It’s no understatement to say that the military’s public information technology systems are atrocious, sacrificing utility in the name of security. Take, for example, the “Virtual Family Readiness Group” (vFRG)—an Army-sponsored network designed to connect families of deployed service members with their Soldiers. The sign-up process for vFRGs requires so many forms of authentication—to include the last four digits of a service member’s social security number and a follow-up phone call—that many families don’t even bother to sign up. Those who actually do sign up for these sites are limited to a small number of close family members, normally in close contact with a Soldier to begin with. As a result, many units have forgone the official vFRGs and create sites on Facebook, which offers easy access to pictures, video, and upcoming events. Facebook also reaches a larger audience, including extended family members, friends, local media, and community leaders.
The same is true for the Army’s e-mail service, Army Knowledge Online. In order for a service member to access their paltry 100MB inbox, he or she must either stick their military ID card into the computer and enter a personal identification number, or they must enter a password followed by multiple personal security questions. Smartphone access is still in its infancy.
I’m no luddite, but I’m more inclined to use Gmail than AKO—the login process is simple, I have gigabytes of storage space, and I can send and receive real-time e-mail on my Blackberry. Not to mention I don't have to put up with personal security questions like these. Just witness some of the honest-to-God preprogrammed personal security questions from Army Knowledge Online, along with the twenty "canned" choices.
1.) What is your favorite movie? Choices include:
- An Officer and a Gentleman
- McClintock (WTF?)
- Terms of Endearment
- The Matrix
- Batman (Wait, which Batman? Oh right, that Batman.)
- Gone With the Wind
- Pretty Woman
- The Birds
- The Notebook (This reminds me of one of my favorite obnoxious t-shirts, which says "Attention ladies, I enjoyed The Notebook")
- Pride and Prejudice (sans Zombies)
- The Bridges of Madison County (Any more chick flicks on this list and I'm seriously going to have to take a Midol PMS...)
- The Sixth Sense
- Lord of the Rings
- The Bucket List (WTF?)
Can anyone name a notable movie franchise that is missing from this list? Certainly, I can't think of any other movie franchises which have spawned millions of loyal fans, and occupy a prominent role in our cultural memory than the ones listed in the security questionnaire.
Next question: Who is your favorite entertainer? I'll run down the highlights from the top 20 choices here...
- Jody Foster (First of all, it's Jodie Foster. Secondly, if someone did select Jodie Foster as their favorite actress, would that send up a red flag or two? Just curious...)
- Justin Timberlake
- Robin Williams
- Samuel Jackson (Again, another misspelling. His real name is Samuel L. "I've had it with these motherfuckin' snakes on this motherfuckin' plane" Jackson)
- Matt Damon
- David Letterman
- Jay Leno (Is AKO collecting poll data for the networks?)
- Chicken (Leeroy Jenkins, anyone?)
- Grapes and berries
- Ice cream
- Meat (Wait, just "meat"? Seriously? What if I like chicken? Do I pick "meat" or "chicken"?)
- Desserts (Because ice cream is not a dessert?)
- Jelly or Jam
- Peanut Butter (But peanut butter and jelly always go together. No one eats jam all by its lonesome. And what if I like grape jelly on my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? Do I pick "grapes", "jelly" or "peanut butter" as my favorite food?)
- Fish (Not related to sushi. By the way, why isn't fish "meat"?)