HONOLULU—THE 438-TON PROBLEM. The Army Signal Command shipped 438 tons of communications gear, bought during the Cold War, from Fort Huachuca, Ariz., to support peacekeeping operations in East Timor. My mobile Intercept unit, out here for the annual AFCEA Asia-Pacific conference, has picked up strong signals that top officials of the U.S. Pacific Command find the weight-to-throughput ratio absurd. The aging Army signal systems, I'm told, cannot handle the high-data-rate Internet Protocol traffic those forces, led by Australia, routinely use.

Army Brig. Gen. James Bryan, the PACOM J6, used a lot of clout to obtain the squadron of C5 heavy airlifters needed to haul all that stuff halfway around the globe. I'm told he is less than pleased with its performance, which does not even equal the data rate you can get from a less-than-$200 modem.Bryan, I'm told, plans to push for the Army to buy lightweight, high-throughput gear to support contingencies as he has no intention of putting his star on the line for comm systems that are more truck than gizmo. Because Army chief of staff Gen. Eric Shinseki wants the Army to get out of the business of flying 70-ton tanks and other gear to the world's hot spots, it appears Bryan should get a receptive hearing.

***MORE N/MCI BIDDERS. Based on its exhibit at the conference, General Dynamics Corp.'s Worldwide Telecommunication Systems division (which recently was acquired from GTE) plans to make a serious run for the $2 billion Navy/Marine Corps Intranet program. The General Dynamics booth sported a large N/MCI display panel, touting the division's capabilities, but no one in the booth would answer a direct question about the company's bid plans, despite constant pleading by the Interceptor. Bob Mohair, a General Dynamics national account manager, said the display showed "how well we do infrastructure."

Show-floor talk also has Dyncorp—which holds a 12,000-seat Department of Housing and Urban Development Seat Management contract—having a real interest in N/MCI.

IBM Corp. openly touted its partnership with Litton/PRC Inc. for N/MCI. With Mike Ellingson, business executive for DOD in IBM's Global Government Industry group, Bethesda, Md., saying the company can "bring a wealth of experience" to the world's largest seat management contract. In fact, Ellingson pointed out that only IBM has the track record of managing such a system—the 360,000-seat global network IBM built for itself.

On the PC and server side, it looks like everyone who bids on N/MCI, will offer Dell Computer Corp. PCs and servers as part of its solution, based on the inroads Dell has made within the Navy. "We're not blind," said one top exec of a company planning to bid on N/MCI. "You go to any Navy installation, you'll see a lot of Dells."

***THE COMM CONNECTION. If the Navy obtains a waiver to take N/MCI outside the Defense Information Systems Network, bidders need to provide a nationwide broadband network valued at $200 million, and the primes have started signing exclusive deals with the major carriers.

I picked up strong signals here that Mary Jane McKeever's AT&T Government Markets has inked a deal with IBM. Electronic Data Systems Corp. recently signed a commercial deal with MCI WorldCom, and the betting here is that those two companies will partner on N/MCI. I have a strong hunch that Sprint will partner with General Dynamics, leaving Computer Sciences Corp. to make an arrangement with the Qwest government unit headed by Jim Payne or L-3 Communications Corp.***SUITED UP. John Hamre, deputy secretary of Defense, kicked off the AFCEA conference wearing a very Inside-the-Beltway dark suit. Looking out at an audience, most of whom were sporting Hawaiian shirts ranging in style from loud to garish, Hamre explained why he had not gotten in the Hawaiian spirit and donned more colorful apparel. He said, "Hell, for a Norwegian Lutheran, what I'm wearing is aloha wear."


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