the DOD and the Department of the Navy. The NPS booth, individual meetings with industry, and the NPS Foundation and Alumni Association’s networking reception provided a platform for NPS students, like Lt. Cmdr. Hans Lausen and Lt. Austin Dumas, and alumni, Capts. Ben Cohen and John Schmaltz, to showcase their research and its potential impact on the real challenges of the force and fleet.
NPS President, retired U.S. Navy Vice Adm. Ann E. Rondeau, moderated a panel titled “Winning the Innovation Race” featuring The Honorable Heidi Shyu, Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering; Vice Adm. Jeff Hughes, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Warfighting Development, N7, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations; Vice Adm. Frank Morley, Principal Military Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Research, Development, and Acquisition); and Lt. Gen. Matthew Glavy, Deputy Commandant for Information for the U.S. Marine Corps. The panel highlighted the central role of education and research in developing a culture of innovators and lowering barriers to enable technological innovation at the speed of relevance. The discussion also covered the importance of mature technology, the expansion of the defense industrial base, and the rapid application of innovative technology to the warfighter and fleet.
Speakers emphasized the essential role of the Naval Postgraduate School in educating future leaders and taking ideas to impact within the DOD. Shyu discussed the importance of STEM education initiatives, modeling and simulation, rapid prototyping, and the ability to test and iterate rapidly. Glavy cited specific examples of NPS Marine alumni taking capabilities, understanding them and operationalizing them, and emphasized that our ability to take advantage of innovation cannot happen without the technical depth that NPS and our Naval Education Enterprise provides. Hughes highlighted the role of NPS and the future Naval Innovation Center at NPS as a convening place for collaboration between education, R&D, science, technology, and our partners and allies.
“We are in the midst of global conflict and must enhance our ability to operationalize and rapidly apply technical advancements for our national security and that of our allies,” said Rich Patterson, President and CEO of the Naval Postgraduate School Foundation. “This year’s Sea-Air-Space conference highlighted shared collaboration across government, industry, and academia as a critical component, and identified NPS as a vital element of our national security efforts.”
For decades, the private sector has been the driving force behind research and development investments. However, there is now a shift toward prioritizing government-led investments, given the urgent threats presented by our adversaries. The ability to develop new and innovative warfighting capabilities is highly dependent on collaboration across the DOD and with industry partners in critical technologies. The 2023 Sea-Air-Space conference demonstrated that the Department of Defense is making a strong commitment and investment to accelerate innovation through education, research and technology, to stay ahead of advanced adversaries and to drive security for our nation and our citizens.