DOD working on generation gap

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"VA plan rolls on"

The Defense Department and the proposed Homeland Security Department face many cultural and behavioral challenges, not the least of which is bridging the generation gap between Cold War-era personnel and the current, more technology-savvy generation.

Retired Navy Vice Adm. Herbert Browne, president and chief executive officer of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA) International, said the cultures are changing. As an example, he noted that a former paratrooper, Army Lt. Gen. Joseph Kellogg Jr., is the director of command, control, communications and computers for DOD's Joint Chiefs of Staff — a position that would have been filled by a "techie" in the past.

"The people in the airplanes, tanks or ships are IT professionals, and we need to take credit for that," Browne told Federal Computer Week this week during AFCEA's TechNet International 2002 in Washington, D.C. But he added that other people - particularly the baby boomer generation, of which he is a part — need to catch up. "With today's generation, the culture is there."

Browne said that the stovepipes the DOD, the intelligence community and the federal government in general are attempting to break up are outdated, but he acknowledged that the previous system did serve a purpose.

"If it weren't for the stovepipes, the CIA, FBI and [the National Security Agency] would not be at the level they are today," he said. "Now, if the same amount of energy is used to cut across horizontally...it will be absolutely successful. That's the second measure of success."

Air Force Lt. Gen. Bruce Wright, vice commander of Air Combat Command, told FCW that the service understood years ago that it was "hindered by the Cold War [mentality] where the intelligence community's support and focus were at the strategic level" for senior decision-makers. However, that was necessary in the bipolar world where the United States' primary enemy was the Soviet Union, he said.

Now, with a wide variety of threats that are constantly changing, the Air Force is teaming with the national intelligence community and working closely with the combat air forces to give all parties a more complete picture of the enemy and the battlefield, Wright said.

He agreed with Browne about the generation gap problem but said the Air Force is attempting to overcome that issue through its Developing Aerospace Leaders (DAL) program. After 10 years in their core competency — intelligence, communications or flying— officers can "broaden their operational perspective" through Developing Aerospace Leaders, he said.

"They can take their expertise and broaden it into a better operational context," Wright said.

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