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How About More VA iPad-Toting Health Service Reps?

By Bob Brewin // September 9, 2014

In Green/Shutterstock.com

The Nashville, Tennessee, Veterans Affairs hospital at one time had 12 customer service reps wearing easy-to-spot red coats and equipped with iPads hanging around the front door to provide instant service to vets entering the facility, VA Secretary Robert McDonald said at a press conference yesterday.

McDonald said these red-coats “had iPads so they could contact the doctors, nurses, whoever they needed immediately.”

The number of red-coats in Nashville has now dropped from 12 to two -- and McDonald said he wants to see it go back up again.

I think this is the kind of “digital service” idea espoused by McDonald that should be installed in all 152 VA hospitals. 

(Image via In Green/Shutterstock.com)

Intelligence Research Agency Plans First Industry Confab

By Bob Brewin // September 8, 2014

Dooder/Shutterstock.com

The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity plans to hold its first industry day since its founding in 2006.

The purpose of the gathering – held Oct. 29-30 “is to provide a unique look at the breadth and depth of IARPA's research through briefings, discussions and demonstrations,” including the Aggregative Contingent Estimation – or ACE program -- which seeks to improve forecasting of world events through the wisdom of crowds.

In case you wonder if this is a must-attend event, the FBO notice rather immodestly notes IARPA is one of the government's "most creative agencies”.

As befits a spook outfit, IARPA did not disclose the location of the separate top secret or unclassified industry day sessions, limited to 200 and 400 folks, respectively.

To register -- and learn the location of the industry days -- send an email to dni-iarpa-events@iarpa.gov.

(Image via Dooder/Shutterstock.com)

CRS: Cops Can Get Kitchen and Lawn Care Gear from DOD

By Bob Brewin // August 29, 2014

Drew300/Shutterstock.com

The Congressional Research Service has produced a report on the militarization of law enforcement unearthed by Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists Project on Government Secrecy, which shows the Defense Department is a good source of gear far beyond the Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles in the news lately.

The Defense Logistics Agency's Law Enforcement Support Office provides state and local law enforcement agencies with surplus gear ostensibly for use to support the war on drugs and the war on terror.

This includes, according to the CRS report, kitchen equipment, lawn maintenance gear, computers, office furniture, bedding and tents.

Maybe there is a clever law enforcement agency out there that has figured out how to counter terrorists with a mass attack of lawn mowers. 

(Image via Drew300/Shutterstock.com)

Oh No: Obama Once Again Talks About ‘Sacred Trust’ with Vets

By Bob Brewin // August 28, 2014

Charles Dharapak/AP

Speaking at the American Legion convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, this Tuesday, President Obama invoked the “sacred trust” between those who serve in the military, the citizens they defend and himself.

Obama proclaimed, “The bond between our forces and our citizens has to be a sacred trust, and that for me, for my administration, upholding our trust with our veterans is not just a matter of policy, it is a moral obligation.”

That’s not much different than what candidate Obama said at the 2007 Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention in Kansas City, Missouri. 

“To America's veterans, our country must speak with one voice: We honor your service, and we enter into a sacred trust with you from the moment you put on that uniform. That trust is simple: America will be there for you just as you have been there for America,” Obama promised.

At the 2009 VFW convention in Phoenix, Obama hauled out the “sacred trust” line again, telling the assembled veterans that “America's commitment to its veterans are not just lines on a budget; they are bonds that are sacred, a sacred trust we're honor bound to uphold. These are commitments that we make ...

Scientists Figure Out Why Grunts Groan

By Bob Brewin // August 22, 2014

Deployed from USS Bataan and arriving in Afghanistan with a heavy backpack, a Marine with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), dons his backpack by laying his back on it.
Deployed from USS Bataan and arriving in Afghanistan with a heavy backpack, a Marine with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), dons his backpack by laying his back on it. // U.S. Navy

Some 325 scientists from around the world attending the third International Congress on Soldiers' Physical Performance in Boston came to the obvious conclusion any infantryman knows all too well: The combat load is way too heavy and defies efforts to shrink it.

Marilyn Sharp, who has the title of research exercise scientist -- really -- at the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine in Natick, Massachusetts, told the conference the “soldier load has been a problem for decades. And every time we lighten soldiers' load, we add another piece of equipment to make it worse." 

Despite a recent 20-year effort to lighten it, soldier load has steadily increased since the Civil War -- and this has led to injuries, Sharp added.

"The amount of load that you carry both in absolute terms and relative to your body weight is going to increase your injuries while you're deployed," Sharp said. "So I believe it's a very big problem that we need to continue to work to solve."

My take? Anyone who comes up with a great idea for a new piece of gear for a grunt to carry should first have to hike all 2,181 miles of the Appalachian ...