Intercepts

Is Afghanistan the forgotten war?

That’s the only conclusion the Interceptor can draw, based on a report on combat medical care in that country in this month’s newsletter from the Marine Corps Center for Lessons Learned (MCCLL). 

The newsletter states that medevacs from the field in Afghanistan to the next level of care can take as long as 72 hours. Compare that with the 24 hours for transporting wounded warfighters from Iraq to Landstuhl Army Medical Center in Germany.

Although the MCCLL publication does not give any reasons for this disparity, I imagine it’s because of a combination of mountainous terrain — choppers don’t like thin air, and it’s hard to land them on a mountaintop — and anemic funding for operations in Afghanistan. The second problem may be solved with an extra $6 billion for Afghanistan operations for fiscal 2007.

The mountainous terrain definitely plays a role in the lack of nutrition provided by the standard field ration to forces conducting dismounted — a fancy word for walking — operations in Afghanistan, the MCCLL newsletter states. One warfighter was evacuated because of malnutrition and a 60-pound weight loss.
Many Marines and soldiers deployed to Afghanistan have lost weight — sometimes as much as 40 pounds — during their tours because of the poor nutritional value of field rations, the newsletter states.

This is just another outrageous example of how poorly the Defense Department  takes care of its warfighters — another foul-up in a long list that includes not enough tactical radios and Global Positioning System sets — let the troops buy their own — and poorly armored Humvees — let the troops add armor themselves. 

A short-term fix for the nutritional problem is to bring back Vietnam-era “C” rations — even the universally loathed ham and lima bean C ration meal would provide more body fuel than any of the contemporary meals ready to eat.

Marines beef up supplemental radio buys

The Marine Corps plans to use part of its 2007 supplemental budget to beef up radio and data terminal purchases, according to a draft of the Systems Command budget that made its way here to Intercepts Central.

This will include $105 million to buy 42,200 intrasquad radios and $107.6 million for purchasing about 7,100 Data Automated Communications terminals, used by the Marines for Blue Force Tracking.

Hopefully, some of this gear will make its way to Marine units operating in the forgotten war.

Just say no to Google Desktop

That’s the message in the Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (AMRMC) spin on the departmentwide spear phishing awareness training that all commands had to complete by last week.

The AMRMC “Social Engineering Awareness Training” PowerPoint slide defines the Google Desktop as prohibited software within the Army Medical Command. Google Desktop is an application that serves information to users on a continuous basis, such as news or weather feeds.

AMRMC also warns against the use of USB storage devices in government computers with a rather icky and grammatically incorrect analogy.

 “Would you drink a soda you that you found laying in the street?” one slide in the AMRMC states. Our copy desk would have happily changed the “laying” to “lying” for AMRMC if I had been asked.

Under that question, the slide states, “Don’t stick strange/personal portable storage devices in your government computer.” 

Always good advice.

Software assurance not all that reassuring

In addition to worrying about attacks on its systems via the Internet, DOD must also worry about malicious code built into its systems, according to a briefing by James Finley, deputy undersecretary of Defense for acquisition and technology last year.

Finley said software on all DOD information technology and weapons systems are vulnerable to nations, criminals or rogue developers who might implant logic bombs, backdoors or spyware in code that could allow them to “steal or alter mission-critical data, corrupt or deny the function of mission-critical platforms.”

The Finley presentation did not elaborate further on this threat. But it does raise serious questions about offshore software development — cheap, but maybe quite dangerous.

Is the AF about to land a TKO on DKO?

This column is just not right without a Defense Information Systems Agency item, so here we go.

I’m hearing that the DISA/Army-backed Defense Knowledge Online Web portal project has run into some buy-in problems with the Air Force.

I’m told the Air Force is none too happy with the interface software and the back-end systems, and at the least, that service wants DISA to use its back-end hardware rather than the Army’s.

I hope DISA Director Lt. Gen Charles Croom, who wears Air Force blue, can enlighten me on this topic this week at the AFCEA International SpaceComm conference in Colorado Springs.

Intercept something? Send it to bbrewin@fcw.com.

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