Letters to the editor

Next Level of Joint Experimentation

Information technology is the means by which we'll "transform" not only the Defense Department, but the entire national security apparatus. Furthermore, national security involves more than the federal government ["DOD takes its games to a new level," FCW, Sept. 23].

As Pentagon officials ponder force transformation and a new national security strategy, we should expand joint and interagency experimentation to encompass national security experimentation.

Agrarian, industrial and informational societies worldwide are competing for diminishing resources and transportation corridors in unstable places. Instability is the enemy, and it comes in many forms — political, economic, military, territorial, religious, health and environmental. Its mitigation requires a cross-sector approach.

National security experimentation requires commercial and nongovernmental participation. In future crises, the military would set and maintain security conditions so an organization whose mission is most closely aligned with the nature of the crisis can address the root issue. The Defense Department would be a supporting, rather than a supported, agency. Although diplomats and the military might lead transition at the tactical and operational levels, the strategic transition might require an information or economic campaign.

National security experiments should include strategic sectors such as energy, transportation and communications. Scenarios should incorporate financial, legal, media, construction, education and entertainment sectors. Stability is the key. It enhances the bottom line for business, and prevents conflict and preserves resources for government.

Transforming DOD in a vacuum is a bad idea. Transformation and experimentation require all elements of national power — more than government agencies.

Scott Lindsey Joint Experimentation U.S. Joint Forces Command

No Substitute for Processing Power

I read the article "Centralized PCs rack up favor" [Sept. 26] with interest. I was a mainframe systems engineer who adapted to PCs as well. For the longest time, I have been unable to understand the willy-nilly approach that abandoned centralized computing and rushed headlong into a PC-only environment.

To me, both mainframes and PCs have a place in the grand scheme of computing, albeit one that requires careful analysis to maximize their strengths, benefits and total costs over time. The swing back to centralized PCs seems to be acknowledgment that centralized computing does have a place. All the scooters in the world cannot do what a tank can. In certain computing situations, there is no substitute for sheer, brute processing power.

Mark Theophilis Clifton Park, N.Y.

Measuring Outside the Box

I just read an item in "The Circuit" about performance measures for the Office of Homeland Security ["Measuring up," Sept. 2].

It's true that you can't prove a negative, but the answer is outside the box. I faced the same measurement difficulty in working with the Office of Security at the Library of Congress. My suggestion for the Office of Homeland Security is to develop measures that reflect the average citizen's comfort with current security efforts.

The data for this measure can be obtained through a survey instrument. A baseline of the public's comfort level would need to be established, as well as a baseline measurement of the level of security in place at the time of the initial survey. That is important because security changes are constantly being made. Periodic surveys would tell you whether you are succeeding in making citizens feel safe enough to go on with their lives and that funds spent on security efforts are effective.

A second possible measurement area would be the response time and level of response to terrorist attacks. I seem to remember that the Federal Emergency Management Agency did something like that with the disaster response programs a couple of years ago. We know that we will not be able to stop every terrorist act; however, in the event that one occurs, what is our role in responding medically and in preserving the crime scene? Capturing the terrorist after the crime can be as much a preventive measure for future events as installing new anti-terror devices.

Just thought I would share some ideas. We are all in this performance measurement challenge together.

Thomas Lambert Management/program analyst Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

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