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Thursday, May 17, 2012


Plenary Address: Mr. Michael Jones, chief technology advocate, Google Ventures

Opening up the third day of the United States Naval Institute and AFCEA’s 2012 conference on joint warfighting was Michael Jones, the chief technology advocate for Google Ventures to giving a briefing on what role data-mining type consumer technologies play in warfighting, not just for U.S. military, but its adversaries as well.

With applying user-generated data, Google software he explained had made it possible to map out entire areas that Google had been able to, like the cities in the Philippines for example. But that data could also be used by the enemy.

One example he offered more applicable to the U.S. Navy would be a concept for ship tracking, as there are 200,000 ships traveling daily with in the 357,000,000 square kilometers of Earth’s ocean surface.

“There are about 200,000 ships or vessels, 1300 gross metric tons or larger active on the ocean every single day,” Jones said. “They’re all moving around. Some of them are fishermen. Some of them are cargo or oil tankers. … You might wonder from a national perspective what they’re doing? And you might want to track it. How would you track a ship at sea?”

Currently Jones said a Marine Automatic Identification System (AIS) exists, but only gives you a 10-mile range. However, Google is working on away by use of several different means to get a more comprehensive view, which he said Google was capable of creating that technology at a low cost. 

But if Google could do it, he said – what about rogue powers?

“Here is the thing I want you to think about,” he said. “You could easily get Google to do whatever the right thing is. But you couldn’t get al-Qaeda to do the right thing. You couldn’t get Syria to do that. You couldn’t get North Korea to do that.”

The U.S. Department of Defense he said was a different story.

“It angers me as a citizen that I can easily do this and the entire DoD can’t do this,” he added. “The NRO can’t do this. It’s crazy.”

“How do winners really win and a lot of times it’s more of your MacGyver attribute than your Einstein attribute,” he explained. 

Jones suggested that the Army, Navy and warfighting should embrace consumer technology more than they are presently.

“Even if you embrace it with a lot of suspicion, you should not ignore it,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how you embrace it.”

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Equipping the Force for the New Strategy: Reconstitution vs. New Acquisition

As the general consensus seems to be that warfighting is soon to hit or has hit an inflection point, it is agreed that strategies and tactics will have to change. But what about the tools and equipment the military will use? And with budget cuts, how can the equipment currently in place be used to meet the demands of this new type of warfighting?

The final panel session of the United States Naval Institute and AFCEA’s 2012 conference on joint warfighting addressed those issues and was moderated by Peter M. Swartz, the principle research scientist for the Center for Naval Analyses.

But Swartz hinted he was a little overwhelmed with some of the ideas on this issue and other issues from the conference thus far.

“I listened to all those speakers and analysts and with the clear exception of Gen. Cartwright, I must confess I did not hear a whole lot about what to hold and precious little about what to fold,” Swartz said. “Most of it was about all the new cards that had to be dealt because of the age. And reconciling all of that is quite a tall order.”

According to Swartz, as new acquisitions go for joint warfighting go, there are three questions that need to be asked:  1) What do we need to buy? 2) Why do we need to buy it? 3) How do we afford it?

He added that a balance also had to be struck with just how much was needed for preparedness and training in addressing “knowing what to hold and knowing what to fold.”

Major. Gen. Frederick Rudesheim, deputy director of J7, joint and coalition warfighting of the Joint Staff said that 80 percent of the concept of force 2020 was already in place. But he said much of the differences will lie in the human element.

“It is all about people, all about human domain,” Rudesheim said. 

Things are happening faster he explained, citing how an Arab Spring would not have occurred so quickly and therefore joint warfighting needed to adjust accordingly.

Vice Admiral Walter M. Skinner echoed Rudesheim’s remarks about more of a reliance on changing the human element rather than a specific focus on equipment. He said that it might have more to do with altering human behavior.

“We’ve inherited a force that was designed some 20-30 years ago,” Skinner said. “It was not designed for optimal life cycle costs … it has to be a different design, a cheaper design.”

At the conclusion of each of the panelists’ remarks, Swartz reminded attendees that while there is value in prepared strategic documents and planning measures, the real world often complicates it.

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Luncheon Keynote Discussion: “Air-Sea Battle: What Should it Be?”

Finally, wrapping up USNI and AFCEA’s 2012 conference on joint warfighting, was discussions about the air-sea battle moderated by retired Lt. Col. Frank Hoffman, the former senior director for the office of the deputy undersecretary of the Navy.

Maintaining the air-sea battle strategy may take some changes to survive the shift in joint warfighting, and those were the questions posed to retired Air Force Lt. General David Deptula, the former deputy chief of staff for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, and retired Navy Admiral Patrick Walsh, the former commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

“The air-sea battle I think was meant to be an operation concept – and it should be an operation concept,” Walsh said. “It sits under strategic framing. That strategic document is the joint operation access concept which is indeed something for everyone.”

Walsh mentioned Libya and other places that we’ve gone in the last 20 years, noting that we had a “pretty darn good force” applying this concept. But the so-called pivot to the Pacific could change things and that’s not just all about China as he explained, but who China does business with.

“But when you start looking to the future, it really isn’t just about China,” he said. “It’s about where are these new technical capabilities going to go? It’s not just about China. China exports to many nations that we don’t have particularly good relationships with.


Deptula looking at what’s ahead said that our enemies will have an inclination to build capabilities that would deny us access and that we must prepare accordingly for these obstacles and overcome the time constraints that could hinder us from doing so.

“Over the last two decades, there has been --- and also over the last decade, there has been this awareness of some in the United States that we’ve got to come to grips with the way that we used to conduct warfare in light of advancing technologies that enable some to develop capabilities to keep us away.”

And Deptula reminded attendees what the fundamental purpose of the air-sea battle strategy was.

“Air-Sea Battle is the evolution of different to concepts to deny an adversary the capability to prevent us from imposing conditions that would not be conducive,” he added, noting that evolution has come to include space and sub-sea components as well.

But Deptula pointed out the human component as well, as joint warfighting is at that inflection point. It isn’t all just a technological issue, but one that might require some habits to change in this new era of joint warfighting.

“It is not about technology,” he said. “It is about institutional inertia and overcoming resistance to change. We have to start thinking outside the box. That would be the single biggest thing I would do something about. You have to encourage people to think differently. We are not going to be able to get through the resource constraints that we’ve all known about for 20-plus years. And they’ve only just gotten worse because of economic conditions around the world. But we’re not going to get through this at the Department of Defense just by simply buying less than what we already have.  We have to think differently and open our minds to new ways of doing business.”



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