This is part 1 of a blog series about SOF Week 2023, taking place in Tampa, FL from 8 – 11 MAY 2023. To learn more about SOF Week, visit our website, sofweek.org.
The views expressed below are solely those of GSOF. Our co-sponsorship of this event does not imply endorsement of GSOF, its services, or products by the United States Government, the Department of Defense, or U.S. Special Operations Command.
U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) has partnered with industry to host an annual conference focused on Special Operations Forces (SOF) industry in Tampa, FL for more than a decade.
In 2021, USSOCOM decided to expand the event to a broader convention for the entire SOF community, akin to an “AUSA National Meeting” for the U.S. Army or the “AFA National Convention” for the U.S. Air Force. Thus, SOF Week was born! The first rendition of this modified format will occur this May.
The Global SOF Foundation (GSOF) was honored to be selected as the co-sponsor for SOF Week 2023. If you’re new to us, GSOF is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that aims to build and grow an international network of military, government, commercial, and educational stakeholders in order to advance SOF capabilities and partnerships to confront global and networked threats.
GSOF and USSOCOM officially signed our agreement for 2023 in November 2022, giving us just 6 months to pull together the many, many elements and stakeholders involved in SOF Week…but we are always up for a challenge and are so excited to take this on!
Read on to learn about some of the elements we at GSOF are looking forward to for SOF Week 2023!
SOF Week Facts and FAQs
We’ve received a LOT of questions about SOF Week, ranging from information on costs to hotel rooms to speakers and much more! To help answer these questions, we’ve developed two helpful products.
The SOF Week Fact Sheet lists information on pricing, timelines, and selection processes, helping answer many of the questions and concerns we’ve received from members of defense industry.
The SOF Week FAQ Page provides answers to many of the general attendance and participation questions we’ve received.
We hope these resources offer some clarity, but if you still have questions you are welcome to email us at email@example.com, and we’ll do our best to answer your question. Maybe it will even get added to the FAQ page!
Broad Programming for the SOF Community
One of the cherries on top of our SOF Week plan is the agenda–we are both proud of and humbled by the impressive list of 100+ speakers who have agreed to share their expertise, especially with such a compressed lead-up time.
As in previous renditions of USSOCOM’s annual conference, we will have pillars of the SOF headquarters provide the first keynotes: GEN Bryan P. Fenton, the USSOCOM Commander, and Mr. Jim Smith, the USSOCOM Acquisition Executive.
We will also maintain the tradition of participation from the City of Tampa–Mayor Jane Castor will provide the opening proclamation!
The theme of this year’s SOF Week is “People – Win – Transform,” which are also the top 3 Priorities for USSOCOM for 2023. Therefore, the agenda includes programming that tackles each of those focus areas.
In the USSOCOM 2023 Fact Book, the “People” Priority is defined as:
“People. ‘Humans are more important than hardware’ speaks to our center of gravity and our #1 Enterprise Priority–our People. Our Force and families are USSOCOM’s competitive and comparative advantage. Our People are the reason we ‘win.’ In support of current and future mission successes, we will recruit, assess, select, educate, train, diversify, equip, and transform our innovative and groundbreaking team.”
Just a sampling of the programming that will focus on “People” includes panels and sessions on:
- Attracting and Selecting Key Talent
- Total Human Performance: Today and Tomorrow
- Impact of Brain Health on Mental Wellness
- USSOCOM Warrior Care and POTFF Update
- USSOCOM Awards Ceremony and Dinner, a Wednesday evening event that will honor some of the year’s greatest achievers in SOF
In the USSOCOM 2023 Fact Book, the “Win” Priority is defined as:
“Win. We will ‘Win’–every time, every place, in any environment. The ‘SOF Way’ is unconventional, irregular, asymmetric, asynchronous, and done alongside the U.S. Government Interagency, as well as with Allies/Partners.”
Programming that will focus on “Win” includes panels and sessions on:
- Winning Left of Conflict
- The SOF Value in Strategic Competition
- The Role of SOF in Counter-Terrorism and Crisis Response
In the USSOCOM 2023 Fact Book, the “Transform” Priority is defined as:
“Transform. USSOCOM will trail-blaze, and lead, for DoD and the Nation. As stewards of precious resources, we will meet current and future challenges via optimizing, modernizing, innovating, inventing, and transforming our people, organizations, and technology.”
Agenda items that will focus on “Transform” includes panels and sessions on:
- Harnessing the Power of Tech Innovation for SOCOM
- Transformative Emerging Technologies
- SOF Week Innovation Theater
And that’s not all!
In addition to these USSOCOM priorities, most of which will be discussed on the “main stage,” we’ll have other events occurring across the SOF Week Campus.
- SOF for Life Transition Sessions: In addition to a full day SOF for Life Transition Seminar hosted by The Honor Foundation, we’ll have shorter sessions focused on topics like VA Benefits and Financial Readiness.
- Professional Development Sessions: The agenda features multiple opportunities for professional growth, such as Rapid DNA in Forensics, Cybersecurity, and Project Management.
- Community Networking Opportunities: The agenda has networking opportunities targeted toward some of the more niche facts of SOF, including a SOF Community Corridor Networking Reception for our non-profits and a Partner Nation Meet and Greet for the visiting representatives from our international partners.
To see the FULL SOF Week agenda, please click on the link below:
Other Events Around Town…
We know that everyone in the community gets very excited for this event and understand that other organizations want a piece of the action! Although they aren’t part of the official agenda, we’ve shared some of these events on our “Additional Events” section of the website.
These include, but are not limited to:
- SOFstock: A concert happening on Tuesday night, featuring headliner Brad Paisley, and hosted by the Spookstock Foundation
- 38 Challenge: A fitness opportunity happening on Wednesday morning in memory of former USNA linebacker #38 and USMC Captain Matthew Brewer, who died by suicide in 2021
This list will continue to grow, so stay tuned to the Additional Events page for details.
Amplifying the Industry Engagement
While we are very excited about the huge and multi-faceted agenda we’ve shared, we don’t want anyone to feel like we’re diminishing the long-time nucleus of this conference: industry engagement.
SOF Week will continue ALL of the industry opportunities from previous renditions of this conference, including:
- Monday’s industry-focused sessions, such as SBIR 101, CRADA Crash Course, Intro to SOF AT&L, and the SOFwerx Overview. You can see the full Monday schedule here.
- PEO Overview Briefs, all of which will take place in the “PEO Row” of the Tampa Convention Center on Tuesday of SOF Week. You can see the full Tuesday schedule here.
- PEO Deep Dive Briefs, all of which will take place in the “PEO Row” of the Tampa Convention Center on Wednesday of SOF Week. You can see the full Wednesday schedule here.
However, we are amplifying and growing these opportunities for industry with more ways to engage:
- PEO 1-on-1 Meetings: These meetings have been a staple of USSOCOM’s previous conferences, but this year industry will have to apply for a meeting slot and USSOCOM representatives will select who receives the meetings.
- SOF Week Innovation Theater: This theater will be held in conjunction with USSOCOM’s Science & Technology Directorate (S&T). This theater will provide an opportunity for companies with innovative technology and solutions, addressing SOCOM priority capability needs, to present their solution to USSOCOM AT&L representatives and USSOCOM SMEs. This will also be done through an online application process.
- Maritime Demos: In February and early March, we put out a call for industry to apply to conduct limited maritime demonstrations near the Tampa Convention Center dock area. We had several companies apply and are looking forward to seeing those in action on Tuesday and Wednesday of SOF Week.
- Industry Matchmaking: This affiliate event taking place on the Wednesday of SOF Week will allow industry to apply for slots as a Prime or Small organization in order to meet each other. Register to participate here.
Perhaps the biggest opportunity for industry is, of course, the SOF Week Exhibition Hall. Some highlights of the Exhibition Hall include:
- It will span multiple floors of the Tampa Convention Center
- It will be organized by USSOCOM PEO
- It will have a maximum exhibit space size so as to offer space to more organizations
- It is expected that the full area will feature 600+ vendors
The Upper Level of the SOF Week Exhibition Hall, or the 3rd floor, will feature exhibitors primarily focused on the SOF Warrior, Special Air Warfare, and C4ISR areas of interest.
The Mezzanine level will feature Government Booths hand-selected by USSOCOM to participate.
The Lower Level covers the Ground floor of the Tampa Convention Center, and will feature exhibitors primarily focused on the Service & Support, Maritime, and Digital Applications.
It will also feature the SOF Community Corridor–a hub for 30+ non-profits, and a Small Business Bunker. We have over 35% Small Businesses across the Exhibition Hall–which we are very excited to see. We know our Small Businesses have some of the most innovative capabilities around, but it’s often hard to bring those capabilities to the forefront.
The Outdoor Exhibitions, which will be in the areas around the Tampa Convention Center, feature static displays and dock spaces.
You can see the floorplan in its entirety here: https://www.sofweek.org/sof-week-floor-plan.
We’re also working to add MORE meeting and seating space–we heard your requests for this and are adding Meeting Pods and Meeting Rooms within the Tampa Convention Center.
We at Global SOF are very excited about all of these opportunities, and we hope you are too!
A Secure SOF Week Campus
The Tampa Convention Center is a fantastic, waterfront venue with great staff… but unfortunately it is just not big enough to meet the demand signal for SOF Week. We even asked them if they wouldn’t mind just adding another floor of exhibition halls to the top for us, but they didn’t seem to think that would be possible by May…
So, we’ve designed SOF Week as a “campus” event. The primary buildings in the Campus are the Tampa Convention Center, the Marriott Water Street, the JW Marriott, and the Westin Waterside.
The Tampa Convention Center will primarily house the Exhibition Hall, PEO Row, meeting spaces, and registration.
The Marriott Water Street will primarily house the Conference Sessions.
The Westin Waterside will be home to a variety of breakout sessions, such as Industry Matchmaking and the Partner Nation Meet and Greet.
The JW Marriott will be home to the USSOCOM Awards Ceremony and Dinner on Wednesday night.
With so many buildings involved, we understand that the event security must be world class.
The Global SOF Team has stepped up to fully fund the event security, which includes:
- Attendee verification: Before any individual’s registration is confirmed, they will go through a vetting process that confirms they are who they say they are;
- Attendee checkpoints: Before accessing any areas of SOF Week, attendees will be required to have their badge scanned to a) confirm via photo that it is their badge, and b) ensure that they have access to that area or session;
- Advanced weapons detection systems: Our team is adopting a state-of-the-art security technology that provides touchless security screening that delivers safety without sacrificing the visitor experience.
We hope these features will enhance the experience and safety of all of our SOF Week attendees!
A Wide-Reaching Attendee Base
Speaking of attendees, our primary objective for SOF Week is to include and engage as many members of the SOF community as possible!
We know that industry can and will come to the event, but a key group doesn’t always have ample opportunity to attend is military and government representatives.
For that reason, GSOF is funding the TDY costs for 80 – 89 military personnel from the USSOCOM Component and Theater Special Operations Commands. We are doing this to ensure that more stakeholders from the geographically dispersed community can participate and offer their expertise.
We have also worked very hard to increase the number of Per Diem hotel rooms available within 1 mile of the SOF Week Campus. We have upped the number to 324 Per Diem rooms for military and government attendees – 223 more rooms than in 2022. This is important because, often, if a government or a military representative can’t get a per diem rate hotel room, they won’t be permitted to travel.
Lastly, we have ensured that the pool of attendees who get free access to SOF Week includes ALL U.S. DoD employees–not just those within the USSOCOM bubble. This also includes the Active Duty Military from our international partners.
Registration IS OPEN, so please don’t delay and take the next step in participating at SOF Week by booking your slot today!
If you have any questions, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.