War Is…Tell. Show and Tell, to be Precise.

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Navy photo / MC 2nd Class Aaron Chase

The Navy is looking for help to make sure images like this -- taken aboard the destroyer USS Winston S. Churchill in the Atlantic on Tuesday -- can be shipped home easily.

Getting the story out is important, whether you’re a reporter…or a sailor. That’s the bottom line of a Navy inquiry seeking help getting the Navy story out no matter where it takes place.

It seems the Navy has lots of public-affairs types, and some 600 kinds of gear, worth $9 million, they need to do their jobs.

But they don’t have everything they need. “NPASE [Navy Public Affairs Support Elements] does not have the necessary manning or space to support the inventory needed to conduct its mission,” the sea service says. “Therefore, contractor support is needed to provide services to fabricate, assemble, package, store, and ship expeditionary imagery kits and provide training on the VI [visual information] systems in the expeditionary imagery kits.”

Think of it as a 21st Century update of William Randolph Hearst’s supposed 1897 cable to Frederic Remington, impatiently waiting to document potential conflict in Cuba: “You furnish the pictures,” Hearst told the artist, “and I’ll furnish the war.”

NPASE’s mission is “to train, equip, and employ expeditionary public affairs (PA) forces that support fleet and component Commanders with scalable and immediate deployable force packages with current and emerging PA and visual information (VI).”

“Expeditionary public affairs forces”?

They’re ready to help record the Navy in action, from soup-to-nuts:

This includes providing individuals and detachments which are trained in PA and VI operational and tactical planning execution and assessment; broadcast and print journalism; multi-media production; and specialized hand-held imaging capabilities that documents force deployments and activities of the Navy, and when tasked to other services, for the attainment of naval, military and national objectives.

Reading this pre-solicitation makes it sound that the winning bidder would be something like Mom and Dad on Christmas morn, helping the children figure out how to work their new toys, installing the batteries, and updating software. Apparently, people capable of operating nuclear submarines and F-18 fighters can’t handle videocams or PhotoShop – at least not as cheaply as the private sector.

This is a good example of how big and sprawling the U.S. military is, and why it costs so much money to operate. For example, if the Navy awards a contract for such work, it wants the company hired to have its own set of job descriptions (they’re called “ratings” in the Navy, and MOSes – “military occupational specialties” – in the Army):  Equipment Manager – shall provide the engineering and technical support necessary to assemble and test PA/VI hardware/software.  In addition, the contract Equipment Manager shall provide technical support for the preparation, installation, and upgrade of all PA/VI software on deployable laptops.  Training Analyst – shall be familiar with databases to monitor personnel training and development such as Fleet Training Management and Planning System (FLTMPS), Navy Knowledge Online (NKO), Total Workforce Management System (TWMS), and Advanced Skills Management (ASM).  Training Analyst/Trainer – shall ensure all deploying personnel are familiar with all required PA/VI equipment which includes cameras and accessories as well as deployable computers and all applicable software. Operations Support Analyst – shall draft correspondence in response to mission support requests and maintain records and files of all operations and exercises that the PA/VI unit supports. Project Manager – shall have experience with Microsoft Project and understand project management and risk management fundamentals.  Program Manager – shall be responsible for accomplishing the program task as set forth in this PWS and shall be the focal point for all program communication between the government and the contractor.

All such employees “must possess or be able to obtain a civilian passport if international travel is required and all contractor personnel must be able to hold/obtain a Secret Level Clearance.”

Beyond that, the winning bidder will be responsible for crating and shipping the right assortment of gear whenever and wherever it’s needed. “The contractor shall provide a recommendation for PA/VI equipment to be utilized on missions based on validated Combatant Commander requirements,” the Navy says. “The contractor shall ship via traceable delivery method an external storage device containing all imagery screened for content and reviewed for accuracy to Navy Visual News Service located at the Pentagon in Washington DC.”

Somehow, you knew that’s where all this stuff would end up.