As we kick off the new year, it is appropriate to give you an update on AFCEA—what have we accomplished over the past year and where we are headed in 2010.
Periodically, we ask the senior leadership of the global security community to give us feedback on their top priorities in the command, control, communications, computers, intelligence and information technology domains. In the past couple of years, they have been fairly consistent in saying that their top priority is interagency and coalition information sharing.
We all know the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) as the keeper of enterprise networks for the defense community. We know DISA as the agency cognizant of many of the U.S. Defense Department’s key joint enterprise applications. But we also know that in recent years, DISA’s role in network centricity has grown.
In 1986, the Goldwater-Nichols Act mandated jointness in the Defense Department. This affected training, doctrine, personnel management and assignments, force structure and operations. Joint operations and a joint approach to command, control, communications, computers and intelligence (C4I) have become fundamental to the way we fight.
We all know the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) as the agency that grew out of its predecessor—the Defense Communications Agency (DCA)—to manage a full range of information technology systems and services for the Defense Department. But more than a name change took place since that transition. The DISA of today bears little resemblance to the organization that took on this expanded mission.
Wireless connectivity is everywhere and is becoming a more important part of our personal and professional lives.
Web 2.0. Web 3.0. Webinars. Podcasts. Blogs. RSS feeds. Virtual environments. Social networking. This is the language of today’s Internet. It has not been the language of AFCEA, but that is changing. Our younger members are very comfortable in this environment. The rest of us in government and industry are trying to catch up and learn how to apply these technologies and this culture to our work. AFCEA is moving to help.
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.
As AFCEA enters its 62nd year, I am pleased to report that the association has never had a stronger program of services nor been sounder financially. We have been listening to our stakeholders and are responding with a new set of offerings that will be important to every member.
In an era in which commercial research and development dominates scientific progress, government research is important—particularly for the military. It is research in critical technologies that allows our national security structure to maintain the edge—to differentiate the United States from potential adversaries. This enables force projection, allows us to work more effectively with our coalition partners, and maximizes our force effectiveness while minimizing loss of life for the United States.
In my commentary last month, I discussed information sharing, a topic that has reached virtually every organization in government and industry. This month I address command, control, communications, computers and intelligence (C4I) in the tactical environment. The two are closely related, as their symbiotic relationship virtually dictates that success in one is essential for success in the other.
We are seeing a level of partnership and collaboration in information sharing that we never have seen before. The national security community, now expanded to include homeland security, long has recognized the need for information sharing, and we have had some interfaces among these elements for some time. But only in the past few years has this requirement received appropriate priority. Homeland security, the Global War on Terrorism and increased emphasis on nontraditional missions have placed a premium on information sharing. However, this remains a work in progress.
My involvement with AFCEA goes back 38 years. I have been in a number of volunteer leadership positions at the chapter and international levels, and I am excited about starting out on this journey as your association's president and chief executive officer.
After five and a half years in which you have entrusted in me a leadership position at AFCEA International, it is now time for me to step down as president and chief executive officer.
A former boss used to remind all of us, "Security is like oxygen. You never think about it until you don't have it. And when you don't have it, you don't think about anything else." But this brings to mind the question, security of what?
Governments, militaries and businesses worldwide are in the midst of various types of transformations. AFCEA members can be pleased with their own association's embrace of change. It always is important for an organization such as ours to transform as nations around the globe adjust to the dynamic information age as well as the changing nature of conflict and security amid the Global War on Terrorism.
The U.S. Navy, master of the seas and leader in net centricity, faces an uncertain future in the very information technology applications it has led for years. If the Navy does not change its personnel system and its education system, then it will be a Navy that can maintain only information tools that are developed elsewhere and modified to fit the maritime role. Without a change in direction, our Navy will not be able to build and support the tools designed to serve the maritime warfighter from requirements development to acquisition.
The tactical level of the Global War on Terrorism is having a greater effect on the war's strategic outcome than we ever would have predicted. Rather than being an issue of doctrine or force structure, this is largely an information technology issue. Today, information gathering and information transfer occur blindly from the tactical level to the strategic level.
It has been said that the two news items published most inside the Beltway are "operational successes" and "intelligence failures." Nothing would please me more than to be able to list all of the positive developments in real intelligence collection and sharing that have occurred since the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004-but I cannot. However, the intelligence community, in the wake of this restructuring, has provided a greater glimpse than ever before of its goals and effectiveness. Unfortunately, the public seems aware of only those widely publicized intelligence failures.
AFCEANs always have prided themselves on looking to the future, especially with regard to change and transformation. An association cannot flourish and remain successful for six decades without its members and leaders maintaining a visionary approach to operations and planning.