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Dan Tyler is the Head of the National Security Technology Department at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics LaboratOIJ’ and serves as Co-Chair of the Submarine Technology Symposium. He is responsible for the Laboratory’s support to the Navy’s under-sea wa1fare mission. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University, and he participated in the Executive Program at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Submarine Technology Symposium Overview

The Submarine Technology Symposium (STS), co-sponsored by the Naval Submarine League (NSL) and The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHU/APL), is widely recognized as a premier military technology symposium. Each year since its inception in 1988, 500-600 people directly involved in submarine programs have attended. The success of this program, its status and popularity, are living testaments to the continuing efforts NSL and APL personnel have devoted to administering the STS, the unwavering support of the Senior Leadership of the Submarine Force (OPNA V, Acquisition, and Fleet Operational Commands), and an enthusiastic submarine technical community that supports the Symposium through attendance, and more importantly, through the voluntary preparation and delivery of exceptional papers.

In 1986, Mr. James Austin, who at the time was the Head of the JHU/APL Submarine Technology Department, conceived the Submarine Technology Symposium. Jim initially engaged RADM Al Kelln, USN (Ret), and fleshed out the basic characteristics of the proposed Symposium. Together, they sold the idea for joint sponsorship of the Symposium to the NSL. The concept was to hold an annual three-day symposium at JHU/APL facilities to “provide a classified forum for examining current, emerging, and future technologies that may aid the submarine warfighter and enhance current and future technology availability.” The objective was “to stimulate the symposium audience to respond to existing, emerging, and future requirements of the Submarine Force.”

STS Relevance to the Integrated Undersea Strategy

The Submarine Technology Symposium by purpose, design, and effect has been inherently aligned with and supportive of the development of the Integrated Undersea Strategy (IUS), especially as that strategy has emerged and evolved over the past two decades from the Cold War to the multilateral situation of today. Many of the precepts and focal points of the current IUS, such as expanded missions, advanced payloads, stealth, connectivity, asymmetric capability, and affordability, have been themes and topics covered over the course of the STS. To assure timely relevance and impact, the STS has been particularly sensitive to the critical challenges and potential needs of the Submarine Force (and U.S. military operations as a whole) at the given time of each Symposium as defined by the changing global circumstances, evolving military needs, and increasing military threats. With each Symposium, a theme was identified that aligned the thrust and technical content to identified current needs, as well as the emerging needs of the Submarine Force.

Starting in 1988-89 as the Cold War was coming to a close, the growing importance of broadening the contributions of the submarine to national defense was recognized. While STS continued to address the submarine’s vital traditional roles, a new focus was added to highlight technologies with the greatest potential for enhancing the warfighting capabilities of the submarine in an evolving national security environment: e.g., new missions, coordinated operations, submarine communications and information management technologies, advanced platform technologies, and organic and off-board sensors. By the mid 1990s, with the recognition of a new world order, the Symposium introduced themes that specifically supported the submarine’s roles in regional and expeditionary as well as global warfare. Keynote presentations and technical papers addressed new and expanding m1ss1ons and enabling technologies-C4ISR, stealth and survivability in the new environments, means for maintaining battle-space dominance, and notably a technical paper on new submarine payload concepts for enhancing payload capacity that is very much like the expanded mission module design now being considered for the Virginia Class. In the late 1990s, the themes further evolved to address the emerging Joint Vision 2010 and innovative technologies to enable the new submarine vision and ensure its role as a premier component of this Joint vision. Key topics included technologies for operations in the littorals, precision engagement and power projection, information and asymmetric warfare, and focused logistics. In concert with moving into the 21 •1 Century, the themes focused on strategic concepts for the 2151 Century and enhancing performance through technology refresh and reaching forward through innovation. The latter were especially important at the time (and still today) with the pressures on force levels and DoD budgets requiring capabilities through more affordable and innovative technologies. A key paper included the rapid technology insertion concept for submarine combat systems that has proven to be an invaluable and highly affordable means for advancing submarine combat system capability in the face of evolving threats and limited funding. Moving more to the present, STS has continued to align itself with evolving military and naval issues, with themes addressing access assurance, irregular warfare, enhancing the submarine’s military value, and planning for the future in an uncertain world. SSGN technologies, technologies for enhancing the submarine’s contribution beyond the undersea battle space, full-spectrum ASW, and technologies for strategic flexibility were recent topics of the STS.

To assure and provide authoritative relevance, currency and competency, a highly effective format and composition for the STS was established and followed, including key presentations by senior DoD, Navy, and submarine leadership to provide the real military context, vision, and critical issues facing the Submarine Force. Key participation has included multiple visits by the CNO, Secretary of the Navy, Undersecretary of Defense, CINCs, and routine participation by Submarine Force leadership. To ensure current and timely attention to technology, participation has included the directors of DARPA, ASN/RDA, and ONR, as well as distinguished leaders from industry and academia. A frequent and well-received participant has been Mr. Ron O’Rourke of the Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress, who has provided exceptionally well-established, frank views and constructive comments on budgetary matters in general, and Submarine Force considerations in particular, as viewed from a Congressional budget standpoint. Recognizing the importance of understanding the threat, as well as the possibilities for global technology development to provide both challenges and opportunities, frequent threat and foreign technology updates have been included in the symposia. Finally, an open question-and-answer session with Navy and DoD leadership is often included that further provides timely and authoritative input and comments on operational and technical issues and questions.

The Submarine Technology Symposium continues to be a valuable and unique forum where technical leaders from Government, industry, and academia can propose and examine technologies for enhancing current and future submarine capabilities. The continued involvement and direct participation of DoD, Naval, and Submarine Force leadership at each event ensures a Symposium that addresses and is well aligned with current and evolving Naval vision, and the Integrated Undersea Strategy. The broad and very well attended participation by industry, Government research laboratories, and academia, ensures a venue for presenting and considering leading research and technologies that may be the key enablers for the Submarine Force of the future. The combination of key operational leadership and a broad spectrum of technologists provides a unique and critical opportunity for operational problems to be understood and potential technologies revealed and reviewed that invariably helps establish the way ahead for the Submarine Force.

STS Process for Ensuring Viability

Two key elements of STS planning and execution are employed for ensuring its continuing viability: I) a broad commitment from organizations and individuals that provides adequate resources and time to do the job right and 2) a build-test-build, spiral development mentality for continuously assessing and improving Symposium execution and ensuring increasing value added to the Submarine Force.

Preparation for the succeeding year’s Submarine Technology Symposium begins during the current year’s Symposium (held each May). Members of the Symposium Executive Committee (EXCOM) take note of what is going well and what could be improved. Additionally, Symposium attendees are asked to fill out a critique sheet (provided as a tear-out page of the Symposium program) evaluating all aspects of the Symposium from arrangements (food, parking, registration, facilities, etc.) to technical content. Suggestions for future symposia are also solicited. For those who prefer commenting on line, an interactive critique form is posted on the STS website (, and Symposium attendees receive an email requesting their participation in the feedback effort.

Immediately following the current year’s Symposium, the EXCOM gathers for a hot wash-up in which it compares notes and reviews written feedback on the critique sheets. Action items are initially established and a July date is set for the EXCOM’s Kickoff Meeting for the next Symposium. The current year’s Assistant Program Chair fleets up to Program Chair, the old Program Chair remains on the EXCOM as an advisor, and a new Assistant Program Chair is identified. Chair of the Arrangements Committee generally remains the same, and new members are identified as necessary for any retirements from the EXCOM.

The primary purpose of the Kickoff meeting is to establish a theme for the Symposium with associated topics for each session, as well as to agree on a tentative schedule. Advance work by the Symposium General Chair and Co-Chair with input from the Submarine Force Leadership helps guide the committee’s work. Candidate chairs for each session are identified as well as initial suggestions for Keynote, Luncheon, and Banquet speakers. Feedback from the written and online critiques is reviewed in both written and tabulated format, and corrective action items are assigned. Before the next EXCOM meeting, members coordinate and refine the Symposium theme and session content via email. At the second EXCOM meeting, themes, session content, and Session Chair assignments are solidified. Assistant Session Chairs are selected by the Session Chairs. An overall detailed schedule is finned up, and the Call for Paper Abstracts is prepared and released a short time afterwards.

The next series of events consists of Session Chair meetings (up to seven of them) with the entire EXCOM, and additional EXCOM-only meetings (for a total of five). Some of these meetings may be teleconferences. At the first Session Chair meeting, Session Chair responsibilities are laid out and guidelines for development of the sessions are explained. Future Session Chair meetings concentrate on the selection of primary and alternate abstracts and the sessions’ development status. Commander, Submarine Forces approves selection of each abstract and the final drafts of the papers. When satisfied, COMSUBFOR gives written permission to conduct the Symposium. Session Chairs (and others) provide guidance to their authors, review their papers, aid in the preparation of presentations, and conduct murder boards for each presenter. At the EXCOM meetings, details of the arrangements are approved, including everything from the menus and budgets to action items assigned from past feedback. Keynote, Luncheon, and Banquet speakers are finalized, as well as the members of the Leadership Round Table whose discussion rounds out the final day of the Symposium. Progress of session development is monitored closely. Guidance and assistance are provided as appropriate.

The endgame starts a day before the Symposium with a walk-through of all presentations by their authors in the Kossiakoff Center to ensure there are no bugs in the slides and videos as well as to familiarize the presenters with the mechanics of the Kossiakoff auditorium. The morning of the Symposium, while attendees are registering and enjoying the continental breakfast, all speakers are treated to a full breakfast, last-minute guidance, pep talks from the EXCOM leadership, and a heartfelt thank you for their hard work in preparing for the Symposium. The cycle then starts a new.

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