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  The Army's New Land Warrior Gear: Why Soldiers Don'T Like ItApril 19, 2007 11:33 There's a half-billion dollars invested in the gear hanging off the heads, chests and backs of the soldiers of Alpha company. Digital maps displayed on helmet-mounted eyepieces show the position of all the men in the unit as they surround a block of concrete buildings and launch their attacks. Instead of relying on the hand signals and shouted orders that most infantrymen use, Alpha company communicates via advanced, encrypted radio transmissions with a range of up to a kilometer. It's more information than any soldiers have ever had about their comrades and their surroundings.

But as Alpha kicks in doors, rounds up terror suspects and peals off automatic fire in deafening six-shot bursts, not one of the soldiers bothers to check his radio or look into the eyepiece to find his buddies on the electronic maps. "It's just a bunch of stuff we don't use, taking the place of useful stuff like guns," says Sgt. James Young, who leads a team of four M-240 machine-gunners perched on a balcony during this training exercise at Fort Lewis, Wash. "It makes you a slower, heavier target."

Since the late 1990s, the U.S. military has pushed hard to link every vehicle, every sensor and every soldier in a sprawling intranet for combat. The objective of this network-centric warfare: Boost battlefield communication and situational awareness — making troops smarter, quicker and deadlier. Today, a big chunk of the combat vehicles and command posts have been wired up. But most soldiers on the ground still don't even have a radio.

Alpha's electronics package, known as the Land Warrior System, is designed to finally plug the infantryman into the battlefield network. These exercises in the shadow of Mount Rainier are the Army's most comprehensive test of the system yet — a dry run before Alpha company and the rest of the 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment take Land Warrior to Iraq.

But on the eve of what should be the program's biggest success, support for Land Warrior is crumbling. In the halls of the Pentagon there's a pitched battle being waged over Land Warrior's long-term budget and its long-term future. Army program managers are questioning Land Warrior's most basic premise: Does every soldier need to be wired?

If the program is going to survive, it will need rave reviews from the field. But, at least on this crisp, sunny afternoon, Alpha doesn't seem all that happy with the gear. "I'm not a big fan, personally," says Pvt. Donald Starks, who's dripping with sweat after a morning of rehearsing house-to-house fighting in his Land Warrior rig.
  Feds get C- security grade but Defense fails, DHS gets a DApril 13, 2007 08:55

The conventional wisdom is that the federal government deserves failing grades for computer security. After all, the big VA breach of a year ago has been followed by many more stories of agencies losing computers, suffering data breaches and failing to encrypt sensitive data. Today a House committee handed out security report cards for all federal agencies, The Washington Post reports.

The good news is that, overall, the feds aren't failing: The average grade is C-minus. The bad news is that many agencies with critical systems have indeed earned Fs: the departments of Defense, Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Interior, State and Treasury, as well as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Not much better: the Department of Homeland Security earned a D, an improvement since 2005.

C-minus is better than last year's D-minus, but note this negative trend: nine agencies earned lower scores than they did the previous year, with some falling behind considerably. NASA went from B-minus to D-minus. An Education went from C-minus to F.

So who gets the As? The Agency for International Development, Environmental Protection Agency, General Services Administration, the departments of Justice (!) and Housing and Urban Development, the National Science Foundation, the Office of Personnel Management, and the Social Security Administration.


 
  Bush's Delays Slowed War FundingApril 04, 2007 15:10 U.S. President George W. Bush is framing the standoff with Congress over funding the Iraq war as a matter of supporting the troops.

'Democrat leaders in Congress seem more interested in fighting political battles in Washington than in providing our troops what they need to fight the battles in Iraq,' he said Tuesday in a Rose garden press conference.

Four years of budget machinations on the war, however, show the White House`s record is not as clean as it suggests.

The White House submits the annual Pentagon budget request in February -- 2008 is the latest -- six months prior to the start of the new fiscal year. That gives Congress six months to hold hearings, debate, and approve final legislation.

Since 2002, however, the White House has submitted the annual war funding request six months after the fiscal year has already started. This automatically puts the bill and Congress into crisis mode and ratchets up political pressure to approve the $100 billion requests quickly to demonstrate their support of the troops.

But with half the year elapsed already with no war funding, the military every year dips into its procurement accounts, delays training exercises and defers scheduled weapons and vehicle repair until the war money comes through.
  Tillman Case Memo Fuels Cover-Up TheoryApril 01, 2007 09:09 The controversy over the death of former football star Pat Tillman deepened Friday when a document emerged showing that a top Army general suggested only a week after Tillman was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan that the White House should be informed of the real circumstances of the shooting.

In a cable, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, chief of the Army's Special Operations Command, suggested to Gen. John Abizaid, chief of U.S. Central Command, that President Bush and other senior officials might mistakenly claim that Tillman had been killed by the enemy on April 22, 2004.

The memo, which was obtained by the Associated Press, does not prove that Abizaid informed Bush or his aides. White House spokesman Blain Rethmeier said Friday that there is no record indicating Bush was advised of McChrystal's concerns.

But to skeptics, the memo suggests the Pentagon was more concerned with protecting the president from embarrassment than with disclosing the difficult truth to Tillman's family -- who were finally informed four weeks later.