Collaboration key to success in cyber operations

Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, the Air Force chief of staff, spoke to more than 5,500 Air Force Information Technology Conference attendees Aug. 24 in Montgomery, Ala. This year's theme, "The Warfighter’s Edge in Battlespace,” aims to highlight the role of information technology in the joint fight. (U.S. Air Force photo/Melanie Rodgers Cox)

Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, the Air Force chief of staff, spoke to more than 5,500 Air Force Information Technology Conference attendees Aug. 24 in Montgomery, Ala. This year's theme, "The Warfighter’s Edge in Battlespace,” aims to highlight the role of information technology in the joint fight. (U.S. Air Force photo/Melanie Rodgers Cox)

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. (AFNS) -- The Air Force Information Technology Conference opened Aug. 24 in Montgomery, Ala., with keynote addresses from the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the Air Force chief of staff and the CEO of McAfee, Inc.

Collaboration emerged as a key theme in the opening day of the conference, which is now in its 26th year.

The modern warfighter has found "tremendous advantages in networking organizations," Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, told attendees, saying that the conference is a valuable tool in learning how to leverage information technology advantages, he said.

The event boasts more than 200 vendors, 120 seminars and 5,800 registered attendees.

"My hat is off to you in the information technology community," Gen. Norton Schwartz, Air Force chief of staff, said in his address. "You are key to how we concentrate our efforts and collaborate."

The IT backbone allows interconnectivity between advanced weapon and command and control systems, the general noted, maximizing effectiveness in air, space and cyberspace operations.

Professionals from across the government and private sectors will gather for the next three days to collaborate and share on the latest technology and its benefits for the Air Force and the Department of Defense as a whole.

"We're proud of the relationship we have with the Air Force," said Mr. David DeWalt, McAfee CEO and a keynote speaker. "We need to develop stronger threat intelligence. This relationship provides a great opportunity."

Collaboration was also on the mind of U.S. Representative Bobby Bright, the congressional representative from the 2nd District in Alabama, which includes the city of Montgomery.

"This is the ideal event to mesh small business and our military community together," said Mr. Bright, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee.

Mr. Bright welcomed the group to Alabama. The congressman, as well as Mr. John Caporal, deputy director of the Air Force's Small Business Programs, will speak to the small business forums taking place later in the week.

Conference forums and events support the conference theme, "The Warfighter's Edge in Battlespace," highlighting how information technology contributes to the joint fight.

The rapid evolution of the Air Force and the Department of Defense necessitates focus on three tenets, according to Richard Lombardi, the 554th Electronic Systems Wing director. These are rapid acquisition, operability at the core and the ability to fight through a cyber attack.

Winning, both on the battlefield and in cyberspace, requires the leveraging of a variety of cyber systems, General Cartwright said.

"In the art of war, where does (information technology) fit?" the nation's second highest ranking military officer asked.

And risk, though inevitable, cannot stop progress toward applying technology on the battlefield.

"Can we afford to step aside because there might be risk?" the general asked. "The answer is no."

The Department of Defense, in collaboration with private industry, must learn to find a balance between the vulnerabilities and advantages of technology, he said.

Conference attendees will have the opportunity to hear other keynote speakers on a variety of topics throughout the week, including Lt. Gen. William Lord, chief of warfighting integration and chief information officer for the Air Force, and Lt. Gen. Carroll Pollett, director of the Defense Information System Agency and commander, Joint Task Force-Global, Network Operations.

(Jessica Casserly contributed to this article)