State-of-the-art, high technology provided the backdrop, but the low-tech role of troops on the ground was the focus of the 16th annual WEST 2006 conference in San Diego last month.
Roughly 10,000 people attended the conference, entitled "Service Roles and Structures: What's Right for the Way Ahead?" Nearly 400 defense contractors, information technologies groups, government agencies, and small businesses filled the exhibition hall at the San Diego Convention Center with displays of high-tech innovations designed to help today's soldiers, sailors, and Marines.
The most eagerly awaited speaker, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Mike Mullen, told attendees that the 281 Navy ships now spread across the globe is "not enough." The Navy's responsibilities are growing daily. In addition to fighting on two fronts, the Navy is monitoring terrorist activities, drug and weapons trafficking, and piracy at sea. It helped with rescue efforts in New Orleans and in countries hurt by the tsunami. That expansion of duties-"in blue, green, and brown water"-is part of a broad, long-term "generational" war for which the Navy must be better prepared and equipped.