Emerging technologies and workforce development for the defense, security and intelligence industries will be the focus of an upcoming conference hosted by the University of Virginia.
About 40 academic and business experts are slated to attend the conference on national defense and intelligence, which opens with a reception at the UVa Research Park on June 15. A daylong conference featuring high-profile speakers and panel discussions is set for June 16.
The roster of featured speakers includes Al Shaffer, assistant secretary of defense for research and engineering. In that role, Shaffer’s responsibilities include planning, reviewing and budgeting for U.S. Department of Defense research and development testing programs, according to an online biography.
About 225 people are expected to attend the inaugural event, which is attracting government, business and academic leaders, said conference chairwoman and organizer Joan Bienvenue, who is also the director of the UVa Applied Research Institute.
However, to allow participants to speak more freely about potentially sensitive topics, the conference is closed to the media and open only to registered participants.
“When you look at the advancements that are made in defense and intelligence, those often end up over time impacting the broader community,” Bienvenue said. “From a local perspective, this industry is really growing in Charlottesville.”
Many technologies we take for granted, such as handheld global positioning systems, have their origins in the defense and intelligence sectors, Bienvenue said. The conference, she said, is an opportunity to bring people from different sectors together to amplify the positive potential of their work, a sentiment echoed by Tom Skalak, UVa’s vice president for research.
“The broader implications and societal benefits lie in the applications of technologies such as cyber security, imaging, mapping and language analysis to complex challenges here at home, including water quality, Internet-based commerce, advanced manufacturing, cost-effective personalized medicine, and education and youth development,” Skalak said in an email.
Sen. Timothy M. Kaine and Rep. Randy Forbes, R-4th, are also scheduled to give key speeches at the conference. Forbes said a strong, technologically advanced military has both national security and economic benefits.
“The U.S. military has been a consistent incubator of technological innovation that spurs private-sector job creation and grows the U.S. economy,” Forbes said. “Continuing to foster that partnership, in conjunction with America’s many excellent research universities, must be a priority for both the administration and Congress.”
Located in Albemarle County, Rivanna Station is a sub-installation of the Army’s Fort Belvoir. The local base employs mostly civilians and houses operations of the National Ground Intelligence Center, Defense Intelligence Agency and National Geospatial Intelligence Agency.
“UVa hosting the conference and getting folks together to talk about national security interests is a great thing, and a natural thing, given Rivanna Station’s proximity,” said Frank DiGiacomo, director of business development at the Charlottesville office of Booz Allen Hamilton. The company is one of the event’s sponsors.
Kaine said Charlottesville-area businesses play a key role in areas such as advanced manufacturing and emerging technologies.
“This conference gives us a chance to bring together experts from Virginia’s diverse set of communities — universities, research institutions, defense and intelligence agencies, and private industry — to collaborate on issues that are critical to the defense of our nation,” Kaine said.