2019 Cyber England LREC MIDN 2/C Alexandra Appel

During their second block of summer training, nine United States Naval Academy Midshipmen were given the opportunity to travel to England to participate in a Language, Regional Expertise, and Cultural (LREC) trip that was centered on Cyber Operations and Intelligence. Three faculty members belonging to the Academy’s Center for Cyber Security Studies led the mixed group of Cyber Operations and Computer Science majors around London, Portsmouth, Bletchley Park, and Cambridge. While visiting the United Kingdom, the students immersed themselves in centuries of history and culture while also meeting a number of distinguished professionals who informed them about UK and European views of cybersecurity policy. By the end of the trip, the Midshipmen were very knowledgeable about the alliance between the United Kingdom and the United States, and were made aware of the significance and power of this alliance.

During the first portion of the trip, the Midshipmen got to explore London and see for themselves historical landmarks such as double decker buses, the observance of High Tea, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, and the Tower of London, at which they got to observe the exclusive nightly tradition of the Ceremony of the Keys. In their first week, the Midshipmen collaborated with Doctoral and Masters students who were part of the War Studies Department at King’s College London. There they discussed pressing topics such as intelligence strategies, human factors in cyber operations, the role of NATO, and the role of “fake news” as a method of propaganda. The students also received an exclusive tour of British Parliament, seeing where the House of Lords and House of Commons convene to discuss pertinent issues, as well as the location of where HM Queen Elizabeth II sits on her throne when she addresses Parliament.

Additionally, the students met with technology professionals at DXC Technology, a private company that specializes in providing customers with products regarding digital commerce and business analytics with an emphasis on safe cyber security. Also in the private sector, the Midshipmen were impressed to learn about the cyber insurance industry from business partners working at Willis Towers Watson. The Midshipmen also visited the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) in London, where they learned about the intelligence and security organization tasked to make Britain the safest place in the world to do business. Midshipmen also visited the Old Bailey, the oldest court in London. While there, the students received briefs and updates on the construction and planning process for a new cyber criminal court, scheduled to be completed in downtown London in 2025. The Midshipmen also received walking tours of the Ministry of Defense (MOD), British Telecom (BT), and the American Embassy in London.

MIDN 1/C Ruth Krueskamp, commenting on her time in London, remarked that, “the trip was a unique opportunity to learn from and interact with industry and military professionals from one of [America’s] closest allies. The trip also provided once in a lifetime opportunities to learn about cyber in a global context.”

For the second portion of the trip, the Midshipmen traveled from the busy city of London to Portsmouth, a port city and naval base on the south coast of England. Once there, the students got a chance to explore the beach city. They visited the piers, ate at various ocean side restaurants, and climbed Spinnaker Tower to see the beautiful panoramic ocean views. The Midshipmen found the city comparable to their home in Annapolis, Maryland, as Portsmouth is well known for its naval and maritime heritage, as well as its Historic Dockyard. At the Dockyard, the students met with several different officers in the British Armed Forces—including the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force—where they had briefs on the United Kingdom’s view of offensive and defensive cyber security operations, artificial intelligence advancements from a military perspective, and various projects the Royal Navy is currently working on across the cyber domain. This portion of the trip gave the Midshipmen a clear understanding of the different approaches to cyber security, law, and policy that the United Kingdom has in regards to cyber operations compared to those of the United States. These meetings also helped to emphasize how closely the United States works with the United Kingdom in many different government and military areas. It was also very apparent that both nations share similar missions and common adversaries.

While in Portsmouth, Royal Navy Officers escorted the group around the Historic Dockyard. There, the Midshipmen and Naval Academy faculty received a personalized tour of the British aircraft carrier the HMS Queen Elizabeth. The students also visited the interactive HMS Mary Rose museum, where they learned about the successful 34-year Tudor warship under King Henry VIII’s reign that was mysteriously lost at sea on July 19, 1545, over 500 years ago. The Midshipmen got the exclusive chance to go aboard the HMS Victory, Lord Nelson’s 18 th century warship that earned fame during the Battle of Trafalgar. Visiting Portsmouth allowed the Midshipmen to learn about another nation’s Navy and its rich history. The visit also helped them to draw comparisons between the two country’s militaries and gain an understanding of why and in what ways they each operate differently.

After Portsmouth, the Midshipmen traveled to Bletchley Park, site of the WWII era code breakers who, alongside famous names such as Alan Turing, Tommy Flowers, and others, successfully decoded the German wartime Enigma code used to encrypt all wartime general military communications. The group also visited the National Museum of Computing, which is co-located with the WWII museum and which houses working computers from every era all the way back to the very beginning of computers. The students were particularly excited to see firsthand one such computer, Colossus, which was the first reprogrammable computer ever built and was used during WWII to decrypt messages sent from the German high command. The visit to Bletchley Park was, in several students’ estimation, the highlight of the entire trip since it brought together the birth of modern computers, intelligence work, and cryptography.

For the last portion of the trip, the Midshipmen traveled to Cambridge, England. There, they participated in an annual conference put on by the Cambridge Security Initiative in collaboration with the Department of War Studies at King’s College London and held at Cambridge University. The theme of the conference centered on “Intelligence and National Security Policy in a Changing World.” This two- day conference addressed relevant issues in both the intelligence and security communities. There were several discussions and keynote presentations on geopolitical matters such as the future/projected paths of cyber and artificial intelligence, Britain’s role in Brexit, counter-terrorism, and how to address security and intelligence challenges in the Middle East, Russia, and the Asia/Pacific regions.

"It is important that [Midshipmen], as future leaders, continue to grow outside of our typical perspective."

Regarding the ISI Conference, MIDN 2/C Molly Swiger noted, “I feel as if we [Americans] get a very narrow-minded perspective at times. It was very interesting to hear about global events and politics from smaller nations, such as the United Kingdom and France. For example, hearing about 5G technology, Brexit, and ‘the Special Relationship’ was very educational and eye-opening. The cultural exposure was also quite valuable. It is important that [Midshipmen], as future leaders, continue to grow outside of our typical perspective.”

In all, the Cyber England LREC was a truly valuable experience for all nine of the Midshipmen. While exploring a different country and experiencing its vast culture and history, the students also gained tremendous insights about geopolitics and how these different global challenges can relate to our careers in the military and our shared interests in computing and cyber security. All nine Midshipmen are now able to take what was learned and apply these new reflections to their studies in Cyber Operations and Computer Science, their leadership roles, and their future careers as officers in the United States military.

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