Forum Offers Solutions for International Security

June 2002
By Maryann Lawlor
E-mail About the Author

Commercial sector and government agencies share military’s protect-and-defend mission.

Technology’s role in the worldwide war against terrorism and the critical part it plays in homeland security will be the focus of TechNet International 2002. Attendees will be privy to a wealth of information and view hundreds of technical solutions that address the key concerns of today’s military, government and industry leaders.

Although past conventions have tackled the critical issues of militaries from around the world, the events of September 11 brought to light how vitally important well-prepared armed forces are to the security of all nations. The benefits information technology brings to the military have become increasingly evident. The TechNet forum will allow attendees to gain insight from some of the world’s leaders in the war against terrorism and to explore the technologies that will support their efforts.

The topics discussed by top-level speakers and during five panel presentations as well as the demonstrations of leading-edge technologies are geared toward addressing requirements identified by nearly 30 senior government officials. The scope of the topics indicates that the role of communications capabilities continues to expand.

TechNet 2002 will take place at the Washington Convention Center, Washington, D.C., June 11-13. This year’s theme, “Homeland Security: Terrorism and Technology—The Critical Role of IT,” encapsulates the issues and technologies to be explored at the event.

Lt. Gen. John A. Dubia, USA (Ret.), vice president for operations, AFCEA International, is one of several coordinators of TechNet this year. He points out that the immediate relevance of the event is much more far-reaching than in past years.

“With the focus on homeland security and combating terrorism, TechNet is more meaningful to a wider audience. It goes beyond the military and federal government and extends to the state, local and international communities. The event has a greater relevance to the day-to-day lives of everyone, whether they are in the military, a government civilian employee or a traveler concerned about airport security,” Gen. Dubia offers.

Convention planners turned to senior government decision makers to determine, first, the most urgent challenges that must be discussed and, second, what technologies these officials are most interested in investigating. The result is a list of more than 170 requirements that fall into several general categories. Panelists and exhibitors are using this information to tailor their presentations.

Clearly the top two areas of interest are wireless capabilities and information security and assurance, Gen. Dubia shares. Survey respondents also indicated that they are interested in command, control, communications, computers and intelligence on-the-move capabilities that would require secure wireless communications. This would enable mobility, maneuverability and flexibility in the battlespace.

Overwhelmingly, senior officials are calling for information security solutions that will protect vital information whether it is on the smallest platforms such as handheld devices or the largest networks. Public key infrastructure; intrusion detection; multilevel security; network monitoring systems; and robust, reliable architectures are some of the key capabilities they seek. In addition, survey respondents indicated a need for network security training.

Although these areas are top priorities, Gen. Dubia is quick to point out that interest in other topics is strong. Interoperability, for example, is a growing concern because various organizations at all levels of the government need to be able to communicate and collaborate to provide security and to respond in emergencies. In addition, the war against terrorism is being fought in a coalition environment. Systems that facilitate information sharing and access or expedite communications are critical.

“TechNets in the past have addressed interoperability primarily as it relates to the military services and coalition partners. This is still a focus, but TechNet 2002 goes beyond the military to all levels of government as well. While interoperability among the armed forces remains important, now TechNet participants also will offer ideas and solutions about the interoperability requirements of state, local and federal agencies,” the general indicates.

Coordinating efforts for both protection and emergency response requires two of the other capabilities identified by survey respondents. Collaborative tools and multilevel secure data sharing will be needed across the spectrum of agencies as well as throughout coalition partnerships, Gen. Dubia points out.

Some emerging technologies effectively enhance collaboration, situational awareness and reconnaissance efforts; however, these capabilities require bandwidth. This issue, like interoperability, continues to be identified as critical to achieving the full potential of information technology on the battlefield. Key speakers are likely to reiterate the call for managing bandwidth effectively, exploring dynamic spectrum management capabilities and examining data compression approaches.

One area that is growing by leaps and bounds is the role of space assets. Several government officials identified space systems and operations as topics they want to know more about. Geospatial data and imagery add critical information to situational awareness. Communications via satellites facilitate reach-back capabilities and help in the coordination of joint and coalition activities. TechNet speakers and exhibitors will be offering their ideas about how to take advantage of these emerging technologies and the benefits they provide.

Gen. Dubia notes that while these general areas are not all inclusive, they represent the majority of the detailed requirements identified by the government officials that responded to the survey. “And although much of the input came from members of the U.S. defense community, there are obvious connections to the needs of people across many government agencies as well as state, local and international communities,” he adds.

For example, the U.S. Customs Service, part of the Department of the Treasury, is responsible for border protection. To carry out its mission, however, Customs agents must work with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, state and local authorities, the U.S. Coast Guard and officials from neighboring countries. Information technology facilitates the coordination of these efforts, the general maintains.

In addition to the technology exhibits that demonstrate approaches to meeting the identified requirements, TechNet attendees will be able to gain insight into government and business leaders’ vision for supporting homeland security.

Top military leaders will begin each day’s events at breakfast sessions. Gen. Paul J. Kern, USA, commanding general, U.S. Army Materiel Command; Adm. William J. Fallon, USN, vice chief of naval operations; and Lt. Gen. Bruce A. Wright, USAF, vice commander, Air Combat Command, will describe the expanding role of information technology in their respective services.

Gen. Richard B. Myers, USAF, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will be the keynote speaker at Tuesday’s luncheon where he will receive AFCEA’s 2002 David Sarnoff Award. On Wednesday, Lt. Gen. Joseph K. Kellogg Jr., USA, director, command, control, communications and computer systems, the Joint Staff, will lead a discussion by J-6 luncheon panelists representing each of the service branches. An industry perspective on the role of information technology in homeland security will be presented by C. Michael Armstrong, AT&T’s chairman of the board and chief executive officer, at Thursday’s luncheon.

The topics being discussed at five panel presentations this year also are based on the input received from government decision makers. The sessions, which will take place in a designated area on the exhibit floor, feature technical specialists as well as military leaders.

Experts discussing the application of information technology to homeland security will examine enterprise integration of applicable capabilities and how they can be delivered to the mission areas where they will be most useful. Although some specifics will be discussed, the goal is to share the views of senior leadership from both the military and commercial sectors.

Reaction to the terrorist attacks reinforced the value that sharing information across many platforms brings to any mission. One panel of specialists will explore network-centric warfare and will examine the vision, objectives and lessons learned from programs such as the Navy/Marine Corps Intranet and the Global Information Grid.

The requirement for new ways to ensure information security as well as human safety has accelerated work in the field of biometrics. The pros and cons of this security approach will be discussed during a panel session that will review government activities in this arena, including work by the Biometrics Consortium and the U.S. Defense Department’s Biometrics Management Office.

Grappling with the need for identification authentication in locations ranging from the workplace to airports has many government officials discussing the issuance of national identification cards. At the “Smart Card Applications” panel session, government, industry and military leaders will review the challenges surrounding the implementation of large-scale systems and look at the issue of interoperability.

New communications initiatives for areas hit by a disaster will be one of the topics discussed by “Emergency Communications and Infrastructure Reconstitution” panelists. The session will analyze the experiences of the information technology professionals involved in restoring communications in New York.

In addition to gathering information and networking either on the exhibit floor or at special address and panel sessions, conference attendees may sample the professional development opportunities offered through AFCEA all year by participating in free mini-classes of two of the most popular courses the association offers at the Fairfax, Virginia, facility. The instructors who teach the full-length courses “Military Satellite Communications” and “Information Assurance, Road Map to Excellence” will conduct the sessions.

“The goal of TechNet has always been to offer solution sets that would help the military carry out its missions. However, the terrorist attacks in the United States and their effect on daily life around the world make the issues and solutions presented at the event more meaningful to more people,” Gen. Dubia says.