The final day of this year’s Symposium began bright and early, but with a substantial breakfast to help attendees of the morning’s special sessions wake up. A Government-Only Round Table brought together a small but engaged group from Europe and the U.S., while the Small Business Committee meeting had around 20 participants meeting under new Committee Chair Jim Frey and enjoying the maple bacon.
As those discussions wrapped up, the Exhibit Hall and morning Coffee Break started, inviting Symposium attendees to learn about anything from geospatial analytics to the OSS Society while enjoying a cup of coffee, sponsored by GSF Founding Partner CACI.
Janel Brown of Maxar Technologies, also a GSF Founding Partner, served as the day’s Mistress of Ceremonies. She was joined on stage by Gold Sponsor representative Jason Wortham from Premise, who introduced the first Keynote Speaker of the day: Peter Bergen. Bergen is the Vice President of the New America think tank, a National Security Analyst for CNN, and also serves as the Chairman of the Board for the Global SOF Foundation.
Bergen’s remarks focused on the modern state of terrorism, highlighting that “the current wave of religious-based terrorism will last a long time.” He also discussed how he thinks terrorism will morph in the future, stating a fear of increased vehicle-borne attacks and armed drones. Combined efforts through multiple agencies and partner nations, he believes, are important to countering these threats.
That theme segued well into the next panel, entitled, “Intelligence Sharing in Partnered Operations.” Moderated by Frank Sanders of the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Intelligence), the panel included Mr. Keith Masback of USGIF, BG Paul Nelson of NATO, and COL Michael Ripley from the NSHQ. In addition, the previous day’s GSF Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Staff General Talib Shigati Mshari Al Kenani of the Counter Terrorism Service – International (CTS-I), Iraq, served as a panelist, accompanied by his interpreter.
The panelists all had a chance to speak, but the conversation got really interesting once the questions began. Members of the audience asked questions like, “What percentage of Intelligence products could be produced by commercial or open source data?” While panelists didn’t always have the answers to these questions, they did comment that some of these answers were owed to America taxpayers by the Intelligence Community.
After a short networking break, attendees flowed back into the Inverness Ballroom for what would prove to be a very interesting panel: “Women in SOF.” We were proud to have a combination of strong women from the community and international SOF leaders on stage to speak. Moderator Gayle Lemmon, author of Ashley’s War, spoke with MAJ Nicole Alexander of the U.S. Army, Ms. Lyla Kohistany of PROMOTE, CSM Patrick L. McCauley of USSOCOM, and Colonel Magne Roedahl from the Embassy of Norway.
Colonel Roedahl, during his opening remarks, said that Norway’s SOF introduced women in SOF in 2014 “because there was an operational requirement, not because we wanted to be nice to women.” CSM McCauley similarly understood that women could fulfill operational needs, noting that as long as standards remain consistent, “acceptance will take care of itself.” The female panelists agreed, but felt that acceptance would not be an easy road. “Unfortunately, the voices that are not accepting of women are very loud,” said MAJ Alexander.
Attendees had adequate time to discuss the morning’s panels during the networking lunch and out at the Beer Garden, sponsored by System High Corp., a GSF Small Business Partner. While the Italian lunch was delicious it was a bit heavy, leaving some folks afraid that they might need a nap. Luckily, the Symposium rolled right into two SOF Slams…which had everyone wide awake.
The first SOF Slam, called “Looting and Trafficking of Antiquities,” was presented by Deborah Lehr from Antiquities Coalition. She talked about the linkage between the looting of artifacts and terrorism. The second Slammer was Mike Fong, of GSF Small Business Partner PRIVORO. Fong talked about Mobile Espionage, and his presentation had people walking around the Symposium with tin foil covering their phones…
SOF Slams are always a hit, so the Afternoon Energy Break (Sponsored by Fluor) was full of active discussions. The final panel of the week focused on “Building a Multinational SOF Headquarters.” Sandor Fabian from the University of Central Florida moderated, and was joined on stage by Colonel Tom Bilo of Special Operations Command, Belgium, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Thøgersen of Special Operations Command, Denmark, and Lieutenant Colonel René van den Berg of the Netherlands Ministry of Defense Netherlands. This panel focused on the Western European region and how those nations can and have been working together to ensure that their SOF entities are working together to effectively challenge threats in their region.
With some brief closing remarks from GSF President Stu Bradin, the Symposium General Sessions came to an end. However, the event was not quite over…the pool was calling!
The Symposium Closing Reception took place at Innisbrook’s Loch Ness Pool, a serene location with waterfalls and a gazebo. Over 150 Symposium attendees gathered there to finalize plans for collaboration and future meetings, reflect on panel discussions, and enjoy the delicious deviled eggs, shrimp, and chicken wings. There was also a Whiskey Bar, sponsored by GSF Small Business Partner Klas Telecom, which featured flights of Glendalough Irish Whiskey.
The weather was pleasant, the discussions plentiful, and the whiskey was almost too good–needless to say, it was a fun and laid back way to end the week. Thank you to everyone that attended and helped make it special!
Check out all of the photos from Day 3 and tag yourself if you were there.