Intercepts

DE-GEEKING. I have my famed Interceptor mobile unit in San Diego this week for the West '99 conference sponsored by the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association and the Naval Institute, where the hot buzz is the Navywide intranet, not the Naval Virtual Intranet. The Navy's Spawar Commander, Rear Adm. John Gauss, said he dropped the Virtual Intranet moniker at the direction of his bosses, who called it "too geeky."

It's comforting to know they're striving for clarity of language over at the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations.

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FEEDING FRENZY. Gauss drew a standing-room crowd of salivating vendors for his panel discussion on the new Navy intranet, including Mary Ellen O'Brien, Microsoft's DOD marketing veep, and what looked like a reinforced platoon of Microsofties occupying key positions in the first row, stage left. A Spawar pilot with Lotus has captured the attention of Microsoft Federal, proving that, if nothing else, competition focuses the mind. A squad from Compaq held the high ground on stage right - probably trying to figure out how to capture the Navy enterprisewide server business.

I couldn't help but notice at least one Defense Information Systems Agency employee taking notes on the Spawar network plans, indicating that the gang over at Courthouse Road has started to take seriously the possibility that the Navy might build a non-DISN network. Gathering competitive intelligence on other federal agencies could be a new career path at DISA.

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TAKING THE HEAT. That's what Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Jay Johnson did during the question-and-answer session after his speech here. An ES-3 crewman asked why the Navy decided to cut the ES-3 carrier-based electronic reconnaissance aircraft - an important signals intelligence asset - from the fleet only five years after its introduction. Johnson gave the standard budgetary answers and then, with a frankness rarely heard inside the Beltway, said, "The organization - guys like me" - did not provide the ES-3 community with the support it needed from the beginning.

Maybe this is a "new Navy." First we get clarity of speech and then a "the buck stops here'' management style. One can only hope the next move is to ban all PowerPoint slide presentations.

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CONNECTING ALONE. Johnson admitted he lacks the technical facility of some the younger sailors and officers, but he did tell the West '99 conference attendees that "it took me only 20 minutes to dial into AOL'' from his hotel room, pointedly adding, "without the help of an aide." If this keeps up, the CNO soon will start traveling with alligator clips and one of those little screwdrivers required to take apart the junction boxes in nonmodem-friendly hotels.

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BEAMING UP. Though West '99 primarily is a Navy show, I did pick up strong signals here that the Army plans to release its $418 million Movement Tracking System (MTS) request for proposals next week.

Jerry Neuner, a Colorado Springs, Colo.-based sales manager for ARINC Inc., said his company definitely intends to bid on the program, which is designed to provide the Army with near real-time information on its logistics vehicles. ARINC plans to use the Orbcomm low-data-rate satellite system to transmit GPS-derived locations back to a central Army database.

ARINC already has installed 500 systems on Army log vehicles as part of a pilot program, and Neuner said the full-scale MTS project calls for delivery of 40,000 vehicle units and another 10,000 handheld units. He expects GTE and possibly TRW to bid, with an award by early summer.

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A GTE GIFT? That's how some folks are viewing the new DISA Red-Switch contract RFP, saying that GTE, soon to be Bell Atlantic, is the only logical bidder. This RFP is a real slap to Boeing Information Systems, which, I hear, argued that its DISN integration contract could easily cover the scope of the Red-Switch contract.

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