As so often happens in the military, it's not unusual for top-level officials to be asked to stand in for their busy bosses. So it was Col. Michael Jones, USA (Ret.), the chief of emerging technologies, CIO/G-6, who found himself delivering the day two keynote address at the AFCEA Solutions Series conference, "Critical Issues in C4I", sponsored by AFCEA International and the George Mason University C4I Center. In his talk regarding the G-6's strategic vision for managing information technology resources ""from the Pentagon to the warfighter in theater," Jones noted the most recent challenge to the U.S. Army: the explosive growth of mobile devices, such as iPhones, BlackBerrys and Android tablets.
Additional headlines, bullet points, and takeaways from the AFCEA "Solutions" series conference, "Critical Issues in C4I", sponsored by AFCEA International and the George Mason University C4I conference, held May 24th-25th at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.:
In the bright world of a fully interoperable U.S. Army, soldiers will be able to access tactical command and control information from any digital device using a standard Web browser, Dr. Michael Hieb, research associate professor, Center for Excellence in C4I, George Mason University, explained. A common operating environment also will enable military staffs to customize command and control software as needed. In fact, staff might even find themselves able to create entirely new applications to manipulate data as needed.
Within the next eight months, the U.S. Coast Guard is expected to move to the Defense Department’s enterprise email system, according to Rear Adm. Robert Day Jr., USCG, assistant commandant for command, control, communications, computers and information technology, and director, Coast Guard Cyber Command. The admiral gave the keynote address during the second day of the AFCEA SOLUTIONS Series – George Mason University Symposium, “Critical Issues in C4I.” Adm. Day related that even though moving to the Defense Department's enterprise email service may cost more initially in some cases, the long-term benefits to the service will mitigate and justify some of those costs.
When it comes to the U.S. Defense Department’s Joint Information Environment (JIE), it's best to toss out old thinking about information technology programs.
“The JIE is not a program,” David DeVries, deputy chief information officer for information enterprise, Defense Department, stressed. DeVries oversees the effort to tie together the vast information technology resources of the military, providing crucial information to warfighters “at the point where they need it.”
DeVries delivered the opening keynote address at the AFCEA SOLUTIONS Series-George Mason University Symposium, “Critical Issues in C4I.”
Effectively dealing with data sets measured in terabytes and petabytes sometimes takes an ecosystem. And at times, that ecosystem is dependent on metadata, a sub-dataset that describes the dataset so that it can be analyzed quickly.
That’s according to Todd Myers, a big data specialist with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), who spoke at the AFCEA SOLUTIONS Series - George Mason University Symposium, "Critical Issues in C4I," on Tuesday.
The term “big data” means different things to different people. To a bank, big data represents the ability to gain business intelligence from financial transactions. To the United States intelligence community, big data’s challenge comes in trying to sift through information from multiple environments in support of the warfighter.
Federal government agencies produce reams of documentation, not all of which is classified, but much of which is sensitive. For decades, agencies applied their own individual markings to categorize sensitive data. However, these notations conflict with other agency marking, which opens the possibility of infomration being withheld or potentially being released. These issues were pondered by the Wednesday morning panel at the AFCEA SOLUTIONS conference. Controlled unclassified information (CUI) is data that requires some protection. However, because of the conflicting agency rules for CUI, the government has recently issued an order to implement a CUI famework to stanardize the documentation across the government.
Accreditation and certification of software is a vital but time-consuming process. On Tuesday afternoon, panelists at the AFCEA SOLUTIONS symposium discussed the challenge and ongoing attempts to streamline the process. Brig. Gen. Peter F. Hoene, USAF, DISA's program executive officer for the Global Command and Control System-Joint (GCCS-J), stated that there was a need to speed accreditation and certification because the current procedure takes too much time. He noted that some units had even resorted to writing their own software, completely aware of the risks involved in using uncertified programs, because they needed the operational capability.
Tuesday's afternoon keynote speaker highlighted the importance of accepting technological change across the U.S. government. David Wennergren, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Information Management and Technology and Defense Department Chief Information Officer, shared his ideas for improving technology processes throughout the federal space. He began his speech by stressing the need for information sharing across federal agencies, noting that in 2005 the human race created 150 exabytes of data and that by 2010 this had increased to 1,200 exabytes. Chief information officers and managers will have to manage a constantly increasing sea of data. "Data has to be sexy for you," he quipped.
One of the Internet's founding fathers spoke about its future on Wednesday morning. Keynote speaker Dr. Vinton Cerf, Google's vice president and chief Internet evangelist, discussed the evolution of network-based capabilities in defense. But by extension, his conversation also covered the future of the wider Internet. Cerf, who wrote several of the key protocols underlaying the Internet, noted that by mid-to-late 2011, all of the Internet Protocol Version 4 (IPV4) addresses will be used up. He added that while the U.S. Defense Department may have the same number of IP addresses, its allies may not and the department will have to maintain addresses in both IPV4 and IPV6.
Emerging trends impacting information sharing was the subject of the morning panel at AFCEA's Solutions symposium. Experts pondered the implications and challenges for sharing data between military and civilian organizations within the U.S. government. Panelists discussed a range to related topics such as bandwidth issues and connectivity. It was noted that the military is ahead of the civilian government in operating in low bandwidth areas. In the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, civilian government first responders had considerable difficulty establishing communications, explained Pete O'Dell, founder of Swan Island Networks. Sometimes technology creates new problems.
The AFCEA SOLUTIONS conference at George Mason University's C4I Center, "Critical Issues in C4I," kicked off this morning with a keynote address by Lt. Gen. Dennis Via, USA, director of C4 systems, the Joint Staff. The general discussed his mission responsibilities, which he described as leading the joint community and helping to pull together and organize initiatives to share information. As part of this responsibility, he sees the J6 bringing together the services, government organizations, industry and academia. "We don't tend to slow down to talk about the challenges that we have," the general said. Gen.
This is my take on the AFCEA, Northcom and George Mason University conference on "Inter-agency, Allied and Coalition Information Sharing," which was covered on SIGNAL Scape last week.
No, we still can't connect the dots as well as hoped and never will, but conferees agreed that what matters most is the thoughtful and trusting use that humans could make of what information manages to flow through IT systems, however improperly they may be connected. Technology is neither the roadblock nor the solution to building an information sharing network.
The Obama administration can take certain key steps to improve the ability to recognize and deal with national security threats, according to recommendations in "Nation at Risk," a report issued by The Markle Foundation Task Force on National Security in the Information Age. Jeff Smith of Arnold & Porter LLP, a steering committee member for the report, presented it yesterday at the AFCEA SOLUTIONS conference on information sharing.
The dramatic culture shift that needs to happen for government agencies to embrace change kept coming up at the SOLUTIONS conference like the refrain of a popular song: agencies must move from an emphasis on risk avoidance to a focus on risk management. Without that shift, the quest to achieve 100 percent risk avoidance is quixotic at best; more realistically, it hampers agencies' ability to share information.
Helen Mosher and Henry Kenyon have been attending the most recent installment in the AFCEA SOLUTIONS series, "Inter-Agency, Allied and Coalition Information Sharing." Mosher has been livetweeting from panels as @AFCEAHelen on Twitter, and both are blogging here at SIGNAL Scape under the AFCEA SOLUTIONS tag.
Be sure to save the link to the conference because audio will be available later. As it becomes available, the audio files will be linked to the blog posts.
Although there has been a great deal of progress in streamlining information sharing among allied forces over the past decade, many impediments remain. As the panelists at this morning's session on the challenges surrounding information sharing in a coalition environment noted, the devil is in the details.
Command and control (C2) still hasn't evolved with the times, according to an afternoon plenary session at AFCEA SOLUTIONS today. Dr. David S. Alberts, director of research for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense, networks and information integration, spoke on the maturity and agility of C2. Alberts explained missions are increasingly complex, with implications on command and control:
Chris Gunderson of the Naval Postgraduate School posited some interesting ideas during yesterday afternoon's plenary sessions about why everyone keeps hearing the same things about changes that need to be made. Certain things, he suggested, we should just acknowledge and move past: