Inside the cavernous grand ballroom of the Tampa Convention Center, special operations commanders like Army Brig. Gen. Kurt Crytzer told defense industry leaders what they need from those who have flocked to Tampa for the annual Special Operations Forces Industry Conference.
Crytzer, deputy commanding general of Special Operations Command Central, which is headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base and oversees commando operations in the U.S. Central Command region, talked about the need for technology that can detect improvised explosive devices in roadways, vehicles, houses and where they are made. He also talked about the need to combat the narrative of groups like Islamic State, which has convinced some Iraqis that it is being resupplied by the U.S., causing helicopters to be shot at and commandos in Iraq to be questioned by Iraqi security forces.
Meanwhile, after the conference wrapped up, about two miles north of the convention center, in a 3,000-square-foot loft in the old Tampa Armature works, the head of U.S. Special Operations Command’s multi-billion acquisition department was showing off Socom’s latest high-tech innovation effort, called SofWorX, designed to more quickly get goods and services like the ones requested by the commanders into the hands of those on the battlefield.
“We are looking for innovative ways to get the warfighters the tools they need,” said Jim “Hondo” Geurts during a tour of the loft space where the command is partnering up with the Doolittle Institute to drive innovation to Tampa Heights.
The tour, which showcased where the command will hold some of its “Thunderdome” events, where the command will bring in industry, academia and inventors to help address Socom’s needs, comes after the first day of the annual Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC), the biggest event of the year for defense contractors looking to do business with Socom, which has between $6 billion and $7 billion to spend a year on special operations-specific goods and services.