Iraqi backbone. The Agency for International Development has awarded a $1.8 billion contract for reconstruction efforts in Iraq that include restoring damaged fiber-optic backbones in war-torn areas.

Iraq Infrastructure II is a program to repair more of the nation's communications channels.

The telecommunication portion of the contract covers the installation of switches and transmission equipment at 12 destroyed sites to reconnect 240,000 telephone subscribers, which represent 20 percent of the installed telephones in Iraq.

The work includes installation of an international satellite gateway in Baghdad to handle international calls and the restoration of the southwest leg of a fiber-optic backbone connecting Baghdad and Basrah, plus major cities in between.

Among the companies involved in the telecom work are Lucent Technologies Inc. of Murray Hill, N.J., and Globecomm Systems Inc. of Hauppauge, N.Y., which assembled the satellite gateway system.

The telecom work began last July and will be completed by March, according to company officials.

Rad-ical. Radiation-resistant computers developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory helped steer NASA's Spirit and Opportunity rovers to safe landings on Mars last month.

The lab's Rad6000 32-bit microprocessors, manufactured by BAE Systems North America of Rockville, Md., controlled the spacecraft, said Creigh Gordon, a lab space vehicle engineer.

The tiny microchips are directing Spirit and its later-arriving twin, Opportunity, as they search for signs of water on the red planet.

'NASA chose AFRL microprocessors because they are proven reliable, rugged and fully compatible with [NASA] systems,' Gordon said in a statement.

The computers can withstand the harsh radiation of space and continue operating during long-term missions, he said. They control all data-stream telemetry between spacecraft and ground controllers.

'Through our efforts within the space vehicles directorate, the Air Force has made significant investments in radiation-hardened fabrication and the space electronics based on it,' Gordon said.

IT hockey. To maintain relevance in IT, Defense Department brass needs to be forward-thinking and 'skate where the puck's going to be, not where it's been.'

Military operations should focus on recruiting the right people for the job and training them to look several miles down the road, Air Force Maj. Gen. Dale Meyerrose said.

The director of command and control systems for the North American Aerospace Defense Command and director of architectures and integration for the Northern Command at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., spoke at an Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association lunch last month in Arlington, Va.

'I think it's important for us not to get focused on the technology of the day,' he said. 'What makes us think how we access networks 10 years from now is going to be the same?'

NORAD, formed during the Cold War, protects U.S. airspace from enemy attack. The Northern Command, formed in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, helps both military and civilian agencies during domestic disasters.


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