Intercepts

Send in the SES sleuths?; Better-than-nothing buys; Kaplan test prep for recruits?; Tito Puente emergency project legacy

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 9:15 a.m. May 26 to reflect that the number of Senior Executive Service employees at intelligence agencies is 594 now and will jump to 644 next year.

Send in the SES sleuths?
Last time the Interceptor checked, the biggest problem with chasing down the bad guys in the GWOT — that’s the global war on terrorism — is a lack of intelligence information. That requires agents who can work in foreign lands, blend in with the population and speak the language.

So I’m puzzled as to why the House decided in the 2007 Defense Authorization bill to increase the ranks of Senior Executive Service (SES) employees at intelligence agencies — the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, etc.

It’s not like there’s a shortage of SESers at those agencies, according to the House Armed Services Committee. The number is 594 today, and it will jump to 644 next year if the House language makes it through conference. I would like someone to enlighten me about what exactly this pride (as in lions) of SESers does to advance the GWOT.

Maybe a special branch of parachute-qualified SESers jumps into the mountains of Pakistan to hunt Osama bin Laden on a monthly, rotating basis.

Better-than-nothing buys
Language in the House’s Defense Authorization bill reduces standards for the billions of dollars of stuff the Pentagon acquires every year, said Phil Coyle, who served as the Defense Department’s director of operational test and evaluation from 1994 to 2001. Under section 239(b)(2) of the U.S. Code — it’s one of my favorite sections — the test and evaluation directorate must determine whether a new tank, plane or information system uses a rigorous testing process to determine if it is suitable for combat.

But that won’t be necessary if the 2007 House bill become law. That bill, according to the House Armed Services Committee report, would amend that U.S. Code section to allow military services to field systems that “meet some, but not all…requirements.” Allowances would be based on “reasoned decision-making by combatant commanders and acquisition program managers.”

Does this mean the Army might consider buying a tank without a reverse gear, or the Air Force a plane with wings just a tad bit short? Coyle said such a language change would remove a check on contractors and could result in the fielding of shoddy equipment.

That change might please some decision-makers. But Coyle said that once the services field the equipment, it would not fool the troops, who evidently have less tolerance for junk than SES program managers.

You can read more about this idea on Page 254 of the committee’s report on the Defense Authorization bill. We have a link to the report on FCW.com Download’s Data Call at www.fcw.com/download.

Kaplan test prep for recruits?
That seems to be the point of another section of the House Armed Services Committee report, which directs the Pentagon to determine the usefulness of commercially available test preparation guides and education programs to “assist recruit candidates in achieving improved scores on military qualification tests.”

The provision looks like a potential winner for the Kaplan school division of the Washington Post, but I wonder if any of the four services want anyone in their ranks who needs such extensive preparation to pass a fairly simple test.

Tito Puente emergency project legacy
The Interceptor has nothing against Latin jazz great Tito Puente, but I wonder how the Tito Puente Legacy Project at Hostos Community College in the Bronx, N.Y., qualifies for $50,000 from the 2006 emergency supplemental bill, which was intended to take care of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and hurricane relief and cleanup in the Gulf Coast states.

The answer is simple: Senate pork. It helped raise the price tag of the emergency bill, which is still in conference, by about $14 billion more than the $92.5 billion President Bush requested.

Earmarks in the Senate bill were spread nationwide, including $1 million to the Adelante Development Center, which helps care for disabled people in northern New Mexico, which is where I live. I’m sure Adelante does fine work, but New Mexico is far removed from the hurricane zone. We have droughts instead.

The Pappajohn Higher Education Center in Des Moines, Iowa — another place far removed from hurricanes — picked up $400,000 in the emergency bill. The Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Service One-Stop Permitting Portal picked up $250,000.

I’d like to set up a One-Stop Throw-the-Bums-Out Portal to help eliminate this madness at the expense of taxpayers and defense and hurricane relief projects.

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

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