Through Google Glass, Pacific Fleet Commander Explains Need for Cutting Edge Technologies

By Dan Parsons

SAN DIEGO — The U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander delivered his remarks to the AFCEA West conference through a pair of the latest in wearable computing technology.
Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr. donned a pair of Google Glass Feb. 11, then switched to reading remarks from a tablet computer and finally turned to old-fashioned paper while addressing the conference.

The Google Glass device was provided by the Space and Naval Warfare Command at his request. When he finished  speaking, he tore up his paper notes.

“I think there is enormous potential for something like this wearable optical device like I had on today, where information is with me, it’s there,” he said. “Not only can I do something as simple as read a speech from it, but you can take pictures, video. … I recognize the potential in things like that.”

The military must embrace such technologies to maintain its current edge in the Asia-Pacific region, he said.

“Today we have an edge on any and all would-be aggressors. But we can’t just sit back and rest on our laurels,” he said. “Many nations are investing in new high-tech platforms, weapons systems and cyber capabilities. And they are aggressively trying to close the gap on us.”

Harris quoted U.S. Pacific Command chief Adm. Samuel Locklear as saying recently that there is a concern about the “lack of urgency” in the development and production of next-generation cruise missiles.

“The Navy has to revolutionize our way of thinking, of investing, of acquiring new technologies and new systems, of leveraging new technologies,” he said. “The Indo-Asia Pacific region will drive the world economy for the next century. But there are risks in the region that we must contend with.”

Harris specifically called out China for expanding its influence in the region and noted that nation’s lack of transparency in both its international dealings and military developments.

China will for the first time participate in this summer’s RIMPAC military exercises. A total of 23 nations will participate, which makes this year’s event the largest in its nearly 50-year history, he said.

“China’s acceptance our RIMPAC invitation is an important milestone,” he said. “Let me be clear, we welcome the emergence of a prosperous and successful China as a positive contributor to the region’s stability and a productive member of the community of nations.”

By 2020, 60 percent of the U.S. Navy will be stationed in and around the Pacific Ocean, he said.

Harris mentioned both the deployment of new P-8 Poseidon and the littoral combat ship as examples of technologies needed to make a successful pivot to the region. LCS-1, the USS Freedom recently returned from its first deployment to Singapore during which it suffered structural and performance difficulties. LCS-2, the USS Independence is moored outside the San Diego convention center just yards from where Harris spoke.

The P-8 surveillance aircraft based in Okinawa, Japan are a leap forward in anti-submarine warfare and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, he said.

The USS Freedom was one of several ships that responded in the aftermath of the typhoon that ravaged the Philippines last year. The Navy acknowledged the vessel’s troubles, which Harris said was a symptom of it being a first-in-class ship. The ship did prove its concept, he said.

“As with all new platforms, there are lessons to be learned at sea,” he said. “That is just the nature of the business. … The LCS program is moving forward.”

The third and fourth ships — USS Ft. Worth and soon-to-be christened USS Coronado — are on their way to San Diego.  

“I think those ships are terrific,” Harris Said. “Did the Freedom have some problems in Singapore? Absolutely. But it was a bold, courageous decision by the Navy … to deploy the Freedom way early in order to test it out.”

There are more ships coming, Harris added, mentioning the Navy’s new mobile landing platforms and the DDG-1000 destroyer.

“If Batman had a ship, it would look like the Zumwalt destroyer,” he said. “It is at the very cutting edge of technology including advanced hybrid-drive propulsions systems and enormous firepower. All of these new platforms are going to be game changers in the Pacific.”

But Harris cautioned that the Navy and the U.S. military writ large should not become overly reliant on technology. All have the potential to fail, he said.

“I started this speech with a wearable optical device then went to a tablet and then went to a paper speech,” he said. “What’s this all about? It’s about creativity. It’s about redundancy and resilience. All of our systems might fail.”

Topics: Infotech, Science and Engineering Technology

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