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Listen Carefully ... Computers Now Can Understand What You Say

January 2012
By Paul A. Strassmann, SIGNAL Magazine

A smartphone that engages in conversations is the next perturbation that will dictate how the U.S. Defense Department needs to revise its information management practices. The effects of this new technology will reverberate from individual communications protocols all the way to data architectures.

Imagine What Might Be Possible

December 2011
By Capt. Joseph A. Grace Jr., USN (Ret.), SIGNAL Magazine

You may remember that old New Orleans house I mentioned in a previous column and its ongoing renovation that so closely matches the process of upgrading legacy federal information technology systems. The house was built in 1890, by true artisans, with thick plaster walls, joists made out of solid red pine or cypress, a slate roof, ornate ironwork, thick wooden floors, nine monstrous fireplaces and all the supporting brickwork that was certainly made for beauty, functionality and durability. However, it was not made for wireless networks, sound systems or any other type of technology innovation.

In Contracting, a Desire for Efficiency Can Cloud Clarity

November 2011
By Capt. Joseph A. Grace Jr., USN (Ret.), SIGNAL Magazine

The word transparency is used in many different places but with different results. Transparency is what we want in Congress, friendships, relationships and processes, as well as in city council meetings, school board decisions, neighborhood association rules and acquisition strategies. However, in today’s world, very few things are opaque—particularly when it comes to the process of government procurement. What should be an extremely transparent process remains one of the most coveted havens of secrecy, power and waste, and we all pay the price.

Manage Expectations, or They Will Manage You

September 2011
By Capt. Joseph A. Grace Jr., USN (Ret.), SIGNAL Magazine

This is as simple as a tale of two airports.

Security for Security's Sake Is Just Going Through the Motions

August 2011
By Capt. Joseph A. Grace Jr., USN (Ret.), SIGNAL Magazine

Last year, as the April 15 tax deadline approached, I realized that I did not have my W-2 statement from the Navy Reserve. I knew it was no problem because all of that information was “easily” available at MY-PAY online. That was simple—“simple” being a very relative term—when I had a Common Access Card (CAC) and reader. However, as a retired 0-6 without a CAC, there was no “simple” button available to make this process work.

Partnership Is a Two-Way Street, and No One Should Claim Right of Way

July 2011
By Capt. Joseph A. Grace Jr., USN (Ret.), SIGNAL Magazine

We want partners—not vendors.” All of the government-industry days, procurement updates or program reviews offer the constant call for industry to “be our partner, bring us innovation; work with us to enhance the capability for the warfighter or the ultimate end user.” Yet, partnership is a two-way street. Partnership involves communication, open and transparent management of expectations, honest relationships and decisions that allow both sides to manage their requirements. Partnership is not just a word. It takes work to achieve win-win situations—for each side to treat the other with respect and to make good decisions quickly to minimize cost for both sides.

It's the Process, Stupid—or Is It the Stupid Process?

June 2011
By Capt. Joseph A. Grace Jr., USN (Ret.), SIGNAL Magazine

A week ago, I spent three nights in the hospital with my 17-year-old son, who was suffering from severe headaches and uncontrolled nausea. One test after another revealed nothing, and we ended up with a diagnosis of, “Get him some rest, keep something down and hydrate him with IVs [intravenous fluids], and we’ll see.” Needless to say, his dad—a trained submarine nuclear officer and former chief information officer of Navy Medicine—was ready to stand the watch in the hospital. “Get him some rest and fluids…”—a simple assignment—or so it seemed.

Why We Do What We Do—“Corpsman Up”

May 2011
By Capt. Joseph A. Grace Jr., USN (Ret.), SIGNAL Magazine

With our military stretched among three fronts, our volunteer force is bearing a tremendous burden of OPTEMPO, reduced budgets and political posturing. A recent experience I had with our disabled veterans highlighted the reasons why we do what we do. It may be a good reminder to us all.

Reinventing the Wheel, IT-Style?

April 25, 2011
By H. Mosher

In this month's SIGNAL Magazine, Capt. Joseph A. Grace Jr., USN (Ret.), makes some interesting points about the new Next Generation Enterprise Network (NGEN) that will be replacing the Navy/Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI) once the contract for the latter expires. Grace wonders if this is the best approach, noting the general success of the NMCI after the early years of growing pains. His notion is that we will have to endure another long round of troubleshooting with the NGEN, and he wonders whether this is the best use of resources (not to mention taxpayer money) given that the NMCI has resolved most of its early problems, at least as far as it could have "within the constraints of policy, procedure and security-three very difficult masters," according to Grace.

With NGEN, It's Déjà Vu All Over Again

April 2011
By Capt. Joseph A. Grace Jr., USN (Ret.), SIGNAL Magazine

In the late 1990s, the U.S. Navy decided it needed to change the way it handled information technology. So, it created the Navy/Marine Corps Intranet, or NMCI. Yes, for many, it was seen as a four-letter word. With the NMCI, the Navy elected to outsource the entire program to industry—the company EDS. The process took many years of study and analysis, as well as dealing with policy, procedure, culture wars and a host of other common barriers to any new concept. From congressional oversight to acquisition nightmare, every potential roadblock emerged. Yet, the NMCI was implemented, and one lesson from that implementation applies very much today as the Navy seeks to upgrade its information technology.

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