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.
- Tennessee Valley Corridor will now celebrate its 25th anniversary in a virtual way
- PART 1: Newly elected Third District Congressman reveals vision for TVC a day after the election
- PART 2: Zach Wamp motivated in part by the late George Kozmetsky
- PART 3: Zach Wamp recalls a pivotal meeting that impacted the future of ORNL
- PART 1: Darrell Akins and John Crisp recall some of the TVC high points over 25 years
- PART 2: Zach Wamp leaves Congress, but his successor embraces TVC in a very big way
- Wayne Cropp has a long tenure with the TVC and Zach Wamp
- Mike Arms and Steve Cope reflect on their years of participating in TVC activities
- Gerald Boyd quickly embraced the TVC when he arrived in Oak Ridge in 2002
- Erin Koshut recalls her years helping organize TVC events and the unexpected additional benefit
- Joel Duling and Mark Gradkowski appreciate TVC’s approach to promoting a regional agenda
- Lonnie Lawson introduced to TVC in 2002, helped host major meeting in Somerset a few years later
- Congressman Fleischmann knew nothing about the TVC a decade ago, but is now its greatest advocate
- TVC celebrates 25th anniversary with first session in five-part series that continues next week
- Thomas Zacharia challenges region to think really big during yesterday’s “TVC Virtual Summit Series”
- Third session of “TVC Virtual Summit Series” casts spotlight in importance of public power