Letters to the editor

Coast Guard's Course

I read with dismay about the Coast Guard's financial situation ["Coast Guard charts a high-tech course," FCW, June 11].

It doesn't seem to me that much has changed since I was in the Coast Guard 25 years ago. Congress always under.funds the Coast Guard. But there are other things contributing to its problems. Modern equipment to do shipboard deck work was not repaired, so we had to do much with hand tools, making the work more time-consuming.

I've met many Coast Guards.men who have been in eight to 16 years, and all they want to do is get out. Thus, experience is lost, morale is low and frustration is high. When I was in the Guard, we were on the road a lot to repair electronic equipment. I understand now the e-techs are on the road all the time. Is there any time for preventive maintenance or is it just putting out fires? We were always undermanned.

My thoughts then and now are that perhaps Congress needs to consider dissolving the Coast Guard and turning its responsibilities over to the Navy. Or turning its duties over to the private sector, similar to the Canadian Coast Guard. Then they could keep the experience so sorely needed. It could weed out the trash that clogs the system with ineffectiveness.

I've had the misfortune of working for a first-class petty officer who would come to work drunk and make our day miserable. But I've also worked with some enlisted personnel who could pass for electronic engineers with their vast knowledge and skill. They usually did not last long. They would leave the Coast Guard for the private sector. When we had major problems with electronics equipment, we called the civil service personnel at the electronics shop at Craney Island, Va., to bail us out. They had the experience and had been at it a long time. They did not have to contend with military waste, inefficacy and poor management.

David Lang
New Church, Va.

Securing Communications

I read the short article on Page 16 of the June 4 issue, "Navy mulls user access for NMCI."

Many articles are similar to this in expressing an organization's desire and expectation but providing no real answer. The fact is the technology is here today. The challenge is how the Navy or any service/agency chooses to implement and fund such technology.

The Navy Marine Corps Intranet procurement promises to bring an answer for Navy enterprise systems with a Navy/Marine network. But the Navy and Marine Corps need a secure way to com.municate with the other services, agencies, allies and Defense Department contractors outside the boundaries of NMCI.

Top-level direction for a Web-enabled Navy, an integrated digital environment and public-key infrastructure (PKI) requirements should be a good enough hint for information owners to tailor their electronic business practices. The NMCI solution answers part of the issue.

Program managers have specific communities of interest (COIs) to worry about. The availability of proprietary information exchanged in these COIs over networks is not practical to tackle at the service level. As an example, weapons systems contractors in the commercial world communicate with their government sponsors daily over networks. Government sponsors need a method of dealing with such electronic interchange.

Again, the technology is here today and is not that difficult to implement if everyone is moving toward the Web in regard to information exchange. Commands need to plan for their future efforts in these areas. I don't see that happening in some areas.

Is it the responsibility of the individual program managers to do this for their specific programs? Do some Navy program managers feel that the NMCI contractor will take care of that for them? I certainly hope not. The NMCI contractor has a handful to tackle for quite some time.

I support one of these COIs with a PKI solution for a weapons program. Every bit of electronic exchange between user communities is done with digital certificates, and the security is surprisingly easier than the typical user name and password method that so many COIs still depend on.

In the Navy community, I know of one other command doing this — and very successfully — and that is the Naval Supply Systems Command. Individual programs are missing out on a good thing and don't realize it.

Phillip Butch
Program manager
Program Executive Office for Strike Weapons and Unmanned Aviation Telecommunications Program Office

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