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.