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Tim’s Takeaways: AFCEA TechNet Cyber Conference


Tim Rund

Date Published

Jul 07, 2023
4 minute read
AFCEA TechNet Cyber

I had the opportunity to join The Clearing CEO Tara Carcillo in attending the recent AFCEA-sponsored TechNet Cyber Conference at the Baltimore Convention Center. To say that the conference had a packed agenda would be an understatement. It provided countless opportunities to get up to speed on emerging cyber threats, emerging technical capabilities, and to gain a much better grasp of the cyber workforce challenges facing the DoD. Here are just a few of my key takeaways from the event.

AI is changing the cybersecurity landscape.

Lt. General Robert Skinner, USAF, made a unique entrance to his keynote speech to illustrate the power – and danger – of generative AI. Gen. Skinner appeared to begin speaking as he walked up to the stage. As he reached the middle of the stage; however, he lowered his microphone and his lips stopped moving but the narration continued. He then shared with us that the monologue we were listening to was produced using Generative AI that harvested his voice from speeches he has previously given publicly. It was a great illustration of how easy it is for AI to be used in disinformation campaigns in ways that erode public trust.

Gen. Skinner, who also serves as the Commander, Joint Force Headquarters-Department of Defense Information Network (DODIN), noted that within months of last year’s TechNet conference entire departments within DoD were stood up and billions of dollars in funding allocated to address both the potential and the challenges associated with generative AI.

A new kind of fact-checking.

Dr. Craig Martell is the new DoD Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Officer (CDAO). The CDAO office was created “in February 2023 to elevate digital and AI strategy development and policy formulation to the secretary and deputy secretary, while also ensuring unity of mission and tighter integration for the department’s enterprise-wide data, AI, and cyber organizations.” Dr. Martell most recently served as the head of machine learning for Lyft, giving him a different perspective then career DoD technologists.

In comments that dovetailed with Gen. Skinner’s warning about the potential dangers of AI, Dr. Martell detailed his desire to have industry working hard to build tools that will validate generative AI (ChatGPT-like) outputs to ensure they are valid. Because ChatGPT and other Generative AI tools have been trained to communicate fluidly and authoritatively, he wants to ensure that building in capabilities to detect false information, images, etc., is at the forefront.

Diversity as a cyber workforce focus.

John Sherman is the current DoD CIO and former ODNI CIO and CIA CEO. He addressed many of the same topics as Gen. Skinner and Dr. Martell, but also focused on the need to ensure that the DoD cyber workforce reflects the diversity of America and removes hurdles to securing the best talent. CIO Sherman spoke about the need to rapidly identify, recruit, and onboard cybersecurity talent. He stated their initial skills assessment should focus on the ability to quickly learn new cybersecurity skills rather than requiring undergraduate and graduate degrees given that the aptitude for cybersecurity skills is a greater priority than a specific degree.

For more on the event or how The Clearing can help our organization strategize around these issues, reach out anytime. I am available at