It is no secret that technology is rapidly taking over the military. This can be seen in recruiting techniques, training styles, and weapons and tools being used in battlefield settings. Behind the gruff, rough, dip-spitting, barrel-chested freedom fighter attitude that the Navy SEALs and Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen (SWCC) of Naval Special Warfare have come to be known for, there is a small group of geniuses attempting to modernize NSW and Special Operations in a way that has never been seen before.

This small group of brilliant humans is assigned to a new department within NSW’s organizational structure, known as the N9 Future Concepts and Innovative Directorate. The N9’s core responsibility is to seek out the newest cutting edge and future technologies and apply them to the progression and growth of NSW’s mission-set and warfighting capabilities.

The N9 came into existence as a way for NSW to support the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Third Offset Strategy, which was developed in 2014. The Third Offset Strategy represents DOD’s desire to identify future threats and ascertain and develop cutting-edge technologies that will guarantee the United States’ military dominance for years to come.

Spearheading the N9 organization is Director, Capt. Christian Dunbar and Deputy Director, Dr. Bruce Morris. The N9 is tasked with searching for, identifying, and developing transformational and disruptive technologies and processes. NSW’s overarching goal is to develop a technologically updated framework that addresses and has the ability to combat and defeat terrorist groups and maintain superiority over other “super-power” nations. The N9 directive dovetails nicely with NSW’s Vision 2030. Vision 2030 is a movement to overhaul NSW — implementing new procedures, technology, and tactics to improve the operational fortitude of its operators and prepare for tomorrow’s enemies.

Summarizing the task and goals of the N9, Dunbar, in a long-form article with the Defense Media Network, stated that,

“Vision 2030 has three lines of effort: strengthen; compete; and reform, and it echoes a great deal of what the U.S. Navy, USSOCOM (US Special Operations Command), and the NDS (National Defense Strategy) were charging us to do in the rapid innovation space. Directly, we are given specified tasks to expand innovation across the community, increasing synergy and processes. Half of our work is focused on five-to-15-year technology horizons, and the other half focused on the possibilities of right now.”

Personnel from Naval Special Warfare Command (NSWC) test the night-time capabilities of a Ghost Robotics’s robotic dog. NSWC is committed to its sailors and to the deliberate development of tactical excellence, ethics, and leadership as the nation’s premier maritime special operations force supporting the National Defense Strategy. (Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Sean Furey.)

Currently, the N9 consists of about five members for the time being, but that number is expected to increase in the very near future. The team also likes to bring in extra help from the NSW Reserves. Dunbar explained, “We occasionally increase by one or two individuals with reservists that we bring on board.” Dunbar said these members “flow industry and technical expertise in and out as we ‘surge to ideas’ using those resources.”

Dunbar nicely summarized the purpose and role that the N9 plays now and will play in the future: “Our charter is to act like [sic] a set of headlights, maybe even with high beams, for the community. That allows us to see where the accelerating technology sectors are moving, project how that’s going to change our operating environment and our adversaries’ capabilities, and then explore concepts that change the way we will fight; transformational innovation. Then we need to figure out what else we need to do to onboard it.”