The final day of the fourth annual Navy Expeditionary Forces Symposium and Expo is off to a cold and miserable start. Sleet, snow and high winds made for a white beach and some wicked waves. You had to be expeditionary in nature to get across the chilly moat that now surrounds the Virginia Beach Convention Center. But once inside, you are treated to warm temperatures and the soothing sounds of an elevator-esque version of “Tequila.”
The opening session featured Rear Adm. (select) Kevin Scott, director of the Expeditionary Warfare Division (N85). The key word was clear: Integration. Specifically, integration at technical and tactical levels.
Scott acknowledged Naval Expeditionary Combat Command provides 10 percent of dedicated conventional informational warfare, and challenged anyone to refute his claim that the command is the primary enabler to unconventional forces. It is “uniquely suited to engage in theater security cooperation and security force assistance,” he said. Scott took the opportunity to direct some of the symposium focus from the small-level, specialized unit and offered a “big picture” look that included the LCS mine warfare mission and the high cost of big-deck amphibs.
Balance, in his words, is more about capabilities than budgets and platforms. Scott said much progress has been made to break away from platform or even service-specific stovepipes in the pursuit of integrating capabilities.
Scott, a helicopter pilot by trade, measured every question, comment and idea against the Quadrennial Defense Review and Maritime Strategy. Leaders will look at these documents to justify future of the NECC, he said. Likewise, the Naval Operational Concept, expected this spring, will have a “huge expeditionary footprint.”
In regard to costs inherent to the integration of technology, Scott pointed out that people also are a “huge cost.” When one looks at diminishing budgets and manpower, “the fewer people needed the better.” As such, the Navy is driving toward autonomous-type vehicles. Scott was quick to emphasize that no system is truly unmanned, and therefore the need to man, train and equip men and women of the highest quality remains. But in regard to capabilities, integrating such technologies is an unequalled force multiplier.