January weather in Washington may be dark and dreary, but every four years, the city on the Potomac is filled with the hope and optimism that comes with another inauguration. This isn’t political; it is the sense of renewal. Thousands of new—or somewhat new—faces will come to town. But a certain amount of trepidation also comes with the unknown, particularly for career public servants who have to prove their value.
Now that network centricity is a given part of warfighting, it is undergoing growing pains that could hinder its greatest capabilities as the force embraces it fully. Service interoperability is as great a challenge as ever, and that task is complicated by the need to include both allies and nontraditional coalition partners in information networks.
Representatives from Europe and beyond met in Prague recently to discuss information sharing in the battle environment and the requirements for seamless information transfer. The need to pass information among partners remains paramount for defense organizations, especially as various countries on the continent become further integrated. However, questions surround the best methods for pursuing these data-sharing goals, and challenges still remain.
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.
The U.S. State Department has made significant changes during the past 12 months to speed up the process of obtaining a license to export defense-related products. License application approval times for items that fall under International Traffic in Arms Regulations have decreased more than 50 percent, from an average of 35 days to 15 days. This is especially good news for small business owners who do not have the revenue flexibility to miss sales opportunities while they slog through miles of red tape.
The credit crunch that has defined the financial meltdown threatens to derail small business activity in the United States. Many small firms rely on credit for everyday operations because they lack the liquidity to fund their business activities. And, potential startups may remain stillborn as entrepreneurs find it increasingly difficult to obtain necessary seed money.
Network-centric data transfer capabilities are swiftly moving from the battlefield into areas such as national emergency response and homeland security. A recent joint exercise between NATO and Sweden demonstrated how coalition nations and local civilian authorities can link their networks together to share information in real time.
An international research group is promoting the use of affordable, sustainable technologies to support stressed groups of people in the wake of natural and manmade disasters. These methods include the use of commercial shelters, water purification systems, solar power and lighting that can be rapidly acquired in bulk and shipped to a stricken area. By working across the government-civilian spectrum of agencies, organizations and nonprofit entities, the group seeks to create open-source resource templates that can be accessed by disaster management personnel.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has awarded a grant for online donations management to control resources coming in during disaster response. This thrust to share information virtually streamlines efforts among government and private organizations as well as individuals, increasing the efficiency of outreach and eliminating the burden of unusable supplies. Through the system, the government and its associates can fill needs in the right places with the right solutions with less trouble and more collaboration.