This is Only a Test

The recently concluded Millennium Challenge was an "experiment in experimenting," Defense Department officials insist, and therefore not all of the concepts tested ended up being ready for implementation. But at least one system is already being integrated onto the aircraft used by the chief of DOD's Central Command, according to the commander who led the experiment.

The Joint En-route Mission Planning and Rehearsal System-Near Term (JEMPRS-NT) enables a joint task force commander to use real-time intelligence, including chat rooms, streaming video, voice and whiteboards, while on the move. The system was used during the Millennium Challenge to coordinate operations among more than 400 planners and commanders, and was a "resounding success," said Army Gen. William Kernan, commander in chief of the Joint Forces Command.

The JEMPRS-NT streamlines bandwidth-heavy information used by ground-based communications systems, is completely Web-based and uses commercial and government off-the-shelf technologies, Kernan said during a Pentagon press briefing last week.

The system costs about $500,000 and is now being integrated onto the aircraft of Army Gen. Tommy Franks, commander in chief of the U.S. Central Command, Kernan said.

Air Force Rethinks Performance

Air Force Secretary James Roche thinks the service may have launched a concept that takes performance-based contracting to a whole new level.

Speaking at last week's Air Force Association convention in Washington, D.C., Roche said that the Air Force has written provisions into the recently awarded National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) contract that require the winning companies to undergo performance assessments twice a year to update the program's status before the companies' senior executives can be awarded bonuses.

NPOESS merges military and civilian programs among DOD, the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and NASA and is aimed at improving short-term weather forecasting and long-term climate control.

Roche said that the bonus provisions should help avoid the financial problems that the Air Force has experienced with other space programs, such as the much-maligned Space-Based Infrared System program, and that the service would gladly share the lessons learned from the pilot project with its military brethren in the future.

We're guessing that the Army, Navy and Marine Corps will all be watching this closely, but maybe not as closely as the corporate bigwigs that count on fat bonuses every year.

Happy 55th Air Force

The Air Force celebrated its 55th anniversary on Sept. 18, and Roche celebrated the affair at the Air Force Association convention by offering the luncheon audience a sneak peek at four new Air Force commercials featuring the slogan "We've been waiting for you."

The four spots depict young people doing a variety of everyday activities — including fixing a TV satellite dish, jumping off a high cliff into water, flying remote control airplanes and extreme skateboarding — and then becoming airmen and women performing jobs such as a satellite operations specialist, a special operations force member, a remote control pilot of an unmanned aerial vehicle and a pilot flying the next-generation F/A 22 Raptor.

The audience applauded the commercials, and one Air Force official at our table was heard to remark, "Finally, we've got some good ones."

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