Intercepts

While the Interceptor is off canoeing on the Chesapeake Bay, the editors have handed me the reins of the Intercepts column. You can call me the Infiltrator, after my shady roots in the spook community. My well-placed listening devices have picked up the following:

NAVY/MARINE CORPS INDIGNATION NET. One reliable source tells the Infiltrator that the Navy's latest move to set sail with the Navy/Marine Corps Intranet program may be attracting more oversight from the Pentagon than expected, given all the "acquisition challenges" the program faces. Making matters worse, some seemingly loyal fans of the intranet concept have expressed concern about what another "secretariat"-level intranet organization might do to the Joint Task Force for Computer Network Defense's plans for protecting DOD's networks from hackers. I smell another story gold mine, possibly along the lines of the Standard Procurement System.

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ENTERPRISE SOFTWARE INDIGESTION. I'm picking up low-level signals from the Pentagon that DOD is being hounded by a Lotus Development Corp. reseller, along with the reseller's senator, for not including Lotus products in the upcoming round of office automation enterprise software deals. However, Marv Langston, DOD's deputy chief information officer, recently clarified DOD's position in an official letter to Sen. Charles Robb (R-Va.), denying any intent to bar Lotus products from the competition. "Contrary to [the Lotus reseller's] assertion that DOD is not interested in the Lotus product, Navy representatives have met with and will continue to meet with Lotus representatives to discuss potential DOD licensing opportunities," Langston said. Although Langston's letter goes a long way toward finding a middle ground, behind-the-scenes responses from my Pentagon Courtyard sources remind me of an ancient Chinese proverb: "He who seeks revenge should remember to dig two graves."

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NEVERMORE THE RAVEN? An operative close to Deputy Defense Secretary John Hamre has reported that the official after-action report on Operation Allied Force is under way, with the goal of amassing lessons learned from the 78-day air war. On the top of the list is the possibility of sharing the airborne electronic jamming mission across the services. The mission is now the primary responsibility of the Navy and Marine Corps' fleet of EA-6B Prowlers. With preliminary results of the review indicating the EA-6Bs were stretched to the limit, mention has been made in some circles of exhuming the Air Force's fleet of EF-111 Ravens from beneath the floorboards of the Air Combat Command's headquarters building. (OK, that was one too many Edgar Allan Poe allusions for one Intercept.)

The Army's AH-64A Apache attack helicopter may not be as lucky. According to some irate senior Army commanders, the Apaches, which took two weeks to make their way to the fight in Kosovo and suffered two deadly crashes, are not equipped with a critical communications package that would enable the helicopters to conduct deep raid missions. In fact, sources say the Apaches must rely on UH-60 Black Hawks equipped with the latest in satellite command and control technologies to carry out their missions.

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TRANS-ATLANTIC MERGER MANIA. Hamre, along with Jacques Gansler, the undersecretary of Defense for acquisition and technology, may be willing to consider softening DOD's stance on European defense firms purchasing one or more of the mainstays of the U.S. defense contractor establishment, sources tell the Infiltrator. On the chopping block would be giants such as Northrop Grumman Corp., TRW Inc. and General Dynamics Corp., according to the source. Although there are no firm proposals in the offing, one can't help but wonder what this would mean for U.S./NATO C4I interoperability. Who knows? The U.S.-driven C4I industry train just might slow down enough to pick up some passengers.

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KERREY HONORS INTEL MARINES. My mole in the Marine Corps' intelligence apparatus reports that Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.) has accepted an invitation to give the keynote address at the sixth annual convention and reunion of the Marine Corps Intelligence Association. Kerrey, who earned the Congressional Medal of Honor as a Navy Seal in Vietnam, follows in the footsteps of Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet, who did the honors last year. Indications coming in over my private America Online account suggest that Kerrey may be interested in Tenet's job. Although Tenet has filled many of his key deputy positions with active and former Marine intelligence officers, the tug of war should prove interesting. More important, if those reports turn out to be true, we may soon see the day when military intelligence gets put back in the hands of the military.

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