NIWC Atlantic Fosters Collaboration with Industry at CDCA Defense Summit

Capt. Wesley Sanders, Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) Atlantic commanding officer, gives opening remarks on the first day of the 13th annual Charleston

Defense Contractors Association Defense Summit.

Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) Atlantic played a key part in the 13th annual Charleston Defense Contractors Association Defense Summit held in Charleston, South Carolina Dec. 11-12.

More than 1,400 government employees and industry leaders attended the summit, which featured guest speakers, panel discussions, networking events and technical sessions with a focus on command, control, communications, computers, combat systems, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, information warfare and cybersecurity.

In his opening remarks, NIWC Atlantic Commanding Officer Capt. Wesley Sanders highlighted the Navy’s decision to establish the Palmetto Tech Bridge in Charleston under the coordination of NIWC Atlantic. Tech Bridges connect Department of the Navy technology challenges with non-traditional partners to achieve rapid solutions for the warfighter.

“Charleston is the perfect place to bring these entities together with all of our military services and concentrate on solving hard problems and technology challenges,” Sanders said. “That’s thanks in no small measure to our existing partnerships and gatherings such as this one.”

NIWC Atlantic Executive Director Peter C. Reddy participated in a panel discussion moderated by NIWC Atlantic Technical Director Andrew Mansfield on how the Department of Defense (DOD) must learn how to operate within ambiguity to stay agile.

“We need to abandon capabilities that are owned or operated by one service or that solve one problem. We should instead focus on widely applicable solutions that can be used across teams,” said Reddy. “Capabilities that already exist need to be leveraged, cross-attached and broadly applied,” said Reddy.

Reddy said that NIWC Atlantic continues to create forums within the center and with industry in accordance with the Chief of Naval Operations’ and the Commandant of the Marine Corps’ guidance regarding collaboration.

“We need industry to challenge us as an engineering organization, and in turn we’re going to have to challenge program managers to see the bigger picture,” said Reddy. “If each program manager focuses on their own objective, it won’t be enough for us to achieve the level of integration required to stay agile.”

Twelve other NIWC Atlantic leaders moderated and participated in panel discussions.

On the second day of the conference, Naval Information Warfare Systems Command (NAVWAR) Chief Engineer Rear Adm. Eric Ruttenberg offered a broader perspective on how NAVWAR and its partners fit into the DOD’s vision.

“At NAVWAR we feel it’s critical to bring innovation to the capabilities we field — business systems, C4I systems, afloat to shore, to enhance information warfare capabilities in the fleet,” Ruttenberg said. “It has become clear that information warfare is critical to our military’s lethality in our operating environment.”

Ruttenberg said the DOD has had a hand in improving technologies like data sciences, artificial intelligence, machine learning, cloud and new networking capabilities.

“These are all things that private industry has done for years in the commercial sector, and the Navy is really coming up to speed in doing this in partnership with you,” said Ruttenberg.

NIWC Atlantic employees staffed multiple booths and exhibits both days of the conference. Team leads engaged attendees through technical sessions, speed networking sessions and interactive booths, which featured the Information Warfare Research Project, the Advanced Naval Technology Exercise, the Sensors to Notify of Intrusion of Peripheral Rapid Response (SNIPER) project and others.

CDCA President Heather Walker noted how NIWC Atlantic’s participation has helped shape the summit over the last few years.

“Throughout my five-year tenure on the CDCA board, I’ve witnessed a tremendous commitment from all levels of NIWC Atlantic to their mission of collaborating with industry,” said Walker. “Each year they come out in large quantities — in booths, via panels, at the speed networking events — to communicate openly and honestly about the challenges they’re facing and where they need industry’s help.”

As a part of Naval Information Warfare Systems Command, NIWC Atlantic provides systems engineering and acquisition to deliver information warfare capabilities to the naval, joint and national warfighter through the acquisition, development, integration, production, test, deployment, and sustainment of interoperable command, control, communications, computer, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, cyber and information technology capabilities.