The 2011 Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC) and Exposition was held from 17–19 May at the Tampa Convention Center, Tampa, FL. Under the theme “SOF: Setting the Course,” USSOCOM Commander, Admiral Eric T. Olson, gave the first Keynote Address. His speech addressed the capability areas of “Understand,” “Communicate,” “Move,” and “Engage,” which characterize the context in which SOF currently operates. He stressed that within this context, SOF needs to develop language and cultural experts, better understand what motivates the local people and how they make their money, know when important events occur during the year, and recognize how climate and terrain impacts the social psyche of the population. He highlighted the recapitalization of the Fixed and Rotary Wing fleets, the way ahead on maritime surface and undersea platforms, the need for lighter individual kit for SOF operators, and a greater approach to holistic protection and protective measures and care for the wounded. Admiral Olson also discussed the expansion of the SOF Information Environment (SIE) and challenged industry to look for solutions for more simulation training, saying, “Simulation has been a tough bridge to get across.”
The second Keynote Address, made by USSOCOM Acquisition Executive, Mr. James Cluck, provided an update on the current SOF Acquisition enterprise, the Special Operations Research, Development, and Acquisition Center (SORDAC). Mr. Cluck highlighted future FY12 procurement and RDT&E new starts, and he discussed SOCOM Acquisition Summits with the Undersecretary of Defense, Dr. Ashton Carter, and service acquisition executives to collaborate on ways to minimize programmatic disconnects, better align requirements, identify co-sponsorship opportunities, seek funding efficiencies, and optimize contracting actions.
The USSOCOM Component Commanders provided their perspectives and insights on current challenges, trends, and interests to three packed ballrooms of industry attendees. Lt Gen Donald Wurster, Commander, Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC), discussed the AFSOC recapitalization program of its gunships, mobility, and tanker aircraft. LTG John Mulholland, Commander, Army Special Operations Command, discussed one of the big needs going forward is to find a replacement for the Hummer, which he called an “incredible platform for Special Forces." RADM Edward Winters, Commander of Naval Special Warfare Command, highlighted the interest for new boats with signal-reducing capacity, stating, “It’ll become harder and harder to sneak up on anybody’s coasts.” MajGen Paul Lefebvre, Commander, Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, summed up his needs in two words: "force protection." He also distinguished the need for command and control domain dominance, on ships and land, and the increased efforts to shape “problem framing” and “intel fusion.”
Senior leaders from across the USSOCOM Headquarters and Service Component Commands shared the stage with four panel sessions exploring the conference construct of Understand, Communicate, Move and Engage. Topics ranging from smart vehicles to biometric collection, UAVs, iphones, and remote sensors were discussed by Intelligence, Requirements, Network, and Operations and Planning Directors.
USSOCOM Program Executive Officers, Program Managers, and technical experts made presentations to packed rooms in track sessions organized by the themed capability areas. The sessions identified USSOCOM’s top priorities, technology game changers, key enablers, and business opportunities for current, planned, and future USSOCOM acquisition programs.
USSOCOM small business, acquisition, and science and technology experts conducted Business Opportunities Sessions, which addressed requirements and opportunities for industry attendees supporting SOF. These experts shared information on how industry can present and demonstrate new product ideas and prototypes to SOCOM via the TILO and Experimentation process.
The National Defense Industry Association (NDIA), SOCOM’s co-sponsor for the event, organized 1,434 Exhibitors in over 350 Booths for the Technology Exposition, overflowing the Tampa Convention Center to outdoor displays exhibiting the latest technologies targeted to SOF operations.