The Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference returned Sept. 20-22 as an in-person event at the National Harbor just outside Washington, D.C. The conference, known for bringing together top Air Force and Space Force leadership, industry experts and government officials, explored the challenges facing the aerospace and cyber communities now and into the future. Additionally, this year’s conference celebrated the 75th anniversary of AFA, an independent, nonprofit, civilian education organization promoting public understanding of aerospace power and the pivotal role it plays in the security of the nation.
A packed agenda of speaker presentations and a robust technology expo were available for the thousands of visitors to the conference. Working closely with Air Force leadership, AFA created a truly memorable event for Airmen, Guardians (Space Force members) and their industry partners.
China, AI, Zero Trust and New Uniforms
A key focus of this year’s conference was China’s military modernization and the urgent need for the Air Force to continue innovation to outpace, out-maneuver and outsmart its number one adversary.
Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall offered a blueprint for USAF, USSF, Congress and other industry stakeholders to deal with China. He stated that the “number one priority” is investing in military capabilities, such as AI, to project power and hold targets at risk anywhere in the world.
Interesting to note, that Kendall mentioned China more than 20 times in his speech, while mentioning Russia just once and Afghanistan three times.
Lt. Gen. Timothy Haugh, the commander of the 16th Air Force (Air Forces Cyber), remarked that zero trust was “foundational” to securing Air Force networks in expanding and improving data use. “The weapons systems that we operate today weren’t built with the China threat in mind,” so we view zero trust as one of the future technologies to ensure that as we bring in data from any sensor, we’ll be able to use it to gain advantage.
Zero trust networks make it harder for hackers to move inside a network once they’ve penetrated its walls. By interrogating traffic at every juncture, as threats move inside the network, zero trust systems raise barriers against intruders and create more opportunities to challenge and expel them. Gen. Haugh added supply chain vulnerabilities as another “significant threat” that zero trust can help resolve.
The U.S. Space Force released its first-ever human capital plan aimed at bolstering and developing the newest, smallest military branch. Chief of Space Operations Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond said that the plan “is uniting all aspects of personal development, from assessments to recruiting to development.” Gen. Raymond also unveiled a new uniform prototype for its members, known as Guardians. The uniform has a dark navy coat with six buttons — representing its status as the military’s sixth service.
Within 140,000 square feet of space, more than 140 companies showcased their latest air, space and cyber capabilities. If an exhibitor had a product that flies, orbits, hovers or launches, it was represented. In addition, the exhibit hall provided key opportunities for the audience to interact face-to-face with the Air Force, DoD, Congress, Foreign Air Forces and industry giants.
Be sure to mark your calendar for the next Air Space and Cyber Conference, Sept. 19-21, 2022. It is sure to be out of this world!