The Defense News Conference featured military leadership and defense experts that dug into the defense strategy where the end game far differs from that of years past, articulating what that means for procurement, technology development and international cooperation.


Defending the pacific
In the words of Elbridge Colby, deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy and force development: “central challenge facing the Department of Defense and the joint force [is] the erosion of U.S. military advantage vis a vis China and Russia.” And while the threat posed by Russia has grown more clear in the last few years, the threat of China as well as North Korea in the Pacific are increasingly complicated – extending beyond any one domain to include naval, air and land, and incorporating advanced technological prowess that rewrites what was once perceived to be the state of capabilities of our adversaries in the Pacific. This panel will examine closely the Pentagon’s multi-domain strategy to defend the Pacific region, how that stands up to evolving and asymmetric threats, and what role allies play in our military deterrence efforts.

Futures command: one year on
About a year ago, Futures Command was just getting stood up – leadership was put in place, and the chosen headquarters left some asking whether the Army can “Keep Austin Weird,” as the city proudly aspires to do through promotion of small, creative businesses. But the command also has a job to do, with Long-Range Precision Fires, Next-Generation Combat Vehicle and Future Vertical Lift among the top modernization priorities. So how’s that coming? And how has the argument of why Futures Command needed to be established to push the Army to its next major transformation been proven out – or not? This panel will provide a progress report on both the standing up of the Army’s newest command, and the programs that ultimately will determine the success or failure of Army modernization.

Lessons learned from Nato’s hybrid battlefield
If there was ever a time in recent history that NATO was blindsided it was with the 2014 annexation of Crimea by Russia. Ukraine, of course, neither was nor is a NATO member. But for European allies, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe, the successful insurgency combined with the hybrid methods undertaken by Moscow served as a wakeup call about the heightened threat in the region and transformed the definition of offensive and defensive warfare for the collective alliance. From cyberattacks and social engineering to electronic warfare and conventional military power, this panel will dissect tactics taken by Russia in Ukraine as well as in Estonia, Latvia and elsewhere in the region, for a candid dialogue about gaps in security that existed then and now, and what types of investments have happened or are still underway to ensure Europe and NATO allies are collectively prepared to either deter or respond to contemporary conflict.

We’re not there yet: closing the innovation gap
The allure of Silicon Valley and the tech community at large for the Pentagon has gone on now for a few years, resulting in a modest number of notable success stories, two of which were at least partly thanks to billionaire CEOs with a fascination for the Pentagon (we’re looking at you Palantir and SpaceX). But generally speaking, the grand kumbaya ambitions have been rather slow to take hold in any big way, even as China moves rapidly ahead in areas like artificial intelligence and quantum computing, Russia continues its tear in electronic warfare and cyber, and terrorist groups get creative in their use of small, but disruptive drone swarms. This panel will examine the disconnect that permeates the two communities, from differences in culture and development principles to conflicts in investment approaches, and how the Pentagon’s tactics for cooperation with the country’s most promising innovators differs from those of near pear adversaries.

Sell! Buy! Global defense budgets dissected
Beyond never ending debate on Capitol Hill about the proper size of Pentagon budgets, allies around the world are doing the same – particularly amid pressure for NATO members to increase their investment in defense and better position themselves for potential conflict. At the same, as the Pentagon advocates on behalf of U.S. defense companies to new and existing customers around the globe, Russia and China are increasingly offering up sometimes attractive, often more economic alternatives to mutual allies in Asia and the Middle East. Allies in Europe are also increasingly pushing platforms and technologies produced by their own defense manufacturers in an effort to promote a more healthy domestic industrial base. This panel will look at the current trends in defense spending, platforms and systems drawing the most dollars, and where the US industrial base stands as other countries up their game.

State of the nuclear triad
A 2017 report from the Congressional Budget Office painted a rather alarming picture: the U.S. will need to spend $1.2 trillion over the next 30 years to modernize and maintain its nuclear weapons, including $800 billion to operate and sustain existing forces, and $400 billion to modernize them. At the same time, factors influencing those investments are shifting, with the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review emphasizing less a reduction in nuclear stockpiles worldwide and more a need to enhance capabilities to match with Russia. Questions remain what that means for existing modernization efforts: the Navy’s replacement for the Ohio-class nuclear submarine; the Air Force’s B-21, a new bomber design capable of both conventional and nuclear strike; the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent, a replacement for the existing Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles; and the Long Range Stand-Off weapon, a new nuclear cruise missile. And where do efforts to modernize the various warheads used on the Pentagon’s delivery systems stand, or investments in the command-and-control structure required to support the so-called nuclear triad? This panel will examine the state of the nuclear triad in terms of strategy, capability, enhancement, and modernization, and where the U.S. stands today in its ability to both deter and compete against increasingly hostile global adversaries.

USAF priorities
With the next-generation trainer contract (finally) awarded, the long range strike bomber moving along (as far as we know) in development, the KC-46 delivery happening (any day now), and the F-35 nearing (gradually) full-rate production, the Air Force can finally move beyond major aircraft procurement to mission capability and force readiness. How will the service prioritize systems and personnel investments? What will force makeup look like, in the wake of the pledge from Secretary Heather Wilson to grow the number of operational squadrons by 25 percent? With threats bubbling in Asia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East, how will the Air Force prioritize missions? This Defense News Conference panel will examine the state of the Air Force and how investments in strategic systems as well as platforms at different stages of development will ultimately be integrated into operations.


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