AFCEA International Chapter News

Panelists Discuss Accelerating Change To Win at AF IT Day

The chapter was proud to host various government and industry speakers and panelists as part of its 2021 Air Force IT Day. Keynote speakers Maj. Gen. Cameron Holt, USAF, deputy assistant secretary for contracting, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, kicked off the morning, followed by a fireside chat with Lauren Knausenberger, chief information officer, U.S. Air Force. Kevin Stamey, director, Information Dominance, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics), secured the lunchtime crowd, and Lt. Gen. Robert J. Skinner, director, Defense Information Systems Agency, and commander, Joint Force Headquarters, rounded out the afternoon.

Multiple panels discussed topics such as cloud, IT [information technology] Workforce Changes, Harnessing the Power of Data and Digital Modernization. These panels were moderated by various Air Force IT Day committee members dedicated to making the day a success. This event provided attendees with valuable information on how best to support the mission and modernization efforts of the United States Air Force with a theme of "Accelerate Change To Win."

Gen. Holt began his presentation with an update on the Great Power Competition-that is, the latest activities with Russia, China and the United States. Near-peer adversaries have not been stagnant within their respective borders, and many questions lie around how the United States should respond or prepare for potential conflict in both a physical and virtual environment. Following this introduction, Gen. Holt laid out a plan including a cultural shift and greater strategic alignment within the Department of the Air Force (DAF) to improve efficiencies with contracting and acquisitions across the department. In essence, Gen. Holt argued the need to modernize not only technology but systems processing and procurement methods so as not to be outpaced by adversaries. It's time to reevaluate and adjust accordingly to win, and leaders, including Gen. Holt, are looking to the best methods for this undertaking.

Following the first keynote, Knausenberger held a fireside chat alongside Bill Marion of the chapter's Air Force IT Day Planning Committee. Knausenberger introduced the Air Force's James "Aaron" Bishop as the newly appointed chief information security officer (CISO). Knausenberger spoke to the key elements Bishop will be focused on in his new role as CISO. He will undertake the tasks of cybersecurity innovation for both the Air Force and Space Force, as well as better governance of the ATO boundaries previously laid out in 2019. Knausenberger praised Bishop as the top candidate for the role and is looking forward to seeing him lead the Air Force workforce ahead.

In his presentation, Stamey challenged industry to change the perception of the IT user, juxtaposing the traditional business systems IT user with a new image: the warfighter. Stamey was candid and honest with the audience about the pacing threat that keeps him up at night. It's an Air Force priority to maintain the ability to dominate and not let that be taken away. Stamey stressed it's the warfighter that must be enabled. The future of warfighting will require sensor data to be available simultaneously to many users in minutes, not days. He emphasized the warfighter's ability to close kill chains on time-sensitive targets and the interoperability of current stovepipes between terrestrial and aerial network layers. Stamey closed his keynote with a summary of interoperability, leveraging existing enterprise IT tools and the desire to push IT to the edge to support the warfighter.

Gen. Skinner rounded out the day's keynote speakers, emphasizing the importance of truly understanding the specific problems each program within DISA is trying to solve and diving deep into the requirements, timelines, funding profiles, etc. This is to ensure each program is reaching conclusions of best value. These deep dives are referred to as 'Spa Days.' However, unlike a traditional spa day where relaxation is expected, immense scrutiny, focus and problem solving are the primary objectives with DISA. A result of these 'Spa Days' has led to the recognition that an organizational restructuring has to take place that simplifies the complexity of the organization. Their goal is to allow mission partners, industry and others to navigate the terrain of DISA more seamlessly, enabling innovation and integration to bear fruit. The main theme from Gen. Skinner's speech revolved around transparency and understanding.

The Air Force and Office of the Secretary of Defense discussed the power of data and how the Air Force is part of a larger engagement to pull Defense Department data into a single tool. There was a Cloud Panel where Col. Tucker 'Cinco' Hamilton, USAF, director of the DAF, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Artificial Intelligence Accelerator, moderated and asked the chief technology officers from three major cloud companies their perspective on cloud adoption throughout the Air Force and Defense Department. Another engaging session on the diversity of IT with several Air Force panelists discussed how the IT workforce can affect technology success and what industry trends can improve mission effectiveness.

The final panel of the day was with Rich Aldridge and Col. Bobby King, USAF, from two program executive offices sharing how industry can help deliver capabilities to the Air Force.

Overall, the primary themes revolved around getting a better grasp on the DAF's current standing, from both a technological and personnel standpoint, and ensuring best practices are taken to increase efficiency and the ability to win in the future. The day finished with closing remarks by Tamara Greenspan, Air Force IT Day Committee chair, and a reception was held for all in-person attendees.

For more great IT days and events alike, be sure to follow the chapter on all social media channels for updates on upcoming events.

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