Highlights and Observations from 2014 Sea-Air-Space
The 2014 Sea-Air-Space convention, held at the Gaylord National Convention Center in National Harbor, MD, highlighted the latest in mission-critical equipment and technologies for military sea services. The exhibition floor showcased drones, missiles, model ships, and the latest in combat gear for the United States Marine Corps, with up close displays of the Osprey V-22 and X47B drawing the attention of many curious attendees. The exhibits sprawled outside to the waterfront, where the Naval Sea Systems Command Warfare Centers, Carderock Division‘s Stiletto Maritime Demonstration Platform was on display. This platform operates as a test facility for industry, government, and academic systems developers looking to test new technology in a military maritime environment.
The fun and excitement of touring some of the latest in equipment and technological advancements; however, remained grounded by the underlying tone that the Navy is still very much dealing with the effects of Sequestration. The Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Jon Greenert was a featured speaker at the Conference and warned that the large budget cuts have hindered the Navy’s ability to surge in a crisis. Admiral Greenert went on to state that despite having a covenant to provide three carrier strike groups and three amphibious ready groups in a crisis, under current levels, the Navy could only surge deploy one carrier strike group and one amphibious ready group. He encouraged Congress to lift the automatic cuts in order for the Navy to maintain its mission readiness, and in a separate speech encouraged the “services to turn toward each other” to get the most out of this tight budgetary period, stressing that “evaluating interdependence is a strategic imperative — between the services, but also between government and industry.”
Despite the lingering budgetary concerns, the general consensus among Conference participants was that sea power will continue to be a near and long-term priority for the U.S. military. This was certainly on display both inside and outside of the exhibition, and with 13 years of ground wars drawing down and the Navy fleet having been strained under longer and more erratic deployment schedules, contractors are eager to find opportunities to work with U.S. Navy customers in order to position for the future. A prime example of this was the response to Sea-Air-Space’s first ever small-business forum, which approximately 400 companies signed up for, far exceeding the 100 – 150 participants expected by organizers.