Incoming

January 1, 2021
Maj. Gen. Jennifer Napper, USA (Ret.)

First things first: Happy New Year, and let this be the beginning of a return to normalcy!

The best part of walking a trade show floor is seeing the unexpected: prototypes of new technology, novel ways to solve the government’s challenges and coincidental meetings with new contacts. As the year unfolds, indications are that trade shows will follow the 2020 model: default to online gatherings while holding out hope for in-person events. In some cases, there will be hybrid meetings featuring both elements.

Is the symbiotic government-industry-academia relationship prepared for this long term? Are existing channels supportive enough for all sides to exchange information and meet the government’s national security needs?

December 1, 2020
By Maj. Gen. Jennifer Napper, USA (Ret.)

When the United States entered World War II 79 years ago this month, it embarked on an unprecedented period of change. With the attack on Pearl Harbor, traditional notions of work, education, security and every other aspect of life in America were pushed into a new reality. Today—albeit without a declared war—deployment of technology has created similar conditions for society-level change that the country must embrace.

November 1, 2020
By Maj. Gen. Jennnifer Napper, USA (Ret.)

In the book Bracketing the Enemy, John R. Walker writes about the World War II practice of having forward observers accompany infantrymen on the front lines to send targeting information back to artillery gunners. This innovation helped the United States win crucial battles because gunners benefited from timely and accurate information instead of guessing target locations.

October 1, 2020
By Maj. Gen. Jennifer Napper, USA (Ret.)

“We’ve always done it this way.”

When statements like this become commonplace within teams, they can corrode even the best of organizations. Innovation is stifled, work becomes routine and experts disengage and move on.

Yet in many organizations, the resistance to change is an enduring part of its culture—to the delight of adversaries and competitors.

September 1, 2020
By Maj. Gen. Jennifer Napper, USA (Ret.)

Innovation has propelled the government and society forward with lasting advances in science, technology, medicine and many other fields. Its relentless nature has created competition among technology providers, shortened product life cycles and resulted in many solutions being shelved in favor of upgraded ones.

However, some legacy systems remain useful and still fulfill customer needs. If a solution or system isn’t broken, should it receive upgraded functionality or be set aside in favor of a new solution “just because?” If so, what’s the criteria for doing so?

August 1, 2020
By Maj. Gen. Jennifer Napper, USA (Ret.)

When global positioning system (GPS) devices entered the consumer marketplace, they were big, clunky and not user friendly. To reach a location, users had to input waypoints and then be sure to stay on the line connecting each one. Despite their difficulties, early GPS receivers represented a typically incremental pathway for innovation: evolving from an early military application to becoming extremely useful on a commercial basis when connected to digital maps.

Now, GPS connectivity is standard in cars, smart phones and fitness devices, and the innovation continues with applications for autonomous farming equipment, online cargo tracking and smart munitions.

July 1, 2020
By Maj. Gen. Jennifer Napper, USA (Ret.)

Whether it’s propaganda that has a grain of truth, or it’s more deliberate disinformation that adversaries distribute to alter public opinion and gain an advantage, deceptive content and easy access to the mass population via social media pose a high threat to institutions and democracy. Intentionally or accidentally, groups and individuals have the ability to quickly promote falsehoods, making it difficult for governments, businesses and citizens to take corrective action.

June 1, 2020
By Maj. Gen. Jennifer Napper, USA (Ret.)

As the world becomes more complicated, everyone strives to find ways to simplify it. The retail industry’s big box chains demonstrate this by allowing customers to avoid going to multiple stores, while mail-order clothing services allow you to “try before you buy” in the comfort of your own home.

In the information technology (IT) industry, this streamlining takes the form of buying Everything-as-a-Service (XaaS). Using cloud-based tools and technologies not only assures users access from anywhere and on any device, but it also allows agencies to use fewer IT staff and procure pay-as-you-go, consumption-based services.

May 1, 2020
By Maj. Gen. Jennifer Napper, USA (Ret.)

High on the list of disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is productivity, with multiple sectors of the economy having slowed. As industries and workers find their path forward, many are taking a renewed look at telework, and for good reason.

Some industries, such as hospitality or healthcare, require at least some face-to-face contact with customers, and they must take the necessary precautions to keep employees safe and functioning where possible. However, for other industries, this crisis presents an opportunity to rethink remote work and how well it can fulfill organizational goals and missions.

April 1, 2020
By Maj. Gen. Jennifer Napper, USA (Ret.)

A feeling of déjà vu has emerged following various conference presentations by speakers across the Defense Department and intelligence community. Their top priorities and concerns are similar to the ones that arose during the Cold War.

The first reaction of society at large is to say “same stuff, different day.” But is it?

These headlines sound oddly familiar:

“Freedom of navigation operations denounced.”

“European Defender 2020 to be largest deployment of troops to Europe.”

“New foreign bases built in Southern Hemisphere and on islands in the Pacific.”

“Swedish and Polish defense leaders discuss concerns about Russia.”

“NATO condemns Russian annexation of Crimea.”

March 1, 2020
By Maj. Gen. Jennifer Napper, USA (Ret.)
Threats to the supply chain—especially cyber threats—continue to grow. Credit: Leyn/Shutterstock

When the National Counterintelligence and Security Center designated April as National Supply Chain Integrity Month, it cited threats that cost the country innovation, jobs and economic advantage. It also mentioned a reduction of U.S. military strength as the need for increased awareness. Now as we approach the one-year anniversary of that designation, threats—especially cybersecurity threats—continue to grow and evolve. These give the military-industrial base new reasons to refocus on the security of contractors, subcontractors and suppliers.

February 1, 2020
By Maj. Gen. Jennifer Napper, USA (Ret.)
There will never be enough professionals in the workforce who understand cyberspace operations, says Maj. Gen. Jennifer Napper, USA (Ret.), vice president, Perspecta’s defense group. Credit: Gorodenkoff/Shutterstock

More than half of organizations today are not prepared to handle cyber attacks and data breaches, according to a recent report from FireEye. Updating operating systems, patches and even cloud strategies is a start for addressing the problem today, but technology only offers one, often over-emphasized, leg of support.

January 1, 2020
By Maj. Gen. Jennifer Napper, USA (Ret.)

Long before the federal government charged two defendants in 2018 for ransomware attacks on municipal computer systems—including Atlanta’s—cities found ways to make do during these outages. Police wrote reports by hand, traffic tickets were paid in person and social media kept everyone informed in a way that showcased a city’s resiliency.

December 1, 2019
By Lt. Gen. Susan Lawrence, USA (Ret.)

Well, 2019 has flown right by, and so my monthly column for SIGNAL Magazine comes to a close. It has truly been a privilege to present these columns to the AFCEA community. I hope they sparked some fresh thinking about the many changes and innovations we see all around us. The U.S. military community is at an inflection point, and it is critical that we continue these important discussions into the future.

November 1, 2019
By Lt. Gen. Susan Lawrence, USA (Ret.)
The multidomain operations concept envisions future wars being executed extremely fast and incorporating a great deal of automation and networking to connect sensors to warfighters across all domains—land, air, sea, space and cyber. Credit: Gorodenkoff/Shutterstock

My columns so far have centered on various components of modernization and innovation that I think are needed for the U.S. military to reposition itself for success on future battlefields. Emerging technologies, culture, workforce, partnerships—all play critical roles and must be recalibrated for a future that will be increasingly complex and dynamic.

As the Defense Department moves to embrace more innovation, it will change the way our future wars will be fought. Defense planners already are working to understand this in detail, and the vision they have devised is called multidomain operations (MDO).

August 1, 2019
By Lt. Gen. Susan Lawrence, USA (Ret.)

Part one of a two-part series.

Nothing keeps Defense Department leaders up at night more than today’s cyber threat. This heightened concern was clearly reflected in the September 2018 DoD Cyber Strategy, which noted that “competitors deterred from engaging the United States and our allies in an armed conflict are using cyberspace operations to steal our technology, disrupt our government and commerce, challenge our democratic processes, and threaten our critical infrastructure.”

July 1, 2019
By Lt. Gen. Susan Lawrence, USA (Ret.)

Just about everybody who has worked for the Defense Department has encountered this: A new technology is deployed—a software application, new hardware, a piece of gear or a tool—and after using it, people discover it falls short of expectations. Perhaps it was difficult to operate. Or maybe it didn’t do what was needed. Or it might have done what was needed but did it poorly. Or it worked well enough for some use cases and not others.

June 1, 2019
By Lt. Gen. Susan Lawrence, USA (Ret.)

Ever since British polymath Alan Turing posed the question, “Can machines think?” in 1950, mathematicians and computer scientists have been actively exploring the potential of artificial intelligence (AI).

To be sure, much of the buzz around AI since then has been more hype than reality. Even today, no one credibly argues that machines can match the suppleness and complexity of human intelligence. But we are at a point where machines, when tasked for specific use, can do many things humans can do—such as learn, problem-solve, perceive, decide, plan, communicate and create—and some things even humans can’t do. And that’s a huge leap from where we were only a decade ago.

May 1, 2019
By Lt. Gen. Susan Lawrence, USA (Ret.)

Within the last year and a half, an exciting development has taken place at the Defense Department: It has turned the corner on cloud.

For years, the department had followed a cautious, even wary, approach toward cloud adoption. But after reading the 2018 National Defense Strategy and the department’s new artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud strategies, one can only conclude that top defense leaders now view cloud as the cornerstone of our future military readiness.

April 1, 2019
By Lt. Gen. Susan Lawrence, USA (Ret.)

“The Army is engaged in a protracted struggle to out-innovate our future competitors, and right now, we are not postured for success.”

This statement kicked off congressional testimony by four senior U.S. Army leaders, including now-Gen. John Murray, USA, commanding general of the new Army Futures Command (AFC). The command’s mission is to “out-innovate” our rivals.

I think this statement succinctly captures the paramount challenge of being hidebound by bureaucracy, fragmented efforts, conventional processes and, most importantly, an acute intolerance of perceived risk.

March 1, 2019
By Lt. Gen. Susan Lawrence, USA (Ret.)

In today’s increasingly complex, dynamic and digital-centric world, the Defense Department’s success will hinge on how well it takes on the characteristics of an agile workforce. This requires qualities such as agility, responsiveness, efficiency, resiliency, innovation and hyperawareness of the many environments it inhabits.

Information technology, smartly managed, can deliver all these capabilities. So it is no surprise that in the most successful agencies, technology is leading the charge toward new business models and new ways of thinking and working.

February 1, 2019
By Lt. Gen. Susan Lawrence, USA (Ret.)

One of the most pressing issues Defense Department leaders confront today is preparing its vast workforce for future challenges.

The military’s capacity to exert global influence, deter wars and, if necessary, fight and win conflicts in the future will depend on its ability to rapidly and smartly incorporate emerging technologies into day-to-day operations and decision-making. And doing that requires ready access to advanced skills, especially in information technology regarding cybersecurity, software development, data science and analytics, networking and intelligent automation architecting.

January 1, 2019
By Lt. Gen. Susan Lawrence, USA (Ret.)

Welcome to the first of a new monthly column I will be writing for SIGNAL!

First, let me say what an honor and thrill it is to be asked by SIGNAL Magazine to contribute a regular column. SIGNAL and the entire AFCEA community have long served as a critical public square for airing the important technological issues that confront the Defense Department, and I look forward to participating in that discussion.

December 1, 2018
By Terry Halvorsen

It is hard to believe that a full year has passed and this is my final column for SIGNAL. I have greatly enjoyed writing these pieces, and I thank AFCEA for this opportunity. I have enjoyed and been enlightened by your feedback—good and bad—and I very much appreciated many of the discussions that happened because of these columns. I would like to use this final column as a summary and a reminder of what I believe is coming with technology and with some social issues.

October 1, 2018
By Terry Halvorsen

One of the fundamental ingredients to a secure future is having a sustainable and engaged technology-savvy workforce. This means we must be preparing our youth for today’s and tomorrow’s technologies. We need to cultivate the next generation of technology innovators and masters.

While traveling this spring and summer, I met and spoke with many high school and college-age students. I heard quite a bit about their desire to better understand and be more involved in cybersecurity. Specifically, they asked about authentication solutions for mobile applications, better identity management, and how to protect and understand their data.

July 1, 2018
By Terry Halvorsen

I wasn’t sure how to define this article. I tossed around some ideas, but none seemed quite right. Are we winning the technology race? Are we still the best and brightest? Is the United States losing ground because it is too late to adopt technology? Instead, I will answer questions I have been asked as I travel the globe. These frequently asked questions come from governments, allies, industry, academia and the media.

June 1, 2018
By Terry Halvorsen

Second of two parts. Read part one.

Technology can either multiply time or diminish time, depending on how you manage it. Unfortunately, email and text communications are frequently mismanaged. But the technology isn’t at fault. You the leader must own the technology and not let the technology own you.

Don’t be a slave to texts and emails. If an issue isn’t important, then don’t respond to a message immediately.

Be careful about the number of emails or texts you send, and talk with your team about how they are managing emails and texts. Resist the temptation to jump into a discussion if you are copied.

May 1, 2018
By Terry Halvorsen

Today you can read many articles, absorb numerous interviews and watch programs about the effects of technology on business and personal life. One effect is that more people are putting a true dollar value on their time. Growing technology businesses are focused on giving people back time in their lives. New businesses have recognized that more people, especially those under 40, are willing to pay for it.

April 1, 2018
By Terry Halvorsen

Today, government and industry increasingly are on the wrong side of the cybersecurity spend.

Criminal groups, nation-states and individual hackers often force organizations to spend much more to defend against cyber attacks, or the threat of attacks, than attackers spend to carry them out. How do we slow down this trend and reverse the spend, forcing the attacker to pay a higher price?

Technology and a better-educated workforce will help, but these solutions may not really reduce the spend or increase the cost to the attacker.

The best way to do this is through significantly increased partnering as well as more timely and greater sharing of threat data and real-time attack information.

March 1, 2018
By Terry Halvorsen

Fifth-generation (5G) superfast cellular technology is coming. And it will revolutionize the way we think about networks, the amount of data and analytics that can be presented in real or near real time, and how we use this data and related analytics to make everyday decisions. 5G is going to enable a national high-speed virtual highway. Much like the rollout of the physical national highway system, the introduction of 5G will affect defense and business and change individual behavior in ways we haven’t even thought about yet.

February 1, 2018
By Terry Halvorsen

In today’s world, the most valuable resource is information. The fastest-growing companies are data companies. Firms that can apply decision-quality information in time to affect critical business decisions are reaping the greatest success. Just as in warfare, the force that can bring intelligence to the battle edge in near real time will have a tremendous advantage in any engagement.

January 1, 2018
By Terry Halvorsen

This is my first article as the new author of Incoming. I want to thank AFCEA for the opportunity to write this monthly piece, and I hope I will continue the tradition of offering thought-provoking articles on timely topics important to the information technology and communication community. I also want to thank my predecessor, Maj. Gen. Earl D. Matthews, USAF (Ret.), for his work and excellent contributions that were informative and certainly advanced thinking on a wide variety of issues. Well done, Earl.

December 1, 2017
By Maj. Gen. Earl D. Matthews, USAF (Ret.)
A civilian cyber corps could support two of U.S. Cyber Command’s three primary missions: defend Defense Department networks to ensure their data is held securely and defend critical infrastructure.

A civilian reserve cyber corps deserves strong consideration as a way to add more capacity to the cyber work force, which the nation has struggled to do for a number of years. The Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) could serve as a model for the corps and ultimately help the U.S. government and the Defense Department shore up their shortfall of cyber resources.

November 1, 2017
By Maj. Gen. Earl D. Matthews, USAF (Ret.)

Bitcoin’s underlying technology, called blockchain, has great potential in the public sector. Blockchain is an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions between two or more parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way. This can include the exchange of money, goods, property, documents or data—anything of value that can be represented digitally. A trusted centralized intermediary such as a bank can enforce terms, and details recorded in the ledger can be used for arbitration.

October 1, 2017
By Maj. Gen. Earl D. Matthews, USAF (Ret.)

Smartphones and tablets offer more storage, processing power and functionality than an enterprise-class mainframe computer did less than a generation ago. Such dramatic advances make mobile devices powerful business tools and allow military forces to conduct combat missions around the clock, regardless of location.

September 1, 2017
By Maj. Gen. Earl D. Matthews, USAF (Ret.)

The discussion about creating a space-oriented military branch has surfaced again. An amendment to the House version of the fiscal year 2017-2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) calls for a separate Space Corps by 2019. The Space Corps would fall under the Department of the Air Force but operate as an independent service, similar to the Marine Corps’ relationship to the Department of the Navy.

I really can’t believe we are having this discussion again.

August 1, 2017
By Maj. Gen. Earl D. Matthews, USAF (Ret.)

We are living in the second major wave of digital disruption. Most consider the advent of the Internet and ubiquitous email to be the first wave. In this second wave, where the cloud features prominently, modern apps and analytics will usher in unprecedented levels of productivity that will significantly differentiate militaries, companies and governments by their mission execution.

July 1, 2017
By Maj. Gen. Earl D. Matthews, USAF (Ret.)

In business as in life, whenever something goes terribly wrong, there is a reflexive tendency to start talking about what should have been done and to affix blame instead of focusing on how to move forward successfully. Cyber attacks are certainly no exception.

I simply WannaCry.

June 1, 2017
By Maj. Gen. Earl D. Matthews, USAF (Ret.)

This article is the last in a two-part series on what Y2K can teach the world about cybersecurity. Read the first part here.

The Y2K event went out with a whimper and not a bang, but not because the issue wasn’t serious. The potential for massive data disruption was there, but government and industry rallied to address it before the January 1, 2000, deadline. The millennium bug was squashed because stakeholders with a lot to lose attacked it in a coordinated effort. That approach can serve as both a lesson and a model for the latest security challenge: the cyber bug.

May 1, 2017
By Maj. Gen. Earl D. Matthews, USAF (Ret.)

I’ve heard a lot of talk about cyberthreats over the past 15 years, yet I haven’t seen anyone offer a holistic way to address them. As I reflect on my own experiences and challenges in information and operational technology, the last problem of this magnitude that we had to face was the feared millennium bug, or Y2K. A mere 17 years later, the information technology landscape looks eerily the same. For many chief information officers (CIOs) and chief information security officers (CISOs), the size and scope of the millennium bug is about the same as today’s major security challenge: the cyber bug.

April 1, 2017
By Maj. Gen. Earl D. Matthews, USAF (Ret.)

In the information security sector, the same problems and misconceptions about cybersecurity crop up again and again. Specifically, federal government leaders believe that security is purely a technology problem. But that is not the case. Cybersecurity vulnerabilities in both industry and government are regularly the result of human behavior and not solely an information technology or system error. And this human threat often is not malicious. So how are government officials to manage this type of insider risk?

February 1, 2017
By Maj. Gen. Earl D. Matthews, USAF (Ret.)

Now that Donald Trump has become the 45th president of the United States, he will be exposed to the nation’s soft underbelly: cybersecurity. Given rapid advancements in information and communication technologies, continued coupling of the digital domain with the physical world and advanced persistent threats, critical infrastructure protection poses a major challenge for the United States. 

This is where the president should focus his efforts. But is either the Department of Homeland Security or the Defense Department the right agency for cyber protection?

January 1, 2017
By Maj. Gen. Earl D. Matthews, USAF (Ret.)

Happy New Year! While I prepared this column well in advance of its publishing date, I unfortunately can predict with reasonable certainty (though I wish I could do this with the stock market) that another major cybersecurity event occurred last week or will occur next week.

December 1, 2016
By Lt. Gen. Mike Basla, USAF (Ret.)

Changes in information technology and the capabilities it delivers are commonplace across business. We know changes will only continue, offering opportunities for improved operations and greater efficiencies. The problem is that chief information officers, who are charged with managing and delivering information technology services, often operate on procedures, structures and processes developed many years ago, in an entirely different technology era.

November 1, 2016
By Lt. Gen. Robert M. Shea, USMC (Ret.)

While the world’s attention seems to be focused on the Middle East and the spillover effects of its conflicts, the Asia-Pacific region is enduring stresses that could have far-reaching consequences. The area, which comprises half the Earth’s surface and two-thirds of its people, is facing threats to peace and economic growth that must be addressed by the one country that largely is viewed as an honest broker for security: the United States.

November 1, 2016
By Lt. Gen. Mike Basla, USAF (Ret.)

Several years ago, I served as a director of communications and information in a major U.S. Air Force command. The director of operations called me in one day to discuss some of the actions we were taking within my directorate. While the general appreciated my proactivity, he told me I was crossing the line between my support role and his operational business. That was hard for me to understand because I always had believed communications and information were operations. Today’s thinking seems to bear that out, and today’s requirements demand that we do things differently.

October 1, 2016
By Lt. Gen. Mike Basla, USAF (Ret.)

Since World War II, the U.S. military largely has borne the cost of preserving peace around the globe, which also has helped secure homeland prosperity. Boots on the ground in foreign lands have allowed us to form strong economic ties with our allies, establish a presence in critical regions and fight “over there” should a conflict arise. We adopted this strategy in the years following World War II and accepted its cost as the price of being a world leader. That strategy frequently has been under fire, with many calling for more reductions in our overseas presence to focus on problems at home. 

September 1, 2016
By Lt. Gen. Mike Basla, USAF (Ret.)

Much debate has taken place recently on the topic of American “greatness.” While I believe this country remains great today, I also believe it has lost some of its momentum for a number of reasons, including a struggling economy. Wages are not climbing, consumer spending is stagnant, and the national debt keeps growing. We need to reinvigorate the middle class with more opportunities for higher-paying jobs so that Americans feel confident and prosperous again. Those opportunities exist, but unlike the last century, more will come from small businesses than big businesses.

August 1, 2016
By Lt. Gen. Mike Basla, USAF (Ret.)

The steady drumbeat of horrific terrorist attacks continues across our country and around the world. Most of these attacks are rooted in religious extremism, yet our administration and Congress keep debating terrorism terminologies and causes rather than taking aggressive and meaningful bipartisan steps that clearly identify the threats and lay out a comprehensive strategy to mitigate them. I am convinced that we will continue to struggle against extremist and other mass-murder threats until we come up with unified national positions on terrorism and gun control that most Americans can understand, accept and support.

July 1, 2016
By Lt. Gen. Mike Basla, USAF (Ret.)

I suspect it is no surprise to the men and women who read SIGNAL Magazine that the U.S. Air Force is facing readiness and modernization challenges after 25 years of continuous combat. What you readers might not realize, however, is that our Air Force is actually smaller today than it was when it became a service in 1947. And, according to recent congressional testimony, it sits at about 50 percent readiness. Across the board, our service members proudly carry out their missions as the world’s premier fighting forces. But if we are asking them to execute the published National Security Strategy, we owe it to these patriots to provide proper resources.