AFITC show biggest ever

The Air Force today kicked off the 1998 Air Force Information Technology Conference in Montgomery, Ala., and by all accounts the conference will exceed past years' conferences in size and scope.

"This year we sold out a lot earlier than last year," said Air Force Capt. Tom Hansen, the conference chairman. "I expect we'll attract 3,200 to 3,500 attendees."

Bill Willis, show manager for the Montgomery Civic Center, said the number of vendors could push the total to 4,000.

This year, more than 2,900 government IT professionals used online registration forms to register for the show, which features 126 vendors and 164 IT seminars. According to Hansen, many of the seminars will be presented twice. "We'll be operating 18 seminar rooms simultaneously [and] providing a real good variety of information," Hansen said.

Last year's conference theme was information superiority, and this year's conference will follow up on that with global information assurance for the warfighter.

"Information assurance is a hot topic in the Air Force right now" as well as for the other services and the country as a whole, Hansen said. It is not enough to have information superiority, he said. "The information also has to be secure, and that's what we're focusing on this year."

The conference's list of keynote speakers includes: Michael Dell, president and chief executive officer of Dell Computer Corp.; Scott McNealy, president and CEO of Sun Microsystems Inc.; Thomas Gill, president and CEO of Fore Systems Inc.; Lt. Gen. William J. Donahue, Air Force deputy chief of staff for communication and information; and Gen. George T. Babbitt, commanding general of the Air Force Materiel Command and the first four-star general to address the conference.

"This is the first year we've had [CEOs] across the board" as keynote speakers, Hansen said. Also, "I have a four-star [general] to kick things off," which is a departure from past years, he said.

On Wednesday, the show will feature "SC Day," a series of breakout discussion sessions with the senior communications officer from each of the Air Force's major commands, according to Capt. Mary Harper, the SC Day chairwoman. Senior communications officers from 11 major Air Force commands and as many as six distinguished visitors— brigadier generals and above— are scheduled to take part in a closing panel session.

According to Hansen, Microsoft Corp. and Raytheon Co. will feature two of the largest vendor displays on the show floor, with Microsoft staging 14 booths and Raytheon 10. Rick Shaffer, a spokesman for Raytheon, said the company is showcasing most of its PC products offered on the Desktop V contract. Microsoft officials could not be reached for comment.

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