Chatting It Up

Chat rooms were a primary communications circuit for Navy ships during Operation Iraqi Freedom. But the technology quickly became overused in some situations, including one chat room at the Combined Air Operations Center with 900 participants, said a Navy commander who recently returned from the Middle East.

Such a large number of people in a chat room is a "nightmare" because it takes valuable time to determine who shouldn't be there, said Navy Cmdr. Tim Sorber, knowledge officer for Commander, Cruiser-Destroyer Group 8.

Some users communicated privately with one another, or "whispered," during chats to avoid clogging the main conversation. Whisperers were brokering important deals that cut other decision-makers out of the loop, which caused the commander to quickly outlaw the practice, Sorber said.

"We need to close those seams...and that comes with understanding how the system works," he said during a June 23 panel at the American Society of Naval Engineers' Human Systems Integration Symposium in Vienna, Va.

NMCI? No Thanks

With last month's news that Joint Forces Command will switch over to the Navy Marine Corps Intranet by fiscal 2005, the Interceptor wondered whether any of the other services would follow suit.

The Air Force has already consolidated more than 70 percent of its desktop, network and computer operations, "and we will achieve over 90 percent consolidation by the end of the calendar year," Air Force chief information officer John Gilligan wrote in a June 29 e-mail message.

"At this point, we do not see advantages to adopting NMCI to achieve consolidation and improved efficiency of operations," he added.

But that doesn't mean the Air Force is against outsourcing. "We do envision that, in the future, we will outsource portions of our consolidation operations," Gilligan said. "We are beginning to analyze options. I expect that we will begin a dialogue with industry late" in fiscal 2004.

An Unhappy Customer

The Air Force is "drowning in information and starving for knowledge," according to Lt. Gen. Ronald Keys, deputy chief of staff for air and space operations.

"The fog of war is that there are too many answers to the same question," and decision-makers may not know the real answer vs. one that came up in a chat room, Keys said.

"I need plug-and-play and it's got to be better than Microsoft [Corp. products]. It's got to work," he said, which elicited cheers mixed with a few boos during a June 27 luncheon speech in McLean, Va., sponsored by the Northern Virginia chapter of AFCEA International.

When Gilligan recently asked Keys what he thought of the service's portal, he responded that "it sucks."

"That's a technical pilot term," Keys joked, adding that he would like the Air Force's Web portal to have "dot-com speed, flexibility and familiarity with secure global access," and he provided a list of requests that included:

* An integrated system as good as Yahoo Inc.'s system.

* Personalization features as good as's.

* An Air Force-wide search engine as good as Google's.

* File-sharing as good as Roxio Inc.'s Napster or Sharman Networks' Kazaa.

* Instant messaging as good as America Online Inc.'s.

"And I want it all to plug into our legacy systems," he said. "I'm a man of few wants."

Later, Brady

On a personal note...Matthew Brady, a government information technology contractor, died June 24. In the past four years, he had worked at the departments of Defense and State on projects that included Linux network administration and firewall management.

Government IT work helped satisfy his technical mind, but Brady was even more passionate about music, meeting new people and exploring every experience that 26 years of life had to offer.

Brady was also my roommate and friend. He leaves behind a loving family and countless other friends who, like myself, mourn his absence. His mother, Betty Brady, told me to "smile when you think of him."

We hope this note puts a smile on his face and on those of all who knew him.

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