"Race for Talent" frames discussion at largest sea service conference


By Francis Rose - Host, Fed Gov Today

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD – Walking through the exhibit hall at Sea-Air-Space 2023 this week, you might have thought the biggest thing on the minds of the sea services was equipment. The display of weapons systems, helicopters, and model aircraft and ships impressed even the most jaded observers. But if you listened to both the military leaders and vendors that spoke here, you’d have quickly learned that they are all thinking about people first, then platforms.


All four sea service chiefs referenced their workforces in the Chiefs Panel that kicked off the conference Monday morning. The Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Michael Gilday; Gen. David Berger, Commandant of the Marine Corps; the Coast Guard Commandant, Adm. Linda Fagan; and the Administrator of the Maritime Administration, RADM Ann Phillips (USN ret.) all cited their personnel situations as a high priority, and a big challenge.

Adm. Fagan confirmed her belief about that concept when she visited the Carahsoft booth for an exclusive conversation with Fed Gov Today. “We are in a race for talent, the same as any other employer,” Fagan told me. “There are multiple avenues that we are taking to help increase the number of young people who see themselves serving in the Coast Guard.”

Administrator Phillips told me at the Chiefs Panel that her service is focusing on the shipboard experience. She cited safety aboard ships as one of the things potential recruits Adm. Linda Fagan                     are concerned about.


Industry leaders at the conference named people as an area where they can help the military. “Whenever you see the defense budget start to go down…a lot of times you’ll see training and education reduced,” Carahsoft Vice President for Government Programs and Strategy Mike McCalip told me. “What you end up with is a workforce that can be five or 10 years behind in technology.” But selling FTEs to government under contracts isn’t the only solution McCalip sees the vendor base providing. That role includes “helping them educate and keep their workforce on the tip of the spear when it comes to technology.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Mike McCalip

Beyond people, the Defense Department’s move to the zero trust concept of cybersecurity stood out to attendees as one of the most talked-about topics at Sea-Air-Space. Cybersecurity was another subject each of the service chiefs addressed, and vendors took lots of questions from the sea service attendees about it. “I see zero trust as I do most technology, that it’s ever evolving,” John Flatbush, Director of Federal Sales for Liquidware, told me. “I don’t think any of it is static. What works today may not work well for us tomorrow.”

The military leaders speaking at Sea-Air-Space generally displayed an eagerness to work closely with industry to solve problems. “I think there’s a tremendous amount of public-private partnership,” said Dave DeWalt, founder and CEO of NightDragon. “I see government working with industry in a way that we have really never seen.”

              Dave DeWalt

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Industry Insights from Sea-Air-Space:

Dave DeWalt - Founder & CEO - NightDragon

Aaron Duchak - Regional Vice President - Salesforce

John Flatbush - Director of Federal Sales - Liquidware

Phil Fuster - Chief Revenue Officer - Hitachi Vantara Federal

Kevin Griffith - Senior Director - DoD, IC and Systems Integrators - Snowflake

Nathanael Hale - Field Sales Director - SecurityScorecard

Michael Loefflad - Sr. Director of Sales Engineering - Federal - SentinelOne

Mike McCalip - Vice President, Government Programs & Strategy - Carahsoft

Matt Schmitt - Mission Account Manager - Navy-USMC - ServiceNow

Ryan Twedell - Account Executive - DoD & Defense Industry Enterprise Sales - Qualtrics

Manny Yusuf - Chief Cloud Architect - Dell Technologies