The 38th annual TechNet Indo-Pacific conference welcomed military and GovCon experts to discuss the theme “Accelerate Indo-Pacific Innovation.” With many eyes on this theater, given current tensions with China, thousands of attendees met November 7-9 at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Honolulu to tackle important issues presented by military leaders and to see potential solutions presented by almost 300 exhibitors.

Cosponsored by AFCEA International and AFCEA Hawaii, TechNet Indo-Pacific is the largest event in the Pacific Rim focusing on defense issues, including cyber operations, data-readiness, and next-generation tech such as artificial intelligence.

Digital Demands

Air Vice-Marshal Carl Newman delivers a keynote speech at TechNet Indo-Pacific 2023

Air Vice-Marshal Carl Newman delivers a keynote speech at TechNet Indo-Pacific 2023. Photo credit: Artistic Mindz Photography

The military’s goal is to always stay ahead of adversaries. But with the digital world increasing the number of battlefronts, that requires constant innovation.

The United States and its allies must use technology to maintain an advantage, particularly over China, said Air Vice-Marshal Carl Newman, RAAF, Australian deputy commander, U.S. Pacific Air Forces. China’s industrial base has shown great progress with investment in AI, for instance, and it’s projected to make more than 60 space launches.

To compete with that, Newman offered two options. One is to double down on capability with current projects and the other is to work with coalition partners to change the game. “I have a view we need to do both,” Newman said. “We need to both ameliorate short-term risk by doubling down on what we’re currently doing, by accelerating the modernization capability.”

Col. Jason “Gazer” Schramm, deputy commander for U.S. Space Forces Indo-Pacific Command also pointed to China’s burgeoning space program, which he said is second only to the United States in the number of operational satellites.

“The [People’s Liberation Army] benefits from over 360 [intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance] satellites, they’ve got optical multispectral radar and radio frequency sensors, and those increase its ability to detect U.S. aircraft carriers and expeditionary forces and airwaves,” Schramm said.

Col. Jason "Gazer" Schramm, deputy commander for U.S. Space Force, Indo-Pacific, delivers a keynote address at TechNet Indo-Pacific 2023

Col. Jason “Gazer” Schramm, deputy commander for U.S. Space Force, Indo-Pacific, delivers a keynote address at TechNet Indo-Pacific 2023. Photo credit: Artistic Mindz Photography

For help with facing this formidable adversary, Schramm called on industry, directing them to the Tactically Responsive Space initiative, which shows the Space Force’s ability to acquire, launch, and operate space vehicles quickly, and to Space Force Pitch Days. Those are opportunities for small business owners to present ideas for new tech directly to decision-makers.

Synchronicity was an approach that was a common theme among presenters at TechNet Indo-Pacific. Brig. Gen. Mark Miles, director, command, control, communications, and cyber directorate, J6, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, commented on the importance of synchronizing network functions with cyber, electronic warfare, and space endeavors to have a complete command-and-control picture.

During a summertime exercise, “it was obvious by about day two that once-a-day synchronizing around an operation and intel brief was not enough,” Miles said. “That synchronization and that capability had to be as close to real-time as we could make it. We had to have that synchronization between those four functions.”

Wanted: Faster Acquisitions

The Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), which serves as the liaison between commercial tech companies and the Defense Department, is looking to deliver capabilities on a tighter timeline.

U.S. Pacific Fleet Rear Adm. Eric Ruttenberg delivers opening keynote speech at TechNet Indo-Pacific 2023

United States Pacific Fleet Rear Adm. Eric Ruttenberg delivered the opening keynote speech at TechNet Indo-Pacific 2023. Photo credit: Artistic Mindz Photography

U.S. Pacific Fleet Rear Adm. Eric Ruttenberg specifically asked industry for help with accelerating decision-making by using data to validate capabilities and gaps. Uncrewed systems, command and control, and communications are also especially needed right now. “Our ability to dynamically target an adversary’s course and optimally employ fires against them in a contested air- and maritime-denied environment is enabled by the joint fires network,” Ruttenberg said. “You can see how resilient communications, computational power, edge computing, AI, and other technologies are all critical to our mission.”

AI has a role in contracting, noted Ricky Clark, deputy director, National Institutes of Health Information Technology Acquisition and Assessment Center. The government can review and issue contracts 30% faster using AI, he said.

He pointed to multiple uses in contracting such as developing AI tools to scan contract data, chatbots to answer questions faster, and AI applications that can provide advanced analysis and develop smarter business solutions.


As part of its focus on AI development, adoption, and use, DOD is looking to treat data as a product rather than an asset.

“We are plagued by hype that stands in our way, not only for adoption, specifically in the case of [DOD’s Chief Digital and AI Office], but it keeps us from seeing it as a technology,” said William Streilein, chief technology officer at the office. “It is a technology that makes sense of data — that’s really what it is. And the technology is getting better and better to make better sense of that data.”

To increase the quality of the data, the office is working with industry through Task Force Lima and the Tradewinds acquisition vehicle. The former is an effort to monitor, develop, evaluate, and recommend the responsible and secure implementation of generative AI capabilities DOD-wide, and the latter seeks to help develop a maturity model for large language models that would assess AI solutions within use cases.

“This focus on data products is one of our key areas of emphasis,” Streilein said.

As the situation in the Pacific Rim continues to evolve and technologies continue to advance, we are already looking forward to what TechNet Indo-Pacific 2024 will bring.