Naval Intelligence Professionals Attend AFCEA’s WEST Conference in San Diego

The jointly sponsored AFCEA-U.S. Naval Institute WEST Conference and Exposition was held 17-19 February at San Diego’s Convention Center, close to the vibrant nightlife of the Gas Lamp district and the fine dining of Old Town and the Little Italy neighborhood. WEST is what the organizers describe as “the foremost event in which the makers of platforms and the designers of technologies can network, discuss and demonstrate their solutions in a single locale. To complete their missions successfully, more than 150,000 professionals in the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard who live in the San Diego area depend on the open discussions and valuable networking WEST provides.”

AFCEA February 2016

The active leadership and deck-plate sailors agree: more than the operators benefit from participating in WEST with the synergy of industry and the retired community. Senior military and government officials gain valuable feedback directly from the West Coast sea service warfighters. Industry leaders learn about military requirements and connect with decision makers as well as operators in a professional environment, away from the office and far from the Washington Beltway.

 AFCEA February 2016
The West Conference included many industry exhibitors and static displays like this MQ-8 FIRE SCOUT drone.
 AFCEA February 2016
The legendary JoeMaz poses with VADM Branch and his wife.

The active leadership of Naval intelligence was present and engaged, including VADM Ted “Twig” Branch (DNI), VADM Jan Tighe (CYBERCOM), RADM Matt Kohler (NAVIFOR) and RADM Paul Becker (Joint Staff J2). 

 AFCEA February 2016
Naval Information Warfare was a key part of the West Conference. RADM Matt Kohler, Commander, Naval Information Forces, addressed the conference. RADM Paul Becker is at front-right.

To augment the formal program, NIP’s San Diego Chapter graciously hosted events during the conference, including a reception in San Diego's Gas Lamp District. Additionally, retired Captain Chris Bott threw open his home in Little Italy for an event. RDML Bruce Loveless, retired RDML and NIP Chairman Tony Cothron, and NIP San Diego stalwart Geno Spatafore enjoyed the evening. 

 AFCEA February 2016
Retired CAPT and Mrs. Jim Mueller with retired CAPT John Allison.
 AFCEA February 2016
Retired CDR Steve Boraz with former DDNI and retired CAPT Mark Clark.
 AFCEA February 2016
Joemaz shares a story with NIP Chairman Tony Cothron and his vivacious wife Beth.
 AFCEA February 2016
RDML Bruce Loveless with retired CAPT Chris Bott (host) and retired CAPT Dick Pera.

NIP was also prominently represented, with Chairman Tony Cothron and some legendary retired senior officers, including VADM Jack Dorsett, USN (Ret.), former DNI, who came from Japan where he works for Northrup-Grumman and the longest serving DNI, Rick Porterfield, who attended only for the first day. Others included Joe Mazaffro, Chris Bott, Dick Pera, John Allison, Geno Spatafore, Jim Mueller and Steve Boraz.

All the active leadership had at least one major address and several smaller speeches as well as participating in panel discussions.  Stated with slightly different variations, Information Warfare was a significant focus area, and in the view of CNO Richardson, we are “not dominant” in this domain. Insiders summed it up by saying "That’s the good news."

"The bad news is that most of what they talked about was EW, cyber, and to some degree, what we old timers would recognize as SIGINT.  Situational Awareness, understanding adversary intentions, basic Order of Battle (OOB), weapons C&P was virtually nonexistent in the commentary.  What we heard our leaders in Information Warfare saying is: “Intel about how to operate and prevail in the EW and Cyber domains is what the leadership of the Navy is demanding and what we knew as Naval Intelligence/IDC is going to give them what they want.”   

Joe Mazaffro summed it up this way: “So, it turns out the 80s was golden age of the near-real-time Ocean Surveillance Information System (OSIS), but I don't remember thinking that at the time or that it would abruptly end less than ten years later. I was present in the room when the leadership of Naval Intelligence removed the feeding tube from OSIS and permitted the Ocean Surveillance Information System to expire. There was no push-back from the unrestricted Line Officers.”

Joe concluded by saying that “As a result, my sense is that Naval Intel as we learned it and practiced it will unrecognizable, if not nonexistent in five years.”

Jim Mueller commented that Joe’s remarks coincided with his own observations. “It’s different,” he concluded. “And I don't know if it is better, despite the advances in technology.” 

Copyright 2016 Vic Socotra
Images Courtesy Richard Pera, rights reserved.