STUCK IN THE BALKANS - Whatever the outcome of the bombing campaign against Yugoslavia, many policy analysts say that residual tensions and ethnic hatreds will keep NATO peacekeeping forces in the region for years to come. "One way or another, NATO and the U.S. are probably stuck in the Balkans," says Anthony H. Cordesman, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based think tank.
WHERE'S THE BOAT? - The Navy, for years, has been working to conduct "network centric warfare," so that weapon platforms can share a common picture of the battle zone. But the service, so far, has "missed the boat," said Vice Adm. George P. Nanos Jr., head of the Naval Sea Systems Command. The Navy has not figured out "how to take a full battle group to sea and make [the ships] interoperate," he told an industry audience in Washington, D.C.
COMPETITION HEATS UP - Now, competition to build the Navy's DD-21-the next generation of surface warships-is heating up between two industry teams led by Raytheon Systems Company, of Arlington, Virginia, and Lockheed Martin Corporation, of Bethesda, Maryland. Speculation is that the Navy would favor the team that can best bring network centric warfare to fruition. The team that can pull this off will "solidify its position," says Chic McDaniel, business development manager for land attack systems at Raytheon.
SCHOOL'S OUT - With the United States due to withdraw from the Panama Canal Zone at the end of the year, some members of the House Armed Services Committee want to know what is going to happen to the Army's famed Jungle Operations School, which recently completed its last class there.
The Army says it plans to relocate the school, but it hasn't decided where. One possibility being discussed is North Carolina's Ft. Bragg. Insiders note that it is home for the 82nd Airborne and the Third Special Forces Group, both of which share an interest in jungle training, and offers easy access to nearby coastal marshes in the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida.
HIGH FLYING SPY - More than four decades after it was first introduced, the Air Force's venerable spy plane, the U-2, is still in hot demand. U.S. military commanders in the field are competing for use of the long-winged high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft in places such as the Balkans, Iraq, and hurricane-torn Central America. "The U-2 flies every day," says Maj. Gen. David F. MacGhee Jr., operations director of the Air Force's Air Combat Command. "There just are not enough to go around."
TOO FAR DOWN - The Navy doesn't have enough submarines to do its job, claims Rear Adm. Malcolm I. Fages, director of submarine warfare. The service now has 58 attack subs, and it is on its way down to 50, as mandated by the Pentagon's Quadrennial Defense Review. But a study now being conducted by the Joint Chiefs of Staff may recommend increasing that number in order to meet the warfare needs of 2015 and beyond. "Fifty will come out as the absolute minimum," Fages told the recent convention of the Navy League in Washington, D.C., "and I suspect the number will be higher."
DROP-OUTS, TAKE NOTE - The Navy is relaxing its recruitment standards in order to fill the ranks, says a high-level official. Until now, would-be sailors always have been required to have at least high school diplomas. This year, the service plans to take in 2,500 recruits who are not high school graduates.
SIGNING UP CADETS - With military services having trouble meeting recruiting quotas, Rep. Solomon Ortiz (D-TX) is concerned about reports that recruiters are signing up graduates from high school Junior ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) programs, rather than encouraging them to go on to college and become officers.
CAN'T KEEP UP - Junior ROTC is so popular that the services say they can't keep up with demand. Junior ROTC, which strives to teach responsibility, self-discipline, and civic mindededness, is widely viewed in much the same light as boy and girl scout programs. The Army alone has 218,000 high schoolers enrolled. Says Lt. Gen. John E. Rhodes, head of the Marine Corps' Combat Development Command: "We have principals calling us up and asking how they can start a program at their schools."
HIGH TECH BUT UNHAPPY - Marines are known for being frugal. That may explain why they are unhappy about spending big dollars on high-tech gadgetry. The corps spends about one-third of its procurement budget on communications and electronics, according to Marine Lt. Gen. Michael J. Williams, deputy chief of staff for programs and resources. "That's a lot," he told a Navy League audience in Washington, D.C. "With 36 percent of the budget, we have zero happy customers ... This is a frustration for every Marine who's ever bought a radio ... But we are going to keep trying."
Y2K CRAZY - The Defense Department said 88 percent of its "mission critical" computer systems were "Y2K compliant" in March. They had been reconfigured to cope with glitches surrounding the year 2000. But a source on Capitol Hill says that the department achieved the high percentage by reducing the number of "mission critical" systems from 2,306 in February to 2,038 in March. What's more, the source said, a number of classified computer systems-essential for national security-had not been tested at all for Y2K.