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By Brian Robinson

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When iPods are killers

It’s easy to cast personal technology such as the iPod and iPhone and other modern items as beneficial or, at the least, as benign. Except that, in situations such as war, they might be the exact opposite.

An item in a recent Foreign Policy blog told about how Marines on duty carried their iPods into the field with them, and even listened to favorite music while on patrol. The result, so the story implied, was more injury and death than would otherwise have occurred.

You can pass this off as youthful exuberance, along the lines of texting while driving. Just ban the use of this equipment by young soldiers, and everything gets back to normal. Except that we are constantly told that the newer generations expect access to this kind of technology-driven experience as a birthright.

As smart phones, iPad, tablets and other equipment become standard issue for the military in order for them to do the job on the net-centric battlefield – as they will – how do you police the potentially deadly uses along with the good stuff? Is it even possible? And if you can, does that mean you should?

I’d love to hear people's thoughts about this.

Posted by Brian Robinson on Jan 28, 2010 at 12:19 PM

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.


  • Anne Rung -- Commerce Department Photo

    Exit interview with Anne Rung

    The government's departing top acquisition official said she leaves behind a solid foundation on which to build more effective and efficient federal IT.

  • Charles Phalen

    Administration appoints first head of NBIB

    The National Background Investigations Bureau announced the appointment of its first director as the agency prepares to take over processing government background checks.

  • Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.)

    Senator: Rigid hiring process pushes millennials from federal work

    Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said agencies are missing out on younger workers because of the government's rigidity, particularly its protracted hiring process.

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1987, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

  • Shutterstock image.

    A 'minibus' appropriations package could be in the cards

    A short-term funding bill is expected by Sept. 30 to keep the federal government operating through early December, but after that the options get more complicated.

  • Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco

    DOD launches new tech hub in Austin

    The DOD is opening a new Defense Innovation Unit Experimental office in Austin, Texas, while Congress debates legislation that could defund DIUx.

Reader comments

Mon, Feb 1, 2010

There is a time and place for everything, and if iPod use at the wrong time (WAR ZONE / ON PATROL) is getting kids injured or killed then it's a NO Brainer! Where has commom sense gone these days???? I wouldn't play with my life like that or the lives of my fellow G.I.'s I would definitely want, need all the use of my senses to stay alive.

Mon, Feb 1, 2010 BaldLars Pacific Northwest

Really, this is not new ... in my 28 years (1967-95) in the military (ARMY) I served in Viet Nam and Desert Storm and I can say there was always some kind of "diversion" from the war. During my service years it was namely alcohol & drugs. Imagine going of patrol with your buddy coming down off heron. You could say all these new electronics are another form diversion from the war and they are also addictive.

Fri, Jan 29, 2010 Stephen

I served as well, and this definitely smacks of poor leadership. Whether I perosnally supported the war or not, I sure as hell wouldn't be "pumpin' up a jam" or watchin' a flick while on patrol. Soldiers are people and they've made fatal mistakes of awareness during all wars and conflicts, not just the unpopular ones. A soldier's survivial is often in the hands of others and requires watching out for each other as much as, if not more than, watching out for even oneself. One of the best things any soldier can do to aid his own survival and success is to help his fellow soldiers stay alert as well and it's leaderships job to pound that home until it sticks -- and to remove those who don't get it from a position where their negligence harms or even kills others. In this case the system failed, starting with leadership.

Fri, Jan 29, 2010 Rich LaShier

It's not limited to military uses. Just two weeks ago in Baltimore County, MD, a young girl was killed while walking home from school along the rail tracks near her neighborhood. A friend who was with her says that she was listening to her iPod at the time and did not hear the train approaching. Of course, trespassing on the rail right-of-way was also a cause of this tragedy, and it's always difficult to legislate common sense solutions to young folks who think they are immortal.

Fri, Jan 29, 2010 georgeg

How many of us plug in our ear phones and listen to music while working? Generation X,or Y humans are raised to do multitasking. Maybe its time to bring on the robots and other autonomous products to conduct treads on the ground instead of boots on the ground. Or conduct a huge paradigm switch and intergrate military applications into the products the kids are using. We have a long ways to go to create the Avatar!

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