Military Carries On the Lesson of Flight 93
A morning tribute sets the stage for a day affirming the commitment to resolving the challenges faced by the military.
TechNet Augusta 2013 Online Show Daily, Day Two
TechNet Augusta had a different feeling Wednesday than is normal for military communications conferences. This fact is unsurprising; it was September 11. The people at this event are not those who simply wear yellow ribbons. These are the men and women who have fought the fights that have raged because of those hijacked planes. Until you spend the anniversary of terrorist attacks in a convention center full of military members and veterans, it is difficult to grasp fully the impact of more than a decade of foreign war or the dedication of some human beings to ideals such as freedom or country.
Before the real business of the day began, there was a 9/11 remembrance ceremony that hailed heroes from fire departments, police departments, United Flight 93 and, of course, the military. As soon as Americans understood what was happening that fateful morning, they began to fight back, starting with that call of “Let’s Roll” on a plane that crashed in Pennsylvania and continuing today in nations far from here. As the discussions of the day progressed, they took on many of the themes associated with 9/11—supporting warfighters and partnerships. Unfortunately, recent changes also demanded attention to acquisition.
Emotion alone will not carry a military to victory, so hard work and superior capabilities are the focal points. For Lt. Gen. Susan Lawrence, USA, the chief information officer (CIO)/G6 of the Army, that means modernizing the network. The activity is key to soldier success. To carry it out, the Army must build capacity, improve cybersecurity and extend enterprise services. Though dealing with bureaucracy can be frustrating, signalers must work harder and better, because soldiers are depending on them, Gen. Lawrence stated. Part of that effort involves bringing together the many partners involved in Army operations. “We have to be part of the joint task force every night,” the general said.
Industry has a big role to play, too. Soldiers will look to the private sector’s lead in capabilities such as cloud, social media, big data, mobile and security. Gen. Lawrence said that looking at fiscal year 2015 and beyond, the Army will need help from interagency groups and industry in important issues. She asked company personnel to keep the government from writing dumb requirements or making dumb decisions. “We know you need to make a profit,” Gen. Lawrence said, adding that industry knows the military is operating at a lower budget. They must work together to make the situation viable for everyone.
Also important for all parties is cybersecurity. “Information assurance is everybody’s business,” Gen. Lawrence stated. Protecting the network is no small feat. It currently has more than 500 points of presence. “You cannot defend this,” the general explained. So this year, the G6 will work with the Defense Information Systems Agency and the U.S. Air Force to collapse those points to 13 regional sites, putting services behind security where they can be seen and defended. “That’s our number one initiative,” Gen. Lawrence said. “We’ll go to the Hill if [we fail]. This is the number one thing we can do to protect ourselves.
Maj. Gen. Dennis Moran, USA, ret., vice president, Defense Communications and Electronics, Harris, explained that the military needs to define requirements based on capabilities. Government personnel must dialogue with industry to understand what expectations are realistic. He also called on the Army to create an integration process for the capabilities in the form of an agent within or outside the service. Jeff Bergeron, chief technology officer, public sector, HP, spoke about the importance of rapid fielding of technology in support of the warfighter. To continue quick adoption, the government must improve certification and accreditation processes. He believes cloud computing will help with all of that.
Gen. Dennis Via, commander, Army Materiel Command (AMC), brought the attention of the day back to warfighters, emphasizing that his personnel do everything with the soldier in mind. Despite the drawdown, “We must not lose sight that we are still at war and still taking casualties,” Gen. Via stated. The Army cannot let down the warfighter and should strive for improvement regardless of the situations faced at home. “We can’t rest on the capabilities we developed yesterday … At the end of the day, it’s all about the soldier,” Gen. Via said.
The AMC knows it will procure fewer systems than in the past. Resetting technology returning from Afghanistan becomes a priority. Partners will make the changes possible. “We can’t get the mission done without our support from industry,” Gen. Via said. The Army and public sector will collaborate closely during this time of transition. Determinations will be made about what the service will maintain and what contractors will maintain. In the end, the Army is returning to an expeditionary force ready to deploy anytime, anywhere to face any adversary.
That’s the lesson of United Flight 93 that the U.S. military has carried on. Attacking Americans at home does not work. The terrorists lost on the very day of what they viewed as a great triumph. As soon as Americans figured out what was happening, they fought back. And the brave, select few have carried on that tradition ever since, and will continue it anywhere on the globe. The annual television tributes and emotional outpourings occur one day a year, but the people who rose spontaneously Wednesday at TechNet Augusta during the patriotic music continually live the lessons of 12 years ago. They are the ones who are creating partnerships to overcome budgets and acquisition issues so the casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan, here at home and in the future, will not be in vain.