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Solutions Are at Hand

February 2008
By Kent R. Schneider

A number of you in government and industry have told us that AFCEA should provide smaller, more interactive forums focused on critical issues. We have listened and created a new series of events called Solutions. You should have begun to see some communications regarding these new events. I think the introduction of this new series of forums is such a critical milestone for AFCEA and such an opportunity for our membership that I should explain why this series of events is fundamentally different from anything we have done before.

The Solutions series will promote a detailed dialogue between government and industry on issues of global importance. We seek a balanced approach wherein the government can share current thinking and direction and industry can offer its perspective and input on current and projected capability. Solutions events will be compact, with focused tracks to promote interactive dialogue.

One exciting innovation is that we have arranged with the government to use social networking technologies before, during and after the events to promote continuous dialogue and prompt follow-up action. Specifically, we plan to facilitate the registration of each Solutions event participant in an online collaborative environment. We also will connect the events by reporting at each session on work done at previous sessions and by reporting online between events. In addition, we will use a wiki approach, developed with the government, to create cyber exhibits of applicable technologies rather than only the physical exhibits we are accustomed to seeing at AFCEA events.

After extensive coordination with government stakeholders, we have settled on four topics for 2008: information sharing, March 12-13; identity assurance, June 26-27; information assurance, September 9-10; and cyber warfare, December 10-11. Each of these events has one or more government co-sponsors that have agreed to work with us to make this a success. All of these initial events will be held at the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center, Washington, D.C.

Solutions is different from other AFCEA events in two ways. First, government co-sponsors are involved from the beginning in planning and execution. This program and the designation of speakers and panelists will be shaped by the government co-sponsors working with the AFCEA staff and Technology Committee. Government leadership will share its thinking on these critical topics, and the expectation is that industry will respond with meaningful input and capabilities. Government is committed to participating fully, but this concept will work only if industry makes a similar commitment.

The second difference is that these events will be more interactive than those we have run in the past. We will use social networking technologies to promote the dialogue beyond the bounds of the events themselves and to allow real-time discussion and questions during the events. We also will extend technologies to the participants during and outside the events through a wiki to search for solutions within specified technology areas.

I need your help to make this new concept work. This needs to be a genuine two-way dialogue to be of value. And the dialogue must extend beyond the boundaries of the forums themselves. We are going to be limited in how many of our members and others can participate on-site in the events. We are looking for as many ways as possible to involve more people, including leveraging the social networking technologies.

I already mentioned the use of online collaboration to sustain the dialogue. We also intend to make the technology wiki a standing resource, available full time to share information on current capabilities and emerging technologies. We will use webcasts, podcasts and virtual environments such as Second Life to extend participation to those who cannot travel to Washington, D.C., or who cannot attend because of space limitations. I would like to get feedback from as many of you as possible on ways we can help get you involved.

We also are considering conducting regional iterations of the Solutions series. East Coast, West Coast and European regional events have been suggested. This can be done if the government will support the resource commitment on its part. This is another area where we need feedback. We need to know whether individuals—such as yourself—are able to devote the time and resources to participate in regional iterations of this new series. We also welcome suggestions about the best locations for such regional events.

This new concept for focused, interactive forums for dialogue on critical issues presents an exciting new opportunity for government, industry and academia. It also offers the potential for a truly global dialogue. To realize the potential of this new venue, we need all of you to participate. Filling a seat is not enough. We need participants who will engage in every aspect of the dialogue. Collectively, we can make a difference.