Quixotic Power

Sand and heat in the Middle East have had crippling effects on the military during Operation Iraqi Freedom, but the constant desert wind is actually solving many problems.

Windmills have been set up as a reliable power source for information technology equipment, said Maj. Forrest Burke, chief of logistics information management for the Coalition Forces Land Component Command (CFLCC) at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait.

"The wind is always blowing in the desert," Burke told the Interceptor. "Some people say, 'Why don't you use solar power?' Well, the sun goes down. The wind never stops."

But those sometimes powerful gusts also churn up sand and dust and knock over tents and satellite dishes, said Army Maj. Gen. Rip Detamore, commander of the 335th Theater Signal Command at Camp Doha, Kuwait, which supports all Army land component communications as well as CFLCC and its subordinate elements in southwest Asia.

"We haven't had any losses with environmental problems," Detamore said. "Our soldiers are doing tie-downs with the equipment...and not taking any shortcuts."

Don't Fear the Sniper

The Future Combat Systems program is still in its infancy in terms of actual product development, but prototypes of several systems have shown promise in simulations and live-fire tests.

According to James Montano, a program director with Boeing Co.'s Phantom Works, one system could some day act almost as a personal Patriot missile.

The active protection system uses sensor technology that would enable the destruction of incoming ballistics with a ballistic weapon of your own — literally hitting a bullet with a bullet.

Montano told the Interceptor that the system has already been tested successfully several times. He said one such test involved simultaneously firing two rocket-propelled grenades at a vehicle. The system detonated both devices.

Cyber Battles

As coalition forces continue to engage the enemy throughout Iraq, the number of battles being fought in cyberspace also has risen, according to Army information assurance officials.

Army Col. Mark Spillers, a reservist in the 335th Theater Signal Command and information assurance program manager in the CFLCC communications office at Camp Doha, said there has been a slight increase in cyberattacks against coalition systems since Operation Iraqi Freedom began, "but all along there have been pretty active attempts."

"These could be casual [probes], and sometimes we don't know if it's hackers trying to come in or simple scans," Spillers said during a March 29 phone interview. If a device is thought to be compromised, it is immediately isolated, taken off the network and scanned for viruses, but "we've done well to prevent that from becoming a problem."

The command's Detamore said there were spikes in attempts on the war's first day, "but nothing systemic on sources that tied back to the enemy."

"With anything with cyberwarfare, the enemy is all around and we're constantly working to stay one step ahead of them," Spillers said. "Sensors are constantly monitoring for scans or intrusion attempts against us."

Detamore, also a reservist, echoed that and said the command has "enhanced our protective stance" since the war began, but declined to provide further details.

Card Crackdown

In response to continuing waste, fraud and abuse of government-issued travel cards, Army officials have decided to crack down even harder. The Defense Department had already restricted how widely the cards are circulated in an effort to rein in servicemen and women and DOD employees who have racked up unauthorized charges.

Now, using the government travel card when changing duty stations will no longer be permitted, and Army officials said nonauthorized use will incur harsher penalties.

In addition to discontinuing use of the travel card during permanent change-of- station moves, a memorandum from the Office of the Secretary of the Army states that users must deactivate their cards before departing a duty station, unless they will be on temporary duty while en route.

Other changes to the travel card program, effective immediately: Commands and activities should not use the card to pay for conference registration fees; charge cards of mobilized reservists will be transferred to active-duty agencies and deactivated until use is required; and cardholders are not required to use their cards for travel expenses associated with mission deployments.

Praise, But...

Who would guess that "General Accounting Office," "praise," "financial management" and "DOD" could appear in the same breath?

GAO last week lauded DOD's policies to reduce payment recording errors. GAO cited "significant reductions" in discrepancies and said DOD used methods that were "either consistent with or better than those used for prior reporting on these issues."

But, of course, GAO did have a "but...." The report noted that DOD's troubled financial systems have a long way to go before they are ship-shape.

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