The Marines’ Cyber Wallah
Before taking over as the Marine Corps’ deputy chief information officer last month, Jim Craft spent a year as the State Department’s telecommunications adviser to the government of Afghanistan. To blend in with the population in rural areas, Craft grew a long beard and sported an Afghan cap.

That get-up and Craft’s push to spread telecom, such as cell phone and Internet service, earned him the nickname Cyber Wallah, Craft said at the AFCEA TechNet Asia-Pacific conference earlier this month.

Craft worked with every form of communications in Afghanistan, including high-speed fiber-optic rings in Kabul, and commercial and military very small-aperture terminals in rural areas. In those places, he used high-frequency and very-high-frequency radio, WiMax, and Wi-Fi to extend data connectivity. The Marines are likely to use a similar mix of technologies and services in their future

Looking for a few good network systems
The Marine Corps Systems Command announced last week that it plans to procure an IP-based tactical data network based on commercial technology to support deployed forces.

The Marines eventually plan to buy 600 tactical data network base systems. Although the Interceptor has no idea what industry will propose, this looks like a good fit for a CIO with experience in using Wimax and Wi-Fi technologies on the battlefield.

Spawar’s test pilot
The Navy tapped Rear Adm. Charles “Grunt” Smith as the new vice commander of the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (Spawar) Nov. 14, the same day he achieved flag rank. Smith was an assistant commander for acquisition at the Naval Air Systems Command. He has also served as commanding officer of a torpedo bomber squadron, the USS Inchon helicopter carrier and the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower nuclear aircraft carrier.

I wondered what Smith would make of Spawar’s Joint Tactical Radio System program. It’s taken longer to deploy a new family of radios than Navair takes to develop and deploy new aircraft.

Congress just can’t help itself
In case you are wondering whether Congress got the message that voters are fed up with business as usual, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said last week that nothing has changed concerning the practice of earmarking legislation.

The Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill that the Senate approved last week contains about $90 million in earmarks, including $900,000 for an information technology complex at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. The bill was one of McCain’s examples.

McCain said all earmarks do is “siphon funds away from important programs needed for enhancing our warfighting capability. This means that the armed services have come to us with urgent needs, and we have responded by giving them less than what they asked for while requiring that they spend it to suit our parochial needs rather than military necessity.”

I hope that the new Democratic majority would take a solemn oath to abandon earmarks, but the realist in me does not think it will happen.

Cybersecurity and Christmas trees
The lame-duck session of Congress certainly has important legislation to address, including appropriations bills for fiscal 2007. But the House devoted its morning session Nov. 14 to bloviating and then passing bills for Cyber Security Awareness Month and “to raise the awareness of the importance of the Christmas tree industry.”

I will do my part by stringing my Christmas tree with lights connected to a firewall.

Encore I task order update
Lt. Gen. Charles Croom, director of the Defense Information Systems Agency, really, really wants to help me get access to task orders on the Encore I contract. But other DISA folks tell me that the Encore I task order database is closed to public scrutiny at the request of its customers.

I’ve figured out that those customers are not the usual three letter agencies, but outfits that had a lot of contracts, not from Encore, steered to them in earmarks by now jailed former Congressman Randy Cunningham.

I guess it’s time to start filing 3,000 Freedom of Information Act requests.

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