AFITC 2020: Data’s Multi-Domain Impact In-Theater


Last week, the U.S. Air Force hosted their annual Air Force Information Technology and Cyberpower (AFITC) Conference, as they’ve done for over 30 years. But this year in light of COVID-19, the event was held virtually, as many other 2020 industry events opted to do, adding a different lens to conversations around technology’s presence in our everyday operation.

Every year, AFITC brings together experts in technology and defense in both the public and private sectors to discuss the current state of cyber and its evolving role in keeping our country secure. This year’s theme of “Multi-Domain Effects: Integrating Data & Digital” looked specifically at the growing role of big data in-theater and how emerging cyber technologies are impacting the landscape. The ability to harness the power of data and apply it across the battlespace is a relatively new edge for the defense community and experts continue to learn more and adapt to the concept.

Acknowledging data’s growing prominence as a defense tool, General Stephen W. “Seve” Wilson, Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force, shared a helpful acronym for AFITC attendees in his opening remarks: DANCE. DANCE stands for data, algorithms, network, cloud, and edge – and Gen. Wilson emphasized the importance of all of these components working together to create the most lethal and mission-ready warfighter. And in Gen. Wilson’s opinion, the best way to maintain the advantage across those different areas is to avoid complacency in innovation.

“We need to stop thinking like Goliath, where we used to stomp in, and become more like David,” stated Gen. Wilson. “To be the world’s best, we need to be hungry across everything that we do. We can’t be complacent in our thinking and believe that people cannot catch us, because they are certainly trying.”

Other topic areas covered over the course of the event explored the power of applied data analytics in-theater, including: Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) and Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS), data and artificial intelligence on-demand, cyber operations, multi-domain on-demand, and cyber acquisition on-demand.

“The threat out there is real and from a DoD perspective, we have to be able to counter that and provide that resilient communications to the tactical edge,” stated Col. Bill Pastewait, Chief, Warfighter Communications, A2/6CW at the Pentagon, during his presentation titled Delivering Warfighter Communications to Enable AMBS in a Contested Environment.

Col. Pastewait continued to delve into how modern warfighter reliance on data has pushed communication in-theater to evolve and posited the question to be answered: “How do we continue to find ways to provide the data the warfighter needs at the tactical edge and ensuring it’s survivable with whatever the environment’s going to be?”

As we continue to watch the role of data in the battlespace grow and evolve, it’s important to understand the emerging technologies at our disposal for realizing and strengthening that relationship with data. The Modern Battlespace looks forward to seeing branches like the Air Force continue to innovate their strategies and operations with data top-of-mind.