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Military, industry leaders gather at Texas A&M to discuss future of defense
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Military, industry leaders gather at Texas A&M to discuss future of defense

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The second annual National Defense Industrial Association conference at Texas A&M began Monday, but it marked the first time industry leaders and the country’s defense representatives met in person on the campus.

At its core, the symposium on the subject of the Department of Defense’s Joint All-Domain Command and Control and all-domain warfare facilitates communication among those in academia, government and industry, NDIA President and CEO Gen. Hawk Carlisle said.

Carlisle, who is retired from the U.S. Air Force, said it takes everyone working together to solve the most difficult challenges facing those defending the country, and an event like the symposium “pays huge dividends” in finding those solutions.

“We know that potential adversaries out there can dictate things in an autocratic society; we do it through collaboration and cooperation, and that’s what this is all about,” he said. “It’s building that kind of network.”

Before attending sessions at the Texas A&M Hotel and Conference Center, attendees toured the RELLIS campus and heard from leaders about the work being done there. The presentations represented the areas of infrastructure and transportation, secure networks, the Bush Combat Development Complex and Army Futures Command and hypersonics.

The symposium, which also includes two days of classified sessions closed to the public, helps showcase the potential of Texas A&M and the RELLIS campus as future partners, said Steve Cambone, associate vice chancellor for cybersecurity initiatives within the Texas A&M University System.

Carlisle said his hope is that attendees, while in College Station, are able to hear and understand the problems facing the country’s military, build relationships and networks, and know who to call in the future.

Robert “Sno” Soderholm, representing Lockheed Martin, said he is looking forward to hearing from the military representatives during the classified sessions.

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“It’s a good engagements time,” he said. “Those active duty folks are the customers who we’re trying to make the products for and trying to bridge that gap in between what their requirements are and what are the capabilities and challenges.”

Gen. Mark Welsh, dean of the Bush School of Government and Public Service, said the symposium represents the three groups needed to determine the process of establishing a Joint All-Domain Command and Control for the country.

“It’s a journey that the Department of Defense is now on in trying to help define the milestones along that journey, and where the limits are and where you can go and what you can try and what’s possible,” he said. “And this is a group that can actually do that because it represents all the major and minor defense players in the country.”

The defense representatives can explain what they need, and the industry leaders can determine if any solutions exist that are possible and cost effective, Welsh said. Carlisle added the university brings with it research into potential solutions.

“It’s a process, but without these kinds of steps in the process, you can’t be successful,” Welsh said. “It’s really kind of exciting to see the conversation happening.”

Monday’s unclassified sessions included presentations from Lt. Gen. S. Clinton Hinote, deputy chief of staff for strategy, integration and requirement sin the U.S. Air Force; Lt. Gen. Michael Minihan, deputy commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command in Hawaii; Frank St. John, chief operating officer for Lockheed Martin; U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts; and Lt. Gen. Dennis Crall, chief information officer for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, covering command, control, communications and computers/cyber.

Lt. Gen. Dennis Crall, chief information officer for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said officials can talk about it, write memos and publish documents, but they will not solve challenges without “real help.”

“We cannot afford to fail here, and good ideas are coming from those who are experimenting,” he said. “It’s coming from our universities; it’s coming from our labs, and I think the dialogue has been good.”

Cambone said he hopes the symposium can return in future years to continue the conversations.

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