Stop by Tuesday for dinner or a drink with a great guy (and me)

I’m taking up my duties as a public-spirited citizen next week on Tuesday evening, by hosting a fun little fundraiser for my local Congressman – and if you’re going to be in Washington DC the evening of 10/27 I hope you’ll join me (click here for the invitation and details). It’ll be a fun evening; we’ll be at the ultra-cool Johnny’s Half-Shell on Capitol Hill after all.

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March of progress with human consequences

Fact: Today Cisco announced a new program with “learning solutions partners” to support China’s growing IT infrastructure by “Nurturing Talent in More Than 100 Training Centers Across 31 Cities in China” (Cisco Launches Talent Development Strategy for China“)

Analysis: One day last week an enterprising handyman in my little town of Montross, Virginia spied a large sinkhole in the long driveway leading up to our house. He offered to my wife that he’d fill and level the hole for $20.  Sold! Continue reading

Walled-Garden Wikis and Candlepower

Fact: Last night the U.S. Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) announced it has “moved its C2Pedia Registry to the unclassified network enabling more potential users to access and edit the site, hoping it will ultimately improve the quality of data.”  C2Pedia is a MediaWiki-driven online knowledge base of information about Command and Control (C2), with specific information about more than 200 C2 systems used across the Department of Defense and the armed services.

Analysis: The profusion of wikis in official government circles is an interesting expression of the value of social media for enterprise knowledge management, but for the most part inside agency or network firewalls, denying access to the public at large and therefore incorporating only the wisdom of “the inside crowd.” The State Department’s Diplopedia sits on their intranet (ironically called “OpenNet”), as the New York Times pointed out in a story a few weeks ago (“An Internal Wiki that’s Not Classified“), implying a distinction (without a difference to my mind) between Diplopedia and the IC’s Intellipedia, which has an unclassified version as well – but it also sits on a firewalled network!

Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, testified to Congress recently about the value of wikis and social media within enterprises, and pointed out the distinction between “within-the-agency” verticalized information sharing, a la Diplopedia, and horizontal sharing across organizations as exemplified by the IC’s Intellipedia, which as I mentioned has a firewalled unclassified version as well as its classified-network versions, all accessible from any of the intelligence community’s sixteen agencies and beyond.

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The Best of America, in Iraq

The fireworks (and sales) of the Fourth are over. Much has been written about this holiday, about which many in America are unnecessarily cynical. Both sides in the presidential campaign made much of patriotism this week. I just wanted to share something that I read in a back-of-the-paper page of the Washington Post today, a little interview which says more about the quiet ideals motivating American foreign policy at its best, and the undaunted courage of those who help to carry it out.

The interview (“The Doctor is In: To Iraq and Back“) is with dentist and retired-two-star general Ronald D. Silverman.  He practices in Alexandria, Virginia, and I may just see if I can get an appointment with him, because I’d like most of all to shake his hand and thank him for what he’s done.

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How to Find Research: Here, There, Everywhere

FACT: The Washington Post today has a story in the Business section (“Intelligence Agency Joins U-Md. Research Center“) about the relationship between IARPA and the University of Maryland, the location of the planned new IARPA headquarters. 

ANALYSIS: UMd has a set of valuable relationships with the public- and private-sector national security community, and the IARPA startup is just the latest agency to benefit.   Proximity is key, for research and bureaucracy.  In Maryland’s case, IARPA Director Lisa Porter told an IEEE interviewer last month that “It’s nice not to be sitting right next to one particular agency. It’s also nice to be near a university because we’re sending a message that we want to bring in nontraditional partners: academia, industry. It sends a nice message that we’re embracing the broad community to help us solve these challenging problems.”

I lament sometimes that Charlottesville (home to my undergraduate alma mater) is a good two hours away from DC, as even that distance puts a frustrating limit on the amount of joint work that winds up being done with Virginia faculty and students. 

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War is Virtual Hell

FACT: According to market research compiled by Microsoft, the global market for Modeling and Simulation (M&S) software/hardware platforms across all industries, including the defense industry, has hit $18 billion per year; the cumulative growth rate is estimated at 9.6% annually.

ANALYSIS:  The lovely wife and I have been lackadaisically house-hunting down in Virginia’s Northern Neck, the Athens of America and the cradle of our democracy. The Neck is the birthplace of George Washington, the Lee brothers (the revolutionary patriots about whom John Adams used the phrase, “This Band of Brothers,” among them Declaration of Independence signers Richard Henry Lee and Francis Lightfoot Lee, not to mention their later nephew Robert E. Lee), James Monroe, John Ballentine, etc. etc. 

Anyway, recently we toured the historic 1859 house at Braehead, an 18-acre estate actually located within the Civil War battlefield in Fredericksburg, Virginia. The house is for sale, and while it’s likely overpriced (like everything else on the market these days) [this observation has been energetically and somewhat persuasively disputed by the listing agent, who read the post], but we enjoyed the tour.  I’ve posted many (too many) photos of our little tour here.  My interest in the house is the historic angle: it’s actually where Robert E. Lee visited and took breakfast on the morning of the Battle of Fredericksburg in 1862, one of his successful efforts against U.S. forces.  Here’s an article about Braehead’s history and historic preservation.

It was in fact at Fredericksburg that Lee spoke the words which would sum up the entire war, nay all wars, as he witnessed thousands of Union soldiers falling in battle to Confederate guns on the hills above the Rappahannock River: “It is well that war is so terrible, lest we grow too fond of it.”  

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Business Executives for National Security, and Dana Carvey?

Went to the big BENS gala last night (Business Executives for National Security) in downtown Washington, along with some Microsoft colleagues – the company was a sponsor – and several guests who fit right in with the rest of the crowd, military brass and IC muckety-mucks.  I first met BENS founder Stanley Weiss back in the late 1980s when he came to Silicon Valley to recruit support for the new group, “a nonpartisan business organization aiming to cut through ideological debates on national security issues.” 

The evening’s billed highlight was the awarding of the annual BENS Eisenhower Award to Sec. of Defense Robert Gates, who gave just a phenomenal speech (see Reuters and AP coverage today, and the full text here). I blogged a couple of days ago about his speech to the Heritage Foundation, which I read the text of, but seeing Gates deliver this speech really impressed me, to be honest. He comes across as sincerely dedicated to fixing some of the fundamental problems of DoD and the intelligence community (his career after all was at CIA and he is obviously a thoughtful critic of the DNI structure and “reforms”).  I sat there wondering whether Gates would be willing to continue at the Pentagon in the next Administration (odds are much higher of that with a McCain victory, obviously, and infinitesimal otherwise).

Brent Scowcroft introduced Gates with a warm and witty tribute, and it was nice to see him in person.  He told several jokes making fun of the Beltway culture, getting big laughs. Gates continued in kind at the beginning of his remarks, before he got serious – keep reading for one of Gates’s best jokes:

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