Defense, industry leaders discuss digital transformation, ABMS at New Horizons

Defense and industry leaders discussed ways their organizations are using digital transformation to meet the Air Force chief of staff‘s call to “Accelerate Change or Lose” during two days of virtual presentations March 17 and 18.

The first week of New Horizons 2021, sponsored by AFCEA’s Lexington-Concord chapter, featured guest speakers, briefings and panel discussions covering a wide range of topics, from cloud and edge computing, to digital engineering and management, agile software and open architecture development, and Joint All-Domain Command and Control collaboration.

The keynote speaker of this year’s event was U.S. Navy Adm. Chas Richard, commander, U.S. Strategic Command.

When discussing the importance of artificial intelligence and machine learning to the concept of strategic deterrence, Richard said the United States military must “catch up with industry, pace our adversaries and incorporate the latest tools.”

During the event, Maj. Gen. Michael Schmidt, Hanscom Air Force Base Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence, and Networks program executive officer, provided an overview of his $12 billion portfolio, discussed the impact of the pandemic on the expansion of IT infrastructure, and provided critical program updates.

“We’re really excited about what’s going on in Platform One,” he said. “We’re building and outfitting the DevSecOps (Development, Security and Operations) platform for all to use, with the security requirements and tools built in so the Air Force and Department of Defense don’t have to continually develop new DevSecOps platforms.”

Col. Bobby King, Enterprise IT and Cyberspace Infrastructure Division, along with other senior materiel leaders from C3I&N, also presented. King discussed his division’s role in implementing new capabilities for improving the Air Force’s IT infrastructure.

“Our job is to connect every Airmen and Guardian with the data they need to complete their mission, and with each other so they can communicate and collaborate,” he said. “This is super exciting because 700,000 Airmen and Guardians rely on our Enterprise IT systems and services that we deliver 24/7, 365 days a year around the world.”

New to this year’s New Horizons was ‘fireside chats,’ where program executive officers are able to connect directly with their stakeholders. Responding to a question about the Advanced Battle Management System, Lauren Knausenberger, the Air Force’s chief information officer, shared her thoughts.

“The whole premise of ABMS is having sensors all over the world that are able to pull in data, which we can fuse in real time to make really good decisions with machine-driven insights,” she said. “But all of that has to be powered by rock-solid infrastructure that connects everything and allows the data to flow into the cloud, where we can work all of our algorithms and manage the fleet.”

Randall Walden, Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office program executive officer, also spoke at length about ABMS and how his directorate is collaborating with the Army and Navy on JADC2.

Other sessions included a panel of former Electronic Systems Center commanders and an industry discussion titled “Feedback: Embracing the Digital Trinity.”

New Horizons virtual presentations will continue March 23-25, with briefings from Steven Wert, Digital program executive officer; and Col. Amanda Kato, Nuclear Command, Control and Communications program executive officer, Nuclear Command, Control and Communications, both located at Hanscom AFB.

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