WEST 2013 Conference Sheds Light on Future Priorities and Challenges for DOD

Lloyd McCoy Jr., Senior Analyst

AFCEA International and the U.S. Naval Institute recently co-sponsored West 2013: Pivot to the Pacific: What are the Practical and Global Implications?” the largest industry event on the West Coast for communications, electronics, and information systems. Despite limits on travel and budget constraints many high ranking military and civilian leaders attended. The conference centered on two primary themes, rebalancing U.S. forces toward the Asia-Pacific region, and adjusting to an increasingly austere fiscal climate.

Pivot to the Pacific:

Under Secretary of the Navy, Robert Work, highlighted the imperatives of rebalancing the Pacific. He believes naval forces will be key to the Asia-Pacific region as the area has seen a sharp expansion in major maritime powers over the last decade. Secretary Work highlighted our expanded interests in the region which include:

  • Offshore energy reserves
  • Protection of vital telecommunication networks
  • Aspiring and nuclear powers
  • Thoroughfares of maritime traffic
  • Growing anti-access areas near China and Persian Gulf.

Fiscal Uncertainty:

All of the speakers believed sequestration or comparable sized budgetary cuts were going to happen meaning the government would have to do more with less. During these fiscally tight times, procurement will be increasingly measured against the extent your product or service addresses the following national security interests:

Six National Security Interests (by order of importance)

  1. Survival of nation
  2. Security of global economic system
  3. Prevention of catastrophic attacks on our nation
  4. Secure, confident, and reliable allies and partners
  5. Protection of American citizens abroad
  6. Protection, and when possible, extension of universal values

Where more of these national security interests are serviced by your product and the higher those interests rank on the list, the more likely you will win. By extension, if a product can serve more than one of the six national security interests, it will have an advantage.

Companies who attack rising costs and engage in transparent partnerships where cost data/fee structures are shared will gain an advantage over their competitors. The goal is to build trust in order to better afford to buy things in an increasingly economical environment. Additionally, if one service can buy a platform that does 85% of what it needs to do, then government might settle for “good enough.” All of the speakers emphasized that industry is part of our total force. By failing to invest in technology, we will have a hollow force. The overall health of industry will be carefully considered as the Department of Defense experiences budget cuts.

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