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Interoperability, Acquisition, Mobility Cap GMU C4I Conference

May 30, 2013
By Max Cacas

In the bright world of a fully interoperable U.S. Army, soldiers will be able to access tactical command and control information from any digital device using a standard Web browser, Dr. Michael Hieb, research associate professor, Center for Excellence in C4I, George Mason University, explained. A common operating environment also will enable military staffs to customize command and control software as needed. In fact, staff might even find themselves able to create entirely new applications to manipulate data as needed.

Dr. Heib, who is also a top level adviser to the Army in the area of modeling and simulation, spoke at the AFCEA SOLUTIONS Series – George Mason University Symposium, “Critical Issues in C4I.” He noted that trends in interoperability suggest that the “apps” model of developing small software applications designed to do a limited set of tasks, borrowed from the smartphone world, will take advantage of other development in common operating environments. Dr. Heib also suggested that the new keywords describing work done in the area of interoperability are “agility” (the ability to quickly adapt to new and different kinds of information and big data) and “collaboration” (the ability to allow personnel and organizations to readily share information in the pursuit of a common mission).

Coast Guard Rides Waves of Joint Information Environment

May 22, 2013
By Max Cacas

Within the next eight months, the U.S. Coast Guard is expected to move to the Defense Department’s enterprise email system, according to Rear Adm. Robert Day Jr., USCG, assistant commandant for command, control, communications, computers and information technology, and director, Coast Guard Cyber Command. The admiral gave the keynote address during the second day of the AFCEA SOLUTIONS Series – George Mason University Symposium, “Critical Issues in C4I.” Adm. Day related that even though moving to the Defense Department's enterprise email service may cost more initially in some cases, the long-term benefits to the service will mitigate and justify some of those costs.

In a similar vein, Adm. Day said he sees the Joint Information Environment (JIE) as an opportunity to resolve some of the most pressing information technology problems he faces in a future with more challenges and fewer resources. He said that the JIE will establish “enterprise-wide mandates that programs cannot ignore.”

Adm. Day said he believes the JIE will allow for more efficient system configurations and consolidation of the Coast Guard’s information technology work force. As the director of the Coast Guard Cyber Command, the admiral also is mindful that the JIE will improve his ability to control what devices are attached to the network, giving him the opportunity, for example, to stop an unauthorized USB thumb drive from being attached to a secure network computer, compromising operational security.

“Borrowing” a page from the U.S. Air Force, Adm. Day also noted that the Coast Guard is moving to the electronic flight bag, which provides the ability to put charts and other documents needed for aircraft in an Apple iPad tablet. He says doing so will save the costs of putting 300 pounds of paper in the air.

Big Data and Cloud Computing Present Opportunities, Challenges

May 22, 2013
By Max Cacas

The term “big data” means different things to different people. To a bank, big data represents the ability to gain business intelligence from financial transactions. To the United States intelligence community, big data’s challenge comes in trying to sift through information from multiple environments in support of the warfighter.

John Marshall, senior information systems technologist for the Joint Staff Intelligence Directorate (J-2), Joint Chiefs of Staff, said big data includes information being captured constantly by more than 50 million mobile devices, and “the question is, how do we successfully mine through that data for those nuggets that my colleagues and I need?” He appeared on a panel, “Big Data and the Evolving Enterprise,” at the the AFCEA SOLUTIONS Series – George Mason University Symposium, “Critical Issues in C4I."

The second panel of the day focused on an examination of cloud computing. Frank Konieczny, chief technology officer, Office of Information Dominance, and chief information officer, Office of the Secretary of the Air Force, reminded attendees that in his office, the promise of cloud computing is an empty one if it does not fulfill Air Force mission requirements and help airmen to meet the mission.

Fellow panelist Geoffrey Raines, a cloud infrastructure engineer for the MITRE Corporation's National Security Engineering Center, noted that significant challenges remain on the road to cloud computing in the Defense Department; among them, portability and interoperability; risks associated with data center consolidation; and managing cost expectations, which have been widely touted as a benefit of cloud computing.

Dealing with Big Data Takes an Ecosystem

May 21, 2013
By Max Cacas

Effectively dealing with data sets measured in terabytes and petabytes sometimes takes an ecosystem. And at times, that ecosystem is dependent on metadata, a sub-dataset that describes the dataset so that it can be analyzed quickly.

That’s according to Todd Myers, a big data specialist with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), who spoke at the AFCEA SOLUTIONS Series - George Mason University Symposium, "Critical Issues in C4I," on Tuesday.

Myers said that in an era when an intelligence community analyst no longer has the luxury of staring at a monitor for hours poring over a video feed searching for “that one delta that will deliver a needed clue,” properly applied metadata can provide the speed needed for what he calls “contextual resolution."

One firm that seeks to help analysts sift through big datasets is sqrrl. Ely Kahn, chief executive officer of sqrrl, said his firm relies on open source big data tools like Hadoop to provide analysis with “low latency,” the big data code for speed and efficiency. He told symposium attendees that one of the most interesting aspects of both big data and open source is that they have helped create new ways to write the applications that are being used to unlock the secrets in big data.

What the Joint Information Environment is Not

May 21, 2013
By Max Cacas

When it comes to the U.S. Defense Department’s Joint Information Environment (JIE), it's best to toss out old thinking about information technology programs.

“The JIE is not a program,” David DeVries, deputy chief information officer for information enterprise, Defense Department, stressed. DeVries oversees the effort to tie together the vast information technology resources of the military, providing crucial information to warfighters “at the point where they need it.”

DeVries delivered the opening keynote address at the AFCEA SOLUTIONS Series-George Mason University Symposium, “Critical Issues in C4I.”

The JIE, he said, encompasses work going on simultaneously in the realms of data center consolidation, identity and access management, and mobile. In the area of mobile, DeVries told the conference that part of making the JIE work is realizing that such devices must be managed, and policies must be set to maximize their value to the warfighters.

The SOLUTIONS conference also is set to explore big data, cloud computing, interoperability, information technology acquisition reform and mobility management. The conference continues through tomorrow at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.

For DoD, the Road to the Cloud Is Paved With Promise and Pitfalls

May 26, 2011
By Max Cacas

Additional headlines, bullet points, and takeaways from the AFCEA "Solutions" series conference, "Critical Issues in C4I", sponsored by AFCEA International and the George Mason University C4I conference, held May 24th-25th at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.:

Success in the Cloud: 'Better, Faster, Cheaper'

May 25, 2011
By Max Cacas

In his talk regarding the G-6's strategic vision for managing IT resources ""from the Pentagon to the warfighter in theater," Col. Michael Jones, USA (Ret.), noted the most recent challenge to the U.S. Army: the explosive growth of mobile devices, such as iPhones, BlackBerrys and Android tablets.

Security and Accreditation Concerns Drive Discussion

May 19, 2010

Accreditation and certification of software is a vital, but time consuming process. On Tuesday afternoon, panelists at the AFCEA SOLUTIONS symposium discussed the challenge and ongoing attempts to streamline the process.

Managing Controlled Unclassified Information Creates Challenges

May 19, 2010

The ultimate goal is to create an overarching framework that standardized CUI infomation to promote the sharing of data.

Internet Author Ponders Future Trends

May 19, 2010

When the Internet was originally created for Defense Department use, Cerf says that it was not designed to perform any particular operation besides moving bits from point to point. Because the requirements were so broad that it allowed the system to be tremendously flexible and scalable. "What is amazing is that the protocols have actually scaled [over the last 40 years]," he shared.