Not so fast, Uncle Sam

EN ROUTE, Brussels — If there is one lesson I learned at Combined Endeavor

2000, it is that America's military allies are not the high-tech neophytes

that many in the United States think they are.

Take, for example, Macedonia, where I will visit next week when I arrive

in Skopje, the nation's capital city and the home of U.S. Task Force Falcon.

Macedonians' pride shines through in many ways. They are not eager to have

their country known as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

"Not FYROM!" said Capt. 1st Dzoko Krstev, Macedonia's deputy J-6 for planning

and communications, as I started to scribble his title in my notebook. "Macedonia.

It's so simple. Just Macedonia," he said.

Macedonian Army officers also are wary about the type of "used" equipment

pledged to them by other nations, including the United States. "A lot of

countries want to give us their old equipment," Dzoko said. "But we don't

want their legacy equipment that does not conform to standards."

Dzoko also has watched as some have tried to push U.S.-developed technology

on the Macedonians with sweeter-than-sweet deals, like $10 in matching funds

for every dollar spent on U.S. technology. Unfortunately, the companies

that offered them these great deals included equipment that was not up to

international standards, he said.

And when it comes to international standards, it turns out to be the United

States that needs to play catch-up.

Sources informed me that the United States has balked at buying equipment

in the near-term that would conform to Euro-ISDN standards and instead has

opted to wait for the fielding of the Army's Warrior Information Network-Tactical

(WIN-T). Unfortunately, I've also picked up strong signals that WIN-T isn't

coming any time soon.

Without Euro-ISDN, the U.S. military can't talk to its allies. So for now,

members of the Pentagon's Joint Communications Support Element is left scratching

their heads in Baumholder, Germany, site of Command Endeavor 2000.

"If we had Euro-ISDN it would be no problem," said one hard-charging sergeant.

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