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Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) Atlantic served as a primary contributor to the 15th annual Charleston Defense Contractors Association (CDCA) Defense Summit held in Charleston, South Carolina, Dec. 7-8.
Building off the record-breaking attendance in 2021, more than 1,800 government employees and industry leaders attended the summit, which featured guest speakers, panel discussions, networking events, technical sessions and demonstrations with a focus on command, control, communications, computers, combat systems, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, information warfare and cybersecurity.
In the opening keynote address of the summit, NIWC Atlantic Commanding Officer Capt. Nicole Nigro applauded the continued collaborative efforts of government and industry partners in tackling some of the most difficult challenges facing the Navy today. She also reiterated her vision for the command at all levels: warfighter first.
“The warfighter as our foundational priority, is driving everything we do,” Nigro said. “In fact, at NIWC Atlantic we continue to develop innovative ideas and leverage different acquisition approaches because, now more than ever, technology delivery at the speed of relevance is critical. Our Navy and our Nation depends on it – and each one of you play a critical part in that technology advancement and delivery.”
NIWC Atlantic Executive Director Peter C. Reddy then joined top leaders from other Naval warfare centers and systems centers for a panel discussion on their individual commands and to provide an overview of the various alternate funding avenues available to industry as they look to collaborate with the government. Reddy highlighted the Information Warfare Research Project (IWRP), Palmetto Tech Bridge and prize challenges as other transaction authorities for igniting rapid innovation and prototyping.
“It’s important for us to be here to engage with our industry partners on the critical work we are already doing for the Navy and the Marine Corps and also to get exposed to technology or ideas that are happening fast in industry that we can then leverage to bring forward new capabilities,” said Reddy.
More than 12 other NIWC Atlantic leaders moderated and participated in panel discussions or targeted program overviews, which included: a panel discussion on the strategic U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard ecosystem that is expanding in Charleston; a conversation surrounding how artificial intelligence, machine learning, cloud and quantum computing and 5G are impacting government and industry’s approaches to cyber security; an overview of key technology needs of the U.S. Marine Corps; and a technical talk covering the complexities and benefits of utilizing unmanned systems in modern information warfare, as well as experimentation and acquisition efforts.
In addition to the panel and technical discussions this year, NIWC Atlantic expanded its presence in the conference exhibit hall to include several static displays and demonstrations by project teams across the command. These included the MARTAC MANTAS T-12, a 12-foot-long unmanned surface vehicle (USV) martime experimentation platform, as well as On Demand Manufacturing 3D printing and Multipurpose Reconfigurable Training System (MRTS) demonstrations, among others.
NIWC Atlantic science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) outreach team members also partnered with local high school robotics teams to display their projects and engage in a friendly completion in the concourse area for the first time at the summit. The high school teams benefited from direct interaction with defense professionals while on site during the first day of the conference and were able to receive real-time feedback on their builds and mentorship regarding STEM career fields.
CDCA President Gary Jaffe’s remarks mirrored the importance of considering the next generation while working in defense of the nation.
“It is critically important that we always think of our children,” Jaffe said. “Of their future and the future of the country. Make meaningful connections here but focus heavily on the capabilities you bring to the warfighter to meet their needs both today and tomorrow. I have deployed to some really dark corners of the Earth. We don’t want to see the same future for our children and grandchildren.”
The 16th annual CDCA Defense Summit will take place Dec. 6-7, 2023 at the same location.
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