Christmas tree bill

After we finished reading the Senate-House conference report on the 2005 Defense Department Supplemental Appropriations bill, we had to remind ourselves that the purpose of this legislation was to support the men and women who protect us.

The conferees eliminated $50 million in funding for Warlock improvised explosive device (IED) jammers but added $10 million for cheaper jammers. They also cut funds for battlefield radio systems. But they did use the bill to fund dubious projects in agencies both large (the Forest Service) and small (the International Broadcast Bureau) and threw enough pork around for a big barbecue. This bill is one of many reasons why we hope our kids never marry a lawmaker — or, worse, a Capitol Hill staffer.

The national ID bill

Probably the most egregious part of the supplemental appropriations bill is the Real ID Act provision. In three years, it will impose draconian requirements on state officials to issue driver's licenses that would make any dictator happy. The bill requires licenses and ID cards to feature digital photos and machine-readable technology.

The Real ID provision also requires multiple forms of ID to get one of these new licenses, which probably means only lawmakers, Hill staffers and FBI agents will be able to get one. Here's a helpful hint from the Interceptors: Start the quest for your birth certificate today because you will need it to get a new driver's license.

The worst thing is that it is appended to a DOD bill that no lawmaker dares vote against, which is a sneaky way to impose a national ID system on a democracy.

Looks fishy to us

The conference report chopped $25 million from the House mark for Single-Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System devices for use by troops in Iraq, but it did manage to pork up the supplemental bill with $20 million for the Fort Peck Fish Hatchery in Montana. Other lard in the bill includes $2 million for a foundation once backed by convicted felon and still- millionaire Mike Milken, a mere $500,000 for a documentary about challenges facing our public schools called "Educating America" and $8 million to build a better fence around the U.S. Capitol — a place once viewed as the people's house that now resembles an armed camp.

Now, we love fish as much as — if not more — than the folks at Fort Peck, but we don't understand why all of the above is in a bill designed to fund troops engaged in a war. Thankfully, we are not lawmakers.

Here comes the IED database

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives won $1.5 million in funding to develop a centralized database to track IED incidents in Iraq and $400,000 for a combined explosives exploitation cell to provide IED support to DOD units in Iraq. Because we work for a computer rag, we admittedly have a love for centralized databases. But we believe those funds could be better used to buy IED jammers.

CRS piles on JTRS

Issuing reports about the troubled Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) has become a light industry, and the Congressional Research Service is the latest to slam the program in a subsection of a CRS report on the Army's Future Combat Systems.

The CRS report stated that the stop-work order on JTRS Cluster 1 issued by the Army last month will have a cascading effect on core FCS programs.

"Unmanned aerial vehicle contractors have predicated their production schedules on Cluster 1's fielding, and the stop-work order will likely have a significant impact in terms of time and money," the CRS report stated.

According to the CRS report, unnamed Army officials say the service does not have enough bucks to replace all radios with JTRS, which makes us wonder why JTRS still stumbles along, generating money for program managers and contractors but no radios.

Look for us at TechNet

Both Interceptors will be at AFCEA TechNet in Washington, D.C., next week, where we hope the assembled top brass can provide us with insight into matters of great import, such as JTRS and the Fort Peck Fish Hatchery. See you there.

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