It has been a busy couple of days for me, but they have been good ones.
I flew down to Maxwell AFB in Alabama to address the class of 2 Four Star and 4 Three Star generals on the Industry Perspective on Cyber. This was part of the AF Cyber Operations Executive Course (COEC), a two-day, high level but comprehensive download on cyber issues for the service’s highest-ranking leaders.
The fact that the AF does this for its commanders is exceptional. They have realized as an institution that Cyber is a Commander’s responsibility. They don’t need to be experts, but they need to know the key issues and be able to ask the right questions. This is an evolution for the military, which in the past has considered cyber a “support issue” handled by staff guys; no longer.
Over dinner, I sat with a small group who had already spoken with several very high-level government speakers. We had a superb informal dialog about what Industry considers important and how best to interact with a sector that is critical to any solution or improvement in the cyber realm. Their questions were good ones, and our discussion was informed, lively, and spoke well of the leaders our military continues to select for high command. Some things surprised them but most whetted their hunger for more information. They do indeed “get it.” I was honored to be the only industry speaker to participate.
I flew back in the morning, caught a cab from Reagan National to Constitution Ave to act as the moderator for an Executive Luncheon sponsored by the Homeland Security and Defense Business Council. The guest was Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense, the Honorable Paul Stockton. Here the discussion went wider than just cyber, although it played a clear role. Looking at how DoD interacts with DHS, DoJ and other government entities in such varied scenarios as disaster relief, terrorist attacks, cyber, and Critical Infrastructure Protection, Stockton proved to be a apt student of his huge portfolio.
He recognized that DoD’s role in domestic issues has grown. He also readily noted that in the homeland, DoD will always be in support of the others. He lauded his colleagues in the other agencies for taking the lead and doing so effectively. His humility was evident, but all present knew that without DoD’s capabilities, the Nation would have a very difficult time dealing with large scale disasters. Stockton was also emphatic about the role of the National Guard as DoD’s “First Responders” for domestic issues.
He rounded out his remarks with a call to industry to help him properly identify the threats and issues of the future. He said, “Please don’t be Chicken Littles” but help them prioritize their development efforts so they are ready for what might happen down the road. A self-professed “recovering academic,” he recognized industry’s expertise and partnership with government. “We need your ideas,” Stockton said. The HS&DBC put on a superb event.
It is always gratifying as a citizen to see the quality of our national level leaders (civilian or military). Many may nit-pick at those in the arena, but I have to tell you, relative to the areas in which I have expertise, we ought to thank the Lord for the people we have in authority. They are bright, talented, hard working and open-minded.
You cannot ask for much more than that.