Federal Bytes

ODIN infection

NASA achieved a fairly rare accomplishment two weeks ago by meeting its deadline - to the day - for the release of a draft request for proposals for the Outsourcing Desktop Initiative for NASA contract which could be worth as much as $1 billion. However eager contractors accessing the document via the World Wide Web may have gotten more than they bargained for depending on what security software they employ. The cover letter for the draft RFP you see and the text of the document were infected with viruses. We can only hope that the vendor that takes over the provisioning and maintenance of NASA's more than 50 000 desktop machines will include anti-virus software to ward off these pesky infections.

GPS is for the birds

The Air Force is employing Global Positioning System gear and other information technologies to combat a low-tech yet dangerous air-to-air hazard: birds. The Air Force's Wright Laboratory and the Air Mobility Command's Bird Aircraft Strike Hazard program have been working to create computer-based bird avoidance models that help air crews avoid the dangers posed by birds.

Extensive work already has been done on the turkey vulture a large heavy bird that tops the list of hazardous fowl. The Air Force has attached global positioning transmitters to the birds for tracking their flying patterns. Such factors as the vultures' altitude and location are fed into the computer model.The work is serious. Birds hit Air Force aircraft up to 3 000 times each year and a bird strike was responsible for a 1995 crash of an AWACS aircraft that killed 24 crew members.

E-ring books

The Pentagon - no stranger to Internet computing - is the target of jest in a new advertising campaign by Amazon.com a book seller that sells exclusively through the Internet.

In the radio ad airing in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area Amazon.com is looking for a facility large enough to house its "bookstore" and is interested in making use of the Pentagon not just as a storefront but as a complete facility. "With the downsizing you must have a lot of room there " a company representative tells an altogether strait-laced humorless Pentagon staffer.

If the Pentagon did open up its building to the book seller "there would be no national security " the staffer replies.

Maybe converting the facility into a bookstore would not be a bad idea. If DOD were to levy a modest surcharge on all sales it might be enough to support many of DOD's fund-starved modernization programs.

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