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Ask the Expert: Government and Industry Support for STEM

July 1, 2014
By Adam Clayton Powell III

Q: Why is it important for government and industry to advance K-12 STEM education innovations in the United States 
today, and what can they do to improve that education?

A: Industry and government support is crucial to help the United States become a leader in K-12 STEM education—and they can leverage a key tool that is already in hand.

There is consensus in the United States that we do not produce enough scientists and engineers. And there is consensus in the United States that this can be remedied by strengthening K-12 science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. But to upgrade STEM education—and to broaden its appeal to a larger number of students—government and industry must work together to upgrade our education system, which we agree is not working adequately.

The data is clear: American students do not perform as well in math and science as students in many other countries. For the present, the United States is remedying this weakness in part by attracting high-performing high school graduates from other countries to study at U.S. universities. Many of those students will stay in the United States after graduation, U.S. visa policy permitting, becoming a key part of the next generation of engineers, scientists and educators. But this de facto method of addressing our weakness in STEM education may not be sustainable in an era when governments, industries and universities in other parts of the world are making ever more attractive offers for their citizens to return home after earning their degrees here.

Strengthening K-12 education will meet several critical and urgent U.S. national goals:

It will meet the needs of the U.S. government, including and especially national security. From cybersecurity to intelligence, U.S. national security will become ever more reliant on expertise that only STEM fields can provide.

Ask the Expert: Next Steps for Intelligence After the Post-9/11 Era

June 1, 2014
By William M. Nolte

Q: What are the next steps for intelligence after the post-9/11 era?

A: The next steps should be a radical shift in how resources are allocated, not business
as usual on tighter budgets.

The “post-9/11” era is over. For years I’ve been telling students that a decade marked by the pre-eminence of terrorism as an issue, flush budgets and a volatile information environment has ended. Terrorism must now compete with cybersecurity, energy and other resource issues, regional conflicts and several other concerns in an extraordinary mix—or even a dangerous blending—of several issues. Now of course, we face a resurgent Russia, with all that implies for stability in both Europe and Asia.

As for flush budgets, those are a rapidly receding memory. This leaves, of the original characteristics of the post-9/11 era, only the volatile information environment, which shows no sign of slowing. If anything, its breadth as much as its pace continues to confound us as we deal with the full range of its implications—social, economic, political and legal. Every time I read an article suggesting that we have reached the limit to the amount of data we can put on a piece of silicon, I read another suggesting that silicon will be replaced by a virus or some other material ... or that quantum computing is finally about to arrive.

Ask the Expert: Contract Consolidation and Bundling—Good for Government but Bad for Small Businesses?

May 1, 2014
By Staci Redmon

Question: Are contract consolidation, contract bundling
 and the Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative good for the government but bad for small businesses?

Answer: Consolidating and bundling contracts may result in unintended bad consequences for small businesses. The extent of these consequences
is immeasurable due to government
information systems’ reported data limitations.
 

The U.S. federal government spends in excess of $500 billion annually to procure goods and services. In facing reduced budgets, the government is increasingly consolidating, bundling and strategically sourcing contracts that were previously set aside for small businesses. The size and scope of the new contracts can make it difficult for a small business to win, and by definition, when consolidation results in a contract likely to be unsuitable for small business award, the consolidated contract also is considered bundled. In all cases of consolidation, bundling and strategic sourcing, agencies must justify their actions for contracts above certain monetary thresholds and agencies must coordinate acquisition strategies with their small business specialists for substantially bundled contracts.

Question: Is It Appropriate for Defense Industry Companies to Earn a Profit?

April 1, 2014
By M. Thomas Davis

Over the past decade, I have participated nearly each year in the Association of the U.S. Army Industry Day at the United States Army War College. In the afternoon, an industry representative spends about three hours in each student seminar of about 20 officers. I have always participated in this seminar portion. One item that has emerged over the years in these meetings is that many who spend their professional careers in the public sector have an uncomfortable sentiment about the concept of profit.

Question: Should Industry Ignore the Joint Information Environment (JIE)?

March 1, 2014
By Al Mink

It’s impossible these days to attend a U.S. Defense Department information technology presentation without repeated mentions of the Joint Information Environment (JIE). But industry representatives often ask, “What does JIE mean to me?” I did some digging into the environment—leveraging the expertise of the AFCEA Technology Committee, discussions with several senior defense information technology leaders and insights from colleagues at my firm who participated in JIE Increment 1 in Europe.

Military leaders emphasize that the JIE is not a funded program. However, industry would be wrong to relegate the environment to the graveyard of other unfunded initiatives. The JIE affects industry in three areas: subject matter expertise (SME), directly related modernization and non-JIE modernization.

Already, the military has tapped industry for SME support. For example, both the department’s chief information officer and the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) have obtained industry expertise through task orders containing JIE scope. As the JIE gains momentum, government organizations increasingly will require SME related to the JIE.

How will intelligence
 acquisition priorities change in
 a post-counterinsurgency world?

February 1, 2014
By Col. Herbert Kemp, USAF (RET.)

As the national security establishment emerges from more than a decade of counterinsurgency warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan and refocuses on other global priorities, the means by which intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) supports those priorities must change as well. ISR operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have been conducted in relatively permissive air environments that have allowed the use of long-dwell airborne platforms to provide sustained surveillance of targets of interest. This has led to an imagery-, and more specifically, full motion video (FMV)-intensive pattern of collection. While these conditions may be present in some future conflicts, they do not describe many of the scenarios envisioned for potential contested environments in the future.

Q: What are the Legal Pitfalls for Service Members When Using Social Media?

January 1, 2014
By Nicole Woodroffe

Few people go more than a few days without updating their Facebook status, “checking-in” at some location on their social media application or tweeting their opinions on Twitter. Service members are no exception. However, they must take extra precautions to avoid the legal pitfalls of compromising operational security or making inappropriate remarks when posting anything on public websites.

How can government and industry best work together to achieve more affordable national security products?

December 1, 2013
By Rear Adm. James Greene, USN (Ret.)

When stripped to the bare essentials, the process followed in most defense acquisitions is quite simple. A requirement is generated, an acquisition strategy developed and a contract let, before the item is produced, deployed, sustained and, eventually, disposed of. Typically, efforts at acquisition reform have dealt with the predeployment phases and consist mostly of renaming the phases by changing milestones from ABC to 123 and back to ABC, by sliding milestone events left or right and by adding oversight reviews. With the current and expected future emphasis on affordability and cost control of major defense acquisition programs (MDAPs), a shift in focus from a process-centric to a product-centric approach deserves serious consideration. Indeed, it is a national security imperative that we procure more affordable weapons systems that can create win-win opportunitiesfor both government and industry. Government will be able to afford more national security assets and industry will be engaged to sell more of those assets.

So what is needed to create a more product-centric environment? On a macro scale, injecting stability, accountability and trust into MDAPs is an essential first step. Let’s examine each factor.

Ask the Expert: In terms of homeland security resilience, how do we
 navigate the path from theory to practical application?

November 1, 2013
By Kenneth P. Rapuano

The recent emphasis on “resilience”—the homeland security equivalent of mission assurance—is overdue and much needed. However, it involves fundamental challenges with which we are still grappling in our efforts to achieve a more resilient nation.

The concept of mission assurance, the continued functioning or rapid reconstitution of key mission capabilities across a wide range of degradations, is very familiar to those with military exposure. However, the domestic application of this idea did not occur until after 9/11. And, it was not until several years following that terrorist attack that the concept of resilience received significant attention.

The new emphasis on resilience represents a welcome paradigm shift. It recognizes what many homeland security practitioners long have known, and some policy makers had been reluctant to acknowledge publicly—that not all threats are preventable. So, efforts must focus on bolstering the capability to maintain essential functions through adverse circumstances—and rapidly reconstituting them when that is not possible. The argument for building domestic resilience is widely embraced by the homeland security enterprise, and it now is enshrined in presidential directives and planning frameworks. However, in key respects, achieving resilience is more demanding than traditional protection efforts. It requires more holistic planning and harder choices than we are used to.

Ask the Expert: The Current Cybersecurity Work Force

October 1, 2013
By Dr. Ernest McDuffie

This is an important question for a number of reasons. Popular media often talk about the growing shortage of skilled cybersecurity workers needed to fill critical open positions both in government and the private sector. This is true, but employers need specific details on the work force so they can make informed decisions about whom to hire and potential employees need to know what to study to position themselves to be hired. The problems of a lack of common language and terms, a complex new field and the ever-changing technology that enables much of cybersecurity combine to make analysis of this work force particularly difficult.

For the past few years, the federal government, by way of its National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE), has been hard at work on these and many other issues related to cybersecurity education, training, awareness and work force development. A major achievement of NICE has been the creation of the National Cybersecurity Workforce Framework (NCWF). This document was developed to provide a common understanding of and lexicon for cybersecurity work. Defining the cybersecurity population consistently using standardized terms is an essential step in ensuring that our country is able to educate, recruit, train, develop and retain a highly qualified work force.

In designing the framework, “Categories” and “Specialty Areas” were used as organizational constructs to group similar types of work. The categories, serving as an overarching structure for the framework, group related specialty areas together. Within each specialty area, typical tasks and knowledge, skills and abilities are provided. In essence, specialty areas in a given category typically are more similar to one another than to specialty areas in other categories.

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