Navigating Future Seas with Zero Trust, Data Mastery, and Technological Breakthroughs - Insights from WEST

By Francis Rose, Host, Fed Gov Today

Presented by Carahsoft

IMG_1581The 34th annual WEST, jointly presented by AFCEA International and the U.S. Naval Institute, marked a significant convergence of military prowess and technological innovation. This premier naval conference on the West Coast has long been a crucible for dialogue and discovery, connecting the architects of maritime strategy with the purveyors of cutting-edge technologies. This year, the discussions delved into the critical themes of Zero Trust architecture, the paramount importance of data protection and management, the transformative potential of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), and the power of collaboration between the military and industry.

Zero Trust: A New Paradigm for Maritime Cybersecurity

In an era where digital threats loom large over national security, the adoption of Zero Trust architecture within the Department of Defense was spotlighted as a cornerstone for safeguarding the maritime domain's information landscape. With emphases on rigorous access controls, identity verification, and never-trust-always-verify principles, Zero Trust emerged from the conference discussions as a blueprint for constructing a resilient cyber defense posture. This paradigm shift reflects a strategic response to evolving cyber threats, aiming to fortify the sea services' digital infrastructure against unauthorized access and data breaches.

The Strategic Imperative of Data Management

Central to the discourse at WEST was the recognition of data as the lifeblood of contemporary naval operations. The challenges associated with managing, protecting, and leveraging vast data reserves were discussed extensively, highlighting the need for sophisticated data discovery, classification, and encryption methodologies. The dialogue underscored data's role as a strategic asset, vital for informed command decisions, operational planning, and the overall effectiveness of maritime forces. The emphasis on data underscores a broader shift towards a more informed, data-driven approach to warfare, where information superiority translates to operational advantage.

IMG_1680Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning: Enablers of Next-Generation Warfare

AI and ML were heralded as game-changers for the sea services, with the potential to revolutionize everything from intelligence analysis to predictive maintenance. The discussions at the conference showcased both the opportunities and challenges presented by these technologies, advocating for a judicious application aligned with clear operational goals. The conversations around AI and ML reflected a consensus on their transformative impact, offering tools for enhancing decision-making, automating routine tasks, and providing actionable insights from complex datasets. However, a note of caution was also sounded, warning against an uncritical embrace of technology without adequate consideration of its applicability to specific mission requirements.

Fostering Innovation Through Collaboration

A recurring theme throughout the conference was the critical role of collaboration between the military and industry in driving forward the frontiers of naval technology. This partnership ethos is seen as essential for tapping into the wellspring of innovation that resides within the private sector, adapting and integrating commercial technologies to meet the unique demands of naval operations. The spirit of collaboration is not only about accessing new technologies but also about creating a feedback loop where military experiences and needs inform the development of future technologies.

Charting a Course Towards Technological Superiority

IMG_1600The insights gleaned from WEST paint a picture of a naval future where cybersecurity, data sovereignty, and technological innovation are interwoven into the fabric of maritime strategy. The discussions underscored a collective determination to leverage Zero Trust principles, harness the power of data, and explore the potential of AI and ML, all within a framework of dynamic collaboration between the sea services and industry. As the maritime domain continues to evolve, these strategic priorities will guide the development of capabilities that ensure the United States maintains its edge in an increasingly contested and digital battlespace.

The vision articulated at WEST is one of a naval force that is not only prepared to confront the challenges of today but is also actively shaping the maritime warfare landscape of tomorrow. Through a commitment to innovation, adaptability, and partnership, the sea services are poised to navigate the future seas with confidence and capability, safeguarding national interests and maintaining global maritime security.

An Industry Perspective from WEST

Jim Coyle - U.S. Public Sector CTO at Lookout - Zero Trust: A Strategic Imperative for Defense

Jim Coyle's insights at the conference illuminated the Defense Department's strategic opportunity to leverage zero trust for enhancing national security. He discussed the challenges of understanding and protecting various types of data, from blueprints of military hardware to personal information of service members. Coyle emphasized the role of zero trust methodologies in preventing adversaries from accessing and exploiting critical information, highlighting the necessity of a data-centric approach to cybersecurity within the Department of Defense.


Phil Fuster - Chief Growth Officer at Hitachi Vantara Federal - AI and Data Meshes Driving Navy Modernization

Phil Fuster's insights highlighted the pivotal role of artificial intelligence and data integration in modernizing naval operations. He focused on the implementation of AI across various domains, from IT infrastructure to operational technology (OT) and the Internet of Things (IoT). Fuster stressed the significance of creating interconnected data meshes that enable predictive maintenance, optimize logistics, and support decision-making processes. His discussion underscored the transformative potential of AI in streamlining operations, enhancing training through intelligent chatbots, and ensuring the effective management of resources across the Navy and Marine Corps.


Greg Little - Sr. Counselor at Palantir - Software Supremacy in Naval Warfare

Greg Little's conversation at WEST shed light on the transformative impact of software and AI on naval operations. Drawing parallels between historical naval innovations and current technological advancements, Little emphasized the strategic shift towards software supremacy as crucial for maintaining maritime dominance. He articulated the necessity of adopting advanced analytics, computer vision, and predictive maintenance technologies to enhance warfighting capabilities, operational readiness, and decision-making efficiency. Little advocated for a seamless integration of software solutions from the sea floor to space, underscoring the urgency in outpacing adversaries in the digital realm.


Connor Kirkham - DoD Team Lead at Alteryx - Data Adoption and Analytics in Naval Operations

Connor Kirkham's interview focused on the Navy's efforts towards becoming more agile and data-driven in its operations. He discussed the Department of Defense's framework for data and analytics adoption, emphasizing the importance of improving data quality and leveraging analytics for operational decisions. Kirkham highlighted the need for a progression in data management practices, starting with ensuring data quality and moving towards actionable intelligence and responsible AI deployment. He also touched on the collaboration between industry and military services, pointing out the opportunities for mutual growth and innovation.


Gina Scinta - Deputy CTO at Thales Trusted Cyber Technologies - Navigating Data Challenges with Zero Trust

Gina Scinta's interview at WEST focused on the intersection of data protection and zero trust architecture, emphasizing the Defense Department's ongoing efforts to secure a vast and growing repository of data. She highlighted the critical need for a comprehensive approach to data management, stressing the importance of identity management, data discovery, encryption, and key management in safeguarding information. Scinta underscored the challenge of not just protecting data at rest but also ensuring its security during transmission, advocating for a layered defense strategy that adapts to the evolving cybersecurity landscape.


Matt Schmitt - Mission Account Manager, U.S. Navy and Marine Corps at ServiceNow - Enhancing Decision-Making with AI and Machine Learning

Matt Schmitt discussed the potential of artificial intelligence and machine learning in transforming naval operations. He emphasized the importance of identifying clear objectives for AI implementation, rather than adopting AI for its own sake. Schmitt highlighted the benefits of AI in accelerating decision-making processes, improving data analysis, and supporting mission objectives. He also addressed the risks of overpromising AI capabilities and the importance of focusing on practical use cases to avoid scope creep.