Intercepts

The Academy Cyber Bowl; Good news: Military health benefits ‘transformed,’ not cut; Army FCS: A few million lines of code here, a few million lines there…; Semper fidelis: Leon Daniel

The Academy Cyber Bowl
This week teams from all five military academies will attempt to defend their schools’ computer networks from attack by National Security Agency, Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps computer specialists.

The academy teams, along with a team from the Air Force Institute of Technology, must determine whether software on their networks has built-in vulnerabilities.

Richard Schaeffer, NSA’s information assurance director, said the teams will face the type of external and internal threats that security specialists deal with daily.

The winner will receive a trophy from NSA, currently held by the Naval Academy, which won last year’s contest. We hope the Annapolis and West Point teams have the support of their respective mascots, the Navy goat and Army mule.

Good news: Military health benefits ‘transformed,’ not cut
That’s the spin David Chu, undersecretary of Defense for personnel and readiness, and Dr. William Winkenwerder Jr., assistant secretary of Defense for health affairs, put on plans to cut health care benefits for retirees under the age of 65 when they testified before the House Armed Services Committee late last month.

Since plain talk disappeared from Washington, D.C., sometime around the Jefferson administration, Chu and Winkenwerder could not bring themselves to call the changes “cuts” and instead dressed them up as “transforming the benefit.”

According to Chu and Winkenwerder, the Defense Department faces out-of-control health care costs. They said DOD’s health care bill will hit $38 billion this year and could jump to $64 billion, or 12 percent of DOD’s budget, by 2015.

That’s why they said DOD wants retirees under 65 to fork over more in premiums and co-pays. Higher premiums, increases in pharmacy co-payments for all but active-duty personnel, an emphasis on generic drugs and increased use of mail-order refills could cut DOD’s health care bill by $11.2 billion from 2007 through 2011, Chu and Winkenwerder said.

We here at Intercepts Central realize that DOD has to do something about its health care bill, but we wish top managers would deal with the issue in a more forthright manner. That in itself would be transformational.

Army FCS: A few million lines of code here, a few million lines there…
Speaking of transformations, the Army Future Combat Systems project has a truly Brobdingnagian budget of $100 billion to equip just 15 brigades with new vehicles, gadgets and gizmos. It also has an enormous software appetite.

J. Michael Gilmore, assistant director for national security at the Congressional Budget Office, told a House Armed Services Committee subcommittee last week that the Army will need to generate at least 34 million lines of software code to ensure that all of FCS’ components can exchange data with one another.

Gilmore presented some alternatives to the Army’s full-bore FCS plan, including a slimmed-down version that would cancel everything but the planned network, which he estimated would cost about $30 billion from 2007 through 2025.

We assume this network scenario is predicated on fixing the troubled Joint Tactical Radio System program, currently under protracted review. The Government Accountability Office estimated last month that it will take until at least the end of this year to get a new and improved JTRS under way.

Semper fidelis: Leon Daniel
Last week the Interceptor said goodbye to Leon Daniel, a good friend, a fellow Marine — he was one of the “Chosin Few” — and a fellow journalist. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Leon spent his entire journalism career with United Press International and gained more than his share of fame when he stayed in Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War while the rest of his colleagues bugged out to the Blue Ridge.

At the other end of his UPI career, Leon rolled into Kuwait with the Marines. In between, he covered, as he liked to say, more India-Pakistan border skirmishes and mini-wars than most people even knew about.

Leon had a favorite east Tennessee mantra that I use almost every day I cover DOD: “You know, I didn’t just fall off a turnip truck.”

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

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