AFCEA-GMU C4I and Cyber Central Symposium: Critical Issues in C4I

Published: May 30, 2019

Cloud ComputingDEFENSEDARPAInformation TechnologyResearch & Development

The AFCEA-GMU and Cyber Central Symposium: Critical Issues in C4I, held its annual conference on May 21-22, 2019 at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. For well over a decade, the annual symposium has been an opportunity to connect academia, industry, and Government to address important issues in technology and systems research and development. The audience consists predominately 70% government/military featuring decision makers at all levels looking to advance their understanding of the key Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (C4I) challenges being faced now and in the future. The two day conference was divided into four sessions and included a variety of different speakers from all levels within the government, military, and commercial sectors. Some of the critical agenda topics discussed in the conference included:

  • Cybersecurity risk management and tools
  • Making the best use of the cloud
  • Supply chain security
  • Innovations in IT acquisition and development
  • Artificial intelligence and machine learning
  • Critical issues in cybersecurity
  • Blockchain applications in C4I

A few of the noteworthy speakers during the conference were as follows:

  • Steve Wallace, Systems Innovation Scientist, DISA
  • David Sanger, New York Times author of The Perfect Weapon
  • Paul “Rusty” Thomas, Program Manager, Tactical Technology Office (TTO), DARPA

The first session focused on the Chief Technology Officers (CTO) within the military services, including the Air Force, Army, and Marine Corps, and a representative from DISA’s Systems Innovation Scientist division. The primary talking points in this session were on the CTO’s thoughts and ideas on critical issues in the technology field, and what challenges and strategies are in place to mitigate future risks by our adversaries.  According to Steve Wallace, Systems Innovation Scientist with DISA, and the other CTOs on the panel, the biggest challenge the military and the government are facing is “talent and understanding.” The “workforce” is the main problem and there is a shortage of IT talent in the community and new talent is in dire need to both hire and train new workforce in the future.

The second session of the conference was on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). This session talked about the main issues and concerns of AI/ML, both in the short-term and long-term.  This session also talked about the significance of AI/ML within the DoD and weapons domain and how this has enhanced weapons technology.  The keynote speaker was David Sanger, who wrote the book “The Perfect Weapon.” According to his book, the threat of cyber security has evolved significantly over the decades and has now become the number one threat in the global world.

The third session was the highlight of the conference and was of the most informative to Deltek.  Mr. “Rusty” Thomas, Program Manager with the Tactical Technology Office (TTO) at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) spoke on the highly visible BlackJack Pit Boss BAA effort. Deltek is tracking this opportunity under Opportunity ID: 172437. The project is currently in the Source Selection Phase and Proposals for the BAA were due on April 12, 2019. BlackJack is an autonomous, collaborative, distributed space-based network with the ability to rapidly self-task, process, and distribute tactically relevant information to manned and unmanned subscribers. It includes architecture, processing, and software elements. The functionality includes constellation-level autonomy, on-orbit processing, network management, data management, command and control, health monitoring and station-keeping functions.

The BlackJack Pit Boss BAA is now in Phase 1 and the total planned budget for the future award is $38.5 million over three phases. The Launch & Demonstration of the BlackJack Pit Boss BAA will take place during Phase 3. The timeframe for the Launch & Demonstration is slated for mid-FY21 to late-FY22. The demonstration will consist of 20 spacecraft with two planes at 10 sets/planes each flying at 1000km (two spacecraft initially plus 18 more for full demo). Other speaks in this session focused on SecDevOpps and on the Cyber Security Evaluation Tool (CSET).

The final session of the conference was solely focused on blockchain. The speakers discussed the concepts, benefits, and drivers of Blockchain and it’s concept within DoD. Blockchain is a continuously growing list of records, called blocks, which are linked and secured. Each block contains a cryptographic of the previous block, destination, timestamp, and transaction data. This technology allows efficient, reliable, and transparent peer-to-peer transfer of digital assets and thus its potential impact on businesses is immense. Blockchain is used in data security, international trade, complex lending, cryptocurrencies, healthcare, and energy management. Benefits of blockchain include increased trust, reduction in risk due to validation by third party participant, decentralization of ownership, single source of truth, and accurate, timely, verified compliance.

Overall, the AFCEA-GMU C4I and Cyber Central Symposium: Critical Issues in C4I was an informative symposium with perspectives from the government, military, and commercial sectors on cybersecurity and C4I. Each speaker had a focus and emphasis on a specific trend and concept within the technology field and provided insights on potential challenges and issues each organization may come across in the future. The conference focused heavily on terminology, keywords, buzzwords, etc. and less on fiscal budget, key initiatives, and potential forecasting opportunities. The highlights of the conference were on DARPA’s BlackJack Pit Boss BAA effort and the state of AI/ML in today’s commercial and defense environments.

The next AFCEA-GMU C4I and Cyber Central Symposium: Critical Issues in C4I event will be held in May 2020.