New PEO for C3I&N shares priorities, highlights workforce importance

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- The new PEO for Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence and Networks, or C3I&N, Maj. Gen. Dwyer L. Dennis, recently shared some areas he'll be looking to focus on as he takes on this role.

Cyber vulnerabilities and resiliency are areas he wants to draw more attention to. He previously had been spearheading an initiative for the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics to ensure connectivity between the Acquisition, Intelligence and Requirements (AIR) communities for greater understanding of the intel aspect of programs and to have a greater insight into threats. Dennis said he'd like to ensure that continues.

Using an aircraft example, he explained the challenge is about a system of systems. For instance, it's not only the multi-domain systems the pilot is using that would need threat analysis, but the data that needs to be shared off-board the aircraft as well.

"The AIR enterprise must partner early to share and understand each other's equities and needs," Dennis said. "And we have to understand the real price tag of not only acquiring a capability but also accomplishing overall sustainment of the capability. Life-long intelligence support or intelligence mission data, or IMD, for a weapon system is crucial to staying on-line and viable. We may have a sophisticated way to counter a threat requiring a significant and costly intel tail, but would throwing rocks - maybe a lot of them - accomplish the same thing while being cheaper?"

The general said being part of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center assists with this. Especially with ever-expanding cyber threats, because the Center looks at the broader realm of the entire life cycle and across all elements of the system of systems. He said PEOs and program offices can, and must, depend on each other.

This is also an area where he hopes his experience can help. Dennis's experience ranges across the breadth of the life cycle:  working on advanced systems development on the E-10 and Multi-Platform Radar Technology Insertion Program, or MP-RTIP, here; B-52 sustainment work at Tinker AFB, Oklahoma; and his last LCMC role as PEO for Fighters and Bombers; along with his work at the Pentagon as Global Reach Programs director within the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition.

"More and more we need to think about delivering a capability, not just a system or a program," he said. "Programs exist to deliver capability to the warfighter, but it's broader than our little box and you can't boil the ocean - not by yourself. You always have to be cognizant of dependencies on other PEOs and systems."

Another benefit the general said comes from being part of AFLCMC is a focus on standardized processes. He added this is where "speed with discipline" gets traction; if there are standard processes and clear rules, personnel can go faster, and he emphasized that the rules aren't intended to stifle ideas.

"Don't view [standardization] as shackles, or as jersey walls, but as the standard rules of the road. If you need to deviate or tailor the process, it's allowed," he said. "Having Rules of the Road provides us the understanding to know when, why and how we're deviating and to understand the risk and be able to move forward - at a more and more rapid pace."

An additional area Dennis is looking to address is how to deal with "huge" capability needs with a constrained budget and a workforce that isn't getting any larger.

"In general, when referring to workload, we need to think about how we eat that elephant in bite sizes."

When speaking about the workforce, he said he wants every member to realize each person contributes to the mission, and while some roles are not as obvious as others in how they contribute, he'd like to ensure they maintain their passion with a reminder.

"What you do really matters!" Dennis said. "No matter what your role is, whether you're a buyer, a cost accountant, it is tied to the Air Force core missions. We are at muscle, tendon and bone. If it wasn't important, we wouldn't be doing it."

And while Dennis said it's always exciting for him to be in program execution, what he's looking forward to the most is working with the personnel here and developing those who will come after or provide, as he refers to them, "replacements."

"None of us knows how long we're here - and have the opportunity to contribute to mission. My personal mission is to help ensure we have the acquisition workforce that will carry Air Force acquisition forward with excellence for the next 70 years," he said. "It's not about being successful in just one program or one portfolio; it's about having the foundation of people in the pipeline who are being challenged, developed and freed to pursue innovation and who can be fulfilled in their jobs, their callings, their service ... so our Air Force continues to be finest Air Force in the world."