2019 Charleston Defense Contractors Association Defense Summit

Published: December 18, 2019


The Charleston Defense Contractors Association (CDCA) Defense Summit was held from December 11-12, 2019 in Charleston, South Carolina. The summit focuses on defense technologies and innovation, with emphasis on cyber security, C5ISR, and information warfare. There were over 1,200 attendees and 50 confirmed speakers over the span of the conference. The majority of the government representatives were from the Department of the Navy, more specifically from the Naval Information Warfare Systems Command (NAVWAR), but also included some representatives from other agencies, including the United States Marine Corps and the Office of the Secretary of Defense. The morning keynote speakers opening the event each day were:

  • William Williford, Executive Director , MARCORSYSCOM
  • RDML Eric Ruttenberg, 5.0 Chief Engineer (CHENG), NAVWAR

Some main themes present throughout the summit had a focus around agility, government culture, innovation, adaptability, workforce training, efforts to support the warfighter, and cohesion between government and industry. The individual sessions held during the conference centered on a wide range of topics, to include more general, high-level information to detailed and technical discussions.

In his opening keynote presentation, MARCORSYSCOM Executive Director, William Williford, stated there are three key priorities moving forward:

  • Designing the future of integrated force structure
  • Advancing intellectual information and systems
  • Accelerating digital modernization across the force

Williford argued that a goal is to deliver IT systems at the speed of relevance; however, a major challenge is getting priorities and funding in line to enable capabilities. Furthermore, he explained technology must be protected and networks must be secure in future deployed capabilities to the point that security will be a factor in source selection moving forward.

During the second keynote opening session, RDML Eric Ruttenberg, NAVWAR 5.0 Chief Engineer, concentrated his presentation on accelerating engineering to dominate information warfare. He went on to explain the United States is in an era of great power competition and the new “normal” strategic environment generates new demands, such as:

  • Changing warfare environment - greater agility and adaptability
  • New international Naval adversaries - stretch current resources further
  • Growing cyber threats - integrated cyber capabilities
  • Decreasing margin of error - speed and accuracy

RDML Ruttenberg stated the government is looking for ways to leverage technology and capabilities to enhance cyber, software, systems, and processes, with an importance placed upon forward thinking and innovation. Model Based Systems Engineering (MBSE) is a focus and provides a critical foundation to assist with these efforts by integrating and automating processes. Five goals for the DoD Digital Engineering Strategy are:

  • Formulate the development, integration, and use of models to inform decision making
  • Provide an enduring authoritative source of truth
  • Incorporate technological innovation
  • Establish supporting infrastructure and environments
  • Transform a culture and workforce that adopts and supports digital engineering

NIWC Atlantic’s Contacts Competency Director, Steve Harnig, also presented a contracts update highlighting the agency’s contracting strategy and internal processes and directives. Due to the advance planning within NIWC Atlantic since FY15 and more integration with and between their IPTs, the agency’s fiscal year work in progress is getting smoother and better at the end of each fiscal year period. The increased support to the IPTs equals an increased support to both industry and the warfighter in additional to allowing the agency to be more predictable and dependable. NIWC Atlantic has been regularly holding internal advance planning conferences (APCs) to formulate acquisition teams, identify members and their roles, establish mutual understanding between teams, discuss market research, identify contract approaches, and establish the initial plans of actions, resulting in better planning and execution.

NIWC Atlantic’s overall contract strategy remains the same by utilizing a mix of both internal and external contracts for services and supplies for approximately 90-95% of the their work. However, they are exploring both FAR vs. non-FAR based contracting strategies. Mr. Harnig stated they are completely finished with SeaPort-e actions and all future Seaport requirements will be released via SeaPort NxG.

In addition to the above presentations, the summit also held twelve technical sessions focusing on various topics, to include DevSecOps, cybersecurity maturity model certification, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and areas around model based enterprise. During some of these technical sessions, discussions surrounded how the government is seeking to find the right balance between systems, procedures, and security in order to more effectively meet the needs of the warfighter and deliver capabilities more efficiently. Others focused more around how the consolidation of systems will allow for better overall support to the warfighter.

The CDCA Defense Summit covered a multitude of defense technology topics surrounding the cyber realm, information warfare, and C5ISR strategies. Vendors either attempting to enter into this realm or currently operating within it are sure to gain pertinent information from the sessions, as well as, encounter a variety of opportunities for one-on-one conversations with both government officials and other vendors within this space.

The CDCA Defense Summit is held on an annual basis in Charleston, SC in the December timeframe.