Experts Ponder the Challenges of Information Sharing

May 18, 2010

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 panelists discussed cognitive issues affecting networking and communications technologies. Edmon Begoli, a researcher at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory noted that software and systems designers must focus on the quality of information and the efficiency of information for users. He added that efficiency and security are vital, key values for users. Effective policy implementation is another challenge faced by systems designers. Policy is important, explained Bill Marion, the ACC A-6 chief technology officer with Air Combat Command. But he added that while it is important, policies should be implemented lightly enough so as not to stifle innovation. Bill Cryan, Chief of the Joint Forces Command's Collaborative Information Environment Management Office, observed policy from the Office of the Secretary of Defense's office is 3-5 years behind operational needs. He speculates that to truly implement rapid change, it would be necessary to allow the combatant commands the ability to rapidly put policies into place. This procedure would also weed out older and irrelevant policies. Cryan shares that there are roughly 10,000 Defense Department information sharing regulations and that many of then are inconsistent and at odds with each other. The panelists concluded that institutional willpower, the ability to determine key priorities, is vital to implement information sharing efforts. Marion noted that although most organizations wanted to share information, it is important to create transparency in the federal space. But creating this transparency will require a market driven process that will lead government organizations to seek the right solutions without overly relying on policy implementation. O'Dell said that information sharing, while very desirable, is hard. The challenge is sharing data securely in a multidimensional, changing environment. But this is a goal that must be met because the environment and the information sharing technology is constantly changing. He noted that in the near future, there will be billions of sensors that will be built into systems and installed in structures or spread across battlefields that will provide a huge flow of data that must be processed and analyzed.

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