Intercepts

Stern's fans fight back; Drinking the NMCI Kool-Aid

Stern's fans fight back

The Interceptors know that when they write about two topics, Howard Stern and the Navy Marine Corps Intranet -- whether good, bad or neutral -- our e-mail servers are going to get a workout.

And that's exactly what happened when Intercepts West dissed Stern in the Nov. 17 column and Intercepts East wrote about the Navy's NMCI report to Congress the next day on the Web. We were actually impressed with the marketing knowledge expressed by two Stern fans.

To refresh your memory, the Senate rejected an amendment last month in the fiscal 2006 Defense Authorization bill introduced by the liberal Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), which called for more balanced programming on stations the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service beams worldwide via satellite.

Harkin felt there was too much conservative commentary about the service -- e.g., Rush Limbaugh -- while the conservative Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) led the charge against Stern. Intercepts West, a former Marine and 1960s flower child, opined that our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan have it bad enough and do not need to listen to Stern's crude humor, which is "best appreciated by 10-year-old boys."

Two Stern fans pointed out that the ages of our GIs match the demographics of Stern's listeners and that they might actually enjoy listening to him.

Wrote one reader, "Those troops are there fighting for FREEDOM; let them be free to choose without imposing our own likes/dislikes. It's called FREEDOM of CHOICE. That's why there's chocolate and vanilla, McDonald's and Burger King, and Coke and Pepsi. The Howard Stern Show is not for everyone, but it is harmless."

Another reader wrote, "Do you really think that an 18-year-old man serving his country and being shot at each day would be offended by something on the radio? Evidently, neither of you get out of the office much. We are in the Middle East fighting a WAR. This is not a peacekeeping mission. We aren't going to sing camp songs with these people. It is this type of holier-than-thou attitude that really offends most of the public and has caused us the most problems in the Middle East."

For the record, Intercepts East, a child of the 1980s' second British Invasion and hair bands, did not totally agree with his sidekick's view. He doesn't mind occasionally listening to Stern but believes a few jokes making fun of people with disabilities go a long way.

In fact, listening to Stern could save bandwidth for the military in Iraq and Afghanistan because GIs might cut back on their Web surfing for pictures and videos of Paris Hilton and Pamela Anderson.

Drinking the NMCI Kool-Aid

Writing about NMCI is a double-edged sword. Criticize the program and you're sure to hear from the Navy and contractor EDS. Inform readers about the service's latest report and you'll get lectured by the network's users.

Again, a quick review: Intercepts East scored a copy of the Navy's NMCI report to Congress and wrote a story that ended by saying, "The program has experienced problems, such as occasional delays in installing computers and Navy personnel rebelling because of enforced use of software." We knew we'd hear back.

Here's what one reader had to say: "While that may be the case in some quarters, I've observed personnel being dissatisfied with software and therefore NMCI for another reason. In the zeal to reduce applications across the Navy, many users are told they have to discontinue using software with which they have been performing their mission for quite some time. While we have come a long way from being told to use scanner-driver software in place of Photoshop or Microsoft Publisher in place of a proprietary database app (yes, both actually happened and several others that were just as poorly researched), the size of the issue has at times caused an app to be disallowed without a suitable replacement being provided."

Another reader was more direct: "Have you heard of NMCI? Have you heard the real scoop from the people in the trenches on how screwed up this program is?"

The Interceptors will not defend NMCI. No doubt there have been some painful lessons learned -- the Navy, EDS and its team members will tell you that. But they deserve a little credit for paving the way and taking the risk for standardizing military networks. Change is never easy, and NMCI has been a significant change. The question is whether it is a good or bad change.

Another reader wanted to know why the Air Force is getting so much credit for its secure standard desktop PC configuration, which might get rolled out governmentwide, when the Navy, EDS and its industry partners have been doing the same thing with NMCI since late 2000.

That reader might have a point.

Intercept something? Send it to bbrewin@fcw.com or ftiboni@fcw.com.

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