General Victor E. Renuart Jr., USAF, commander, North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command, opened the AFCEA Solutions conference on Inter-Agency, Allied and Coalition Information Sharing with a resounding endorsement of the need for continuing conversation about information sharing. But conversation isn't enough, he continued. "Discussions don't move to real solutions very rapidly. Discussion is wonderful, but action is what we need."
Gen. Renuart discussed the nature of NORAD/NORTHCOM as two commands that are separate but integrated, with a mission to provide support in disaster relief and support of major special events in coordination with other homeland security and law enforcement agencies. Even since Katrina, the general noted, we've come a long way in being able to collaborate and coordinate efforts among disparate groups. He explained that the support they provide is like having a "village with 120 flags in it," each associated with another command structure.
"Information sharing enables everything we do," Gen. Renuart said. "It sounds a little trite, but everything of substance that occurs in our world revolves around our ability to move data around to allow a leader to make a decision about an operation."
One example he cited was a Google Maps application that had been extended to allow disaster recovery workers to find the closest sources of relief supplies.
But one caveat Gen. Renuart offered was the ongoing need to address cyber security issues."Security and access don't compete with one another-they need to complement one another," he said. "But we've grown up thinking of networks as convenient, as opposed to an essential way we do business. [Cyber security] is not just a defense issue; it's not just a government issue; it's not just one nation's issue."
And that, the general stated, is what the AFCEA SOLUTIONS conference is all about. "We need a collaborative way to defend our networks while preserving access," he said. "Dot-mil, dot-net, dot-com and dot-gov all need to be able to talk together, so if any of you have a solution for that one, we would like that quickly."