Nations Converge for Talks on Swapping Data

January 2009
By Rita Boland

 
Keynote speaker Vice Adm. Emil Lyutskanov, BU N, first deputy chief
of the general staff of the Bulgarian Armed Forces (l), addresses the audience at TechNet Europe 2008 as AFCEA Europe General Manager Cmdre. Robert Howell, RN (Ret.), listens.
NATO members and others mingle to put forth ideas on partnering and removing barriers to collaboration.

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.

Presenters at TechNet Europe 2008, held October 16-17 in conjunction with the 7th NATO Communications and Information Systems (CIS) Symposium, covered a variety of topics relating to information transfer, including sharing what their own countries are working on and what needs to occur in the broader arena for successful collaboration. Vice Adm. Emil Lyutskanov, BU N, first deputy chief of the general staff of the Bulgarian Armed Forces, gave a keynote address focused on a major question: Are commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) products the best solution for military organizations?

The admiral noted that arguments for their use include faster fielding time and reduced costs, while arguments against include their lack of security and reliability in military arenas. He stated that solving the reliability problem is critical for COTS use by the armed forces. Adm. Lyutskanov explained his country’s experience with the modernization and development efforts of its CIS and the options available: all military development, all COTS or a combination of them. According to the admiral, Bulgaria concluded that commercial products and technologies were vital in CIS buildup.

A panel on the COTS issue addressed similar concerns to those raised by Adm. Lyutskanov. The panel focused on whether the military voice could still be heard in the commercial marketplace and if Microsoft is the answer to everyone’s problems.

Speakers went beyond the debate about types of technologies to discuss whether the human component is ready for information sharing. Dag Wilhelmsen, general manager of the NATO Consultation, Command and Control Agency, claimed in his speech that the most critical enabler of success in coalition operations is the ability to share information effectively and in real time. He told the audience members they can share, but then asked if partners trusted each other enough to want it. During his speech, he laid out a series of challenges to the community, including agreeing to an architecture based on a common-services framework, reforming the acquisition community to avoid noninteroperable command and control systems, and solving the challenge of federated cross-domain identity and privileges management. Wilhelmsen also shared examples of ongoing, multinational information-sharing initiatives, and emphasized that better information sharing is possible.

Lt. Gen. Ulrich Wolf, GEA, director, NATO CIS Services Agency, incorporated aspects of people and technology into his speech at TechNet Europe. Gen. Wolf spoke about NATO Network Enabled Capability (NNEC) operations that require flexible, reliable CIS services. He added that NATO’s networks must link with the networks that international organizations have established in theater. The NATO CIS Services Agency is the key enabler for NATO to meet those goals because it is the service provider. Sufficient bandwidth and cyberdefense are other elements necessary for network linking to succeed.

 
Members of the audience listen
to presentations at TechNet Europe 2008 in Prague.
Gen. Wolf concluded by emphasizing that NATO partners must strengthen and align their network defenses in the face of all the cyberattacks from individuals, organized crime, experienced hackers and even nations. He shared that if nations continue toward the path of NNEC and plug and play of COTS in the service-oriented architecture, then the need to protect against ever more sophisticated, pervasive and proficient network attacks would grow in importance.

Other events at TechNet Europe included presentations on information sharing within the Czech Armed Forces and with its allies, cybersecurity and more specific technical topics. A representative from the U.S. Africa Command team based in Stuttgart, Germany, also gave a presentation about the command and its missions and programs.

This year’s show represented the last time that TechNet Europe will be a two-day event in October. Beginning next year, the October event will be known as TechNet International, and the 2009 version will be held in Brussels, Belgium. Its theme will be “Security: Searching for the Front Line,” and it will be preceded by a one-day student conference. TechNet Europe moves to June and becomes a one-day event, with the inaugural conference in Madrid, Spain, focusing on personal identity management.

Web Resource
TechNet Europe 2008: www.afcea.org/europe/events/tne/08/TNE2008Foreword.asp

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