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August 06, 2020 | Tom Ballard

Sean Williams paints a sobering picture during fourth session of the “TVC Virtual Summit Series”

The President and Chief Executive Officer of Knoxville-based Protection Strategies Incorporated (PSI) painted a very sobering picture in his opening comments during yesterday’s fourth session of the “Tennessee Valley Corridor’s (TVC) Virtual Summit Series.”

Talking about threat amplifiers and multipliers under the theme of “America’s New National Security Challenges,” Sean Williams tied-in those that one might expect – ever-increasing cyber attacks and rising global tensions between countries – with COVID-19 and its pervasive impact.

Noting that the coronavirus “is something that has a much lower mortality level” than other threats – we immediately thought of yesterday being the 75th anniversary of the day the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Williams told about 175 attendees at the 90-minute session that it is one of those significant emerging amplifiers and multipliers.

“We are facing one of the most serious economic disasters in my lifetime,” Williams said as he cited rising global debt, much of it directly tied to the response of the U.S. and other countries to COVID-19’s impact

“America has been the de facto winner in the Game of Thrones, but we are now being challenged like never before,” he observed. “America’s ability to project power globally is coming into question. Our adversaries never waste an opportunity.”

Williams talked about “weaponized social media” and ways that our country’s enemies are using it to further divide the nation. “The way you defeat us is from within,” he said, adding, “We are also doing it to ourselves.”

In a factual, unemotional but sobering delivery style, Williams said that the U.S. is at “a major turning point in our history,” challenged not only by COVID-19, cybersecurity and climate change, but also by new technologies like artificial intelligence that could change the world order and the emerging competition in space.

He concluded his presentation by calling attendees’ attention to the famous Patrick Henry quote: “United we stand, divided we fall. Let us not split into factions which must destroy that union upon which our existence hangs.”

Following Williams’ comments, Admiral Charles Richard, a native of Decatur, AL and Commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, delivered a pre-recorded keynote address that focused on the importance of investments in the nation’s aging defense infrastructure, such as submarines and bombers, as well as next generation talent.

The session also featured a panel moderated by Ted Sherry, Senior Director at Consolidated National Security (CNS). Panel participants included: (1) Blake Scott, Director of Lithium Transformation at the Y-12 National Security Complex operated by CNS; (2) John Stewart, President of Nuclear Fuel Services/BWXT in Erwin; (3) Skip Bartol, Associate Dean of Research at Auburn University; and (4) Jason Coker, Vice Director of the Arnold Engineering Development Center in Tullahoma.

The fifth and final session of the “TVC Virtual Summit Series” begins at 1 p.m. EDT August 13. The theme is “Meeting TVC’s Workforce Challenges,” but the session will also include a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the summit series and the presentation of the “Corridor Champion” award. To register, which is free, click here.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We have chronicled the history of the TVC in a multi-part series. You can find links to those articles below.

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