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New Funding Rules Call for New Thinking

May 16, 2013
By Maryann Lawlor

Robert O. Work, former undersecretary of the Navy, and current chief executive officer, Center for a New American Security, spoke frankly about the state of the military’s financial circumstances and shared his opinion about the next steps. The final keynote speaker at East: Joint Warfighting 2013 at the Virginia Beach Convention Center, Virginia, pointed out that this is not the first time the U.S. military has felt a budget crunch and the time for sounding the alarm has not yet arrived. Explaining that fiscal year 2013 is only the third year of a drawdown in funding, Work stated that the cuts have not yet bottomed out.

The most troubling issue may be that the bottom is not yet clearly apparent. However, Work predicted that tight budgets are likely to be around for the next four to nine years, unless something, such as another large national security threat, occurs to change it.

One difference between past and today’s budget cuts is the existence of the all-volunteer military. Personnel expenses are among the highest cost to the U.S. Defense Department. During the Vietnam era, troops were more than willing to leave the service when their military stint was up. However, today, the combination of more opportunities and the country’s economic crisis has resulted in service members who voluntarily joined the military staying in. To add to this conundrum, the department does not want to ask any of these talented, bright people to leave, so the cost of maintaining the military will remain high.

Attempting to balance the budget between what Congress is willing to approve and what the military needs to operate solely by implementing efficiencies “is a bunch of crap,” Work said. “It’s not as easy as people think.” Cutting procurement and research and development spending is the worst approach, he added, because these will only lead to larger expenditures in the future.

Transformation, Coalitions and Interoperability

May 15, 2013
By Maryann Lawlor

 

 

 

Experts Focus on the Effects of Sequestration

May 14. 2013
By Maryann Lawlor

East: Joint Warfighting 2013 Online Show Daily, Day 1

Adm. William E. Gortney, USN, commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, set the tone for East: Joint Warfighting 2013 taking place at the Virginia Beach Convention Center, Virginia, May 14-16, when he opened the conference by talking about changes and choices in today’s morning keynote address. Although the obvious change is the reduction in financial resources, the other is one that has been mentioned at previous AFCEA International conferences: the shift in focus from Southwest Asia to the entire Pacific region.

Lawrence Maps Modernization Path to the Expeditionary Army

March 13, 2013
By Max Cacas

On the road to the future “expeditionary Army of 2020,” Lt. Gen. Susan Lawrence, USA, chief information officer/G-6, says the path through a changed environment will include buying only what is needed to deal with network and information technology refresh programs in the short term. In discussing how the Army will spend its money in the year to come, Gen. Lawrence said that her staff has done the basic engineering work and initial purchasing decisions for the network modernization of 10 installations. She discussed the topic during the keynote address at the 2013 Army IT Day, sponsored by AFCEA NOVA. The general says that those projects will be based on a model envisioning how Fort Hood will look and operate under a new infrastructure, with updated security and state-of-the art enterprise services (“The Army Maneuvers Back to the United States,” SIGNAL Magazine, July 2012).

Gen. Lawrence said the Army has realized that with constrained budgets and the rapid progress in the development of new technology, it is pointless to engage in the large scale acquisitions of the past only to see the cost of that technology drop as it is adopted or, worse, becomes obsolete by the time it is deployed. She says that reviews on the effectiveness of new technology will take place more rapidly and give Army leadership more reliable information on what to base future modernization projects.

Gen. Lawrence also reported that as of last night, the Army-led effort to migrate the military services to enterprise email topped the 1 million user mark. She briefly discussed the effort to develop a Commander's Risk Reduction Dashboard, designed to help create a “virtual dossier” on every soldier and provide the means to eliminate the stovepipes to information to help manage the lives of soldiers worldwide. The hope, she said, is to use the information to combat the suicide rate among members of the Army.

Event eNews Websites Deliver Conference Benefits to You

March 15, 2013
By Maryann Lawlor

To help government and industry connect, network and learn about requirements and solutions, SIGNAL Media offers Event eNews websites for several major AFCEA International events that feature near real-time coverage as well as daily wrap-ups of speakers and panel discussions.

Change Is Challenge

March 1, 2013
George I. Seffers

Homeland Security Conference 2013 Show Daily, Day 3

Although many in government are moving as quickly as possible to adopt new technologies, such as cloud computing and mobile devices, individual agencies still face cultural challenges that sometimes prevent them from moving forward, according to officials speaking as part of the Chief Information Officer Council at the AFCEA Homeland Security conference in Washington, D.C.

Richard Spires, chief information officer for the Homeland Security Department (DHS), reminded the audience that DHS was created by joining a lot of disparate agencies, all of whom owned individual networks. While the department is working to integrate the information technology infrastructure and consolidate data centers, officials still meet some resistance at the individual agency level. “There’s still have lot of duplication and in some ways duplication is holding us back. I’d like to say we’re making progress, but I’ll let others grade us on that,” Spires said.

Other officials agreed that they meet resistance as well. Robert Carey, deputy chief information officer for the Defense Department cited a culture of change and said a constrained budget environment can be a power catalyst for action in moving toward a more centralized environment.

Cybersecurity itself can present challenges, according to Luke McCormack, chief information officer for the Justice Department. “Cyber’s hard. The individual pieces of that can be very difficult,” he said. He also cited the need to bring people together on emerging technologies, such as cloud-as-a-service, as a challenging issue.

Modeling and Simulation Can Ease Budget Crunch

February 28, 2013
George I. Seffers

As the U.S. government wrestles with its myriad budgetary woes, training, modeling and simulation can provide substantial savings in a variety of ways, according to officials speaking on the Training, Modeling and Simulation panel at the AFCEA Homeland Security Conference in Washington, D.C.

“With the economic turmoil that we find ourselves in today, where we have to simultaneously reduce costs while protecting the homeland, I believe we are now in a period where modeling and simulation and virtual reality methodologies are not really an aid to live training, they are indispensable,” said Sandy Peavy, chief information officer, Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, Homeland Security Department (DHS).

Peavy reported that her organization is using a modified version of a U.S. Army-developed virtual reality hologram. Since the Army already had invested heavily in the system, the DHS was able to modify it for a modest $1 million, and now the Army is integrating some of the DHS modifications into its own system.

Additionally, David Boyd, who leads the DHS Office of Interoperability and Compatibility, suggested that modeling and simulation can aid the development of FirstNet, a nationwide public safety broadband network that will cost an estimated $7 billion. “We look at modeling and simulation as a way to reduce costs and as a way to look at everything from network scenarios to communications the scenarios,” Boyd said.

He added that there are “a number of issues” with FirstNet, including the fact that it will use LTE protocols, which do not support mission critical voice capabilities and do not meet all of the needs of emergency responses. FirstNet will require the construction of additional towers, an immensely expensive task. “One of the things we have to be able to model is what happens when you overload [the system]. We don’t care what happens on a normal day. We care about what happens when a disaster occurs.”

Top Information Technology Officials Peer into the Future

February 28, 2013
George I. Seffers

Top information technology officials from a variety of government agencies identified cloud computing, mobile devices and edge technologies as the technologies that will be critical for accomplishing their missions in the future.

Luke McCormack, chief information officer, Justice Department, cited cloud-as-a-service as vital to the future. He urged industry to continue to push the barriers of stack computing, and he mentioned edge technology as an emerging technology. “Edge is going to be really critical to perform missions,” he said. He cited the Google Glass project as an indicator of what the future will bring.

Mobility could be the future of training and simulation, suggested Sandy Peavy, chief information officer for the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). She revealed that her office is putting together a pilot program introducing tablet computers into the training environment, and ideally, she would like trainees to be able to access simulation on the mobile device of their choice. Peavy also reported that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is providing special agents with iPhones and experimenting with other devices. “If I’m going to be able to provide just-in-time training, then mobile technology is the key.”

Richard Spires, chief information officer for the Department of Homeland Security, also cited mobility as a key future trend, but he also brought up metadata tagging, saying that it helps to understand the data itself and to establish rules for who sees what information. Metadata tagging is especially important as the department grapples with privacy concerns.

Cyber and Physical Protection are Intrinsically Linked

February 28, 2013
By George I. Seffers

The recently signed executive order on cybersecurity and the presidential directive on critical infrastructure protection are not separate documents. In fact, they are part of the same overall effort to protect the nation, said Rand Beers, undersecretary for the National Protection and Programs Directorate, U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Beers discussed the effort on Thursday at the AFCEA Homeland Security Conference in Washington, D.C.

The two documents are “part and parcel of a whole of government and whole of society concept. The executive order is focused on cybersecurity, but the presidential policy directive takes the cybersecurity element and places it within the broader context of critical infrastructure protection in the sense that cyber and physical critical infrastructure are linked to one another,” Beers said. He added that a cyber attack that shuts down the electric grid could shut off access to water and to communications, which could affect the economy. “I’m not here to suggest cyber Armageddon is about to happen, but we have enough of a warning to understand that concerns about cybersecurity are not being overhyped.”

Beers revealed that the government is working to identify critical cyber nodes within the country, just as it has inventoried physical facilities that make up the nation’s critical infrastructure.

He added that the administration would still like Congress to pass cyber legislation. “We would still very much prefer legislation. We need to incentivize the private sector to take on the needed best practices,” Beers said. He suggested that legislation should include a safe harbor element providing liability protection to those in the private sector who adopt best practices but still suffer outages during a catastrophic event.

Intelligence Sharing and Cooperation Enable Homeland Security

February 27, 2013
By George I. Seffers

Homeland Security Conference 2013 Show Daily, Day 2

In the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the military, government and intelligence officials all agreed that federal agencies needed to be more willing and able to share critical data to better connect the dots.

While agencies at all levels—federal state and local—have made progress, officials continue to push for ever greater sharing and cooperation, not just within government but with industry and the general public as well. For example, while the departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security can and do now share biometrics data housed in the disparate databases, they continue tweaking technology to improve data sharing even further.

But now, some officials argue for a greater partnership between government and industry in the area of cybersecurity and critical infrastructure protection. A strong relationship with the local power company and willing volunteers can be essential to recovery following a national disaster. Even social media can play a role—tweets from the public can provide essential situational awareness about where fuel, food, electricity and water are available.

Intelligence sharing, interoperability, partnerships, relationships and cooperation were among the most commonly used terms among speakers and panelists during the second day of the AFCEA Homeland Security Conference in Washington, D.C.

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