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Presidents Commentary

In This Period of Change and Challenge, Engagement Is Key

December 1, 2012
By Kent R. Schneider

In our professional lives, most of us have not seen an economic environment or a budget climate such as those we face today. We are approaching the ramp-down of the longest period of continuous conflict in U.S. and allied history. Technology is changing at an unprecedented pace, and to help address budget declines, we are relying on some of these technological advances—enterprise networking and service approaches, cloud computing, data center consolidation, more effective cybersecurity and better use of mobility solutions. The U.S. defense strategy is changing with a rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region. NATO is undergoing the most fundamental restructuring in its history, impacting headquarters structure, force structure and agency reform. Most of us do not remember a time when the government information technology budget was not growing year over year. This paradigm changed in 2012, and it will change more as new budgets reflecting debt reduction take effect. If sequestration occurs, an additional 11 percent will be cut from every budget line item, further aggravating the problem.

Since its start in 1946, AFCEA has been committed to an effective and ethical dialogue among governments, industry and academia to ensure that critical decisions are informed and that options are understood. It seems to me that the requirement for focused information exchange is greater today than ever before, because more uncertainty exists than ever before. Many of you have heard me say that we need to step up engagement at every level in order to understand the need fully and to respond effectively.

Mission-Focused and Effective Conferences Always in Demand

October 1, 2012
by Kent R. Schneider


Since the U.S. General Services Administration scandal over a training conference in Las Vegas, reinforced by concerns regarding two expensive Department of Veterans Affairs conferences, fear has spread across government and industry that government-related conferences are now a thing of the past. This is just not the case—nor should it be.

If government leaders make bad decisions with respect to conferences—or other areas within their job scope—they should be held accountable. Controls should be in place to minimize future abuses. Organizations that support government in conferences that recommend or support such abuses similarly should be penalized.

The May 11, 2012, memo from the Office of Management and Budget applying controls to travel and conferences clearly had two objectives. The first was to direct a management approval process for all federal agencies to ensure consistent review of proposed travel and conferences, along with adherence to policies. The second was to achieve spending reductions of 30 percent in travel and conference costs from fiscal year 2010 levels. Implementing guidance from federal agencies has reinforced these objectives, directing the leadership at every level to focus conferences on mission needs and to ensure government requirements are met at these conferences in a cost-effective way.

Identity Verification and Biometrics Loom Large

September 1, 2012
by Kent R. Schneider

Security has become all the more important at the user level. Verifying the validity of an individual’s access to a network is vital to preventing cybermarauders from getting into a system to purloin or sabotage important information. Biometrics can play a key role in identity management, particularly in cross-enterprise implementations.

Approaches to identity management are maturing in both government and the private sector globally. Whether for physical or logical access, public key infrastructure (PKI) and biometrics are surfacing as common denominators to add strength and flexibility to the authentication processes. The difficulty remains a lack of consensus on processes, application of standards, and management of attributes across enterprise boundaries. For example, in the United States, federal standards are clear but often applied differently among federal agencies—and certainly at the state, local and tribal levels and within the private sector. Similarly, in Europe, the European Union (EU)/European Council have adopted standards, but implementation varies from country to country, even within the EU or NATO frameworks.

Federated approaches to identity verification and attribute identification are helping to bridge enterprises. Agreements on the acceptance of PKI certifying authorities, biometrics as a strong element of authentication, and acceptance—in a federated environment—of credentials from multiple approved sources all are facilitating the establishment of trust relationships across enterprises.

A Taste of Reality Puts the Focus on Critical Infrastructure

August 2012
By Kent R. Schneider, SIGNAL Magazine

As I write this, we are experiencing some nearly unprecedented oppressive weather in the Washington area. About one week ago, we had a series of violent thunderstorms that caused extensive damage and knocked out power to more than 1.5 million electrical customers—comprising millions of people—in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia. Many communications systems also failed, either because of damaged infrastructure or loss of power. This includes telephone, cable and cellular systems along with their accompanying processing and switching facilities. Credit and debit cards, along with ATM cards, were useless in many places just when people needed them to buy vital goods for surviving the blackout. More seriously, the 911 emergency call system ceased to function in areas where it was needed the most. And, in some locations, potable water was a problem because power was lacking for pumps and water treatment.

Smart Defence

July 2012
By Kent R. Schneider, SIGNAL Magazine

"Smart Defence" is a NATO concept and policy that involves national burden-sharing on a broad range of developments, including information technology and cybersecurity. The European Union has a parallel initiative called Pooling and Sharing, and it similarly is aimed at sharing the cost of critical infrastructure. All of this, of course, is driven by the need to modernize, coupled with the global economic crisis, which has reduced defense and security budgets dramatically.

It Is All About Integration and Synergy

June 2012
By Kent R. Schneider, SIGNAL Magazine

At the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) Mission Partner Conference in Tampa, Florida, last month, the discussion focused on the enterprise and jointness and coalition. If it did not cause attendees to have an epiphany, it certainly should have triggered a re-awareness.

DISA Is a Laser Focused on Services for the Enterprise

May 2012
By Kent R. Schneider, SIGNAL Magazine

The command, control, communications and computers (C4) technology community has undergone a great deal of change over the past couple of years. The U.S. Cyber Command and the military services’ cyber component commands were created, the Joint Forces Command was disbanded, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Networks and Information Integration (ASD NII) transformed to become the Office of the Defense Chief Information Officer (CIO), the J-6 (C4) on the Joint Staff was eliminated, and the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) has changed significantly. All of these modifications have resulted in adjustments to priorities, shifts of mission and more focus on the enterprise.

How Geolocation Has Changed

April 2012
By Kent R. Schneider, SIGNAL Magazine

I joined the U.S. Army in 1968. Having been trained as a Signal officer, I went to the field in the early 1970s with maps in hand, and I used acetate and grease pencils to prepare overlays for troop movements, command post and signal site locations, and the ever-important radio line-of-sight calculations. One of the greatest technology developments of the time was the marking pen—we got rid of grease pencils and we had color!

Critical Changes Loom in Cyber Direction

March 2012
By Kent R. Schneider, SIGNAL Magazine

Cyber threats draw much of the focus in today’s information technology realm. The threat profile in cyberspace is growing and becoming more complex, more sophisticated and more diverse.

Homeland Security Enters a Challenging Period

February 2012
By Kent R. Schneider, SIGNAL Magazine

I don’t think anyone would argue with my notion that we live in a dangerous world and that, no matter where you live, there are significant threats to national and regional security.


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