The Bottom Line

November 12, 2015
Maryann Lawlor
Simon Sinek encourages organizations to "start with why" in his TED talk.

The other day a colleague and I were in getting our morning coffee, and we started talking about AFCEA’s purpose. We don’t work in the same department, so we bring different perspectives to the topic.

I said all associations needed to ask themselves why they exist. I brought up a TED talk I’d seen a while ago about the reasons some businesses succeed and some don’t. The presenter, Simon Sinek, proposes that businesses that succeed ask why they are doing something: “What’s your purpose? What’s your cause? What’s your belief? … Why does your organization exist, and why should anyone care?”

June 9, 2015
By Maryann Lawlor

Technology is a wonderful way to stay in touch, but it’s summer and time to put gadgets away for a bit. Whether you live in a region with year-round sunshine or brutal winters, taking those paid vacation days benefits not just you and your family but also the economy.

Do it for your health. An annual vacation can reduce the risk of having a heart attack by 50 percent. Vacationers also report getting three times more deep sleep after returning home. Getting away from the office decreases stress and increases recuperative powers, reducing the number of sick days used annually.

May 13, 2015
By Maryann Lawlor

It all began with Dolly, perhaps the most notable sheep in the last century—or any century for that matter. Dolly was the first animal to be cloned from an adult somatic cell. To put this phenomenal technical accomplishment in perspective, when she was born in 1996, a high-end personal computer with 8 megabits of memory and a 400-megabyte hard drive cost between $3,000 and $4,000. Today, a laptop with 4 gigabytes of memory and a 500-gigabyte hard drive is less than $400. 

March 13, 2015
By Maryann Lawlor

It’s a busy telecommuting day, and emails are pouring in faster than you can respond … and the phone rings … beep … it’s a recorded message. Or it’s been a long day, but dinner is done and smells great … and then phone rings … beep … it’s a recorded message. Or you’ve been waiting for a call all day and the phone finally rings … and it does, but instead of the person you’ve been waiting to hear from … beep … it’s a sales person from a company you don’t know. You get the idea.

January 30, 2015
By Maryann Lawlor

In the days before digital, paper was the medium. To apply for a job, see a doctor, buy a refrigerator or get a loan, we filled out forms. These forms were then filed in a cabinet and, for the most part, forgotten. Privacy matters were a matter of how tenacious someone was about digging through piles of paper.

But the dawn of the digital age required a willingness to give up a bit of that privacy. We signed up for a few conveniences, like providing an email address, so we could send flowers or make a plane reservation via the Internet faster.

January 13, 2015
By Maryann Lawlor

While cybersecurity is getting big play in the news these days—as it well should—three topics require just as much attention but have not yet hit the big time. Acquisition, spectrum and interoperability may not have the headline-grabbing charm of the hack into the U.S. Central Command’s Twitter account, but they are issues that need the same serious attention.

For years, industry and government personnel have agreed that the system for purchasing information technology systems needs change—serious change. The complicated acquisition process not only puts out-of-date technology in warfighters’ hands, it puts lives in danger.

December 12, 2014
By Maryann Lawlor

Podcasts are the audio on-demand equivalent of video these days. They are a bit more portable because anyone with a smartphone or tablet can tune in and catch up on episodes—not only all the time but also wherever they want. It’s a bit difficult to watch a movie while driving, although it’s been done. Podcasts also feature one other capability that on-demand viewing does not facilitate: audience participation.

October 9, 2014
By Maryann Lawlor

It’s fall and for many this time of year means apples, pumpkins and long drives to take in the changing colors of the autumn foliage. For some parents of high school seniors, however, this time of year also means scouring and Fastweb searching for answers (and applications) to the question, “If my son/daughter gets into the college of his/her choice, how will we pay for it?” Simultaneously, they are pulling together the information for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) forms.

September 10, 2014
By Maryann Lawlor

Life was so much different before email arrived on the scene. Phones rang, voice messages were left and listened to, and a desktop inbox was useful. Most of all, the standard workday included more hours…I’m sure of it. Today, you arrive at the office—or you check your smartphone or tablet immediately after getting your first cup of coffee at home—and before you know it, it’s noon. It’s what’s commonly called “computer time.” You’ve heard of light years? Well, in computer time, what you believe has been 15 minutes is actually one hour.

But I digress.

August 13, 2014
By Maryann Lawlor

Scary thought, isn’t it? Let’s face it: Over the past several years, journalists have fallen down the hierarchy of trustworthy professionals. Once thought of as the guardians of democracy—the Fourth Estate—the profession has seen a slow but steady slippage to somewhere just above used car salesmen.

This demotion did not come about without reason. Revelations about careless reporting and outright fiction reported as fact started journalism on the downward spiral. An increase in tabloids as the easy way to increase ad and subscription sales drove down public confidence.

July 9, 2014
By Maryann Lawlor

Kent Schneider, AFCEA’s president and chief executive officer, has called the 2013 U.S. Defense Department’s budget woes “the perfect storm.” Budget cuts, travel restrictions and sequestration converged to create an atmosphere of uncertainty and indecision. For the services, this meant a bit of scrambling to determine how reduced funding could have the least impact on national security. For the defense industry, it became a time of reaction and cutbacks, or at least flat budgets.

June 11, 2014
By Maryann Lawlor

The headline may just be a fancy way of saying, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life,” but during this season of graduations, it’s a cliché worth contemplating. Most grads don’t recall the wisdom their commencement speaker shared during a ceremony they had worked so hard to attend. Even most parents are so proud—and relieved—to be in the graduation audience that, short of an Oprah giveaway, the words fall on deaf ears.

May 15, 2014
By Maryann Lawlor

The late Vice Adm. Arthur K. Cebrowski, USN (Ret.), looks over my shoulder as I work in my home office. His picture graced the May 2003 cover of SIGNAL Magazine, highlighting an article Clarence A. Robinson Jr., wrote based on an interview with the admiral. I was lucky enough to escort SIGNAL’s freelance photographer to take the photo of Adm. Cebrowski when he led the charge for change as the director of the U.S. Defense Department’s Office of Force Transformation. I received a cover photo plaque that hangs in my home office for my effort, though it really wasn’t necessary.

April 15, 2014
By Maryann Lawlor

The “nature versus nurture” debate regarding what we end up doing in life has been going on for years. Are particular talents the product of Mother Nature, or do they require nurturing to develop them? It’s a pretty short discussion when it comes to true geniuses or children who demonstrate an extraordinary talent in music, for example, by age 3. Put simply, no explanation is possible. But by adulthood, is excellence in public speaking or chemistry or even writing an inborn talent or the result of having opportunities to learn and practice a skill?

March 17, 2014
By Maryann Lawlor

In 1966, when the Advanced Research Projects Agency hosted the precursor to today’s Internet, the scientists and engineers at academic institutions could not have foreseen the impact their work would have around the globe. For the digital natives out there, yes, there was a time when finding the definition of a word meant hauling out a huge dictionary, and the words “I wonder…” weren’t followed by pulling out a cellphone to find the answer online.

February 12, 2014
By Maryann Lawlor

Ray Tomlinson sent the first email—to himself—in 1971, and the world hasn’t been the same since. It is estimated that today more than 100 billion emails are sent and received each day, and this number is expected to grow to 132 billion a day by the end of 2017. While email is an effective means of communications, it is has become a time-consuming black hole. If time sheets included a “Reading/Responding to Email” line item, the number of hours would most likely be 95 percent of the average office worker’s workweek. Throw in how often people check email during weekends, holidays and vacations on their tablets, smartphones and laptops, and the black hole just expands exponentially.

January 15, 2014
By Maryann Lawlor

Year-in-review news features are a staple when New Year’s Eve rolls around and are a nice walk down memory lane. But as 2014 dawned, another trend came over the horizon: a plethora of predictions. It could be that social media inspires the urge to share more opinions, or maybe people are just feeling more optimistic about the future with the U.S. budget woes finally being addressed—at least to some degree.

December 16, 2013
By Maryann Lawlor

In an open letter to decision makers in Washington, D.C., last week, several superpowers of the Web called for global government surveillance reform. Citing this year’s revelations of the U.S. government’s collection of private citizens’ information, these companies “believe it is time for the world’s governments to address the practices and laws regulating government surveillance of individuals and access to their information.” Wait a minute. Don’t these firms collect information about citizens all the time? Aren’t efforts for national security just as important as the quest to send Web viewers only the advertisements they want to see?

November 15, 2013
By Maryann Lawlor

A revolution quietly erupted in October. On the University of Chicago campus, more than 80 innovators came together to discuss their ideas about how to solve some of the military’s most vexing problems. Not blind to the chain-of-command bureaucracy in which they operate, these pragmatic dreamers passionately moved forward in spite of it, because the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum (DEF) conference provided a place for in-person networking and commiserating, brainstorming and bracing one another up.

October 15, 2013
By Maryann Lawlor

For hours and hours and days and days, representatives on both sides of the aisle in the House of Representatives droned on. One side continued to call for a clean continuing resolution (CR) bill to be brought to the floor for a vote; the other side continued to bring up individual items in the CR for a vote.

September 16, 2013
By Maryann Lawlor

Some say the information age dawned as early as the early 1970s with the birth of email, while others may argue the light wasn’t realized until the early 1990s with rise of the World Wide Web. Either way, there’s no doubt that the era of information sharing is at least into its third decade with a growth rate that rivals a computer virus. Yet in a time when information travels at the speed of light, the public continues to be astonished when once-private information goes, well, public.

August 15, 2013
By Maryann Lawlor


Industry has been reacting to sequestration woes for some time, but now it appears the details of downsizing are finally making their way into the military sector. During a press conference late last month, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke about the Strategic Choices in Management Review and, as expected, the worse case scenario cuts deeper than reduced travel and reviewing weapon systems.

May 15, 2013
By Maryann Lawlor

Government economics experts agree that sequestration is not—and probably never was—a threat or hard stop to force Congress to approve a federal budget. Instead, senators and representatives intended for the hammer to fall, so they could reduce federal spending yet go back to their constituents with clean hands and say, “It wasn’t me.”

March 15, 2013
By Maryann Lawlor

With the unexpected retirement of Pope Benedict XVI, cardinals journeyed to Rome and were secluded in a papal conclave where they made a decision that will undoubtedly affect at least the near future of the Roman Catholic Church. Prior to the mid 13th century, cardinals could come and go as they pleased during this meeting. But politicking intervened, and Pope Gregory X decreed cardinals be secluded until they chose a new pope. Important decisions? Politicking? A need for expediency? Sounds familiar. When it comes to Congress, it’s time to give this seclusion idea a shot.

February 15, 2013
By Maryann Lawlor

The cancellation of several military and government conferences is among the latest collateral damage of financial belt-tightening and looming additional defense budget cuts. But the real question is, “So what?” Read that question carefully. It does not mean, “What does it matter?” but rather “What do global security professionals do now to develop effective networks with the business sector?”

And, those are only two of the important questions raised by the reduction in the number of conferences during a time when cutting costs is crucial. Among the others are:

January 15, 2013
By Maryann Lawlor

Half of the first month of 2013 is over, but it’s never too late to make resolutions to improve life. A recent experiment conducted by Dateline on NBC called “Digital Detox” challenged four roommates to give up their gadgets for two weeks. It was challenging and not very pleasant, but it demonstrated to them—and many viewers—that technology may have moved from enhancing life to taking it over. So what better place to start making a few changes than choosing a few ways you’ve given your life over to technology and start taking it back again?

December 17, 2012
By Maryann Lawlor

The History Channel recently featured a series titled “The Men Who Built America.” A mixture of narration, interviews with historians and successful business people, and dramatic reenactments, the episodes brought to life the incredible forethought five entrepreneurs possessed. It also demonstrated how much they were willing to risk on businesses and inventions they were confident would succeed and move the United States forward after the Civil War.