TechNet International: Looking Back, Looking Ahead

August 2000
By Lt. Gen. C. Norman Wood, USAF (Ret.)

TechNet International 2000, which was held June 20 through June 22 at the Washington, D.C. Convention Center, represented an event in transition. For this year’s event, AFCEA International’s 54th annual convention and exposition, we chose to return to our Defense Department core specialties. At the same time, we introduced a number of exciting new features that produced favorable results and bode well for the future.

As with past TechNets, this year’s event comprised two main elements: the convention and the exposition. The convention side, which dealt largely with AFCEA membership elements, produced dynamic dialogue amid excellent sessions. A large number of chapter officers came from all over the world to exchange ideas for increasing attendance, improving programs and better serving our government constituency. This gathering also included a good representation of Young AFCEANs, who have their own energetic program to attract younger professionals into the association and its activities.

The convention sessions also highlighted the vital role played by AFCEA’s regional vice presidents, or RVPs. This year’s convention included a large turnout of RVPs, which also resulted in a useful exchange of ideas.

The exposition featured an excellent cross-section of information technology exhibitors ranging across the entire spectrum of hardware, software, telecommunications, World Wide Web-based e-commerce and support services vendors. Their displays were supported by a stellar cast of panelists and speakers providing informed views on today’s most relevant topics.

We are always striving to improve the exposition with new approaches to exhibits and speakers, and this year’s innovations were well received. Traditionally, we have opened each day with a breakfast presentation by the top armed services communicator. This year, however, these daily sessions were opened by a vice chief of each department. This recognizes the growing importance of information technologies in military planning across the range of service operations. Each vice chief provided valuable insight into the direction and the vision of his respective service. Following their addresses they toured the exhibit floor, spending time with vendors who demonstrated their capabilities.

Complementing this approach, we pulled the service communicators together into a single luncheon panel. This J-6 panel concluded the TechNet International 2000 presentations with separate in-depth discussions of each service followed by a summary session by the J-6, Lt. Gen. John L. Woodward, USAF.

The formidable lineup of panels was not slighted by this approach, however. The panel discussions drew standing-room only crowds to hear addresses by a number of high-ranking government, military and commercial experts.

One new feature at TechNet 2000 was a series of Professional Development Center (PDC) mini-courses on topics ranging from intelligence community perspectives to keeping up with the computer revolution. These free, unclassified courses also were well attended, and we look forward to offering them again at TechNet 2001.

Another innovation was the TechTalk Theatres set up on the floor of the exhibit area. These focused on three technologies—information security, knowledge management and tools for the technology-enabled cyberwarrior—in a theater setting where exhibitors could explain their solution sets at scheduled presentations.

Judging from the feedback we received both during and after the show, the exhibit area proved highly useful to government and military attendees. Many visitors commented that the exhibits provided real solutions to existing government needs and requirements.

One visiting general reacted to his early visit to the exhibit floor by returning to his office and urging his staff to attend subsequent days. Another general sent aides to view a particular exhibit that he believed offered solutions to his service’s needs. Both generals are eagerly looking forward to spending significant amounts of time at TechNet International 2001.

Business-to-business opportunities also abounded on the floor. Companies have described how they benefited directly from their physical presence amid other information technology expertise. One firm counted three companies that came to it for business as a result of contacts established on the exhibit floor.

We also welcomed a new chairman of the board. One of the last acts of TechNet International 2000 was the passing of the gavel from Milton E. Cooper, president of Computer Sciences Corporation’s federal sector, to Mary Jane McKeever, president of AT&T Government Markets. McKeever is a member of the AFCEA International board, and she has chosen to focus her efforts on improving value-added services to members.

Her ascension to the chairmanship continues a storied lineage at AFCEA International. AFCEA’s only two-term chairman, Dr. Ralph W. Shrader of Booz•Allen & Hamilton, gave this year’s Advanced Technologies Luncheon industry keynote address at TechNet. His inspiring speech was so strongly received and requested by attendees that we are publishing a version of it on page 68 of this issue.

As is befitting an international organization, AFCEA presented two of its highest awards to non-U.S. citizens. The prestigious David Sarnoff Award was given to Gen. Dr. Klaus Reinhardt, GEA, former commander of the Kosovo Force. The Adm. Jon L. Boyes Medal for Distinguished Service to AFCEA was awarded to Tony Patterson of the United Kingdom.

All of these events, combined with feedback from within and outside the AFCEA International community, collectively form the basis for an even stronger event next year.