How to fight through a digital meltdown

Thursday - 5/13/2010, 9:56am EDT

Kevin Kennedy, Director, Joint Capability Development, U.S. Joint Forces Command

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By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio.com

In case of a cyber meltdown, the Air Force can't just "break glass" in this age of network-centric warfare.

A panel at the Joint Warfighting Conference, concluding today in Virginia Beach, explored the digital disruption question.

Air Force Major General Kevin Kennedy, Director for Joint Capability Development (J8), U.S. Joint Forces Command, was one of the speakers on that panel. He told Federal News Radio he's constantly walking a fine line.

How do we try and maximize our ability to leverage all this information technology at that tactical edge whether that be in a cockpit or in a convoy or a dismounted soldier walking in Afghanistan, and yet also ensure that we're not putting these people at risk because they're so reliant on information technology that they don't know what to do if they don't have all those feeds and insights being pumped into their location.

One of the advantages the military has over the private sector is they often have to start with nothing in terms of network access, instead of trying to force things to work together.

Just as the commercial world tries to prevent dead zones so that they can increase their consumer satisfaction, we're trying to eliminate dead zones for our American military forces. And we have to recognize that we typically go into environments where the network is very austere, and so we have to almost, if you would, bring a network with us.

Kennedy said because of joint integration and interoperability, the different system the services are assembling are in some ways "more robust".

As for having a Continuity of Operations plan, Kennedy said that's second nature in his line of work.

You always have a good game plan on. "This is what we're trying to do" but then you have back up plans because you realize that when you're in the middle of a conflict with an advisary, that they get a vote too. You do need to be able to be agile in your responsiveness and that, actually, is a tremendous American advantage. We have some very educated and very talented folks all the way from our most basic enlisted guy all the way up to our senior flag officers.