The Buzz

An Army of Pentathletes

If you want to lead in the Army, then you'd better get in shape. In a new leadership regulation published March 22, the service says it's aiming to groom pentathletes to head its organizations.

With "versatility and athleticism," these new jocks will "learn and adapt in ambiguous situations in a constantly evolving environment." They are "innovative, adaptive and situationally aware professionals who demonstrate character in everything they do, are experts in the profession of arms, boldly confront uncertainty and solve complex problems . . . are decisive and prudent risk takers who effectively manage, lead and change organizations . . . are professionally educated and dedicated to lifelong learning; resilient, mentally and physically agile, empathetic and self-aware; and confidently lead soldiers and civilians, build teams and achieve the Army's overarching strategic goals, while engendering loyalty and trust." Whew! No leaping tall buildings in a single bound?

Seriously, the regulation (600-100) provides refreshing clarity about what the Army and perhaps other organizations should expect from those who supervise others. On the civilian side of government, the idea of clear leadership development and expectations still can't get traction. Legislators are trying to create consistent training for supervisors and managers. "It's time to ensure that federal managers receive appropriate training to supervise federal employees," says Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, who sponsored a bill requiring training during the first year in a supervisory slot and every three years thereafter.

Nailing Down Anti-Terror Solutions

The next time an improvised explosive device detonates in Iraq, a team of military scientists, private contractors and academics could be working on a prototype to counter the deadly insurgent weapon within the week.

In early March, the Navy unveiled an aggressive approach to provide soldiers with urgently needed anti-terror tools. The Naval Innovation Laboratory (NaIL) is a virtual organization comprising multidisciplinary teams from the public and private sectors-an acquisition SWAT team of sorts-that can rapidly develop and deliver military technology not currently on the shelf.

Here's how it works: Soldiers notify NaIL of an urgent counterterrorism technology, needed to fend off IEDs, rocket-propelled grenades or mortar rounds. Senior leaders then have five days to investigate possible solutions. If a proposal is developed, and the cost is accepted, the NaIL has a recommended 270 days to "develop, integrate, test and deliver fieldable prototypes," wrote Delores M. Etter, the Navy's assistant secretary for research, development and acquisition, in a March 8 memo. If all goes well, the technology could be available to soldiers within the year.

The NaIL is a departure from the more traditional Naval Research Laboratory, which conducts scientific study that can take decades to develop. To expedite that process, officials envision a scenario in which a nearly completed NRL project could be accelerated and then transitioned into a NaIL effort.

With insurgents in Iraq and Af-ghanistan employing increasingly more sophisticated tactics, the NaIL could be hammered with requests.

-Robert Brodsky

Gruesome Epistles From 'The Bishop'

A former weekend letter carrier was arrested April 25 in one of the largest mail crime probes in recent history. About 100 postal inspectors plus agents from the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were hunting a man calling himself The Bishop, who was believed to have sent a host of threatening letters and dud bombs through the U.S. Postal Service since May 2005. The Postal Inspection Service offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to the bomber's arrest.

John P. Tomkins, 42, of Dubuque, Iowa, a machinist, was picked up on his way to work after officials matched his handwriting to envelopes The Bishop mailed, and determined he drives a car similar to one in a photo contained in one of the mailings. On Jan. 26, 2007, The Bishop sent two explosive devices via Priority Mail from the Rolling Meadows, Ill., post office to American Century Investments in Kansas City, Mo., and Janus Small Cap in Denver. Critical elements were deliberately left out of the pipe bombs so they would not detonate. Notes mailed with the devices read "Bang!! You're Dead" and "Tic-Toc".

"The person did raise the stakes when they took the next step and created these devices and sent them through the mail stream," Postal Inspector Dave Colen told CBS News on March 9. Colen leads the joint federal investigation. The Bishop has sent at least 15 letters, many containing religious references and demanding that financial firms set stock prices at $6.66. He also referred to Ted Kaczynski, known as the Unabomber, who was captured after a 17-year campaign of mail bombings.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec