Every year, Air Force and industry IT users, developers and managers congregate in Montgomery, Ala. for the annual Air Force Information Technology Conference (AFITC). Well, not this year.

Due to budget constraints, the estimated $1.4 million needed to send the Air Force IT managers and decision makers down to Montgomery was simply too much for the military’s coffers to handle. As a result, the Office of the Undersecretary of the United States Air Force has disapproved and canceled this year’s conference. A media advisory announcing the decision was put up on the official AFITC Web site.

This may not seem like a huge deal, the cancellation of one military IT conference, until you consider the mission of the AFITC. This conference is intended to share best practices and introduce new technologies that can provide increased connectivity and capability to the warfighter in the field.
Granted, this isn’t the first time AFITC has been canceled. The show was also canceled for budgetary concerns in 1985, 1988, 1990, 1991 and 2005. However, the show’s cancellation despite its important mission is symbolic of a larger, systemic problem that can be easily overcome in today’s federal government.

The federal government, especially the Department of Defense, is comprised of disparate organizations that are scattered across the country and the globe. To bring together the distributed individuals who determine IT purchases and decisions across an agency or branch of the military can be a difficult and very expensive undertaking. This is evidenced in the $1.4 million price tag needed to get just the Air Forces IT decision makers to Montgomery for AFITC. That’s a lot of money for plane tickets, hotel rooms, per diem and other expenses.

In today’s difficult budget environment, this price tag for attending conferences, trainings and other meetings is often prohibitive. But it doesn’t have to be. In fact, that price tag can be eliminated altogether using today’s advanced Unified Communications (UC) technologies, such as video teleconferencing (VTC) solutions.

By attending meetings, training, conference sessions and other events via video, the Air Force and other military services can continue to provide educational opportunities to their employees without the cost of travel. Individuals attending events via video can have the same face-to-face, two-way conversations that they could in-person, just at a fraction of the cost.

The difficult budget situation facing our government doesn’t have to force the military to cancel the educational conferences, meetings and training classes that are instrumental to its mission. Utilizing today’s advanced technologies, such as VTC, military decision makers can still learn and share the best practices and technologies that can help to keep our soldiers safe and connected, even with travel budgets cut.