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Errol Morris’ “Unknown Known” — Rumsfeld and the psychopathology of war

I’ve seen bits of Errol Morris’ new documentary [[The Unknown Known]] on the career of former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. This is an important piece for our understanding of US’ recent history and a stark reminder about the adage that “1 person making a difference” can actually cut both ways.

Errol Morris, Oscar-winning filmmaker talks with Rachel Maddow about his new documentary “The Unknown Known,” examining Donald Rumsfeld’s perspective on the war in Iraq, and the rewriting of history by former Bush staffers.

via The Rachel Maddow Show on msnbc.

Defense Department to privatize its public domain media archive

According to a recent GCN article “DOD wants you … to browse its visual library”  the US Department of Defense has entered into a “no cost” contract with a company called T3 Media to have them digitize DoD’s massive image and video archive. It seems that DoD employees will get free access to the digital archive, but T3 Media will receive a 10 year monopoly license to charge for public access to the archive.

This is not the first time that a federal agency has entered into “no cost” contracts to privatize its public domain information. A few years ago, GAO contracted w Thomson/West to digitize GAO’s archive of legislative histories of public laws 1915 – 1995. When will federal agencies realize that giving away the whole store does them and the public a HUGE disservice?!

According to Rick Prelinger who alerted us to the GCN article:

In exchange for covering a share of digitizing and hosting costs (the government will pick up an unspecified share of costs as well), T3 Media will provide access to the government and receive a 10-year exclusive license to charge for public access to these public domain materials.

I contacted T3Media’s communications manager who could only tell me that “the material will be available for licensing.” Costs, procedures and restrictions are still undecided or undisclosed. T3 will possess the highest-quality digital copies of these materials and there is no guarantee that DoD will offer them to the public online when the 10-year window expires. It’s therefore hard to know whether this contract will serve the public interest.

While I have not yet seen the contract, the project Statement of Objectives offers additional information and here’s T3Media’s release.

[HT BoingBoing!]

DoD Cloud Computing Strategy

DOD Releases Cloud Computing Strategy; Designates DISA as the Enterprise Cloud Service Broker

The Department of Defense announced today the release of a cloud computing strategy that will move the department’s current network applications from a duplicative, cumbersome, and costly set of application silos to an end state designed to create a more agile, secure, and cost effective service environment that can rapidly respond to changing mission needs. In addition, the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) has been named as the enterprise cloud service broker to help maintain mission assurance and information interoperability within this new strategy.

For further information:

Of related interest:

Information Technology Reform: Progress Made but Future Cloud Computing Efforts Should be Better Planned. GAO-12-756, July 11.

GAO was asked to (1) assess the progress selected agencies have made in implementing OMB’s “Cloud First” policy and (2) identify challenges they are facing in implementing the policy. To do so, GAO (1) selected seven agencies, analyzed agency documentation, and interviewed agency and OMB officials; and (2) identified, assessed, and categorized common challenges. The agencies were the departments of Agriculture, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, State, and the Treasury; the General Services Administration; and the Small Business Administration.

GAO recommended should these agencies direct their respective chief information officer (CIOs) to establish estimated costs, performance goals, and plans to retire associated legacy systems for each cloud-based service discussed in this report, as applicable.

DOD Reading Lists

Have you ever checked out the reading lists of the armed forces? Interesting!

  • Reading Lists Aim to Promote Personal, Professional Growth, By Donna Miles, American Forces Press Service (Nov. 22, 2011).

    [P]rofessional reading remains an important part of the military culture. Every service, most professional military schools and an increasing number of geographic and combatant commands offer up reading programs and reading lists as part of their professional development efforts.

    In fact, many have multiple reading lists, aimed at different groups within the military at different ranks and stages of their careers.

    “…What I discovered reading Hemingway, Shakespeare, Dostoyevsky, Faulkner, Updike, Forester, McCarthy and countless other authors shaped my world view and honed my understanding of the most complex terrain in the world: the human heart.” [Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis, commander of U.S. European Command and NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe]

  • Hat tip to beSpacific!

Conflict of interest at DARPA being investigated by Department of Defense Inspector General (IG)

This is a fascinating look into conflict of interest within the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). According to the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) — which always reminds me of Pogo the comic: “we have met the enemy and he is us” 🙂 — they sent a letter to DARPA which prompted an investigation into DARPA Director Regina Dugan’s possible conflict of interest in awarding contracts to a company she used to own and which is now run by her father:

The Department of Defense Inspector General (IG) is auditing the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and looking into financial ties of DARPA Director Regina Dugan after POGO called for an investigation into potential conflicts of interest at the agency.

The audits will cover two areas: all of DARPA’s contracts and grants from the last two years and a special look at the contracts awarded to RedXDefense, a bomb detection firm founded by Dugan and currently run by Dugan’s father. The Pentagon IG explained the audits in a letter to POGO sent on Friday.

In addition to having family ties to the company, Dugan still has a financial relationship with RedXDefense.

“RedXDefense owes Dugan $250,000 for a “loan/note” and additionally details that she has between $151,000 and $305,000 in assets and income from RedXDefense,” we said in a May 9, 2011, letter to the Department of Defense Inspector General.

here’s more explanation from Wired’s Spencer Ackerman, who tracks these types of issues via the Wired Danger Room blog.

[HT to Ellen Miller at Sunlight Foundation for this tidbit!]