Building the Future on a Solid Foundation

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

For more than five decades, AFCEA has been proud to provide an ethical forum in which military, government and industry personnel can meet, exchange ideas and work toward solutions. The focus has always been on electronic communications avenues, and the association has endeavored not only to keep pace with the changes in technology and policy but also to stay well ahead of them. This is the benefit of membership. From algorithms to networking, experts have turned to AFCEA to help them share their discoveries and meet their challenges.

Much of the activity takes place at the chapter level. Here, information technology professionals have the opportunity to meet with others in their own geographic areas and learn about their industry and military neighbors’ technology challenges, dead ends and successes. However, in-depth examination of specialized topics is the key to the conferences AFCEA offers throughout the world. In addition, the association’s Educational Foundation supports AFCEA’s mission on two fronts—offering professional development courses for today’s decision makers and administering a scholarship program for tomorrow’s leaders.

Once again, this year AFCEA brings all of the association’s strengths to one location. TechNet International 2000, being held June 20 to 22 at the Washington, D.C., Convention Center, represents the culmination of innovative ideas built on a strong foundation of experience in communications. After coordinating this event for several decades, the association has determined what works well and has designed programs that address ongoing challenges and meet today’s requirements.

To ascertain the key issues of interest to military and government officials, event organizers went to the source—the senior staff. Through an extensive survey, they expressed their views about technology and the role it plays in missions today. They also identified solutions they are seeking. Based on this input, AFCEA staff members pulled together a program that allows attendees to delve deeply into specific topics.

As in the past, each day of the convention is designated for a specific military service. Each morning will begin with a presentation by the vice chief of the designated service, who will provide a broad view of the technical requirements of his department. These presentations will focus on information technology as it relates to command, control, communications and intelligence as well as on acquisition, operations and specialties that require information technology.

The core mission of AFCEA—facilitating the development and sharing of information technology—has been broadened not only by design but also by usage. In the military, information technology is no longer a support activity but is becoming an actual weapon in prosecuting war and a vital tool in maintaining peace. National leaders recognize that there has been an enormous increase in information technology involvement in operations. The core mission of AFCEA is now at the core of all military activities.

In addition to this evolution, the landscape of missions has changed. Today, the military and other government agencies are asked to support operations other than war, including peacekeeping and humanitarian operations. And the term “joint” no longer only refers to military services working together but also to countries uniting to reach a common goal. This environment brings with it a new set of challenges and is the reason this year’s convention is titled “Coalition Operations in the New Millennium.”

Keeping the input from senior officials in mind, convention organizers arranged for key personnel to lead panel discussions about the identified topics. These experts will explore interoperability, information assurance, command and control, logistics and intelligence. As always, audience members will have the opportunity to gain insights and pose questions directly to specialists in these areas.

In the past, AFCEA’s conventions have featured advanced technology demonstrations where attendees viewed the interoperability capabilities of technologies. TechNet International 2000 takes this concept one step further in a new medium called Tech Talk Theatre. Based on the near-term requirements identified by senior government officials, exhibitors will discuss their specialties in three specific areas: cyberwarfare, knowledge management and information assurance. Attendees can visit the Tech Talk Theatres where companies will discuss their offerings for these three topics. These presentations will be coordinated and interfaced with technology guided tours so that attendees can focus on precisely the type of technology that most interests them.

Another new opportunity this year is the AFCEA Professional Development Center mini-course program. Focusing on information as a key commodity for the U.S. Defense Department, the five mini-courses explore topics that are regularly covered in AFCEA’s full-length courses presented around the world.

During the last several years, the role of information technology has changed immensely. It has presented both opportunities and vulnerabilities. The militaries of all countries are grappling with challenges they have never before faced. Commands, agencies and businesses are struggling to keep up and to predict what benefits and challenges the next discovery will hold. TechNet International 2000 is designed to bring to light the broad concepts that are on the minds of people in a position to glimpse the endless possibilities that technology offers for the future. Concurrently, it gathers the specialists who need to know the immediate concerns that are out there so they can present the solutions. TechNet International 2000 serves as the primary communications link.