True to the nature of the sailors and officers who comprise the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command, the fourth annual Naval Expeditionary Forces Symposium and Expo opened Tuesday morning in Virginia Beach with the announcement that two key speakers would be absent. They had been called away to meet emerging tasks – but two replacements were prepped and ready before attendees ever knew there was an issue.
Discussions were somewhat bitter sweet. While speakers noted how current operations in the war zone and humanitarian missions such as the one in Haiti have validated the need for NECC, there remained an undercurrent of frustration among attendees that the command needs any validation at all. Some 95 percent of the specialties that comprise NECC have existed since World War II, and are among the most heavily demanded sailors and officers. Yet they historically have been at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to recognition and funding. It’s not hard to see why – the command has no ships, subs or aircraft. As such, these units are often orphaned when the big budgets are doled out.
But NECC has come a long way. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead has placed an identifiable priority on these sailors and missions. Indeed, they are at the heart of his recently released irregular warfare directives.
And as Rear Adm. Carol Pottenger, NECC commander, addressed future funding needs, she was no Oliver Twist hoping for a few more scraps. Her strategic plan is getting attention. Here are her “Top 15” of the 85 Science and Technology Objectives laid out:
- Improved protection for individuals
- RPG defense for watercraft and vehicles
- Tactical, autonomous or semi-autonomous mobile sensor platforms
- Advanced lethal waterborne weapons for use against small, fast watercraft and vehicles
- Stand-off detection of explosive hazards (underwater/land)
- Enhanced lightweight armor systems for watercraft
- Advanced non-lethal, non-destructive waterborne platform stopping/repelling capability
- Persistent and scalable unattended maritime sensor networks
- Scalable, mobile, secure OTH digital communication networks
- Swimmer defeat
- Hardened expeditionary facilities and infrastructure
- Persistent and scalable unattended ground sensor networks
- Advanced power sources for field applications
- Advanced high-fidelity, fixed and field-exportable expeditionary training and simulation
- Intelligent expeditionary installation security