Conference Highlights Information Sharing and Interoperability Priorities

May 2006
By Rita Boland

TechNet International 2006 will host a cyber café on the exhibit floor so that attendees can conduct business while attending the conference.
Government, military and industry leaders converge to discuss requirements and solution sets.

Addressing the complex issues security, defense and intelligence-gathering pose in the global war on terrorism can be an overwhelming challenge for any single organization. But experts from around the world are working diligently to cooperate and find the best solutions to tackle these issues. The task is not an easy one. They must balance protection and freedom, safety and privacy and at the same time learn how to collaborate to degrees unheard of in the past. Technology offers many solutions, but some of the best work is done when these experts and the people on the front lines meet face to face, roll up their sleeves and engage in dialogue.

AFCEA International’s TechNet 2006 is geared toward facilitating exactly this type of discussion. By bringing together public and private sector decision makers to confer and analyze major issues, the event offers military and homeland security professionals the opportunity to learn from each other and to work in partnership.

“Information Sharing: Adaptability Across the Spectrum of Operations” is the theme of this year’s event, which takes place June 19-20 at the Washington, D.C., Convention Center. Focusing on both defense and homeland security, the conference will consist of presentations from military, government and industry leaders, panel sessions and technology solution exhibits.

A survey of military commanders conducted by AFCEA identified interoperability and information sharing as the top two areas of interest for decision makers in the U.S. Defense Department and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. AFCEA Technical Committee and TechNet Advisory Group members developed the theme of the conference around the concerns of these leaders so that speeches and panel discussions could focus on the issues of most importance to attendees.

Interoperability has been a key requirement for many government decision makers for several years. However, in today’s global fight, interoperability is more crucial not only among the U.S. military and other government and civilian agencies but also with other nations. Survey respondents also acknowledged that because intelligence is being gathered by a number of agencies in several countries, the importance of secure information sharing is greater than ever.

In addition to interoperability and information sharing, the survey results identified data fusion and correlation tools, multilevel security and collaboration with coalition partners as areas to focus on. Respondents also put a high priority on intelligence integration, intelligence assurance, wireless capabilities, the Global Information Grid, improvised explosive device (IED) and security vulnerability issues.

The goal of all of AFCEA’s conferences is to facilitate the sharing of ideas and to create a forum where industry and government personnel can interact to resolve defense and security matters. The survey enabled the event’s planners to share the interests and concerns of government officials with the private sector during the planning phase of TechNet so that corporate representatives could be prepared to address priorities.

Industry participants also are sharing their expertise in the event’s program guide. Companies are listing their capabilities in the TechNet program, which provides a two-pronged approach to ensure that attendees can focus on solutions that are most important to them. They can identify the corporations providing the services and products they need quickly, making better use of their time during the conference.

According to Lt. Gen. John A. Dubia, USA (Ret.), executive vice president, AFCEA International, TechNet provides a service to government and industry by bringing together requirements and potential solution sets. “That really captures why we do this,” he says.

Survey input was used to craft discussion topics for the valuable exchange of information that takes place during panel sessions and speeches. Industry representatives told AFCEA that they want to hear from combatant commanders as well as national leaders, and that is what TechNet offers, Gen. Dubia states. The various elements of TechNet give government and industry representatives the opportunity to learn and network with each other and to hear from senior leaders and commanders.

Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Edmund P. Giambastiani Jr., USN, has been invited to open the conference with a plenary address on the first morning of the event, Monday, June 19. Attendees will then have time prior to the luncheon presentation to explore the exhibit floor and experience firsthand the technical solutions industry offers. Lt. Gen. C. Robert Kehler, USAF, deputy commander, U.S. Strategic Command, will be the keynote luncheon speaker.

TechNet’s first panel session, which takes place Monday afternoon, will focus on warfighters. Lt. Gen. James T. Conway, USMC, director of operations, J-3, the Joint Staff, will moderate the panel.

One of the most notable speakers scheduled for this year’s event is Gen. Colin Powell, USA (Ret.), former secretary of state during President George W. Bush’s first term and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Gen. Powell will give the plenary address on Tuesday morning. “His address will be one of the highlights of the conference,” Gen. Dubia predicts.

Following Gen. Powell’s presentation on Tuesday, a panel of government and industry experts will discuss their roles in information sharing as it relates to operations. Later that afternoon will be the J-6 panel session, moderated by Lt. Gen. Robert M. Shea, USMC, director for command, control, communications and computer systems, J-6, the Joint Staff.

The exhibit hall, open throughout the conference, will allow opportunities for all attendees to interface with industry. “It’s a very, very good mix,” Gen. Dubia says. “Attendees have the ability to menu select where they will spend their energies.”

All of the speakers and panel members were asked specifically to participate in the conference because members of the AFCEA Technical Committee and the Technical Advisory Group felt they were the best qualified candidates to talk about the conference topics. The speakers at TechNet generally accept questions from the audience, providing an opportunity for attendees to speak directly with the presenters. The panel sessions are designed for audience interaction and idea exchange. Panelists may not always agree with each other, so the interface with other panelists and the audience creates a dialogue for identifying and resolving needs and problems, the general points out.

Gen. Dubia emphasizes that the importance of TechNet is that it not only provides solutions and capabilities to help all of those engaged in the war on terrorism, but also it affords people the opportunity to meet face to face and to learn and grow both personally and professionally. “When we provide this chance, we have truly provided a service to our membership,” he says.

Although technology and technology solutions are a focus of the event, they are only enablers for the human dimension. The real value of hosting and attending TechNet 2006 is the human interface, the general states. “I know that TechNet will afford that opportunity to folks who attend a part of or the entire two-day event,” he says.

The AFCEA Technical Committee and Technical Advisory Group expressly tailored this year’s conference to accommodate the agendas and obligations of attendees with busy schedules. For example, TechNet planners selected the convention center in part because the Metro stops directly underneath the building, allowing easy access to the facilities. Also, TechNet 2006 will include a cyber café to provide Internet access to attendees so that they can keep in touch with their organizations and can stay on top of business matters.

Attendees of TechNet 2006 will comprise all five uniformed branches of service as well as government and industry professionals. Other attendees will represent academia and the militaries of foreign nations. TechNet is a free event; however, tickets must be purchased for the speaker lunches. Tickets can be purchased online for these events until June 9. After that date, tickets will be available for purchase on-site at the convention center.


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