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Notes from Naval IT Day: Quips and quotes and food for thought


Shock and awe

At AFCEA Naval IT Day in Vienna, Va., May 3, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Atlantic’s executive director, Chris Miller, said a few different things to shake up the normal hum of defense IT conference-speak.

Miller took a swipe at the status-quo in technology development, calling on industry and the Defense Department to break out of what’s become a Pentagon comfort zone.

“How do we get back to understanding learning and being willing to question things and do things smarter? [Central Command Commander Gen. James Mattis] said PowerPoint makes us stupid. When are we going to get out of PowerPoint and really start talking about technology?”

But his closing comments may have been the most startling to the audience of several hundred, most of whom represented industry.

Miller took aim at the private sector, urging them to consider cost controls – including with their own pay.

“I’ll be the first to tell you, I fully support a free market environment. But I’ll be honest, I’m a little bit surprised when I hear some of the labor rates and salaries that people leaving the government are being offered,” he said. “I’m not here to try to throw anybody under the bus, but we have to watch this stuff. If we don’t watch it, we’re all going to price ourselves out of the market.”

But Miller stressed he’s drinking his own Kool-Aid, too.

“I’m watching the same thing on my side – I’ve told our folks that if we’re hiring people in from industry, don’t come expecting a massive pay raise. I’d like to see the same thing happen on the other side…I’d say to ask yourselves, ‘Are we doing everything we can to make sure our community is being cost-competitive,” he said, offering a warning: “Because if we aren’t, we’re going to have a problem in the long run.”

Addressing the elephant

In the morning keynote at Naval IT Day, Navy CIO Terry Halvorsen talked up the latest efforts in pursuing cutting-edge technology in the service, painting a picture of a force equipped to the hilt with the latest in gadgets and tools. It wasn’t long before one audience member voiced what many in the room were thinking: How do you get that stuff and still maintain operational security?

Halvorsen seemed to disagree with the idea that high-tech and secure are mutually exclusive, or that the Navy is relying on industry to lead the way to both.

“We have let security be the elephant in the room, and it doesn’t have to be. We certainly have a security requirement that is higher than in many areas…but I think that delta is growing smaller,” Halvorsen said. “When I talk to the finance and banking businesses, they’re very interested in what we’re doing in security, because they’re seeing some of the same problems.”

Posted by Amber Corrin on May 04, 2012 at 12:11 PM

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