For 36 years, the annual TechNet Indo-Pacific conference has brought together military and GovCon experts to discuss defense pain points and goals and ways to address them. This year, about 2,000 attendees met Nov. 1-3 at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Honolulu to figure out ways the public and private sectors can collaborate based on the theme “From Data to Dominance – Through Partnership.”
The event is cosponsored by AFCEA International and AFCEA Hawaii, which renamed the conference to better reflect the geographical region that stretches from Africa’s east coast to the U.S. West Coast. This huge swath of the globe has been particularly newsworthy of late because of growing tensions.
Industry’s Role in Force Protection
A common theme at this year’s conference was force protection. Maj. Gen. Joshua Rudd, chief of staff for Indo-Pacific Command, said “it’s the No. 1 priority,”as addressed through multiple initiatives, ranging from massive efforts like 360-degree radar missiles to small ones such as safety of personal devices.
He emphasized the importance of technological support in ensuring the U.S. military’s ability to move freely in the large region.
“We need to be able to build resilient architecture that if parts of it goes down, another part of it quickly picks up that responsibility,” Rudd said. “And that happens at the strategic all the way down to the tactical edge. We’re also looking at how we improve our all-domain battlespace awareness.”
One capability he appealed to defense professionals for, is moving the cloud to the edge in Hawaii and the larger theater. “We need to continue to work cross-domain solutions not only within our military, but…with our allies and partners,” he said. “We need assured [command and control], the ability to be resilient, protected, defended and hardened.”
Adm. Samuel Paparo, commander of the Navy’s Pacific Fleet, said some of the most-needed technologies are those that can block an enemy’s understanding of the battlespace, provide a joint common operating picture and handle machine-to-machine operations with a human-in-the-loop.
“I would like mass data analytics to understand what the effects of our deterrence activity are on our competitors’ calculus,” Paparo added.
Trying New Technologies
Lt. Gen. James Jacobson, deputy commander of U.S. Pacific Air Forces, encouraged government contractors to work on technological advancements that would enhance proving ranges for F-35s and F-22s. “You combine that 5th-gen power with a new, improved range, and you start to create great training centers of excellence,” Jacobson said.
He also asked the GovCon industry to share ways it could support exercises in its agile combat employment effort, which is the fast movement of smaller groups of service members and aircraft to locations as needed for deterrence.
Meanwhile, Special Operations Command Pacific is pilot testing a cloud-based tactical network with 17 locations regionwide, including an Army Security Force Assistance Brigade and a Marine Littoral Regiment. Access to it is being made available via QR codes, which Col. Ronnie Geronimo, director of communications for the command, said will enable users to buy a commercial phone, flash the QR code and establish the capability.
“We are the pilot organization for developing a cloud-based commercial enterprise tactical mission network that will support not only our operators, but our partner forces out here across the region,” said Col. Ronnie Geronimo, director of communications for the command, adding that it will support several platforms, including a force protection interface.
“This gives the operators and especially our partner forces, some shared map data and some Blue Force tracking at the unclassified level,” Geronimo said. “It also provides chat, voice, photo and video file cataloging. And we have a passive survey tool that we deploy with this that consolidates networks, your cell phones, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth. It also identifies any potential threats to that network, which we can go inform the operator with as we assess that from the back end of our infrastructure.”
Zeroing in on Zero Trust
A perennial item on the military’s list of needs is cybersecurity. This year, the conference focused on zero trust, especially its identity management and access control capabilities.
“It is the ability to analyze data at scale and have the ability to have machine recommendations for human decision-making at speed, the ability to sense, understand, decide, act and assess, all at a pace faster than our adversary,” said Maj. Gen. Peter Gallagher, a retired major general who is now senior vice president for technology and solutions at CACI.
The military has been applying zero trust at the enterprise level, but is in discussions about it with counterparts in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom – key allies known as the Five Eyes because of their intelligence-sharing.
“We’ve invited them [to meet in December] so we can start to talk about not just what it looks like for the U.S. forces but what it looks like as we’re trying to share data at tactically relevant speeds in the operational environment,” said Navy Rear Adm. Susan Bryer Joyner, deputy director for command, control, communications and computer/cyber systems, J-6, Joint Staff.
.TechNet Indo-Pacific 2023 is set for November 7, 2023 and we can’t wait! Military officials and government contractors can look forward to future discussions regarding the continued efforts to strengthen regional defense within the Pacific Rim.