Packet Rat: Homeland Security is short one red sweater

The Rat

Michael J. Bechetti

A great weight lifted off the Rat's shoulders when the ratlings returned to an almost normal school schedule. The blizzard of 2003 was melting with only a moderate flood in the lower reaches of the family digs.

And best of all, Uncle Sam scaled the terrorism threat level back down to yellow.

'Hallelujah,' the wired one shouted as he prepared for a trip toward sanity.

The folks at EDS Corp. undoubtedly felt the same way. Late last month, as clients dropped like flies and support bills were going unpaid, Congress eliminated the 60,000-seat cap on its Navy-Marine Corps Intranet contract as if tossing a life preserver to a drowning sailor.

The Rat suspects that might indeed have been the intent of some congresscritters. 'It will certainly increase demand for the help desk,' he sniped to a colleague.

Of course, scaling up NMCI right now is probably the last thing on the minds of Navy and Marine Corps IT brass. The only scaling up they're worried about is tech support for the impending war with Iraq.

Although NMCI might free up some resources for other tasks, it's questionable whether mucking around with systems during an Iraqi regime change is a good idea. Considering how things went early on in the NMCI cutover, the brass might want to throw something other than a life preserver at EDS if its intranet bogs down the war effort.

'I can see it now,' the cyberrodent mused. 'If anything goes wrong, a vendor could be designated an enemy combatant.'

As things calmed down at the command bunker, the Rat prepared for his first road trip in some time, to an industry conference in Orlando, Fla. Travel budgets being what they are, the furry one found himself routed through every possible airport between home and Florida'and some that weren't anywhere close to either. Such as Pittsburgh.

Passing through Pittsburgh reminded the Rat of the city's recently departed resident saint, Fred Rogers, whose 'Mister Rogers' Neighborhood' was produced by public television in Steel City. If anyone tangentially related to Pennsylvania should have been named secretary of Homeland Security, it was Mister Rogers. He could have given the country a warm security blanket along with duct tape. And he certainly would have donned his red sweater and sneakers before passing on the bad news.

Instead, the Pennsylvanian in charge is the decidedly untouchy-feely Tom Ridge. The former governor still has a few things to learn about good television. The Rat tossed rolls of plastic sheeting at the TV set when the secretary came on to revise his duct tape edict and introduce the first of the Homeland Security Department's Ready.gov ads.

'I sure hope he coordinates the integration of the agencies into the department better than he integrated his public messages,' the wirebiter griped.

'Look at the bright side,' his better half advised by wireless phone as he waited for his next connecting flight. 'Our 3M Co. stock is through the roof.'

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at rat@postnewsweektech.com.

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