Intercepts

COMPOUNDING CONFUSION. The Army has selected the unbelievably user-unfriendly Cecom Acquisition Center World Wide Web page as its front end to handle "complex" bids for all Army procurements, from tanks to helicopters, according to Kevin Carroll of the Program Executive Office Standard Army Management Information Systems and a former Cecom SES pooh-bah.

Carroll, speaking at the semi-annual Army Information Technology Conference in Norfolk, Va., acknowledged that the Cecom acquisition page (www.monmouth.army.mil/cecom/ac/ac.html) "is not very user friendly." But Carroll quickly added it was "way ahead" of other Army systems that are in place to meet the Jan. 1, 2000, DOD paperless contracting deadline. The Interceptor has spent hours lost in the Cecom Web site (www.monmouth.army.mil/cecom/cecom.html), so I shudder at the thought of encountering an even worse alternative.

A solution is in the offing, Carroll promised, with the Army setting up an "action team" to make the Cecom acquisition page more friendly.

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FM-ING THE LAN. The networked Army soon will receive the ultimate seal of approval: its own field manuals. The FMs detail the proper procedures on how to employ, operate and fix almost any standard piece of gear. Col. Michael Lemons, director of the Army Computer Science School at Fort Gordon, Ga., said the service has produced a draft FM 24-7, "Tactical and Local-Area Network Management," and the companion FM 11-71, "Network and Systems Management." The digitized Army now will be subjected to the same kind of lifeless prose found in hundreds of other FMs. The Marines used Army FMs, and as a 2531 grunt, I always loved the nomenclature part the best. I can hardly wait to delve into Army LAN nomenclature.

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BRAVOS FOR 74BRAVOS. That's the designator for the basic automation technician in the Army, and the Army needs a whole bunch more to support the digitized force. Ninety-eight extra 74B slots have been added to the Force XXI 4th Infantry Division at Fort Hood, Texas, and 74B is the only "non-combat arms specialty" authorized at 100 percent strength, Lemons said. The Army has a hard time retaining skilled technicians when their six-year initial enlistment expires, Lemons said. As more than one 74B told me on a visit to Fort Hood this month, the lure of the civilian marketplace outdoes anything the Army can offer.

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FRIENDLY SPYING. The Interceptor and Anne Armstrong, FCW's editor in chief, arrived early for the IntelliSys Technology Corp. briefing on its Army Small Computer Program PC-3 contract at the Norfolk conference, and we quickly spotted another early arrival: Dendy Young, honcho of rival Government Technology Services Inc. Only in the federal contracting community can you sue a rival one month and glide into his presentation the next.

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PAHK THA CAH: Young, who gets nervous around The Interceptor, took me on a whirlwind tour of the GTSI booth, which featured a great piece of speech recognition software from Dragon Systems Inc. It's capable of translating even my Boston accent into recognizable text with just 18 minutes of training, according to Steven Gilbert, a Dragon operator. "You can say 'Cah' all you want, and Dragon will have no problem," he said. "We're headquartered in Newton," a suburb of Boston. It's nice to use software that speaks my native tongue.

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