- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 25, 2003

Lines crossed on DC communications

We are writing to correct several mistakes in an article about the District’s wireless communications expansion (“Firefighters unhappy with radio upgrade,” Metropolitan, May 16).

The most significant error is the dead-wrong assertion that the project is behind schedule. It also failed to recognize the efficiency of the project or the substantial value it will deliver in keeping firefighters, police and other first responders in the District and the region out of harm’s way. Allow us to present the facts.

In late 2001, the District’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO) designed a project to expand and upgrade the outdated and underperforming wireless radio system used by the city’s Fire and Emergency Medical Services (FEMS) Department. The new system is designed to provide seamless citywide radio coverage, including Metro tunnels, to incorporate high-performance digital radios and to overcome decades of serious “dead spot” communications problems that firefighters had as they battled blazes.

The District secured $46 million in federal — not city — emergency dollars on Feb. 27, 2002, issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) to prospective vendors in April 2002, received responses in July and ultimately selected Motorola as the best-value vendor to install this system. The project is on track for completion by Sept. 30, exactly as promised at a Dec. 6, 2002 news conference. Equally important, because substantial parts of the project were completed earlier, the District’s firefighters have not had to wait for the completion of the project to have better fireground communications.

So, far from being “18 months behind schedule,” the project is on schedule, lasting 19 months from start to finish. In comparison, the previous system, which was less than half as large, took more than twice as long to produce. We have made more progress in protecting the safety of the District’s firefighters in the past 15 months than in the previous 15 years.

The article states that unnamed, unidentified “officials” say OCTO has “wasted more than $3 million on consultants for a project that should have been handled by Motorola.” The opposite is true. We “eliminated the middleman” by directly hiring experts who normally would have been hired through Motorola, saving the District $8 million in the process.

The bottom line is that OCTO and its wireless team are delivering a nation-class project that more than doubles the capacity of the city’s public safety wireless communications system, incorporates all D.C. first responders into the network, makes the network interoperable with regional public safety wireless communications systems and provides interim improvements through the early implementation of the vehicular repeater system.

OCTO is delivering this comprehensive system cost-effectively, on budget and on schedule.

All D.C. stakeholders — FEMS, the Metropolitan Police Department, the Fire Fighters Association and OCTO — have worked together from the beginning to make the District’s public safety wireless system the best in the nation. All stakeholders support the project and are confident of its success.

SUZANNE PECK

Chief technology officer

District of Columbia

ADRIAN THOMPSON

Chief

Fire and Emergency Medical Services

District of Columbia

Probing Lynch is secondary

Whether Pfc. Jessica Lynch fought her ambushers or was incapacitated in the initial assault on her unit’s convoy is unimportant (“Army to probe Lynch capture,” Page 1, Friday). The young lady was serving her country in hazardous conditions and should be commended along with the members of her unit.

Focusing on the actions of one soldier distracts us from a more critical inquiry: To what extent did Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld’s insistence on a light invasion force needlessly expose Pfc. Lynch’s noncombat unit to hostile forces? Did we take needless casualties because of his political meddling in the evolution of the battle plan and size of the invasion force? This is where an investigation should be focused.

Reports indicate that Mr. Rumsfeld pushed for a lighter invasion force, and it is naive to think the military architects of the battle plan were immune to pressure from their civilian boss. Yes, our military performed well despite numerous constraints. It is obvious, however, that we did not have adequate “boots on the ground,” given what Mr. Rumsfeld blithely described as the post-combat “untidiness” in Iraq. Did his meddling jeopardize American lives, give the enemy an early propaganda victory, expose the Iraqi people to avoidable post-combat hazards and otherwise sully a brilliant military victory?

As a former infantryman with a petite daughter who could be Pfc. Lynch’s sister, I pray that Mr. Rumsfeld and his clique of neoconservative advisers are better at geopolitics than they are at war fighting. Given their almost collective lack of military service, they need to be reminded that they are playing their geopolitical games with our children’s lives.

JUSTIN MCCARTHY

San Clemente, Calif.

Eco-absurdities vs. military training

The article “GOP wins defense exemptions” (Nation, Friday) quotes Rep. John D. Dingell, Michigan Democrat, as saying: “If I understand this correctly, the Bush administration would like to send the world a message: That our military is strong enough to topple Saddam Hussein yet weak enough to be bested by Yertle the Turtle.”

Mr. Dingell doesn’t understand. Yes, we defeated Saddam, but at a cost of 125 U.S. combat deaths and 495 injured. Is Mr. Dingell willing to stand before the loved ones of those killed and injured in Iraq and tell them that environmental restrictions on the training of their loved ones played no part in those 620 casualties? I doubt it.

Our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines must train as they will fight. That doesn’t include dropping dummy bombs, firing dummy shells, single-filing across a beach or flying outside the necessary tactical envelope or any of the other environmentally driven unrealities that impede military training.

GEOFFREY D. CULLISON

Arlington

A pitch for recruiters

The article “Weeding out the weak” (Business, May 16) is a fitting tribute to the Marine Corps recruiters who work so hard to bring in young recruits who are the foundation of the strong, capable and effective fighting force that projects its power around the world in protection of our great nation.

Recruiters are often overlooked because they are not on the front lines, but they are the engine that drives the locomotive. Like all branches of the uniformed services, the Marines are only as successful as the people they employ. As the article notes, recruiters work “12 to 15-hour days, six days a week” to provide the Marines with the raw manpower that eventually will become the outstanding force serving to protect America.

Part and parcel with the recruiter’s success is their access to America’s youth, especially high school-age students. Events at area high schools, such as those described in the article, provide an opportunity for the young to explore the military as a career option. This is particularly important to those graduating seniors who do not see college as an immediate option.

For a number of years, recruiters have been denied access to many high schools and colleges. Congress passed legislation this year to effectively end this practice. These laws should be enforced vigorously so that young people can be fully informed of all career options, including service in the armed forces, when making decisions that will affect the rest of their lives.

We salute all recruiters who work hard to make our military the greatest fighting force in the world, and we support unfettered access to high school and college students.

JOSEPH L. BARNES

National executive secretary

Fleet Reserve Association

Alexandria

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