What's Brewin: The Amazing, Disappearing Navy Policy

New network strategy pulled from CIO Web site for rescanning -- and what else?

On May 8, I wrote about the release of theNaval Networking Environment Strategy -- 2016. Among other things the document called for returning management and control of networks to the Navy rather than outsourcing nearly the whole shebang, as the department did when it awarded its $10 billion Navy Marine Corps Intranet contract to EDS in 2000.

Comment on this article in The Forum.But the next morning, the network strategy paper had disappeared from the Navy chief information officer's Web site.Michele Buisch, a "command communications contractor" with the Navy CIO shop told me the document was being rescanned and would be up by close of business on Monday.

The document looked quite spiffy to me. So, the paranoid part of my soul wonders whether the CIO office is re-editing along with rescanning. I saved a copy to my hard drive, and it will be fun to make a comparison.

Buzzword Bingo

That's a Navy insider's take on the network strategy, which he says passes off meaningless phrases as substance. For example, there's a whole section on developing a savvy IT workforce, but, he said, it lacks any clear delineation of the skill sets needed to manage, maintain and operate networks the strategy paper defines as "critical warfighting capability."

This insider, who deals with users and their requirements, said the document fails to focus on the objective of any Navy network -- to get the right information to the right user, whether at sea or on land. The paper, he said, has no section on ship-to-shore or intra-battle group networking or tactical networking on the battlefield for the Marine Corps.

On the other hand, he said, the document signals a strong allergic reaction to NMCI.

What About Air-Ground Links?

The Navy network strategy paper is strangely silent on air-ground links used by Marine Forward Air Controllers (FACs) and standard data sets - which the insider said have led to FACs in Iraq favoring voice radio over nifty but unworkable data radios.

Finally, this insider warned that any strategy paper released today "will have you standing on the fantail looking at your wake" when tomorrow finally arrives.

DISA Eyes Defensewide Wi-Fi Intrusion Detection System

Defense Department agencies and commands would love to use the same Wi-Fi technology found in homes and coffee shops across the country as it enables instant networking -- setting up an access point so users can log in.

The Navy, for example, issued in April its Enterprise Mobility 2008 strategy paper, which envisions a future with mobile devices in the field that "automatically sense networks, devices and end users and configure themselves to deliver the right information at the right time to the user through the best network option available."

If that network option is Wi-Fi, it would come with a host of security problems, including bad actors sniffing out or trying to break into networks carrying sensitive information.

The bad guys, though, could in turn be sniffed out with wireless intrusion detection systems, which consist of a bunch of access points hooked up to software that monitors traffic and identifies hackers.

The Defense Information Systems Agency thinks it could solve the problem by deploying a standard wireless intrusion detection system throughout the department. The agency released a request for information in early May for an enterprisewide system, with the caveat that it also might need stand-alone detection systems for tactical networks.

DISA figures a wireless intrusion detection system would cost $23 million. The request for information is targeted at small business, but I hear likely technology suppliers include Atlanta-based AirDefense which already has a substantial Defense presence; AirMagnet in Silicon Valley; and Cisco, which has integrated AirDefense intrusion detection systems into its suite of Wi-Fi offerings.

New FedBizOpps Web Site: Grrrrr

The General Services Administration has done something I thought almost impossible with its Web site Federal Business Opportunities, which lists procurements and contract awards. In a redesign launched in May, the agency and its contractor created a user interface worse and harder to use than Microsoft Windows Vista.

Old-time users of FedBizOpps will find out that misery begins the first time they try to use the site. If you are a vendor or part of the unwashed masses (which includes reporters), you have to register and provide a DUNNS code, a universal identifier issued to businesses by Dunn and Bradstreet to facilitate electronic commerce. I discovered that mere mortals without a DUNNS code can use the site without registering, but this is not readily apparent on the new interface.

I found out that GovExec.com and its parent company, indeed, have a DUNNS number. So I registered and then tried to use the new user-unfriendly site.

The search menus are far less intuitive than those on the old site, and it appears I cannot sign up for e-mail alerts on procurements by agency or department by classification code (i.e. 58, which denotes widgets and gizmos). And the drop-down menus for selecting agencies during a search are more confusing.

Ray Bjorklund, senior vice president of Federal Sources Inc., said he has heard that federal employees who use the site to post procurements have found it difficult to use. He faulted GSA for its failure to notify and educate users about the new site. I have called GSA twice for comments and insights on the new site, and officials said they will try to get me in touch with someone this week.

GSA and its contractor, Simplicity, need to do some serious work on the new and definitely not user-friendly site. FedBizOpps is the window into billions of dollars of federal procurements, which in the spirit of e-gov should be easily accessible to everyone, as well as easy to use.