IT conference emphasizes partnership
The Air Force Information and Technology Conference featured thousands of industry, defense and government attendees. (Air Force photo/Christopher Kratzer)
IT conference emphasizes partnership

by Christopher Kratzer
Air University Public Affairs

9/2/2011 - MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- The Air Force Information and Technology Conference, held this week at the Renaissance Hotel and Spa in Montgomery, brought together thousands of industry, defense and government attendees to exchange information on IT acquisition reform and cloud computing.

The conference is where the rubber meets the road in terms of collaboration between the Air Force and industry partners, according to Brig. Gen. Craig Olson, Program Executive Officer for Business and Enterprise Systems, the host of the AFITC.

"There is no way the government can deliver much of anything to the warfighter. We don't build and we don't bend metal, or in this case write code. We rely on our industry partners to do that," Olson said. "One of the biggest blessings is knowing that in the commercial industry (the industry attendees) have figured out many of the struggles the Department of Defense is dealing with."

The conference lasted three days and featured industry and government keynote speakers, breakout sessions led by industry partners, a small-business workshop, a career fair, a student expo and exhibitions from hundreds of IT companies.

Events like this conference allow the industry to work closely with the government to develop solutions to better serve DOD programs and operations.

"If you removed IT from everything that we do, would we be able to get anything done?" Olson asked. "Not in this day and age. Extrapolate that over 30 or 40 years and it just becomes more and more true."

He encouraged attendees to remember for whom they are creating solutions as they learned and networked throughout the week.

"Everybody in the Air Force cares about what we do, because they are all our customers," Olson said. "There aren't many jobs where everybody in the Air Force is your customer. They all have desktop PC's they have to log into, they all have to get paid, they all have to (make a permanent change of station), they all have to deploy, they all have to live in a base with an infrastructure, and they all have medical needs," he said. "These, and hundreds of other things, are all enabled by IT."

Olson attributed the success of the conference to event chairman Capt. Shane Ross and his team, who spent nine months organizing the conference. He also touted the partnership between the Air Force and the Montgomery Chamber of Commerce and Mayor Todd Strange. He said their support was critical to the success of the conference.

"When Mayor Strange shakes your hand, you would never know that he's the mayor of a great city, someone else has to tell you that, because he's just another citizen who wants to support the United States military."

Strange expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to host the conference and pledged his continuing support to the Air Force.

"We're a city that will do anything that will help our military," he said. "Whether it's changing the name of Bell Street to Maxwell Boulevard, spending $1.5 million to get in and out of Gunter, or reducing the humidity 10 or 15 (percent) at the end of August to get you here, we're glad to do it."