General Bowlds delivers second State of ESC Address

  • Published
  • By Chuck Paone
  • 66 ABW/PA
Electronic Systems Center Commander Lt. Gen. Ted Bowlds delivered his annual State of ESC Address Jan. 28 before an audience of nearly 600 people packed into the ballroom of the Marriott Newton Hotel in Newton, Mass.

The address was sponsored by the Lexington-Concord Chapter of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association and came on the heels of the chapter's annual New Horizons Symposium.

During the course of his hour-long presentation, the general discussed Air Force and command-level objectives, as well as ESC's role in fulfilling them. He also spoke about his own commander's intent, listing the key areas he expects the center to concentrate on, including a "back-to-basics, by-the-book" approach to ESC's common, core processes.

The general also took an extra step this year, keeping a promise to measure and report back on how ESC performed against the key acquisition challenges he announced during his 2008 speech. Despite several successes, which the general noted, he was not an easy grader.

He rated ESC's efforts against the first major challenge - Rapidly Evolving Cyber, Command and Control and Combat Support Domains - at a C+.

He highlighted several examples of ESC acquisition managers rapidly delivering capability to operators, including very quick acquisition and fielding of Tactical Air Control Party radios for the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, better known as MRAPS. That paved the way for the vehicles to flow into the Central Command Theater, where they were badly needed.

However, the expectation, especially for cyber, is that acquisition processes be revised to allow insertion of cyber capabilities at the same rapid pace of technological change, the general said.

"Rapid acquisition is going to become even more of an imperative," he said, noting that urgency must be a consistent component of ESC business practice.

The general gave the center a B- on the second major 2008 challenge, which was Enterprise Integration across Air, Space and Cyber domains.

Once again, he listed several successes, including the multi-wing integration demonstrated during Empire Challenge '08 and ESC's work on the Air Operations Community of Interest, which included membership across the services, NATO and industry. However he also noted that there's plenty of room for improvement.

"We've begun to move forward on how to better do integration, but there's a long, long way to go," General Bowlds said.

He spoke of the air operations center as an example, saying that operators there want just the right data exactly when they need it.

"When they hit the return key, they expect an answer, and we've got to make that happen," he said.

The last of the three major 2008 challenges -- Protecting the domain -- also graded out at B-, General Bowlds said.
From electronic key management advances to significantly upgrading Pacific Air Forces' firewalls in less than three months, ESC once again demonstrated several case-by-case achievements.

However, the general noted the need for greater protection often continues to outpace solution delivery.

"This is a fight that's never going to end," General Bowlds said. He said that in 2008 the Air Force network registered 40 billion suspicious activities, which triggered five million alerts. Of those, 28,000 were considered significant enough to warrant full reports, and 127 turned out to be clear incidents.

"So how can I weed through the 40 billion in a rapid fashion to get to the 127, because if everything that comes in the door triggers an army half the size of this room to go out and attack, you're going to lose ground pretty quickly," he said.

The general acknowledged that his own thoughts about domain protection have evolved in the past year.

"When I stood up here last year, I said it's all about protecting the data," he said. "But after a year of sitting in the seat and watching what's happening, I'm convinced you can't build your walls tall enough or thick enough to protect yourself.

"You are going to be attacked; your computers are going to be attacked, and the question is, how do you fight through the attack? How do you maintain your operations?"

General Bowlds went on to list several ideas, including testing applications to expose weaknesses before putting them on the network and performing more meaningful certification and accreditation, allowing network defense applications to be deployed quickly.

The general also focused on the center's new, streamlined mission statement: 'Empower the Warfighter to leverage information as an effective weapon system - anywhere, anytime.'

"I really want us to focus on seeing information this way - it's not just about screens and wires -it truly is a weapon," the general said.

At the end of his presentation, General Bowlds unveiled an ESC branding initiative designed primarily to help recruit new civilian talent to the organization. Playing off the tag line 'It's not impossible - it's imperative," the campaign examines the criticality of ESC work and the benefits of being a part of the team.