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TechNet International 2003 Is About Knowledge

April 2003
By Vice Adm. Herbert A. Browne, USN (Ret.)

With the capabilities of today’s information technology systems, military, government and industry leaders are nearly overwhelmed with data. The desktop computer has become more than a machine: It’s a window to and a connection with the world. Senior government decision makers increasingly are taking advantage of commercial tools, and transformation is the umbrella term used to describe how we are evolving from the industrial age to the information age. In the past, control belonged to the organization that massed forces; today, it belongs to the group that efficiently turns data into useful information.

Everyone, from heads of state to the soldier in the foxhole, knows that data is not enough. Our information technology systems are key to transforming data into information. It is the next step—changing information into knowledge—that is key to victory. That is why TechNet International 2003 will play a major role in this time of crisis. The single most important purpose of TechNet in Washington, D.C., is to increase knowledge in all sectors—from the policy makers to the program managers to the information technology specialists.

TechNet 2003 was deliberately designed to focus on requirements identified by senior government officials. Drawing on input received from these key decision makers, panelists have been assembled, speakers have been scheduled and companies have been invited to demonstrate their technologies. The result is a three-day event wherein homeland security is a focal point of plans, challenges and solutions.

This year’s TechNet will be a professional development experience. The free mini-courses offered by AFCEA International’s Professional Development Center (PDC) are one example of the educational opportunity the event offers. These abbreviated versions of the full-length PDC courses allow attendees to learn from technology specialists.

But the PDC courses are only one of the educational components of this event. A batch of other opportunities will be available to offer insight into what decision makers see as their priorities as they work through homeland security plans. During speeches, senior military and government leaders will talk about the challenges they face and the methods they have chosen to address them. They will explain their thinking and define their requirements. This information is key to industry as it makes decisions about where to invest time and IR&D funding.

Military, government and industry experts will share their knowledge at four panels taking place in the TechTalk Theatre. These discussions will be a continuation of the dialogue that begins during the speeches. Within these forums, government officials can learn about what other agencies are doing, and industry representatives can hear about specific requirements.

Military and government officials are addressing a multitude of issues, and they are looking to and relying on industry for solutions. The Solutions Showcase, which this year features hundreds of exhibits, will be another source of knowledge. On the exhibit floor, government leaders have the opportunity to increase their understanding of the “art of the possible” offered by businesses. Program managers and junior and mid-level officers will be able to meet one-on-one with industry representatives at their booths to see the latest capabilities for themselves and to discover where research and development will take the next generation of technologies. This dialogue not only increases knowledge but also acts as an incubator for hatching new ideas.

In addition to AFCEA-sponsored activities, TechNet 2003 once again features a program organized by the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA). During presentations by DISA leadership, including a plenary address by the agency’s director Lt. Gen. Harry D. Raduege Jr., USAF, attendees will hear first-hand about the changes ahead for the agency, including its new priorities and transformation efforts. The presentations complement the DISA booth, which will showcase four DISA products and services.

AFCEA has received a tremendous amount of support from military and industry leaders in putting together TechNet 2003. They freely gave of their time and talents because they know the threats in the world today and understand that the solutions are out there. They believe that the challenges they face and the fast pace of technology change require that everyone continually receive data-information-knowledge to stay current. With their assistance, this event pulls together the plans, requirements and solutions into one forum.

The world has changed dramatically in the past 18 months and so has the government. Transformation requires changes in technology, culture and organizational processes. With industry’s help, technology is moving at nearly the speed of light, and the U.S. Defense Department and the Department of Homeland Security are driving cultural and procedural changes in a focused and purposeful manner. TechNet 2003 presents the opportunity to gain knowledge about these changes, and although homeland security has put even more demands on already busy schedules, the time is now to seek out the knowledge that will help the nation defend against attack. The three days of TechNet 2003 are an investment that will pay immeasurable dividends.