Intercepts

War is hell, 2006 update; Real-life Army/Navy video game battle; A hundred billion here…

War is hell, 2006 update
Earlier this month Wonkette, a way-inside-the-Beltway blog, reported complaints from Marines in Iraq that the Network Operations and Security Center at Quantico had prevented them from playing video games on the Non-secure IP Router Network and blocked access to Web-based mail services offered by Yahoo and Hotmail.

The center even blocked access to — gasp! — Wonkette, which perceived a conspiracy to prevent Marines from visiting Web sites that aren’t supportive of Bush administration policies. As a former Marine radio operator, my mind reels at the thought of Wonkette-deprived Marines. But a Marine Corps spokesman told us that limited bandwidth and not a conspiracy hatched in some dark corner of Quantico was the reason behind the blocking of nonessential Web sites and game networks.

He said facilities in Iraq offer off-duty Marines ample opportunity to play video games. During work hours, he added, they should use military networks for work.

We could not agree more. After all, video game playing eats up scarce Web resources better used to send hundreds of copies of multimegabyte Microsoft PowerPoint slides on network management policies to everyone above the rank of captain.

All the blog fuss makes us yearn for the halcyon days of the old corps, when Marines read Playboy or played high-stakes poker in a foxhole while slurping C-ration coffee heated up with tabs of C-4.

Real-life Army/Navy video game battle
The Army started free distribution of its video game recruiting tool, “America’s Army,” in 2002 and managed to hook more than 6 million players in a couple of years. The game has morphed into the baseline for developing inexpensive simulation and training tools for active-duty and reserve forces.

The success of “America’s Army” rests with programmers at the Naval Postgraduate School’s Modeling, Virtual Environments and Simulation Institute, which the Army enlisted to develop the game for about $13.4 million.

The Army, however, was not exactly grateful for the programmers’ work and complained to the Navy inspector general about mismanagement of the project. The Navy IG sent the complaint to the Defense Department’s IG, which issued a report earlier this year criticizing the Army for the way it funded the project.

The IG said the Army should have used research, development, test and evaluation funds, not operations and maintenance funds, to develop the video game, and the project also ran afoul of the Anti-Deficiency Act, something we’re sure Wonkette-loving Marines in Iraq discuss frequently between video games.

The DOD IG report is so wonkish, in fact, that we won’t bore you with the details, but if you want to know more, you can find it on the Web at www.dodig.osd.mil/audit/reports/FY06/06-043.pdf.

A hundred billion here…
The Interceptor is grateful to Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.) for totaling DOD’s emergency supplemental funding. That number is a staggering $407.4 billion from the beginning of combat operations in Afghanistan in 2001 through the Bush administration’s latest request for emergency DOD funding.

In a letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Tauscher said DOD has “increasingly been using supplemental funding for items and programs that are either not emergency items or whose cost is expected, predictable and should therefore be funded and authorized in the regular budget.”

We applaud Tauscher’s attempt to impose fiscal restraint on DOD, but Congress also needs to exercise it and stop using earmarks in regular and emergency bills to “gorge itself on pork,” in the words of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). Those earmarks include $2 million in DOD’s fiscal 2006 spending bill to counter brown tree snakes, which are slowly eating most living things in Guam, including household pets.

A couple of us here at Federal Computer Week have fond memories of Guam but agree with McCain that the brown tree snake has no business slithering its way into DOD’s budget.

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