Captain Electron

Army Maj. Gen. Dean Cash, director of the joint experimentation directorate at Joint Forces Command, foresees an intelligent use for the electronic smart guys known as intelligent software agents — reading news.papers and magazines to gather and analyze open-source intelligence.

Cash also suggested creating a chain of command for those "electrons." The military chain of command, of course, is the rank structure by which a sergeant reports to a lieutenant, a lieutenant to a captain and so on. We see an Army of intelligent agents offering at least one improvement: an electronic version of a lieutenant presumably could read a map.

"Reachback' Vision

The common military buzzword "reachback" involves using information technologies to reach back to the United States for operational support. But rhetoric doesn't always match reality. "Where in any budget line in DOD do you find reachback funded for? It doesn't exist!" said Cash, at the Joint Forces Command's industry day symposium last week, adding that the command built a reachback capability during the Unified Vision experiment.

Cash's colleague Tony Cerri said that a few days before the experiment, engineers tried to download data from the classified network known as the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network in an attempt to replicate the network. That attempt set off alarm bells and had officials from the Defense Information Systems Agency calling and asking — oh-so-politely, I'm sure — just what was going on.

The team was eventually able to get its reachback capability up and running, providing valuable insight, Cerri said. But things apparently weren't so rosy. Reachback "doesn't exist, so we created it. It was a piece of crap," Cash said.

Money Pit

The Joint Simulation System (JSIMS) either is the future or may not have one, depending on who you talk to. Some say it's the future of joint simulation technology, but others openly question its fate. "I believe we're still going to need JSIMS in the future, but in all honesty, we're not sure where the money's going to come from yet," said Annette Ratzenberger, chief of the experiment engineering division at Joint Forces Command. William Veitch, who says he has watched JSIMS for five years, was less diplomatic: "It is over budget, and the schedule has stretched well beyond the original [initial operational capabilities] date. To date, little if any capability has been delivered. A true sinkhole for technology dollars if ever there was one."

Bug Bytes

The Interceptor's information-gathering robotic device, gainfully employed as a staff member on Capitol Hill, has uncovered evidence that Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), a powerful member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, thinks small. Lieberman has asked for details on Pentagon research and development into nanotechnology. With all due respect, senator, it is too late to get DOD's bug-like robots to go in and change a few ballots.

Bad Aibling Revisited

The U.S. intelligence community may be giving the Bad Aibling spy base back to the Germans, but it is not giving up its capabilities. The Interceptor's cadre of open-source analysts lurking around the United Kingdom have learned that a radar base in North Yorkshire, which reportedly is well positioned to become a critical node in President Bush's missile defense plan, is also beefing up its intelligence- gathering capabilities to become one of the world's top-notch spook facilities, taking over Bad Aibling's former role of global eavesdropping.

Shoulda known those intelligence guys wouldn't give up a spy base without a backup plan.

Intercept something? Send it to [email protected].


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