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Industry Perspectives on Army Needs

August 23, 2011
By Rita Boland
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Leaders from large and small companies share their ideas on the future on how the Army can take advantage of it.Members of today's industry panel at LandWarNet discussed many of the issues that have long been a source of consternation to military contractors including the need for a level playing field and better, more agile acquisition policies especially for information technology. However, moderator Duane Andrews, the chief executive officer of QinetiQ North America, added a slight twist to the discussion by stating that not only do many in government not understand the acquisition process and its difficulties, but industry does not do a good job educating them. He encouraged members of industry to be candid with government officials about what delays will mean to their companies and employees so decision makers can better understand the effects of choices. Other major discussion themes included cloud computing, mobile computing and social networks. Panelists believe the cloud has powerful potential to aid the Army and the larger military, solving many problems, but also raising concerns about security. Bob Hansmann, the director of security technologies at Blue Coat Systems, said his company is offering a private cloud that will build on network pieces organizations already own, but when Blue Coat asks who really wants the technology, no one volunteers. "We need someone to take that first step," he stated. Hansmann also explained that clients have to make decisions about the kind of cloud computing they want and that industry is trying how to offer similar functionalities in various ways to clients with different needs. Joan Dempsey, senior vice president, Booz Allen Hamilton, called mobile apps a technology with tremendous promise, but again addressed policy problems, explaining that it can cost more to move a mobile app through the acquisition process than to develop it. David Nuescheler, chief technology officer for customer experience management, Adobe Systems Incorporated, told the audience that his company is investing in three main areas: cloud, mobile and social. In mobile, he said the real challenge is the way it changes the perceptions of user interaction. His young nieces and nephews think a computer screen is broken when they touch it and nothing happens but can easily use iPads and iPhones. "Touch interface revolutionizes how people interact with IT," he said. In terms of social media, Nuescheler referenced the instance of the man in Pakistan who Tweeted in real time about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden to emphasize the importance of these social networks and how they pass information. Hansmann took the idea further saying that many of the characteristics of social media, such as broadcasting information to select groups or providing information on demand, closely resemble what tactical users need. Another common topic among the panelists is security and the difficulty with properly securing networks stateside and in the warzone. Michael Papay, sector vice president, cybersecurity, Northrop Grumman Information Systems, suggested that the Army and industry go beyond defensive maneuvers to understand how the offensive works and then build battlefield systems and subsystems that will be secure.

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