On July 23, 2019, eight US Naval Academy midshipmen studying Cyber Operations left Annapolis to travel 15 hours to the other side of the globe. Over the course of the next three weeks, the midshipmen visited three countries: Japan, South Korea, and Australia. In each country, they participated in activities and meetings that focused on that country’s efforts in the cyber domain, its relationship with the United States, and its cultural identity and history.
The cyber elements of the trip covered both public and private sector cyber operations, both U.S. and our partners. Military and governmental cyber visits included a U.S. Navy Information Operations Command (NIOC Yokosuka), a U.S. Naval Computer and Telecommunications Station (NCTS Far East), the Japanese National Center of Incident Readiness and Strategy for Cyber Security, and the new Australian Joint and Fleet Cyber Units.
The conversation at each location brought to light how the U.S. and allied governments are increasing their focus on the cyber domain and working to train and equip personnel to better secure military networks.
To broaden their perspective, the students also sat down with leadership of NTT Communications—a major private sector Japanese company at the cutting-edge of networking, cloud computing, and security development.
“NTT was the most professionally rewarding experience for me during this LREC,” explained Tina Li, ’21, “I was so impressed by the knowledge of our briefers, and that executive leadership made the time to explain potential threats and answer questions for us.” In a futuristic meeting room equipped with more projectors than one could easily count, NTT provided the more business-oriented global perspective of a private technology company.
To make sense of the public/private dichotomy, the midshipmen boarded a plane to the southern hemisphere. In Australia’s chilly capital city, Canberra, they attended the co-located 2019 “Tech in Government”, “Cybersecurity in Government”, and “Identity” cyber-related conferences. The conferences and exhibits allowed them to engage with both government and industry leaders to learn about the complexity of law, policy, and internet security in Australia.
“The most interesting part to me was seeing how the public and private sectors in Australia approach problems differently, and the expectations that the Australian government puts on industry partners to find a balance between usability and security for the technology it employs," said Julia Kalshoven, '20. Through the talks on digital identity, cybersecurity, and technology development, the midshipmen got a current snapshot of the real-world challenges they had previously studied in the classroom.
Beyond the cyber focus, the midshipmen participated in activities that brought back memories from the Naval Academy. In Japan, they got to know the junior officers of the Japanese Flagship JS Izumo and toured the National Defense Academy (NDA), the Japanese single service academy.
“They are exactly like us. This is so much like the Naval Academy," laughed Isaac Banani, '21, after watching an informational video on the rigors of their service academy life during the NDA tour. In Australia, the midshipmen also spent time with Australian cadets and midshipmen at the Australian Defense Force Academy.