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Top General: Defense Department IT In "Stone Age"

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the sharpen-your-e-spear dept.

The Military 155

CWmike writes "U.S. Marine Corps Gen. James 'Hoss' Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was sharply critical Tuesday of the Defense Department's IT systems and said he sees much room for improvement. the department is pretty much in the Stone Age as far as IT is concerned,' Cartwright said. He cited problems with proprietary systems that aren't connected to anything else and are unable to quickly adapt to changing needs. 'We have huge numbers of data links that move data between proprietary platforms — one point to another point,' he said. The most striking example of an IT failure came during the second Gulf War, where Marines and the Army were dispatched in southern Iraq, he said. 'It's crazy, we buy proprietary [and] we don't understand what it is we're buying into,' he said. 'It works great for an application, and then you come to conflict and you spend the rest of your time trying to modify it to actually do what it should do.'"

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I'm sure there is a joke (1, Offtopic)

Dyinobal (1427207) | more than 3 years ago | (#36828722)

I'm sure there is a joke in here some where about Marines, Computers and proprietary systems.

Re:I'm sure there is a joke (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36828802)

That's is the joke!

Commander Adama (0)

goombah99 (560566) | more than 3 years ago | (#36828874)

Commander Adama would love the mish mash of non-interoperable systems-- it prevents cylon viruses.

Re:I'm sure there is a joke (0)

LocalH (28506) | more than 3 years ago | (#36828924)

It includes Bonanza in there somewhere, Hoss.

Re:I'm sure there is a joke (1)

rnturn (11092) | more than 3 years ago | (#36831146)

I was thinking the same thing. Hoss wasn't, after all, the Cartwright most likely to be admitted to Mensa.

But to get back on-topic... One wonders what selection process that went into the decision to buy software that doesn't quite do what is going to be needed when the shooting starts. Maybe the Marine brass thinks that computers work like they did in Star Trek TNG: just write a quick subroutine to perform a miracle when the mortar shells and RPGs start falling?

Re:I'm sure there is a joke (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36831326)

Pork, plain and simple. The congressional oversight leads to pork. The job of selecting technology for military applications should be left to serious men, not elected officials.

Re:I'm sure there is a joke (1)

fractalspace (1241106) | more than 3 years ago | (#36828990)

No. There is no such line in there as "A marine, a computer and a proprietary system walk in to a bar ...."

Re:I'm sure there is a joke (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36829102)

"Which one is the any key"?

Re:I'm sure there is a joke (1)

warGod3 (198094) | more than 3 years ago | (#36830950)

I was thinking that the joke was NMCI (Navy/Marine Corps Intranet). [wikipedia.org]

If only... (4, Funny)

Beelzebud (1361137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36828724)

If only we gave the DoD enough cash for stuff like this....

Re:If only... (4, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#36828782)

You jest [quite successfully] but maybe the problem is too much money. If they had to throw bake sales to buy new radios maybe they'd be a little more careful about their purchasing decisions.

Re:If only... (4, Insightful)

SomePgmr (2021234) | more than 3 years ago | (#36828974)

Meh, they already complain that they can't afford appropriate armor and such to protect our guys. Then they buy another F-22 they'll never use. Yes I know, different budgets, etc.

It's entirely misapplication. The military is a ginormous bureaucracy with truckloads of money, and has most of the same problems any other large government agency does. We can buy truckloads of consumables for the Javelin platform at $40,000 a pop, but a veteran has to kick and scream to have his PTSD cared for.

It's almost like those guys we vote for to act as oversight aren't really doing their jobs...

Re:If only... (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36829006)

You only vote for them. The MIC hires them to run. And nowhere is there a law stating what their individual job descriptions entail.

Re:If only... (3, Insightful)

Luckyo (1726890) | more than 3 years ago | (#36829188)

You're missing the point. Javelins do the job army needs it to do. Discharged veteran doesn't. He's useless from army's point of view. This isn't "government bureaucracy", this is corporate thinking at its finest.

Re:If only... (1)

SomePgmr (2021234) | more than 3 years ago | (#36830918)

I'm inclined to assume incompetence in huge bureaucracies before an intentional shafting of veterans in favor of more explosive ordinance widgets on some spreadsheet. The guys making the budgets aren't in the sandbox, after all. But that could just be me being overly apologetic.

Re:If only... (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 3 years ago | (#36831078)

Current veterans have NO desire to fuck over the discharged veterans they will someday BECOME. They are very conscious of the whole career path from Basic to retirement.

It's bureaucracy.

BTW, the Army is hardly desperate for Javelins now the Cold War is over and there is no enemy armor to shoot, but the program will live on like all the others. Besides, we need to sell them overseas (and use FMS leverage to kill off Israeli Spike sales to that end!). :)

Re:If only... (1)

Luckyo (1726890) | more than 3 years ago | (#36831150)

Yes, that's why we have golden parachutes for ALL workers.

Wait, no, that's just the top management that decides on policies. Rest of the workers just implement what those on top told them to, including shafting other workers. You know, just like in the army?

You don't have to be Einstein to work it out (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 3 years ago | (#36832568)

Javelins do the job army needs it to do.

Is it world war 4 already? Thankfully I seem to have slept through WW3.

Re:If only... (1)

sixsixtysix (1110135) | more than 3 years ago | (#36830974)

gotta love those welfare recipients, i mean arms dealers, who milk the system for all its worth. at this point in history, the armed forced should certainly be consolidated doing all their own r&d and logistics, in-house. we need as little businesses as possible profiteering off the government. even without the current conflicts, we'd be still be spending more than we did in the cold war. it's so damn retarded. we could take all that extra money and do so many other things that actually benefit citizens. not this secret deals, friends come first circle jerk that is the military industrial complex. shut the whole thing down.

Re:If only... (1)

lexsird (1208192) | more than 3 years ago | (#36831976)

How about we do the logical thing and nationalize weapons production. Doesn't it make sense that the Army guys get to build their own shit? Don't they know WTF they need the most and put the most heart and care into it? Tap that into a free advanced education for enlistment, and you get some highly technical people cranking out awesome projects. Don't you think it would be a great source of revenue for the country as well? Considering we sell arms all over the damn world. Shouldn't we the people be reaping the reward for our tax dollars spent? Why do we have the middleman in this one? Considering the middle man takes giant bites and is a source of us getting bent over and fucked for over a hundred years; you would think we would wise up by now.

And this IT problem is fucking disgraceful. This is what happens when you let lobbyists and private contractors into the defense department, when it should have it's own IT people building WTF they have, and be using something that is far better than the current industry's standards. Sweet Jesus, who's spending the fucking money in there? At least dictate to them YOUR standard so they will manufacture it so you don't look like a bunch of fucktards with non-interlocking/compatible systems. Or are they afraid of the Cylons? If they stood up and said "We keep our shit fragmented like idiots, so that no intelligence can penetrate it.". I would fall the fuck over dead from the irony, but I would stand up and applaud them from my casket.

Hearing shit like this is either disinformation or fucking disheartening. Ok, let's pretend it was all "hookers and blow" and whatever, lets move along to fixing the problem. Leave the recriminations for after work at the bar. (the one without the hookers and blow, I know it's not as much fun, but we have shit to do)

Re:If only... (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#36829410)

They might actually do a cost benefit analysis that includes free software.

Re:If only... (1)

rhook (943951) | more than 3 years ago | (#36830158)

The USMC does not get much of the defense budget. In fact most of their gear is stuff that the Army replaced. Why do you think Marines call it "The Suck"?

Re:If only... (1)

Sarius64 (880298) | more than 3 years ago | (#36830614)

The problem is too many fucking Generals, Admirals, and ex-Senators nephews are allowed to do business with the government. Imagine that.

I think that the operational flight software in an (0)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 3 years ago | (#36828756)

I think that the operational flight software in an airplane should have to go though some kind of review as the last thing you want is a BSOD taking out the system in when the plane is in flight.

Re:I think that the operational flight software in (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36828794)

...

So you mean ... like it does already? Have you heard of the FAA? Do you realize they have to certify everything that goes into an sort of aircraft bigger than an 'experimental'?

Re:I think that the operational flight software in (1)

yurtinus (1590157) | more than 3 years ago | (#36829238)

Military aircraft are outside FAA requirements.

That said they still have pretty damn stringent testing and reliability requirements.

Re:I think that the operational flight software in (2)

rhook (943951) | more than 3 years ago | (#36830188)

And yet they have more stringent certification requirements. US Military aircraft are some of the safest, most well maintained in the world.

Re:I think that the operational flight software in (3, Insightful)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 3 years ago | (#36828890)

FTFA:

"If you want to open up the operational flight software in an airplane, think something along the lines of five years and at least $300 million just to open it up and close it, independent of what you want to try to do to improve it," Cartwright said. "We've got to find ways to do that better and more efficiently inside the Department of Defense for sure."

Damned right. Operational flight software on a aircraft is so fundamental, it should be thought of as part of the hardware. 'Opening it up' is akin to redesigning the aircraft. You don't do that outside of the design and manufacturing environment. If you missed something in testing and acceptance, then there is a process for that. It takes 20 years sometimes to deploy new aircraft. You want to fiddle with the software over the weekend?

General Cartwright has NFI what he is asking for. And should be kept away from it. Stick to the desk, General, and the troops, and leave the engineering to the engineers.

Sheesh. A fair argument for not giving them more.

Re:I think that the operational flight software in (1)

Luckyo (1726890) | more than 3 years ago | (#36829386)

This, ten times over. There is a reason why mission-critical stuff isn't messed with in the airplanes and such. This isn't iphone app that can die in a number of ways with no real fallout beyond buyer posting an angry comment.

Most of military hardware and software is at least half-generation behind the corporate one. Why? Because it's done to military standard, where failure is not an option, unlike corporate where failure is a number that it costs to fix the problem caused by failure divided by likelihood of failure.

And proofing to from corporate to military standard raises both costs and time to make a working solution through the roof.

Re:I think that the operational flight software in (1)

lgw (121541) | more than 3 years ago | (#36830154)

I think the General's request is perfectly reasonable. It's merely hard to accomplish - but the Marines do things that are quite hard to accomplish on a regular basis. Automated testing does wonders for flexibility - and every place I've ever worked has said they wanted more automated testing, but didn't back that up with resources. In avionics, where I suspect testing is the majority of the process, there are probably big wins to be had here by adopting selected ideas from Agile development.

I'd think that, given enough effort, everything short of a test pilot doing the final phase of testing could be automated, or at least more automated than it is today.

Also, I'd bet a lot of that "$300MM to change anything" is the problem common to most of government today: the contractors that win contracts are those best at gaming the procurement system.

Re:I think that the operational flight software in (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36830224)

General Cartwright has NFI what he is asking for.

Cartwright's an Admiral [memory-alpha.org] . They don't have Generals in Starfleet.

Oh wait...

Re:I think that the operational flight software in (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 3 years ago | (#36831720)

I think that the operational flight software in an airplane should have to go though some kind of review as the last thing you want is a BSOD taking out the system in when the plane is in flight.

The basic idea of Ada.

Former Marine (5, Interesting)

RingDev (879105) | more than 3 years ago | (#36828804)

I spent my time under Clinton and Bush Jr as a 4067. That's a Computer Programmer in the Marine Corps. We had pretty solid gear available, decent servers, and a great network. One royal PITA though was the primary personel database was replicated out nightly from Kansas city. So any intra-base changes could take a full 24 hour window to propagate. Additionally, every 6 months we'd get someone new in charge of that database. And by "in charge" I mean a comitee, not a new DBA. And they would be compelled to rename half the tables and columns. Acronyms are good for 6 months, then all field names are typed in full, then we're down to 4 character codes, then into some strange "drop the vowels" campaign. ROYAL PITA.

As if that wasn't bad enough, in 2001 Bush and military leadership privatized the entire 4000 MOS field. 4066 (networkers) and 4067 (programmers) were lat moved to the 0600 MOSs (radio operators and field wiremen, along with some shunting to admin/clerical). So at the point I was heading out, we were going from a situation where Marines could review and make recommendations, to the point where purchasing decisions were almost entirely in the hands of private contractors.

It was removing just another cog in the machine to streamline the federal cash to corporate pockets process as the Foxes are now instructing the farmer on how to build a hen house.

-Rick

Re:Former Marine (0)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36829036)

Computer Programmer in the Marine Corps

Man, just the concept of that makes me think that the Dalmatian is on the fire truck to work the radio.

Re:Former Marine (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36829280)

What, you think the military can just buy stuff off the shelf to manage payroll, troop movements, logisitics, supply for 198,000 people, multiple ship movements, accounting and budgets for multi-billion dollars.

To think that your average Marine or Solider can't think or be creative is an insult.

For the GP I was a 4066 and 4067 under Reagan and Bush Sr. I saw the start of privization then and thought it was a bad idea. When any miltary unit can not be as self-sustaining as possible, it leads to the bloating of budgets and over priced civilians. Yeah, it's cheaper in the short run, but more expensive in the long run and if you have to deploy, then the contractors get to charge a premium, even more if deployed to a hostile environment.

Re:Former Marine (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36829776)

No, I don't see why there's such a thing as a Marine Corps computer programmer, and the idea of a Marine with that kind of cognitive capacity makes me think of a dog that can operate a radio, or a fist with a cerebellum.

The whole construction of the military is based on centuries-old organizational principles. We should by now have specialized fighting units of 10 or 12 different types based on tactical capability (bombing, fighters, helo, beachhead, mechanized infantry, area denial, intel, etc.), and one central organization deploying them strategically. The division of labor that we have now just creates a lack of cohesion, duplication of acquisition costs, and conflation of the mission.

Salute history and start over.

Re:Former Marine (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36829958)

As a former marine I can honestly say you have your head up your ass. I was a 3043 and worked with extremely intelligent people. Some were writing their own small applications in java to input long piles of transactions into ATLASS faster than could be done with the shite web interface. It was not our job and not our expertise, but we knew the problem and enough to work with what we had.

Hell just by sitting and learning how to pull reports from one of the systems I saved my shop hours of work that was done manually almost every day sifting through paperwork just trying to figure out where their PE and RA funds went. No more wondering where the hell we lost X number of dollars because the bulk fuelers filled up a truck for an exercise.

Civilians have no fucking clue how a unit operates. Hell most units have no clue how the hell any other unit operates. The two units I was in had completely different missions and operated completely different to facilitate that mission. What makes you think they're better suited to figure out the problem than we were? Fuckheads like you would turn war into a bigger hell than it already is.

Re:Former Marine (1)

rhook (943951) | more than 3 years ago | (#36830252)

The USMC is the smallest branch of the military (not counting the USCG), as such they are very selective over who they recruit and tend to recruit the best. The stereotype of the "dumb jarhead" is nowhere close to reality. The last thing you want on the battlefield is a dumb Marine. You also do not seem to realize that 90% + of what the Marines do are non-combat jobs.

Re:Former Marine (1)

Wandering Idiot (563842) | more than 3 years ago | (#36831296)

No, I don't see why there's such a thing as a Marine Corps computer programmer, and the idea of a Marine with that kind of cognitive capacity makes me think of a dog that can operate a radio, or a fist with a cerebellum.

As a non-Marine, I'm still going to agree that you've got your head way up your ass. Do you think our wars are still fought with sharpened sticks and smoke signals or something?

Re:Former Marine (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 3 years ago | (#36832612)

I always find it fascinating how they throw acronyms and magic numbers around that mean absolutely sod all to anyone outside their circle.

I used to data a librarian. She was nice but I just had to dump her. I'd say "Shall we go eat?", and she'd go, "Good idea, let's have a 641.5951!"

Re:Former Marine (1)

MrMarket (983874) | more than 3 years ago | (#36831602)

Troops are just the tip of the iceberg. The Naval Special Warfare Development Group could not have nabbed Bin Laden without intel, comms, logistics, payroll, and equipment. You think the systems to manage all that stuff is off the shelf? The military's global dominance was built on systems - not guns. Having a bunch of "specialized" groups of grunts will not secure your dominance on the battle field; having the systems to keep them coordinated, informed, fed, fueled, equipped, and battle field aware will.

Re:Former Marine (1)

ibsteve2u (1184603) | more than 3 years ago | (#36831884)

I hear you, Marine. When I got out of the Army, the stuff I was used to was maybe 10 years ahead of the civilian world; there is a good chance that such as TFA's general (his predecessors, really) didn't even know about it because they didn't have "need to know". But I couldn't tell any prospective employers that their stuff was antiquated (to date my discharge, I was amazed that an extremely pricy "high-speed" modem out in the civilian world only crawled along at 1200 bps - and didn't even have hardware encryption) because it was all classified and I had to sign off on a seven-year non-disclosure and international travel restriction.

lollll..I figure that is the ultimate "Catch-22" when writing a résumé: Tell the truth, and go directly to jail - do not pass "Go".'

And it was rough playing dumb around the civilians, too, because that attitude that the military is incapable of intellectual achievement is pervasive...and highly irritating. I still laugh at the thought of the civilian world not being able draw the proper conclusions from whom DARPA worked for.

Re:Former Marine (1)

uninformedLuddite (1334899) | more than 3 years ago | (#36832262)

you could do the whole thing in an educational version of excel

Re:Former Marine (-1, Offtopic)

DesScorp (410532) | more than 3 years ago | (#36829492)

I spent my time under Clinton and Bush Jr as a 4067. That's a Computer Programmer in the Marine Corps.

Allow me to segue for just a moment, and bitch a little. The fact that you were a programmer in Marines is indicative of the larger problem of mega-growth in government. Why the hell did the Marines have programmers? Why do they still have guys slicing hams in a mess hall, or changing tires on an F/A-18? Why do they HAVE F/A-18's, when you come right down to it? The Marines are supposed to be a small, elite amphibious light infantry force. Marines should have two jobs, period: storming beaches and guarding ships. That's it. The Navy should be doing any other support tasks.

The fact that we have a Marine Corps that's larger than the entire British armed forces illustrates the problem well. All government entities... civilian and military alike... are constantly seeking to grow themselves to the contrary of any real needs, missions, or resources, and at the expense of rivals, if necessary. There's no justification for the Army to have ships (which they do... Air Force does too), or for the Marines to have C-130's and M1 tanks. I'm not just picking on the Marines here, I just think they're an obvious example of my argument: that not only is government too big, it's also crammed full of rivals that are duplicating each other for budget and prestige reasons. This is why we have over a dozen federal law enforcement agencies that are doing much of the same thing.

Look up an excellent essay in Proceedings magazine from 1956, by a man named Lt. Col. Robert Heinl called Special Trust and Confidence" [usni.org] . One of his fears was that keeping standing military forces huge was in and of itself a detriment to those forces. I think history has since proven him right. I'd bet that big budget or no, if the government (civilian, military both) wasn't so freaking big, it'd be easier to deal with problems like integrating a unified IT strategy. Heinl was right, bigness really is a problem.

Re:Former Marine (5, Insightful)

dbIII (701233) | more than 3 years ago | (#36829664)

Why the hell did the Marines have programmers?

At a guess, one reason would be that they are under military discipline so can actually be sent where required. Meanwhile a contractor gives you a string of teenagers in India that are replaced and moved onto a bigger cash cow once they've got a bit of experience on your job.
So I'd say it was about the Marines retaining control of their software projects. I'd also say the events of the past decade at least have shown that they are doing a lot more than storming beaches.

Re:Former Marine (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36829714)

| Why the hell did the Marines have programmers?

Yep, someone else asked that question many years ago and decided to outsource all our IT people to contractors. And that's what led to the mess we're in now.
Contractors fundamental motivation is to promote their own business, not the greater good of their customer (despite what the salespeople say and the occasional idealistic employee do). So their don't promote free software, open standards and interfaces.
And the leadership in the government no longer understands IT since they outsourced everyone, when they try to buy a new system, they don't even understand the pitfalls they may run into (without even going into the laws that force they way they have to purchase things)

I'm all for smaller is better, but turning 50 government people to 50 contractors really doesn't make government smaller.

You misunderstand me (2)

DesScorp (410532) | more than 3 years ago | (#36829904)

I'm all for smaller is better, but turning 50 government people to 50 contractors really doesn't make government smaller.

I don't want jobs simply turned over to contractors... I don't want any military duties turned over to contractors at all. My point, more directly would be "why is a Marine doing a job that a sailor should be doing"? Traditionally, the Navy provided whatever support Marines needed. But in today's environment, the Marines get their own programmers, cooks, accountants, etc, simply so they can be more "independent" from the Navy. But they were never supposed to be independent from the Navy. They're Marines, after all.

That kind of "He's got it so I want it too" attitude is a huge reason for that growth in government.

Re:You misunderstand me (2)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 3 years ago | (#36830428)

OK, you're making a totally different argument here. Basically, you're questioning the way the Marines work as an organization, not the need for programmers.

Marines need programmers for the same reason the Navy and the Army need their own programmers: they're separate organizations, run separately. Now, you're calling that into question, which is perfectly fine, and you have a good point: aren't the Marines supposed to just be the muscle on Navy ships? But for whatever reason, that's just not the way it is. The Marines aren't just riders on Navy ships, they have their own ships, their own aircraft, etc. Why is that the case? I don't know, probably bloat like you say. But whatever the reason, as long as they're a separate organization with their own ships, aircraft, cooks, etc., they also need their own programmers.

You have a good point though: personally, I think the military needs to be severely downsized, and making the Marines just part of the Navy would go a long way towards improving efficiency.

Re:Former Marine (2)

Scarred Intellect (1648867) | more than 3 years ago | (#36829986)

The Marines are supposed to be a small, elite amphibious light infantry force. Marines should have two jobs, period: storming beaches and guarding ships.

No, we're not. Light infantry, yes, which is why I hate the fact that as an infantryman my BASIC (i.e. patrol will only be out about 2 hours) combat load was over 60 pounds (mostly due to the armor).

But a small force, not neccessarily. We are expeditionary in nature, so small tends to be the norm, but is not a requirement. We are also designed to be mostly self-supportive, having our own ground assets working in tandem with our own air assets. We rely on the Navy only for medical purposes (Corpsmen and the like). Lately, it's been the Air Force that transports us.

We could not exist as a small force, because we need to support ourselves.

Now the rest of your comment makes total sense, and some food for thought: The Marine Corps is only about 180,000 strong. Only ~10% of that is infantry. So is it bigger than it needs to be? Yes. It is inherently smaller than the Army? Yes. Is it supposed to be small? Not neccessarily.

Re:Former Marine (2)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 3 years ago | (#36830470)

Sorry, but I don't get it. You seem to be arguing that "we need to be separate because we need to support ourselves", but you don't say why you need to support yourselves. It seems to me that you don't need to support yourselves at all, and you should just abandon your separateness and become part of the Navy. After all, the Marines have their own ships, aircraft, etc., and this really doesn't make sense. That's supposed to be the Navy's job.

In fact, it seems to me the entire "Marines" branch could be eliminated. Anyone who wants to work as a soldier guarding ships should just be part of the Navy. They could be called a "Marine", just like the guy cooking the food is called the "Cook", the highest enlisted guy on a ship is called "Boson", other guys who do non-violent duties like swabbing the decks are called "Sailor", etc., but they should still just be part of the Navy organization.

The Army has its own internal units, such as the Rangers, Green Berets, etc. which do special missions that other regular soldiers don't do. So why not just make the Marines a special division of the Navy, that gets to do certain missions (storming bearches and other on-shore missions) that your average Sailor would never do? Why do they need their own branch, ships, aircraft, etc.? It just seems to be a good example of bloat.

Re:Former Marine (1)

dephiance (158337) | more than 3 years ago | (#36830076)

The armed forces (DoD) are the only portion of the government I want to be self-sufficient. These are the people protecting us from unknown adversaries. Do you really want their food supply (Sodexho) coming from an outside vendor? The military needs to be (and is currently not) completely able to work without any private sector interaction.

Re:Former Marine (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 3 years ago | (#36830406)

The fact that you were a programmer in Marines is indicative of the larger problem of mega-growth in government. Why the hell did the Marines have programmers?

I'm a big fan of downsizing the military, but this is just ridiculous. The Marines (and every other military branch) should have programmers, for the very same reasons that many large private companies have in-house programmers: because they know the business and the organization better than anyone else, have access to the information needed to do the job, and because it's cheaper than contracting important stuff out to outsiders.

Probably every decent-sized company out these has programmers for their in-house software. Obviously, this doesn't mean they reinvent the wheel: they don't write their own OSes or databases or anything like that. They buy all those things off the shelf (or use OSS versions). But for any organization, especially large ones, there's custom applications, or customizations to existing applications, that need to be made to make the business operate more efficiently. This could be some PHP code for their website, or some internal application that interfaces with a database to deal with customer data somehow. These tasks usually aren't exactly the most difficult projects in CS terms; it's not like they have to be OS experts to write this stuff. But it still is important, and it would be stupid to hire contractors to do all this stuff instead of just having a small in-house staff that's flexible enough to take on these challenges.

It's even better with the military, as you have a labor force that's grossly underpaid compared to the civilian world, and you can deploy anywhere you want. You don't have to worry about paying some civilian contractor 3 times as much to take a gig in some crappy middle east location, you just send one of your qualified soldiers there under orders. Or, if the job doesn't require you to be on-site in the field, you don't have to worry about finding someone willing to move to DC, or some bumblefuck town near a military base, you just order someone there. Suppose you need a programmer in Minot, North Dakota. Good luck finding a civilian willing to move there! But if you have soldiers with training in programming, you just send them there and they have to put up with the -40 temperatures and barren landscape and lack of city services whether they like it or not. (off-topic: I've been told there's a joke they tell to enlisted men when they send them to Minot AFB: "it's great! there's a woman behind every tree!" -- the catch: there's no trees there, something people unfamiliar with the region might not know.)

For a comparison with something non-IT, how about aircraft mechanics? The military (esp. the Navy and Air Force) have lots of soldiers who are aircraft mechanics. Would you say they shouldn't do that, and should have civilian contractors do that job? How many civilians with aircraft mechanic skills are you going to find to live on an aircraft carrier? And why would you want to entrust your military capabilities and security to civilians, who aren't subject to the same background checks and rules that military personnel are. (Or, if you do require them to get a clearance, why not just get someone who's enlisted and costs far less?) The military needs programmers just like it needs aircraft mechanics.

One of his fears was that keeping standing military forces huge was in and of itself a detriment to those forces.

Having some programmers on staff isn't a detriment to the military, it's an asset. The reason the military is huge isn't because of programmers, who are just as necessary as aircraft mechanics, it's because it has a mission to prosecute multiple wars in multiple parts of the world all at once. Maybe if we stopped trying to be the world's policeman, and install puppet governments in middle-eastern countries that were more friendly to our politicians' corporate buddies, then we wouldn't need such a large military. A smaller military would also mean less programmers (and less mechanics), but it would still need them.

Re:Former Marine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36829524)

They still trained 4067's up till at least 2004 I believe. I went through the school with about ten others in 2002, the class in 2003 was probably about as big, and I _think_ I heard there was a much smaller class in 2004 before we all became 06whatevers

I'm still curious who the last 4067's were, I think some showed up at Quantico before I left in 2005, and NMCI was still slowly plodding along then..

Marine Corps Programmer.... IMO, the elitist title to be had in all of IT, way, way cooler than Federal CIO even. =D

Re:Former Marine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36831476)

I spent my time under Clinton and Bush Jr as a 4067. That's a Computer Programmer in the Marine Corps. We had pretty solid gear available, decent servers, and a great network. One royal PITA though was the primary personel database was replicated out nightly from Kansas city. So any intra-base changes could take a full 24 hour window to propagate. Additionally, every 6 months we'd get someone new in charge of that database. And by "in charge" I mean a comitee, not a new DBA. And they would be compelled to rename half the tables and columns. Acronyms are good for 6 months, then all field names are typed in full, then we're down to 4 character codes, then into some strange "drop the vowels" campaign. ROYAL PITA.

As if that wasn't bad enough, in 2001 Bush and military leadership privatized the entire 4000 MOS field. 4066 (networkers) and 4067 (programmers) were lat moved to the 0600 MOSs (radio operators and field wiremen, along with some shunting to admin/clerical). So at the point I was heading out, we were going from a situation where Marines could review and make recommendations, to the point where purchasing decisions were almost entirely in the hands of private contractors.

It was removing just another cog in the machine to streamline the federal cash to corporate pockets process as the Foxes are now instructing the farmer on how to build a hen house.

-Rick

As a current active duty marine I can say the Marine Corps is finally regretting all that privatization and bringing back the control to the marines. I am a 0651 data network specialist, but what I do is at times the complete polar opposite. While working I day to day conditions I have absolutely no control, no say, no anything in what goes on for the whole it field. All I'm expected to do is hand out user account creation forms and then electronically submit them. Then we come to the Deployed networks, there we are involved all the way from the hardware procurement process to the installation and the day to day running. If needed contractors can be brought in to assist for limited amounts of time. It is however the marines that are running the show. The major problem is until they step foot in country they have no experience in running a network because until then it's not their job.

You can all scoff.. (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 3 years ago | (#36828818)

... the department is pretty much in the Stone Age as far as IT is concerned...

They said the same thing just before the toasters arrived.

Ironically... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36829058)

the utter lack of network is probably what kept it up all this time; otherwise Anon and Luz would have a field day with it...

Re:You can all scoff.. (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 3 years ago | (#36829546)

Well, if you recall, or perhaps this was your entire point, it was the ONE Battlestar that didn't have all the computers networked and in the process of being mothballed for being too old, that wasn't blown to bits by them "toasters".

Already up to date (3, Insightful)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 3 years ago | (#36828820)

He cited problems with proprietary systems that aren't connected to anything else and are unable to quickly adapt to changing needs. 'We have huge numbers of data links that move data between proprietary platforms â" one point to another point,' he said.

To me that sounds like military IT is perfectly in tune with modern corporate IT. It sure sounds like every big company (or even smaller ones) I've ever been at.

The problem is what he really wants is the future. What he really needs is a good IT dictator with some vision, and a lot of power to send balky IT people out to the front line. If anyone can iron out the ego issues that keep traditional IT mired in fiefdoms, it should be the military...

Re:Already up to date (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36828900)

"The problem is what he really wants is the future"

Or the past.

Re:Already up to date (5, Insightful)

iamwahoo2 (594922) | more than 3 years ago | (#36828908)

A critical difference between corporations and the military or any federal organization is that you cannot overcome these problems by simply appointing super great leaders, because those leaders will still be bound by the same federal laws. The problems really do start and end with Congress and that is what the General was getting at when he talked about contractors knowing how to manipulate the procurement system. Federal and Military employees are extremely limited in how they can manage a contract or bid. A contractor that knows how to manipulate the system knows that they can easily lock the Federal Gov into proprietary platforms and that there is not a whole lot that the government can do to get out of it until Congress changes procurement laws.

Re:Already up to date (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 3 years ago | (#36829074)

This is totally not any different than companies that ALSO have vendors who know how to work the procurement system. I once specced out some hardware for purchase by a company, that was replaced instead at purchase by totally different hardware that I had explicitly said WOULD NOT WORK after evaluation. So they bought it and I shelved it after some failures and we never got the hardware that worked.

A really great leader is one that knows how to skirt the annoying laws that bind them. Just because you have to buy from someone doesn't mean you have to use what you bought...

Re:Already up to date (1)

Local ID10T (790134) | more than 3 years ago | (#36829024)

True.

'It's crazy, we buy proprietary [and] we don't understand what it is we're buying into,' he said. 'It works great for an application, and then you come to conflict and you spend the rest of your time trying to modify it to actually do what it should do.'

This sounds like every corporation where I have ever worked.

Glacial procurement processes and (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36828826)

lighting-fast growth industries, what could go wrong?

Whiny Kundra? (0)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | more than 3 years ago | (#36828854)

outgoing federal CIO Vivek Kundra said the same IT contractors keep getting government business not because they are necessarily providing the best technology, but because they understand the procurement system. He described it as almost an "IT cartel" within federal IT.

...and you fixed that...how? Don't let the door hit you on the ass...

Re:Whiny Kundra? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36829052)

He can't. Congress that has to fix it. And with the Repugnicans holding filibuster power in the Senate, and now controlling the House, there is no way in hell they're going to change the procurement process in any way that hurts the corporate interests they are paid by...

Re:Whiny Kundra? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36832360)

How funny. Democrats had years to "change the procurement process", and they didn't. They've had the ability to do so numerous other times, in all different sectors, over decades. And do you know why this kind of thing has never changed? Because there is absolutely no functional difference between our political parties, whatsoever . They're all just politicians.

I don't understand how people get so thoroughly convinced that there's some set of ideals or operating standards that separates the two. There isn't. Try to let that notion seep into your consciousness, if only for a bit, and you'll start to recognize all the tell-tale signs of a con.

It's a show, just like any other you'd watch on TV. These people scream at each other on c-span or while they're campaigning, and then drink together after hours. To them you're just an audience for a dial-in popularity show. There is no such thing as a true believer, in anything, in American politics. It's all bullshit.

i hope so (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36828864)

does he want to be using shared outlook calendars and meeting invites to run wars? i would hope the security benefits of proprietary systems has been taken into consideration before sharing such an opinion. hire some devs to get these boxes to talk but PLEASE dont start using sql and asp!

Open Standards are booring (3, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 3 years ago | (#36828886)

Military, Police, Fire departments....
Have this odd mindset when making decisions. Way back I was putting a bid in to to do a financial report in (I think we proposed a basic Crystal report to read off their SQL Database) reports for a fire department. Quick job easy to do... If the project failed no real impact. However the Chief was insist the quality of the the product was of utmost concern because what the do can be the difference between life and death. Then they went with an other company who was willing to make their own reporting system from scratch for a lot more, but they liked it because it was there and custom just for them. And some how this system was better then using an off the shelf system. And being that their jobs are so important they deserve better then off the shelf.

A lot of the mind set is in terms of hardware these groups have a lot of specialized equipment that is better then off the shelf, and non standard. Firetrucks, Police Cars which are highly modified version of standard cars, the military has "Military Grade" for their equipment. So they are use to thinking that their stuff in order to be useful needs to be non-standard and custom.

I am sure we know IT is kinda more broad. That a system designed to process data for 100,000 people either for corporate use or military makes little difference. The difference is if something goes wrong do you get attacked by lawyers from the company or do you get attacked by the lawyers of the military.

The internet is such a hostile place to move your data anyways military grade isn't any different, they just do it in a way that makes it difficult for it to moved to the right spots.

Re:Open Standards are booring (1)

Smallpond (221300) | more than 3 years ago | (#36829330)

The difference is if something goes wrong do you get attacked by lawyers from the company or do you get attacked by the lawyers of the military.

I was out at STRATCOM around '95 doing a computer upgrade. Given the role of the computers at this site I had a guard with a gun standing behind me the whole time. You better believe I hoped nothing would "go wrong". Lawyers were the least of my worries.

Re:Open Standards are booring (1)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 3 years ago | (#36830148)

The internet is such a hostile place to move your data anyways military grade isn't any different, they just do it in a way that makes it difficult for it to moved to the right spots.

In theory military grade could be a thing for IT. It could be strong encryption, dedicated and untappable links, quantum cryptography, etc. However, making something considerably more secure while also keeping up with the pace of development in IT is next to impossible.

Re:Open Standards are booring (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36832042)

Perhaps you used "then" instead of "than" repeatedly in your bid, as you did in this post, and they figured you were incompetent?

Good boys network. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36828898)

Spends trillions of dollars of hard working taxpayer dollars on IT, 50% over budget I might add (which ive seen recently in the news that almost all military projects come in at 50% over budget or higher), in the most "technologically advanced" country in the world and we get "stone age" systems. Something is totally cluster fucked about this situation.

Here's what anonymous coward thinks, take it or leave it; The military "black budget" is where the real IT is at. And anyone who has done their homework knows this. The vanilla military is ran by a monopoly of contractors with no competition for contracts. The hidden military is ran by the most top notch scientists in the world working on back engineering technology either not from earth, or hidden technology on each that was discovered using our tax dollars (but we don't get to see anything from this research, it trickles down over the years)

Re:Good boys network. (2)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 3 years ago | (#36830542)

The hidden military is ran by the most top notch scientists in the world working on back engineering technology either not from earth, or hidden technology on each that was discovered using our tax dollars (but we don't get to see anything from this research, it trickles down over the years)

You're kidding, right? While the idea that the government has a UFO from Roswell sounds cool and like a great movie plot, if they really had been reverse-engineering UFO technology, don't you think we'd have seen some more concrete results of that work by now, especially after all these decades? What modern technology can you possibly point to that was from UFOs, rather than something obviously invented by humans with no outside help?

Some people like to argue that our rate of technological progress is obvious evidence of such a "conspiracy" (though a positive one, rather than your typical negative one). But mankind has had a very high rate of technological progress ever since the start of the Industrial Revolution, way before anyone was talking about UFOs. Just look at the changes in technology between 1900 and 1945: airplanes invented, jet engines/airplanes invented, radio, radar, the list goes on and on. In fact, many tech areas have been progressing much more slowly in the last 50 years, namely aviation. Except for lower cost, crappy or absent meals, and much smaller seating space, and of course getting irradiated or molested at the airport, there's little difference between flying a commercial plane from NY to London now versus 30 years ago. In fact, it was probably a shorter trip back then, as they're more worried about fuel economy now. The biggest change is probably that the airplane now has GPS navigation, and some fancy-looking glass-panel displays.

Lobbyists (5, Insightful)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 3 years ago | (#36828916)

This is what you get when government bureaucrats are bribed and bidders take the rest of platforms that are needed. Surprise, since I.T. in these departments have no say in the purchases all hell breaks loose and the government wonders why hundreds of billions of dollars are missing. Meanwhile the corrupt companies use that money earned to buy off more politicians to write laws stating to buy their products at inflated prices where you and I pay for them in our taxes. Lovely ... anyone in the private sector knows what I am talking about too with this. Specifically when a CEO has lunch with his buddy at Crapware Inc, which sells a product that you need to support that only works with Windows Vista update 23303 on May 12th 2009 ... on a tuesday, in addition to another product that Crapware Inc. sells, that only works with IE 6 in Windows XP with Java 1.3.1, not 1.3.2 or 1.3.0, which all of course has to communicate together. More fun and joy and of course it is all your fault and not the CEO if it is expensive and can't work together you are the computer guy right?

The difference is in government all software and hardware is done this way and not just for some dumb executive's decision one time. Maybe if the pentagon had a CIO who made these decisions instead they could standardize on a platform so they can talk to each other.

Re:Lobbyists (1)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | more than 3 years ago | (#36828954)

The purpose of government procurement is to make contractors rich, create opportunities to solicit bribes and to secure jobs in the private sector for the apparatchik after they retire from "public service". Buying systems that actually work would be counterproductive so it never happens.

Re:Lobbyists (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36831388)

I know you were just using Microsoft software as an example, but the amusing thing is most of these point solution are unix based, all highly customised built on their own specialised chipsets, with their own API's and protocols and each of course purchased becuase they do that one thing well and no one ever thought about how they need to actually work with what they have, The truly amusing thing is I think they would actually be far better off if the worst they had to worry about was vista dn ie compatibility.

Blame the procurement process (5, Insightful)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 3 years ago | (#36828934)

When your process is so complex that procurement types have to go to classes just to understand it and has so many rules that no one really understands it you get a system that heavily favors companies that understand the rules better than the people running the system. They know exactly what to do to meet the letter of the law and how to protest if they lose a bid so inmany cases the government is at their mercy. Combine that with a contracting officer's fear of even accidentally violating the rules and winding up in trouble and you have a system that always goes the "safe" route

yea well (2)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 3 years ago | (#36828938)

what do you really expect when you whore out every project to the (random) lowest bidder?

Re:yea well (3, Insightful)

dwillden (521345) | more than 3 years ago | (#36829348)

But it's no longer the lowest bidder. The way it usually works in military IT systems, is someone's getting out, either by retirement or just ETS'ing. They see a need and talk with their buddies about what exactly they (in that small unit) need or want in a system. They then rough out some very specific specs, rough up an initial product and then work with their buddies to finalize their product to meet those very specific needs. And they start Battle Specific Hardware Internetworking Tech Inc. and make up pretty business cards that say BSHiT Inc.

The buddies in the military then start the procurement process for said very specific system, setting the specs to be exactly matching what they and their former military buddies at BSHiT have developed. They do this because they know that in a few years when they get out, doing so will guarantee a nice high paying position at BSHit Inc.

Thus when bid time comes, anyone else has to design a system from scratch, to meet those very specific criteria, while BSHiT Inc, has the product already designed and built exactly to the required specs. And thus not having to go through a full design process they are able to bid very competitively, plus they have the in with the buddies still in the service who are managing the program, thus they win the bid because they have the advantage of not just being very competitive on the bid but also having "Worked very closely in the development of the product to meet the specs (when the specs were actually created to meet the product), so they win the bid.

Now as the procurement process goes on, other units and folks in the same field also now get to chirp in with what they'd like this system to include. Oh it needs to be able to communicate over the radio, and that radio, and satellite and Ethernet and via cans on a string! It needs this, it needs that. And thus the hardware becomes a mishmash. Then it needs to be hardened.

And finally we get to the software, to make the sale they gin up their software package, ensuring it works wonders in the small scale demonstration. That's fine until it gets deployed and the software soon craps out when the real-world turns into a large scale event.

So finally the product gets to the soldiers in the field, they are ordered to use this system because we've spent millions buying and fielding it, but it barely works. Oh but BSHiT wisely built a very expensive support system into the purchase contracts, so now on every major FOB in Iraq and Afghanistan they're paying some slob six figures tax free to keep the system barely scraping along. This highly paid geek, who gets full room and board for free as well, might have to occasionally work, but after a couple years they've tweaked the system and trained the soldiers how to not crash the system so they might have to work a couple hours a week.

So the system scrapes along, and it survives because the soldiers figure out how to work around the system. They create their products, then export them to MS Office, clean them up and email the products. Their still running the overpriced, under-capable system but their best final products are created by taking the output of the system, importing it into a kludged together Access database, and presented via PowerPoint or on a Publisher produced website. But when asked they can always point to the BSHiT system and prove that they are using the system.

Lowest bidder didn't win because to be lowest bidder they couldn't quite meet the custom designed specs.

Oh and after a few years BSHiT will be swallowed up by Lockheed, L3, or one of the other big corps. The product and service won't improve, just the name behind it gets better known.

Re:yea well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36830384)

You guys are missing the role that Congress has in setting procurement rules; These rules, including awards to disadvantages minorities, set social targets above those of contracting efficiency. And, the bread and butter systems are HUGE; these control logistics, financial management, personnel - all of the grungy stuff whose complexity is real. As often as not there's just a few over-age programmers that know the insides, and are able to make the mod's to accommodate changes mandated by law.

Example: why haven't the military's proprietary message/cable systems been replaced by some variant of SMTP? Cuz the latter meet needs not addressed by SMTP, et al.

Guys, it ain't easy.

That takes some effort (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36828940)

Look at it this way, I just checked and the current military budget is 707.5 billion for 2012. For around 3 billion they could give everyone in a military a top of the line iMac and an iPad. Tell the app store developers what base software you need and they'll quickly write it up and post it for sale for $5 to $10 an app. I'm just using this as an example of why they are in the stone age. They probably spend 50 to 100 billion a year on antiqued hardware and software just so it meets some BS specs that the vendors help them write to make sure they get the contracts. 90% of the software I'm sure doesn't need to as secure as they claim. Spend the money making sure the vendors software is adequate and move on. iPad not battle ready? Why pay 10K a pop for ones that are when the off the shelf ones would last nearly as long? Servers can be bought off the shelf and Linux is pretty secure. The point is how much hardware and software could a group of geeks provide for 10 billion that would be state of the art and possibly better than state of the art on the software side? It's the bloated military contractor system that is keeping them in the stone age and throwing a few hundred billion at their current suppliers will change nothing.

Hmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36829016)

I have a strange feeling what they mean by "proprietary" is actually what we (techies) call "bespoke" (i.e. heavily custom-developed systems), and they'd consider what they call "commercial off the shelf" but actually-still-proprietary-in-our-terminology stuff like microsoft windows the "non-proprietary" (in their terminology) alternative.

So this may not mean "hey, let's use linux and have an effective off-the-shelf yet simultaneously easily custom modified where necessary" infrastructure.

I'm not actually american, and making the american military more effective is not necessarily in my interests. Just would be sorta nice for more of that incredibly vast american military expenditure to be going towards improving free and open source software, which improves the world, not just america.

Re:Hmm... (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 3 years ago | (#36829180)

I'm not actually american, and making the american military more effective is not necessarily in my interests. Just would be sorta nice for more of that incredibly vast american military expenditure to be going towards improving free and open source software, which improves the world, not just america.

That would mean more money available for bombs to drop on you. Instead, push for Windows For Warships [wired.com] and you can watch us tow our destroyers out of your harbors on Patch Tuesdays.

Re:Hmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36829304)

Why would the military, an organization dependent upon secrets as protection against infiltration/intelligence gathering/sabotage use open source software? Or rather, they may use it, but what benefit would others gain from it? The military is not exactly about improving the world, what benefits result are simply byproducts.

The US highway system - an excellent system for commercial transport, was created to allow the military to transport missiles quickly to desired locations.
The GPS system - developed to make military operations more efficient as well as a nuclear explosion detection system, only opened for civilian use years after implementation (and they reserve the right to shut down the civilian system).

Re:Hmm... (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#36829558)

For the most part, the military wouldn't really have to contribute back to open source. The GPL only requires distribution of source if the binary is distributed. However for the purposes of distribution [gnu.org] an organization is considered one entity. So if an organization (such as the military) chose to create a derivative work of some open source software purely for internal use, they wouldn't have to give anyone the source. I would imagine that most military developed software would be for internal use only.

OTOH, the military has in fact contributed to open source in the past. The DoD supported projects like OpenBSD for a long time. It would be nice to see more of that.

Re:Hmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36830968)

I think one of the most impressive us military contributions to open source is actually BRL CAD [brlcad.org] . It's pretty awesome, in an emacsy kind of way, though for solid modelling rather than text.

The perfect future will never come to pass (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36829064)

Heterogeneous and propriety systems have always existed and will always exist in any system of complexity.

And the extraordinarily difficult task of dealing with this DEFINES a good IT dept.

Anyone promising nirvana just once we get things rewritten right from the ground up is blowing smoke.

Perhaps the Marines should outsource IT to pepsico.

Leadership (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36829108)

I've worked for 3 government agencies now for 10 years and a lot of the problems come from Officers or GS employees. People who generally make the purchases or decisions and are not experienced enough or don't have a diverse background in these areas. Officers come in at a young age and are essentially managers with a lot of power for making very little rank 4 years of college then a couple years experience. If they make bad decisions and no one above them catches it or they don't take the advice of the subject experts you end up with bad decisions. Sometimes they do a great job but sometimes because there are a lot of young officers they make very poor decisions. Most GS employees are ex-military so once again they have no experience outside of the structures they are familiar with and outside input isn't always accepted.

There is A LOT of red tape bureaucracy when you want to make big changes they really need to work on streamlining processes and stop things from sitting on desks because people are afraid of change. It is very similar to corporate environments that don't have strong leadership you have a lot of problems.

OUTSOURCE IT TO INDIA, CHINA, VIETNAM !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36829120)

And see how you like them apples !!

Yah, GO APPLE !! GO STEVE !!

We luvs u !!

Hightech solutions for lowtech destruction. (0)

aeroseth (228594) | more than 3 years ago | (#36829160)

What do those stupid Marines want, an iPad big enough to water board people on?

This is their complaint, now? (1)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 3 years ago | (#36829268)

They are complaining about "It's crazy, we buy proprietary [and] we don't understand what it is we're buying into", AFTER the NMCI>/a>? [wikipedia.org]

Which was/is a fiasco, one I had direct experience with, and predictably so before it was started. But they wanted it.

Now they complain. And I'm hoping the General isn't focusing on battlefield systems, cause that's a world of a very different design and build philosophy, and needs change to survive in the modern era.

My time in the Navy on an FFG (3, Interesting)

AntiBasic (83586) | more than 3 years ago | (#36829274)

I enlisted under what the navy calls Advanced Electronics Computer Field. I expected to actually, ya know, work on advanced electronics or computers. Was I in for a shock. Instead, I wasted my early and mid 20's working on 1970's era comm gear. The computer I spent the most time on was the UYK-20 which actually had a PAPER TAPE as the primary method of input. I actually envisioned working on modern equipment. The newest piece of gear I got to work on was the R-2368 receiver.

God I wish I could sue the navy for false advertising. Fuck them.

Re:My time in the Navy on an FFG (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36831562)

Military style of communications systems management: let it be few puffs of smoke it's a link, goddamit. And if it doesn't work, shout until it does.

Hate to say I told you so, but (1)

Fordiman (689627) | more than 3 years ago | (#36829562)

Gee, I wonder why no one was listening to the /.ers ten years ago when we were basically warning anyone who held still for long enough that buy-in == lock-in.

Extremely fenced markets. (1)

drolli (522659) | more than 3 years ago | (#36829594)

Defense is a sector where free markets dont play a role. I am absolutely sure: If you have a small startup which implements a brilliant system, you would go bankrupt before you are allowed to link it to the systems of the big guys. Then they would buy the rest of that startup for nothing.

I worked for MARCORSYSCOM (2)

buzz_mccool (549976) | more than 3 years ago | (#36829722)

I worked for the Marine Corps Systems Command (Quantico, VA) and tried mightily to move the Corps to inexpensive open systems and protocols. I don't know where General Cartwright was at the time, but the Marine Corps leadership did not look kindly on my attempts to implement solutions to the problems the General states exist. The General was quoted as saying "... we buy proprietary [and] we don't understand what it is we're buying into," My direct experience says this not a true statement. The Marine Corps understands to the highest degree that they are buying proprietary, closed, expensive systems. That's precisely what they specified, so that's exactly what they get. If anyone in this forum thinks that the Marine Corps leadership lacked sage advice or that nobody was willing to put their career on the line to get the leadership on the right path, you are mistaken.

Ada anyone? (1)

dotbot (2030980) | more than 3 years ago | (#36829876)

The DOD procured Ada which became a standard in 83, much improved in 95. For _critical embedded systems_, it is a very suitable language. Also very suitable if you are thinking of changing the hardware on which it runs.. perhaps a 30+ year military project might involve a change of platform at some point? Civilian contractors didn't like it, presumably because it wasn't fashionable. (Anyone who can write a program in C is clever enough to learn Ada within a month. It's a question of will.) And the customer (supposedly "always right") eventually caved in and no longer mandated it, presumably on short-term cost grounds. Just one example of the government/military not knowing enough to make a stand.

The problem is system accreditation (2)

Chris453 (1092253) | more than 3 years ago | (#36830392)

I currently work as an Air Force civilian and the biggest single problem is the crazy accreditation process. We would LOVE to use the best and newest open source programs and utilities to do our jobs but we are stuck using technology from 5-6 years ago because the accreditation process was intentionally created by contractors to be as complex as possible so that only they were qualified to get anything approved. (Job security anyone?) Got a great new product that would save 1,000 lives and countless millions? It *might* be fast tracked and only take 2 years to get approved.... The system IS a mess and our adversaries don't have to deal with it - they can use the best equipment and software immediately....

pay your bills USA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36831058)

then worry about getting a 200 mhz computer LOL

The technology is part of the problem. (1)

master_p (608214) | more than 3 years ago | (#36832604)

The technology we have today is part of the problem. It simply does not allow the easy storage and retrieval of information. When I say "easy", I mean as easy as storage being "here are the data" and retrieval being "give me such and such data". There is a tremendous amount of work required to make information available for storage and retrieval.

The core issue of the problem is that there is not a single standard protocol about information. Each database, application and operating system speaks its own language. If platforms had a standard component with a standardized language for storing and retrieving information, the work would be much easier for the army (or any large organization).

Let's speak of a hypothetical example which demonstrates the problem. Let's take Star Trek: the Starfleet uses a common data protocol all throughout its ships. Imagine if each ship used its own protocol, or worse, if every department of each ship used their own protocol! absolute mayhem, absolute bureaucracy. Starships like the USS Enterprise or Voyager would need 50% of its crew to be programmers, just to cater for the needs of various departments on board!!!

Taking the example to the extreme, let's consider the Borg from Star Trek: all the drones speak the same language, they have the same data protocol. Imagine if, such parts of the collective used different protocols! again, absolute mayhem and absolute bureaucracy.

This problem does not concern only the army, it concerns every IT organization on the planet. That is one of the main reasons projects fail or are late and over budget. If that problem goes away, budgets will see enormous reductions, including the DoD.

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