Be honest. When was the last time you thought about the frequency spectrum? For most of you, the answer is probably, “not lately.” We take spectrum for granted. As with water and air, we figure there always will be spectrum when we need it. Just as we have found in recent years that there isn’t always enough clean water and air, we are starting to realize there may not be enough spectrum to meet all requirements.
The intelligence community faces many challenges. Some are unique, but others are symptomatic of problems throughout government. These issues address the need for consistency and reason in intelligence as well as in government decision making. My examples all pertain to the U.S. government, but they can be applied equally to governments everywhere.
The fundamental nature of warfare has changed. Asymmetric warfare has become the prominent threat. Non-state actors, often difficult to identify, have become the primary warfighters in many cases. The cyber domain has been recognized as one of the most dangerous and potentially harmful warfighting domains. And, defense and security budgets are strained by a troubled global economy. Does this sound familiar? It is the environment no matter where you sit on this globe.
This month’s SIGNAL Magazine includes a focus on information security, which, these days, I can only think about in the context of the larger cybersecurity problem. There finally is a preoccupation with discussing cybersecurity on an international basis. The important question is, “How much of this dialogue is being converted to action/implementation?” This is a timely subject for me, as I have written this commentary while sitting in an international conference on Regional Collaboration in Cyber Security being held in Singapore.
The U.S. Army has become a fount of innovation. Under the leadership of Lt. Gen. Jeff Sorenson, USA, the Army’s chief information officer/G-6, and Maj. Gen. Susan Lawrence, USA, commanding general of the U.S. Army Network Enterprise Technology Command (NETCOM), the Army is transforming its LandWarNet to become a global enterprise network fully capable of supporting an expeditionary Army in an era of persistent conflict.
The U.S. fiscal year 2011 budget submission is in the hands of Congress, and information on defense budgets internationally provides clarity in the wake of the global economic crisis. At the same time, dialogue with government and industry has given us some insight into near- and mid-term direction. I want to share some of that information because the more we all understand probable trends and direction, the better we will be able to work together to provide the solutions needed going forward.
The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) is in the final stages of planning and executing its Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) move from Arlington, Virginia, to Fort Meade, Maryland. Our nation remains at war, with a surge occurring in Afghanistan and pending withdrawal being planned and prepared in Iraq. The recently published Quad- rennial Defense Review will drive a course change in critical defense domains. Cyberspace has become a focus for our nation, and it has gained priority in governments around the world as a warfighting domain.
Probably no other area is receiving more attention and more discussion in the global security community than cyberspace. The realm of cyberspace is so critical to every part of society that it finally has been recognized as both a major asset and a threat environment. It could have tremendous impact on defense as well as crucial industries such as finance, energy, water and others if denied to nations or companies. As a result, every nation is trying to define its roles and vulnerabilities in cyberspace, and alliances such as NATO are creating organizations and procedures to strengthen their position.
No, the title is not a redundancy. Given all the recent events in homeland security, it appears the whole process will undergo yet another round of reviews. I don’t think any of us would question that security is better today than in 2001. But is it good enough? Probably not.
AFCEA increasingly is engaged in the effort to improve the acquisition process, particularly as it supports the command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) and information technology communities. The association addresses this critical topic in this edition of SIGNAL; it has supported some workshops to discuss specific aspects of the problem; and it has held two conferences in the past several months on acquisition.
This is a time when everyone needs to be part of the cyber debate. Our dependency on the cyber environment is greater than ever. Cyber is being recognized as a priority domain for warfare. U.S. capabilities and those of the nation’s allies are growing, but the threat is growing and becoming more sophisticated at an alarming rate.
Both state and non-state players are active in this domain. The new U.S. administration has put a very high priority on the cyber environment and on cyberwarfare and has commissioned a number of studies to determine the way ahead. But the path remains unclear for the United States and, certainly, as the country works with its coalition partners around the globe.
I want to depart from my usual Commentary format this month to give you early notice about the upcoming AFCEA International membership survey. The information we derive from this survey is critical to us in our planning and budgeting process for the coming years.
It is fitting that this month’s SIGNAL Magazine includes a focus in on the U.S. Army. The month of August also features the 2009 LandWarNet Conference, the Army’s premier forum for information sharing and training in command, control, communications, computers and intelligence (C4I) and information technology. LandWarNet 2009 will be held August 18-20 at the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center, Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
The preeminence of the expanded use of cyberspace, the desire for more openness in government, and the demands for faster and better information sharing within and among enterprises—particularly in the context of inter-agency and coalition information sharing—have changed fundamentally the demands of information security. The wider reach of our networks and the quest for timely, relevant information have improved decision-making but have made us more dependent on cyberspace and more vulnerable.
In the wake of the global economic downturn that began late last year, responsible governments and businesses established budget priorities to make sharp spending cuts. These efforts extended across a large spectrum of budgetary activities, and they were—and still are—necessary.
Our 145 chapters and subchapters are the heart of AFCEA. The chapters are the primary interface with you—our membership—and multiple surveys have told us that member satisfaction correlates most closely with the experience a member has in his or her chapter. The chapter is your primary collaboration and networking group, and it is the closest touchpoint for AFCEA services.
Each year we conduct a membership satisfaction survey so you can give us direct feedback on what is important to you and how well we are delivering on those areas of importance. More than 1,500 of you responded to the survey this year. These survey results, which I outline below, will help guide us in improving our association and its service to you.
One of SIGNAL Magazine’s focus topics this month is Southwest Asia. This area of the world receives nearly continuous attention in the global security community because of several reasons: the ongoing conflicts in both Iraq and Afghanistan, the growing threat from Iran, the strategic importance of this region of the world and, most recently, the combat between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. In fact, this volatile region has seized the attention of the Free World for decades. Issues in this area will demand continued focus for decades to come.
I want to take advantage of this new year’s Source Book edition to share with you some of the exciting things that are going on in AFCEA. 2008 was a good year—a year of firsts for AFCEA and its membership. We completed our first strategic plan, which created a five-year vision for the association. We created a Strategic Planning Committee to follow through on that plan. We increased focus and emphasis on some important and growing components of the membership: small business, young AFCEANs and international members. To support these diverse groups as well as those who are remote from AFCEA Headquarters and the Washington, D.C., area, we expanded online services and introduced new means of collaboration and service delivery. We started the Solutions series of events—a new concept for AFCEA that combines physical presence and online participation in a more interactive and ongoing dialogue. We formed a Homeland Security Committee to focus year-round on this critical component of our community.