Franks pulls a Scalia

Tommy Franks pulled an Antonin Scalia last week at the TechNet International 2004 conference in Washington, D.C., by not allowing journalists to tape his May 12 speech.

AFCEA International, the event's host, averted a public relations disaster by sending an e-mail message May 7 informing reporters they could not tape the speech by the retired Army four-star general who commanded U.S. and coalition forces during last year's invasion of Iraq.

Supreme Court Justice Scalia made headlines last month when a federal marshal forced two journalists to erase their recordings of Scalia's speech at the Presbyterian Christian High School in Hattiesburg, Miss. Unlike the Franks case, those reporters had not been warned about the no-audio-recording rule.

It's enough to make reporters want to learn shorthand.

IT good will

It's getting easier and easier for troops stationed in Iraq to keep in touch with what's going on back home.

For starters, The Stars and Stripes newspaper, a staple for military personnel stationed overseas, is going digital. The electronic version was available beginning May 14 on the Pentagon Channel news and information TV service at all U.S. military installations.

Meanwhile, hardware giant Dell Inc. and the nonprofit Operation Homelink will give used computers to families of soldiers from Fort Hood, Texas. Dell donated 100 refurbished notebook computers to Operation Homelink, which will distribute them to parents and spouses so they can communicate with soldiers via e-mail.

Conspiracy theorists

With the advent of the Internet, the number of government watchdogs has certainly proliferated. Anyone with a little HTML experience can become the publisher of a Web site like "The Smoking Gun" or "Secrecy News."

Although some people add content or opinions to the information they find in the government's electronic vaults, others simply uncover the data, post it and let the public decide. Sometimes that information can be of great value. But other times, you have to wonder.

A Tucson, Ariz., resident collects government documents and posts them on the Memory Hole Web site — just for the sake of posting them.

A recent posting is the "Complete List of Forms Used by the National Security Agency." We now know that NSA uses the same AWOL — Absent Without Leave — notification as the rest of the Defense Department.

Behold the power of the Freedom of Information Act.

Net centricity's godfather

John Stenbit, former DOD chief information officer, has landed at not one but four military agencies and computer firms.

The recently retired CIO joined McDonald Bradley Inc.'s board of directors earlier this month. The former TRW Inc. surveillance satellite guru joined SI International Inc.'s board of directors and Cryptek Inc.'s board of advisers last month. One vendor, in its announcement, called Stenbit the "father of net-centric enterprise services."

Stenbit also joined NSA's advisory board in March, according to a well-placed source. You won't see any press releases on that post, however. Like many of NSA's activities, the advisory board membership is secret.

Rummy's new rules

Logistics, intelligence and acquisition reform account for three of 10 priorities in 2004 for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, according to a document the Interceptor obtained from an industry official.

Among other things, Rumsfeld wants the military to:

  • Improve the ordering, tracking and delivering of supplies to troops using technology that notes when goods need refilling and automatically orders them, called sense-and-respond logistics.
  • Advance programs that facilitate posting and access to data on a departmentwide intranet, called horizontal fusion.
  • Shorten the system development, budget and acquisition process.

Interoperability war games

Another lesson learned from operations in Iraq is being applied in a military exercise.

After both Rumsfeld and Stenbit asked the military to make it easier to exchange information with coalition forces, Pentagon officials decided to add the concept to the Cobra Gold 2004 exercise taking place in the Pacific Rim. The exercise emphasizes interoperability among the armed forces of Mongolia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and the United States.

As part of the scenario, air, land and sea military personnel from the five countries work together to support a United Nations-sponsored peacekeeping operation, aided by world humanitarian and disaster relief organizations.

Joint Forces Command will hold the Combined Joint Task Force Exercise 04-2 next month. The actual and computer-simulated training event will include intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data sharing among military personnel from France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Peru, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Environmental acquisition kudos

The Air Force's Aeronautical Systems Center received one of nine environmental awards in the secretary of Defense's annual program.

The organization at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, earned kudos for environmental excellence in weapon system acquisition.

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