Air Force announces new ways of learning digital skills, working on faster apps

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Airmen may see faster apps and a new way to learn about cyber and coding in the near future, according to the Air Force's deputy chief information officer.

The Air Force is preparing to invest in what it's calling Digital U, an online schoolhouse similar to Udemy or Codecademy that will let airmen learn basic cyber skills or challenge themselves to learn coding languages.

"Digital U is embedded in every single mission area if you're an HR professional or a logistician," Bill Marion, Air Force deputy CIO told Federal News Network in an interview. "We wanted to break the norm and truly democratize the training. This is where online and live media training can help you get to scale."

Marion said with about 700,000 active, reserve and guard airmen, giving them all cyber training in a classroom is not feasible.

Digital U uses commercial technology to bring training to airmen.

The training will cover everything from basic cyber hygiene to something as complex as making codes. The Air Force plans to gamify the training process, allowing airmen to level up and earn badges, to incentivize them to continue learning.

"We want them to be able to do advanced analytics and write a basic algorithm that goes against a dataset that they may know natively," Marion said. "If I'm a flight line technician, the tools can help me with fuel flow. How much money can we save by saving 1% of fuel when we are the world's largest fuel consumer? We can make some very significant moves by an airman knowing how to write a basic query on a dataset."

Marion said the Air Force hopes to eventually recruit, retain and even incentivize airmen with bonuses through Digital U.

The online classes let airmen take education into their own hands and learn as much as they want, even taking steps to becoming a data scientist.

The Air Force plans to contract the program out using other transaction authority (OTA) -- an acquisition method geared toward fast procurement with nontraditional defense companies.

"It's not just a one-size-fits-all," Marion said. "There's differing vendors in this space that provide everything from much lower point, but every entry-level training, to some vendors with a little higher price point, but more advanced training. The OTA is allowing us to look at how much we throttle on the lower end, the upper end and in the middle so we can scale at the 700,000 airmen level. It will not be a one-vendor thing based on our market research. It will be an ecosystem of tools."

Making apps faster

While the Air Force is priming its airmen for more digital engagement, it's also trying to make their current experience with the digital world less of a pain.

Marion admitted the way the Air Force goes about cybersecurity is redundant and slow.

"We've layered so much security that the user experience is down," he said. "We need to get that down to the right number of layers. There is security there that should be baked in there, but we've done it three, four, five times. I joke that once I've scanned for a social security number; I don't need to scan another time, another time and another time in the same transaction and we are doing that in some cases."

The Air Force is looking at the apps that its airmen use and testing how long it takes to access apps, and how many clicks it takes to complete an action.

For example, Amazon has one-click buying, something customers find convenient -- and possibly dangerous. Some airmen are finding they need to click 48 times to complete an action. Marion is looking into both the access and clicks issue.

Outside of that, the Air Force is moving more toward a zero-trust model -- that's where an organization never trusts a device connecting to a network and always requires verification.

Marion said that involves the Air Force retooling its applications inside a native cloud environment.

"We've done that with a couple dozen applications, we've got a ways to go with others," Marion said.

The education, cybersecurity and ease of use are all part of the service's Digital Air Force plan it announced in August. The plan is supposed to unfetter the force from an industrialized way of thinking, open itself to faster networks, better weapons systems and make the service a more attractive employer.

 

View the full article by Scott Maucione at FederalNewsNetwork.com: https://federalnewsnetwork.com/air-force/2019/12/air-force-announces-new-ways-of-learning-digital-skills-working-on-faster-apps/?fbclid=IwAR0It1bj3v8GGBBGkgSSCvbJPlkIk1gU1QNutJJP8JIskdTEH_mpZzyeo5A

Mapping out Geospatial Uses

Geospatial, as a strict term, means data that is related to a location. In the government space, Geospatial has been used interchangeably with GIS - or Geographic Information Systems - which refers to technology that uses geospatial data. GIS has long been a key technology for the military and intelligence communities to help map out and gain visibility into areas for combat or missions. But as the availability of geographic data grows through the use of GPS applications, drones, and IoT technologies, the use of GIS is expanding across government.

GIS is a key tool in disaster response helping overlay available resources and assets onto maps of areas impacted by floods or fires. It can also be used to map in real time the location of hazards such as downed power lines.

GIS is also being used by law enforcement. In one case, a boy had gone missing, suspected to be abducted. The boy posted a photo to Instagram and the image, taken from what seemed to be an apartment window, included a sign on a bank across the street. An analyst looked up branch locations and cross-referenced the addresses with online maps, but could not get a location that seemed to be a possible match. When they took that data and loaded it into a GIS system that took a top-down look at locations they were able to pinpoint the location of the child.

Urban sprawl and growth is also being managed with GIS. The city of Durham, NC uses aerial imagery to get a better look at changes being done to properties that impact land use, water runoff, and drainage.

There are several upcoming events focused on GIS as well as others that include discussion of the application of geospatial technology. Continue reading

National Guard Chief Predicts Changes In Training

From time to time GovEvents will come across information we feel our members and audience would benefit from. Here's something we wanted to share:

As some Army National Guard soldiers begin training under a new system that increases the number of days on the range, the chief of the National Guard Bureau predicts "some changes" if the greater demands are not sustainable over the next few years.

In remarks at a March 12 forum hosted by the Association of the U.S. Army's Institute of Land Warfare, Air Force Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel said the Sustainable Readiness Model put in place in fiscal 2017 as a means of reaching a higher level of readiness across all components makes higher training demands on reserve forces. It may not be sustainable for individual soldiers whose "civilian lives won't be able to tolerate it," he said. "I predict there will be some changes."

"Those heavy brigades are going to do 39 days one year, 48 days next year, 60 days in that third year and to sustain that readiness they're going to do 51 days the following year," Lengyel said. "That's a lot of training days. A lot of days." Continue reading

Behind the Curtain: Modern Day Marine

mdmFor this Behind the Curtain we're taking a closer look at what goes into planning Modern Day Marine. A production of the Marine Corps League, Modern Day Marine is a unique platform for the Marine Corps to meet and discuss their biggest challenges with industry.[Tweet "Behind the Curtain: A closer look at planning Modern Day Marine. #GovEventsBlog"] Held on the Marine Corps Base Quantico (in Quantico, VA - about 35 miles south of Washington DC), this event brings companies with innovative products directly to the Marines. This year's event is being held September 27-29. We spoke with show director, Charles Baisley to get a sense of what goes into producing this show and what attendees can expect this year.

Q: What is the history behind Modern Day Marine

A: The show is going into its 36th year. In 1996 the show moved to its current home at Marine Base Quantico. This location gives us a distinction among the military shows. Being on base we can easily draw large military attendee numbers. This has been especially helpful during times of travel budget restrictions. This location also supports our efforts to make this event a platform for the Marine Corps to share their stories of success and challenges. Modern Day Marine is produced for the Marine Corps with the support of our exhibitors.[Tweet "A platform for the Marine Corps to share stories of success & challenges. #GovEventsBlog"] Continue reading

Defense in Depth: A Look at Defense Industry Events

While the defense community is well acquainted with meeting and defeating big challenges, the dynamic nature of the cyber world is proving to be a daunting adversary for our military. From arming soldiers at the tip of the spear not only with weapons but also with data to fending off threats to cyber networks, defense professionals are in a constant learning mode while being on constant alert.[Tweet "The defense community is well acquainted with meeting and defeating big challenges. #GovEventsBlog"]

At GovEvents we are proud to be the defense community's one-stop-shop for finding training and networking events. We hope that our site takes some of the strain of this new tech frontier off their shoulders.

In this post we want to highlight some of the key events coming up for defense professionals through the end of the year.[Tweet "In this post we highlight some of the key events for defense professionals. #GovEventsBlog"] Continue reading