A View of Military Technology from the Inside

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Derrick Story

Derrick Story
Nov. 05, 2001 08:13 PM

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WASHINGTON DC -- When Major Mark Bontrager took the stage at the O'Reilly Peer-to-Peer Conference and began to explain why the US military is interested in P2P, I said to myself, "Now, this is different."

Most of the guys I talk tech with wear sneakers, not spit-shined leather shoes.

The panel discussion was titled, "Military Applications of P2P," and we got an insider's perspective from four experts within the armed services: Mike Macedonia, Mark Bontrager, Earl Wardell, and Assad Moini. The most interesting of the bunch was Wardell, who was on special assignment for the army to figure out how to improve critical communications using P2P.

Wardell explained that there is a minority within the armed forces who understand the value of this technology and who want to use it to speed up communication while engaged in conflict. But he also reminded us that the government changes slowly, even when it realizes that change is necessary.

Plus, unlike the business world where falling behind in technology means possible doom, governmental entities are often given increased budgets to compensate for their lack of efficiency. The incentive to "turn the technology ship around" hasn't been as strong as in the private sector.

But Sept. 11 changed everything. The US is engaged in a battle with an enemy that understands peer-to-peer concepts and applies them with great efficiency. The American government needs to keep pace and embrace the technologies that are flourishing right beneath its nose in the private sector.

According to the representatives speaking during the panel discussion, the armed forces specifically, and the government in general, have much to learn from our young technology innovators, many of whom wear the uniform of sneakers and t-shirts, not spit-shined shoes.

Derrick Story is the author of The Photoshop CS4 Companion for Photographers, The Digital Photography Companion, and Digital Photography Hacks, and coauthor of iPhoto: The Missing Manual, with David Pogue. You can follow him on Twitter or visit www.thedigitalstory.com.