This will be a short and odd post. I was privileged to participate as a speaker at a gathering of senior military leaders. It was a non-attribution event, so I am prohibited from discussing the details or who was there, but several “messages” warrant going out. If anyone wants to question my integrity for not giving the names, I am afraid I will have to live with it.
This group of 25 or so general and flag officers (with several senior executive service folks mixed in) spent a week off site, chewing on lots of issues that will bedevil them as they continue up the ladder of our nation’s military. I (and others) was there to discuss the tech industry’s viewpoint and to provoke some discussion on cyber issues.
Using full disclosure, I am a retired career military officer, so I was culturally predisposed to flow with a group like this. Even factoring that in, I was blown away by the quality of the discussion. About 75 percent of the “students” were honest to goodness experts in the intricacies of the present cyber explosion. The others clambered to gain the expertise they recognized that they needed but were missing. They worried, debated, and opined about privacy, civil liberties, and the proper use of ubiquitous social media.
There were no Neanderthal Ludites here folks; these men and women care as much about the potential negative effects of too much security as they do the lack of it. They want to see the United States use its incredible potential for innovation, not lock it down.
They want industry to share information with law enforcement and intelligence, but they want those organizations to learn how to protect and be sensitive to industry’s proprietary information concerns as well. They are as open to new ways of thinking as they are to new weapons systems. I, for one, was thrilled that our nation is the hands of leaders of this caliber.
I would love to give full credit to the government entity that organized and funded this event. They deserve to be congratulated and given more money and assets. The obvious benefits of this sort of high quality, totally open intellectual exchange cannot be deigned.
When you give these hard working Type-A officers a chance to stop (even for a few days), they do not waste it. These people have in their hands the most precious resource this great country possesses – our young men and women. Several have just returned from combat command in Afghanistan and Iraq; others were headed that way soon after the class. Still more are in key leadership positions directly involving cyber issues.
America is well served. We owe a great debt to these people, one I know we will never be able to repay. We know it, and so do they, yet they do it anyway, without any complaint. For them, it is not a job, it is a calling.