Skip to content

Open Letter to SPAWAR

To Whom It May Concern,

As a service-member who has been in the Southwest Asia theater of operations for 24 of the last 48 months, I have been well exposed to the services offered by your organization. While it is nice to have free (albiet low-speed) Internet access and low-cost calling options, the reliability and quality of your network is questionable.

My first issue is regarding the lack of Quality of Service (QoS) policies on your routers. At least at the distribution/access level, QoS policies do not exist. While I have not seen your routers’ configurations, this is obvious for a number of reasons:

  • When the MWR is empty, the Internet speeds are manageable and could even be considered good for a satellite-based link.
  • During the afternoons, when the majority of traffic appears to be data (web pages, instant messaging, etc.), access speeds are still usable, even when all of the computers are in use.
  • In the evenings, at least fifty percent of users are using voice and video applications, such as Skype, with little to no degradation of video quality. Attempting to use data services, however, is nearly impossible, as pages (even quickly loading ones such as Google’s home page) will time-out before being displayed.

Quality of Service policies prevent any one type of service from dominating the available bandwidth and preventing others from working. While the telephone services you provide are Voice-over-IP (VoIP) and QoS policies may be in place segregating VoIP from other traffic, no restrictions are being placed on computer-generated VoIP and video services (i.e. Skype, Yahoo! Video Messenging, etc.).

These policies could be easily created and implemented, as they are in use throughout the IT world (including the Army’s WIN-T architecture). At bare minimum, ensure that each station is allotted a dedicated portion of the cafe’s overall bandwidth, so that it is usable.

Second, the images placed on the cafes’ computers are bloated, outdated, and just plain awful. While I applaud the wide-array of Instant Messaging clients (on this machine, there is Google Talk, Skype, Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, AIM, and MySpace IM), no one uses MySpace IM. Also, the version of Google Talk installed doesn’t support Google Voice, which would be the only reason to use that over Yahoo!, AIM, or Windows Live.

The Start Menu is littered with items like Creative Product Registration, two versions of OpenOffice.org, two icons for Internet Explorer, and a number of other applications that your cafes’ users should not be using or seeing. If the cafes’ techs are installing software onto your baseline, then my statement regarding your image should be withdrawn and my comments be redirected at your techs. Windows XP (the OS used in your cafes) is too easy to keep tidy, especially when users only have access to one account.

Lastly, your network is owned by the Department of Defense. As such, access should be limited to ID Card-holders only. Third country nationals should not be permitted access to such systems. I do understand that the network is not directly tied into NIPR net (the Department of Defense’s Unclassified network), but the use of MWR facilities outside of SWA is limited to ID Card-holders. It should be no different here.

The people working the front desk (TCNs) give priority to their “friends” with regards to time limits on the phones and computers. Soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines should not have to wait in line behind TCN contractors that should not even be allowed MWR access.

Please do not take my criticism as an attack. I am grateful for the free Internet and appreciate its availability. My hope is to bring a few glaring issues to your attention, so that future deployers can experience even better services with little effort on your part.

Respectfully,

Sean Callaway
United States Army


SPAWAR, or the Department of the Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, provides Internet and voice services in Iraq and Afghanistan. You can visit the SPAWAR homepage here.

Published inArmyInternetNetworking