Colliding With The Social Web

U.S. Marine Corps General James

FOSE 2011: Cartwright Stresses Digital Modernization, Competitiveness as Keys to Military and Government

There will be more than a few perspectives offered today on U.S. Marine Corps General James “Hoss” Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s “Competitive Advantage for the Warfighter” opening keynote at FOSE. In listening to the General speak I found that he sounded at times like a chapter out of Alvin Toffler’s The Third Wave, talking at length about the need for digital modernization and a departure from industrial era thinking.

U.S. Marine Corps General James "Hoss" Cartwright
General James E. Cartwright, USMC, delivers the opening keynote at FOSE 2011

Key points from General Cartwright’s opening keynote:

    • We are faced with a $15 trillion deficit. Even if we shut down the DoD for 10 years we would still not pay that off. The financial realities coupled with our moving from an industrial age to a digital age present significant challenges.


    • “What are the implications of social media?” Cartwright says the DoD needs to understand social media better. One person’s collaboration tool is someone else’s weapon. So, what does social media mean to the military? How do you deal with it across the globe? As an example, he talked about the “Arab Spring.” In Egypt and elsewhere, you have large groups of people massing quickly through social media, but they have limited decision-making ability. How do you respond to that? This is a challenge for the military going forward.


    • In his view, the cyber command is critical. But Cartwright stresses that we cannot keep it isolated – people have to know what technology assets are at their disposal. Perhaps General Cartwright’s most controversial comment was that the DoD is “in the Stone Age.” But he emphasized that he’s the type who is never happy with the way things are.


    • DoD needs to find ways to modernize more quickly and efficiently. He again touches on the idea of moving from the industrial age or factory model of production / development to a more technologically sophisticated approach. One would think that this applies to the acquisition process in the government as a whole – not just DoD.


    • “People will tell you the solution to everything is the cloud. It’s not.” Yet, he does believe the cloud is a huge leveraging tool. But at the end of the day, the DoD has the processing power and storage. The challenge is moving that data around and making it mobile, while keeping it secure.


  • Another key set of comments from Cartwright were on culture. He said that culture bias in government and the military creates challenges to progress. People are used to doing things a specific way. Some culture changes have not lasted, and people have reverted back to the old ways of doing things that are not optimal for the modern age. Cartwright stressed, “Perfect information late is useless.” Regardless, Cartwright does believe that “diversity will always carry this nation further” than one inventor.
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