What's Brewin' Column: Bye-bye public circuit buys

A free society is based on the uninhibited flow of information, but sometimes the amount of information put out by the Defense Department makes no sense.

A free society is based on the uninhibited flow of information, but sometimes the amount of information put out by the Defense Department makes no sense.

Take the way the Defense Information Systems Agency buys point-to-point circuits on what used to be a publicly accessible bulletin board operated by the agency's Defense Information Technology Contracting Organization headquartered at Scott Air Force Base, Ill.

For years, DITCO has published these circuit requirements, which allow any Google driver, including nations like China that have adopted an adversarial stance to the United States, to gain insights into exactly how DISA moves data around in cyberspace.

DITCO currently has a public requirement for a 44.7 Mbytes per second circuit connecting Molesworth in the United Kingdom to Lajes Field in the Azores. A quick Google search shows that Molesworth is the home of the Joint Analysis Center, whose mission is to analyze process and produce fused intelligence information for the United States and NATO. It's responsible for more than 77 countries across Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

Lajes, another Google search shows, is an Air Force base, which, among other things, supports aircraft flying to the Mideast and is probably a midpoint for another circuit running to the United States.

I don't know what the Molesworth-Lajes circuit is used for, but DISA has decided it now wants to prevent this kind of casual open examination of its global connections. Starting March 31, DISA plans to shut down access to all but registered telecommunications company users due to operational security considerations, DISA CIO John Garing told me.

I think this is a good move. There are probably bad guys out there who are even better Google-masters than I am.

Schoomaker: No More Stuff for Medics

Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Eric Schoomaker told an audience at a Defense health care information technology conference sponsored by the Imaging Science and Information Systems Center at Georgetown University that while he loves IT, his medics don't want to be overburdened by heavy gear.

Handheld computers initially developed by the Army's Medical Communications for Combat Casualty Care, which operates an electronic health record system for Army tactical medical units, were so bulky and heavy that Schoomaker called them bricks. Few of these bricks survived stateside testing, where frustrated medics threw the computers against trees, embedding oak chips in the case, he added.

Schoomaker's message: Give us tech without heft.

The AHLTA Escalade

A defense contractor, who declined to be quoted by name, described the Defense electronic health record -- formally known as the Armed Forces Health Longitudinal Technology Application -- as a Cadillac Escalade stuck in Washington traffic: You sit high enough to see where you want to go, but can't get there.

Chuck Campbell, chief information officer of the TRICARE Management Activity, which handles health care for service members treated by private clinicians, agreed that AHLTA still needs work, and before another upgrade is fielded, the Military Health System needs to pay attention to the system's end users: doctors and nurses.

What a concept. Maybe end users really do know something about a system many view as a burden.

VA to Listen to Docs, Too

Charles Hume, deputy CIO for the Veterans Health Administration, conceded at the Georgetown conference that VA had lost valuable insight from clinical end users because its electronic health record system, the Veterans Health Information System and Technology Architecture, has become more centralized. This centralization has "stymied innovation" at the local level, and Hume said, VA has to find a way to tap into that local expertise without turning VistA development into "the Wild West" again.

VA and Defense docs, please let me know if Campbell and Hume follow through.

Thirsty at San Diego Airport? Bring Lots of Money

As we all know, you can't carry no more than three ounces of liquids (and stored in clear plastic bottles) through airport security anymore.

San Diego International Airport, which I passed through a couple of weeks ago, has capitalized on this situation by selling a bottle of soda at the uniform price of $3.22. That's higher than the cost of a bottle of pop at Dulles International Airport, where it will cost you just over two bucks.

A TSA screener at the San Diego airport had one word for the cost of soda there: "rip-off."