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Intelligence collaboration focus of net-centric operations conference

by Chuck Paone
66th Air Base Group Public Affairs

9/12/2012 - WHITE CASTLE, N.H. (AFNS) -- The 10th annual Net-Centric Operations conference held here Sept. 10 featured a diverse array of speakers who extolled the value of collaboration in acquiring, supporting and operating intelligence-gathering systems and cyber tools.

The conference was sponsored by the Patriots' Roost Chapter of the Association of Old Crows.

Lt. Gen C.D. Moore II, commander of the newly stood-up Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, noted that optimal system development and support cannot be done in a vacuum.

"The network-centric solutions, the cross-portfolio solutions that tie our systems to a standard are a big deal," he said.

Moore said reaching across portfolios and individual operating locations is also yielding more standardized, cost-effective processes - throughout the entire life cycle of systems.

"One of the terms that came out of our recent planning sessions was zip code-agnostic," he said. "You don't want to operate with a zip code; you want to think about what you're doing for the mission."

Maj. Gen. Craig Olson, Air Force program executive officer for Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence and Networks, also emphasized the importance of partnerships. He said that, since his portfolio is responsible for providing the network infrastructure all Air Force applications ride on, "everyone's your customer."

However, he and his program managers can't do it alone. The C3I&N PEO relies heavily on its Space Command partners, the lead command for IT requirements, as well as each of the nine other program executive officers within AFLCMC, Olson said.

He also made it clear that, even while working well together, the Air Force can't meet operational needs by itself.

"I'm the first to admit that we don't deliver products; our industry partners deliver products," he said. "So how well do we partner with you in communicating our requirement? We need your questions, we need to be clear, and we need to make sure that's how the communication is all the time."

Several others speakers also stressed the criticality of outreach aimed at clearly understanding and communicating customer requirements to industry.

Steve Wert, PEO for Battle Management, noted that while more than half his workforce is at Hanscom AFB, Mass., none of his customers are.

"But we're engaged," he said, noting that problems would surely arise if they weren't.

Col. Christopher Kinne, chief of the AFLCMC's Responsive Cyber Division at Joint Base San Antonio -- Lackland, Texas, spoke of having staff members "embedded" with cyber operators.

"We have an entire coalition of people working through the process so that we can articulate for our industry partners: 'This is what we're looking for; this is what we need.'"

Other presenters, some of whom represented other services and federal agencies, also cited efforts - and payoffs - from collaborative efforts. Speaking for the test community, Lt. Col. Brandon Wilkerson of the 46th Test Squadron at Eglin AFB, Fla., called for earlier and more creative testing to ensure programs don't hit major hurdles late in the game.

"We have some world-class test labs, and we love to get programs in to them early," he said. He also noted that cyber resiliency is a key focus area. "We really need to start looking at how resilient all our systems are to cyber attack."

The subject of cyber attack and the ability to avoid, detect and respond to it pervaded many of the day's presentations.

Bill Neugent, a MITRE fellow and chief engineer, warned that "in cyberspace, the most dangerous players are the ones you don't see."

"But if you make the Invisible Man visible, you remove his superpowers," he said. "The game is to see." The strongest advocates for U.S. cyber security investment, Neugent said, have been cyber adversaries who were so aggressive that they allowed themselves to be seen.

Neugent's MITRE colleague, Rich Byrne, vice president for C2 Center Programs, picked up on this theme during the session's concluding presentation.

"We are in the cyber battle, and there are casualties every day, every minute," he said, exhorting participants to get in the fight, invest to win and lead the way. His admonition: don't wait for disaster and then possibly over-react and do the wrong things. Better to prepare right now.

"We can win, but only if we have the leadership to do it," he said.

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