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August 17 2013




DoD weighs major COCOM realignment

Aug. 11, 2013 – 09:49AM |

By Marcus Weisgerber

Staff writer


WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is considering a major overhaul of its geographical combatant commands, possibly realigning oversight within hot-button areas of the world and eliminating thousands of military and civilian positions,according to defense sources..

While the plans for combatant command (COCOM) realignment and consolidation are still notional, sources say some options include:

■ Combining Northern Command and Southern Command to form what what some are calling “Americas Command” or “Western Command.”

■ Dissolving Africa Command and splitting it up among European Command and Central Command.

■ Expanding Pacific Command to include Afghanistan and Pakistan, which are part of Central Command.

In all, the realignments could shutter two COCOMs and eight service-supporting commands, totaling more than 5,000 people both uniformed and civilian.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel for the first time hinted at the consolidations of the COCOMs during a July 31 press conference when he announced significant budget-cutting options the Defense Department would have to make should federal spending cuts remain in place across the decade.

Defense officials would not comment on specific consolidation plans being considered.

The sequester is forcing the Pentagon to look for ways to cut spending quickly. Shuttering a COCOM would impact U.S. relations abroad, and underscores the need to eliminate the budget caps, a defense official said.

“Combining combatant commands is certainly not something that we want to do, but something that we have to consider because all cuts have to be on the table,” the official said.

Members of the Joint Staff and other defense officials have been exploring options for COCOM realignment since last year, according to sources.

Regional experts agree the Pentagon could reorganize its combatant commands to better align the headquarters with long-term strategic goals.

Combining Northern and Southern commands could lead to greater resources for activities in South and Central America, which experts say has long been DoD’s most neglected region.


Combining the regions could better address cross border issues — particularly drug trafficking — between Mexico, South America and the United States, said Bob Killebrew, a retired Army colonel and senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security.

Mexico is part of Northern Command, which also includes the contiguous United States, Alaska and Canada.

“[I]t makes … sense not to have a kind of artificial DoD boundary, not only between Mexico and Central America, but between Mexico and the American border as well,” Killebrew said.

Organizing oversight of Africa has been a topic of debate — mostly in the academic community — ever since Africa Command split from European Command and became a stand-alone COCOM in 2008. Before that, European Command oversaw much of the continent, with Central Command overseeing the Horn of Africa.

“The [oversight] that was diffused over multiple commands really wasn’t something that was in our best interest nor in the best interest of our partners on the continent,” said Kip Ward, a retired Army general who was the first commander of Africa Command.

Major changes to the existing Africa Command construct are not likely during a COCOM reorganization, experts say. US military operations in Africa, ranging from the 2011 overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi in Libya to the recent campaign against terrorists in Mali, underscore the need for a dedicated COCOM, defense officials say.

Since its establishment, Africa Command has added value and has been well received on the continent, Ward said.

“I think that the focus that AFRICOM is able to bring to that vital, important part of the world is still important,” he said.

Meanwhile, experts agree that Afghanistan, Pakistan and India should fall under the same COCOM, regardless of whether it’s Pacific or Central. India falls under Pacific Command while Pakistan and Afghanistan are part of Central Command.

Since security, foreign policy, economic and trade issues with India predominantly involve Pakistan and vice versa, placing them under the same COCOM could better streamline U.S. military ties with each country, some experts say.

The same is true for security and policy issues involving Afghanistan, since much of the violence in the nation is along the Pakistani border.

“It’s better that the people who are dealing with India are the ones that are at least fully aware of, or completely in the picture, of what was discussed between two top dignitaries between the U.S. and Pakistan,” said Hassan Abbas, a former Pakistani government official who served in the administrations of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and President Pervez Musharraf.

“If they are the same team, or the same group of people that are in the same institution who are dealing with India, it actually provides more leverage for the United States and more opportunities to go for a coherent policy rather than dealing through two different commands,” said Abbas, a senior adviser and fellow at the Asia Society and a professor at National Defense University’s College of International Security Affairs. He stressed that this is his personal view and he was not speaking for the university or the U.S. government. “I think this makes sense.”


Budget consolidation

Federal budget caps would cut about $500 billion from planned defense spending over the next decade. The caps have already cut $37 billion from the Pentagon’s 2013 budget.


With that in mind, Hagel on July 31 announced the findings of the four-month-long Strategic Choices and Management Review, an effort that examined options the Pentagon could take to meet those spending targets, while trying to achieve the goals of its Pacific-focused military strategy.

If the caps remain in place across the decade, “additional consolidations and mission reductions,” such as “consolidations of regional combatant commands, defense agency mission cuts, and further IT consolidation” might be necessary, Hagel said.

“These changes would be far-reaching and require further analysis and consideration,” he said. “Though defense bureaucracies are often derided, the fact is that these offices perform functions needed to manage, administer and support a military of our size, complexity and global reach.”

The actual COCOM realignments would be laid out in the Unified Command Plan, a document that “establishes the missions, responsibilities and geographic areas of responsibility” for COCOM.

The Unified Command Plan — which originated in late the 1940s — is usually reviewed every two years and was last updated in April 2011.

The Pentagon last shuttered a major command in 2010 when it closed U.S. Joint Forces Command, in an attempt to trim overhead. But many of the positions associated with that command remained as the Joint Staff absorbed nearly 3,000 uniformed and civilian workers.

The growth in headquarters staff sizes at the COCOMs and across the entire military has been a major issue of late.

Between 2010 and 2012, staff sizes at the six geographical COCOMs have increased more than 7 percent, adding nearly 1,000 civilian and military positions.

In addition to those numbers, each service operates its own subordinate commands to the individual COCOMs. Many positions at the service commands are redundant to positions at the COCOMs, according to the Government Accountability Office.

“If they were to streamline or combine [COCOMs], you certainly won’t have as many components,” said Arnold Punaro, a retired Marine Corps major general and former Senate staffer who chairs the Reserve Forces Policy Board. “It depends on how they do it.”

Hagel announced this summer a plan to cut COCOM headquarters and Pentagon staffs by 20 percent and reduce duplication.

Pentagon officials overseeing the reorganization should also consider changing the title of the four-star generals and admirals who oversee these regions from combatant commanders to something less invasive, Killebrew said.

“It’s a horrible [title] because what most of these commanders do is military assistance and military cooperation with other countries,” Killebrew said. “When you say you’re a combatant commander the first thing somebody in a small country says is, ‘But I don’t want to go to war. I just want to talk.’ “

This is especially the case when dealing with some African and Central and South American nations.

A combatant commander used to hold the title commander in chief, or CINC, a title that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld abolished in 2002.

Killebrew said the title should be changed to “unified commander or something that implies working with other countries and not invading them.”

Paul McLeary contributed to this report.


Sequester May End Civilian Pensions for Military Retirees


By Eric Katz

August 8, 2013

Civilians at the Defense Department have had a rough go of it lately, thanks in large part to sequestration.

They recently received some good news, however, as Secretary Chuck Hagel shaved the number of furloughs each worker must take, from 11 down to six. The celebrations may be short lived.

The Pentagon is hoping to avoid furloughs in fiscal 2014, but may resort to mandatory layoffs if sequestration remains in effect. The department would have to cut $52 billion from its budget next year if the spending caps stay, an increasingly likely prospect. In the long term, however — current law defines sequestration as a 10-year program — Defense will have to cut $250 billion over the next decade, and simple reductions in force will not suffice.

Hagel recently laid out various budget scenarios in the department’s Strategic Choices and Management Review, including proposals for dealing with sequestration. One suggestion: eliminating civilian pensions for retired military personnel working in the civil service.

Currently, the approximately 134,000 military retirees working for the Pentagon may forfeit their military retirement pay if they wish to apply their years of military service toward their civilian pension. Alternatively, they can keep their military retirement pay and start their service credit fresh when beginning their civilian careers. The new proposal would strip these options from military retirees, who would instead have to rely on their military retirement payments alone.

The plan — which, for now, remains very much in the hypothetical stage — would save $100 billion over ten years, Hagel said, when combined with ending subsidies for defense commissaries and restricting the availability of unemployment benefits.

Although they would have a “significant impact” on the Pentagon’s workforce, Hagel said “a sequester-level scenario would compel us to consider these changes, because there would be no realistic alternative that did not pose unacceptable risks to national security.”

Cuts to TRICARE Prime Proceed, Despite Protests

Over the last few months, Government Executive has tracked a Defense Department plan to phase out TRICARE Prime — the cheaper health care alternative to TRICARE Standard — for certain military retirees and their dependents. 

The move will affect more than 170,000 Prime enrollees who live more than 40 miles from a military clinic or hospital. The Pentagon will automatically transfer those beneficiaries to TRICARE Standard beginning Oct. 1, increasing their fees by about $240 a year on average. “Prolonged protests” had delayed the plan’s implementation, the Defense Department said.

Enrollees who live outside the acceptable radius for Prime, but within 100 miles of a military  facility, may have a one-time opportunity to stay enrolled in the economy health care plan, depending on the availability of services.

Little Victories

While the outlook for former military personnel is, in recent months, mostly marked by disheartening headlines, at least one subsect received positive news this week.

Both chambers of Congress have passed the Helping Heroes Fly Act, introduced in the House by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii. The bill will — once it receives President Obama’s signature — improve and make permanent the Wounded Warrior Screening Program, which requires the Transportation Security Administration to offer “sensitive screening of severely injured or disabled service members and veterans.”

“There is nothing more frustrating than to see these heroes returning home after defending our nation only to have to go through secondary screening in our airports. It’s offensive and insulting,” said Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, House Homeland Security Committee chairman. “The Helping Heroes Fly Act will put an end to this and treat our wounded warriors with the dignity they deserve.”


MSPB Indefinitely Delays Processing of Defense Furlough Appeals


By Kellie Lunney

August 12, 2013

The Merit Systems Protection Board has delayed processing and adjudication of furlough appeals from Defense Department employees until it can get a better handle on them.

Approximately 30,400 furlough challenges have poured into the small federal agency to date this fiscal year; of those, about 96 percent so far are from Defense employees forced to take unpaid leave because of sequestration. MSPB, which has a little more than 200 employees in Washington and in eight regional offices nationwide, called the number of appeals “unprecedented” and “overwhelming.” The agency will continue to process as usual furlough appeals from employees of non-Defense agencies.

The delay will allow MSPB to glean “a better understanding of the claims being raised, the work locations of the appellants, the MSPB offices in which the appeals have been filed, and whether or not the appellants are represented,” the agency said in a statement on its website. The board encouraged employees to file appeals electronically if they can, and to check online periodically for updates.

Among its other responsibilities, MSPB adjudicates appeals of “adverse personnel actions” from federal employees who’ve been fired, suspended for more than 14 days, furloughed for 30 days or less, demoted or had their pay cut. Agencies must give furloughed employees 30 days’ advance notice; once on furlough, employees have 30 days to file an appeal with MSPB. The agency’s regional offices received about 6,000 appeals during fiscal 2012; as of Monday, the regional offices received approximately 35,000 appeals, the bulk of which are furlough appeals. And there’s still more than a month left in fiscal 2013.

“As you can imagine, our regional offices have been overwhelmed, but our employees are working hard and doing the best they can do under difficult circumstances,” said Bryan Polisuk, MSPB general counsel, in an email. MSPB administrative judges have issued 16 decisions so far in furlough appeal cases, all from employees of the Federal Aviation Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency. The judges agreed with the agency’s decision to furlough the employees in each of those cases.


MSPB is docketing Defense furlough appeals as they come in, and then notifying employees that it will contact them “at a later date” with information on the status of their appeals. “MSPB will also be unable to respond quickly to inquiries regarding these furlough appeals,” the website statement said. “We ask therefore that parties to DoD furlough appeals refrain from contacting MSPB’s regional and field offices until we inform you that processing of your appeal has begun.” The board also sent letters in July to the general counsels of the Navy, Air Force and Army informing them of the processing delay related to Defense furlough appeals.

The agency’s regional offices have docketed 10,700 furlough appeals to date, Polisuk said. “The docketing process itself takes some time,” he said. “We’re hoping to be in a position soon to make decisions on how to move forward and adjudicate these cases in the most efficient manner possible, but again, it will depend on the volume of appeals.”

Defense furloughed 650,000 civilian employees this fiscal year because of sequestration. The department originally told employees that they would have to take 22 days of unpaid leave through Sept. 30; that number now is down to six days.

MSPB officials have worried since before the mandatory budget cuts took effect in March that the tiny, quasi-judicial agency could be flooded with appeals from furloughed employees across government. The only other time something like this happened, according to officials, was in the 1980s when the agency had to process 12,000 personnel-related appeals during the air traffic controller strike. That took two years, and at the time, MSPB had about double the number of employees it has now.

The average appeal processing time in fiscal 2012 was 93 days for an initial decision from the agency. The losing party can then file a petition of review with the agency’s three-member board in Washington. It took an average of 245 days to process those petitions in fiscal 2012.



Dalai Lama’s Chinese website infecting visitors, expert warns

By Jim Finkle

BOSTON (Reuters) – A prominent computer security firm has warned that the Dalai Lama’s Chinese-language website has been compromised with malicious software that is infecting computers of visitors with software that could be used for spying on its visitors.

Kaspersky Lab researcher Kurt Baumgartner told Reuters that he is advising web surfers to stay away from the Chinese-language site of the Central Tibetan Administration’s site until the organization fixes the bug.

He said he believes the group behind the campaign was also behind previous breaches on the site that have gone unreported as well as attacks on websites belonging to groups that focus on human rights in Asia.

Officials with the Office of Tibet in New York could not be reached for comment. That office houses the Dalai Lama’s official representative to the United States.

Baumgartner said that the Chinese-language site of the Central Tibetan Administration, which is the official organ of the Dalai Lama’s government in exile, has been under constant attack from one group of hackers since 2011, though breaches have been quietly identified and repaired before garnering public attention.


“They have been trying repeatedly to find vulnerabilities in the site,” he said.

He said that it is safe to visit the group’s English and Tibetan sites.

He said he believes the same group of attackers has repeatedly infected the site with malicious software that automatically drops viruses on computers running Microsoft Corp’s Windows and Apple Inc’s Mac operating systems. They infect machines by exploiting security bugs in Oracle Corp’s Java software.

That gives them “back doors” into those computers. “This is the initial foothold. From there they can download arbitrary files and execute them on the system,” Baumgartner said.

An Oracle spokeswoman had no immediate comment.

The Dalai Lama, Tibet’s 78-year-old exiled spiritual leader, fled China to India in 1959 after an abortive uprising against Chinese rule.

Beijing considers the globetrotting monk and author a violent separatist and Chinese state media routinely vilify him. The Dalai Lama, who is based in India, says he is merely seeking greater autonomy for his Himalayan homeland.



U.S. Air Force to shut down ‘Space Fence’ surveillance system

August 12, 2013

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Air Force will shut down its space surveillance system that tracks satellites and other orbiting objects by October 1 due to budget constraints caused by automatic federal budget cuts known as the sequestration, it announced Monday.

Deactivating the system by October 1 would save the Air Force Space Command $14 million annually starting in fiscal year 2014.

The surveillance system got the nickname “Space Fence” because it transmits a “fence” of radar energy vertically into space that can detect any object or debris that crosses it without being cued to do so.

Commander of the Air Force Space Command, General William Shelton, said the system – which has been in operation since 1961 – was outmoded and that newer technology will provide more accurate observations.

Shelton said a new Space Fence is being planned now, which will provide more precise positional data on orbiting objects and would become the most accurate radar in the Air Force’s space surveillance network.

The system that will be discontinued on October 1 is a series of three transmitters and six receivers located across different points in the southern United States. It is operated by Five Rivers Services in Colorado.

“When combined with the new Joint Space Operations Center’s high performance computing environment, the new fence will truly represent a quantum leap forward in space situational awareness for the nation,” Shelton said in a statement Monday.

(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)


How Congressional staff can keep their healthcare coverage

The Hill

By David Farber

08/13/13 02:30 PM ET


On August 6, the federal Office of Personnel Management (OPM) released its proposed rule to fund 72-75 percent of the health care premium costs for Members of Congress and their staff. Because of the proposed rule, recent media reports have suggested, the Congressional staff health care crisis would be averted. However, the proposed rule and its preamble only address half the issue. In fact, there are two major questions that OPM needed to address – only one of which the Agency has signaled it understands. OPM and the White House have the opportunity to do right by Congressional staff in the upcoming rulemaking but to do so, they will need to read the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) – all of it.

In fact, while both the OPM rulemaking and media reports have focused on premium payments, there are really two questions facing Congressional staff: (1) will staff be able to remain in their existing Federal Employee Health Benefit Plan (FEHBP) coverage, or will they be forced out of that coverage into an exchange plan; and (2) if staff must get exchange coverage, can the federal government actually pay exchange premiums, or will those premiums have to be paid by staff out of pocket?

The rulemaking addresses the second question in a way that will allow the government to pay staff premiums. But the more important question is whether staff even need to switch out of existing coverage into an exchange. Indeed, as demonstrated by IRS official Danny Werfel’s candid testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee on August 1, federal employees, including Hill staff, should not want to leave the robust FEHBP coverage they enjoy today for uncertain exchange coverage in the future.

What is the argument for Hill staff keeping FEHBP coverage? While section 1312(d)(3)(D)(i) of the Affordable Care Act suggests that Congressional staff may only have access to coverage “created under this Act” or through an “Exchange,” there is another provision in the same law – the grandfathering clause – that may be more relevant.

That provision, found in section 1251(a), states: “nothing in this Act (or an amendment made by this Act) shall be construed to require that an individual terminate coverage under a group health plan or health insurance coverage in which such individual was enrolled on the date of enactment of [the Affordable Care] Act.” In other words, if you are in FEHBP today, nothing in the Act, including section 1312(d)(3)(D), should be allowed to terminate your coverage come January 1, 2014. While it might be argued that the two clauses conflict, that is where an OPM rulemaking could do the right thing, and apply Agency discretion to have section 1251 trump section 1312 – at least for all staff who were on the payroll on the date of enactment, and, in OPM discretion, also to staff employed on December 31, 2013. Things may be a bit more ambiguous for staff hired next year, but that can be fixed later.

The above analysis is not new – the Congressional Research Service laid out the arguments in an April 2, 2010 Congressional Distribution Memorandum, on page 11. While CRS does a good job explaining the pros and cons, the roadmap to maintain coverage is more than there. OPM was aware of the CRS analysis and used it for other reasons. Yet, on the more significant question of whether Congressional staff can remain in their FEHBP coverage, OPM has failed to pick up the argument, much less run with it.It is not too late.

Every Congressional staffer who wants to stay in his or her FEHBP coverage should submit a comment to OPM and should urge the agency to apply the Affordable Care Act. Comments should urge OPM to read every section of the Act – not just section 1312, and to give meaning to section 1251 – the grandfather clause. The agency has the ability to fix this.

Where there is an agency will, there is a regulatory way. OPM has the chance to get this right, and not only answer who can pay premiums, but answer the more important question of whether Congressional staff can keep their FEHBP coverage. Every other American who has enjoyed employer-based coverage will get to keep their existing plan come January 1. If Congress intended to subject itself and staff to the same rules as every other American, then Congressional staff should be able to retain their existing FEHBP coverage as well. The agency has clear authority to make this happen. For all those staff who serve above and beyond, OPM should give them the right answer.

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What if everyone plugs in their cars at once?

One day, when electric cars rule the road, owners might crash the power grid if they all were to plug their cars in at once. A smart charger developed by Northwest scientists would prevent that calamity.

Seattle Times

Originally published Saturday, August 10, 2013 at 8:07 PM

By Sandi Doughton

Seattle Times science reporter


RICHLAND — Electric cars account for fewer than 0.05 percent of passenger vehicles in the United States today, but Michael Kintner-Meyer envisions a future where plug-ins rule the roads.

The proliferation of electric cars will bring benefits — like lower tailpipe emissions — ­but could also create unique headaches, says Kintner-Mayer, who leads a project at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to improve the vehicles and tackle the problems.

Now, he and his colleagues have crafted a solution to the scenario that gives power-grid operators nightmares: The prospect that millions of Americans will get home from work and plug in their cars at the same time.

“It would create havoc,” said Kintner-Meyer. “You could have the lights go out. You could have rolling brownouts.”

The way to avoid widespread overloads is to spread out the demand — which is what PNNL’s “grid-friendly” charger does. The device, which is about the size of a shoebox, monitors the status of the grid and adjusts accordingly, switching off when demand is high and switching on when power is plentiful.

Adaptive charging could lower car owners’ electricity bills by allowing them to draw power when rates are lowest. And if enough cars use the systems, they could also collectively provide a valuable service to the power grid by dampening swings in electrical generation from the growing number of wind farms and solar arrays.

Drivers could save up to $150 a year, the grid would be protected from crashing, and the overall power system would run more smoothly, Kintner-Meyer said.


California-based AeroVironment, Inc. licensed the technology from PNNL and is integrating it into beta versions of a charging station. Alec Brooks, the company’s chief technology officer for efficient energy systems, has been using one to charge his Nissan Leaf.

At PNNL, Kintner-Mayer runs the system on a 2009 Prius hybrid that he and his team converted to a plug-in.

Because the grid-friendly system switches off and on, it takes longer than a conventional charging system, Brooks said. But it doesn’t matter — as long as the car is fully charged in the morning.

“There’s usually plenty of slack time,” he said. “I can’t think of the last time I was waiting for my vehicle to charge.”

Owners in a hurry can simply bypass the grid-friendly feature.

With fewer than 150,000 electric cars in the nation, power-grid operators don’t have much to worry about yet. But plug-in cars are the fastest-growing sector of the automotive industry, according to the advocacy group Plug In America.

The Green Car Report estimates 2013 sales will approach 100,000, nearly double last year’s total.

The Northwest is helping lead the charge, with 5,400 electric cars in Washington and about 3,000 in Oregon. The nation’s highest-selling Leaf dealership is in Bellevue, said Redmond resident Chad Schwitters, an electric-car enthusiast and vice president of Plug in America.

AeroVironment operates what’s called the West Coast Electric Highway — a network of fast-charging stations that will soon number 55, situated along I-5 and other highways in Washington and Oregon.

The Northwest is also ahead of the rest of the nation in experiencing growing pains caused by the proliferation of wind farms. In 2011, the Bonneville Power Administration ordered some turbines to shut down because the region had more power than it knew what to do with.

Now, grid operators usually compensate for swings in power by adjusting the spill at hydropower dams or having power plants increase or decrease their power output, Brooks explained. “Power plants get paid to do that.”

But if large numbers of electric cars were hooked into grid-friendly chargers, they could soak up excess electricity, then power down when the grid is running low, he explained.

There’s no billing arrangement yet that would allow electric-car owners to be compensated for helping even out the grid. But Brooks predicts that could change, which would provide a powerful incentive to switch to grid-friendly charging stations.

“I think it can be a very large market once there’s a recognition that you’re providing a useful service to the grid,” he said.



Could Elon Musk’s Hyperloop Derail High-Speed Rail?

Two years of background work by the Tesla Motors and SpaceX founder reveals an affordable, open-source alternative to California’s proposed high-speed rail.


Getting from California to China could become a trip that takes less than two hours within Elon Musk’s lifetime. On August 12, Musk, founder of SpaceX and co-founder of PayPal and Tesla Motors, revealed his plan for a new transport system that is far cheaper and faster than high-speed rail, outlining tentative details for a possible San Francisco to Los Angeles route that reaches top speeds of 760 mph. Musk has previously described Hyperloop as a cross between a “Concorde, a railgun, and an air hockey table.”

Musk released a 57-page document outlining an alpha-stage plan for Hyperloop. The South African entrepreneur also fielded questions from reporters around the world on his vision. The document contains pictures of what the pneumatic-tube system and vehicles might look like, possible approaches to various engineering problems, an itemized budget for a California route totaling just $6 billion, maps of proposed routes and network expansions, and technical diagrams and explanations of various technologies that would be integrated into the system.

 A Hyperloop connecting San Francisco and Los Angeles could be constructed within seven to 10 years for $6 billion, Musk said, adding that California’s proposed $70 billion high-speed rail system is a mistake. Musk’s financial model would price a one-way ticket from San Francisco to Los Angeles at about $20 per person. The trip would last just 35 minutes.

Musk explained that Hyperloop is a “low priority” for him now as he is busy with SpaceX and Tesla Motors, and that is partially why the project relies on an open-source model. The project is also open-source, Musk said, to attract interest and leverage ideas from as many people as possible. During the press conference, he repeatedly emphasized the importance of someone developing a prototype of the technology to work out engineering problems — a task he said he will probably take on himself.

While the document released shares many ideas developed by SpaceX and Tesla Motors engineers, nothing is set in stone yet, Musk said, and that’s why it’s an alpha. Government Technology participated in Musk’s telephone media question and answer session as Musk explained the project as it now stands. Here is an abridged transcript of the call:

What will the experience of being on Hyperloop feel like?

It would actually feel a lot like being in an aeroplane. There would be initial acceleration, and once you’re traveling at speed, you wouldn’t really notice the speed at all. It would be extremely smooth, like you’re riding on a cushion of air. You wouldn’t feel lateral acceleration because the pod would bank against the side of the tube, so the g-force would always point down. With a maximum g-force of around a half a G of increase, so that’s also comparable to what you would see on an aeroplane and far less of what you would see on, say, a rollercoaster. It should just feel real super smooth and quiet. And obviously there’d never be any turbulence or anything.

I heard you say this could never crash. How could that be in earthquake country?

Well, obviously “never” is a very strong word. It’s extremely difficult, I suppose. Unlike an aeroplane, it’s not moving in three dimensions. It’s not going to fall out of the sky, nor can it really be derailed as a train can. The thought I had was in the pylons upon which the tube is mounted to have earthquake dampeners sort of similar to those sort of things you have in buildings in California. They’re like basically shock absorbers and they have two laterally mounted and one vertically mounted in the post. Now, there’s going to be some earthquakes that are gigantic that can overcome the dampeners, but then we have that same problem in buildings, so if LA falls down, I guess Hyperloop will, too. But relative to say, a train, it should be quite a bit safer.

What is the likelihood of this actually being built?

I’ve been thinking about that and I’m somewhat tempted to make at least a demonstration prototype and I’ve come around a bit on my thinking here to create a sub-scale version that’s operating and then hand it over to somebody else. I think that some of the more difficult things is just ironing out the details at a sub-scale level. I think I’ll probably end up doing that. It just won’t be immediate because in the short term I’m focused on SpaceX and Tesla.

If somebody else goes and does a demo, that would be really awesome. And I hope somebody does, but if it doesn’t look like that’s happening or it looks like that’s not happening in the right way, then I would. I don’t really care much one way or the other if I have any economic action here, but it would be cool to see a new form of transport happen.

While planning this project with SpaceX and Tesla engineers, did you talk a lot about power consumption?

Quite a fundamental question is, ‘Can you contain enough energy in a battery pack in a pod to pump the air from front to rear?’ And we can. In fact, if we just use some version of the [Tesla] Model S motor, maybe a few of them in series, and the Model S battery back, assuming today’s current technology, we can make it work.

[A more technical outline of Hyperloop’s power system can be found in the Hyperloop Alpha pdf.]

There has been talk of using solar power for Hyperloop as sustainability is one of its core features. Is this a viable option?

There’s actually way more surface area on the top of the tube than you really need. If you did actually put solar panels on the whole thing, you would have to dump the power somewhere, because you would have more than you can consume.

Why can Hyperloop be supported by pylons whereas high-speed rail requires a much stronger foundation?

It’s a weight thing. This was designed to be super-light and trains are just amazingly heavy. They don’t try very hard to make trains light. Yeah, [laughing] trains are heavy. This is designed more like an aircraft.

How many people and for how long did they work on coming up with this project?

There were probably in total a little over a dozen people working on it, but it was very much a background task. This was not something that was anybody’s full-time job. I started thinking about it maybe two years ago and then started involving others about ten months ago. And we’ve just been batting it around in the background, and in the last basically few weeks we did allocate some full-time days to it.

What do you think of California’s proposed high-speed rail project?

Um, I don’t think we should do the high-speed rail thing, because it’s currently slated to be roughly $70 billion but if one ratio is the cost at approval time versus the cost at completion time… you know most large projects escalate quickly… I think it’s going to be north of $100 billion. And then it seems it’s going to be less desirable to take that than take a plane, so California taxpayers aren’t just going to have to pay $100 billion, they’re also going to have to maintain and subsidize the ongoing operation of this train for a super long time as kind of California’s AmTrak. That just doesn’t seem wise for a state that was facing bankruptcy not that long ago.



Microsoft’s Windows 8.1 update to launch in October

Nancy Blair, USA TODAY 1:16 p.m. EDT August 14, 2013


Microsoft today said it will start rolling its much-anticipated Windows 8.1 update in October.

Windows 8.1 will start rolling out as a free update worldwide on Oct. 17 at 7 a.m. ET (or midnight on Oct. 18 in New Zealand, Microsoft notes in a blog post).

Consumers can get the update through the Windows Store. It will also be available at retailers and on new devices on Oct. 18.

Microsoft has taken some critical knocks for the Windows 8 operating system, which it set out to build to work equally well across traditional computers as well as touchscreen devices. Sales have been less than stellar for machines running Windows 8, which represented a dramatic overhaul of the Windows OS.

Windows 8.1 has been available as a preview since earlier this summer. Among other things, it brings the ability to boot up your PC in the traditional-looking desktop rather than the colorful tiles that are a hallmark of the new OS.


XP’s retirement will be hacker heaven

Hackers will bank bugs until after Microsoft retires Windows XP in April 2014; expect attacks, say security experts

Gregg Keizer

August 12, 2013 (Computerworld)


Cyber criminals will bank their Windows XP zero-day vulnerabilities until after Microsoft stops patching the aged operating system next April, a security expert argued today.

Jason Fossen, a trainer for SANS since 1998 and an expert on Microsoft security, said it’s simply economics at work.

“The average price on the black market for a Windows XP exploit is $50,000 to $150,000, a relatively low price that reflects Microsoft’s response,” said Fossen. When a new vulnerability — dubbed a “zero-day” — is spotted in the wild, Microsoft investigates, pulls together a patch and releases it to XP users.

If the bug is critical and being widely used by hackers, Microsoft will go “out-of-cycle,” meaning it will issue a security update outside its usual monthly Patch Tuesday schedule.

But after April 8, 2014, Microsoft has said it will retire Windows XP and stop serving security updates. The only exceptions: Companies and other organizations, such as government agencies, that pay exorbitant fees for custom support, which provides critical security updates for an operating system that’s officially been declared dead.

Because Microsoft will stop patching XP, hackers will hold zero-days they uncover between now and April, then sell them to criminals or loose them themselves on unprotected PCs after the deadline.

“When someone discovers a very reliable, remotely executable XP vulnerability, and publishes it today, Microsoft will patch it in a few weeks,” said Fossen. “But if they sit on a vulnerability, the price for it could very well double.”

Minus any official patching from Microsoft, XP zero-days and their associated exploits could remain effective for months, maybe even years, depending on how well security software detects and quarantines such attacks.

If Fossen’s thesis is correct, there should be signs of bug banking, most notably a sharp reduction in the number of publicly-disclosed or used-in-the-wild XP vulnerabilities during the fourth quarter of 2013 and the first quarter of 2014.

“[Hackers] will be motivated to sit on them,” Fossen stressed.

There really aren’t precedents to back up Fossen’s speculation, he acknowledged, because the last time Microsoft pulled the plug on an edition was July 2010, when it retired Windows 2000. But according to metrics firm Net Applications, at the time Windows 2000 powered just four-tenths of one percent of all PCs.

Windows XP will have a much larger share when it’s retired next year: Based on XP’s current rate of decline, Computerworld has projected that the old OS will still run between 33% and 34% of the world’s personal computers at the end of April 2014.


That would be 80 times the share of Windows 2000 when it retired.

But even with Windows 2000′s minuscule share when it left support, there were reports that an edition-specific zero-day was created and sold.

“I heard rumors of a new zero-day being found and sold after the support period expired [for Windows 2000],” said HD Moore, creator of the popular Metasploit penetration testing toolkit and the chief security officer of security company Rapid7. “But there were few if any examples that ended up in the public eye.”


Moore agreed with Fossen that XP bugs would be more valuable after April 2014, but contended that all Windows vulnerabilities would jump in value.

“Something more common [three years ago] was backporting new security advisories into functional exploits on Windows 2000,” said Moore in an email. “Every time a server-side vulnerability was found in Windows XP or 2003 Server, quite a few folks looked at whether this would also work against Windows 2000. My guess is that the retirement of Windows XP will result in all Windows vulnerabilities being of slightly higher value, especially given the difference in exploit mitigations between XP and newer platforms.”

It’s far easier to exploit flaws in Windows XP than in newer editions, such as Windows 7 and Windows 8, noted Moore, because of the additional security measures that Microsoft’s baked into the newer operating systems.

Microsoft has said the same. In the second half of 2012, XP’s infection rate was 11.3 machines per 1,000 scanned by the company’s security software, more than double the 4.5 per 1,000 for Windows 7 SP1 32-bit and triple the 3.3 per 1,000 for Windows 7 SP1 64-bit.

“Windows XP vulnerabilities will be valuable as long as enterprises utilize that version of the operating system,” said Brian Gorenc, manager of HP Security Research’s Zero Day Initiative, the preeminent bug bounty program. But Gorenc also argued that any XP zero-days would be outweighed by higher-priority hacker work.

“Researchers are primarily focused on the critical applications being deployed on top of the operating system,” said Gorenc in an email reply to questions today. “Attackers and exploit kit authors seem to rely on the fact that the update process and tempo for applications are not as well defined as those for operating systems.”

Fossen, convinced that XP would be a big fat target after April 8, wondered whether Microsoft might find itself in a tough spot, and back away from the line in the sand it’s drawn for XP’s retirement.

“If hackers sit on zero-days, then after April use several of them in a short time, that could create a pain threshold [so severe] that people organize and demand patches,” said Fossen.

The consensus among analysts and security experts is that Microsoft will not back down from its decision to retire XP, come hell or high water, because it would not only set an unwelcome precedent but also remove any leverage the company and its partners have in convincing laggards to upgrade to a newer edition of Windows.


But a few have held out hope.

“Suppose we get to a date post the end of Extended support, and a security problem with XP suddenly causes massive problems on the Internet, such as a massive [denial-of-service] problem?” asked Michael Cherry, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, in an interview last December. “It is not just harming Windows XP users, it is bringing the entire Internet to its knees. At this time, there are still significant numbers of Windows XP in use, and the problem is definitely due to a problem in Windows XP. In this scenario, I believe Microsoft would have to do the right thing and issue a fix.”

Jason Miller, manager of research and development at VMware, had some of the same thoughts at the time. “What if XP turns out to be a huge virus hotbed after support ends? It would be a major blow to Microsoft’s security image,” Miller said.


Another option for Microsoft, said Fossen, would be to take advantage of a post-retirement disaster to do what it’s been doing for years, push customers to upgrade.

“They might also respond with a temporary deal on an upgrade to Windows 8,” said Fossen, by discounting the current $120 price for Windows 8 or the $200 for Windows 8 Pro. “Then they could say, ‘We’re aware of these vulnerabilities, but you should upgrade.’”


China’s Emerging C4ISR Revolution

August 13, 2013

By Shane Bilsborough, ATIC


China’s military modernization has given rise to an enormous Western literature dissecting its scope and progress. Despite this boom, many analysts have paid relatively little attention to recent advances in the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) command, control, communication, computer, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR) capabilities.

The PLA’s growing complement of manned and unmanned aircraft, reconnaissance satellites, and sophisticated ground-based infrastructure comprises the operational foundation of China’s emerging network-centric military. It is also the means by which better-known systems, such as the DF-21D “carrier-killer” anti-ship ballistic missile or the J-20 stealth fighter, could actually fulfill their intended roles during a major regional contingency.

From recent developments in China’s C4ISR infrastructure, it is clear that PLA is well on its way to becoming a sophisticated global military possessing many of the same C4ISR capabilities enjoyed by U.S. forces although it remains to be seen whether organizational barriers will short-circuit this trend.


Airborne C4ISR

Much if not most Chinese thinking on C4ISR and military modernization stems from analysis of the United States’ military performance in recent conflicts. For example, learning from the United States’ successful employment of specialized flying C4ISR systems, such as the E-3 Sentry, and the J-8 STARS, the PLA has identified Airborne Early Warning Command and Control (AEWC&C) aircraft as central to waging war against intervening naval and air forces. According to multiple Chinese analyses, a single airborne AEWC&C aircraft is the operational equivalent of roughly ten ground-based systems of comparable sophistication. In addition to facilitating real-time intelligence gathering, border surveillance, and command and control, these systems are expected to make PLAAF and PLAN fighter aircraft less susceptible to detection by affording them enhanced situational awareness without using their own radar systems. Historically, this capability has afforded the U.S. Air Force significant advantages in beyond visual range engagements that may now be lost.

In keeping with the Chinese analyses of their significance, the PLAAF is already fielding advanced systems of this type. The PLAAF’s current top-of-the-line AEWC&C system, the KJ-2000, is believed to be one full generation ahead of U.S. E-3 AWACS and E-2 Hawkeye aircraft. Among other advancements, the KJ-2000 boasts an indigenously produced phased array radar capable of tracking sixty to one hundred aerial targets simultaneously at a distance of up to four hundred and seventy kilometers. Although somewhat less technologically sophisticated, the PLAN’s Y-8J AEW system affords China’s naval air forces a similar upgrade in situational awareness and is reportedly capable of detecting objects as miniscule as a submarine periscope within its effective range of up to one-hundred eighty-five kilometers.

The United States’s unmanned C4ISR capabilities are also being replicated by the PLA. While information beyond mock-ups displayed at China’s annual Zhuhai airshow is sparse, recent disclosures by Chinese official sources suggest unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) will play a major role in China’s emerging C4ISR architecture. According to a PLA statement posted online in July 2011, a ground operator controlled a UAV called the Silver Eagle that participated in South China Sea naval exercises. The UAV reportedly disrupted communications and responded to red team countermeasures while acting as a node for a PLA communications network.

Other modern Chinese UAV’s, such as the Guizhou Aircraft Industry Corporation’s Xianlong long-range UAV and Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ BZK-005 UAV are believed to be capable of loitering over a combat zone for roughly forty hours, much like the U.S. Global Hawk. The Chengdu aircraft Design Institute also appears to be developing its own indigenous Global Hawk, the Long Haul Eagle, which was first revealed in 2008. These systems will greatly enhance the PLA’s Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) while adding new capabilities.


Space-based C4ISR

China has made still greater strides in its space program and is emerging as a leading space power. Senior PLA and Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leaders have identified space technology as a national priority and allocated significant resources to improving China’s space-related research, development, and launch infrastructure. As part of the PLA’s integrated civil-military space program, counter-space technologies and systems have been a parallel area of focus following China’s landmark 2007 anti-satellite test.

Recent years have seen a number of major advancements in China’s C4ISR related space development programs. The Beidou-2 satellite series, China’s indigenous GPS alternative, has already achieved full regional coverage and is on schedule to achieve global coverage by 2020. With at least 13 successful launches since April 2006, the Yaogan series of electro-optical, synthetic aperture radar, and electronic intelligence satellites have also proven a major success. Apart from these and other satellite programs, such as the somewhat more mysterious Shijian series, China has also successfully modernized and expanded its space launch infrastructure. Under the executive authority of its General Armaments Department, the PLA and its civilian partners now operate three satellite launch centers at Taiyun, Xichang, and Jiuquan, with a fourth large complex under construction at Wenchang on Hainan island.

China’s great leap forward in space and airborne C4ISR capabilities has already impacted the Asia-Pacific military balance. If current trends in technological development, procurement, and satellite launch capacity hold, the next 15-20 years will see the PLA benefit from vastly improved geolocation and precision strike capabilities, persistent global satellite surveillance, and a survivable military communications and data-link architecture. Concurrent improvements in counter-space capabilities will also put U.S. and allied space, air, and sea-based assets at risk, seriously complicating air and naval access to the region.


Organizational Issues

Despite its ongoing technological transformation, it should be noted that the PLA still faces serious obstacles it must overcome before it can take full advantage of its modern C4ISR systems and capabilities. Of these challenges, cultural and organizational problems have proven particularly stubborn.


Many PLA units have proven reluctant to adopt cutting-edge communication and ISR systems due to endemic interoperability problems and lack of experience with modern military technology. Communication and information sharing problems continue to arise in part due to a growing technological mismatch between mainline PLA units, which still employ outdated equipment, and their far less numerous but more sophisticated counterparts. On a broader level, the PLA’s constituent services, and even operational units within the same service, use different and incompatible models and generations of equipment that severely diminish their overall military effectiveness.

In part due to deep-seated inter-service rivalry, PLA joint training still leaves much to be desired. Often, exercises are only joint for certain segments rather than their entirety. Worse, those joint training efforts that do take place are often rudimentary or unrealistic. Consider that one Chinese article praises a joint exercise in which Navy units practiced ship loading and unloading while ground forces practiced loading aircraft onto railcars for the PLAAF. Another document touts the “jointness” of an exercise in which top service leaders communicated via teleconferencing. In addition, as evidenced in these and other exercise reports, no standard metric exists for evaluating joint performance either in C4ISR or other military spheres.



Without breaking down the technological and organizational barriers between its constituent services, the PLA will not be able to implement the “system-of-systems” approach to anti-access operations and C4ISR that its leadership envisions. The PLA has taken some halting actions towards promoting joint operations and information sharing, such as the relatively decisive step of appointing Xu Qiliang, a PLAAF general, to command the deployed force during joint exercises in 2007. This was possibly the first time a PLAAF general was given such a high-profile command, although it hardly constitutes a breakthrough.

Assuming its Central Military Commission successfully limits the tendency of the ground forces to assert control over military doctrine and planning during the next ten to fifteen years, China’s leadership will find that the PLA already possesses most if not all of the C4ISR systems and integrative technologies necessary to complete the PLA’s transformation into a 21st century force.


Shane Bilsborough is an intelligence analyst at the Advanced Technical Intelligence Center (ATIC).



Springfield UAS center names director

Ohio and Indiana efforts will be coordinated by former Dayton Development Coalition official.

Dayton Daily News

Posted: 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013

By Andrew McGinn

Staff Writer



The new Springfield-based office that will act as the official hub of unmanned aerial systems testing in Ohio and Indiana has named its first director.


Dick Honneywell, a retired Air Force Reserve colonel, will lead the Ohio/Indiana UAS Center and Test Complex at Springfield’s Nextedge Applied Research and Technology Park, Ohio Gov. John Kasich announced this week.

Honneywell, who most recently served as vice president of aerospace at the Dayton Development Coalition, will oversee the center that’s vying to become one of six national test centers for unmanned aircraft that the Federal Aviation Administration is expected to name later this year.

The FAA will use those six centers to study how best to integrate so-called drones into manned airspace.

An industry report earlier this year predicted that Ohio stands to gain more than 2,700 new jobs by 2025 in the blossoming UAS industry. Drones also are expected to one day play a big role in precision agriculture.

The Ohio Department of Transportation on July 1 began leasing 2,060 square feet of office space for the center at Nextedge, located along U.S. 40 just east of Springfield. The two-year lease will cost a total of $70,000.

It’s hoped the center led by Honneywell will act as a magnet for new federal, military and commercial research and testing of UAS.

“Dick brings a tremendous combination of technical and management expertise, as well as a broad knowledge of aerospace systems from his work in the Air Force and private sector,” Kasich said in a statement.

Ohio and Indiana have pooled their efforts to become an FAA test site, with Ohio offering such research powerhouses as the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.

Indiana, on the other hand, has valuable airspace, including the 55,265-acre Jefferson Proving Ground in the southeast part of the state, where from 1941 to 1995, the Army tested 25 million rounds of munitions.

Springfield was deemed a central location to manage the combined effort.


DHS Awards $6 Billion Cybersecurity Contract To 17 Vendors

By: Judi Hasson

08/14/2013 ( 8:00am)


The Department of Homeland Security on Monday awarded a $6 billion contract to 17 companies to protect the government against cybersecurity threats.

The contractors included big names such as IBM, Lockheed Martin Corporation, General Dynamics Corporation, Computer Sciences Corporation and Northrup Grumman Corporation and others. DHS tapped the companies for the Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation (CDM) Program.

The CDM Program will provide specialized information technology tools and services to combat cyber threats in the civilian “.gov” networks and various network endpoints, including mobile devices. The CDM program, also known as Continuous Monitoring as a Service (CMaaS), shifts the government’s cybersecurity posture from a compliance reporting model to a real-time approach to combating threats, according to the General Services Administration (GSA).

Deputy Under Secretary for the National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) Suzanne Spaulding said in a statement released Aug. 13 that federal departments and agencies will be able to enhance their cybersecurity assessments by implementing automated network sensor capacity and prioritizing risk alerts.

“Results will feed into agency-level dashboards that produce customized reports that alert information technology managers to the most critical cyber risks, enabling them to readily identify which network security issues to address first, thus enhancing the overall security posture of agency networks,” Spaulding said. “Summary information from participating agencies will feed into a central Federal-level dashboard, managed by DHS’ National Cybersecurity Communication and Integration Center, to inform and prioritize cyber risk assessments across the Federal enterprise and support common operational pictures that provide cybersecurity situational awareness to our stakeholders,” she said.

“This significant contract award is designed to support federal civilian networks and the extensive number of cybersecurity requirements for any federal custom and cloud application over the life of the contract, and will be funded through each participating department and agency, not solely by DHS,” Spaulding said.

“The CDM program is a huge step forward for government security,” said Kenneth Kartsen, vice president and head of federal business at McAfee. “The necessary but limited and largely manual check-the-box approach of FISMA (Federal Information Security Management Act) was like looking through a rear-view mirror. By contrast, the CDM program illustrates the real progress DHS and the government are making in cyber security.”

DHS CDM Program PhasesThe first phase of the $6 billion program focuses on four functional capabilities: management of hardware and software assets, configuration management, and vulnerability, “which are baseline capabilities to protect data,” according to a description of the program by the US Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT).

So far, DHS has committed $185 million to kick-start the program. GSA will manage the contract on behalf of DHS and will charge agencies a 2 percent fee for using the blanket purchase agreement.

“Our success with DHS demonstrates that IBM’s $4B annual investment in cyber security and security analytics research puts IBM in a unique position to help government agencies meet evolving cybersecurity threats,” said Anne Altman, General Manger of IBM’s US Federal business.

“IBM will draw from decades of experience working with federal agencies and worldwide clients and our own internal experience in securing the worldwide networks used by our 400,000 plus employees.”

A spokesman for Lockheed Martin said the company will draw upon its years of investment in continuous monitoring technology and partnerships with members of the Lockheed Martin Cyber Security Alliance for this service.

“Beginning in 2009, Lockheed Martin leveraged advances within its NexGen Cyber Innovation and Technology Center Lab and the Lockheed Martin Cyber Security Alliance to implement a comprehensive solution,” the company said in a statement.


The winning companies are:

Booz Allen Hamilton










Lockheed Martin



Northrop Grumman





Why Feds Are Embracing Agile

Roger Baker     | August 14, 2013 09:06 AM

Numerous federal agencies are moving to Agile software development methods for some or all of their IT systems development projects. In an era of tightening federal budgets and increased demand on technology to help meet mission requirements, agencies are searching for ways to deliver critical mission functionality more quickly and with less risk. For a number of agencies, Agile has become the answer.

On its face, the case for Agile is straightforward: Break the software development process into a series of short “sprints,” each of which delivers on a small portion of the requirements of a system. This modular approach enables (and encourages) frequent delivery of new functionality to end users, and facilitates (even demands) user participation and feedback during system creation. In contrast, the “Waterfall” development approach used traditionally within government requires users to be able to fully describe what they want in a system up front and to wait years until the system is finished.

Agencies typically adopt Agile to avoid large-scale failures in systems development programs. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), an early adopter of Agile in the federal government, moved to Agile in 2009 for a critical new system (the New GI Bill) when the department was failing on much of the rest of its development portfolio. As a result, VA successfully delivered its first new large-scale system in years, and decided to adopt Agile for the development of a number of other critical systems.

Agencies are also moving to Agile to better ensure that the system being developed actually meets the needs of the mission. Programs using Agile development provide customers with early production versions of the product to use and critique, ensuring customer involvement and buy-in. More importantly, because change happens, Agile’s frequent releases provide the ability to rapidly respond to changing mission priorities, customer preferences, or even requirements imposed by new laws.

Critical to today’s federal environment, Agile also cuts system development costs. Frankly, this can be the hardest to justify. The initial estimates for the cost to develop a system using either Waterfall or Agile are likely to be the same. Logically, if both processes work as well in practice as they do in theory, either process should result in the same system for much the same price. In reality, metrics show that incremental programs (including Agile) successfully meet their delivery commitments at a rate nearly three times that of Waterfall. In my experience, this equated to on-time delivery jumping from under 30% to over 80% for a $1 billion systems development portfolio.

Using Agile for systems development frequently has an immediate positive impact on mission results. By delivering and then improving production versions of a system early in the development cycle, Agile programs allow the agency to begin realizing the benefits of the new system to their missions much earlier. And with system users intimately and continually involved in its design and development, the end solution better addresses their real-world requirements, allowing them to work more productively.

Finally, using Agile can help improve the position of the CIO and the IT organization in the agency. With daily active engagement between users and IT, and frequent on-time delivery of new, mission-prioritized system functionality, customers start to see IT as a full, essential and productive partner in accomplishing the agency’s mission. And that has substantial implications during the budget process, during resource discussions, and on the agency’s willingness to give more authorities to the CIO.

After all, IT is an investment in improved mission effectiveness. If they see that investment returning frequent, reliable, positive results, they’re going to look to find more ways to invest.

Roger Baker is chief strategy officer for Agilex, a leading provider of mission and technology solutions to the federal government. He was previously CIO for the Department of Veterans Affairs from 2009-13 and served as CIO for the Department of Commerce from 1998-2001.


What the NSA’s Massive Org Chart (Probably) Looks Like

By Marc Ambinder

August 14, 2013

Want to understand how an organism really works?  Take a look at its plumbing. Figure out where the pipes fit together. That’s the approach I take to national security and that’s the spirit behind this look at the structure of one of the most important institutions in U.S. intelligence: the National Security Agency.

Some intelligence organizations, such as the National Reconnaissance Office and the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, have declassified most of their organizational charts. The NRO develops, launches and controls spy satellites; the NGA analyzes and distribute imagery. For these agencies, the plumbing matters less than what flows through the pipes, which is highly classified. 

But the NSA, with its triple mission — break codes, secure data, collect signals intelligence — has not made its structure public.  Even by the standards of U.S. intelligence agencies whose existence was declassified much later, the NSA’s organization chart is largely impermeable to outsiders. The best of its chroniclers, like Jeff Richelson, James Bamford, Bill Arkin and Matthew Aid, have managed to collect bits and pieces of open source data, but many senior intelligence officials who don’t work for NSA still have only a vague idea of what signals intelligence collection entails, and even fewer understand the NSA bureaucracy. The map to the NSA’s inner sanctum is generally given only to a select few members of Congress and their staff.

In the interests of transparency and in an effort to establish a basis for continued public exploration of the world of intelligence, I’ve cobbled together a rough and incomplete but still rather comprehensive organizational chart of the agency’s operational, analytical, research and technology directorates. With only a few exceptions, the information does not come from inside sources. It builds on the work of the researchers mentioned above and it represents the culmination of a lot of time spent cross-checking government documents and LinkedIn profiles,job postings and agency announcements.

The NSA prefers not to discuss how it works and what it does. Defense One offered NSA the opportunity to review the organization chart and address any national security concerns. “We won’t fact check a chart that appears to be based largely on speculation,” the agency replied through a spokesperson.

Undoubtedly, some of what follows is incomplete and I hope knowledgeable readers will set me straight. 

It has five operational directorates, several administrative directorates and three large operational centers.  Each is headed by an associate director, and each associate director has a technical director. They report to the executive director, who reports to the deputy director, who reports to the DIRNSA, which is NSA-speak for Director of the NSA, Gen. Keith Alexander. He’s also the commander of the Defense Department’s U.S. Cyber Command and the Central Security Service, the military signals and cyber intelligence units that contribute personnel to the NSA.  The CSS is essentially the NSA.

The NSA’s Foreign Affairs Directorate interacts with foreign intelligence services, counterintelligence centers and the UK/USA and FIVE EYES exchanges, an alliance of intelligence operations between the U.S., UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand that dates back to 1946. It also includes the Office of Export Control Policy. 

The Information Assurance Directorate is the center of NSA’s cyber warfare and defense program offices.  It’s also responsible for generating the codes that the U.S. uses.

The Signals Intelligence Directorate is the largest functional directorate. It has three subdivisions. One helps determine the requirements of what the NSA calls its customers — other agencies, the president, the military.  The agency’s main analytical centers live here, too.  The super-secret work of SIGINT collecting and offensive cyber warfare is the responsibility of S3, with its many bland sounding and compartmentalized branches.

The Research Directorate figures out how to break codes and how to best penetrate the telecom infrastructure of tomorrow. The Technical Directorate puts everything together. It’s responsible for the infrastructure for everything NSA does.

Two other directorates are responsible for training and human resources and for acquisition and procurement.

The NSA’s three operational centers are its main watch facility, the National Security Operations Center, or NSOC; the National Threat Operations Center, which is the U.S. government’s primary worldwide cybersecurity warning office; and the NSA/CSS Commercial Solutions center, which interacts with private companies, uses commercial technologies for classified purposes and conducts research on cryptography that the government is willing to share with the public.

Another NSA office is the Special Collection Service, which is run jointly with the CIA and operates classified listening posts from embassies and other special facilities worldwide. The SCS is responsible for NSA listening posts that aren’t inside of U.S. or allied military facilities.

Inside the United States, the NSA has very large off-site campuses in Hawaii, Texas, Utah and Georgia.  In Maryland, it owns and hosts offices in Linthicum, Finksberg, Bowie and College Park, alongside Ft. Meade, its home, and adjacent properties.  There’s an NSA office inside the Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center, where NORAD and NORTHCOM have their backup command center. And NSA has a big presence at Site R, the site of the Alternate National Military Command Center, near Ft. Ritchie, Md.

[Related: The NSA’s New Spy Facilities are 7 Times Bigger Than the Pentagon]

All these sites are connected by an architecture called NSANet, which exists in parallel to the regular telephone switch system. Real-time feeds of SIGINT reports and time-sensitive cyber information can be sent to users anywhere in the world, such as those on Navy ships, using the NSA’s Integrated Broadcast Service.

The NSA uses a bewildering amount of technical tools and databases. You’ve now heard of PRISM, which was revealed in the Edward Snowden leaks. This system collects digital network information from U.S. content providers. 

The NSA also has several tools and databases, including metadata collection, a repository of malicious network signatures and an Air Force/Navy tool that tracks ships in real time.

Here are the other main NSA collection tools and databases:

ONEROOF: Main tactical SIGINT database  (Afghanistan), consisting of raw and unfiltered intercepts

NUCLEON:  Global telephone content database

XKEYSCORE: Collection tool for international metadata

AIRGAP: Priority missions tool used to determine SIGINT gaps

HOMEBASE: Tactical tasking tool for digital network identification

SNORT: Repository of computer network attack techniques/coding

WIRESHARK: Repository of malicious network signatures

TRAFFICTHIEF: Raw SIGINT viewer for data analysis

BANYAN: NSA tactical geospatial correlation database

OILSTOCK: Air Force/Navy tool to track ships in real time

MAINWAY: Telephony metadata collection database

ASSOCIATION: Tactical SIGINT social network database

MESSIAH/WHAMI: Electronic intelligence processing and analytical database

MARINA: Internet metadata collection database

PINWALE: Internet data content database

SURREY:  Main NSA requirements database, where targets and selectors are “validated” by NSA managers

PROTON: SIGINT database for time-sensitive targets/counterintelligence

OCTAVE/CONTRAOCTAVE: Collection mission tasking tool

WRANGLER: Electronic intelligence intercept raw database

ANCHORY: Main repository of finished NSA SIGINT reports going back three years.

AQUADOR: Merchant ship tracking tool

So how do you get NSA to spy on someone? You send in an IN. An IN is an Information Need. The INs go into the collection requirements databases, like SURREY, and are evaluated. Are they time-sensitive? Are they critical, meaning intel is needed within three days? Do they fit in with the National Intelligence Priority Framework, which lays out in broad terms the targets the NSA is working on in any given year?

To invert a phrase from biology, in the intelligence community, function follows form. To begin to understand the NSA from the outside, you need to understand what it looks like from the inside. 


By Marc Ambinder // Marc Ambinder is senior Defense One contributor. A Los-Angeles-based writer who covers national security, Ambinder is also a contributing editor at The Atlantic, GQ, and writes The Compass blog for The Week. He is the author of “Deep State: Inside the Government Secrecy Industry,” and is working on a history of Cold War nuclear strategy.

August 14, 2013

The Atlantic

The Government Now Admits There’s an ‘Area 51′

National Security Archive / AP


Newly declassified documents, obtained by George Washington University’s National Security Archive, appear to for the first time acknowledge the existence of Area 51. Hundreds of pages describe the genesis of the Nevada site that was home to the government’s spy plane program for decades. The documents do not, however, mention aliens.

The project started humbly. In the pre-drone era about a decade after the end of World War II, President Eisenhower signed off on a project aimed at building a high-altitude, long-range, manned aircraft that could photograph remote targets. Working together, the Air Force and Lockheed developed a craft that could hold the high-resolution cameras required for the images, a craft that became the U-2. Why “U-2″?

They decided that they could not call the project aircraft a bomber, fighter, or transport plane, and they did not want anyone to know that the new plane was for reconnaissance, so [Air Force officers] Geary and Culbertson decided that it should come under the utility aircraft category. At the time, there were only two utility aircraft on the books, a U-1 and a U-3. told Culbertson that the Lockheed CL-282 was going to be known officially as the U-2.

The next step was to find a place from which the top-secret aircraft could be flown.

On 12 April 1955 [CIA officer] Richard Bissell and Col. Osmund Ritland (the senior Air Force officer on the project staff) flew over Nevada with [Lockheed's] Kelly Johnson in a small Beechcraft plane piloted by Lockheed’s chief test pilot, Tony LeVier. They spotted what appeared to be an airstrip by a salt flat known as Groom Lake, near the northeast corner of the Atomic Energy Commission’s (AEC) Nevada Proving Ground. After debating about landing on the old airstrip, LeVier set the plane down on the lakebed, and all four walked over to examine the strip. The facility had been used during World War II as an aerial gunnery range for Army Air Corps pilots. From the air the strip appeared to be paved, but on closer inspection it turned out to have originally been fashioned from compacted earth that had turned into ankle-deep dust after more than a decade of disuse. If LeVier had atrempted to land on the airstrip, the plane would probably have nosed over when the wheels sank into the loose soil, killing or injuring all of the key figures in the U-2 project.

That’s the first acknowledged mention of the Groom Lake site, according to Chris Pocock, a British author who’s written extensively about the program and provided his thoughts to the GWU archive. Nor, it seems, has the low-contrast image that accompanies that section (below) been seen. 


Rasmussen Reports

What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls

Saturday, August 17, 2013

President Obama may be on vacation this week, but he and his administration still made plenty of news.

Just before the president left for vacation, he announced in a press conference tighter restrictions on the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance program.  But most voters still don’t trust the government to protect their constitutional rights, and very few expect the program to cut back on monitoring the phone calls of innocent Americans. 

While voters’ views of the president’s leadership have returned from post-election highs to levels seen for much of his first term in office, positive ratings for his handling of national security are at their lowest level in over three years of weekly tracking. 

More voters than ever believe that the United States is not spending enough on the military and national security, but they are also less aware of how much the country actually spends in this area. 

On Tuesday, Obama addressed the public about the crisis in Egypt.  A month ago, 73% said the United States should leave the situation alone. Rasmussen Reports will release new data on the public’s reaction to the situation early next week.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced a plan to scale back the number of strict minimum prison sentences for non-violent low-level drug offenders, and just over half of Americans are on board with this proposal. One reason for this support is the fact that 55% believe there are too many Americans in prison today.

Americans are still divided on whether or not to legalize marijuana, but most think it should be up to the states to decide, not the federal government.

The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development has announced plans to make the nation’s neighborhoods more diverse, but Americans strongly oppose this idea.  A plurality (49%) believes it is important for most neighborhoods in America to be racially or ethnically diverse, but just 15% think most neighborhoods in this country that are not racially or ethnically diverse are that way primarily because of racism.

Some members of Congress spend their time home during the August recess reconnecting with their constituents, but more voters than ever now believe a group of people randomly selected from the phone book could do a better job addressing the nation’s problems than the current Congress. 

But Republicans are more dissatisfied with their party leaders in Congress than Democrats are.  Thirty-eight percent (38%) of Republican voters think the average Republican in Congress shares their views, while 45% of Democrats believe the average congressional Democrat is about the same as they are.

Republicans and Democrats run even on the Generic Congressional Ballot for the week ending August 11.  Belief that U.S. elections are fair continues to fall and has now reached its lowest level in nine years of surveys.

Meanwhile, consumer and investor confidence remain near their highest levels in several years. 

But just 29% of voters say the country is heading in the right direction

In other news last week:

– Voters are closely divided over the Justice Department’s decision to contest the merger of US Airways and American Airlines, but nearly half predict airline fares will go up if the merger goes through.

– Forty-one percent (41%) of voters share an at least somewhat favorable view of the health care law, while 53% view it unfavorably.  But 53% also say the law has had no impact on their lives. 

Voters remain concerned about global warming, but they still express more urgency about the economy and don’t feel selfish for doing so.

– Sixty-eight percent (68%) of voters believe that policies that encourage economic growth are Very Important, compared to 49% who feel that way about policies that encourage economic fairness.  

Americans are becoming even less enthused about the Internet’s influence on American culture, politics and journalism.

– Some professional athletes just can’t seem to stay out of trouble, and most Americans are noticing.

– Most Americans (81%) believe that their fellow Americans pay too much attention to celebrity news, and 86% say the media covers those celebrities too much.

– Eighty-one percent (81%) of Americans believe that Amber Alerts are at least somewhat effective in abduction cases

August 3 2013




White House Employees’ Personal Email Hacked

By Aliya Sternstein

July 29, 2013 7:38 AM ET


Three White House staffers have had their personal Gmail accounts breached in what appears to be a malicious operation directed at the team responsible for the Obama administration’s social media outreach, according to individuals familiar with the incident. 

The penetrated accounts have been sending other White House digital media employees bogus emails containing fraudulent links that can extract their personal email logins and Twitter credentials. More than a dozen current and former staffers were targeted, the individuals said. The scheme was ongoing as of Sunday night. 

The goal of the intruders might be to glean sensitive government information, some cyber researchers said. White House personnel are prohibited by law from using personal Webmail accounts for business communications, but not all employees comply with the rules. The Twitter scam could be aimed at spreading misinformation through seemingly-official channels to citizens.

The “phishing” links — labeled to look like legitimate BBC or CNN articles — direct users to an authentic-looking Gmail or Twitter login screen to access the news content. At this point, the users have unwittingly been rerouted to fake login forms that enable hackers to capture their sign-on information. 

White House social media employees might be relatively easy game within the administration, since their role is to make the executive branch more open to the public. “I imagine that the names and email addresses of people at the White House in digital media or anything related to media are easy to find since their job involves public access. A list of targets would be created from open sources and that’s who the phishing email would be delivered to,” said Jeffrey Carr, a cybersecurity analyst with consultancy Taia Global.

The objective for harvesting Gmail account information might be to capture administration-related email messages and contacts, he speculated.

The Presidential Records Act bars work communication outside of official email accounts. However, a 2012 House committee report showed that former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina used his personal email account to conduct official business involving a deal between the pharmaceutical industry and the Senate Finance Committee. And in 2010, the Washington Post reported that administration officials reprimanded then White House Deputy Chief Technology Officer Andrew McLaughlin, a former Google official, after document requests revealed technology policy-related emails from Google employees in his personal Gmail account.

The purpose of assembling Twitter sign-on information might be to disseminate disruptive messages, Carr postulated. This spring, a hacked Associated Press Twitter account informed the public that explosions at the White House had harmed the president. The Dow tumbled in response. 

Sources familiar with the Gmail hack say the ploy is unique in the White House. In the past, one or two staffers who used two-step authentication to protect their Gmail accounts would receive text messages, indicating someone had entered the correct password to trigger the text authentication code. 



Air Force Asks Students to Solve Real-World Problems

NY Times


Published: July 28, 2013


THE Air Force, as part of its recruitment efforts, is approaching young people for help in solving real-world technological problems using a collaborative online platform.

The initiative, which will be introduced on Thursday, will create a digital program called the Air Force Collaboratory, in which young people will be challenged to develop technologies for search-and-rescue operations in collapsed structures; to create software code for a quadrotor, a type of unmanned, aerial vehicle; and to determine where to place the newest GPS satellite.

The Air Force hopes the program will attract students in so-called STEM subjects — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — to work with its airmen on developing solutions for the three challenges, and, ideally, consider enlisting.

The initiative — which the Air Force will promote through digital advertising, social media and partnerships with groups like Discovery Education — is the latest recruiting effort created for the Air Force by GSD&M, an agency based in Austin, Tex., that is part of the Omnicom Group.

GSD&M has been the Air Force’s agency since 2001, developing campaigns to help it attract the over 28,000 recruits it needs annually; the agency said its work had helped the Air Force meet its recruiting goals each year.

GSD&M’s recruiting strategy for the Air Force — which has always sought tech-savvy candidates — previously featured an “Airman Challenge” online video game. A separate campaign included television spots whose theme was, “It’s not science fiction.”

Col. Marcus Johnson, chief of the strategic marketing division of the Air Force Recruiting Service, said the Air Force focused on “going after the best and brightest young men and women, with an emphasis on the STEM subjects. Whether they’re in high school or college, those topics translate into what we do in the Air Force.”

He said the collaboratory program was meant to appeal to men and women ages 16 to 24, including high school students still determining their future plans.

Ryan Carroll, a creative director at GSD&M, said the Air Force was “very much like the Apples and Googles of the world in recognizing the huge need for scientists and engineers. They reach out to kids at an early age and show them the amazing things they can do with science and technology.” He pointed to initiatives like the Google Science Fair, an online, annual, global science competition for teenagers, as an example.

Similarly, the collaboratory program aims to “inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers, technologists and mathematicians, and to show them all the amazing, science-related things the Air Force does,” Mr. Carroll said. The program will also allow students to “participate and solve real problems the Air Force solves every day,” he added.

Young people will be able to learn more about the initiative’s challenges at the Web site, which will act as a forum. Challenge participants will be able to use custom-built tools to share ideas and work with airmen and other experts to develop solutions.

Not surprisingly, digital media will primarily be used to promote the program. Custom editorial content is being developed for the STEM hub of, a global community of “pragmatic idealists,” while custom videos are being filmed for DNews, an online video series from Discovery Communications; the videos will feature the DNews hosts Trace Dominguez and Anthony Carboni. The technology network Technorati is asking bloggers to create custom posts on the collaboratory and related subjects, while the Air Force will pay to place videos on Web sites like YouTube, Blip and Machinima. In addition, the Air Force will promote the initiative on Facebook and Twitter.

Digital banner advertising will run on the Web sites of Scientific American, Popular Science and The Verge. One set of ads depicts an Air Force helicopter approaching a scene of destruction after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake that has trapped dozens of survivors. The copy reads, “Your idea could save them. The Air Force Collaboratory. Search and rescue 2.0 is now open. Start collaborating.”

The Air Force also is working with Discovery Education, a division of Discovery Communications, on an outreach program for high school science and math teachers.

Colonel Johnson said that although the collaboratory would run through November, new challenges could be created after that. In addition, he said the Web site would carry no overt recruiting messages, nor would the Air Force actively recruit challenge participants, since the initiative was meant to raise interest in the Air Force and possibly encourage participants to seek out more information about opportunities there.

The budget for the campaign is $3.7 million.

Diane H. Mazur, a former Air Force officer, professor emeritus of law at the University of Florida and author of “A More Perfect Military: How the Constitution Can Make Our Military Stronger,” said that although the collaboratory concept was “good, it’s not sophisticated to the degree it needs to be to attract the people they think they want to get.” She added, “This is a good direction if you do it well.”

David R. Segal, a professor of sociology at the University of Maryland who specializes in military sociology, said that while recruiting high school students to “work in military laboratories on military problems” was not new, “what seems new is having interns work online with Air Force scientists.”

“I think they will certainly recruit a good number of high school students interested in science, engineering, technology and math to work on the problems identified. That part is easy,” he said. “Recruiting the same people then to come into the Air Force as enlisted men and women might be more difficult. They are likely to want to go to college.”

As a result, he said, the collaboratory would probably be more successful recruiting Air Force Reserve Officers Training Corps students than airmen.


Small business contracting numbers inflated by errors and exclusions, data show

Washington Post

By J.D. Harrison, Published: July 28 | Updated: Monday, July 29, 5:00 AM


The federal government is required by law to try to direct nearly a quarter of all contracting dollars to small businesses, and every year since 2005, officials have reported missing the goal by the slimmest of margins.

Then again, it depends on who is counting.

A number of contractors and advocacy groups say the government has repeatedly inflated the share of contracting dollars awarded annually to small firms, masking serious problems in the procurement process that prevent small businesses from securing more government work.

In 1958, when Congress created the Small Business Administration, it tasked the agency with establishing an annual small-business contracting goal of “not less than 23 percent of the total value of all prime contract awards.”

This month, for the seventh year in a row, SBA officials reported that the government narrowly missed the goal, reporting that small firms received 22.25 percent (or $89.9 billion) of contracting dollars in fiscal year 2012 — better than 21.65 percent last year, but down from 22.7 percent in 2010.

In a blog post announcing the report, John Shoraka the agency’s associate administrator for government contracting, called the achievement “real progress” toward the goal.

However, the SBA’s calculations come with several caveats, in large part because the agency excludes certain contracts and entire agencies from its measure.

Officials do not take into consideration, for instance, any contract work for the Federal Aviation Administration, the Transportation Security Administration or the Central Intelligence Agency, nor do they account for any contracts for goods sold overseas or any work performed outside the United States.

In all, SBA officials have determined that about one-fifth of all federal contract spending is not “small-business eligible,” and so it excludes that portion from its calculations.

The portion includes spending by agencies that are not subject to certain federal acquisition regulations, and those that do not report into the Federal Procurement Data System, from which the SBA pulls its data, Skoraka said. Other exclusions have been made on the basis that those contracts do not lend themselves to competition by small firms.

Shoraka noted that the current list of exclusions was finalized during the second term of former president George W. Bush. The Obama administration elected to leave them in place in order to “compare apples to apples,” he said.

Critics argue that is not what Congress mandated.

“They are simply not following the letter of the law,” said Charles Tiefer, a professor of government contracting at the University of Baltimore Law School. “It states 23 percent of all contracts, and there is no reason to think Congress wanted some of these exclusions.”

Contracts out of reach for small businesses, he said, should be considered as part of the 77 percent of government spending available to large and international companies, rather than removed from the equation altogether. He pointed out that some of the excluded contracts, including intelligence gathering and work overseas, are areas in which government spending has surged in recent years.

The SBA’s Office of Inspector General has also urged the agency to discontinue some of its exclusions, particularly for contracts performed overseas. In an advisory memorandum from December 2011, the office cited a 2008 legal opinion issued by the SBA Office of General Counsel, which states it would be “a reasonable interpretation” of the law to assume the targets include contracts performed outside the country.

Congress has recently taken issue with the exclusions, too. In the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, lawmakers ordered the SBA administrator to review the goal guidelines to ensure that the process “does not exclude categories of contracts” based on the types of goods or services solicited or, in some cases, whether the agency is subject to federal acquisition regulations.


The nuances of the government’s measurements can sometimes get lost in public discussions about contracting.

In Shoraka’s blog post announcing the government’s performance, he wrote that 22.25 percent represented the small business share of “all” federal contracting dollars last year.

After On Small Business asked about the language, given the exclusions to the calculations, officials updated the blog to read 22.25 percent “of all small business eligible contracts.”

Two studies show small-biz getting 19% of contracts

To get a sense of what effect the exclusions have on the numbers reported, On Small Business asked Fedmine, the data analysis firm that conducts the contracting calculations for the SBA, to crunch the numbers based on total federal contract spending reported into the FPDS, without any exclusions.

The revised calculations show that small businesses received less than 19 percent of all prime contracting dollars in 2012. In contrast to the progress cited by the SBA, that was actually down from the year before (20 percent).

The House Small Business Committee conducted its own analysis of last year’s federal data, eliminating many of the SBA’s exclusions. The committee also found that the small-business share of total federal contracting was around 19 percent.

“The administration shouldn’t be allowed to cook the books,” Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-Mo.) said in a statement earlier this month.

Small-business advocates say the agency’s exclusions are not the only source of padding in the small-business contracting numbers. Of greater concern, they say, is the number of contracts labeled by the government as “small business” awards that actually go to large companies — a problem that has long plagued the federal government.

During his run for the presidency in 2008, then-Sen. Barack Obama emphasized small business, at one point saying that “it is time to end the diversion of federal small-business contracts to corporate giants.”

Nearly five years later, in her most recent management report, SBA Inspector General Peggy Gustafson said the agency’s top challenge is still that “procurement flaws allow large firms to obtain small-business awards and agencies to count contracts performed by large firms towards their small-business goals.”

Inspector general “audits and other governmental studies have shown widespread misreporting by procuring agencies since many contract awards that were reported as having gone to small firms have actually been performed by larger companies,” Gustafson wrote. “Most of the incorrect reporting results from errors made by government contracting personnel, including misapplication of small-business contracting rules.”

Shoraka says the agency has taken steps to stop the errant reporting. A few years ago, for example, officials began running a computerized “anomaly” process to identify red flags in the federal data system.

The program searches for conflicting reports, missing fields of information, and the names of Fortune 100 firms that were awarded small-business contracts. When potential errors are flagged, contracting agencies are asked to take a second look at their reports and fix any mistakes.

Some say the process does not appear to be working.

The American Small Business League, an advocacy group, combed through the Fedmine data following the SBA’s report earlier this month. In its analysis, the group found that more than half (57) of Fortune 100 companies or their subsidiaries won awards that were labeled in the federal data system as small-business contracts, including industry giants such as General Electric, Apple and Citigroup (the latter two declined to comment).

In one instance, General Dynamics, a defense contractor with roughly 80,000 employees based in Falls Church, received more than $230 million in small-business contracts in 2012 and roughly $2 billion in the five years prior, according to data from Fedmine.

In total, the largest 100 corporations in the country received nearly half a billion dollars in small-business contracts last year, according to ASBL.

General Dynamics spokesman Rob Doolittle directed attention to the SBA OIG report, which suggested most size-classification errors are the result of mistakes by federal contracting officials. He also noted that small firms acquired by a large company during the life of a contract are permitted to keep those contracts. However, the business is not required to ensure that the contract categorization is updated in the federal data system.

Sebastien Duchamp, a spokesman for General Electric, said the federal database sometimes erroneously shows the company as a small business, adding that the firm regularly reviews the data for errors and alerts contracting officers when necessary.

While Inspector General Gustafson suggests most of the problem stems from those types of reporting errors, some of it boils down to fraud.

In March, the chief executive of Arlington-based security contractor PSI pleaded guilty to major government fraud for allegedly operating a shell company, SAC, that shuffled more than $31 million in small-business set-asides to his much-larger company. Keith Hedman, the executive, was sentenced to six years in prison, and last month, the employee he tapped to run the front company was sentenced to four years.

One of the small-business set-aside contracts Hedman’s shell company won was for security services at Walter Reed Medical Center, edging out a competing bid by Davis-Paige Management Systems, a small service-disabled veteran-owned business in Annandale. Micheal Davis, the company’s chief executive, said his company spent around $100,000 chasing the contract and stood to gain around $11 million in revenue by winning.

When his firm lost to SAC, Davis said he was forced to let several employees go and move several others to part time.

“It takes work away from companies like ours that took the time to get the proper certifications to compete for these contracts,” Davis said in an interview, adding that the SAC case makes him wonder how many other “small” contractors are actually small.

An SBA OIG report to Congress last year documented several other examples of large firms that have been prosecuted for masquerading as small businesses to win contracts.

“It isn’t miscoding, it isn’t computer errors, it isn’t anomalies,” American Small Business League President Lloyd Chapman said. “These numbers are being inflated and misrepresented.”


Rules aren’t being followed

The elevated small-business contracting numbers help conceal a number of systemic problems in the federal procurement process, according to a former head of small-business contracting at the Defense Department.

“The real problems meeting these goals are tactical ones, down at the operations level, where contracts are being written and awarded,” said Daniel Gill, who headed the agency’s Office of Small Business Development under President Bill Clinton.


Gill, who now consults with government services firms and recently taught courses at the Defense Department’s acquisition training school for contracting officers, argued that the government does not need new regulations to meet its small-business contracting mandate. Instead, he said the goal would be “a piece of cake” if contracting officials in each agency simply adhered to existing procurement protocols.

“A lot of contracts are going to large business that should be going to small businesses, and it’s not just a matter of large businesses miscategorizing themselves,” Gill said. “It’s often that the proper set-aside determinations are not being made to reserve small contracts for small businesses.”

The most common example, he said, concerns long-standing regulations that require agencies to reserve all contracts worth between $3,000 and $150,000 for certified small businesses, unless the agency cannot identify two small businesses that can provide the product or service at a fair market price.

In the past few years, the Government Accountability Office has identified numerous instances in which federal officials either never did the market research to determine if small businesses were available to meet a contract’s requirements, or conducted the research, but failed to set aside those contracts for small businesses.

Phoenix Environmental Design, a small service-disabled veteran-owned firm in Plankinton, S.D., that provides pesticides and herbicides to the federal government, has filed more than 30 protests to the GAO in the past two years against agencies for faulty contracting practices. About half of them concerned contracts intended for small businesses that went to large corporations.

In every instance, the government has pulled back the award and solicited bids from small firms, according to the company’s owner, Chad Gill. What’s more, government documents show that the small firms that won the contacts the second time around routinely did so with a lower bid than the initial award to the large company.

“When we got them to do it right, and there is competition and accountability, it ends up costing the federal agency less money,” Gill said.

The problem, he said, is that many of the contracting officers he works with in various agencies do not understand the small-business set-aside process. He is not the only one who has made that observation.

In one of the GAO’s rulings last fall, General Counsel Lynn H. Gibson noted that the Veterans Administration, for instance, has repeatedly failed to set aside contracts reserved for small firms, later suggesting that contracting officers have demonstrated “a fundamental misunderstanding of the agency’s obligations” under contracting laws.

Charles Baker, who owns an electrical company that services the Defense Department, said his firm has suffered from similar contract classification errors. In many cases, he said, contracts that fall into the $3,000-to-$150,000 range are offered for general solicitation rather than reserved for small firms.

“The system is fundamentally broken, and it can destroy a small company like mine,” Baker, who owns MCB Lighting & Electric in Owings, Md., said. “There is no compliance with the laws, no enforcement.”

Maureen Schumann, a spokeswoman for the Defense Department, said Baker’s comment “clearly illustrates some of the frustrations felt by our industrial base” and that the agency is taking measures to “ensure that the right policies, procedures and programs are in place to increase contracting opportunities for small businesses.”

“We are constantly analyzing data and the [department] is using every available regulation to identify specific contracts that can be set aside for small businesses” Schumann said.


She noted that the department contracted with small businesses on 68 percent of contracts in the $3,000-to-$150,000 range last year, an increase from 2011.


Funding schemes in Congress could ground drones; FAA pressured over privacy

Washington Times

Ben Wolfgang

July 28, 2013

The lagging federal effort to fully integrate drones into U.S. airspace is in danger of falling even further behind schedule.

A funding bill now before the Senate essentially would stop the process in its tracks by prohibiting the Federal Aviation Administration from moving forward until it completes a detailed report on drones’ potential privacy impact.

The report, called for in the Senate’s fiscal 2014 transportation appropriations measure, would be yet another hurdle in the FAA’s already complex, time-consuming drone integration initiative.

The agency has been charged by Congress to write rules and regulations allowing drones — now used primarily by the military, law enforcement and researchers — to operate commercially in U.S. skies by September 2015, but the industry fears that deadline is likely to be missed.

Requiring the FAA, which traditionally deals only with airspace safety and has little experience in writing Fourth Amendment protections, to craft a comprehensive privacy report would all but guarantee the date will be pushed back.

Leaders in the unmanned aerial systems sector warn that such setbacks will hamper American technological innovation and carry economic consequences.

“Privacy is an important issue, and one that deserves to be considered carefully. But further restrictions on FAA integration will only set back important progress,” said Ben Gielow, government relations manager with the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), the drone sector’s leading trade group.

“If we are not able to keep the integration on track, the U.S. could lose out on creating tens of thousands of jobs and undermine the growth of a new industry at a time when we need it most,” he said.

The Senate bill doesn’t explicitly call for the FAA to stop drone integration efforts, but it would establish a de facto moratorium by cutting off funding for the process.

A section of the legislation, put forward by Sen. Patty Murray, Washington Democrat, states that “none of the funds in this act may be used to issue regulations on the integration of unmanned aerial systems into the national airspace” until the privacy report is completed and presented to the House and Senate appropriations committees.

The Senate Appropriations Committee directed questions on the bill to Ms. Murray, who is chairwoman of the panel’s subcommittee on transportation. Her office did not return emails or calls seeking comment.

The House’s transportation funding bill does not include such language, and the Senate provision could be changed or dropped entirely in the coming months.

For now, however, the bill underscores the deep fear in Congress and among the American public that widespread drone use will be a serious blow to personal privacy.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, said last month that she considers drones to be “the greatest threat to the privacy of Americans.”

Coming from Ms. Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, those words carry extra weight. She is intimately familiar with classified details of the National Security Agency’s data-collection programs and other efforts that, critics say, erode Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights.

Many other members of Congress, civil liberties groups, privacy advocates and others have said drones — increasingly small, undetectable and able to be equipped with state-of-the-art cameras and other monitoring equipment — pose real privacy threats.

AUVSI and other drone industry leaders agree that the issue must be addressed, and it’s already being tackled across the nation.

More than 30 states and a growing number of local governments have drafted regulations to govern what drones can do and what types of data they can collect.

At the federal level, however, many analysts question why Congress is placing the job in the lap of the FAA.

“The FAA should focus on ensuring the safety of our skies. Safety has always been the FAA’s mission, and we believe the agency should stick to what it does best,” Mr. Gielow said.

The FAA’s experience in writing drone privacy regulations has been limited. The agency has drafted privacy guidelines to be used at drone “test sites,” congressionally mandated locations where the craft will be put through a battery of tests in preparation for airspace integration by 2015.

While widespread, private-sector drone use still is years away, the FAA has begun to make exceptions.

On Friday, the agency issued two “restricted category type certificated” to a pair of unmanned aerial systems, the first step in allowing them to operate in U.S. airspace later this summer.

A “major energy company,” the FAA said, will be allowed to use a drone to survey ocean ice floes and migrating whales in Arctic oil exploration areas off the coast of Alaska. Unmanned systems also will be permitted to support emergency response crews for oil spill monitoring and wildlife surveillance over the Beaufort Sea.

Read more:


Two Drone Airframes Approved for Commercial Flights

By Bob Brewin

July 29, 2013

The Federal Aviation Administration has certified two small drones for commercial use, heralding the move as “one giant leap for unmanned-kind” that will lead to the first approved commercial flight of an unmanned air system off the Alaska coast later this summer.

The 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act defined Arctic operational areas and included mandates for Arctic UAS commercial operations. Until now obtaining an experimental airworthiness certificate – which specifically excludes commercial operations – was the only way the private sector could operate UAS in the nation’s airspace, the FAA said.

In an announcement Friday, the agency said it type-certified the Scan Eagle X200, manufactured by Boeing subsidiary Insitu, and the AeroVironment PUMA under a restricted category that allows aerial surveillance. The catapult-launched Scan Eagle, has a maximum weight of 44 pounds, a wingspan of just more than 10 feet and a length of 4.5 feet; it can stay in the air for 28 hours without refueling. The AeroVironment PUMA, a hand-launched drone that weighs 13 pounds, has a wingspan of just over nine feet and a fuselage of four feet.

The agency said previous military acceptance of the Scan Eagle and PUMA UAS designs allowed it to issue the restricted category type certificates. The Navy operates the Scan Eagle and the Air Force, Army, Marines and the Special Operations Command fly the PUMA.

A major energy company plans to fly the Scan Eagle off the Alaskan coast in international waters starting in August, the FAA said, without identifying the company. Plans for the initial ship-launched flights include surveys of ocean ice floes and migrating whales in Arctic oil exploration areas.

The PUMA is expected to support emergency response crews for oil spill monitoring and wildlife surveillance over the Beaufort Sea, but the agency again did not identify the operator.

The certification of the Scan Eagle and the PUMA could be the start of unbridled use of drones in the United States, according to Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, who in February predicted that by 2030, “30,000 drones will be cruising American skies – looking, observing, filming, and hovering over America.”

On Feb 4 the FAA kicked off a process to set up six test sites to conduct drone research and development toward a goal of widespread use of UAS by law enforcement agencies, universities and other organizations in domestic airspace by 2015.


Government Conferences Pay for Themselves, Industry Says

By Charles S. Clark

July 29, 2013

Agency spending on travel to conferences is “vital to making government more efficient and effective,” says a study released this month by the U.S. Travel Association. It argues that current Obama administration guidelines and legislation to curb conference spending is counterproductive.

Government travel for meetings and events had a total economic impact of $24.4 billion in 2011, supported 343,800 U.S. jobs and $14.5 billion in U.S. wages, and contributed $5.5 billion in tax revenue, according to the data compiled by Rockport Analytics LLC.

The report put a number on the economic effect of canceling the 2013 Military Health System Conference, an annual training event for several thousand military medical personnel. Replacement expenses and lost revenue, it said, cost the government more than $800,000.

As a result of NASA’s decision to pull out of the April 2013 National Space Symposium, a gathering for representatives of 30 nations, “important international partnerships are jeopardized, important international programs are placed at risk, and the U.S. government places serious strain on relationships with countries around the world,” according to Elliot Pulham, CEO of the private National Space Foundation.


The study also found that government meetings are more efficient than private-sector meetings in terms of expenses, and that private-sector conferences are more productive when government employees participate. A survey found that 89 percent of government supervisors believe that government meetings and events benefit citizens, and 85 percent of government respondents agreed that meetings and events added value to employee development and training.

“We hope these new findings will encourage congressional leaders to reevaluate proposals to drastically cut government travel budgets across the country,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the travel association. “When conducted responsibly, federal workers who travel for conferences and meetings deliver important services and real value to our nation.”



Drones Approved for Commercial Flights

By Bob Brewin

July 29, 2013

The Federal Aviation Administration has certified two small drones for commercial use, heralding the move as “one giant leap for unmanned-kind” that will lead to the first approved commercial flight of an unmanned air system off the Alaska coast later this summer.

The 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act defined Arctic operational areas and included mandates for Arctic UAS commercial operations. Until now obtaining an experimental airworthiness certificate – which specifically excludes commercial operations – was the only way the private sector could operate UAS in the nation’s airspace, the FAA said.

In an announcement Friday, the agency said it type-certified the Scan Eagle X200, manufactured by Boeing subsidiary Insitu, and the AeroVironment PUMA under a restricted category that allows aerial surveillance. The catapult-launched Scan Eagle, has a maximum weight of 44 pounds, a wingspan of just more than 10 feet and a length of 4.5 feet; it can stay in the air for 28 hours without refueling. The AeroVironment PUMA, a hand-launched drone that weighs 13 pounds, has a wingspan of just over nine feet and a fuselage of four feet.

The agency said previous military acceptance of the Scan Eagle and PUMA UAS designs allowed it to issue the restricted category type certificates. The Navy operates the Scan Eagle and the Air Force, Army, Marines and the Special Operations Command fly the PUMA.

A major energy company plans to fly the Scan Eagle off the Alaskan coast in international waters starting in August, the FAA said, without identifying the company. Plans for the initial ship-launched flights include surveys of ocean ice floes and migrating whales in Arctic oil exploration areas.

The PUMA is expected to support emergency response crews for oil spill monitoring and wildlife surveillance over the Beaufort Sea, but the agency again did not identify the operator.

The certification of the Scan Eagle and the PUMA could be the start of unbridled use of drones in the United States, according to Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, who in February predicted that by 2030, “30,000 drones will be cruising American skies – looking, observing, filming, and hovering over America.”

On Feb 4 the FAA kicked off a process to set up six test sites to conduct drone research and development toward a goal of widespread use of UAS by law enforcement agencies, universities and other organizations in domestic airspace by 2015.




The Data Economy Is Much, Much Bigger Than You (and the Government) Think

The Atlantic

July 25, 2013

By Michael Mandel\


It’s become conventional wisdom among pundits that the tech and data boom is generating lots of wealth, but not much in the way of jobs or economic growth. The skeptics point to lack of job gains in the “information” sector, as defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and to the country’s sub-2 percent GDP growth figures.

But as the U.S. shifts to a data-driven economy, the benefits of fixed and mobile broadband are showing up in ways that are not counted by traditional statistics. For just one example, take the number of jobs generated by the development and deployment of mobile apps. According to a new calculation by the Progressive Policy Institute, employment in the App Economy now comes to 752,000 jobs, up roughly 40% over the past year. This is a conservative estimate, based on tracking online help-wanted ads.

Auto companies are hiring software developers and testers to turn their vehicles into highly connected data platforms. Drugstores are going online to let their customers know when prescriptions are ready. Hospitals are ramping up their employment of clinical data managers to help handle the shift to electronic health records. Bed and breakfasts have shifted their entire booking operations online, driven by digital ads.

More broadly, demand for tech workers in the New York City region outstrips every other metro area, including San Francisco and San Jose, according to figures from The Conference Board. That reflects demand in finance, advertising, and media.

The data-driven economy is built on several pillars: Broadband providers, mobile phone operators, and other communications companies are investing almost $100 billion annually to vastly improve their networks. Makers of smartphones, routers, sensors, wireless medical gear, and the like are upgrading and extending the capabilities of their equipment. Meanwhile new applications and uses are coming out of app developers, online game and entertainment companies, web companies like Facebook and Google, content providers, electronic health record providers, and “Internet of Everything” companies that connect the physical world with the data world. Tableau Software, a Seattle-based data visualization company that just went public, increased its full-time employees from 188 to 749 from the end of 2010 to the end of 2012.

What’s more, data is also the fastest-growing component of trade. Consider the United States and Europe: telecom providers have doubled transatlantic cable capacity over the past five years, according to figures from Telegeography. Meanwhile imports and exports of goods and services between the U.S. and Europe are barely above pre-recession peaks.

These flows of data do not show up in the monthly trade report released by the Census Bureau and the BEA. Indeed, most of the growth of data domestically is not counted in the economic statistics either. For example, fixed broadband traffic in North America rose by 39% in the first half of 2013 over a year earlier, according to Sandvine, a Canadian-based network management company. This number does not show up in any official measures.


Will all this growth continue? People still remember the tech bust of the early 2000s, when the unemployment rate in Silicon Valley surged to over 9 percent. This time, though, the surge in data-related jobs is not likely to stop soon. A 2010 policy brief from the Progressive Policy Institute showed that the jobs and industries that grow during a recession are the ones that lead the expansion, and that’s exactly what is happening here.

Before the financial crisis, the housing and debt boom made the U.S. economy look better than it really was, especially housing construction is very visible and easy to measure. By contrast, we may be in the opposite situation now. Data is intangible and difficult to count, so the benefits of the tech and data boom may be underestimated.\



Is Sugar Really Toxic? Sifting through the Evidence

Scientific American

By Ferris Jabr | July 15, 2013


Our very first experience of exceptional sweetness—a dollop of buttercream frosting on a parent’s finger; a spoonful of strawberry ice cream instead of the usual puréed carrots—is a gustatory revelation that generally slips into the lacuna of early childhood. Sometimes, however, the moment of original sweetness is preserved. A YouTube video from February 2011 begins with baby Olivia staring at the camera, her face fixed in rapture and a trickle of vanilla ice cream on her cheek. When her brother Daniel brings the ice cream cone near her once more, she flaps her arms and arches her whole body to reach it.

Considering that our cells depend on sugar for energy, it makes sense that we evolved an innate love for sweetness. How much sugar we consume, however—as well as how it enters the body and where we get it from in the first place—has changed dramatically over time. Before agriculture, our ancestors presumably did not have much control over the sugars in their diet, which must have come from whatever plants and animals were available in a given place and season. Around 6,000 BC, people in New Guinea began to grow sugarcane, chewing and sucking on the stalks to drink the sweet juice within. Sugarcane cultivation spread to India, where by 500 BC people had learned to turn bowls of the tropical grass’s juice into crude crystals. From there sugar traveled with migrants and monks to China, Persia, northern Africa and eventually to Europe in the 11th century.

For more than 400 years, sugar remained a luxury in Europe—an exotic spice—until manufacturing became efficient enough to make “white gold” much more affordable. Christopher Columbus brought sugarcane to the New World in 1493 and in the 16th and 17th centuries European powers established sugarcane plantations in the West Indies and South America. Sugar consumption in England increased by 1,500 percent between the 18th and 19th centuries. By the mid 19th century, Europeans and Americans had come to regard refined sugar as a necessity. Today, we add sugar in one form or another to the majority of processed foods we eat—everything from bread, cereals, crunchy snacks and desserts to soft drinks, juices, salad dressings and sauces—and we are not too stingy about using it to sweeten many raw and whole foods as well.


By consuming so much sugar we are not just demonstrating weak willpower and indulging our sweet tooth—we are in fact poisoning ourselves according to a group of doctors, nutritionists and biologists, one of the most prominent members of which is Robert Lustig of the University of California, San Francisco, famous for his viral YouTube video “Sugar: The Bitter Truth.” A few journalists, such as Gary Taubes and Mark Bittman, have reached similar conclusions. Sugar, they argue, poses far greater dangers than cavities and love handles; it is a toxin that harms our organs and disrupts the body’s usual hormonal cycles. Excessive consumption of sugar, they say, is one of the primary causes of the obesity epidemic and metabolic disorders like diabetes, as well as a culprit of cardiovascular disease. More than one-third of American adults and approximately 12.5 million children and adolescents in the U.S. are obese. In 1980, 5.6 million Americans were diagnosed with diabetes; in 2011 more than 20 million Americans had the illness.

The argument that sugar is a toxin depends on some technical details about the different ways the human body gets energy from different types of sugar. Today, Americans eat most of their sugar in two main forms: table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. A molecule of table sugar, or sucrose, is a bond between one glucose molecule and one fructose molecule—two simple sugars with the same chemical formula, but slightly different atomic structures. In the 1960s, new technology allowed the U.S. corn industry to cheaply convert corn-derived glucose intro fructose and produce high fructose corn syrup, which—despite its name—is almost equal parts free-floating fructose and glucose: 55 percent fructose, 42 percent glucose and three percent other sugars. Because fructose is about twice as sweet as glucose, an inexpensive syrup mixing the two was an appealing alternative to sucrose from sugarcane and beets.

Regardless of where the sugar we eat comes from, our cells are interested in dealing with fructose and glucose, not the bulkier sucrose. Enzymes in the intestine split sucrose into fructose and glucose within seconds, so as far as the human body is concerned sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup are equivalent. The same is not true for their constituent molecules. Glucose travels through the bloodstream to all of our tissues, because every cell readily converts glucose into energy. In contrast, liver cells are one of the few types of cells that can convert fructose to energy, which puts the onus of metabolizing fructose almost entirely on one organ. The liver accomplishes this primarily by turning fructose into glucose and lactate. Eating exceptionally large amounts of fructose taxes the liver: it spends so much energy turning fructose into other molecules that it may not have much energy left for all its other functions. A consequence of this energy depletion is production of uric acid, which research has linked to gout, kidney stones and high blood pressure.

The human body strictly regulates the amount of glucose in the blood. Glucose stimulates the pancreas to secrete the hormone insulin, which helps remove excess glucose from blood, and bolsters production of the hormone leptin, which suppresses hunger. Fructose does not trigger insulin production and appears to raise levels of the hormone grehlin, which keeps us hungry. Some researchers have suggested that large amounts of fructose encourage people to eat more than they need. In studies with animals and people by Kimber Stanhope of the University of California Davis and other researchers, excess fructose consumption has increased fat production, especially in the liver, and raised levels of circulating triglycerides, which are a risk factor for clogged arteries and cardiovascular disease. Some research has linked a fatty liver to insulin resistance—a condition in which cells become far less responsive to insulin than usual, exhausting the pancreas until it loses the ability to properly regulate blood glucose levels. Richard Johnson of the University of Colorado Denver has proposed that uric acid produced by fructose metabolism also promotes insulin resistance. In turn insulin resistance is thought to be a major contributor to obesity and Type 2 diabetes; the three disorders often occur together.

Because fructose metabolism seems to kick off a chain reaction of potentially harmful chemical changes inside the body, Lustig, Taubes and others have singled out fructose as the rotten apple of the sugar family. When they talk about sugar as a toxin, they mean fructose specifically. In the last few years, however, prominent biochemists and nutrition experts have challenged the idea that fructose is a threat to our health and have argued that replacing fructose with glucose or other sugars would solve nothing. First, as fructose expert John White points out, fructose consumption has been declining for more than a decade, but rates of obesity continued to rise during the same period. Of course, coinciding trends alone do not definitively demonstrate anything. A more compelling criticism is that concern about fructose is based primarily on studies in which rodents and people consumed huge amounts of the molecule—up to 300 grams of fructose each day, which is nearly equivalent to the total sugar in eight cans of Coke—or a diet in which the vast majority of sugars were pure fructose. The reality is that most people consume far less fructose than used in such studies and rarely eat fructose without glucose.

On average, people in America and Europe eat between 100 and 150 grams of sugar each day, about half of which is fructose. It’s difficult to find a regional diet or individual food that contains only glucose or only fructose. Virtually all plants have glucose, fructose and sucrose—not just one or another of these sugars. Although some fruits, such as apples and pears, have three times as much fructose as glucose, most of the fruits and veggies we eat are more balanced. Pineapples, blueberries, peaches, carrots, corn and cabbage, for example, all have about a 1:1 ratio of the two sugars. In his New York Times Magazine article, Taubes claims that “fructose…is what distinguishes sugar from other carbohydrate-rich foods like bread or potatoes that break down upon digestion to glucose alone.” This is not really true. Although potatoes and white bread are full of starch—long chains of glucose molecules—they also have fructose and sucrose. Similarly, Lustig has claimed that the Japanese diet promotes weight loss because it is fructose-free, but the Japanese consume plenty of sugar—about 83 grams a day on average—including fructose in fruit, sweetened beverages and the country’s many meticulously crafted confectioneries. High-fructose corn syrup was developed and patented in part by Japanese researcher Yoshiyuki Takasaki in the 1960s and ’70s.

Not only do many worrying fructose studies use unrealistic doses of the sugar unaccompanied by glucose, it also turns out that the rodents researchers have studied metabolize fructose in a very different way than people do—far more different than originally anticipated. Studies that have traced fructose’s fantastic voyage through the human body suggest that the liver converts as much as 50 percent of fructose into glucose, around 30 percent of fructose into lactate and less than one percent into fats. In contrast, mice and rats turn more than 50 percent of fructose into fats, so experiments with these animals would exaggerate the significance of fructose’s proposed detriments for humans, especially clogged arteries, fatty livers and insulin resistance.

In a series of meta-analyses examining dozens of human studies, John Sievenpiper of St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto and his colleagues found no harmful effects of typical fructose consumption on body weight, blood pressure or uric acid production. In a 2011 study, Sam Sun—a nutrition scientist at Archer Daniels Midland, a major food processing corporation—and his colleagues analyzed data about sugar consumption collected from more than 25,000 Americans between 1999 and 2006. Their analysis confirmed that people almost never eat fructose by itself and that for more than 97 percent of people fructose contributes less daily energy than other sugars. They did not find any positive associations between fructose consumption and levels of trigylcerides, cholesterol or uric acid, nor any significant link to waist circumference or body mass index (BMI). And in a recent BMC Biology Q&A, renowned sugar expert Luc Tappy of the University of Lausanne writes: “Given the substantial consumption of fructose in our diet, mainly from sweetened beverages, sweet snacks, and cereal products with added sugar, and the fact that fructose is an entirely dispensable nutrient, it appears sound to limit consumption of sugar as part of any weight loss program and in individuals at high risk of developing metabolic diseases. There is no evidence, however, that fructose is the sole, or even the main factor in the development of these diseases, nor that it is deleterious to everybody.”

To properly understand fructose metabolism, we must also consider in what form we consume the sugar, as explained in a recent paper by David Ludwig, Director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center of Boston Children’s Hospital and a professor at Harvard. Drinking a soda or binging on ice cream floods our intestines and liver with large amounts of loose fructose. In contrast, the fructose in an apple does not reach the liver all at once. All the fiber in the fruit—such as cellulose that only our gut bacteria can break down—considerably slows digestion. Our enzymes must first tear apart the apple’s cells to reach the sugars sequestered within. “It’s not just about the fiber in food, but also its very structure,” Ludwig says. “You could add Metamucil to Coca Cola and not get any benefit.” In a small but intriguing study, 17 adults in South Africa ate primarily fruit—about 20 servings with approximately 200 grams of total fructose each day—for 24 weeks and did not gain weight, develop high blood pressure or imbalance their insulin and lipid levels.

To strengthen his argument, Ludwig turns to the glycemic index, a measure of how quickly food raises levels of glucose in the blood. Pure glucose and starchy foods such as Taubes’s example of the potato have a high glycemix index; fructose has a very low one. If fructose is uniquely responsible for obesity and diabetes and glucose is benign, then high glycemic index diets should not be associated with metabolic disorders—yet they are. A small percentage of the world population may in fact consume so much fructose that they endanger their health because of the difficulties the body encounters in converting the molecule to energy. But the available evidence to date suggests that, for most people, typical amounts of dietary fructose are not toxic.

Even if Lustig is wrong to call fructose poisonous and saddle it with all the blame for obesity and diabetes, his most fundamental directive is sound: eat less sugar. Why? Because super sugary, energy-dense foods with little nutritional value are one of the main ways we consume more calories than we need, albeit not the only way. It might be hard to swallow, but the fact is that many of our favorite desserts, snacks, cereals and especially our beloved sweet beverages inundate the body with far more sugar than it can efficiently metabolize. Milkshakes, smoothies, sodas, energy drinks and even unsweetened fruit juices all contain large amounts of free-floating sugars instantly absorbed by our digestive system.

Avoiding sugar is not a panacea, though. A healthy diet is about so much more than refusing that second sugar cube and keeping the cookies out of reach or hidden in the cupboard. What about all the excess fat in our diet, so much of which is paired with sugar and contributes to heart disease? What about bad cholesterol and salt? “If someone is gaining weight, they should look to sugars as a place to cut back,” says Sievenpiper, “but there’s a misguided belief that if we just go after sugars we will fix obesity—obesity is more complex than that. Clinically, there are some people who come in drinking way too much soda and sweet beverages, but most people are just overconsuming in general.” Then there’s all the stuff we really should eat more of: whole grains; fruits and veggies; fish; lean protein. But wait, we can’t stop there: a balanced diet is only one component of a healthy lifestyle. We need to exercise too—to get our hearts pumping, strengthen our muscles and bones and maintain flexibility. Exercising, favoring whole foods over processed ones and eating less overall sounds too obvious, too simplistic, but it is actually a far more nuanced approach to good health than vilifying a single molecule in our diet—an approach that fits the data. Americans have continued to consume more and more total calories each year—average daily intake increased by 530 calories between 1970 and 2000—while simultaneously becoming less and less physically active. Here’s the true bitter truth: Yes, most of us should make an effort to eat less sugar—but if we are really committed to staying healthy, we’ll have to do a lot more than that.



US Appeals Court Upholds Warrantless Collection of Phone Location Data

The court has ruled that cell site information is business data collected by the service provider

By John Ribeiro

Wed, July 31, 2013

IDG News Service (Bangalore Bureau) — Warrants are not required by the U.S. government to access historical cell site information, an appeals court ruled in an order.

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects only reasonable expectations of privacy, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit wrote in a 2-1 ruling on Tuesday. The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures.

“Because a cell phone user makes a choice to get a phone, to select a particular service provider, and to make a call, and because he knows that the call conveys cell site information, the provider retains this information, and the provider will turn it over to the police if they have a court order, he voluntarily conveys his cell site data each time he makes a call,” the court added.

Cell site information is clearly a business record, collected by the service provider for its own business purposes, and without being asked to so by the government, the court said in the order.

The dispute hinged around whether law enforcement agents can access cell site data with a relatively easy-to-obtain order under section 2703 (d) of the Stored Communications Act, which is based on a showing of “specific and articulable facts,” instead of using a search warrant after showing probable cause.

Rights groups American Civil Liberties Union and Electronic Frontier Foundation and others have argued that the government should be required to seek a warrant to access the location information, because it is sensitive and can reveal a great deal about a person. The groups argued in court that SCA grants courts the discretion to require the government to obtain a warrant based upon probable cause before accessing historical cell phone location data.

Ruling that compelled warrantless disclosure of cell site data violates the Fourth Amendment, a magistrate judge earlier denied a government request for the historical cell site data in three applications filed in October, 2010 under the SCA for seeking evidence relevant to three separate criminal investigations. The judge, however, allowed for providing subscriber information.

Following an appeal by the government, a district court held that data “disclosing the location of the telephone at the time of particular calls may be acquired only by a warrant issued on probable cause,” as the records would show the date, time called, number, and location of the telephone when the call was made, which is constitutionally protected.

The Fifth Circuit court clarified that its ruling only covered section 2703(d) orders to obtain historical cell site information, and did not address, for example, orders requesting data from all phones that use a tower during a particular interval or “situations where the Government surreptitiously installs spyware on a target’s phone or otherwise hijacks the phone’s GPS, with or without the service provider’s help.”

The Supreme Court of New Jersey ruled earlier this month that cellphone users have a reasonable expectation of privacy of their cellphone location information, and police are required to get a search warrant before accessing the information. People are not promoting the release of personal information to others when making disclosures to phone companies, the court said in an unanimous ruling.



Bradley Manning-WikiLeaks case turns to sentencing

San Francisco Chronicle

By DAVID DISHNEAU, Associated Press

Updated 6:40 am, Wednesday, July 31, 2013

FORT MEADE, Md. (AP) — Acquitted of the most serious charge against him, Army Pfc. Bradley Manning still faces up to 136 years in prison for leaking government secrets to the website WikiLeaks, and his fate rests with a judge who will begin hearing arguments Wednesday in the sentencing phase of the soldier’s court-martial.

The former intelligence analyst was convicted of 20 of 22 charges for sending hundreds of thousands of government and diplomatic secrets to WikiLeaks, but he was found not guilty of aiding the enemy, which alone could have meant life in prison without parole.

“We’re not celebrating,” defense attorney David Coombs said. “Ultimately, his sentence is all that really matters.”

Military prosecutors said they would call as many as 20 witnesses for the sentencing phase. The government said as many as half of the prosecution witnesses would testify about classified matters in closed court. They include experts on counterintelligence, strategic planning and terrorism.

The judge prohibited both sides from presenting evidence during trial about any actual damage the leaks caused to national security and troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, but lawyers will be allowed to bring that up at sentencing.

The release of diplomatic cables, warzone logs and videos embarrassed the U.S. and its allies. U.S. officials warned of dire consequences in the days immediately after the first disclosures in July 2010, but a Pentagon review later suggested those fears might have been overblown.

The judge also restricted evidence about Manning’s motives. Manning testified during a pre-trial hearing he leaked the material to expose U.S military “bloodlust” and diplomatic deceitfulness, but did not believe his actions would harm the country. He didn’t testify during the trial, but he could take the stand during the sentencing phase.

Lisa Windsor, a retired Army colonel and former judge advocate, said the punishment phase would focus on Manning’s motive and the harm that was done by the leak.

“You’re balancing that to determine what would be an appropriate sentence. I think it’s likely that he’s going to be in jail for a very long time,” said Windsor, now in private practice in Washington.

The judge, Army Col. Denise Lind, deliberated three days before reaching her verdict in a case involving the largest leak of documents in U.S. history. The case drew worldwide attention as supporters hailed Manning as a whistleblower and the U.S. government called him an anarchist computer hacker and attention-seeking traitor.

The verdict denied the government a precedent that freedom of press advocates had warned could have broad implications for leak cases and investigative journalism about national security issues.

Whistleblower advocates and legal experts had mixed opinions on the implications for the future of leak cases in the Internet age.

The advocacy group Reporters Without Borders said the verdict was a chilling warning to whistleblowers, “against whom the Obama administration has been waging an unprecedented offensive,” and threatens the future of investigative journalism because intimidated sources might fall quiet.

However, another advocate of less government secrecy, Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists, questioned whether the implications will be so dire, given the extraordinary nature of the Manning case.

“This was a massive hemorrhage of government records, and it’s not too surprising that it elicited a strong reaction from the government,” Aftergood said.

“Most journalists are not in the business of publishing classified documents, they’re in the business of reporting the news, which is not the same thing,” he said. “This is not good news for journalism, but it’s not the end of the world, either.”

Glenn Greenwald, the journalist, commentator and former civil rights lawyer who first reported Edward Snowden’s leaks of National Security Agency surveillance programs, said Manning’s acquittal on the charge of aiding the enemy represented a “tiny sliver of justice.”

But WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, whose website exposed Manning’s spilled U.S. secrets to the world, saw nothing to cheer in the mixed verdict.

“It is a dangerous precedent and an example of national security extremism,” he told reporters at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, which is sheltering him. “This has never been a fair trial.”

Federal authorities are looking into whether Assange can be prosecuted. He has been holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden on sex-crimes allegations.

The material WikiLeaks began publishing in 2010 documented complaints of abuses against Iraqi detainees, a U.S. tally of civilian deaths in Iraq, and America’s weak support for the government of Tunisia — a disclosure Manning supporters said helped trigger the Middle Eastern pro-democracy uprisings known as the Arab Spring.

To prove aiding the enemy, prosecutors had to show Manning had “actual knowledge” the material he leaked would be seen by al-Qaida and that he had “general evil intent.” They presented evidence the material fell into the hands of the terrorist group and its former leader, Osama bin Laden, but struggled to prove their assertion that Manning was an anarchist computer hacker and attention-seeking traitor.



Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel

Statement on Strategic Choices and Management Review


Good afternoon.

Earlier today, I briefed key congressional committee leaders on the findings of DoD’s Strategic Choices and Management Review. This afternoon, I want to discuss these findings and clarify the major options and difficult choices ahead.

I directed the Strategic Choices and Management Review four months ago to help ensure the Department of Defense is prepared in the face of unprecedented budget uncertainty. Although DoD strongly supports the President’s fiscal year 2014 request and long-term budget plan for the entire federal government, the deep and abrupt spending cuts under sequestration that began on March 1st this year are the law of the land. Sequestration will continue in the absence of an agreement that replaces the Budget Control Act.

The purpose of the Strategic Choices and Management Review – which was led by Deputy Secretary Ash Carter with the full participation of General Dempsey, Admiral Winnefeld, the Service Secretaries and Service Chiefs – was to understand the impact of further budget reductions on the Department, and develop options to deal with these additional cuts. It had three specific objectives:

• Help DoD prepare for how to deal with sequestration if it continues in FY 2014;

• Inform the fiscal guidance given to the military services for their FY 2015

through 2019 budget plans;

• Anchor the upcoming Quadrennial Defense Review,

which will assess our defense strategy in light of new fiscal realities and the many threats, complexities and uncertainties of this new century.


The Strategic Choices and Management Review did not produce a detailed budget blueprint. That was not the purpose of this review. It generated a menu of options, not a set of decisions, built around three potential budget scenarios:

• The President’s FY 2014 budget, which incorporates a carefully calibrated and largely back-loaded $150 billion reduction in defense spending over the next ten years;

• The Budget Control Act’s sequester-level caps, which would cut another $52 billion from defense in fiscal year 2014, with $500 billion in reductions for the DoD over the next ten years;

• An “in-between” scenario that would reduce defense spending by about $250 billion over the next ten years, but would be largely back-loaded.

It is important to remember that all these cuts are in addition to the $487 billion reduction in defense spending over the next decade required by the initial caps in the Budget Control Act of 2011 which DoD has been implementing. If sequester-level cuts persist, DoD would experience nearly a trillion dollars in defense spending reductions over the next ten years.

To help DoD balance strategic ends, ways and means under these budget scenarios, the Strategic Choices and Management Review scrutinized every aspect of DoD’s budget, including: contingency planning, business practices, force structure, pay and benefits, acquisition practices, and modernization portfolios. Everything was on the table.

As I discussed last week at the VFW Convention in Louisville, four principles helped guide this review:

• Prioritizing DoD’s missions and capabilities around our core responsibility of defending our country;

• Maximizing the military’s combat power by looking to reduce every other category of spending first;

• Preserving and strengthening military readiness, and;

• Honoring the service and sacrifice of DoD’s people.

Those principles, and a rigorous review process, resulted in packages of options that included management efficiencies and overhead reductions, compensation reforms, and changes to force structure and modernization plans.

Allow me to share with you some of the options the review identified in each area I just mentioned.



A tenet of the review was that we need to maximize savings from reducing DoD’s overhead, administrative costs, and other institutional expenses.

For several years, DoD has been paring back overhead. About $150 billion in five-year efficiency reductions were proposed by Secretary Gates, an additional $60 billion in savings were identified by Secretary Panetta, and I submitted a $34 billion savings package in our latest budget. DoD is continuing to implement these efficiency campaigns. Despite much progress, as well as good efforts and intentions, not every proposal has generated the savings we expected, or gained the support of Congress – most notably, our request for a base realignment and closure

round. The review showed that DoD will have to do more in this area, even though it is getting more difficult to find these cuts and it can take years for significant savings to be realized. After considering the results of the review, I determined that it is possible and prudent to begin implementing a new package of efficiency reforms now – ones that should be pursued regardless of fiscal circumstances.

Some of these management efficiencies and overhead reductions include:

• Reducing the department’s major headquarters budgets by 20 percent, beginning with the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, Service Headquarters and Secretariats,

Combatant Commands, and defense agencies and field activities. Although the 20 percent cut applies to budget dollars, organizations will strive for a goal of 20 percent reductions in government civilians and military personnel billets on headquarters staffs;

• Reducing the number of direct reports to the Secretary of Defense by further consolidating functions within OSD, as well as eliminating positions, and;

• Reducing intelligence analysis and production at Combatant Command intelligence and operations centers, which will also foster closer integration and reduce duplication across the defense enterprise.

These management reforms, consolidations, personnel cuts, and spending reductions will reduce the department’s overheard and operating costs by some $10 billion over the next five years and almost $40 billion over the next decade. They will make the Department more agile and versatile.

Past efficiency campaigns have shown that implementation can be very challenging, so effective follow-through is critical if savings targets are to be realized. This is especially true of OSD reductions. I have asked Deputy Secretary Carter to identify someone from outside DoD who is deeply knowledgeable about the defense enterprise and eminently qualified to direct implementation of the OSD reductions and report to the Deputy Secretary.

In addition to the measures I’ve described, the review identified additional consolidations and mission reductions that could be required if sequester-level caps are imposed over the long- term. These measures include consolidations of regional combatant commands, defense agency mission cuts, and further IT consolidation.

These changes would be far-reaching and require further analysis and consideration. Though defense bureaucracies are often derided, the fact is that these offices perform functions needed to manage, administer, and support a military of our size, complexity and global reach.

Even over the course of a decade, the cumulative savings of the most aggressive efficiency options identified by the review are $60 billion. That is a very small fraction of what is needed under sequester-level cuts. We will have to look elsewhere for savings.



The review confirmed that no serious attempt to achieve significant savings can avoid compensation costs, which consume roughly half of the DoD budget. If left unchecked, pay and benefits will continue to eat into readiness and modernization. That could result in a far less capable force that is well-compensated but poorly trained and poorly equipped.

Any discussion of compensation should acknowledge the following:

• No one in uniform is “overpaid” for what they do for this country;

• People are DoD’s most important asset – and we must sustain compensation

packages that recruit and retain the finest military in the world;

• The significant military pay and benefit increases over the last decade reflected

the need to sustain a force under considerable stress – especially the Army and

Marines – during the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns;

• One post-9/11 war is over, and the second – our nation’s longest war– is coming

to an end;

• Overall personnel costs have risen dramatically – some 40 percent above inflation

since 2001.


The Department cannot afford to sustain this growth. Reflecting these realities, the President’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget included a package of modest compensation-related reforms that have the strong support of our uniformed leadership. Congress has signaled its opposition to some of these proposals, including modest increases in TRICARE fees for working age retirees. But given our current fiscal situation, DoD has no choice but to consider compensation changes of greater magnitude for military and civilian personnel.

The review developed compensation savings options that we believe would continue to allow the military to recruit and retain the high quality personnel we need. If we were to pursue these options, we would need Congress’ partnership to implement many of them. Examples include:

• Changing military health care for retirees to increase use of private-sector insurance when available;

• Changing how the basic allowance for housing is calculated so that individuals are asked to pay a little more of their housing costs;

• Reducing the overseas cost of living adjustment;

• Continuing to limit military and civilian pay raises.

Many will object to these ideas – and I want to be clear that we are not announcing any compensation changes today. Instead, I’ve asked Chairman Dempsey to lead an effort with the Service Chiefs and Senior Enlisted Advisors to develop a package of compensation proposals that meets savings targets identified in the review – almost $50 billion over the next decade – and still enable us to recruit and retain a high-quality force. We would begin implementing this package in the FY 2015 budget. Senior OSD staff will lead a similar review for civilian pay and benefits.

The review also identified more sweeping changes to meet sequester-level targets – such as eliminating civilian pensions for retired military personnel serving in civilian government service, ending subsidies for defense commissaries, and restricting the availability of unemployment benefits. This package would yield savings of almost $100 billion over the next decade, but would have a significant impact on our service members and our workforce. But a sequester-level scenario would compel us to consider these changes because there would be no realistic alternative that did not pose unacceptable risk to national security.



The efficiencies and compensation reforms identified in the review – even the most aggressive changes – still leave DoD some $350 to $400 billion short of the $500 billion in cuts required by sequestration over the next ten years. The review had to take a hard look at changes to our force structure and modernization plans.

The President’s Defense Strategic Guidance anchored this effort. The goal was to find savings that best preserved the tenets of the President’s strategy, such as strategic deterrence, homeland defense, and the rebalance to the Asia-Pacific. The review concluded we should not take reductions proportionally across the military services. Instead, the options we examined were informed by strategy, and they will guide the services as they build two sets of budgets for FY 2015 through 2019 – one at the President’s budget level and one at sequester-level caps.

While we want to preserve flexibility for each military service to develop the best force possible given reduced resources, the review identified areas where we have excess capacity to meet current and anticipated future needs. In particular, the analysis concluded that we can strategically reduce the size of our ground and tactical air forces – even beyond the current draw down.

I have not made any program or force structure decisions, and more analysis will be required before these decisions are made. But with the end of the war in Iraq, the drawdown in Afghanistan, and a changing requirement to conduct protracted, large-scale counterinsurgency operations, it makes sense to take another look at the Army’s force structure – which is currently planned to reach 490,000 in the active component and 555,000 in the reserves.

One option the review examined found that we could still execute the priority missions determined by our defense strategy while reducing Army end-strength to between 420,000 and 450,000 in the active component and between 490,000 and 530,000 in the Army reserves. Similarly, the Air Force could reduce tactical aircraft squadrons – potentially as many as five – and cut the size of the C-130 fleet with minimal risk.

In the months ahead I will work closely with Chairman Dempsey and each of the Service Chiefs to reach agreement on the proper size of our armed forces, taking into account real-world needs and requirements.

A modest reduction in force structure, when combined with management efficiencies and compensation reforms, would enable us to meet the $150 billion in savings required by the

President’s budget proposal while still defending the country and fulfilling our global responsibilities. We can sustain our current defense strategy under the President’s budget request.

Significant reductions beyond the President’s plan would require many more dramatic cuts to force structure. The review showed that the “in-between” budget scenario we evaluated would “bend” our defense strategy in important ways, and sequester-level cuts would “break” some parts of the strategy no matter how the cuts were made. Under sequester-level cuts, our military options and flexibility will be severely constrained.

Given that reality, the review examined two strategic approaches to reducing force structure and modernization that will inform planning for sequester-level cuts. The basic trade- off is between capacity – measured in the number of Army brigades, Navy ships, Air Force squadrons and Marine battalions – and capability – our ability to modernize weapons systems to maintain our military’s technological edge.

In the first approach, we would trade away size for high-end capability. This would further shrink the active Army to between 380,000 and 450,000 troops, reduce the number of carrier strike groups from 11 to eight or nine, draw down the Marine Corps from 182,000 to between 150,000 and 175,000, and retire older Air Force bombers. We would protect investments to counter anti-access and area-denial threats, such as the long range strike family of systems, submarine cruise-missile upgrades, and the Joint Strike Fighter. And we would continue to make cyber capabilities and special operations forces a high priority.

This strategic choice would result in a force that would be technologically dominant, but would be much smaller and able to go fewer places and do fewer things, especially if crises occurred at the same time in different regions of the world.

The second approach would trade away high-end capability for size. We would look to sustain our capacity for regional power projection and presence by making more limited cuts to ground forces, ships and aircraft. But we would cancel or curtail many modernization programs, slow the growth of cyber enhancements, and reduce special operations forces.

Cuts on this scale would, in effect, be a decade-long modernization holiday. The military could find its equipment and weapons systems – many of which are already near the end of their service lives – less effective against more technologically advanced adversaries. We also have to consider how massive cuts to procurement, and research and development funding would impact the viability of America’s private sector industrial base.

These two approaches illustrate the difficult trade-offs and strategic choices that would face the department in a scenario where sequester-level cuts continue. Going forward, in the months ahead, DoD – and ultimately the President – will decide on a strategic course that best preserves our ability to defend our national security interests under this very daunting budget scenario.

The balance we strike between capability, capacity and readiness will determine the composition and size of the force for years to come. We could, in the end, make decisions that result in a very different force from the options I’ve described today. Our goal is to be able to give the President informed recommendations, not to pre-judge outcomes. Regardless, the decision-making process will benefit from the insights this review provided.

In closing, one of the most striking conclusions of the Strategic Choices and Management Review is that if DoD combines all the reduction options I’ve described – including significant cuts to the military’s size and capability – the savings fall well short of meeting sequester-level cuts, particularly during the first five years of these steep, decade-long reductions.

The reality is that cuts to overhead, compensation, and forces generate savings slowly. With dramatic reductions in each area, we do reach sequester-level savings – but only towards the end of a 10-year timeframe. Every scenario the review examined showed shortfalls in the early years of $30-35 billion.

These shortfalls will be even larger if Congress is unwilling to enact changes to compensation or adopt other management reforms and infrastructure cuts we proposed in our fiscal year 2014 budget. Opposition to these proposals must be engaged and overcome, or we will be forced to take even more draconian steps in the future.

A lot has been said about the impact of sequestration. Before this review, like many Americans, I wondered why a 10 percent budget cut was in fact so destructive. Families and businesses trim their costs by similar proportions. But this analysis showed in the starkest terms how a 10 percent defense spending reduction causes in reality a much higher reduction in military readiness and capability. Unlike the private sector, the federal government – and the Defense Department in particular – simply does not have the option of quickly shutting down excess facilities, eliminating entire organizations and operations, or shedding massive numbers of employees – at least not in a responsible, moral and legal way.

The fact is that half of our budget – including areas like compensation where we need to achieve savings – are essentially off limits for quick reductions. Given that reality, the only way to implement an additional, abrupt 10 percent reduction in the defense budget is to make senseless, non-strategic cuts that damage military readiness, disrupt operations, and erode our technological edge. We have already seen some of the significant effects of the $37 billion reduction occurring in this fiscal year – including halting all flying for some Air Force squadrons, cancelling ship deployments, ending Army Combat Training Center rotations for brigades not deploying to Afghanistan, and imposing furloughs for 650,000 DoD civilians.

In Fiscal Year 2014, this damage will continue if sequestration persists. DoD is now developing a contingency plan to accommodate the $52 billion sequester-level reduction in fiscal year 2014, which I outlined in a letter this month to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Levin and Ranking Member Inhofe. Congress will need to help us manage these deep and abrupt reductions responsibly and efficiently.

The bold management reforms, compensation changes and force structure reductions identified by the Strategic Choices and Management Review can help reduce the damage that would be caused by the persistence of sequestration in Fiscal Year 2014, but they won’t come close to avoiding it altogether.

The review demonstrated that making cuts strategically is only possible if they are “backloaded.” While no agency welcomes additional budget cuts, a scenario where we have additional time to implement reductions – such as in the President’s budget – would be far preferable to the deep cuts of sequestration. If these abrupt cuts remain, we risk fielding a force that over the next few years is unprepared due to a lack of training, maintenance, and the latest equipment.

As I mentioned last week at the VFW Convention, a top priority in future year budget plans is to build a ready force, even if that requires further reductions in force structure. No matter the size of our budget, we have a responsibility to defend the country and America’s vital interests around the world. That means crafting the strongest military possible under whatever level of resources we are provided.

DoD has a responsibility to give America’s elected leaders, and the American people, a clear-eyed assessment of what our military can and cannot do in the event of a major confrontation or crisis after several years of sequester-level cuts. In the months ahead, we will continue to provide our most honest and best assessment. And the inescapable conclusion is that letting sequester-level cuts persist would be a huge strategic miscalculation that would not be in our country’s best interests. While I’ve focused today on the impact to DoD, sequester-level cuts would equally harm other missions across government that support a strong economy and a strong national defense by providing support to our service members, veterans, and their families. DoD depends on a strong education system to maintain a pool of qualified recruits, we rely on domestic infrastructure that surrounds our bases and installations, and we count on scientific breakthroughs funded by research and development grants and a strong manufacturing base to maintain our decisive technological edge. All of these areas are threatened by sequestration.

It is the responsibility of our nation’s leadership to work together to replace the mindless and irresponsible policy of sequestration. It is unworthy of the service and sacrifice of our nation’s men and women in uniform and their families. And even as we confront tough fiscal realities, our decisions must always be worthy of the sacrifices we ask America’s sons and daughters to make for our country.


DOD strategy review paints bleak outlook

By Amber Corrin

Jul 31, 2013


In a July 31 press briefing discussing findings of a recent comprehensive strategy review, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel underscored the tough choices Pentagon decision-makers face amid cuts that could reach nearly $1 trillion.

Hagel, accompanied by Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman Adm. James Winnefeld, said that the sweeping strategic choices and management review he directed earlier this year examined three central scenarios, and that all of them fell short of savings targets.

“To help DOD balance strategic ends, ways and means under these budget scenarios, the Strategic Choices and Management Review scrutinized every aspect of DOD’s budget, including: contingency planning, business practices, force structure, pay and benefits, acquisition practices, and modernization portfolios,” Hagel said. “Everything was on the table.”

The three different scenarios include President Barack Obama’s fiscal 2014 budget, which “backloads” $150 billion in defense cuts over a 10-year period; Budget Control Act sequester cap figures, which cuts $52 billion in fiscal 2014 and $500 billion over the next 10 years; and an “in-between” scenario, in which defense spending is reduced by $250 billion over 10 years.


The review was designed to help Pentagon leadership prepare for the possibility of continued sequestration cuts into 2014, as well as to inform out-year budget planning for the services and set the stage for the upcoming Quadrennial Defense Review. Hagel stressed that the review is not a blueprint but an evaluation that produced the three different options.

One area of focus is reducing DOD’s overhead costs, which take up as much as half the Pentagon budget. Hagel said some options should be implemented immediately, regardless of the fate of sequestration.

The focus on overhead and management efficiencies includes measures such as reducing personnel at major military headquarters by 20 percent, starting with the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, combatant commands and defense agencies. The measures would also consolidate functions in OSD and in intelligence analysis and production, saving up to $40 billion over the next decade.

To help overcome hurdles in executing the cuts, Hagel said he has directed Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter to find an expert from outside DOD to help direct implementation.

Force structure and modernization stand to take significant hits in all three scenarios; the cuts would “bend” and could possibly “break” national security strategy, the officials noted.

“Given that reality, the review examined two strategic approaches to reducing force structure and modernization that will inform planning for sequester-level cuts,” Hagel said. “The basic trade-off is between capacity – measured in the number of Army brigades, Navy ships, Air Force squadrons and Marine battalions – and capability – our ability to modernize weapons systems to maintain our military’s technological edge.”

Trading capacity for capability would result in a more technologically dominant military, but one that is smaller and able to perform fewer missions. Opting for size over capability would sustain power projection and presence, but would seriously slow or curtail modernization programs and cripple cyber development, Hagel said.

“Cuts on this scale would, in effect, be a decade-long modernization holiday,” he said. “The military could find its equipment and weapons systems – many of which are already near the end of their service lives – less effective against more technologically advanced adversaries. We also have to consider how massive cuts to procurement and research and development funding would impact the viability of America’s private sector industrial base.”

And even if DOD combined all the different options, it leaves the Pentagon well short of the targeted reduction levels under sequestration, Hagel and Winnefeld noted. They also warned that it will be even worse if Congress does not cooperate with proposed cuts – any proposal to freeze military pay, for example, could be expected to meet stiff resistance on the Hill.

“The reality is that cuts to overhead, compensation and forces generate savings slowly. With dramatic reductions in each area, we do reach sequester-level savings – but only towards the end of a 10-year timeframe. Every scenario the review examined showed shortfalls in the early years of $30-35 billion,” Hagel said. “These shortfalls will be even larger if Congress is unwilling to enact changes to compensation or adopt other management reforms and infrastructure cuts we proposed in our fiscal year 2014 budget. Opposition to these proposals must be engaged and overcome, or we will be forced to take even more draconian steps in the future.”


Army’s Problems go Deeper Than SCMR

Defense News

Aug. 1, 2013 – 05:29PM | By PAUL McLEARY


WASHINGTON — Few in the Pentagon or the defense industry liked what they heard Wednesday at Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s press conference announcing the findings of his four-month Strategic Choices and Management Review (SCMR).

But the Army probably didn’t like what it didn’t hear, as well.

The secretary laid out two paths if Congress and White House remain unable to reach a budgetary “grand bargain” that would reverse the $500 billion in budget cuts that the Pentagon will face over the next decade, beginning with a $52 billion hit in 2014.

One plan would prioritize high-end capabilities over end-strength numbers, while the other would keep end-strength while sacrificing modernization and research and development on next-generation platforms.

While Hagel was short on specifics when it came to platforms that would or wouldn’t be modernized, the secretary provided a hint when he said “we would protect investments to counter anti-access and area-denial threats, such as the long range strike family of systems, submarine cruise-missile upgrades and the Joint Strike Fighter. And we would continue to make cyber capabilities and special operations forces a high priority.”

Notice anything there? No Army platforms were mentioned, save those few presumably used by special operators.

That doesn’t mean that key Army modernization priorities like the ground combat vehicle or joint light tactical vehicle are doomed under Hagel’s scenario. But being left out of a roll call of the Pentagon’s highest priorities may make some people nervous.
Not only was the Army left out of the list of critical programs, but under either plan it would also take by far the largest hit in terms of end strength.

With the end of US involvement in Iraq and the ongoing drawdown in Afghanistan, the Pentagon has concluded that the service could drop as low as 450,000 to 380,000 soldiers, numbers which haven’t been seen since before World War II.

The wartime high of 570,000 grunts was always seen as a temporary spike — save for some in the Army who wanted to keep what they had gained — but the service is working on culling 80,000 troops to reach 490,000 by the end of 2017.

When it comes to prioritizing modernization vs. end-strength cuts, “I would suspect the first impulse would be to protect as much combat power as you could,” said Maren Leed, a former adviser to the US Army chief of staff who is now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Doing so would mean deeply reducing headquarters elements, combining major commands, and the “further pooling of enablers at higher echelons to get those as lean as they can before they start going after combat power.”

That said, “the Army’s going to have a difficult time holding on to as much [combat power] as they might like to” if the cuts are not reversed, she said.

The dirty little secret in the rush to gain some cost savings, however, is that even letting go of 80,000 soldiers won’t actually save the Army a dime.

All of the funds earmarked for paying those soldiers over the 490,000 threshold come from supplemental war accounts, and don’t count toward any sequestration savings — which means barring deeper and faster cuts, the service won’t save any money on force reductions until the fiscal 2018 budget.


And the service desperately needs those savings. The Army already spends 46 percent of its budget on compensation, a number that service chief Gen. Ray Odierno has warned will rise to 80 percent in a decade if compensation trends continue.

What’s more, even forcibly separating soldiers won’t reduce the strain on budgets all that much. Service contracts include provisions for unemployment and other benefits for about a year after a soldier leaves the force, so the service still has to pay for former soldiers months after they separate.

Taking soldiers out of the ranks is one thing. Resizing units to reflect those reductions while still retaining combat punch is another. The Army announced in June that it was reducing the number of brigade combat teams from 45 to 33 — while protecting its overall combat wallop by keeping 95 out of its 98 combat battalions.

The plan is to take the cuts in headquarters positions across the brigades while increasing the number of maneuver battalions in each brigade from two to three, while adding engineering and fires capabilities to each unit.

Odierno called the moves “one of the largest organizational changes probably since World War II” for the service.

“If we go though full sequestration there’s going to be another reduction in brigades, there’s no way around it,” Odierno warned, adding that there will likely be more cuts coming in the heavy armor brigades, sequestration or not.

Fewer brigades, fewer soldiers, less money, and an uncertain modernization profile. With all of this in flux, what missions will the Army prioritize in the future?

“The most important thing that they’ve got to be concerned about is the Korean war plan since it doesn’t necessarily align that well with all the other things the Army believes it also needs to be doing,” Leed said. Those missions include things that Army leadership has spent a lot of time talking about in recent months, such as partner engagement in Asia and Africa, humanitarian response and training for contingencies spanning counterinsurgency to peer combat.

But the continuing instability on the Korean peninsula will mean that “they will be highly reluctant to take risk [in Korea] because of the criticality of it.”

The Army National Guard and reserve — much used in the past decade of conflict but largely spared from the current round of drawdowns in ground force end strength — would also be due for a haircut absent any grand bargain. They would fall from 555,000 soldiers to between 490,000 and 530,000 under the two scenarios.

One of the key questions to be considered when taking combat power out of the active force, but trying to maintain capability in the Guard and reserve, is to what degree can the Guard mitigate various kinds of risk? “Much of the Guard is not particularly well suited to meet the short term-risk in Korea,” for example, Leed said. But “when you’re talking about missions that align well with their competencies they can step in almost immediately.” Missions such as small unit training and advising, medical support, engineering and partnership missions are things that the Guard has traditionally performed well.

When it comes down to it, under any sequestration scenario “the whole Army would be the bill payer,” said Thomas Donnelly, a defense policy analyst at the American Enterprise Institute. Any cut to end strength or modernization would affect the other in serious ways, and would also impact the way the service could respond to contingencies.

The Pentagon has now laid out its thinking — absent any major change in national defense strategy — and now Congress and the White House will have their say.


Senate Panel Approves $594.2B DoD Bill Despite Worries About Spending Caps

Defense News

Aug. 1, 2013 – 12:35PM | By JOHN T. BENNETT

The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday approved a $594.2 billion Pentagon spending bill, with some Republicans mounting a symbolic resistance because it surpasses federal spending caps.

The panel’s bill, approved 22-8, would give the Pentagon a $516.4 billion base budget and a $77.8 billion war-funding section. The base section’s topline aligns with the Obama administration’s request, while the Overseas Contingency Operations portion would be $8 billion smaller than the White House’s request.

The opening minutes of a full committee mark up of the legislation focused on a back-and-forth about the Democratic-controlled panel’s decision to push a bill that’s nearly $20 billion larger than national defense spending caps etched into law by the 2011 Budget Control Act.

“The defense bill alone would exceed the Budget Control Act caps for defense-related spending by nearly $19 billion,” committee ranking member Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said. “That’s not even counting the defense-related-spending in the committee’s other bills, which comes to an additional $35.6 billion.” All told, the panel’s 2014 spending bills are $91 billion over defense and domestic spending limits, Shelby says.

Without a major fiscal deal that addresses the spending caps, another sequestration round of across-the-board cuts would be triggered. Instead, Shelby called for “deliberate [cuts] that reflect decisions by Congress about strategic priorities.”

Shelby and seven other Republicans voted against the defense bill, with several echoing the ranking member’s comments.

Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., said the reason her defense and other appropriations bills peak those caps lies with the House and Senate Budget committees — particularly the lower chamber’s panel.


“We need a topline so we can get to the bottom line,” Mikulski said. “We have marked up our bills to a topline of $1.058 trillion, the level in the American Taxpayer Relief Act, which was approved by the Senate by a vote of 89-8.”

She noted the defense bill and others “assume that sequester will be replaced with a balanced solution of revenues and smart cuts.”

Mikulski criticized the House for, in legislation it has passed, building in “a moat around defense so that all $91 billion in cuts come out of domestic funding bills.”

President Obama on Wednesday, during a meeting with Senate Democrats, indicated he will not support placing such a “moat” around Pentagon spending when fiscal negotiations kick into full steam this fall, according to lawmakers who attended.

In a sign that rank-and-file lawmakers have moved little from ideological stances taken since 2010, Shelby called for “meaningful spending cuts in mandatory accounts,” meaning “entitlement reform.” Democrats largely have opposed deep cuts to such programs; Republicans oppose more new revenues that Democrats want.


Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., acknowledged the differences between the House and Senate budgets is a problem.

“Everyone knows there’s going to have to be a compromise at some point,” Murray said during the mark up. “We’re not going to solve this by kicking the can to someone else — it’s up to us.”

Sparks also flew during the session over a provision offered by Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., then amended by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

Udall’s measure would cut off funding for any US operation in Syria that violates the War Power Act. After several senators raised concerns, Feinstein inserted language specifically pointing to the US armed services and a military operation.

The measure passed via voice vote, with several, including Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., audibly voting no.

Graham argued against both the initial and the revised amendment, arguing it would trample on the president’s constitutional powers as commander in chief.

“To my Republican colleagues who suddenly support the War Powers Act, where were you during the Bush years?” Graham said.

The 1973 law requires presidents to secure congressional approval for military operations within 60 days, or withdraw forces within the next 30. Since it was passed in the wake of the Vietnam War, Congress largely has looked the other way when presidents from both political parties have launched military operations that stretched into a 61st day and beyond.


Furlough appeals keep coming

Washington Post

By Lisa Rein, Published: August 2 at 6:00 am

The small agency receiving thousands of appeals from furloughed federal employees has delayed docketing and hearing most of them them until the volume slows down, officials said Thursday.

The surge of challenges arriving at the Merit Systems Protection Board hit 13,090 on Thursday, with 1,900 of those arriving by fax, snail mail and electronically on Wednesday alone. That’s double the appeals that had come in a week ago.

With its support staff and administrative judges overwhelmed, the merit board has put a hold on all the cases from Defense Department civilians, the largest group of federal workers taking unpaid days to meet the budget cuts known as sequestration.

The board posted a message on its Web site this week that said: “Due to the unprecedented large volume of furlough appeals being received from employees of the military services and Department of Defense activities —and after much consideration —MSPB has decided to delay the processing and adjudication of these appeals.”

General Counsel Bryan Polisuk said that once the Defense appeals slow down after Aug. 8 — the 30-day filing deadline from the start of furloughs on July 8 — the staff will resume sorting through them.

“We’ll be in a better position [then] to see what we have, and start making decisions on how to adjudicate these cases,” he said. “Given the volume of furlough appeals, it’s going to be difficult for our regions to be as responsive in the near future as they normally are.” The merit board has eight offices across the country.

Appeals from employees furloughed from other agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, are moving forward.

Administrative judges have ruled on 11 appeals so far, one from an EPA employee and 10 from the Federal Aviation Administration, which took one furlough day in April before Congress gave the agency authority to redirect money from other areas of its budget to shore up staffing and operations.

The ruling upheld the furloughs, meaning that the employees will not get back pay.

The high volume of appeals temporarily knocked out the merit board’s electronic “e-Appeal” service several times this week. Polisuk said it was quickly restored.

The appeals represent a new attack by federal employee unions on the Obama administration’s decision to furlough about 775,000 employees this fiscal year to help meet $85 billion in budget cuts.

The unions say federal agencies had other options than forcing employees to lose multiple days of pay. They are holding seminars with their locals across the country to instruct their members how to file appeals, which seek to cancel the furloughs and recover back pay.

Several unions have asked the merit board to consider the appeals as class-action cases, a request that is under consideration.

It’s unclear whether the merit board will meet its average turnaround time of 120 days to decide the cases, Polisuk said.

“It’s a very fluid situation.”



Do We Need A U.S. Department Of Technology?

A cabinet-level Dept. of Tech will help U.S. retain leadership position in the global high-technology sector, argues former Department of Transportation CIO Nitin Pradhan.

By Nitin Pradhan, InformationWeek

August 01, 2013



I came to the U.S. in the early 1990′s, on a fellowship from an American university. I was exploring several countries, including Australia, Canada and New Zealand, but I decided on the U.S. because of its leadership in technology. I have been fortunate to have a great career here, including being appointed by President Obama as the CIO of the Department of Transportation and the FAA in his first term.

Now my “iKids” are growing up and I want them to thrive in the U.S. technology industry. But will this industry continue to flourish in U.S.? What can we do today to ensure our continued technology leadership in the future?


Why Tech Industries Grow

Tech industries grow because of the availability of research and development dollars, a high-quality education system, a tech-savvy workforce, a large local technology marketplace and government incentives. The U.S. has no intrinsic advantage in the technology industry. Past wins have been a function of dollars invested, bipartisan leadership and lack of global competition.


However, now the global competition is heating up — just ask Apple, HP, Ericsson and Boeing, and they’ll tell you Samsung, Lenovo, Huawei and Airbus are tough global competitors. South Korea, China and the European Union governments are investing heavily in the growth of the tech industry. The U.S. government is investing in technology industry too, but its focus is mainly on defense, and with sequestration these investments are being reduced. I believe a more direct, consolidated, coordinated and planned approach toward technology investments is needed to keep our leadership strong.


Tech Remains the U.S.’s Future

According to TechAmerica Foundation’s 2013 Cyberstats report, U.S. high-tech employment totaled 5.95 million in 2012, with average wages of $93,800 — 98% more than the average private sector wages of $47,000. According to some additional recent data, U.S. high-tech jobs are growing at three times the rate of other private sectors, and each tech job creates more than four jobs in the wider economy, thanks to wages that are 17-27% higher than other sectors. If we want to create more of these jobs for our kids, we need a mechanism to support that future.

We need to create a new cabinet-level Department of Technology (USDoTech) now, while we are still leading in the technology world. The goal of the department should be to drive collaborative public-private technology innovations that maximize public value through private growth.

The notion of a cabinet-level technology department is not new. James Harold Wilson, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, established MinTech, the first Ministry of Technology, in 1964. China today has Ministry of Science and Technology; India has a Ministry of Communications and Information Technology; and South Korea has MSIP (the Ministry of Science), ICT and Future Planning to “build a creative economy for the happiness of all people.”


How to Create USDoTech?

President Obama, to his credit, established the first chief information officer and chief technology officer positions in the federal government. However, neither has cabinet-level authority, and with few resources available, the impact on the growth of this important sector has been limited.

One way create a cabinet-level department is by consolidating a number of technology-centric offices spread across various federal agencies that often work in an uncoordinated and sometimes even counterproductive way. Some examples include the technology-focused sections of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and many others.

Centralizing the technology leadership functions in these departments will give government a clearer, more holistic picture of the needs, challenges, opportunities, and threats for this fast-growing sector, allowing it to more effectively craft policies, legislation, and regulations and promote appropriate public-private investment strategies to keep U.S. leadership dynamic. We don’t need a humongous new department like Homeland Security – just a right-sized, efficient, tech-savvy group that will deliver results.


Congress: Technology Oversight Needs Change Too

As mentioned in my recent article in the Fast Government Report published by The IBM Center for the Business of Government, the Congressional governance of federal government investments in the technology portfolio is fragmented and is therefore not conducive to seeing the benefits of integrated approaches to technology.

Congress has 21 Senate committees, 22 House committees and many more subcommittees, which directly or indirectly have oversight over technology initiatives and investments in federal agencies. However, technology today is highly connected infrastructure, and a holistic view and investment strategy is key to future success. It is therefore essential that Congress establish a technology committee focused on maximizing transformative use of technology and effective involvement of private industry for the benefit of the country.


Next Steps: Get Involved

How do we create the “USDoTech” with this polarized Congress? Crowdsourcing, of course!

If you support the concept of a cabinet-level technology department, forward this article and talk to your friends and family today. “Like” the initiative on Facebook, and suggest the roles and responsibilities for this new department now. Call your Congressional representatives and senators and ask them to enlist Congressional Research Services (CRS), the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to study the matter and work with the private sector to build a definitive bipartisan plan.

Finally, if your company has a government affairs department, ask it to lobby the federal government to support this worthy cause. Together, we can create this necessary department with no increased cost to taxpayers and keep the U.S. a leader in high-tech for years to come.



Rasmussen Reports

What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls

Saturday, August 03, 2013


In this 50-50 nation, Americans remain closely divided over whether government is the problem or the solution.

Just over half of voters still view the federal bailouts of the financial industry negatively, and 56% believe more competition and less government regulation are better for the U.S. financial system than more regulation and less competition.

Fifty-three percent (53%) don’t like President Obama’s national health care law, but 42% do.

The president in budget negotiations with congressional Republicans has proposed cuts in corporate tax rates in exchange for a new federal jobs program. Thirty-eight percent (38%) view Obama’s combination approach as the better way to create new jobs, but nearly as many (36%) think cutting corporate tax rates alone would be more effective. After all, 66% think decisions made by U.S. business leaders to help their own businesses grow will do more to create jobs than decisions made by government officials.

Voters are almost evenly divided these days when asked which party they trust more to handle the 15 important issues regularly tracked by Rasmussen Reports. They continue to trust Republicans most on the number one issue, the economy, and other money issues like taxes, job creation and government spending. They trust Democrats more in areas such as energy policy, the environment, health care and education.

This ambivalence is also reflected in the Generic Congressional Ballot where the two parties have been separated by two points or less every week since mid-April.

Obama’s total job approval held steady at 47% in July, tying the president’s lowest approval rating since December 2011. Fifty-one percent (51%) disapproved of the president’s performance last month.

The president’s daily job approval ratings now are more in line with findings during most of his first term in office.

Still, just 10% of voters now rate Congress’s performance as good or excellent, although this is the first time Congress’ positives have reached double digits this year. Sixty-three percent (63%) believe most members of Congress are willing to sell their vote for cash or campaign contributions, and 55% think it’s at least somewhat likely that their own representative in Congress has sold his or her vote for cash or a campaign contribution.

“To see where the country is heading, ignore Washington,” Scott Rasmussen says in his latest weekly newspaper column, “because most of what the [political] parties talk about is yesterday’s news and is largely irrelevant to the realities of the 21st century.”


And what are those realities?

For the second week in a row, 26% of voters say the country is heading in the right direction. This is the lowest level of confidence since mid-January 2012.

The Rasmussen Employment Index which measures worker confidence dropped 10 points in July to its lowest level since last November. As the Index projected, the government released another tepid jobs report on Friday.

Most consumers and investors believe the U.S. economy is currently in a recession.

Thirty-three percent (33%) of Americans believe the U.S. economy will be stronger in a year, but slightly more (39%) feel the economy will be weaker one year from now.

Following news of Detroit’s bankruptcy filing, 55% believe some states may soon be filing for bankruptcy, too.

Thirty-seven percent (37%) think now is a good time for someone in their area to sell a home.

Despite big gains made in the stock market in July, only 22% think the stock market will be higher than it is today a year from now.

Twenty-nine percent (29%) of Working Americans are now looking for work outside of their current company, the highest finding measured since March 2011. But they remain closely divided as to whether staying or leaving offers them the best career opportunities.

Seventy-seven percent (77%) of all Americans think the current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is not a wage someone can live on, and 61% favor raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2015, a proposal that is currently being considered by Congress.

But while Americans recognize that more minimum-wage fast-food jobs are now being held by workers who are over 20, 74% oppose making the minimum wage different for those in different age groups.


In other surveys last week:

– Even before a military judge handed down his guilty verdict against Bradley Manning on Tuesday, 46% of voters said the former Army intelligence analyst was a traitor for leaking government secrets. But just 33% now want Manning to spend the rest of his life in prison. That’s down from 41% two months ago.


– Thirty-two percent (32%) think Edward Snowden, the private contractor who exposed the National Security Agency’s spying on domestic phone calls, is a traitor, unchanged from last month.

– Forty-six percent (46%) favor putting greater restrictions on the NSA’s tracking of Americans’ telephone calls.

– A recent major study suggests that an increasing number of American women are now the primary breadwinners in married couples, but for most men and women, the man remains the chief earner.


August 10 2013




A Call for Cyber Diplomacy

By Joseph Marks

August 2, 2013


LAS VEGAS — If the United States’ goal is peace and security in cyberspace, officials should think less about cyberwar and more about cyber diplomacy, a scholar from the Atlantic Council said on Thursday.

For all of the talk about lightning attacks that come out of nowhere and the often inscrutable language of experts, cyber conflicts at the national level tend to mirror traditional conflicts much more than you’d expect, Jason Healey, director of the council’s Cyber Statecraft Initiative said during the Black Hat security convention here.

By the time a major attack, say, against the U.S. financial system is being dealt with at the top levels of government, the stakes and strategies are very similar to a traditional national security crisis, said Healey, who was director for cyber infrastructure protection at the White House from 2003 to 2005.

“What’s happening here is not that different from a coup in Pakistan,” he said. On a tactical level, government responders will be calling up bankers and trying to help secure their servers rather than securing embassy staff. But, at a strategic level, the response should be similar, he said.

That means “the president needs to get on the phone with Mr. Putin,” or whichever leader is likely behind the attack, and figure out a way to make it stop, he said.

Healey was editor of the Atlantic Council book A Fierce Domain: Conflict in Cyberspace, 1986 to 2012. While individual cyberattacks may happen with lightning speed, large cyber conflicts such as Russia’s 2007 attacks on Estonia and the Stuxnet attack, reportedly launched by the U.S. against Iranian nuclear facilities, tend to unfold over time and allow for thoughtful decision-making by top leaders.

Cyber diplomacy, he argued, can also be strategic and thoughtful. Some of this diplomacy has taken place in multilateral contexts, he said, such as recent discussions about whether the laws of war apply in cyberspace. More often, it will happen in a bilateral context such as the recent agreement between the U.S. and Russia to install a cyber hotline.


Surveillance scandal rips through hacker community

The good ol’ days of chummy games of “Spot the Fed” at Defcon are finished as hackers and security entrepreneurs plan next steps in the wake of government spying revelations.

by Seth Rosenblatt August 6, 2013 4:00 AM PDT



LAS VEGAS — It used to be that the playful Defcon contest of “Spot the Fed” gave hackers and the government agents tracking them a chance interact in a less serious manner.

Hackers who found a government agent among the conference attendees would wear with pride T-shirts that read, “I spotted the Fed.” The agent would be given a shirt that read, “I am the Fed.” And by flipping the cat-and-mouse dynamic for at least one weekend a year, the two groups more or less came to a greater understanding of each other.

The relationship had gotten friendly enough so that when Gen. Keith Alexander, the director of the National Security Agency, visited Defcon for the first last year, the conference’s founder Jeff Moss told CNET, “It’s eye-opening to see the world from their view,” and noted that he had wanted to score an official visit from the NSA since Defcon began.

It would go too far to say that the uneasy marriage of friendship between the two groups now lies torn asunder in an acrimonious divorce. Hackers, information security professionals, and security experts looking to turn their knowledge into businesses won’t stop working or communicating with the U.S. government. But the response to the scandal has driven many of them back to their more skeptical roots.

“What we need to realize that [Gen. Alexander] is asking us to destroy ourselves,” said Moxie Marlinspike, a well-known information security professional and entrepreneur who has had equipment seized and returned and been detained but never charged by the U.S. government.

“The types of programs that he’s developing are part of this trend of more efficient law enforcement, toward this world of 100 percent effective law enforcement,” said Marlinspike, who uses the alias to protect his legal name.

Marlinspike told CNET that he thinks the NSA is interested in hiring hackers because they tend to have an approach to critical thinking that produces an unusual mindset. Hackers are people, he said, who are “not always abiding by the letter of the law, but are not exactly harmful, either.”

“The problem is that he’s asking us to participate in the destruction of the zone where hackers exist,” Marlinspike said.


No single hacker voice on NSA

Information security professionals are not unified in their interpretation of Alexander’s attempt at a mea culpa at last week’s Black Hat conference here. Alex Stamos, a network infrastructure and security expert and the chief technical officer of Artemis, the company proposing the .secure top-level domain for a safer Internet, said that Alexander was actually aiming his talk not at independent security researchers but the security teams at security companies.

“If you’re a security researcher at a large cloud company, you have to include the NSA on your list of threats that you have to protect against,” he said. Stamos has done government security consulting in the past, although he told an audience at his Defcon session discussing professional ethics for “white hat” or “good guy” hackers that he would reconsider doing so in the future.

Christopher Soghoian, a senior policy analyst and principal technologist with the American Civil Liberties Union, agreed. “I think you’ve got an extra threat in your threat model, and that threat is the NSA.”

Marc Maiffret, a white hat hacker who narrowly avoided serious legal consequences for his teen hacking and has testified in front of Congress on security issues, said that the situation is more than a little ironic.

“We don’t want the NSA to monitor anything, but the whole goal of what [security professionals] do for the most part is to monitor everything. We should have the same safeguards to make sure that those abuses aren’t happening,” he said, referring to the recent surveillance revelations leaked by Edward Snowden.

The ACLU’s Soghoian said that the lack of public discussion is at the core of the problem and has impeded the government’s achieving its stated security-and-safety goals.

“The FBI has a unit now that does nothing but hack into people’s computers, extract documents, control Webcams,” he said. “The FBI’s role as an offensive cyber actor significantly undermines their cause. How can an agency warn people about malware when it’s using malware itself?”

One security start-up that had an encounter with the FBI was Wickr, a privacy-forward text messaging app for the iPhone with an Android version in private beta. Wickr’s co-founder Nico Sell told CNET at Defcon, “Wickr has been approached by the FBI and asked for a backdoor. We said, ‘No.’”

The mistrust runs deep. “Even if [the NSA] stood up tomorrow and said that [they] have eliminated these programs,” said Marlinspike, “How could we believe them? How can we believe that anything they say is true?”

Where does security innovation go next?

The immediate future of information security innovation most likely lies in software that provides an existing service but with heightened privacy protections, such as webmail that doesn’t mine you for personal data.


Wickr’s Sell thinks that her company has hit upon a privacy innovation that a few others are also doing, but many will soon follow: the company itself doesn’t store user data.

“[The FBI] would have to force us to build a new app. With the current app there’s no way,” she said, that they could incorporate backdoor access to Wickr users’ texts or metadata.

“Even if you trust the NSA 100 percent that they’re going to use [your data] correctly,” Sell said, “Do you trust that they’re going to be able to keep it safe from hackers? What if somebody gets that database and posts it online?”

To that end, she said, people will start seeing privacy innovation for services that don’t currently provide it. Calling it “social networks 2.0,” she said that social network competitors will arise that do a better job of protecting their customer’s privacy and predicted that some that succeed will do so because of their emphasis on privacy.

Abine’s recent MaskMe browser add-on and mobile app for creating disposable e-mail addresses, phone numbers, and credit cards is another example of a service that doesn’t have access to its own users’ data.

Stamos predicted changes in services that companies with cloud storage offer, including offering customers the ability to store their data outside of the U.S. “If they want to stay competitive, they’re going to have to,” he said. But, he cautioned, “It’s impossible to do a cloud-based ad supported service.”

Soghoian added, “The only way to keep a service running is to pay them money.” This, he said, is going to give rise to a new wave of ad-free, privacy protective subscription services.

The issue with balancing privacy and surveillance is that the wireless carriers are not interested in privacy, he said. “They’ve been providing wiretapping for 100 years. Apple may in the next year protect voice calls,” he said, and said that the best hope for ending widespread government surveillance will be the makers of mobile operating systems like Apple and Google.

Not all upcoming security innovation will be focused on that kind of privacy protection. Security researcher Brandon Wiley showed off at Defcon a protocol he calls Dust that can obfuscate different kinds of network traffic, with the end goal of preventing censorship.

“I only make products about letting you say what you want to say anywhere in the world,” such as content critical of governments, he said. Encryption can hide the specifics of the traffic, but some governments have figured out that they can simply block all encrypted traffic, he said. The Dust protocol would change that, he said, making it hard to tell the difference between encrypted and unencrypted traffic.

It’s hard to build encryption into pre-existing products, Wiley said. “I think people are going to make easy-to-use, encrypted apps, and that’s going to be the future.”

Longer-term solutions

Right now, the intersection of individual information security experts, governments, and private companies large and small is at a crisis point. How they untangle and compromise their competing interests could have far-reaching ramifications for all.

Maiffret, the teen hacker turned respected infosec expert both inside and outside the infosec community, thinks that the government is going to have to give up some ground.

“I think they know they need to say more. How do you say more, and not jeopardize things,” is the question, he said. “There is a better middle ground. It’s just like businesses accepting social media, it won’t happen overnight.”

Companies could face severe consequences from their security experts, said Stamos, if the in-house experts find out that they’ve been lied to about providing government access to customer data. You could see “lots of resignations and maybe publicly,” he said. “It wouldn’t hurt their reputations to go out in a blaze of glory.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, Marlinspike sounded a hopeful call for non-destructive activism on Defcon’s 21st anniversary. “As hackers, we don’t have a lot of influence on policy. I hope that’s something that we can focus our energy on,” he said.


One Kickstarter Could Revolutionize 3D Printing

By Rachel Feltman

August 2, 2013


One of the biggest obstacles to at-home 3D printing is the difficulty of designing objects to print, but the days of struggling to learn CAD or trawling for templates online may be over. Fuel3D, Inc has just launched (and, in one day, successfully funded) a Kickstarter for a handheld, point-and-shoot, full color 3D scanner. That means you can now print anything you can take a picture of—for about $1,000.

3D scanners aren’t new, but other handheld devices cost upwards of $15,000, according to Fuel3D (they can’t be too far off, since all our attempts to verify led to intimidating “call for pricing” pages.) The tech of this particular model was first developed for medical imaging at Oxford University, and unlike a traditional camera, which just captures enough data to provide the illusion of depth, the Fuel3D actually records the geometry of an object. It uses geometric stereo (capturing an image from two different locations to perceive depth) and photometric stereo (capturing an image under different lights to perceive depth) simultaneously.





States Consider Regulation of Drones in US Skies

Associated Press

By LISA CORNWELL Associated Press

CINCINNATI August 4, 2013 (AP)


Thousands of civilian drones are expected in U.S. skies within a few years and concerns they could be used to spy on Americans are fueling legislative efforts in several states to regulate the unmanned aircraft.

Varied legislation involving drones was introduced this year in more than 40 states, including Ohio. Many of those bills seek to regulate law enforcement’s use of information-gathering drones by requiring search warrants. Some bills have stalled or are still pending, but at least six states now require warrants, and Virginia has put a two-year moratorium on drone use by law enforcement to provide more time to develop guidelines.

Domestic drones often resemble the small radio-controlled model airplanes and helicopters flown by hobbyists and can help monitor floods and other emergencies, survey crops and assist search-and-rescue operations. But privacy advocates are worried because the aircraft can also carry cameras and other equipment to capture images of people and property.

“Right now police can’t come into your house without a search warrant,” said Ohio Rep. Rex Damschroder, who has proposed drone regulations. “But with drones, they can come right over your backyard and take pictures.”

Since 2006, the Federal Aviation Administration has approved more than 1,400 requests for drone use from government agencies and public universities wanting to operate the unmanned aircraft for purposes including research and public safety. Since 2008, approval had been granted to at least 80 law enforcement agencies.

But the FAA estimates that as many as 7,500 small commercial unmanned aircraft could be operating domestically within the next few years. A federal law enacted last year requires the FAA to develop a plan for safely integrating the aircraft into U.S. airspace by September 2015.

Damschroder’s proposed bill would prohibit law enforcement agencies from using drones to get evidence or other information without a search warrant. Exceptions would include credible risks of terrorist attacks or the need for swift action to prevent imminent harm to life or property or to prevent suspects from escaping or destroying evidence.

The Republican said he isn’t against drones but worries they could threaten constitutional protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.

“I don’t want the government just going up and down every street snooping,” Damschroder said.

The Ohio House speaker’s office says it’s too soon to comment on the chances for passage. But similar legislation has been enacted in Florida, Tennessee, Idaho, Montana, Texas and Oregon.

The sponsor of Tennessee’s bill said the law was necessary to ensure that residents can maintain their right to privacy.

“Abuses of privacy rights that we have been seeing from law enforcement recently show a need for this legislation,” said Republican Sen. Mae Beavers.

Beavers and Damschroder modeled their bills after one signed into law this year by Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who said then that “we shouldn’t have unwarranted surveillance.”

But the industry’s professional association says regulating law enforcement’s use of unmanned aircraft is unnecessary and shortsighted. It wants guidelines covering manned aircraft applied to unmanned aircraft.

“We don’t support rewriting existing search warrant requirements under the guise of privacy,” said Mario Mairena, government relations manager for the Arlington, Va.-based Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.

The association predicts unmanned aircraft systems will generate billions of dollars in economic impact in the next few years and says privacy concerns are unwarranted.

In Maine, Gov. Paul LePage vetoed the state’s drone-regulating legislation, saying “this bill steps too far” and would lead to lawsuits and harm Maine’s opportunities for new aerospace jobs. He plans to establish guidelines allowing legitimate uses while protecting privacy.

The American Civil Liberties Union supports legislation to regulate drone use and require search warrants, but it would also like weapons banned from domestic drones and limits on how long drone-collected data could be kept, said Melissa Bilancini, an ACLU of Ohio staff attorney.

In North Dakota, Rep. Rick Becker’s bill to ban weapons from drones and require search warrants failed, but the Republican says he plans to try again because “we must address these privacy concerns.”

Democratic Rep. Ed Gruchalla, formerly in law enforcement, opposed Becker’s bill out of concern it would restrict police from effectively using drones.

“We are familiar with drones in North Dakota, and I don’t know of any abuses or complaints,” he said.

Drones can be as small as a bird or have a wingspan as large as a Boeing 737, but a program manager with the International Association of Chiefs of Police says most law enforcement agencies considering unmanned aircraft are looking at ones weighing around 2 pounds that only fly for about 15 minutes.

“They can be carried in the back of a car and put up quickly for an aerial view of a situation without putting humans at risk,” Mike Fergus said, adding that they aren’t suited for surveillance.

Medina County Sheriff Tom Miller in northeast Ohio says his office’s 2-pound drone is intended primarily for search-and-rescue operations and wouldn’t be used to collect evidence without a warrant.

Cincinnati resident Dwan Stone, 50, doesn’t have a problem with some limits.

“But I don’t oppose drones if there is a good reason for using them,” she said.

Chase Jeffries, 19, also of Cincinnati, opposes them.

“I don’t want the government being able to use drones to spy on people,” he said.



Senate Bill Could Further Delay UAS Integration


by Press • 5 August 2013

By Woodrow Bellamy III


FAA’s goal of integrating unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into the National Airspace System by 2015 could be delayed by a provision in the Senate’s 2014 transportation bill.

The bill requires Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to submit a detailed report on UAS integration’s privacy impact to lawmakers, prior to allowing FAA to issue final regulations on the integration of UAS into the NAS. The Senate’s privacy provision tasks the agency with yet another hurdle to clear in the already time consuming process of UAS integration, which requires complex technological analysis of how these aircraft will behave within civil airspace and fly in the same airspace as commercially operated passenger aircraft, among other measures. UAS industry experts, such as Ben Gielow, government relations manager and general counsel for the Association for Unmanned Vehicles Systems International (AUVSI), are concerned that the provision will further delay integration, as most industry advocates already believe FAA will miss its goal of integration by 2015. Integration will allow UAS to be operated across a wide variety of applications, including law enforcement and border control, weather monitoring, oil and gas exploration, disaster management and aerial imaging. -


See more at:


Unmanned Aircraft Demonstration Highlighted at Agronomy Field Day

by Press • 7 August 2013


One of the most exciting recent developments in agriculture is the use of small Unmanned Aircraft Systems to evaluate crop conditions.  Producers, agronomists and the public can view a demonstration of this new technology at the 2013 Agronomy Field Day on Aug. 16 at Kansas State University’s Agronomy North Farm.

The use of these unmanned aircraft systems equipped with aerial optical sensing technology has gained national press attention in recent months.  Kevin Price, K-State, professor of agronomy and geography, and Deon van der Merwe, associate professor ofveterinary medicine and head of the diagnostic laboratory toxicology section, are among the leading researchers in the nation on this technology.  They are working to develop systems that can be used by the agricultural community.

“We’ve had an incredible reception among consultants, producers, plant breeders and others when we’ve shown them what this technology can do.  It has the potential to make their jobs much easier and will help them make better recommendations in a more timely manner,” Price said.

“At the field day, I will be showing some of the kinds of things we can accomplish with these small Unmanned Aircraft Systems in field demonstrations,” he added.

This is just one of several new technologies featured at the field day by agronomy researchers.  Other demonstrations will show the work of Dave Mengel, professor and soil fertility specialist on optical sensors for nutrient recommendations; Vara Prasad, associate professor and crop physiologist on stress tolerance research; and Peter Tomlinson, assistant professor and environmental quality specialist and Chuck Rice, university distinguished professor of agronomy on techniques used to measure greenhouse gases.

The field day will begin with registration at 9 a.m. and wrap up at 2 p.m.  There is no charge to attend, and a complimentary lunch will be available.  Preregistration is requested so that a lunch count can be made. Those interested in attending can preregister by calling Troy Lynn Eckart at 785-532-5776. To preregister online, see:

Sessions include two concurrent one-hour tours in the morning, starting at 9:45 and 11 a.m. After lunch, there will be demonstrations on sUAS flights; analyzing and interpreting images from sUAS technology; and field checking of optical sensing readings for crop nutrient status.

In addition, there will be displays from commercial companies and K-State researchers in the shed near the registration area, along with the crop garden, forage garden, and weed garden for browsing.  Extension specialists will be available to answer questions.

For more information, interested persons can contact Dallas Peterson at 785-532-0405 or


Is the unmanned grass truly greener on the civil side?


by Keven Gambold • 9 August 2013

It has been an ‘interesting’ couple of years for Unmanned Experts (UMEX), a small team of ex-military UAS/RPAS operators who had spread their wings into the civilian sector. Initially a US-based company, personnel were hand-picked from retiring USAF, US Army, British Army and Royal Air Force to offer consultancy, training and managed services based on their substantial operational UAS expertise. The time seemed right to move into ‘civi street’: the rumors swirling around the uniformed crewrooms were ones of endless contracts, too few companies and a yearning need. This article is designed to give a ‘peek behind the curtain’ into the current civil UAS/RPAS scene.


From a CONUS-perspective, the culture shock was considerable: the far-reaching International Trade in Arms Regulations (ITAR) effectively prevents US-based firms from even discussing most UAS-based topics with non US-persons, especially when outside of the country. An enduring lack-of commitment by the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA), despite Congressional mandate to the contrary, has brought all commercial UAS operations in US airspace to a halt. If you read about a real-estate firm using unmanned aircraft to photograph properties, then that is likely illegal, and the FAA has prosecuted a number of such enterprises. This FAA reticence has been exacerbated by a set of knee-jerk State-sponsored Privacy legislations (40 out of 50 States have attempted to enact some form of restrictive regulations) which severely ham-strings Law Enforcement use of the platforms, and a number of UAVs currently sit on the shelves at Sheriff’s offices across the Nation. The still substantial DoD market is justifiably competitive especially with Big Government suffering its own ‘credit crunch’. Not much to rejoice about here.


So ‘change or die’ became the watchword, and UMEX started new companies in both England and Australia, where the respective CAA and CASA aerospace agencies have positively embraced UAS integration efforts (the UK currently has nearly 300 registered civilian commercial operators). Outside of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR limits data exchange on larger platforms i.e. 500kgs over 300km) there are few restrictions on providing international UAS services. Note that European or International airspace integration is woefully behind also, but some countries have ‘gone it alone’ to considerable success.


Unmanned Experts UK Ltd, drawing on over 25,000 hours of cutting-edge UAS operations and instruction, produced a comprehensive set of ground school courses ranging from one-day Career Workshops to 4-week UAS Maintenance Courses. Accreditation is an oft used, but little understood, concept but UMEX Courses are approved by George Mason University for CEUs, and we are tied to Southampton and Lincoln Universities in the UK. Since then, UMEX has run courses in the UK, US (for ASPRS amongst others) and Singapore with more planned for Turkey, the Middle East, India and Africa.


There is a growing demand for Consultancy and Managed Services in far-flung places as the utility of inexpensive SUAS comes to bear on a number of industries: open-cast mine mapping in Australia, anti-poacher patrols in Namibia, oil platform security in Iraq and search (& rescue) operations in Canada to name a few. An undercurrent of ‘good’ stories is emerging across the globe to show the true potential that UAS could bring to everyday lives. UMEX is fielding requests from an ever diversifying client base, and the future looks much brighter.


Bottom Line: the civil market is coming to life and the grass is sprouting, but in the US there’s more watering required.


Keven Gambold

Chief Operations Officer

Unmanned Experts




Washington Post to be sold to Jeff Bezos

Washington Post

By Paul Farhi, Monday, August 5, 4:33 PM


The Washington Post Co. has agreed to sell its flagship newspaper to founder and chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos, ending the Graham family’s stewardship of one of America’s leading news organizations after four generations.

Bezos, whose entrepreneurship has made him one of the world’s richest men, will pay $250 million in cash for The Post and affiliated publications to the Washington Post Co., which owns the newspaper and other businesses.

Seattle-based Amazon will have no role in the purchase; Bezos himself will buy the news organization and become its sole owner when the sale is completed, probably within 60 days. The Post Co. will change to a new, still-undecided name and continue as a publicly traded company without The Post thereafter.

The deal represents a sudden and stunning turn of events for The Post, Washington’s leading newspaper for decades and a powerful force in shaping the nation’s politics and policy. Few people were aware that a sale was in the works for the paper, whose reporters have broken such stories as the Pentagon Papers, the Watergate scandals and disclosures about the National Security Administration’s surveillance program in May.

For much of the past decade, however, the paper has been unable to escape the financial turmoil that has engulfed newspapers and other “legacy” media organizations. The rise of the Internet and the epochal change from print to digital technology have created a massive wave of competition for traditional news companies, scattering readers and advertisers across a radically altered news and information landscape and triggering mergers, bankruptcies and consolidation among the owners of print and broadcasting properties.

“Every member of my family started out with the same emotion—shock—in even thinking about” selling The Post, said Donald Graham, the Post Co.’s chief executive, in an interview Monday. “But when the idea of a transaction with Jeff Bezos came up, it altered my feelings.”


Added Graham, “The Post could have survived under the company’s ownership and been profitable for the foreseeable future. But we wanted to do more than survive. I’m not saying this guarantees success but it gives us a much greater chance of success.”

The Washington Post Co.’s newspaper division, of which The Post newspaper is the most prominent part, has suffered a 44 percent decline in operating revenue over the past six years. Although the paper is one of the most popular news sources online, print circulation has dwindled, too, falling another 7 percent daily and Sundays during the first half of this year.

Ultimately, the paper’s financial challenges prompted the company’s board to consider a sale, a step once regarded as unthinkable by insiders and the Graham family itself.

With extraordinary secrecy, Graham hired the investment firm Allen & Co. to shop the paper, company executives said. Allen’s representatives spoke with a half-dozen potential suitors before the Post Co.’s board settled on Bezos, 49, a legendary tech innovator who has never operated a newspaper.

Bezos, in an interview, called The Post “an important institution” and expressed optimism about its future. “I don’t want to imply that I have a worked-out plan,” he said. “This will be uncharted terrain and it will require experimentation.”

He said, “There would be change with or without new ownership. But the key thing I hope people will take away from this is that the values of The Post do not need changing. The duty of the paper is to the readers, not the owners.”

Despite the end of the Graham family’s control of the newspaper after 80 years, Graham and Bezos said management and operations of the newspaper would continue without disruption after the sale.

Post publisher Katharine Weymouth—Graham’s niece and the fourth generation of her family involved in the newspaper—will remain as publisher and chief executive of the Bezos-owned Post; executive editor Martin Baron will continue in his job. No layoffs are contemplated as a result of the transaction among the paper’s 2,000 employees, who will be told of the sale at a company-wide meeting Monday afternoon.

Bezos said he would maintain his home in Seattle and would delegate the paper’s daily operations to its existing management. “I have a fantastic day job that I love,” he said.

In a note to Post employees on Monday, Weymouth wrote, “This is a day that my family and I never expected to come. The Washington Post Company is selling the newspaper that it has owned and nurtured for eight decades. “

The new owner of The Post may be as much a surprise as the decision to sell the paper in the first place.

Throughout his storied business career, Bezos has been an empire builder but hasn’t shown any evident interest in the newspaper business. He has, however, maintained a long friendship with Graham, and both men have informally advised the other over the years. Graham, for example, advised Bezos about how to feature newspapers on the Kindle, Amazon’s popular e-reader.

A computer science and electrical engineering student at Princeton, Bezos used his tech savvy to rise rapidly at a New York hedge-fund company, becoming its youngest senior vice president.

He founded Amazon at 30 with a $300,000 loan from his parents, working out of the garage in his rented home in Bellevue, Wash. He called his creation Amazon in part to convey the breadth of its offerings; early promotions called the site “Earth’s Biggest Bookstore.”

Since Amazon’s founding, Bezos has devoted himself to building it into a retail behemoth that sells everything from diapers to garden equipment to data storage at rock-bottom prices with a click of a mouse. It rung up $61 billion in sales last year.


In the process, Amazon has wreaked havoc on traditional brick-and-mortar stores. Many retailers have expressed dismay, and resentment, at Amazon’s ability to sell the same products at a lower price, in part because of its efficiency but also because it wasn’t collecting sales tax in most states.

For long periods, however, Bezos frustrated investors and analysts who wanted Amazon to turn profits more quickly, or more regularly. Because of heavy investments in warehouses and new businesses, Amazon didn’t deliver a profit until the company’s ninth year of operation, and seven years after selling shares to the public.

At times, Bezos has been openly disdainful of Wall Street’s demands for ever-rising quarterly profits. He told Fortune magazine last year, “The three big ideas at Amazon are long-term thinking, customer obsession, and willingness to invent.”

Under Bezos, the company’s drive into new businesses has been relentless. To supplement its line of Kindle readers and tablets, for example, Bezos pushed Amazon into book publishing itself, upsetting rivals like Barnes & Noble and book agents alike. (Bezos himself is an avid newspaper reader; in addition to The Post, he said he reads the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.)

But Amazon’s breakneck growth has also come with a few stumbles. Among other investments, Bezos bought a majority stake in in 1999 and paid $60 million for a portion of, a delivery service. Both companies went out of business. An attempt to compete with in online auctions wasn’t successful.

As such, an investment in Amazon comes with the likelihood of erratic earnings—and sometimes no earnings at all. The company lost $39 million last year.

Ultimately, however, Amazon has rewarded patient believers. Amazon’s sales have increased almost tenfold since 2004 and its stock price has quadrupled in the past five years. “We believe in the long term,” Bezos told Fortune, “but the long term also has to come.”

Friends and competitors have described Bezos as cerebral, demanding, curious, and given to asking challenging questions. He shows little tolerance for those who are poorly prepared, but can be charming and quick to laugh. “If Jeff is unhappy, wait five minutes,” his wife has said of him.

Bezos’ personal ventures have also given no hint of any interest in the news business. He started a private company called Blue Origin in 2000 to develop a space vehicle, and has acquired land in west Texas as a rocket launch site, both part of a lifelong passion for space travel. He is also reportedly spending $42 million to develop a clock inside a mountain in Texas that is designed to last 10,000 years—a symbol of Bezos’ business philosophy of thinking long-term.

In naming Bezos its “Businessperson of the Year” in 2012, Fortune called him “the ultimate disrupter…[who] has upended the book industry and displaced electronic merchants” while pushing into new businesses, such as TV and feature film production.

His drive and business creativity have earned him favorable comparisons to the late Steve Jobs, Apple’s co-founder and a confidant of Don Graham and his late mother, Post Co. chairman Katharine Graham. Earlier this year, Harvard Business Review ranked Bezos as the second best-performing chief executive in the world during the past decade, following only Jobs, who died in 2011.

In a message to employees on Monday, Don Graham quoted billionaire investor Warren Buffett, a longtime advisor to the Post Co., calling Bezos “the ablest CEO in America.”

Bezos’ reputation and smarts made him attractive as a buyer of The Post, said Weymouth. “He’s everything we were looking for—a business leader with a track record of entrepreneurship who believes in our values and cares about journalism, and someone who was willing to pay a fair price to our shareholders,” she said.


Weymouth said the decision to sell The Post sprang from annual budget discussions she had with Graham, her uncle, late last year. “We talked about whether [the Washington Post Co.] was the right place to house The Post,” she said. “If journalism is the mission, given the pressures to cut costs and make profits, maybe [a publicly traded company] is not the best place for The Post.”

Any buyer, she said, “had to share our values and commitment to journalism or we wouldn’t sell it.”

The sale to Bezos involves The Post and its website (, along with the Express newspaper, the Gazette Newspapers and Southern Maryland Newspapers in suburban Washington, the Fairfax County Times, the Spanish-language El Tiempo Latino newspaper, and the Robinson Terminal production plant in Springfield. Bezos will also purchase the Comprint printing operation in Gaithersburg, which publishes several military publications.

The deal does not include the company’s headquarters on 15th St. NW in Washington (the building has been for sale since February), or Foreign Policy magazine,, the, the WaPo Labs digital-development operation or Post-owned land along the Potomac River in Alexandria.

The Post, founded in 1877, has been controlled since 1933 by the heirs of Eugene Meyer, a Wall Street financier and former Federal Reserve official. Meyer bought the paper for $825,000 at a bankruptcy auction during the depth of the Depression.

After years of financial struggle, Meyer and his successor as publisher of The Post, son-in-law Philip L. Graham, steered the paper into a leading position among Washington’s morning newspapers. They began enlarging the company, notably by acquiring TV stations and Newsweek magazine in 1963 (the company sold the magazine for a nominal fee to the late billionaire Sidney Harman in 2010 after years of losses). In later years, the company added cable TV systems and the Kaplan educational division, currently the company’s largest by revenue.

Upon Graham’s death in 1963, his widow (and Meyer’s daughter) Katharine Graham took over management of the company. Despite her inexperience as a corporate executive, Mrs. Graham ably led the company through a colorful and expansive period.

The newspaper rose to national stature under Benjamin C. Bradlee, whom Katharine Graham had hired from Newsweek in 1965 as a deputy managing editor and promoted to editor in 1968. Bradlee oversaw the opening of new reporting bureaus around the nation and the world, started the Style section, and ignited the paper’s long run of Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting.

The Post’s and New York Times’ publication in 1971 of stories based on the Pentagon Papers—a secret government study of American military and political involvement in Vietnam—led to a landmark legal case in which the Supreme Court prohibited the government from exercising “prior restraint,” or pre-publication censorship, against the newspapers.

The arrest of seven men accused of breaking into the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters at the Watergate office complex in 1972 triggered the newspaper’s unearthing of a series of illegal activities orchestrated by President Nixon and his closest advisers. The revelations eventually led to Nixon’s resignation. The events were memorialized by the movie “All the President’s Men,” which turned The Post—as well as Bradlee and reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein—into household names.

Seven years after Nixon’s resignation, however, the paper suffered one of its darkest hours. It was forced to give back a Pulitzer Prize awarded to reporter Janet Cooke in 1981 after she admitted that her story about an eight-year-old heroin addict in Washington named Jimmy was a fabrication.

Katharine Graham, who died in 2001, was succeeded as Post publisher by her son, Donald, in 1979. He also succeeded her as chief executive of the Washington Post Co. in 1991.

During the 1990s and into the new century, under Bradlee’s successor, Leonard Downie Jr., the paper enjoyed arguably its most successful run in terms of profits, circulation and journalism. With little direct competition, the newspaper division’s revenue and profit soared. The Post won 25 Pulitzers under Downie, including six in 2008, the year he retired and was succeeded by Marcus Brauchli as editor.

The Grahams are among the last of a dwindling number of multigenerational family owners of metropolitan newspapers. Most major newspapers were once owned by local families with decades-long ties to their town or city, but that ownership profile has faded with succeeding generations and has largely disappeared in the Internet era.

Many of the heirs to great newspaper fortunes have sold their holdings to corporations or wealthy investors with little connection to the regions that the newspapers helped shape or, in some instances lately, to local businesspeople whose wealth was more recently acquired.

Over the past 20 years, the list of family-owned companies that have sold their newspapers holdings include the Chandlers (owners of the Los Angeles Times, among others), Cowles (Minneapolis Star Tribune), Copleys (San Diego Union-Tribune), and Bancrofts (Wall Street Journal).

The New York Times, controlled by the Sulzberger family, is among the last major dailies still operated by descendants of its early proprietor. It acquired The Boston Globe from members of the Taylor family in 1993 for $1.1 billion; it announced last week it was selling the paper for a mere $70 million to Boston businessman John W. Henry, a businessman who owns the Boston Red Sox.

Following the sale to Bezos, the Graham family will continue to control the renamed Washington Post Co. through its closely held stock, known as Class A shares. The A shares can’t be sold on the open market, but out-vote a second class of public stock, called Class B shares. The New York Times Co. has a similar stock structure, ensuring the Sulzbergers’ control.

Bezos, who ranks 11th on the Forbes 400 list of wealthiest individuals in America with a net worth of $23.2 billion, has given little indication of his ideological leanings over the years. He hasn’t been a heavy contributor to political campaigns, although he and his wife have regularly donated to the campaign of Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash). In years past, they had given modest contributions to a handful of Republican and Democratic senators.

Bezos’ political profile rose suddenly and sharply when he and his wife agreed last year to donate $2.5 million to help pass a referendum that would legalize same-sex marriage in Washington State, catapulting them to the top ranks of financial backers of gay rights in the country. The donation doubled the money available to the initiative, which was approved last November and made Washington among the first states to pass same-sex marriage by popular vote.

Perhaps the single biggest item on Amazon’s legislative agenda is a bill that would empower all states to collect sales tax from online retailers.

Amazon is only required to collect sales taxes in states where it maintains a physical presence such as a warehouse. But Amazon now is supporting the bill, which has passed the Senate and is pending in the House. State sales taxes no longer pose a real threat to Amazon: With an emphasis on same-day shipping, the company is building distribution warehouses across the country and would have to pay the tax anyway. Last month, the company announced it would hire 5,000 employees at these warehouses, an ambitious growth strategy that is hurting profits in the short run.

Bezos’ most notable charitable donations have been twin $10 million contributions to two Seattle-based institutions, the Museum of History and Innovation and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. The gift to the museum was for the creation of a center for innovation that would be situated a few blocks from a new Amazon headquarters campus.

Baron, the former editor of the Boston Globe who joined The Post as its editor in January, said he was surprised to learn last week that the newspaper was being sold.

But he added, “I’m encouraged that the paper will be in the hands of a successful business person who understands the world of technology as well as anyone. He’s expressed his commitment to the organization and to its continued independence…I came here because I wanted to join a great news organization, and it will continue to be one.”



OPM delays goal to eliminate pension claims backlog

Federal Times

Aug. 5, 2013 – 05:20PM | By SEAN REILLY | Comments


The Office of Personnel Management missed its goal last month of eliminating a backlog of new retirement claims and of processing most new retirees’ first full pension checks within 60 days.

The 7,724 new retirement claims processed last month marked an 11 percent drop from the June total and was down by almost half since February, when OPM processed more than 15,300 new retirement claims, according to statistics released by OPM Monday. The backlog of pending claims rose slightly last month to 25,601, up from 25,542 the previous month.

The drop reflects the continuing repercussions of a sequester-related budget crunch that forced OPM’s retirement services office to end employee overtime at the end of April.

In January 2012, then-OPM Director John Berry set a target for eliminating the existing claims backlog by last month and processing 90 percent of retirees’ first full pension checks with 60 days of leaving government service. At that point, OPM was taking more than 150 days to process the average new claim; that time has since fallen to about 90 days.

On Monday, OPM revised its schedule for achieving those goals. It now says it will eliminate the backlog by March and hit the 60-day processing target by next May on the assumption that the agency will be able to restart overtime for retirement services employees on Oct. 1 when the new fiscal year begins.

At present, however, it is far from certain whether Congress will approve the administration’s request for an 8 percent funding increase for OPM’s retirement services division in fiscal 2014.

In an interview Friday, Ken Zawodny, associate director for retirement services, could not say how the agency’s latest timetable to improve retirement claims processing will be affected if overtime cannot resume in October.

“I have to be optimistic that we will obtain our budget,” Zawodny said. He also said OPM has taken some steps on its own to improve performance, such as reorganizing retirement services employees, in order to cut the average claims processing time by 40 percent since the beginning of last year. In the updated plan, OPM cited U.S. Postal Service early-out programs that added more 20,000 claims to the agency’s workload a another reason for its failure to hit the 60-day processing goal.




Why Insiders, Not Hackers, Are the Biggest Threat to Cybersecurity



By Brian Fung

National Journal

June 10, 2013 0

The National Security Agency leaks by Edward Snowden will easily go down as one of the biggest revelations of the year, if not the decade. But the episode also raises new questions about the risk that insiders pose to government and corporate cybersecurity, in spite of the attention lavished on foreign hackers.

Snowden’s case is unique in that it uncovered a previously unknown surveillance apparatus that’s massive in size and scope.The way the whistle-blower did his deed, however, is not unique. Two-thirds of all reported data breaches involve internal actors wittingly or unwittingly bringing sensitive information to outsiders, according to industry analysts.

“It’s not an either-or proposition,” said Mike DuBose, a former Justice Department official who led the agency’s efforts on trade-secret theft. “But amidst all the concern and discussion over foreign hacking, what gets lost is the fact that the vast majority of serious breaches involving trade secrets or other proprietary or classified information are still being committed by insiders.”

DuBose is now the head of the cyber investigations unit at the risk-management firm Kroll Advisory Solutions. In February, his team authored a report warning that contractors, information-technology personnel, and disgruntled employees—all descriptors that fit Snowden pretty well—pose a greater threat than hackers, “both in frequency and in damage caused.”

Not everyone agrees. Even though insiders generally play an outsized role across all reported data breaches, their role in confirmed data breaches is rather small, according to an annual study by Verizon. In 2012, specifically, internal actors accounted for 14 percent of confirmed data breaches. Of those, system administrators were responsible for 16 percent.

“Our findings consistently show,” the Verizon report read, “that external actors rule.”

However common they are, cases like Snowden’s show how devastating one insider can be. The extent of the damage depends on what’s being exfiltrated and from where, and there aren’t many standards for calculating losses. Most companies estimate the value of their trade secrets based on how much money they sank into the research and development of that knowledge. But for the government, it’s the potential security impact that takes precedence—and that turns the question into a matter of subjective debate.

Last month, The Washington Post reported that Chinese spies compromised the designs for some of the Pentagon’s most sensitive weapons systems, including the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, and the Navy’s new Littoral Combat Ship.

If true, the report could have major consequences for national security. But Snowden’s case is equally consequential, if for different reasons, and it bolsters DuBose’s point about the relevance of insiders. Snowden may have rightfully uncovered evidence of government overreach, but if a mid-level contractor can steal top-secret information about the NSA and give it to the public in a gesture of self-sacrifice, someone else could do the same—but hand the intelligence to more nefarious actors.



DHS Set to Tap New Cybersecurity Leader

Phyllis Schneck’s Road to Deputy Undersecretary

By Eric Chabrow, August 7, 2013. Follow Eric @GovInfoSecurity


Phyllis Schneck, the next deputy undersecretary for cybersecurity at the Department of Homeland Security, comes to the job with a different set of experiences than her predecessors – and that could prove valuable.

Schneck will leave her job as chief technology officer for the public sector at security provider McAfee to become the top cybersecurity policymaker at DHS, a senior DHS official confirms.

Unlike her predecessors, Schneck has a strong academic and research background, having earned a Ph.D. in computer science from Georgia Tech. She holds three patents in high-performance and adaptive information security and has six research publications in the areas of information security, real-time systems, telecom and software engineering. Before becoming McAfee’s public sector CTO, Schneck served as the company’s vice president of threat intelligence.

“Her underpinning background is in security, which gives her credibility,” says Chris Buse, chief information security officer for the state of Minnesota. “She is very poised and is an excellent communicator [who] has experience dealing with the political processes, something that is vital to this job.”

Schneck will take over the job Bruce McConnell has held on an acting basis since April, when Mark Weatherford resigned to join the consultancy The Chertoff Group [see DHS's Mark Weatherford Resign]. McConnell is leaving DHS at week’s end after four years as the department’s senior counselor on cybersecurity [see Another Senior Cybersecurity Leader to Exit DHS].


Awaiting Official Announcement

DHS has not officially announced Schneck’s appointment, first reported by The Hill newspaper. Schneck has not commented publicly on her new job. A spokeswoman for Schneck says she will not say “anything about any potential job change unless it were to be official.”

The appointment does not require Senate confirmation.

Schneck’s academic and research background reflects an out-of-the-box thinking about IT security. She champions, for example, developing IT security technology to emulate a human body with a strong immune system to battle infections.

“Just as your body defends against thousands of colds every year and you only maybe only get one, that’s what these systems are designed to do: push off the enemy and push off malicious traffic, without it having to have a name, and certainly without it having to have a signature – just understanding what is good or legitimate and what is not well intended or not needed and being able to defend against that and get smarter as you do so,” Schneck said in an interview with Information Security Media Group [see Infosec Evolution Mimics Immune Systems].


Hefty Curriculum Vitae

Her resume is filled with mostly private-sector jobs, but early in her career she worked at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and the University Of Maryland’s Department of Meteorology. Her corporate life has been consistently intertwined with government. As McAfee’s public sector CTO, she oversees the company’s technical vision for public-sector applications of security and global threat intelligence.

Schneck served as vice chair of National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Information Security and Privacy Advisory Board, a panel charged with identifying emerging managerial, technical, administrative and physical safeguard issues as they relate to cybersecurity and privacy. She was the working group co-chair for public-private partnership for the Commission on Cybersecurity for the 44th Presidency, a panel that produced a report that served as the outline for President Obama’s cyberspace policy.


“She has experience dealing with the political processes, something that is vital to this job,” Minnesota’s Buse says.

Dwayne Melancon, chief technology officer for risk-based security and compliance management solutions provider Tripwire, says Schneck’s experience should prove vital as DHS reconfigures itself. “Her technology background will be well-received by those in the information security industry – a kindred spirit is always more welcome,” he says.

And that spirit will be challenged as DHS implements Obama’s cybersecurity framework being developed by a public-private partnership under NIST’s auspices [ NIST Unveils Draft of Cybersecurity Framework ].


Major Challenge

Melancon says the public-private partnership is not fully realized, and that presents Schneck with one of her biggest challenges as she assumes her new role.

“This effort hasn’t yet delivered on its promise, and I believe our national security will pay the price if this isn’t solved,” Melancon says. “The problem isn’t the lack of capability – it’s our inability to actually get that capability delivered to the places where it’s most needed, which is securing our critical cyber-infrastructure in both the public and private sectors. … Dr. Schneck can’t just commission new efforts; she must also take a critical eye to existing programs and decommission those which aren’t delivering.”

Schneck comes aboard as the leadership within cybersecurity and infrastructure protection at DHS is in flux. Secretary Janet Napolitano, one of the administration’s chief spokespersons on cybersecurity, will leave in September, and the deputy secretary, Jane Holl Lute, resigned this spring. President Obama nominated Alejandro Mayorkas, director of DHS’s Citizenship and Immigration Services, to be deputy undersecretary, but his nomination is stalled in the Senate.

Rand Beers, undersecretary for the National Protection and Programs Directorate, is serving as DHS acting deputy secretary, and could become acting secretary if neither Mayorkas nor Napolitano’s successor is confirmed by the time she leaves. Beers will leave DHS when either the new secretary or deputy secretary is confirmed. Suzanne Spaulding, deputy undersecretary for infrastructure protection, has been nominated as undersecretary to replace Beers; she’s now serving as acting undersecretary. Schneck will report to Spaulding.


Making the Transition

Schneck’s presence at DHS could provide some stability to a department experiencing much tumult in its higher ranks in recent months [see Another Leadership Shakeup at DHS ]. But Eugene Spafford, executive director of the Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security at Purdue University, wonders about Schneck’s adjustment to government bureaucracy, coming from McAfee, which he describes as a more diverse and security-focused environment than DHS.

“I’m not sure how much exposure she will have had to the kinds of pressures and trade-offs likely to be found in DHS, especially given some of the churn there in recent months,” Spafford says.

“Phyllis does like to get things done, so that could be a problem when inside DHS,” Spafford says. “Or, it could be a good thing – we will have to wait and see. If she is frustrated about getting things done, she’s not likely to stick around for a long time.”

If the Chinese army is trying to hack a Missouri water plant, what else is it infiltrating?


By Gwynn Guilford @sinoceros August 6, 2013


The question of whether the Chinese military is on a hacking offensive has largely been answered—and, despite Chinese government protestations, it sure looks like a pretty big “yes.” However, beyond the widely reported infiltration of foreign companies, the question of what else it’s hacking remains hazy.

But new research confirms one of the scarier possibilities: that the Chinese army isgoing after critical US infrastructure.

This all came out of a project by Kyle Wilhoit, a researcher at a security companycalled Trend Micro, that set up decoy “honeypots,” as decoy infrastructure systems are known, in 12 different countries. Wilhoit’s construction of a rural Missouri water plant honeypot attracted the notorious APT1, a crackerjack Chinese military hacking team sometimes known as Comment Crew, according to research he presented at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas. The group gained access in December 2012 through a Microsoft Word document containing malware unique to APT1.

“I actually watched the attacker interface with the machine,” he told the MIT Technology Review, referring to APT1. “It was 100% clear they knew what they were doing.”

Wilhoit noted to that systems like power grids and water plants are inherently vulnerable to hacking threats because they’re using outdated technology and don’t necessarily prioritize security. Of the “critical” honeypot attacks—meaning those that could have taken control of the system—half came from China. Examples include turning the pump’s water temperature to 130˚ Fahrenheit and shutting down the system.


This suggests that Chinese hackers are taking control of critical infrastructure. “These attacks are happening and the engineers likely don’t know,” Wilhoit told MIT Technology Review. Here’s a look at APT1′s past activity:



To date, the only publicly disclosed cyberattacks on US control systems have been on a factory and a state government building, both in New Jersey, reports MIT Technology Review. It’s unclear where those attacks originated.


Advice from the CIA: Keep your eye on your laptop…

Wed, 2013-08-07 05:14 PM

By: Jacob Goodwin

John Mullen, a longtime senior operations officer with the CIA, caught the attention of his audience at the SINET Innovation Summit in New York City on August 6 as he matter-of-factly recited the ways in which foreign intelligence services routinely steal industrial secrets and intellectual property from naïve traveling U.S. business people visiting their countries.

Mullen noted that advanced technologies have certainly helped these foreign intelligence services to steal valuable information from Americans (and other visiting travelers) but that their true advantage was what he dubbed “human frailty.” The naïve willingness of an ill-informed visitor to allow himself to be physically separated from his laptop, to willingly accept a computer file from his host, or to avail himself of computer services in the local market are the true Achilles Heels, Mullen suggested.

“Human frailty is often the weakest link in the chain,” he declared.

Mullen emphasized that unlike the U.S. Government, many foreign governments — he declined to name them — have identified as part of their national economic strategy a concerted effort to steal whatever intellectual property they can lay their hands on. To that end, these assertive governments “will manipulate your relationships and your friendships” to achieve their goals, he advised.

“When you’re on their turf,” said Mullen, “they own you.”

He said some foreign governments — as well as some foreign businesses, which work extremely closely with their own governments — will use mobile technologies to keep you under constant surveillance. “They’ll hot mic your cell phone,” said Mullen, “and they’ll track your movements.”

Some governments are not above blackmail to achieve their goals, he added. He told the group of cybersecurity professionals who gathered for a one-day conclave at Columbia University about one such instance he recalled. An employee of a U.S. software company was traveling on business overseas when he was seduced by a “femme fatale,” working for a foreign intelligence service. The U.S. traveler was filmed during his exploits and later blackmailed into sharing some of his proprietary information, for fear that the incriminating film would otherwise be made public.

Of course, said Mullen, people are still naively clicking on attachments to incoming email messages (some of which contain dangerous malware), and still beginning online relationships with people they’ve never met face-to-face. “Intelligence services don’t have to meet people to recruit them,” he warned. “They can meet them online.”

Mullen suggested that most of these techniques — and more — are practiced by many of the more-aggressive foreign governments. How does he know? Because he has practiced some of the same data gathering techniques himself over the years…on behalf of Uncle Sam.


Rasmussen Reports

What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls

Saturday, August 10, 2013


Who’ll be the next in line?

Hillary Clinton is the overwhelming favorite among Democratic voters for their party’s presidential nomination in 2016. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie holds a narrow lead among Republicans for the 2016 GOP nomination. 

But not so fast. Clinton was also the clear favorite in August 2005, three years before the 2008 Democratic National Convention. She subsequently lost in the primaries to Illinois Senator Barack Obama. Meanwhile, GOP voters who say Christie is the candidate they least want to see nominated outnumber those who support him by 10 percentage points.

History has shown us time and again that 2016 is not likely to end up as a matchup of the current front-runners, Clinton and Christie, Scott Rasmussen says in his latest weekly newspaper column. 

Democrats’ fortunes in 2016 – and in next year’s mid-term elections – are likely to be tied in large part to perceptions of how President Obama’s national health care law is working out.

Roughly half (48%) of all voters now want their governor to oppose implementation of the health care law in their state. Forty percent (40%) want their governor to support implementation. That’s a complete reversal from January when 47% wanted their governor to support implementation of the law and 39% were opposed.

The economy is sure to be in play in the upcoming national elections as well. Despite the continuing bad national job numbers, 52% of Americans believe it is still possible for anyone who really wants to work to find a job, but only a plurality (44%) now thinks it’s possible for just about anyone in the United States to work their way out of poverty

Sixty-five percent (65%) of working Americans consider themselves members of the middle class, but only a third of all Americans believe the economy is fair to the middle class

At the same time, consumer and investor confidence remain near their highest levels in several years. 

But  just 27% of voters say the country is heading in the right direction

Job approval ratings for the president himself have settled back to the levels seen during most of his first term in office after a surge just before – and for three or four months after – Election Day last November. 

Gun control was one of the top issues on the president’s agenda at the first of the year, but support for tougher anti-gun laws is down from just after the elementary school massacre in December. Americans now are evenly divided when asked if the United States needs stricter gun laws. 

When the National Rifle Association proposed armed guards in schools rather than more gun control, it was mocked by many in the media. But 62% of Americans with children of elementary or secondary school age would feel safer if their child attended a school with an armed security guard.

The president faced a couple of foreign policy flare-ups this past week, so we asked voters what they thought about them.

Following Obama’s decision to snub Russian President Vladimir Putin during an upcoming trip to Europe, U.S. voters’ views of Putin have worsened, but most think it’s unlikely the United States and Russia will reenter a Cold War period. Views of Russia are unchanged.

The Obama administration opted to temporarily close embassies and consulates in several Middle Eastern countries because of terrorist threats. Fifty percent (50%) of voters think U.S. involvement in Middle East politics is bad for America

Yet while 49% now believe most Muslims around the world view the United States as an enemy, just 19% think American Muslims living in this country are treated unfairly because of their religion and ethnicity

Fifty-eight percent (58%) think the Muslim-American U.S. Army officer now being tried for killing 13 of his fellow soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas should be sentenced to death if convicted, but that’s consistent with attitudes toward other suspected mass killers in recent years.

Republicans now hold a three-point lead over Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot.  This is the largest gap between the two parties since mid-April.

In other surveys last week: 

– Most voters continue to think gaining control of the border is more important than legalizing the status of undocumented workers already living in the United States. Only 32% believe that if a woman comes to the country illegally and gives birth to a child here, that child should automatically become a citizen. That’s the lowest finding measured since November 2011.

– One-in-four Americans (25%) think mass transportation in this country is not as safe as it was 10 years ago. Most Americans seldom, if ever use mass transit, but they still tend to believe the government should back mass transit projects as long as they don’t lose money.  

Sixty-three percent (63%) of voters believe global warming is at least a somewhat serious problem, including 35% who consider it a Very Serious one.  

– Fifty-eight percent (58%) of Americans, when given the choice, still prefer to read a printed version of a newspaper over the online version. But the number of adults who prefer print newspapers is the lowest measured in several years of tracking. Just 24% say they buy a print copy of their local paper every day or nearly every day, down from 31% four years ago.  

Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera and veteran catcher Yadier Molina of the St. Louis Cardinals are the early fan favorites for MVP in the American and National leagues respectively.

– With the second half of the Major League Baseball season underway, the Tigers are now the favorite to win the World Series. 


July 27 2013




Pentagon chief can’t offer hope in budget cuts

Updated: 3:45 a.m. Monday, July 22, 2013 | Posted: 3:44 a.m. Monday, July 22, 2013


The Associated Press


The audience gasped in surprise and gave a few low whistles as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel
delivered the news that furloughs, which have forced a 20 percent pay cut on most of the military’s civilian workforce, probably will continue next year, and it might get worse.

“Those are the facts of life,” Hagel told about 300 Defense Department employees, most of them middle-aged civilians, last week at an Air Force reception hall on a military base in Charleston.

Future layoffs also are possible for the department’s civilian workforce of more than 800,000 employees, Hagel said, if Congress fails to stem the cuts in the next budget year, which starts Oct. 1.

On the heels of the department’s first furlough day, and in three days of visits with members of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, Hagel played the unenviable role of messenger to a frustrated and fearful workforce coping with the inevitability of a spending squeeze at the end of more than a decade of constant and costly war.

The fiscal crunch also lays bare the politically unpopular, if perhaps necessary, need to bring runaway military costs in line with most of the rest of the American public that has struggled economically for years.

“Everybody’s bracing for the impact,” Army Master Sgt. Trey Corrales said after Hagel spoke with soldiers during a quick stop at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Corrales’ wife, a military civilian employee, is among those furloughed, and they have cancelled their cable TV and started carpooling to work to save money.

“The effects of the economy have started to hit the military,” Corrales said. “It was late in coming to us.”

The furloughs have hit about 650,000 civilian employees but also have slowed health care and other services for the uniformed military, which has stopped some training missions and faces equipment shortages due to the budget shortfalls. Troops were told this month they will no longer receive extra pay for deployments to 18 former global hot spots no longer considered danger zones.

Troops already are facing force reductions, and the Army alone has announced plans to trim its ranks by 80,000 over the next five years.

Officials agree that the military has undergone cycles of expanding and shrinking of the force over generations. Hagel said this time is different, and worse, however, because of what he described as a “very dark cloud” of uncertainty hanging over the Pentagon as Congress considers whether to reverse $52 billion in spending cuts that are set to go into effect in 2014.

At the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Fla., Hagel told an estimated 100 civilians gathered in a bustling jet maintenance hangar that the military had not been prepared for the $37 billion in cuts that took effect this year, forcing the furloughs. While he said he was deeply sorry for the strain the crunch has put on families, he said he would not slash troops’ training or other readiness budgets any further to prevent huge gaps in national security.

“I’m sure you realize how disruptive the furlough is to our productivity. So I’m hoping that we’re not going to do it again next year,” Elizabeth Nealin, a research and engineering manager at the navy base’s fleet readiness center, told Hagel.

“Have you planned for a reduction in force?” Nealin asked bluntly.

Hagel said if the $52 billion cut remains in place, “there will be further cuts in personnel, make no mistake about that.”

“I don’t have any choice,” he said.

The spending cuts this year may feel more dramatic than in times past because of a vast growth in Defense Department personnel and equipment costs over the past decade, said Todd Harrison, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington. But current spending levels are close to what they were in 2007, when the war in Iraq was at its peak.

“So we’re not even back to a pre-9/11 level,” he said.

Since 2000, the number of U.S. troops has grown by about 3 percent to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Harrison said. But the number of civilian Defense employees hired to support the troops has far surpassed that, growing by 14 percent in the same time.

Hagel said he is taking a hard look at where fat can be trimmed from the Pentagon and said the military has been “guilty of wasting a lot of money on a lot of things.” But he also said he “can’t lead this institution based on hope, based on I think, or based on maybe” — and predicted more dollar cuts ahead.

In Charleston, where the hopeful crowd quickly turned worried, Sandra Walker pointedly asked Hagel what might be in store for her job security, retirement benefits and security clearances if the shortfalls continue.

“I’ve taken a second job to compensate, because I have several children at home,” said Walker, who works in education and training at a medical clinic on base. “And if we are going to have future furloughs, will those things be taken into consideration for the future of our jobs?”

Sticking to his message, and stopping short of directly answering her question, Hagel offered little hope.

“There’s no good news,” he said.


Sandy-ravaged regions will never get landlines back

By Katie Lobosco @KatieLobosco July 22, 2013: 6:06 AM ET


Last fall, Superstorm Sandy wiped out landline telephone service for thousands of people. Many of them are never getting those landlines back.

Verizon (VZ, Fortune 500) is still in the process of repairing the telephone infrastructure that was damaged by the massive storm in late October. But in many cases, the telecom giant is replacing the old copper-based systems with new technologies — including wireless.

Those changes are coming for the industry as a whole, whether or not telecom giants like Verizon and AT&T (T, Fortune 500) want them to. And they were coming long before Sandy struck. The parts needed to repair the old landline technology are hard to find, sending companies to some odd places to purchase equipment, such as eBay (EBAY, Fortune 500).

“It can’t be that our critical infrastructure is relying on eBay for replacement parts,” said Bob Quinn, head of AT&T’s regulatory affairs.

Manufacturers that once made the required components, such as Nortel and Lucent, have gone out of business or been bought out, noted Danielle Coffey, a vice president at the Telecommunications Industry Association.

“It’s not only eBay, there’s a whole secondary market for these parts,” she said.

Related story: are landlines doomed?

That’s because landlines are a dying business. Many customers have switched to cell phones or VoIP services like Microsoft’s (MSFT, Fortune 500) Skype to make calls. More than 36% of Americans use cell phones as their only telephone service, about ten times the rate from a decade ago, according to a Centers for Disease Control study.

Still, many telephone customers in Sandy-ravaged areas are displeased about the prospect of losing their landlines.

On Fire Island, N.Y., off the southern coast of Long Island, Verizon is replacing its copper landlines with a wireless telephone system called Voice Link. The new system consists of a small modem-sized device that plugs into an electrical outlet and a standard telephone jack in your wall at home. That device connects to Verizon’s wireless cellular network, which brings phone service and a dial tone to the existing cord or cordless phones in the home. Customers can use it to make calls, and it and offers services like call waiting, caller ID and voice mail.

But, at least for now, Voice Link can’t connect customers to the Internet. That means medical alert services often used by senior citizens will not work. Those kinds of systems allow a customer to press a medical alert button immediately contacting a monitoring center. Alarm services, fax machines, and DSL Internet won’t work either.

Related story: AT&T isn’t nearly as bad as you think

Hundreds of Fire Island residents have filed complaints with the New York Public Service Commission about the service.

“It’s not quite ready for prime time,” said Harold Feld, the senior vice president of Public Knowledge, an advocacy group that opposes the all-wireless Voice Link system. “If we do switch to wireless as an alternative, then we want this wireless alternative to be as good or better than what we have now.”

Verizon offers the only telephone service on the island, so the hundreds of residents of the popular vacation spot have little choice but to accept Verizon’s Voice Link plan. Verizon said it intends to improve the system as time goes on.

Fire Island is a “unique situation,” said Tom Maguire, the senior vice president for national operations at Verizon. Wireless is not the only path forward for swapping out copper lines for new technology. AT&T and Verizon in many cases are replacing copper with fiberoptic cable and upgrading their networks from a series of routers and switches to a modern digital network.

Related story: Femtocell hack reveals mobile phones’ calls, texts and photos

But Fire Island isn’t the only place where Verizon is installing Voice Link. The company began working on the Voice Link system well before the storm, testing it in places like Florida and Virginia as a way to connect customers without having to repair existing copper lines.

In areas other than Sandy-ravaged communities, Maguire said, the Voice Link system will be available as an option — and not every customer is a suitable candidate. It is for people who do not want DSL Internet service and do not have services like alarm and life support systems. And if a Verizon technician goes to a home to install Voice Link and there is weak cellular network signal, Verizon would in that case repair the copper wire instead of installing the wireless system.

Verizon has deployed Voice Link in Mantoloking, N.J., which was also heavily damaged by Hurricane Sandy, and the company has plans to deploy it in areas like the Catskills where the copper infrastructure is badly damaged.


Future Carriers Built to Carry Drone Fleets


by KRIS OSBORN on JULY 19, 2013


Navy planners have anticipated the recent historic steps forward the Navy has taken toward outfitting the decks of their carriers with fleets of unmanned drones by designing future and current carriers to support the technological advances these aircraft will present, officials said.

The U.S. Navy’s new Ford-class aircraft carriers are engineered with the ability to accommodate more carrier-launched unmanned aircraft systems similar to the X-47B that landed on the deck of the USS George H.W. Bush July 10, service officials explained.

The Ford-class carriers are built with a series of technological advances compared to their predecessors — to include a slightly larger flight deck, upgraded nuclear power plants, dual-band radar, improved landing gear and vastly increased on-board electrical capacity to include a new electromagnetic propulsion system for aircraft taking off the deck, said Rear Adm. Thomas J. Moore, Program Executive Officer, Carriers.

“The Ford Class will be around until about 2110. The flight deck has been designed to be bigger and have a higher sortie generation rate. The ship itself is built with three-times the electrical generating capacity than the Nimitz {Ford predecessor} class has – so it is not hard to envision that we are going to be flying unmanned aircraft off that ship,” said Moore.

Citing the recent historic touchdown of the X-47B demonstrator aircraft aboard the USS George H.W. Bush, Moore said the Ford-class carriers are engineered with a specific mind to next-generation aviation and ship-based technologies.

The Ford-class of carriers are being built with emerging technological trends in mind and the expected increase in unmanned systems and electrically-generated weapons systems.

Moore said that if you look at the kind of aircraft which initially flew on a Nimitz-class carrier when they first emerged in the 1970s, they are very different than what is flying on those carriers today. In fact, the Joint Strike Fighter aircraft will fly on the Nimitz-class carriers before they retire, he said.

“Unmanned aircraft will certainly be part of our portfolio moving forward – they will not replace manned aircraft but will play an important role.”

The USS Ford is slated to enter the water at a christening ceremony in November of this year and begin formal service by late 2016. It is the first-in-class in a planned series of next-generation Ford-class aircraft carriers designed to replace the current Nimitz-class carriers on a one-for-one basis over roughly the next 50 years.

The USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), now nearing completion, will be followed by the second and third Ford-class carriers, the USS John. F. Kennedy (CVN 79) to enter service by 2025 — and the USS Enterprise (CVN 80), slated to enter service by 2027.

The Ford-class carriers will have four 26 megawatt electrical turbine generators, designed in part to power key systems on the ship, including dual-band phased array radar and the Electro-Magnetic Aircraft Launch System, or EMALS – put on carriers to replace the current steam catapults for aircraft on the flight deck.

“On a Nimitz-class carrier, outside of the propulsion plant we use a lot of steam to run the catapults and heat the water. We made a conscious decision on the Ford class to better electrify the ship,” Moore explained.

Moore also emphasized that the electrical backbone and capacity of the Ford-class carriers will better equip the ships to accommodate directed energy weapons in the future, should they be added to the ship.

For example, it is conceivable that directed energy or laser weapons might compliment the defense systems currently in place to defend the ship such as the Phalanx Close-in-Weapons-System, Rolling Air Frame Missile and NATO Sea Sparrow, Moore explained.

“The Ford has huge margins of ability to generate electrical power that no other ship has,” he said.

In fact, increased automation, computer technology and electrical capacity will reduce man-power requirements on-board the ship, dramatically increasing capability and lowering life-cycle costs, said Mike Petters, President and Chief Operating Officer, Huntington Ingalls Industries.

Moore explained that the technology-inspired man-power reductions will result in as much as $4 billion in savings over the 50-year life-cycle of the ship.

Petters and Moore explained how the Ford-class carriers are designed with a slightly smaller island to allow for more deck space, thus increasing the ship’s ability to launch and recover larger numbers of aircraft.

“You have created an electrical distribution system that is going to allow for lower maintenance cost – then you have advanced arresting gear and the radars. You are really talking about a ship that has substantially more capability. The flight deck was all part of how do we get more sorties – changing the location of the footprint is all about how do you get the flight deck more efficient,” Petters said.

One analyst said that increasing the ability to project power at greater distances through the increased use of unmanned aircraft on carriers, is exactly how the Navy should be thinking about its future.

“The aircraft carrier is relevant today and it will be relevant for decades,” said Bryan McGrath, managing director at FerryBridge Group LLC, a defense consulting firm based in Easton, Md.

In particular, longer reach or operating ranges — for strike possibilities and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance missions – is likely to grow in importance in light of what Pentagon strategists refer to as Anti-Access/Area-Denial, or A2/AD, challenges, he argued.

A2/AD is a strategic approach to current and future conflict based upon the premise that potential adversaries have increased technological capability to challenge the U.S. military’s ability to operate in certain areas in an uncontested manner – such as closer to shore.

“Sortie generation rate as a virtue will decline in importance in the years to come largely because any opponent of worth will hold us a little further off shore. Sortie generation rose in importance as we came to dominate the oceans. Now we may have a near-peer competitor, so what we really need is range from the wing – the ability to operate from further away and bring strike power,” McGrath said.

The increased sortie-generation rate capability with the Ford-class carriers is designed to increase the flexibility to launch manned and unmanned systems with greater ease and frequency, a Navy official said.

“The deck has been built to provide the air wing of the future with greater flexibility,” the official said.

Nevertheless, any efforts to increasingly configure aircraft carriers to accommodate increased ability to house and launch longer-range platforms, including manned and unmanned systems, is something McGrath would like to see more of.

“The Navy should begin thinking about designing an aircraft carrier that is devoted to the launch and recovery of unmanned aviation,” McGrath said. “It will need to do its job for 50 years, so you have to think about what you get. You get a very powerful symbol and the means for the delivery of American power. There is no substitute in our arsenal.”

Moore said the Ford-class of carriers are being built with a mind to long-term service – an approach which has, by design, engineered the ship with growth potential such that it can accommodate emerging technologies as they arise.

“Big-deck carriers are by far what we need in terms of power projection and presence. For a lot of the missions we want and the presence we have around the world, there’s nothing like it. Why are the Russians, Indians and Chinese building a carrier? Countries know that carriers bring something to the table that nothing else can bring in terms of an instrument of national power. There is a reason we build these things,” Moore added.

Read more:


DOE study: Fracking chemicals didn’t taint water

Jul 19, 5:48 PM EDT


Associated Press

PITTSBURGH (AP) — A landmark federal study on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, shows no evidence that chemicals from the natural gas drilling process moved up to contaminate drinking water aquifers at a western Pennsylvania drilling site, the Department of Energy told The Associated Press.

After a year of monitoring, the researchers found that the chemical-laced fluids used to free gas trapped deep below the surface stayed thousands of feet below the shallower areas that supply drinking water, geologist Richard Hammack said.

Although the results are preliminary – the study is still ongoing – they are the first independent look at whether the potentially toxic chemicals pose a threat to people during normal drilling operations. But DOE researchers view the study as just one part of ongoing efforts to examine the impacts of a recent boom in oil and gas exploration, not a final answer about the risks.

Drilling fluids tagged with unique markers were injected more than 8,000 feet below the surface at the gas well bore but weren’t detected in a monitoring zone at a depth of 5,000 feet. The researchers also tracked the maximum extent of the man-made fractures, and all were at least 6,000 feet below the surface.

That means the potentially dangerous substances stayed about a mile away from surface drinking water supplies, which are usually at depths of less than 500 feet.

“This is good news,” said Duke University scientist Rob Jackson, who was not involved with the study. He called it a “useful and important approach” to monitoring fracking, but he cautioned that the single study doesn’t prove that fracking can’t pollute, since geology and industry practices vary widely in Pennsylvania and across the nation.

The boom in gas drilling has led to tens of thousands of new wells being drilled in recent years, many in the Marcellus Shale formation that lies under parts of Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio and West Virginia. That’s led to major economic benefits but also fears that the chemicals used in the drilling process could spread to water supplies.

The mix of chemicals varies by company and region, and while some are openly listed the industry has complained that disclosing special formulas could violate trade secrets. Some of the chemicals are toxic and could cause health problems in significant doses, so the lack of full transparency has worried landowners and public health experts.

Over the last four years the debate over fracking chemicals has attracted tremendous attention from state and federal agencies, public health experts, and opponents of fracking. Yet while many people have focused on the potential threat from the chemicals, experts have come to believe that more routine aspects of the drilling process are more likely to cause problems. Poor well construction that allows excess gas to escape, spills of chemicals or other fluids that take place at the surface, and disposal of wastewater are all issues of concern.

Jackson said most of the problems that the Duke researchers have seen have been related to well construction, not fracking chemicals.

The study done by the National Energy Technology Laboratory in Pittsburgh marked the first time that a drilling company let government scientists inject special tracers into the fracking fluid and then continue regular monitoring to see whether it spread toward drinking water sources. The research is being done at a drilling site in Greene County, which is southwest of Pittsburgh and adjacent to West Virginia.

Eight Marcellus Shale wells were monitored seismically and one was injected with four different man-made tracers at different stages of the fracking process, which involves setting off small explosions to break the rock apart. The scientists also monitored a separate series of older gas wells that are about 3,000 feet above the Marcellus to see if the fracking fluid reached up to them.

The industry and many state and federal regulators have long contended that fracking itself won’t contaminate surface drinking water because of the extreme depth of the gas wells. Most are more than a mile underground, while drinking water aquifers are usually close to the surface.

Kathryn Klaber, CEO of the industry-led Marcellus Shale Coalition, called the study “great news.”

“It’s important that we continue to seek partnerships that can study these issues and inform the public of the findings,” Klaber said.

While the lack of contamination is encouraging, Jackson said he wondered whether the unidentified drilling company might have consciously or unconsciously taken extra care with the research site, since it was being watched. He also noted that other aspects of the drilling process can cause pollution, such as poor well construction, surface spills of chemicals and wastewater.

Jackson and his colleagues at Duke have done numerous studies over the last few years that looked at whether gas drilling is contaminating nearby drinking water, with mixed results. None has found chemical contamination but they did find evidence that natural gas escaped from some wells near the surface and polluted drinking water in northeastern Pennsylvania.

Scott Anderson, a drilling expert with the Environment Defense Fund, said the results sound very interesting.

“Very few people think that fracking at significant depths routinely leads to water contamination. But the jury is still out on what the odds are that this might happen in special situations,” Anderson said.

One finding surprised the researchers: Seismic monitoring determined one hydraulic fracture traveled 1,800 feet out from the well bore; most traveled just a few hundred feet. That’s significant because some environmental groups have questioned whether the fractures could go all the way to the surface.

The researchers believe that fracture may have hit naturally occurring faults, and that’s something both industry and regulators don’t want.

“We would like to be able to predict those areas” with natural faults and avoid them, Hammack said.

Jackson said the 1,800-foot fracture was interesting but noted it is still a mile from the surface.

The DOE team will start to publish full results of the tests over the next few months, said Hammack, who called the large amount of field data from the study “the real deal.”

“People probably will be looking at the data for years to come,” he said.

On Friday, DOE spokesman David Anna added that while nothing of concern has been found thus far, “the results are far too preliminary to make any firm claims.”



Draft of a House Bill Restricting FAA Licensing of UAVs Unveiled

by Press • 25 July 2013


A House member from Vermont unveiled the draft of a bill that would require those seeking to operate an unmanned aerial vehicle over U.S.-airspace to provide detailed information about the use of the UAV before receiving a federal license to fly the drone.

Rep. Peter Welch, D, unveiled the draft document that would prohibit the Federal Aviation Administration from issuing a drone license unless the application includes a statement that lists who will operate the drone, where the drone will be flown, what kind of data will be collected, how that data will be used, whether the information will be sold to third parties and the period for which the information will be retained.

The draft would also require the police applicants, as well as their contractors and subcontractors, to provide a “data minimization statement” that says how data collected by the UAV that is unrelated to the investigation of a crime will be minimized. The draft also requires the FAA to create a website listing all approved UAV licenses, data collection and data minimization statements, any data security breaches suffered by a licensee and the times and locations of flights.

In addition, under the draft bill, even if a police agency had a license to operate a drone, the agency would still have to obtain a warrant to fly the UAV except in special circumstances such as search and rescue operations and the imminent danger of death or serious injury.

“As drones emerge in the airspace over the United States, I am deeply concerned that American’s constitutional right to privacy and their right to know are protected,” Welch said. “Drones can be a valuable tool for law enforcement, public safety and other commercial uses, but it is essential that the law be updated to cover this technology and to ensure individual privacy and transparency in its operation and use,” he said.

Welch made the draft of the bill public at Chittenden County, Vt. on June 12, but he has not yet introduced the bill in the House.


The Creepy, Long-Standing Practice of Undersea Cable Tapping

The Atlantic

July 10 2013

By Olga Khazan


In the early 1970′s, the U.S. government learned that an undersea cable ran parallel to the Kuril Islands off the eastern coast of Russia, providing a vital communications link between two major Soviet naval bases. The problem? The Soviet Navy had completely blocked foreign ships from entering the region.

Not to be deterred, the National Security Agency launched Operation Ivy Bells, deploying fast-attack submarines and combat divers to drop waterproof recording pods on the lines. Every few weeks, the divers would return to gather the tapes and deliver them to the NSA, which would then binge-listen to their juicy disclosures.

The project ended in 1981, when NSA employee Ronald Pelton sold information about the program to the KGB for $35,000. He’s still serving his life prison term.

The operation might have ended, but for the NSA, this underwater strategy clearly stuck around.

In addition to gaining access to web companies’ servers and asking for phone metadata, we’ve now learned that both the U.S. and the U.K. spy agencies are tapping directly into the Internet’s backbone — the undersea fiber optic cables that shuttle online communications between countries and servers. For some privacy activists, this process is even more worrisome than monitoring call metadata because it allows governments to make copies of everything that transverses these cables, if they wanted to.

The British surveillance programs have fittingly sinister titles: “Mastering the Internet” and “Global Telecoms Exploitation,” according to The Guardian.

A subsidiary program for these operations — Tempora — sucks up around 21 million gigabytes per day and stores the data for a month. The data is shared with NSA, and there are reportedly 550 NSA and GCHQ analysts poring over the information they’ve gathered from at least 200 fiber optic cables so far.

The scale of the resulting data harvest is tremendous. From The Guardian:


This includes recordings of phone calls, the content of email messages, entries on Facebook and the history of any internet user’s access to websites — all of which is deemed legal, even though the warrant system was supposed to limit interception to a specified range of targets.

In an interview with online security analyst Jacob Appelbaum, NSA leaker Edward Snowden called the British spy agency GCHQ “worse than” the NSA, saying it represents the first “full take” system, in which surveillance networks catch all Internet traffic regardless of its content. Appelbaum asked Snowden if “anyone could escape” Tempora:

“Well, if you had the choice, you should never send information over British lines or British servers,” Snowden said. “Even the Queen’s selfies with her lifeguards would be recorded, if they existed.”

The U.S.’s own cable-tapping program, known by the names OAKSTAR, STORMBREW, BLARNEY and FAIRVIEW, as revealed in an NSA PowerPoint slide, apparently functions similarly to Tempora, accessing “communications on fiber cables and infrastructure as data flows past,” according to The Washington Post. The slide indicates that Prism and these so-called “upstream” programs work together somehow, with an arrow saying “You Should Use Both” pointing to the two operations.


So how does one tap into an underwater cable?

The process is extremely secretive, but it seems similar to tapping an old-fashioned, pre-digital telephone line — the eavesdropper gathers up all the data that flows past, then deciphers it later.


A map of undersea cables. (TeleGeography)

More than 550,000 miles of flexible undersea cables about the size of garden watering hoses carry all the world’s emails, searches, and tweets. Together, they shoot the equivalent of several hundred Libraries of Congress worth of information back and forth every day.

In 2005, the Associated Press reported that a submarine called the USS Jimmy Carter had been repurposed to carry crews of technicians to the bottom of the sea so they could tap fiber optic lines. The easiest place to get into the cables is at the regeneration points — spots where their signals are amplified and pushed forward on their long, circuitous journeys. “At these spots, the fiber optics can be more easily tapped, because they are no longer bundled together, rather laid out individually,” Deutsche Welle reported.

But such aquatic endeavors may no longer even be necessary. The cables make landfall at coastal stations in various countries, where their data is sent on to domestic networks, and it’s easier to tap them on land than underwater. Britain is, geographically, in an ideal position to access to cables as they emerge from the Atlantic, so the cooperation between the NSA and GCHQ has been key. Beyond that partnership, there are the other members of the “Five Eyes” — the Australians, the New Zealanders, and the Canadians — that also collaborate with the U.S., Snowden said.

The tapping process apparently involves using so-called “intercept probes.” According to two analysts I spoke to, the intelligence agencies likely gain access to the landing stations, usually with the permission of the host countries or operating companies, and use these small devices to capture the light being sent across the cable. The probe bounces the light through a prism, makes a copy of it, and turns it into binary data without disrupting the flow of the original Internet traffic.

“We believe our 3D MEMS technology — as used by governments and various agencies — is involved in the collection of intelligence from … undersea fibers,” said a director of business development at Glimmerglass, a government contractor that appeared, at least according to a 2010 Aviation Week article, to conduct similar types of interceptions, though it’s unclear whether they took part in the British Tempora or the U.S. upstream programs. In a PowerPoint presentation, Glimmerglass once boasted that it provided “optical cyber solutions” to the intelligence community, offering the ability to monitor everything from Gmail to Facebook. “We are deployed in several countries that are using it for lawful interception. They’ve passed laws, publicly known, that they will monitor all international traffic for interdiction of any kind of terrorist activity.”

The British publication PC Pro presented another theory: that slightly bending the cables could allow a receiver to capture their contents.

One method is to bend the cable and extract enough light to sniff out the data. “You can get these little cylindrical devices off eBay for about $1,000. You run the cable around the cylinder, causing a slight bend in cable. It will emit a certain amount of light, one or two decibels. That goes into the receiver and all that data is stolen in one or two decibels of light. Without interrupting transfer flow, you can read everything going on on an optical network,” said Everett.

The loss is so small, said Everett, that anyone who notices it might attribute it to a loose connection somewhere along the line. “They wouldn’t even register someone’s tapping into their network,” he added.

Once it’s gathered, the data gets sifted. Most of it is discarded, but the filters pull out material that touches on one of the 40,000 search terms chosen by the NSA and GCHQ — that’s the content the two agencies inspect more closely.

The British anti-surveillance group Privacy International has filed a lawsuit against the U.K. government, arguing that such practices amount to “blanket surveillance” and saying that British courts do “not provide sufficiently specific or clear authorization for such wide-ranging and universal interception of communications.” Their argument is that the existing surveillance laws are from the phone-tapping days and can’t be applied to modern, large-scale electronic data collection.

“If their motivation is to catch terrorists, then are there less intrusive methods than spying on everyone whose traffic happens to transverse the U.K.?” said Eric King, head of research at Privacy International.

Meanwhile, the British agency, the GCHQ, has defended their practices by saying that they are merely looking for a few suspicious “needles” in a giant haystack of data, and that the techniques have allowed them to uncover terrorist plots.


If groups like Privacy International are successful, it may put an end to the capture of domestic Internet data within the U.K., but as NSA expert Matthew Aid recently told me, since 80 percent of the fiber optic data flows through the U.S., it wouldn’t stop the massive surveillance operations here or in other countries — even if the person on the sending end was British.

It’s also worth noting that this type of tapping has been going on for years — it’s just that we’re now newly getting worked up about it. In 2007, the New York Times thus described President Bush’s expansion of electronic surveillance: “the new law allows the government to eavesdrop on those conversations without warrants — latching on to those giant switches — as long as the target of the government’s surveillance is ‘reasonably believed’ to be overseas.”

Want to avoid being a “target” of this “switch-latching”? A site called “Prism-break” recently released a smorgasbord of encrypted browsing, chat, and email services that supposedly allow the user to evade government scrutiny.

The only platform for which there is no encrypted alternative is Apple’s iOS, a proprietary software, for which the site had this warning:

“You should not entrust neither your communications nor your data to a closed source device.”


Pentagon Factors Operational Energy into Acquisition


by KRIS OSBORN on JULY 25, 2013

The Pentagon has taken steps to formally integrate “energy efficiency” as a metric in the requirements process it uses for procurement and weapons development, senior officials said.

Energy performance has now become a mandatory key performance parameter in a part of the Pentagon’s developmental process known as Joint Capabilities Integration Development System, or JCIDS, said Sharon E. Burke, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy Plans and Programs.

The JCIDS process, a collaborative analytical look at acquisition and development, is used to establish and refine requirements for procurement programs, often paving the way forward to next-step milestones in the process.

“We’ve become a force that uses a lot more energy than it used to,” she said. “We’re building energy efficiency into modernization. We have a long way to go because with a lot of the platforms that are entering the acquisition process — their fuel consumption is quite a bit higher. We’re increasing our fuel demand.”

In particular, Burke mentioned increasing power demands for next-generation electronics, ships, aircraft, weaponry and developmental items such as the Navy’s prototype Laser Weapon System that depends upon large “pulses” of energy to operate.

There are more than 300 operational energy initiatives across the Department of Defense, Burke explained. About $1.6 billion was spent on these programs in fiscal year 2013 and, depending upon budget developments, as much as $2 billion is expected for fiscal year 2014.

The Pentagon office for Operational Energy Plans and Programs was stood up by the National Defense Authorization Act of 2009 in response to requests from fielded forces, members of Congress and Pentagon leaders.

One analyst described this effort as a bit of a double-edge sword, indicating that this effort may bring both great rewards and also run the risk of adding too many requirements to an already taxed procurement process.

“On one hand, you are looking across the entire force and doing an in-depth analysis. This effort can bring lower costs, better performance, improved operational flexibility and a reduced logistics tail — which can save lives,” said Daniel Goure, vice president of the Lexington Institute, a Va.-based think tank.

“At the same time, are we now adding more requirements, more oversight and more reviews to a process that many believe is already too long and too cumbersome. Will this add complexity to getting stuff out the door?”

Also, some members of Congress have at times criticized the military’s operational energy platform, pushing back on various “green” efforts on the grounds that some of them may raise costs. Also, many members have raised questions about costs with regard to specific programs such as the Navy’s use of biofuels, an effort to power the fleet using alternative fuels.

Overall, the drawdown in Afghanistan means forces and Forward Operating Bases are more distributed or dispersed and the “re-balance” to the Asia-Pacific underscore the unyielding appetite for greater energy efficiency in combat circumstances and across increasingly greater distances, Burke explained.

While saving money by increasing energy efficiency remains a huge part of the calculus in today’s budget environment, the tactical and logistical advantages provide an edge on the battlefield, Burke explained.

“Anti-access/Area denial means that the supply chain is fully in play in the battlefield. That is going to be true going forward,” she said. “How do you build energy performance into the future force, which will have much bigger fuel requirements and much more sophisticated anti-access challenges? What are your options for making energy an advantage rather than a limiting factor?”

Considering these dynamics and the need for longer-dwell intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and longer-range strike capability necessitated by A2/AD, energy considerations are a key part of the equation when it comes to Pacific re-balance and the stepped up development of unmanned systems across the services.

“Unmanned systems give you a totally different way of looking at energy security. Not only is there much lower fuel costs but you can be a little more experimental with the way you power them,” Burke said.

Meanwhile, supply lines, fuel and energy efficiency have proven to be of paramount importance during the land wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Burke added.

For example, fewer convoys needed to deliver fuel to remote outposts in Afghanistan due to increased efficiency results in both decreased expenditures and logistical footprints.

At the same time, greater fuel efficiency for ships, UAS and aircraft will help offset what many refer to as the “tyranny of distance” – the vast geographical expanse known to the Pacific theater.

Building energy efficiency parameters more formally into the process will help weapons and program developers perform the needed integration earlier in the developmental process, thus reducing costs and risks typically associated with the acquisition process.

As a result, Burke and other senior Pentagon officials have been working with combatant commanders and service acquisition personnel to work on the integration for this effort.

“You want to be able to put a value on better energy performance, so you need to know the value of a technology in operation. What does it cost you do support that technology? What is the unit cost? The only way you can know this is if you have the right analysis to bring to the process,” Burke said.

The Pentagon has already had some successes with the development and implementation of energy-efficient emerging technologies across the services. The effort spans a wide range of technologies from small, portable solar-powered blankets and lightweight batteries for the Army to hybrid-electric Navy amphibious assault ships and much more in between, Burke explained.

In addition, one key example of the approach to build energy efficiency more formally into the acquisition process is found in the ongoing procurement of the Air Force’s Combat Rescue Helicopter, a new helicopter program designed to replace the service’s currently serving HH-60.

“In the RFP [Request for Proposal] we were looking for better energy performance. It will be a criteria in the contract,” Burke explained.

Read more: 


B-52 CONECT: A reboot for the Digital Age

Posted 7/26/2013 Updated 7/25/2013 Email story Print story

by Airman 1st Class Joseph Raatz

Air Force Global Strike Command Public Affairs


7/26/2013 – BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. (AFNS) — One thing is certain: it’s not your father’s B-52.

The B-52 Stratofortress has been the Air Force’s star long-range strategic heavy bomber and premier standoff weapon for more than 50 years. For generations, the B-52 has successfully executed missions all over the globe.

But in the 21st century, the pace of things has accelerated beyond the wildest dreams of the original designers who first put plans for the aircraft on the drawing board more than 60 years ago.

“Things change so quickly now, that you simply can’t take 20- to 30-hour-old data into the fight with you any longer,” said Alan Williams, the deputy program element monitor at Air Force Global Strike Command.

With digital display screens, computer network servers and real-time communication uplinks, the B-52 of the future will be far removed from the final batch that was delivered to Minot Air Force Base, N.D., in 1962.

The Combat Network Communications Technology, or CONECT, program will help thrust the B-52 into the modern era.

“Now the crews will be able to do final mission planning enroute,” Williams said. “They will be able to get targeting updates; they will be able to get intelligence updates, all while they are en route so that they can get the most current data.”

The beyond line of sight, or BLOS, communications ability introduced in the CONECT upgrades will allow for a central air operations center to pass along updated threat and targeting data to the aircraft for rapid machine-to-machine retargeting, rather than having the crew and mission be dependent solely upon information that was available at take-off.

“The aircraft will be much more effective and safer for the crew because of being able to receive those threat and target updates,” Williams said, adding that CONECT will also allow the aircrew to receive last-minute updates so that they are able to strike the most current or necessary targets and do it rapidly because of the new machine-to-machine targeting capability.

CONECT also brings an unprecedented networking ability to the B-52.

“It provides us with a digital backbone so that we can pass data all the way around the aircraft,” Williams said, explaining that with the upgrades, any data available to one crew member will now be available to every other member instantaneously via the new digital displays at each workstation.

These new upgrades will provide a foundation that may help guarantee the aircraft’s viability through the remainder of its life span, which is currently projected to extend beyond 2040.

“Now when we add additional systems to the aircraft at some future date, we will be going from a digital component, across our new digital backbone, to another digital component elsewhere in the aircraft,” Williams said. “In the future, it will make upgrades easier to do because we’ll already have that digital infrastructure in the aircraft.”

Williams summed up the CONECT upgrades by saying they would help convert the B-52 from an analog aircraft to a digital platform for today’s warfighter.

“It is taking the B-52 from a rotary-dial phone to a smartphone,” Williams said.

With the CONECT upgrades in place, the B-52 will be well-equipped to enter the Digital Age. In doing so, “the aircraft” will continue to be an adaptable powerhouse for decades to come.


Carter, Winnefeld to Brief House Panel on SCMR Findings


Jul 26, 2013

By Marcus Weisgerberin


Two top Pentagon officials are set to appear before House lawmakers next week to discuss the findings of the Strategic Choices and Management Review, an effort that will help determine how the US Defense Department operates amid budget cuts.

Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Adm. Sandy Winnefeld, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are scheduled to appear before the House Armed Services Committee on Aug. 1. Pentagon officials have yet to give a detailed look inside SCMR, which defense insiders have nicknamed the “skimmer” or “scammer.”

Lawmakers have been pressing DoD for several months to give them insight into the review, which began in March. The project is supposed to tee up decisions for programs, missions and troop level changes depending on the level of spending cut levied on the Pentagon.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in July told senators that the SCMR “seeks to adhere … to the tenets” of DoD’s Pacific-focused Defense Strategic Guidance.


S&T Community Evaluating Funding Gaps For FY-15 POM Planning

The office of the Air Force’s chief scientist has been working through a budget exercise focused on identifying gaps between funding and priority science and technology investment areas.

The Air Force’s former chief scientist, Mark Maybury, released a forward-looking report earlier this summer titled “Global Horizons” that looks at opportunities, threats and emerging capabilities that the service’s science and technology community needs to address now and over the next two decades. Mica Endsley, the service’s new chief scientist who assumed her role in June, told Inside the Air Force after an Air Force Association event in Arlington, VA, on July 11, that her office has been using the work compiled in Global Horizons to identify which priorities are funded and where the service may need to shift its focus to invest in these capabilities.

“One thing we’ve just gone through and done is an analysis of where the gaps are for the [fiscal year 2015 program objective memorandum] to identify where we need to make some strategic changes to try and address these high-priority items,” Endsley said. “It’s really trying to direct our current efforts to make sure that we’re making these trade-offs.”

Endsley would not discuss where some of the shortfalls lie but said that some of the service’s plans laid out in the “Global Horizons” report and identified as near-term priorities — to be accomplished between FY-13 and FY-17 — are not currently budgeted for.

“Some of these things were already slated and in the budget, so they’re already marching ahead,” Endsley said. “There are other areas where we may want to redirect funds.”

One priority investment area involves the service rethinking its approach to and design of autonomous systems. Endsley said during the event that today’s automated systems lack human-machine teaming — an approach to automation that plays on the strengths of the machine to process and deliver data and the ability of the human operator to take that data and use it to make decisions.

“One of the things we’ve found in the past is that you can’t just throw automation at a problem and solve it,” Endsley said. “In fact, you can make a problem worse if you’re not very careful about how you do that. So what we really need to focus on are effective, synergistic teamings of people and automated agents in order to make this more successful.”

Endsley said that traditional automated systems have left humans out of the loop with very little understanding of the processes a machine is performing, which makes the operator less likely to recognize when a problem arises and respond to it in a timely manner. In many cases, she said, the reason for inaction is that the operator lacks full awareness of the situation because the processes aren’t transparent or are hard to understand — even for people who are actively trying.

“We’ve found that this type of automation puts people at a disadvantage because it makes you a passive processor of information as opposed to actively processing,” Endsley said. “And when you’re a passive processor, you don’t really understand what’s going on.”

The solution to this, she said, is an automated system that is trustworthy and serves as an aid to a process. Endsley told ITAF that one area where the service needs to improve its automation is data exploitation. The service’s command-and-control systems collect large amounts of very detailed information, she said, but its processes for integrating and distributing that data needs to be improved.

“We have to be able to integrate it. We have to be able to process video data, for example, and recognize what key information is happening,” she said. “That’s rapidly going to increase the ability to have detailed manual analysis.”

This new approach to automation will require both modernizing existing systems and creating new autonomous systems. She told ITAF that, even in the near term, the service is going to need to take a dual-minded approach to the issue.

She added that one problem the science and technology community faces in this and other research areas is that the Air Force invests so much of its budget in operations and maintenance. It will take an initial investment to reshape and expand the service’s use of automated systems, she said, but these systems will save the service money and time in the long term.

“If we can improve the efficiency of some of these systems, then we can do a lot to reduce these costs,” Endsley told ITAF. “We can do it with two airmen instead of 10 airmen to get a particular job done. I think that’s something we have to take a good look at.” — Courtney Albon



What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls

Rasmussen Reports

Bottom of Form

Saturday, July 27, 2013


President Obama attempted this week to shift the nation’s attention away from what he calls “phony” scandals and back to the economy.

He is again pushing Congress to prime the pump with more spending, but most voters (62%) continue to think the government should cut spending in reaction to the nation’s economic problems. Not that there’s much optimism: During budget negotiations in the spring, just 15% thought any plan agreed to by the president and Congress would really cut federal spending.

The economy continues to send off mixed signals. The Rasmussen Consumer and Investor Indexes which measure daily confidence are both down from recent highs but still are well ahead of where they’ve been in previous years since the Wall Street meltdown. 

Homeowners continue to express optimism about the housing market. Only 12% now think the value of their home will go down over the next year. That’s the lowest finding since Rasmussen Reports began regular tracking on this question in April 2009.  Just over half of U.S. homeowners still say their home is worth more than what they owe on it.

Yet while 55% of Americans think the institution of marriage is Very Important to U.S. society, they see that institution at risk in the current economy. Only 29% believe that in a family with children, it is good for both parents to work full-time.

A federal judge on Wednesday cleared the way for Detroit’s bankruptcy to move ahead, and 74% of Americans think other major cities may soon be following the same path to bankruptcy. Twenty-five percent (25) think the federal government should provide bailout funding for cities with serious financial problems.

Just 26% of Likely U.S. Voters now say the country is heading in the right direction. That’s down from a high of 43% the week just before Election Day and the lowest level of confidence since mid-January 2012.

Only 17% think U.S. public schools now provide “a world-class education,” down from 26% in August 2011 when the president first set this as the goal to achieve. But then just 25% think most high school graduates have the skills needed for college. Only 22% believe most of these graduates have the necessary skills to go into the workforce.

The president’s daily job approval ratings have tumbled from the euphoric highs surrounding his reelection to the levels found for most of his first term.

As roll out of the president’s national health care law stumbles along, voters continue to give high marks to the health care they now receive but are more pessimistic than ever about the short-term future of the health care system in this country. Just 24% now expect the U.S. health care system to get better over the next couple of years.

Obama and his supporters may characterize the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of Tea Party and conservative groups as a “phony” scandal,” but 59% of voters still think it’s likely the president or his top aides were aware of what the IRS was up to.   Sixty-six percent (66%) believe the decision to target the groups came out of Washington, DC, with 26% who think it was made by someone at IRS headquarters and 40% who think it was decided by someone at the White House. Belief in the Washington connection is unchanged from a month ago.

In an era when there is increasing skepticism about crony capitalism, voters are more critical of the president’s policies toward small business and continue to believe he favors big business instead

Like responses to the George Zimmerman verdict itself, voters give the Obama administration mixed reviews for its reaction to the outcome of the Trayvon Martin case. But voters share the president’s concern about racial profiling. 

Still, only 24% of Americans believe Zimmerman’s actions which led to the shooting death of Martin were motivated primarily by racism. Just 21% believe he should now be charged with a hate crime by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Voters overall continue to believe the U.S. justice system is fairer to blacks and Hispanics than it is to Americans in general.  Forty-six percent (46%) of all voters think the U.S. justice system is generally fair to black and Hispanic Americans, but 87% of black voters disagree. Voters are almost evenly divided when asked if the U.S. justice system is fair to most Americans: 43% say yes, 41% no, and 16% are not sure. Just 36% say the system of justice in this country is fair to poor Americans

Forty-four percent (44%) of Americans agree with the jury’s verdict that Zimmerman was not guilty in the shooting death of Martin. Thirty-five percent (35%) disagree, including 80% of black Americans.

But 52% of all voters think if all of the other facts were the same as those in the Zimmerman/Martin case, the jury would have found a black shooter not guilty of murder if the victim was white.  Thirty-one percent (31%) disagree and believe the jury would have found the black shooter guilty of murder. Among blacks, however, 79% think the jury would have found the black shooter guilty. Sixty percent (60%) of whites believe the jury would have reached the same not guilty verdict. 

Just 19% of all voters believe it’s a good idea for states, cities, organizations and individuals to boycott Florida over the Zimmerman verdict

Most voters (51%) do not know if their state is one of the many that has a stand your ground self-defense law. Voters favor such a law by a 45% to 32% margin, but given the lack of awareness on the subject, opinion is unlikely to be settled at this time.

In other surveys last week:

– Democrats have regained their lead over Republicans on the Generic Congressional Ballot.

– Eighty-one percent (81%) of voters consider a candidate’s personal life at least somewhat important to how they will vote. Fifty-seven percent (57%) say they are less likely to vote for a candidate who has been involved in a sexual scandal.

Even before the latest news of sexual “texting” by New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner broke this week, half of the city’s registered voters had an unfavorable opinion of him. Fifty-one percent (51%) have an unfavorable view of Eliot Spitzer who resigned as governor of New York in 2008 following exposure of his regular use of prostitutes. Spitzer is now running for city comptroller, New York’s chief financial officer.

– Forty-eight percent (48%) of Likely U.S. Voters believe research by private businesses seeking a profit will do more to meet the U.S. need for affordable energy sources than research by the government. Thirty-eight percent (38%) believe government research is the better way to go.

– Following outrage over Rolling Stone magazine’s decision to put a sympathetic picture of the Boston Marathon bomber on its cover, 62% of Americans think the media pay too much attention to the personal lives of violent criminals.

Most Americans see Rolling Stone’s decision to put the Boston suspect on its cover as a publicity stunt, but they recognize that the magazine has a right to publish what it chooses.

July 20 2013




DHS’s Napolitano Resigns: The Impact

Secretary Leaving to Head University of California System

By Eric Chabrow, July 12, 2013. Follow Eric @GovInfoSecurity


The resignation of Janet Napolitano as homeland security secretary could have an adverse impact on the nation’s cybersecurity policy, at least temporarily, considering the posts of deputy secretary and deputy undersecretary for cybersecurity remain vacant.

“It is never good when leadership positions are vacant, as there is a loss of momentum for any initiatives under way,” says Karen Evans, who served as de facto federal chief information officer in the George W. Bush White House.

Napolitano announced on July 12 that she is leaving as homeland security secretary to become chancellor of the University of California system. She plans to leave the department by early September, according to a letter she sent to staff.

Deputy Secretary Jane Holl Lute and Deputy Undersecretary for Cybersecurity Mark Weatherford resigned this spring [see DHS's Mark Weatherford Resigning]. Unlike the secretary and deputy secretary positions, Weatherford’s former job does not require Senate confirmation. That means a candidate for that job could be named before Napolitano departs.

“They have candidates for all the positions and are very close to announcing selections,” says James Lewis, senior fellow at the Center for Security and International Studies, a Washington think tank. “All the selections are good.”


Meeting Milestones, Remaining Calm

Patricia Titus, the onetime chief information security officer at DHS’s Transportation Security Administration, says the acting officials are performing excellently in their temporary roles. “The career employees have been meeting milestones, remaining calm and carrying on with the work at hand,” Titus says. “Filling these key roles will be imperative, however, there certainly are still great people working hard.”

Rand Beers, undersecretary for national protection and programs, is acting deputy secretary; Bruce McConnell, senior counselor for cybersecurity, is filling Weatherford’s old job temporarily; and Bobby Stempfley, deputy assistant secretary, is the interm assistant secretary for cybersecurity and communications, replacing Michael Locatis, who resigned in January [see DHS Losing a Senior Cybersecurity Leader].

Jay Carney, the president’s press secretary, says he has no names to float for a Napolitano replacement. “The president will be very deliberate about looking at potential successors for that very important position,” he says.


Cybersecurity Focus

During Napolitano’s tenure, cybersecurity became a national priority and a core mission at DHS. Here’s how Napolitano put it in her third annual address on the state of homeland security delivered in February:

“There’s perhaps no better example of how DHS has evolved to address new and evolving threats than the issue of cybersecurity. The cyber realm wasn’t even a major focus of the early department. Now, it is one of our five core mission areas.”

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, the West Virginia Democrat who has cosponsored comprehensive cybersecurity legislation, worked closely with Napolitano, “particularly when few people were thinking about this issue. It took no time for her to understand the enormous consequences of inaction.”

Cybersecurity should play a significant role during confirmation hearings for Napolitano’s and Lute’s successors. Questions from senators could focus on the role of government and DHS in protecting the mostly privately owned national critical infrastructure.

“However, I don’t expect that any serious nominee will have trouble with these questions, in light of the conventional wisdom about the importance of the private sector leading the way,” says Allan Friedman, research director of the Brookings Institution’s Center for Technology Innovation.

Another line of questioning could focus on recent disclosures about National Security Agency programs collecting information on American citizens. “We can expect questions about how they will work with the defense and intelligence community, but I would be surprised if this became a serious political obstacle,” Friedman says.


A Top Spokesperson

Since her confirmation as secretary in 2009, Napolitano had become one of the administration’s top spokespersons on cybersecurity. That’s especially true in testimony before Congress, where because of executive privilege, the White House’s cybersecurity coordinator and other Obama advisers will not testify.

But being a face for administration cybersecurity policy doesn’t mean the policy is where it should be. “The big problems at DHS are lack of authorities and lack of a clearly defined mission,” CSIS’s Lewis says.

Brookings’ Friedman picks up on that theme, saying the absence of any clear strategic program in cybersecurity could be seen as a failure or a success.

“On one hand, there is no clear sign or accomplishment to demonstrate progress made in the last four years,” Friedman says. “On the other hand, the failure of large initiatives was largely a failure of legislation, and DHS has been instrumental at coordinating numerous initiatives across the federal government. In retrospect, small improvements and programs might be seen as better than a failed comprehensive plan.”


New Blood

Larry Clinton, chief executive of the industry group Internet Security Alliance, points out that Napolitano endorsed the administration’s earlier position that the government could regulate the cybersecurity of critical private businesses in certain instances, a position groups like his opposed and the White House eventually abandoned.

The administration’s new position, reflected in President Obama’s cybersecurity executive order and backed by Napolitano, would have the federal government, working with industry, develop cybersecurity best practices that critical infrastructure operators could voluntarily adopt, an initiative being carried out by the National Institute of Standards and Technology [see Man Behind the Cybersecurity Framework ].

“It may be a good thing to make the change now so a new person who is more committed to the new model can be brought on and help it through its current formative stage and remain in place as it is implemented,” Clinton says.

Day-to-day activities are not likely to be adversely affected by the vacancies, but high-level relations could, says Evans, who now heads the U.S. Cyber Challenge. “There are good career staff in place who will continue the administration’s priorities,” she says. “B But you do need the leadership there in the meetings with the DoD and intelligence community to ensure the balance of all the agencies as well as private sector.”.


Web industry officials balk at domain expansion plan

By Craig Timberg, Published: July 14


A plan to dramatically expand the number of possible Web addresses — by adding more than 1,000 new domains such as “.buy,” “.casino” and “.gay” — could cause widespread disruption to Internet operations, say some industry officials.

Efforts to augment existing domains such as “.com” and “.gov” have been underway for several years and are entering a critical new phase as industry officials meet at an international conference that began Sunday in Durban, South Africa. By summer’s end, the new domains could be going live at a pace of 20 or more each week.

The plan has touched off a scramble among investors eager to gain control of the virgin Internet real estate, potentially worth billions of dollars in annual licensing fees. But a vocal group of critics is calling the speed and scale of the expansion reckless, given its possible impact on the Internet’s global infrastructure, which relies on interactions among computer networks owned by companies, universities and individual users.

Particularly troubling is the possibility of widespread “name collisions” that could happen when domains used by internal corporate computer systems — such as “.corp” or “.home” — get assigned to the Web more broadly. This could cause systems to fail, blocking access to e-mail or other internal programs, and also could open sensitive information to theft, some experts say.

“This could affect a million enterprises,” said Danny McPherson, chief security officer for Verisign, which is based in Reston and manages several of the most popular existing domains. “It could absolutely break things.”

McPherson and other security experts say the nonprofit group that oversees the designation of Web addresses, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (usually known by its acronym, ICANN), has not done enough study on the impact of the new domain names and does not have procedures in place to respond quickly if systems malfunction. Among those posing risk could be domains such as “.med” or “.center” that might be critical to the functioning of medical systems or emergency-response networks.

Similar concerns have been expressed by the Association of National Advertisers, which represents hundreds of major companies, and the Internet commerce site PayPal, which issued a letter in March saying, “The potential for malicious abuse is extraordinary, [and] the incidental damage will be large even in the absence of malicious intent.”


Defenders of the plan have called such fears overblown, arguing that the potential problems have been long understood and will be resolved before new domains are approved. Because the new domains will be released gradually, over the course of months, there will be time to manage problems as they arise, said Jeffrey Moss, chief security officer for ICANN.

“It’s not like it’s a runaway train without recourse,” Moss said. “We’re not going to do anything that harms the security or stability of the Internet.”

U.S. officials who oversee Web security issues through the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration expressed confidence in the management of the domain program, issuing a statement saying, “We would expect these issues to be discussed and resolved within the ICANN multistakeholder process.”

Whoever wins control of the new domains will be allowed to sell licensing rights for the resulting new Web addresses, typically for annual fees, with a portion going to fund ICANN, which is based in Southern California. Just bidding for a domain costs $185,000.

Donuts Inc., an investment group that made the largest number of bids, with 307, said Verisign’s criticism of the process for launching the new domains was a result of self-interest. The company controls the popular “.com” and “.net” domains — giving it a degree of market power that could be diluted if new ones gain widespread acceptance.

“ICANN was created in large part to break Verisign’s monopoly over domain names,” Donuts spokesman Mason Cole said in a statement. “Now that the organization is on the verge of achieving that goal, it’s not surprising that Verisign is uncomfortable.”

Verisign officials say they support the program for adding new domains but believe the rollout should proceed more cautiously than currently planned.

The stakes are high in an era when a large and growing share of the world’s economic activity happens over the Internet. Even traditional brick-and-mortar businesses use online systems to communicate, manage inventories and interact with customers. Many also count on the security of networked computer systems to protect lucrative intellectual property and other valuable strategic information.

Moss, the ICANN security chief, acknowledged that some internal corporate systems will malfunction as new domains are created, and he said it would be the responsibility of company officials to resolve these problems.

“We want everything to work, and we’re going to try to make everything work, but we can’t control everybody’s networks on the planet,” he said.

Moss said the number of domains likely to cause problems is a “really, really small number.”

But critics have said it is irresponsible for ICANN to approve new domains before it knows the extent of the problems they would create and has plans in place to fix them. The cost of repairing systems — or the loss of security — would be borne by private companies that in most cases have little to gain from the hundreds of new Internet domains.

In addition to expressing such security concerns, corporate leaders have been complaining that the sheer number of new domains will cause a sharp rise in fraud and abuse as criminals buy up Web addresses intended to deceive consumers. Already, many companies are attempting to defend against this by acquiring many different Web addresses that include their corporate names. But that will become far more difficult, they say, with hundreds of new domains, including “.corp,” “.inc” and “.sucks.”

“If everything ran perfectly, this would extraordinarily transform the Internet,” said Dan Jaffe, executive vice president of the Association of National Advertisers. “There is every reason to believe that, as of now, there could be serious problems.”



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New Data Link Enables Stealthy Comms    

Defense News

Jul. 14, 2013 – 04:36PM |

By AARON MEHTA         


WASHINGTON — Pentagon officials have long identified the F-35 joint strike fighter as key to the future of America’s defense, in large part due to stealth capabilities that should allow the plane to travel in contested environments that older fighters would struggle to penetrate.

The problem is, these planes need to talk to each other without sacrificing stealth. To tackle that problem, the F-35 has incorporated Northrop Grumman’s Multifunction Advanced Data Link (MADL), a system that’s undergoing testing in the California desert.
MADL is a digital waveform designed for secure transmission of voice and data between F-35s, with the potential of linking F-35s to ground stations or other aircraft, Northrop said.

Think of the system as a computer. The communications, navigation and identification (CNI) system on an F-35 can manage 27 different waveforms, including MADL. The data comes through the antenna, is turned into digitized bits, and is crunched by the on-board systems to get the relevant information to the pilots.

The system will be included in the 2B software package that the US Marine Corps’ F-35B jump-jet variant and the US Air Force’s F-35A conventional version will use when they reach initial operating capability in 2015 and 2016, respectively. It also will be included in all international versions of the jet. The US Navy’s F-35C carrier variant is expected to reach IOC in 2019 with the block 3F software, which will incorporate MADL and other capabilities.

What makes MADL more than just a communications tool is its ability to connect with other planes and automatically share situational awareness data between fighters. The more planes in the network the greater the data shared and the more comprehensive a picture is formed.

Picture a group of jets flying in formation. The pilot farthest to the right will have a different situational awareness picture than the pilot on the left. But once they’re networked, all the information is automatically shared among the pilots.

Prior to takeoff, planes would be designated with partners to form the network. When a plane gets within range, the network is automatically created.

“Like on your computer, your network into the local area, we’re building that network in the sky and it’s keeping up with all the dynamics and spatial changes,” said Bob Gough, director of CNI technology and programs at Northrop. “MADL has the smarts to keep up with all of that and keep the network in place so they can share the same data.”

Gough declined to say how close jets need to be to trigger the network link, but did say tests have shown “very fast” acquisition times once within range.

Live flight system tests at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., began late last year and have continued throughout this year. Initially, the tests involved networking a pair of planes, but recently, test pilots began regularly flying four-plane networks. Those tests are proceeding smoothly, said Joe DellaVedova, a spokesman for the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Program Office.

“MADL testing is performing as planned,” DellaVedova wrote in an email. “Development of the advanced data link is currently tracking to deliver the phased capability expected by the end of development.”

The system is designed for plane-to-plane communications only, something Gough expects to continue in the near term. But he did not rule out experimenting with data transfer to other terminals.

“We have postulated MADL terminals on ships and we have built a MADL test ground station, so it could be done,” he said. “But it’s more about the logistics of where F-35s will be flying and how close to the ground they would be. It would be mission-scenario dependent, but it’s all technically possible.”

In the long term, Northrop hopes to expand the technology to other fifth-generation planes. That’s not a new idea; in 2008, MADL was slated to go on the F-22 Raptor fighter and B-2 bomber. But it never went on those jets, something the former Air Force chief of staff, Gen. Norton Schwartz, blamed on the technology’s lack of maturity during congressional testimony in 2009.

“We believe as the flight test program matures, it will be more likely” to end up on other platforms, Gough said.

That could include using MADL to communicate between fifth-generation fighters like the JSF and fourth-generation fighters, such as an F-16. Gough said he hopes to begin research on fifth-to-fourth generation data transfers “as soon as” next year.



Where’s the Best Place to Put a Wind Farm?

Scientific American

Sunday, July 14, 2013 | 7


If you want to generate electricity from the sun or wind, it makes sense to go where it’s sunniest and windiest. But part of the reason to generate electricity from such renewable resources is to cut back on the pollution that comes from burning fossil fuels. And if you take that into account, the best places change.

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University totaled up the health and environmental benefits of renewable electricity across the U.S. Such benefits range from decreased respiratory disease thanks to less soot all the way to mitigation of climate change.

And when you consider all those factors, a solar panel in New Jersey delivers more overall benefits than photovoltaics in far sunnier Arizona.

The difference comes down to what the renewable power replaces. For example, a wind turbine in West Virginia that cuts down on coal burning avoids 33 times as much health and environmental damage as would the same wind turbine in California. The analysis is in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

So where’s the best place to put renewable power? According to this study, we need to be building wind farms in Indiana. They’ll fit in nicely among the corn.

—David Biello


Climate change will disrupt energy supplies, DOE warns

Wendy Koch, USA TODAY 8:42 a.m. EDT July 12, 2013


U.S. energy supplies will likely face more severe disruptions because of climate change and extreme weather, which have already caused blackouts and lowered production at power plants, a government report warned Thursday.

What’s driving these vulnerabilities? Rising temperatures, up 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit in the last century, and the resulting sea level rise, which are accompanied by drought, heat waves, storms and wildfires, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

“It (climate change) is a very serious problem and it will get worse,” says Jonathan Pershing, who oversaw the report’s development. While impacts will vary by region, “no part of the country is immune,” he says. He adds that climate change is exacerbating extreme events.

“Sea level rise made Sandy worse,” Pershing says, noting that it intensified flooding. When the superstorm slammed the East Coast last year, it took down power lines, damaged power plants and left millions of people in the dark.

The report comes one week after President Obama, describing climate change as a threat to future generations, called for action to address the problem “before it’s too late.” He said he aims to cut heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions from new and existing power plants.

Echoing other research, the DOE report makes the case for why such reductions are needed. It says coastal power plants are at risk from sea level rise and power lines operate less efficiently in higher temperatures.

“The report accurately outlines the risks to the energy sector in the United States” and should serve as a “wake-up call,” says Jennifer Morgan, deputy director of climate and energy at the World Resources Institute, a non-profit that advocates for sustainability.

The report cites prior climate-related energy disruptions. Last year in Connecticut, the Millstone Nuclear Power Station shut down one reactor because the temperature of water needed to cool the facility — taken from the Long Island Sound — was too high. A similar problem caused power reductions in 2010 at the Hope Creek Nuclear Generating Station in New Jersey and the Limerick Generating Station in Pennsylvania.

Reduced snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountains last year cut California’s hydroelectric power generation 8%, while drought caused the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to stop the transport of oil and coal along the Mississippi River, where water levels were too low, according to the report. Also, in September 2010, water levels in Nevada’s Lake Mead fell to a 54-year low, prompting a 23% loss in the Hoover Dam’s generation.

While climate change is not the sole cause of drought, climate scientists say rising temperatures can exacerbate it by causing more moisture to evaporate from the soil. They say those temperatures, which the third federal National Climate Assessment says could rise 3 degrees to 10 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100, will contribute more to drought in the future.

In Texas, which is suffering a three-year drought that now affects 87% of its land, conflicts are arising over the water-intensive process of extracting oil or natural gas from shale deposits, known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. In 2011, Grand Prairie became the first in the state to ban city water for fracking. Other municipalities have restricted water use for that purpose.

Nationwide, 47% of fracking wells are in water-stressed areas, according to a report in May by Ceres, a Boston-based non-profit that promotes corporate sustainability.

The DOE report cites research indicating that nearly 60% of current thermoelectric power plants, which need water cooling to operate, are located in water-stressed areas.

It says higher temperatures will boost the demand for air conditioning, which could threaten energy security by forcing the nation’s power system to operate beyond ranges for which it was designed. It cites a study by DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory that found such peak demand, given current population levels, will require additional electricity equal to 100 new power plants.

The dire tone of the DOE report, while warranted, can “give a reader a sense of fatigue,” says Joe Casola, a senior scientist at C2ES, formerly the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. Yet he says it also points to solutions such as water-efficient technologies and protection for energy infrastructure.

“It’s technologically within our means to address some of these issues now,” Casola says. “There are a lot of things we can do.”

DOE’s Pershing agrees. “It’s a problem we need to work on,” he says. He notes that the billions of dollars in losses already incurred from climate-related disasters show the need for additional measures.



Combat air forces to resume flying

from Air Combat Command Public Affairs


7/15/2013 – JOINT BASE LANGELY-EUSTIS, Va. — Combat Air Forces units from multiple commands will begin flying again July 15 after many stopped flying in April of this year due to sequestration.

The restored flying hour program represents $208 million of the $1.8 billion reprogramming allocation authorized by Congress. The money re-instates critical training and test operations for the CAF fleet across the Air Force for the remainder of FY13. This impacts not just Air Combat Command units, but also CAF units assigned to United States Air Forces Europe and Pacific Air Forces.

For ACC, the restored flying hours will be allocated to combat aircraft and crews across the command’s operational and test units, including the Air Warfare Center’s Weapons School, Aggressors and the Thunderbirds aerial demonstration team.


While the return to the skies means a return to crucial training and development for pilots, navigators, flight crews, mission crews and maintainers, the leader of the Air Force’s CAF fleet cautions that this is the beginning of the process, not the end.

“Since April we’ve been in a precipitous decline with regard to combat readiness,” said Gen. Mike Hostage, commander of Air Combat Command. “Returning to flying is an important first step but what we have ahead of us is a measured climb to recovery.”

“Our country counts on the U.S. Air Force to be there when needed–in hours or days, not weeks or months,” General Hostage said. “A fire department doesn’t have time to ‘spin up’ when a fire breaks out, and we don’t know where or when the next crisis will break out that will require an immediate Air Force response.”

The restoration of flying hours only addresses the next two and half months of flying up until October 1.

“This decision gets us through the next several months but not the next several years,” the general said. “While this paints a clearer picture for the remainder of FY13, important questions remain about FY14 and beyond. Budget uncertainly makes it difficult to determine whether we’ll be able to sustain a fully combat-ready force.”

Additionally, the restoration comes at a cost to future capability, including reduced investment in the recapitalization and modernization of the combat fleet.

“We are using investment dollars to pay current operational bills, and that approach is not without risk to our long-term effectiveness,” General Hostage said. “We can’t mortgage our future. America relies on the combat airpower we provide, and we need to be able to continue to deliver it.”


Why the enterprise can’t shake its email addiction

Forget new (and better) technologies — email is as entrenched in the business world as it’s ever been. Here’s why we can’t break free.

Howard Baldwin

July 15, 2013 (Computerworld)


Atos CEO Thierry Breton caught a lot of flak last year when he announced he wanted his employees to give up email, but he may have been onto something.

Kids these days don’t use email — digital market research company comScore found that use of Web-based email dropped 31% among 12- to 17-year-olds and 34% among 18- to 24-year-olds in the period between December 2010 and December 2011.

And consumers in general are also off email. The Radicati Group, which tracks use of email and other messaging media, projects the number of consumer emails will decrease by 3% to 4% each year between 2012 and 2016 (see chart, below right).

Then again, there was a reason Breton came in for so much derision: Enterprise email isn’t going anywhere. Or, more precisely, enterprise email usage isn’t going anywhere but up. Radicati is projecting the number of business emails to increase by 13% every single year between now and 2016.

For businesspeople, that means more time scrolling through the inbox (not only on PCs and laptops but now on tablets and smartphones) clicking past newsletters, social media notifications and spam in search of the messages they truly need to do their jobs, and then later filing, archiving and retrieving those messages.

For IT, that means more complaints from users about storage limits being too low (especially when Google lets them keep everything), as well as worries about security, archiving, retention, e-discovery, deletion and syncing mail between mobile devices. And then there’s the cost: In 2010, Gartner estimated that the various costs tied to email add up to $192 per user per year.

Why do we subject ourselves to this madness? Because for all its aggravations, email works. “It’s still an efficient way of communicating, almost in real time,” says Phil Bertolini, CIO of Michigan’s Oakland County, who’s responsible for 10,000 email boxes.

“It does what it’s designed to do quite well, which is allow us to securely communicate on a one-to-one or one-to-few basis,” says Rob Koplowitz, an analyst at Forrester Research.

Simply put, we may hate email, but we can’t work without it. But CIOs and messaging experts agree that something must change that if enterprise email volume is going to boom the way Radicati’s numbers indicate. Email is going to have to get more sophisticated and, at the same time, easier to use. And the people doing the using, who often make life harder for themselves, need to evolve, too.


Why We Love Email

We love email because it’s useful and ubiquitous. It keeps us connected and updated without requiring sender and recipients to be online at the same time, thanks to its asynchronous nature. Everyone doing business today can reasonably be expected to have an email address, whereas only some people use alternative tools like chat, videoconferencing or SMS texting.

Beyond that, email creates a de facto audit trail with a record of who sent what to whom when. And, barring space limitations, that trail is readily available on one’s computer.

The result of this success? “Nobody can live without it for more than two minutes,” says Sara Radicati, president and CEO of The Radicati Group.

From Unix mail (b. 1972), IBM PROFS (b. 1981) and DEC All-In-1 (b. 1982) to email clients, integrated email (think Lotus Notes) and Web-based mail to today’s cloud-based options, email has evolved because we have needed it.

Bertolini is a big fan of email — since the public sector is still heavily paper-based, email still counts as a big technological step forward. “We can chase new technologies, but I need something that’s trusted and used by the masses. Even though there are people clamoring for newer ways to communicate, email is our main form of communication,” he says.


Why We Hate Email

Unfortunately, email’s positives — its utility and ubiquity — have become its negatives as well.

Consider this complaint: “It doesn’t matter if the message comes from a spammer hawking Viagra, your wife asking you to pick up some wine, your boss telling the company that Monday is a holiday, or a client asking for a meeting at his office at 11 a.m. In today’s inboxes, all email messages are equal,” journalist Om Malik wrote six years ago, in 2007. If anything, the situation has only gotten worse.

The problem, says Koplowitz, is that “we use email for things it wasn’t designed to do.” Hooked on email, users default to it for scheduling, workflow planning, resource management, archiving, document management, project management and even knowledge management. Often, ideas that should be shared widely are locked up in an email chain among a narrow list of recipients. “The things it does poorly have become problematic,” Koplowitz sums up.

Over the years, developers have tried to break through users’ dependence on email with software that’s more sophisticated and better suited to certain enterprise tasks — often with only limited success.

Knowledge management systems, touted in the 1990s as the next big thing, failed to catch on, while collaboration systems such as Lotus Notes and Microsoft SharePoint have been variously successful; the inclusion of Chatter into the system serves specific needs of salespeople.

But typically these systems have failed to become as widespread as email because, while they offered a solution that may indeed have been superior to email, they did so only for a narrow population of users.

“There’s a high correlation in the success of these tools when they’re aligned with recognizable business value,” says Koplowitz. Unfortunately, he adds, there’s frequently an organizational mismatch. The tools that work for one department (e.g., sales) may not work for another (e.g., customer service).

And when a new communication tool like Yammer or Chatter does take hold throughout the enterprise, what happens? Users route their notifications to the one place they’re most likely to see them first — the omnipresent email inbox.


IT’s Email Burden

For IT, email is an ongoing headache. Niraj Jetly, CIO at Edenred USA, the Newton, Mass.-based U.S. division of a global developer of employee benefits and incentive solutions, cites a quartet of hassles: the sheer volume of messages; compliance and security concerns; the risks that arise when users access corporate email on their personal devices; and international routing problems.

“No one can support ever-increasing mailbox sizes,” he says. “At the same time, we have to ensure the safety and security of sensitive data being transmitted. We have to ensure the availability of emails archived by users on their laptops or desktops.”

As a divisional CIO within a multinational organization, Jetly also says getting email from continent to continent is a challenge. “It gets very tricky when different government [regulations] and private-sector contracts restrict email routing,” he explains. For instance, certain Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard mandates require that emails originating in the U.S. stay in the U.S.

The bring-your-own-device trend also worries him. “If an organization needs encrypted email but also supports BYOD, supporting access to corporate email on personal devices becomes a never-ending challenge,” Jetly says. “And if a user loses a personal device, who has liability for the loss of data?”

Pete Kardiasmenos, a systems architect at SBLI USA, manages the New York-based insurance company’s Exchange servers and gets involved with “anything relating to email.” His biggest issue: users turning to free external email systems, such as Yahoo Mail and Gmail, to circumvent corporate storage limits.

“They don’t have bad intentions. They want to know why they’re limited to 500 megabytes when Gmail is unlimited. It’s because the more space you have, the more time backup takes, the more complicated disaster recovery is. We have to constantly communicate our policies,” he says. Like a lot of big enterprises, SBLI USA has had to block access to public email systems from company-owned computers as a security measure, and it has had to limit space in Exchange for most users because of the cost of storage.

Even then, he says, email is still a headache. “People keep email in their inbox the same way they keep files on their desktop, to keep them handy. They send the same file back and forth as an attachment until you have 10 versions that you have to store.”

For Oakland County’s Bertolini, management is the challenge — managing passwords, and managing Outlook’s .pst backup files when they get too big. At least, he says, when those files get too large, they start to generate error messages. “We find out about it when [users] have a problem,” Bertolini says with a sigh.

“In one case, we discovered thousands of emails dating back to 2001,” Bertolini recalls. “And the real problem is that most of them dealt with trivia like meeting for lunch. There’s a cost to maintaining and managing email over time.”

IT’s biggest email-related burden is simply uptime, says Radicati. “The overriding concern for IT is making sure that it’s up and running and available,” she says.


Human Roadblock

Email’s People Problem


Is the enterprise’s email addiction rooted in technology or in user behavior? Both, analysts say. “Email is only as good as the person who organizes it,” observes Sara Radicati, president and CEO of The Radicati Group, which tracks use of email and other messaging media.

Over the years, enterprise email systems have added an ever-increasing number of sophisticated organizational tools, but “users still have to train the system, which is where it breaks down,” Radicati explains. “Users forget how they set it up a certain way, and why. Somebody who is highly organized and structured will do well with these tools, and someone who is naturally chaotic will be chaotic.”

Adam Glick, Microsoft’s product manager for Exchange and Outlook, acknowledges that “you can change the tools, but you can’t change the people.” Citing one example of how the tools are changing, he notes that the current version of Office 2013 has an option that lets users ignore any email with a particular subject line if that thread has become irrelevant to the recipient. On a grander scale, Exchange and Outlook are becoming more of a communication hub, with greater integration of chat and unified communications, Glick says.

But all those advances will be meaningless if people don’t take advantage of the new functionality — and IT must help them do that.

“IT needs to explain how and when to use these features,” says Radicati, “and people need to learn to improve their efficiency.”


— Howard Baldwin


Email in the Cloud

So what’s IT supposed to do? Certainly, the cloud offers one of several ways to view email differently. Radicati is optimistic about email in the cloud. “It’s absolutely the way to go,” she says. “A lot of cloud-based email providers have archiving and compliance capabilities in place, and if you want more features, you can purchase them as an additional capability.”

In Oakland County, Bertolini is investigating using Microsoft Office 365 in the cloud. “There’s still a cost associated with storage, but part of our ROI analysis will be comparing the cost of storage in the cloud versus letting people keep more email,” he says, adding that he’s worried that if “you give them more storage, they will fill it up.”

But he also sees other advantages. “If I can host email externally and still have the safety and security the county government needs, I can save millions in the long term. We’d need two to three people to manage Microsoft Exchange, but if I go to the cloud, I don’t need those people. And in three or four years, I’m not replacing my mail servers.”

Still, questions remain. “A lot of IT departments are investigating moving email to the cloud,” Radicati says, “but there is still concern about whether it will be private enough, secure enough and reliable enough.”


Merging Communications Tools

Like many systems IT has to deal with, email’s boundaries are expanding, which means IT needs to begin thinking about email less as a silo and more as one component of a multimodal communications system.

Bertolini notes that the new generation of employees clamors for instant messaging — and he’s not against it. “They use it to collaborate. When they have chat, they can get things done in real time.” He’s also looking at more videoconferencing, first on a one-to-one basis from desktop to desktop, and then from conference room to conference room, and then into a multipoint video arraignment system for the public safety team, because it saves having to transport the county’s prisoners among facilities.

Fortunately, these communication mechanisms will start to merge, analysts predict. Two to five years from now, email won’t look tremendously different, but we won’t talk about it as a stand-alone tool as much as we do today, says Radicati. Instead, we’ll have a communications dashboard that includes email, instant messaging and social media.

These hubs will come about thanks to new open APIs, not only for social media applications like Facebook and LinkedIn, but also for unified communications protocols like Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) and Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP).

Forrester’s Koplowitz concurs. “Over the next few years, we’ll see greater integration across these tools. Think about how messaging is integrated into Gmail — you don’t have to switch back and forth because they’re all integrated together,” he says, citing similar functionality in systems from IBM (with Connections and Notes), Microsoft (with SharePoint and Yammer) and Facebook.

“We’ll have a new environment with new aspects of communication,” Koplowitz predicts. “Today they’re different tools, but in the next three to five years, they’ll be integrated.”

A Silicon Valley-based freelance writer, Baldwin is a frequent Computerworld contributor.

This version of this story was originally published in Computerworld’s print edition. It was adapted from an article that appeared earlier on


Top of Form

The tech that will make drones safe for civilian skies

By Patrick Marshall

Jul 12, 2013

Unmanned aircraft have proven their capabilities in Afghanistan and Pakistan, undertaking reconnaissance and combat missions without putting the lives of pilots at risk.  And now they’re coming home. “We are not darkening the skies yet,” said Richard Christiansen, vice-president of NASA contractor Sierra Lobo Inc., “but we are poised.”

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are already used in domestic airspace. Police departments have tested them for surveillance operations, for example, and state environmental departments have used them to survey forests and wildlife. And the Department of Homeland Security has a fleet of eight drones tasked to monitor activity at borders.

So far, however, these deployments have only been permitted under carefully monitored exemptions to Federal Aviation Administration rules. But the FAA plans to integrate unmanned aircraft into civilian airspace by 2015, and it is currently in the process of selecting six locations around the county to explore the potential extent of such integration.

The major barrier to wider deployment is that current FAA rules require the pilot of a UAV to maintain line-of-sight contact with the aircraft. If that limitation is removed, and UAVs are integrated into civilian airspace, analysts expect the market to grow rapidly. An industry trade group, the Association for Unmanned Systems International, projects sales of $90 billion over the next decade.

In the meantime, the rush is on to develop “sense-and-avoid” systems that will allow untethered flights.

Researchers agree that the basic technologies are already available to deliver effective collision warning and avoidance systems.  The challenges, they say, are primarily in engineering and systems integration.

“We know we can technically do it,” said Sanjiv Singh, research professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute. “The question is whether we can do it within all of the other constraints.” And when it comes to UAVs, especially small UAVs, the primary constraints are size and weight.

Whether a sense-and-avoid system uses electro-optical cameras, laser radar (LIDAR) devices or transponders, the challenge is to make the devices small and light enough to be deployed on small UAVs. “It’s getting close,” said Ian Glenn, CEO of ING Robotic Aviation, a Canadian manufacturer. “We’re making them smaller and smaller. Absolutely the technology will get there.”

ADS-B taking off

According to Glenn, the simplest way to protect against mid-air collisions — whether the aircraft has a pilot or not — is to require the use of ADS-B transponders on all aircraft.  “These transponders can turn an uncooperative environment into a cooperative environment,” he said.

ADS-B (automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast) transponders not only broadcast aircraft location in real time, they also deliver information on altitude and velocity. What’s more, they can deliver data on other aircraft, weather and terrain to the vehicle that is carrying them. In fact, ADS-B transponders will replace radar as the primary technology for tracking air traffic,  and the FAA will require the majority of aircraft operating in U.S. airspace to be equipped with ADS-B by Jan. 1, 2020.

Using ADS-B transponders on many UAVs was infeasible until recently, when Sagetech Corp., an avionics company based in White Salmon, Wash., developed one that weighed only 3.5 ounces.

Last November, ING Robotic Aviation equipped one if its 22-pound Serenity UAVs and manned Harvard Mark IV, a fixed-wing, single-engine aircraft operated by Canada’s National Research Council, with Sagetech ADS-B transponders and Clarity receivers. The two aircraft were then flown for 90 minutes above an Ottawa air park.
“We were able to prove that we could fly, and they could see us a long way away,” said Glenn. “We were able to pick up [data on] traffic coming to Ottawa even as it was crossing New York’s border.” 

Even better, he said, the Clarity receiver is independently powered, which means that even older aircraft can adopt the technology. “One of the arguments by regulating agencies is, ‘Well, that’s great, but we have people flying Sopwith Camels. They don’t even have power supplies, and they don’t have a radio,’” said Glenn. “Well, here’s a little box that you can stick on the dashboard, with a battery that will last longer than your bladder. And it has its own little Wi-Fi and it’ll display on an iPad.”

One system for all sizes

Until all aircraft are equipped with ADS-B transponders and receivers, of course, UAV sense-and-avoid systems must rely on other technologies to detect other aircraft and to undertake evasive maneuvers.

One of the most ambitious civilian efforts under way to develop an integrated system for UAVs is the Mid-Air Collision Avoidance System (MIDCAS), which is being developed by five European countries — Sweden, Germany, France, Italy and Spain — and 11 industrial partners.

The four-year, $65 million project is expected by 2014 to deliver an automated sense-and-avoid system that will not depend on transponders. While it is being designed to integrate ADS-B, MIDCAS also includes two visible-band electro-optical cameras and one infrared camera for aircraft to use in identifying other aircraft. In addition, the team’s developers are designing image-processing algorithms, processing units and integration with on-board avionics.

Key to the project, said Saab Aerosystems’ Johan Pellebergs, MIDCAS project manager, is developing a generic set of sensors and processing modules. “By generic, we mean that it should be able to work on any type of UAS,” Pellebergs said. “It should be adaptable. So we try to keep all of the vehicle-specific parts well contained so that they can easily be adapted to all the different types. The variety in UAS is very big, ranging from the Global Hawk, which is very big, all the way down to small ones that you can hold in your hand.”

Pellebergs said the international team has developed a prototype system and is ready to test it on a manned aircraft. “The collision avoidance part is fully automatic,” he said. “The remote pilot does not need to do anything. If the system detects something, it calculates when it needs to activate. And when the aircraft gets to that point, it triggers and executes the moves automatically.”

It is the system’s control over evasive maneuvers that requires adaptability to each model of UAV. “That’s where the vehicle specifics come in,” Pellebergs said. “You need to be able to model the performance and limitations of each of the vehicles. There are large differences between air speed and maneuverability in these vehicles.”

That’s one reason MIDCAS is working closely with manufacturers of UAVs and sensors.
Another challenge has been designing the software to process the various sensor data.  According to Pellebergs, “The data fusion module takes the information from different sensors and makes one picture. Then it is sent over to the avoid part, where you calculate the maneuvers and execute them. It also sends information down to the ground control station.”

Low-altitude hazards

Of course, the hazards for aircraft — manned and robotic — aren’t limited to other aircraft. 

“There are very few things above 500 feet to run into,” Singh said. But landing, taking off or operating under 500 feet — which is where many UAVs are designed to spend most of their flight time — there are many hazards, including trees, buildings and wires. “You have to go up and come down,” noted Singh. “I think that last hundred feet is pretty important.”

Accordingly, Singh has set his sights, in a sense, lower. “I work on the aspect of UAVs flying intelligently so that they can fly in what we call ‘near-earth environments.’ They are aware of their environment, they are aware of what they can do, they are aware of environmental conditions like wind, and then they plan their actions in such a way that they can stay safe.”

And being closer to the ground introduces other challenges. “Maybe you need to fly close to things, so the GPS is blocked by trees and buildings,” he said. “Maybe you need to operate in dusty conditions or at night. The problem is complex.”

As a result, Singh is working to integrate a variety of sensors and to develop the software to make them usable in UAVs. In addition to the visual sensors (cameras and infrared imagers), Singh is working to incorporate far infrared (effective for detecting features through fog or rain), radar (which can penetrate obstacles) and LIDAR (which is effective in detecting contours of objects). 

Singh was part of a team that recently enabled a full-size, autonomous helicopter to fly at low altitude, avoid obstacles, choose a landing site in unmapped terrain and successfully land. In June 2010, the team tested the sensor and navigation system at a Boeing test facility in Mesa, Ariz. Employing a laser scanner and 3D mapping software, the unmanned helicopter was able to avoid a 60-foot crane and high-tension wires, as well as other smaller obstructions, such as four-in-high pallets, chain-link fences, vegetation and even people.

Government in the way?

While there is a long way to go before completely autonomous UAVs can safely operate in all environments and conditions, researchers say the basic technologies are already in place that would allow for widespread deployments right now if government would move to set standards.

“The real challenge is not technological,” Glenn said. “The real challenge is regulatory acceptance. I think we’re close enough. The key is that we are able to be as good as manned aviation. So the issue is how to get federal aviation authorities around the world to get their minds around it.”

According to Glenn, if government regulatory agencies would specify the performance standards UAVs need to meet, he can design appropriate equipment. “You tell me what the requirement is, and I will build it,” he said. 

Pellebergs agrees. “No one really knows what the requirements are for sense-and-avoid for UASes in civilian airspace, so we need to get a set of standards in place,” he said. “I think that’s what’s holding up a lot of the progress in this area.”

Unfortunately, the Federal Aviation Administration declined our requests for comment.


Colorado town to consider drone hunting license, bounty

Dylan Stableford, Yahoo! News

July 17, 2013

A small town in Colorado is considering an ordinance that would create a license and bounty for hunters to shoot down drones.

“We do not want drones in town,” Phillip Steel, the Deer Trail, Colo., resident who drafted the ordinance, told Denver’s ABC7 affiliate. “They fly in town, they get shot down.”

Steel’s proposal, recently submitted to the town board, calls for a $25 drone hunting license and outlines “rules of engagement” for hunters looking to shoot down the unmanned aerial devices:

The Town of Deer Trail shall issue a reward of $100 to any shooter who presents a valid hunting license and the following identifiable parts of an unmanned aerial vehicle whose markings and configuration are consistent with those used on any similar craft known to be owned or operated by the United States federal government.

Steel said that while he’s never seen a drone flying in Deer Trail, the ordinance is a “symbolic” one.

“I do not believe in the idea of a surveillance society, and I believe we are headed that way,” he said.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Deer Trail’s population was 559 in 2011.

“They’ll sell like hotcakes,” Steel said of the proposed drone license. “It could be a huge moneymaker for the town.”

David Boyd, one of Deer Field’s seven board members, supports the drone ordinance.

“Even if a tiny percentage of people get online (for a) drone license, that’s cool,” Boyd said. “That’s a lot of money to a small town like us. Could be known for it as well, which probably might be a mixed blessing, but what the heck.”

There’s even talk of the town—which claims to be home to “the world’s first rodeo”—hosting the world’s first drone hunt. “A skeet, fun-filled festival,” town clerk Kim Oldfield said.

The board will consider the drone hunting ordinance on Aug. 6.


Air Force 2027: Fewer pilots, more drones, more challenges

AF Times

Jul. 12, 2013 – 06:00AM |

By Stephen Losey

The Air Force of the future is likely to be slightly smaller and more reliant on remotely piloted aircraft, face growing challenges from the rise of Asia and rapidly increasing space traffic, and struggle to maintain its technological superiority as the United States produces fewer scientists, engineers and other highly skilled graduates.

And to survive, former Chief Scientist Mark Maybury said in a June 21 report, the Air Force is going to need to adopt several “game-changing” strategies to keep up with emerging challenges and global threats between now and 2027. That could include adopting speedy acquisition strategies from commercial space companies such as SpaceX, making greater use of lasers and other directed energy weapons, and adopting advanced manufacturing techniques such as 3-D printing.

“If we presume the future is going to look like today, I think we are going to be sorely mistaken,” Mica Endsley, the Air Force’s new chief scientist, said at a July 11 breakfast hosted by the Air Force Association. “The future environment, even in the next decade, has some really significant potential threats that we need to be aware of and we need to be thinking about carefully.”

In the report, called “Global Horizons: United States Air Force Global Science and Technology Vision,” Maybury said that the Air Force’s manned air fleet is likely to shrink slightly by 2027. But the Air Force’s fleets of remotely piloted aircraft and their missions are likely to grow significantly.

The United States also needs to pay attention to the worldwide proliferation of RPAs as their cost plunges, Endsley said.

“It’s not just us, and that’s the big change that we need to take a look at,” Endsley said.

The report said that most RPAs today are designed for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, but nations are investing significantly in combat drones. Some may even be capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction such as chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, and the U.S. needs to develop ways to detect and defeat them, the report said.

Advanced fighter aircraft are also likely to spread throughout the world, the report said, which could shrink the U.S. air superiority advantage. By 2025, the report said, 70 percent of foreign combat air forces will be made up of modern fourth- or fifth-generation aircraft, and adversaries are also likely to gain advanced systems, such as advanced missiles and other munitions that could challenge the Air Force.

One possible way the Air Force could counter other nations’ improving air capabilities is to develop and deploy high-powered lasers, the report said.

“Nothing moves faster than light, and advances in efficiencies, power levels, thermal management and optics made directed energy weaponry a game-changing contender,” the report said.

Adopting a more adaptive architecture for aircraft, including “plug-and-play” modular components like sensors and seekers, will allow the Air Force to quickly upgrade weapons systems, Maybury said. However, this approach also carries its own threats unless the Air Force builds in strong cybersecurity.

“Agility has to extend into our technologies,” Endsley said. “We can’t just build a system that is going to be stationary, that maybe we’ll upgrade someday in the future. We have to make sure the systems we’re building are built … in a modular way, in such a way that they can be modernized and upgraded very efficiently.”

And to make its acquisition process more nimble, Maybury said the Air Force of the future needs to learn a few lessons from SpaceX, Scaled Composites and other small, private space exploration companies.

The Air Force’s current acquisition process is incapable of producing innovative systems quickly and affordably, the report said. And the increasing complexity of integrating advanced technology into aircraft such as the F-35 will likely further slow the development process in the future. This “threaten[s] to erode the current decisive advantage” the Air Force now enjoys over its adversaries, Maybury said.

Maybury said the Air Force needs to emulate the rapid prototyping processes used by SpaceX and Scaled Composites, which he said produce aerospace vehicles 50 percent faster than under traditional acquisitions. SpaceX produced the Dragon capsule, which last year became the first commercial vehicle to dock with and deliver supplies to the International Space Station, and Scaled Composites won the Ansari X Prize for its SpaceShipOne, the first private manned spacecraft.

The Air Force needs to refocus its prototype efforts to provide early proofs of concepts and reduce technical uncertainty, the report said. And emphasizing technology demonstrations and creating open challenges could lead to more innovative technological breakthroughs, fill gaps in the Air Force’s capabilities, reduce risk aversion and energize the workforce, the report said.

“The key to doing science and technology well is making sure we build it on a platform that involves rapid innovation and effective testing,” Endsley said. “A lot of what we’ll be looking at is how can we enable that, both within our labs and in industry, to make sure that we are building these systems in effective ways, instead of investing a lot of money and then finding out way down the line that something’s not working like you thought it would.”

Maybury also said the Air Force could cut its development cycle time by 25 percent by using advanced, physics-based modeling and simulation tools. Those tools could help the Air Force assess how feasible and expensive it would be to integrate technologies into a system, identify technology that isn’t ready to be incorporated into systems, quantify risk at critical decision points, and avoid discovering defects late in the development process.

The report also said that using small, low-cost launch capability being developed by commercial industries such as SpaceX would allow the Air Force to more easily access space. This will become more important as space becomes increasingly competitive and congested, and more nations launch satellites and other spacecraft.

The nation’s eroding manufacturing base endangers the Air Force’s ability to design, develop, manufacture and deploy reliable and advanced technologies, the report said. But the rise of 3-D printing could help counter that decline. For example, 3-D printing could allow researchers to rapidly print parts needed for prototypes. And airmen in the field could 3-D print parts quickly to repair battle-damaged systems.

And the Air Force should also expand its use of a flexible hiring authority program, called the Laboratory Personnel Demonstration Project, to the entire acquisition workforce, the report said. This would allow the Air Force to hire scientists, engineers and other technical workers 70 percent faster than under the normal hiring process, which sometimes takes five months or more.

But Maybury is also concerned about the increasing competition worldwide for top scientists and engineers, and the United States’ decline in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, graduates. This could erode the nation’s advantage in producing new technologies, he said.


Sequester, Part II,Gives ObamaControl of the Budget 1/3

By ERIC PIANIN, JOSH BOAK, The Fiscal Times July 1 6, 2013

Congress appears to be sliding toward a second year of sequestration—meaning the slashed budgets of this past y ear will soon receive an equally unpopular sequel. That might just mean more power for President Obama, as the executive branch must juggle budgetary choices that Congress refuses to make. The same political gridlock that set off the decade-long sequestration earlier this y ear has only worsened in recent months. House Republicans and Senate Democrats have proven incapable of agreeing to the basic contours for a 201 4 budget. Nor can they work together on immigration reform. And with the Farm Bill, the fate of the food stamp program remains up-in-the-air.

What was once unthinkable—broad cuts in defense and domestic discretionary spending—has become standard operating procedure. The administration still bemoans the sequester cuts that were introduced in a failed attempt to force a compromise on deficit reduction in the 201 1 Budget Control Act. Sequestration has had serious impact on some government employ ees and recipients

of federal aid, but it never kicked the legs out from under the recovery . In fact, the economy is expected to improve as the spending reductions mount. And if Congress cannot provide an alternative to the sequester, it may unwittingly give the White House more control than it already has over how federal dollars are spent.

President Obama has not engaged House Republicans on replacing the sequester, while the issue has been on the backburner until Congress must confront the need to increase the government’s borrowing authority this fall. By October, Congress must also finalize a budget for Obama, or continue to lean on continuing resolutions. “I don’t see a viable majority in the two houses of Congress in fav or of getting out of it in a way that the president would accept,” said William Galston, a budget expert with the Brookings Institution. “And as far as I can tell, there hasn’t been a lot of serious discussion for months.”

“I’d have to say at the moment the chances are in fav or of a second round because it is the status quo and it’s been very difficult for Congress to change the status quo,” said Robert Bixby , executive director of the Concord Coalition, a budget watchdog group. “They would have to change the law, and agreement has been awfully hard to come by .”

Congressional leaders and the administration could still surprise the nation and scratch out a deal. But any compromise would likely have to preserve more than $1 trillion worth of deficit savings over 1 0 y ears. The government can still survive on ad hoc measures that raise the debt ceiling on a short-term basis, while enabling the White House to blunt the impact of sequestration.

For sure, neither side relishes having another crisis like the near default on the U.S. debt in the summer of 201 1 . But Obama has pretty much abandoned hopes for a “Grand Bargain” of spending cuts, tax increases and entitlement reforms to keep the government on a long-term path to deficit reduction.

At the same time, many on Capitol Hill have concluded that the nearly $90 billion worth of sequester cuts that began to take hold this y ear weren’t nearly as harmful to the economy or government programs as Obama and others claimed they would be.

Outside analy sis by the Federal Reserve backs up this sentiment. When the spending cuts and government employ ee furloughs began, other parts of the economy —such as a rebound in home prices—kept growth going. Fed officials noted last month that gross domestic product should increase by more than 2 percent this y ear, despite the 1 .5 percent hit caused by sequestration.

And while congressional budget leaders and appropriators would much prefer to make decisions on future savings, there is a growing tendency to either kick the can down the road, or essentially leave it up to department and agency heads to figure out how to absorb the mandated cuts that will once again total about $90 billion for the fiscal y ear starting on Oct. 1 .



Steve Bell, a former GOP Senate budget adviser and now a senior director at the Bipartisan Policy Center, contends that Congress has been gradually and inadvertently “handing control of the purse over to the executive branch” by allowing sequestration to continue. Relatively anony mous bureaucrats are now making budgetary choices that once belonged to committee chairmen.

“I wonder when people realize that a series of continuing resolutions, plus the sequester together, has taken most of the influence Congress would have over the agencies and has really damaged that relationship,” Bell told Times.

The arrangement might not increase the level of discretionary spending, but it creates a scenario where the White House should have more discretion over where the money goes. Bell said that conserv ative House Republican Houses – especially the newest members who have blocked efforts to reach bipartisan agreements—are in effect handing over power to the executive branch to make many of those decisions.

“It’s just the opposite of what they think,” Bell said. At the same time, Obama would be able to capitalize on both a shrinking deficit and continued economic growth. Fed officials expect the economy to strengthen in 201 4 and 201 5, estimating that GDP will increase by more than 3 percent next y ear despite the second round of sequestration coming. Macroeconomic Advisers, a priv ate forecaster, estimated that GDP would climb by 3 percent next y ear and 3.4 percent in 201 5 as the economy accelerates “past the epicenter of fiscal restraint,” according to a June 1 0 commentary .

Secondly , the size of the sequestration cuts as a share of the economy will slow over time because much of the harshest chopping has already occurred. While the absolute size of the discretionary spending will decline, the rate of this drop-off will slow after this y ear, according to May estimates by the Congressional Budget Office.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) has called the sequester situation “idiotic” but said his hands are “tied” by the Budget Control Act, the House-passed budget which insists on the lower spending level. Unable to pass a budget, the government has operated under a continuing resolution that sets discretionary spending at $1 .043 trillion. In order to comply with the Budget Control Act that established the sequester, $7 6 billion would have to be cut from that sum for fiscal 201 4.

That cut would need to be made 1 5 day s after Congress adjourns at the end of the y ear. Implementing it without furloughs or lay offs could be very tough for agency heads, who have already struggled to find one-time savings this y ear, aides said. The Senate-passed Democratic budget would offset the sequester with additional tax hikes on wealthier Americans, but that particular solution has guaranteed that House Republicans will not come to the negotiating table. This makes sequestration—the policy lawmakers saw as a cudgel to force compromise because of its crude approach to deficit reduction—all but inevitable for the next y ear.



While Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) has warned of painful reductions to expenditures for national security programs and parts of the social safety net such as Head Start, the predictions have y et to reverberate on a national level with the economy .

Other than congressional intervention to prevent the furloughs of air traffic controllers and federal meat inspectors, law makers essentially stepped back and allowed the sequester fully take hold. As a result, many on Capitol Hill concluded they could easily live with the sequester this y ear—and presumably the next one as well.

In a sign that the Obama administration is bracing for a second y ear of mandated cuts, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel informed Congress last week that further reductions would cause a sharp decline in the effectiveness of jet fighter wings, group combat units and even Special Operations forces.

Hagel warned that the Pentagon must identify an additional $52 billion in budget reductions for the fiscal y ear that begins Oct. 1 . What matters is that Congress may have no choice but to give Hagel more flexibility in assessing which cuts to make.

“I strongly oppose cuts of that magnitude,” Mr. Hagel wrote. “The size, readiness and technological superiority of our military will be reduced, placing at much greater risk the country ‘s ability to meet our current national security commitments.”


National commission to visit 13 bases

Posted 7/15/2013

by Col. Bob Thompson

Air Force Reserve Public Affairs


7/15/2013 – WASHINGTON (AFNS) — The “National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force” is planning to visit 13 Air Force locations, beginning with Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., on July 16.

Appointed by the FY13 National Defense Authorization Act, the commission is reviewing the Air Force’s structure to determine if and how it should be changed to meet future missions and funding challenges. The commission’s report and recommendations are due to the president by Feb. 1, 2014.

“This is one of the biggest issues for the future of the Air Force – to develop the right force mix of Regular and Reserve Component Airmen,” said Lt. Gen. James F. Jackson, chief of Air Force Reserve and commander of Air Force Reserve Command. “Getting this mix right directly affects our Air Force’s capability, capacity, efficiency and cost-effectiveness.”


The commission’s visits include:

July 16:

• Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.

July 29:

• Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio

• Springfield Air National Guard Base, Ohio

July 30:

• Mansfield ANGB, Ohio

• Rickenbacker ANGB, Ohio

Aug. 5:

• Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va.

Aug. 13:

• Barksdale AFB, La.

Aug. 20:

• Tinker AFB, Okla.

Sept. 5:

• Pease ANGB, N.H.

• Westover AFB, Mass.

Sept. 6:

• Burlington ANGB, Vt.

Sept. 22-23:

• Camp Smith/Hickam Field, Hawaii

Sept. 25:

• Beale AFB, Calif.


The commission is led by the Honorable Dennis M. McCarthy, a retired Marine Corps lieutenant general and the previous assistant secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs at the Pentagon. The vice chair is the Honorable Erin Conaton, a former under secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and previous under secretary of the Air Force.

Other members of the commission include: F. Whitten Peters, former secretary of the Air Force; Les Brownlee, former acting secretary of the Army; retired Air Force Gen. Raymond Johns Jr., previous commander of Air Mobility Command; retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Harry M. “Bud” Wyatt III, previous director of Air National Guard; Dr. Janine Davidson was a deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Plans, and Dr. Margaret C. Harrell is the director of the Army Health Program at the RAND Corporation.

During their visits at each location, the commission will tour facilities, hear mission briefings and meet Airmen at wing, group and squadron levels. Also, the commission will hold off-base hearings with state and local community leaders as well as members of the general public.

Senior leaders in Congress and the military are looking at ways to balance the ratio of Regular and Reserve Component Airmen to create the most effective and efficient combat capability in austere budget times.

In January, the secretary and chief of staff of the Air Force established a “Total Force Task Force” to create a process to determine the appropriate force mix. This task force is led by generals from each component: Maj. Gen. Mark Bartman, Air National Guard; Maj. Gen. Brian Meenan, Air Force Reserve; and Maj. Gen. John Posner, Regular Air Force. The task force’s data and findings are a ready resource for the National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force.

“Today’s Air Force Reserve is a combat-ready force with operational capability, strategic depth and surge capacity, to be used by the nation in a variety of ways, either abroad or at home,” said Jackson during his testimony to the National Commission on Jun. 3. “With a shrinking defense budget, increasingly consumed by manpower-associated costs, there is little doubt the cost-effective Reserve Component will continue to provide a valuable role.”

Regular Air Force, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Airmen work together around the world as a team in air, space and cyberspace. Today’s “Total Force” consists of about 327,600 Regular Air Force Airmen, 105,400 Air National Guardsmen, and 70,880 Air Force Reserve Airmen actively serving in the Selected Reserve as designated by the FY13 National Defense Authorization Act. The Air Force Reserve also maintains a strategic depth of more than 790,000 stand-by or non-participating Reservists and retirees that can be called up for national emergencies.

After more than two decades of continuous combat operations, the Reserve Components are relied upon now for daily operations as well as strategic surges. By leveraging the resources and talents of all the Air Components, planners are developing better solutions to capitalize on the strengths of each component.

“I believe that working together we can combine the personnel, equipment, and readiness necessary to build a Total Air Force equal to all the challenges our nation faces,” Lt. Gen. Stanley E. Clarke III, director of the Air National Guard, during his testimony to the House Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Defense, on March 20.


Hagel: Budget cuts mean 20 percent trim of top staff in Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines

Washington Post

By Associated Press, Published: July 16

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Tuesday he has ordered 20 percent “across the top” budget cuts for his Pentagon staff and that of his top brass.


The reductions, which he did not spell out in detail, are for the 2015-19 period. They will apply to his office, that of the Joint Chief’s chairman and also the Pentagon headquarters offices of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.

It is one element of a broader effort by the Pentagon to adjust to forced spending reductions that already have resulted in the furloughing of civilian workers. Hagel said he believed Pentagon headquarters staff must share in the sacrifices.

“That isn’t going to fix the problem,” he told about 100 Defense Department civilian employees in a question-and-answer session at Jacksonville Naval Air Station on the second day of a tour of military bases. “But, yes, everybody’s got to do their part.”

Hagel spokesman George Little later said the top brass cuts could save between $1.5 billion to $2 billion over the five years and will target personnel, including civilians and contractors. He said the cuts will happen even if Congress eases budget caps that have created sharp limits on defense spending.

Military spending was slashed by $37 billion this year, forcing job furloughs that began last week for an estimated 650,000 Defense Department civilian employees. The layoffs do not apply to military members, but they, too, are feeling the effects of a budget squeeze that is reducing some training.

The Pentagon faces the prospect of an additional $52 billion budget cut in 2014 unless Congress and the White House come up with a deficit-cutting plan. Hagel told Congress last week that such a large additional cut would have “severe and unacceptable” effects.


Air Force ‘carving out’ more AF members for cyber


Jul. 16, 2013 – 05:19PM |

By Oriana Pawlyk

Demand for airmen with cyber skills will grow to 1,500 in the coming years, up from earlier projections of 1,000, the Air Force’s head of Air Force Space Command said Tuesday.

“I’m being a little fuzzy on the numbers because the numbers are really being finalized, but … when I say 1,500, we’re not sure where exactly it’s going to settle, but it’s gone up from where we initially thought it was going to be,” said Gen. William Shelton, at a Capitol Hill breakfast.

Space Command announced earlier this year they would be standing up additional cyber mission teams between 2014 and 2016 in support of U.S. Cyber Command.

“I think the future is very bright in space and cyber … there are challenges in budgets, there are challenges in threats, but in every strategic review that I’ve seen, space and cyber are mentioned prominentley as things we have to fund and things we have to protect,” Shelton said.

He explained that regardless of budget setbacks, “[carving] those people out somewhere from within the Air Force structure, and [funding] those civilian billets” remains a high priority within the department.

Another priority Shelton focused on was the Air Force Network, or AFNet. AFNet — which had a relaxed December 2012 deadline — is the breakdown of hundreds of local base IT networks consolidated into one enterprise network. The goal of this project is to collapse all individual or stand-alone Air Force, Air Force Reserve, and Air National Guard networks into a central Air Force Network.

“That’s our number one cyber priority, is getting collapsed down to that single network,” Shelton said.

“The reason we’re doing that is, there are now just 16 touch points to the ‘external world’ — the Internet — within the Air Force. That’s [going to be] much easier to defend, much more consolidated from a command and control perspective, it also allows us more flexibility … much more ‘defendability’ of our networks, and it’s gonna be great once we get it completed this next year.”

Shelton said the Air Force is still “going through the dialogue” with senior leadership in the Air Force on current and future cyber projects.

“There’s no question that we’re going to support what USCYBERCOM is looking for in terms of these national missions,” he said.

“In terms of what the Air Force does and how we manage career fields, how we organize ourselves, we’re not quite there yet.”

STEM Labor Shortage: Myth or Reality?

Professors, trade organizations and technology companies weigh in on this question as the U.S. continues to push for more STEM graduates.

BY TANYA ROSCORLA / JULY 16, 2013 1–Tech-Labor-Shortage-Myth-or-Reality.html

Indiana University Bloomington’s Bobby B. Schnabel doesn’t like the spring as much as the rest of the year. Though that may initially seem a bit strange, he has good reason.

As the informatics and computing dean, Schnabel flies to Silicon Valley often to build relationships with tech leaders. And toward the end of the school year, they start asking him his least favorite question: Do you have any students we can hire?

“Part of my job as a dean of a big school is to know a bunch of the IT CEOs,” Schnabel said, “and sometimes they’ll contact me directly in May saying, ‘We’re looking for people.’ And we don’t have people in May — they’re all hired.”

By the time the university holds its main career fair in early September, the best students are already taken. Of this year’s graduating class, 245 undergraduate and masters’ students answered a university survey, which found that just over half of them lined up a job before graduation, while less than a quarter of them decided to continue their education at a higher level.

But while Schnabel identifies a labor shortage in technology rather than STEM as a whole, not everyone believes we have an undersupply of college graduates and other laborers in this field. In fact, two schools of thought compete against each other on this issue, and both of them cite data to back up their claims. This begs the question, “Is the STEM labor shortage reality, or simply a myth?”



At the University of California at Davis, Norman S. Matloff, a computer science professor, says that the STEM shortage is really a web of deceit designed to trick the whole country.

“There’s a giant deception, a huge public relations concerted effort being engaged on the various parties with a vested interest to implant in the American consciousness this idea that we have a STEM labor shortage,” Matloff said.

Many positions in these fields don’t even require a college degree, much less a doctorate. In fact, less than five percent of jobs in the technology field call for high levels of knowledge.

And the technology field has seen success stories at a high level from people who never earned a college degree.

Take Bill Gates of Microsoft, Steve Jobs of Apple and Larry Ellison of Oracle. All of them started college, but dropped out. Now Gates and Ellison are two of the top five richest people in the world.

That said, bachelor’s degree production in computer science saw double-digit growth between 2009 and 2012. And last year, colleges awarded nearly 2,000 doctorate degrees, the highest number ever reported in the Computing Research Association’s Taulbee Survey.

Yet the demand isn’t there, some argue.

“There is still benefit to inspiring kids to be passionate and excited about STEM disciplines,” said Bob Sun, CEO of Suntex International Inc., which helps students build a solid foundation in math. “But the idea that we need more STEM graduates to meet this unfulfilled demand — I don’t think it’s quite exactly what it’s cracked up to be.”



A professional society called the Programmers Guild argues that the U.S. is producing plenty of computer science graduates and has enough older workers to fill positions — they’re just not getting hired. It says companies won’t hire workers over the age of 35, and that they hire foreign laborers through temporary work visas to bring wages down.

In specialty occupations, these H-1B visas allow employers to hire highly-skilled foreign workers when they can’t find U.S. residents or citizens. The employer files a visa application for these workers, which allows them to work for that employer over three years, or up to six years if they receive an extension.

When these visa holders enter the country, they could stay permanently depending on whether their employer files a petition on their behalf.

“If you’re a foreign worker being sponsored for a green card, you are trapped, you cannot go to another employer, because you’d have to start all of that all over again, and it’s just unthinkable,” Matloff said. “So the employers like that. This immobility is huge.”

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services issues 65,000 H-1B visas each year to fill positions in specialty occupations such as computer programming. Plus, it provides 20,000 exemptions for students who earned advanced degrees in the U.S.

“Over the past 10 years, we’ve been bringing more H-1Bs than the job market has been increasing by,” said Kim Berry, president of the Programmer’s Guild. “And so I think it’s no question that Americans are being displaced by this.”

The companies that hire these workers beg to differ. They’re calling on Congress to increase the cap so they can bring in more foreign workers. But in addition to increasing the cap, companies such as Microsoft also want to invest in education to build the U.S. pipeline of computer scientists, said Jack Chen, senior attorney of compliance and advocacy for Microsoft Corp.

At the end of February, the company had more than 6,400 open jobs in the U.S., half of which were for research and development positions.

“There really is a hunger and a thirst for talent,” Chen said, “that has not been satiated by the workers we have available in the U.S. market.”

Both schools of thought hold such opposing views that they may not agree anytime soon. And that leaves us to decide for ourselves where we stand on the STEM labor issue.


Kremlin’s Anti-Hacking Tech: Typewriters

150-Year-Old Technology Isn’t a Good Idea to Protect Secrets

By Eric Chabrow, July 16, 2013.Follow Eric @GovInfoSecurity

The apparatchiks at the Kremlin think they’re clever sorts with plans to replace computers with typewriters to prevent the American e-spies at the National Security Agency from hacking into Russian intelligence systems.

The successor to the KGB – Russia’s Federal Protective Service – has placed an order for 20 typewriters at $750 a pop (that’s 24,480 rubles each or 489,603 rubles for the bunch; it’s sounds much more expensive in Russian currency), according to a number of published reports that cite the Izvestia news service.

Of course, the safest way to secure a computer is to keep it off the Internet. (But Stuxnet proved that even high-tech devices not connected to the Internet can be hacked, using infected removable drives to spread the worm to cripple Iranian nuclear centrifuges.) Typewriters go one better.

But the idea of replacing computers with typewriters to mitigate the risk of the United States – or anyone else – stealing secrets is misplaced.

From a practical side, as Sunday Telegraph Chief Foreign Correspondent Colin Freeman points out, correcting mistakes on important documents without the “delete” button would prove difficult:

FOr the chnaces are that ecven if u are reasonabley goood typrer like me, most of what you iwll write will end up litter d with misteks. Sometimes ot the point of bing complely eillegiebe (illegible).”

Even when tongue is removed from cheek, other reasons exist that show replacing a computer with a typewriter is a terrible idea.

Governments have been stealing secrets from one another for years – heck, for centuries – before the invention of the computer and the Internet. Removing documents from a computer and putting them in a vault or locked filing cabinet doesn’t guarantee protection, especially given the prevalence of the insider threat. And, safeguarding documents in transit can be as daunting in the real world as it is in the virtual one.


7,000 Typewritten Pages ‘Hacked’

Though not nation-to-nation intelligence theft, one of the biggest disclosures of classified information in American history was the leaking of the Pentagon Papers, a top secret history that showed how the Lyndon Johnson administration systematically lied about the United States involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967.


Unlike former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and Army Pvt. Bradley Manning of WikiLeaks fame, who copied hundreds of thousands of documents onto electronic drives, Pentagon Papers’ whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg and his friend Anthony Russo photocopied the 3,000 pages of historical analysis and 4,000 pages of original government documents – all typewritten at one point – that they leaked to The New York Times and other newspapers.

The reward for mitigating the risk of abandoning the computer for the typewriter might not be worth the nearly half-million ruble investment. Computers, networks and the Internet have improved productivity and collaboration, and it’s hard to conceive in today’s environment that the work needed to create such crucial documents can be achieved effectively using 150-year-old technology. Simply, contemporary technology is required to protect contemporary content.

Adn thats teh fax; JAck!


Data demand soars as consumers drop landline phones

Dayton Daily News

July 18, 2013

By Dave Larsen

Staff Writer

Demand for mobile and broadband data in Ohio is skyrocketing as more consumers switch from traditional landline phones to wireless communications.

Ohio’s local phone companies have lost 64 percent of their lines since peaking in 2000, and continue to lose lines at a rate of 6 to 10 percent annually, according to a new Ohio Telecom Association report. Those companies range from large service providers such as AT&T Ohio and Cincinnati Bell, with 50,000 or more phone lines, to small locally owned and operated companies with 300 to 25,000 lines.

Experts said the migration to smartphones is forcing phone line companies to diversify into new technologies such as wireless, video and broadband. It also is requiring companies that include large wireless providers to invest billions of dollars to update their networks to meet rising demand for data.

The study found that Ohio’s 11.5 million residents are using an estimated 11.8 million wireless phones, with an increasing number using different phones for home and work.

“As much as the landline market is decreasing, the broadband market is exponentially increasing,” said Stu Johnson, executive director of Connect Ohio, a nonprofit working to expand access and use of broadband Internet statewide. The challenge for telecommunications companies is to manage the transition financially while coordinating the delivery of reliable service to consumers, he said.

The average household consumes 52 gigabytes of data per month — the equivalent of more than 5 million emails or surfing the Internet for about 100 hours monthly — up from 28 GB in 2012. Part of that increase is driven by smartphones, which now account for half of all cell phones in Ohio.

“When you almost double the amount of data over your network in a year, that is a significant issue to engineer,” said Charles R. Moses, Ohio Telecom Association president. The trade group represents the state’s $20 billion telecommunications industry, which includes 42 local phone companies, three wireless carriers and more than 100 associated industry product and service providers.

Officials said the association’s member companies employ more than 20,000 Ohio residents and invest an average of $1 billion annually in the state’s telecommunications infrastructure.

Copper-wire landlines don’t offer multiple uses like broadband — an optic fiber, coaxial cable or wireless medium that has wide bandwidth characteristics and can deliver voice, video and Internet services. However, copper landlines are reliable and can serve customers in rural areas that are costly or difficult to reach with broadband technologies, Johnson said.

Ohio’s wireless-only residents are 81 percent urban or suburban; 84 percent are under age 44; 58 percent have a college education; and 63 percent earn more than $25,000 annually, according to Connect Ohio.

“The least likely to convert to a wireless-only solution would be an older, rural, less educated, lower income individual,” Johnson said. “Those are probably also the most expensive copper customers.”

Federal regulations require local phone companies to supply and maintain a phone line to every residence, business or organization that requests one.

Copper landlines also deliver services that include home health care monitoring, ATM networks and elevator emergency telephones that won’t easily transition to wireless, Johnson said.

The Department of Defense in a July 8 letter to the Federal Communications Commission warned that a rush to transition from copper landlines to wireless and Internet protocol (IP) broadband communications could disrupt the functions of important military and federal agencies, including Federal Aviation Authority air traffic communications.

These agencies continue to rely on wireline networks and services that are “critical to public safety and security — and will do so for the foreseeable future,” wrote Terrance A. Spann, general attorney for the U.S. Army Legal Services Agency.

Wireless is now a $6.8 billion industry in Ohio, according to the Ohio Telecom Association. An estimated 41.3 percent of homes in the state have eliminated local phone service and rely exclusively on wireless communications. Data plans account for 50 percent of wireless revenues.

Last week, AT&T expanded its 4G LTE (fourth generation long-term evolution) wireless network to the Dayton region to provide area customers with greater mobile Internet speeds. Verizon Wireless launched a 4G LTE network in Dayton in June 2011.

Verizon Wireless has seen “geometric growth” in wireless data demand, said Don Caretta, executive director for Verizon’s network in Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. The company has invested more than $2.5 billion in its Ohio wireless network from 2001 through 2012 to increase capacity to meet demand, he said.

New wireless applications from online movie services to so-called “smart” electric and gas meters will continue to grow data demand, Caretta said.

Similarly, AT&T has invested $1.5 billion from 2010 to 2012 into its Ohio wireline and wireless networks, said Mark Romito, the company’s director of external affairs for southwest Ohio.

In November, AT&T announced a $14 billion project to upgrade much of its wireline network to high-speed IP broadband and convert some of its harder-to-reach copper customers to 4G LTE wireless services by the end of 2015. “We are trying to address customers’ demand for data and the transition to an IP environment,” Romito said.

Ohio wireless by the numbers

90 – Percentage of Ohio residents with a wireless phone

80 – Average monthly wireless bill, in dollars

50 – Percentage of Ohio residents who own a smartphone that connects wirelessly to the Internet

41.3 – Percentage of Ohio homes that are wireless-only

40 – Additional monthly cost per phone for Internet access, in dollars

Source: Ohio Telecom Association


Hacker Magnet or Sophisticated Tool? Obamacare’s Database Debated


Government Executive

By Charles S. Clark

July 17, 2013

The centralized data hub that will link agency records on people who sign up for Obamacare is either solidly on schedule and impenetrable to hackers, or it is floundering and in danger of swelling into “the biggest data system of personal information in the history of the U.S.”

Both views were displayed Wednesday at a joint subcommittee hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that roped in issues from cybersecurity to government mismanagement to the fate of the Affordable Care Act to the scandal over political targeting of taxpayer groups by parts of the Internal Revenue Service.

Taken together, representatives from the Health and Human Services Department, the IRS and auditing agencies appeared confident that the Obama administration can meet the health care law’s Oct. 1 deadline for opening state insurance exchanges with sufficient safeguards on personal information to protect Americans’ privacy.

The Federal Data Services Hub, a $394 million contractor operation run by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in Columbia, Md., is a tool that will allow citizens applying for the new health insurance plans to enter their income and personal identification online and get a determination of eligibility for tax credits, in many cases within seconds. The hub is designed to link databases at HHS and IRS with the Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs departments, the Social Security Administration, the Office of Personnel Management and the Peace Corps.

Hearing chairman Rep. James Lankford, R-Okla., warned that the “potential for fraud and violations of privacy are multiplied by this Rube Goldberg construction.” He cited a June Government Accountability Office report showing that only 20 percent of the privacy controls and other preparations are complete. “The government will waste billions of dollars in subsidizing taxpayers who are not eligible,” Lankford said, and proceeded to blast the IRS as being “highly politicized under this administration” citing 100 visits to the White House by previous Commissioner Doug Shulman.

But the “GAO ultimately concluded that the implementation was workable and on track,” countered Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif. “No major program has launched without a few hiccups,” she said, adding that CMS has contingency safeguards and “long experience with complicated health systems.” Speier praised the “dedicated federal and state government employees who are implanting the law of the land” and said she wanted to “debunk the notion that to expand health care we have to sacrifice privacy.”

Speier did, however, express worry that the “federal data hub has a bull’s eye on it, and the potential for being hacked is great.”

CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner said her agency is “hard at work designing and testing a secure system, and I can assure you that by Oct. 1, the health insurance markets will be open for business. I can also assure all Americans that the information they supply will be protected to the highest standards.”

Tavenner sought to dispel “confusion,” declaring that no one implementing Obamacare will ask exchange applicants for their personal health information, and that no such information will be stored on the hub. “The hub is not a database that stores, it is a routing tool to put government databases on the same system” while eliminating the need for multiple agencies to design their own, she said. CMS has designed similar systems with privacy protections in implementing the Medicare Advantage program and state Medicaid programs.

Acting IRS Commission Danny Werfel said the tax agency’s design and testing of systems to share information on income eligibility for premium assistance tax credits “is on target to be ready by Oct. 1.” He cited interagency agreements on computer matching, training and the fact that IRS had decades of experience enforcing privacy guarantees under Section 6103 of the tax code. “We have a robust set of requirements that have been battle-tested over the years,” he added, promising strong monitoring and oversight.

Henry Chao, CMS’ deputy chief information officer, cited progress since the GAO report based on April data was prepared. He assured a skeptical Lankford that his team has been testing with states in waves since February and that the amount of time an applicant’s personal information would be stored or “cached” in the hub would be measured in minutes. The information, he said, includes names of people in a household, addresses, email addresses, phone number, Social Security numbers , race and ethnicity, veteran status and, where applicable, pregnancy status, but no information on disabilities. Protections against hacking are being tested by professional experts, he added.

John Dicken, director of health care at GAO, cautioned that the Oct. 1 deadline wasn’t assured., “Much progress had been made, but much remains to be done” in testing the hubs, he said.

Left unsatisfied was Rep. Pat Meehan, R-Pa., who warned that what might be the “biggest data system of personal information in the history of the U.S.” does not appear to have been vetted by the top specialists at the FBI and DHS or at private banks. “Are you ready? Who has access? Are they competent?” he asked the CMS witnesses, raising the specter of cyber theft of intellectual property from U.S. “innovators.” “The personal information of 20 million Americans is just as important” as trade secrets, he said, and “every sector says they are only as strong as their weakest link.” This hub “is an overwhelming task that at best carries an unacceptable price tag.”

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the committee chairman, criticized CMS for hiring Serco, a British-owned company, to help set up the exchanges, noting that the company recently was faulted for allowing exposure of thousands of internal Thrift Savings Plan records. “Where are the pilots for a company with no internal controls?” he asked.

Tavenner said Serco is a “highly skilled company with a proven track record, and won the contract in full and open competition.”

In a related drama, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, castigated Werfel, who has been on the job for a month and a half, for substituting himself as a witness when the committee had invited Sarah Hall Ingram, who plays a coordinating role in implementing the health care law but who also helped preside over the tax-exempt division unit in Cincinnati responsible for the controversial singling out of mainly tea-party groups.

“Who is the project manager for the ACA?” asked Jordan. Hall is “in D.C. just a few blocks from here,” he noted, brandishing a document showing that Hall recently briefed an IRS oversight board on the technical implementation of the federal data hub.

Werfel disagreed with the characterizations. “At IRS we balance out a lot of factors, two of which are accountability and technical expertise,” he said. “We received an invitation to the hearing, so I suggested a combination of me and the chief technology officer. There are multiple people in the IRS with the expertise.”

Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M., asked Werfel if he was concerned about the proposed 24 percent budget cut for IRS being considered Wednesday by the Appropriations Committee. “It’s extremely challenging generally, and all mission-critical activities will be severely impacted, from collecting revenue, to helping taxpayers navigate the code, to enforcement, to going after bad actors, to legislative mandates such as offshore tax evasion,” he said. Such cuts would be “extremely relevant across IRS and extremely relevant across the Affordable Care Act. The tax code doesn’t go away” with a budget cut, he said, noting cutbacks in customer service that are already underway. “In the end, it affects the taxpayer.”

DOD systems block feds from reading about NSA leaks

By Frank Konkel

Jul 18, 2013

Leaked National Security Agency documents on classified programs have garnered a lot of attention lately, but feds and contractors are not reading about them on any of the Department of Defense’s unclassified networks.

As it did in 2010 during the Wikileaks saga, DOD is using automated software to block web pages that could contain classified information, like the PowerPoint slides first published by The Guardian and Washington Post that depict the NSA’s PRISM program.
That DOD can filter and block content for its employees, service members and contractors has been public knowledge since at least 2010 when Wikileaks began revealing classified cables to the world. But media reports in late June initially claimed that some agencies within DOD were blocking access to specific websites of certain news outlets. Those were followed by more reports – including a story from The Guardian, which first broke the NSA story – that claimed only content from the Guardian website was being blocked.

DOD spokesman Damien Pickard, however, told FCW that such reports are inaccurate, and emphasized that all of DOD’s unclassified networks – millions of computers – are under the same preventative measures to mitigate unauthorized disclosures of classified information.

“The Department of Defense is not blocking any websites,” Pickart said. “We make every effort to balance the need to preserve information access with operational security; however there are strict policies and directives in place regarding protecting and handling classified information. Until declassified by appropriate officials, classified information – including material released through an unauthorized disclosure — must be treated accordingly by DOD personnel.”

DOD networks make use of software that scans sites for potential malware threats or content concerns through keyword and other filters. Any website flagged by the system that could contain classified information is blocked to users “so long as it remains classified,” Pickart said.

The measure is a department-wide directive. While the automated filters are not entirely failsafe, they mostly do what they are designed to do: Keep feds from viewing classified information before it is officially declassified, even if widely reported in the media. It is not clear, though, whether employees found intentionally accessing classified information on DOD’s unclassified networks would face consequences, or what those consequences would be.

Pickart said it is costly when classified information is accessed on unclassified DOD networks because policy dictates unclassified computers must be scrubbed of unauthorized or classified material. A single viewing of the PRISM images, for instance, could require an IT team response — and might even merit a computer’s entire hard drive being wiped.


New domain names bound for collisions: ‘Things are going to break’

Posted by William Jackson on Jul 12, 2013 at 12:38 PM

The Internet is on the brink of the largest expansion of generic Top Level Domains in its history, with as many as 1,000 new strings expected to be added over the next year, more than quadrupling the current gTLD space.

Some observers, including the operator of two of the Internet’s root zone servers, worry that this expansion of public domains could result in naming collisions with private internal network domains, disrupting those networks.

“We know things are going to break,” said Danny McPherson, chief security officer of Verisign, the company that runs the A and J root servers. Networks in the .gov domain could be affected, as well as those supporting emergency services such as public safety answering points for the nation’s 911 system. “It makes us uneasy,” McPherson said.

At risk is any enterprise with a network naming scheme using domain names for non-public resources that are the same as new domain name strings now being considered for approval on the Internet. There are 1,833 such names now being considered by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, and the approved new gTLDs could begin being delegated in the root system later this year.

The resulting collisions could cause some networks to become about as useless as the Washington Beltway on Friday afternoon.

The solution is to change those internal domain names to avoid naming collisions. But this can be a complex job for a large enterprise, and McPherson worries that many administrators are not aware of the issue. He believes the 12 root zone operators have a responsibility to monitor the global systems to identify potential collision situations and warn network operators in advance. But there is no zone-wide system to provide that visibility.

Top Level Domains are the suffixes on URLs that appear to the right of the final dot in the address, such as .gov and .com. There now are 317 of these, including country names such as .us and .uk. Name servers in the Domain Name System use authoritative lists maintained in the 13 root servers to associate URLs with an IP address to direct queries. The potential problem with the domain expansion is that requests for a network’s internal domains are routinely checked against the global DNS database as well as the local enterprise name database. If the domain name is not in the global database, it looks for it in the local database, and the query is directed to the proper server within the network.

But if that internal name is added to the Internet’s collection of domains, the internal request will be sent out to the Internet and the user will not be able to access resources on his own network.

How likely is this to happen? Take .home for instance. This is a default internal domain name used on millions of pieces of home networking equipment. McPherson said .home is one of the top five queries received by Verisign’s root servers. It also is one of the most coveted new gTLDs being considered, with 11 applicants. Other commonly used internal domain names being considered for the Internet include .inc, .corp, .cloud and .mail.

McPherson also is concerned that less commonly used names such as .med that might be used by hospitals and clinics for connecting with health care equipment could suddenly become unavailable internally if .med goes onto the Internet.

Ideally, if you are managing a network you would be warned by the root zone operators when they notice local domain queries from your network that would be likely to result in collisions. With no system in place for monitoring for this, however, the responsibility falls on network administrators to know their naming schemes, pay attention to ICANN’s new gTLD program,  and make sure they are not using new Internet domains internally.

Ohio pursuing drone test center with Indiana, as FAA tackles unmanned flight

The Plain Dealer

By Tom Breckenridge

on July 13, 2013 at 8:00 PM, updated July 13, 2013 at 8:01 PM

DAYTON, Ohio — Ohio and Indiana have teamed up to pursue a federal site for research into unmanned aircraft, popularly known as drones.

The Ohio Department of Transportation, which has its own, squirrel-sized drone, is leading Ohio’s share of the effort.

The two-state team is competing with applicants from several dozen states. The Federal Aviation Administration will oversee six test sites, where experts will help the FAA figure out how unmanned aircraft — ranging in size from jetliners to model airplanes — will one day mix with the nation’s air traffic.

Ohio and Indiana have pitched a research site in Springfield, near Dayton and the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Indiana has a bounty of restricted air space to test unmanned vehicles, officials said.

Ohio officials recently approved $70,000 for the proposed test site. The money, from an Ohio Department of Transportation aviation fund, allows the state to lease office space the next two years at the nonprofit Advanced Virtual Test Cell, Inc., known as AVETEC.

The FAA expects to name the six sites later this year. The agency wants a mix of geographies, populations, weather and air traffic.

Winning states could gain a foothold in unmanned aircraft, a fast-growing, multibillion dollar industry that will generate thousands of high-tech jobs.

“We think it would have a great economic benefit,” said Rob Nichols, spokesman for Gov. John Kasich. “It builds on existing aerospace strengths in the Dayton region. We think leveraging this (site) could be a real boon to the area and the state.”

A recent economic-impact report from advocates of unmanned aircraft estimates the industry will generate 100,000 jobs nationwide by 2025.

Ohio will see 1,400 jobs in the industry and another 1,300 in related employment by 2025, the report said. Those jobs will have a $265 million impact on the state’s economy, according to the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, based in Arlington, Va.

Ohio was not among the top 10 states that could see the most  benefit from the fledgling industry.

Right now, unmanned aircraft are mostly known for their war-time uses. The U.S. military frequently directs bomb-laden drones to al-Qaida targets in Afghanistan.

Drones are flying in U.S. airspace but under tight control.

Uses include disaster relief, fire fighting, search-and-rescue, law enforcement and border patrols, the FAA says.

ODOT uses a 2-foot-wide drone that carries a specialized camera for surveying land, said spokesman Steve Faulkner. ODOT has used the $15,000 device about 25 times for smaller projects, like bridge repairs and road resurfacing.

It replaces airplanes, Faulkner said.

“We can use this for much less cost, as opposed to fueling up an airplane,” Faulkner said.

ODOT selected the Springfield site from 15 around the Dayton area.

The AVETEC center affords about 2,000 square feet and room for 15 workers. The site meets federal and state specifications, including broadband connections with others in the aerospace industry; computers for modeling and simulations; and the ability to meet U.S. Defense Department requirements for top security.

Nichols, the Kasich spokesman, said AVETEC is already in use as part of a national challenge grant for unmanned vehicles, offered by the National Space and Aeronautics Administration.

A Dayton-area nonprofit, Development Projects, Inc., is overseeing competition for the NASA grant, which features a $500,000 prize for the development of technology that enables drones to sense and avoid other aircraft.

NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Brook Park is part of the aerospace portfolio that hopefully convinces the FAA to set up a test center in Ohio, said Mike Heil, president and chief executive officer of the Ohio Aerospace Institute, a trade group based near NASA Glenn.

NASA Glenn’s expertise in space communications is a boon to unmanned aircraft, Heil said. And Northeast Ohio has “lots of companies” that will benefit from the growing industry, Heil said.

With the development of drones comes concern about privacy and government surveillance. Along with crafting new regulations for unmanned flight, the FAA is developing a privacy policy that “emphasizes transparency, public engagement and compliance with existing law,” according to an FAA news release.

Nichols said the state is working with the law school at the University of Dayton to craft “very strict and cutting-edge privacy rules and requirements” for drone use in the state.


What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls

Rasmussen Reports

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Reactions to the George Zimmerman verdict highlight how wide the racial divide remains in America.

At week’s end, 44% of Americans agreed with the Florida jury’s finding Zimmerman not guilty in the shooting death of black teenager Trayvon Martin,  down from 48% earlier in the week.   Thirty-five percent (35%) disagreed, but that included 80% of black Americans.

The verdict was reached by an all-white jury of six women. Sixty-five percent (65%) of blacks do not think it is possible for an all-white jury to fairly decide a case involving the shooting death of a black man. Seventy percent (70%) of whites think it is possible.

Among those who agree with the jury verdict, most believe Zimmerman was innocent and acting in self-defense. However, nearly a third believe neither side was able to prove its case and that the jury verdict merely reflected the fact that Americans are innocent until proven guilty.

Overall, that means 35% think Zimmerman should have been found guilty, 29% believe he was innocent, 21% are not sure, and 13% agree with the jury verdict because neither side proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Just 32% of Americans now have a favorable opinion of Zimmerman, while 48% view him unfavorably.

Still, only 24% believe Zimmerman’s actions that led to Martin’s death were motivated primarily by racism. Just 21% believe the Hispanic neighborhood watch volunteer should now be charged with a hate crime by the U.S. Department of Justice.

But on virtually every question related to this case, there is a wide racial difference of opinion.

Currently, 32% of voters believe American society is generally unfair and discriminatory. That’s near the highest level ever recorded.

Just 30% say the country is heading in the right direction, and voters remain pessimistic about the nation’s future. Thirty-six percent (36%) think America’s best days are still to come, but 49% think those days have come and gone. This ties the highest level of pessimism in nearly a year.

Confidence in the nation’s safety against terrorism is at its lowest level in several years. Only 39% of voters believe the United States today is safer than it was before the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Confidence jumped to 51% after Osama bin Laden’s death in May 2011 and hadn’t fallen below 40% until now.

Fifty-nine percent (59%) of Americans continue to feel that Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should receive the death penalty if convicted. Fifty-three percent (53%) say it’s at least somewhat likely that he will receive the death penalty.

President Obama’s job approval ratings remain at levels seen throughout most of his first term, down from the bounce they experienced just after his reelection.  Positive assessments of his leadership have fallen to their lowest level in over a year of regular tracking. Forty-three percent (43%) of voters now consider the president a good or excellent leader.  Thirty-eight percent (38%) give him poor marks for leadership.

Just 45% hold a favorable opinion of the president’s national health care law. Voters continue to believe costs will go up and quality with suffer under the new law. Eighty percent (80%) think the law is likely to cost more than official estimates.

By a two-to-one margin, voters agree with the House’s decision this week to delay for one year the law’s requirement that every American buy or obtain health insurance.

Voters strongly disagree with the Obama administration’s decision to make it easier for low-income Americans to qualify for health insurance subsidies under the new health care law. Eighty-six percent (86%) think these individuals should be forced to prove they are eligible by documenting their income and their lack of access to insurance.

Forty-four percent (44%) of voters now rate the president’s handling of health care issues as good or excellent. That’s up from June’s low of 38% but more in line with regular surveying earlier this year. Forty-three percent (43%) rate the president poorly on health care.

Twenty-one percent (21%) believe the president’s new regulations on the coal industry will help the economy, but twice as many (41%) think those regulations will hurt the economy instead. Interestingly, voters now view the U.S. coal industry more favorably than the Environmental Protection Agency and are closely divided when asked if the Obama administration’s ultimate goal is to kill that industry.

 Most voters believe that all new EPA regulations should require congressional approval before going into effect. But then 60% think it is more important to preserve our constitutional system of checks and balances than it is for government to operate efficiently.

“Many in politics act as if the end result is creating a government that works,” Scott Rasmussen notes. “However, the real goal should be to create a society that works. A system of careful checks and balances may frustrate political activists from both parties, but it protects the American people from over-zealous politicians and the demagoguery of passing political fads.”

Senate Democrats threatened Republicans this week with changing long-standing Senate rules and effectively eliminating the minority’s filibuster power to delay certain nominations and votes, but the two sides reached a last-minute compromise. Forty-four percent (44%) favor the proposed elimination of the filibuster; 38% oppose it. The filibuster is not a constitutional protection.

For the third week in a row, Republicans hold a one-point lead over Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot. 

Consumer and investor confidence remains down from a month ago but is still near its highest levels in several years. 

In other surveys this week:

– Forty-three percent (43%) of Americans now think the spike in food stamp recipients is chiefly because government rules have made it easier to get food stamps. Fifty percent (50%) believe it is too easy to get food stamps in this country, a 10-point increase from December 2010.

– Most voters think it’s possible for the United States to achieve energy independence through shale oil development and government-funded programs to promote alternative energy sources. 

– Forty-four percent (44%) of voters favor a ban on abortion after 20 weeks. Forty-one percent (41%) oppose such a ban. Forty-eight percent (48%) favor a law that would require doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals before they can perform abortions.

– Fifty-nine percent (59%) of Americas believe government subsidies should be used to keep costs lower on student loan interest rates. But 81% think lowering tuition costs would do more to help college students than giving them easier access to student loans. Fifty-three percent (53%), in fact, believe the availability of student loans has actually helped increase the cost of college tuition.

– Three-out-of-four Americans still prefer a traditional book over an electronic book-reading device and continue to reads books that way. 

– Fifty-six percent (56%) say they rarely or never eat a meal from a fast food restaurant during a typical week. 


July 13 2013




Snowden affair clouds U.S. attempts to press China to curb cyber theft


Mon, Jul 8 2013

By Paul Eckert


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Revelations by former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden will make it harder for the United States to confront China at talks this week over the alleged cyber theft of trade secrets worth hundreds of billions of dollars each year.

Snowden’s disclosures of American electronic surveillance around the world give China an argument to counter U.S. complaints that it steals private intellectual property (IP) from U.S. companies and research centers.

Cyber security is at the center of high-level meetings between the two countries in Washington that will show whether a positive tone struck by President Barack Obama and new Chinese President Xi Jinping at a summit last month can translate into cooperation on difficult issues.

Top U.S. officials from Obama down have long tried to convince China to recognize a clear line between the kind of cyber espionage by spy agencies revealed by Snowden and the stealing of technology.

“This Snowden thing has muddied the waters in a terrible way,” said James McGregor, author of a book on China’s authoritarian capitalism and industrial policy.

“China would rather have the waters muddy, because they can say ‘You do it. We do it. What’s the big deal?’ and the cyber theft against companies will go on and on,” he said by telephone from China, where he is senior counselor for APCO Worldwide, a U.S. business consultancy.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said last week that U.S. officials will press China at the talks on cyber theft, a problem he described as “just different from other kinds of issues in the cyber area.

Many countries spy on each other, but U.S. officials say China is unique in the amount of state-sponsored IP theft it carries out as it tries to catch up with the United States in economic power and technological prowess.

Last week the U.S. Department of Justice charged Chinese wind turbine maker Sinovel Wind Group Co and two of its employees with stealing software source coding from U.S.-based AMSC in an alleged theft worth $800 million.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce hopes “to see a clear indication that China recognizes thefts of trade secrets, whether by cyber or other means, is stealing property and will bring the full force of its laws to curb this,” said Jeremie Waterman, the group’s senior director for Greater China.

Beijing regularly parries complaints about Chinese hacking into the computers of U.S. businesses by saying that China is itself a major victim of cyber espionage. Chinese officials have dismissed as unconvincing recent U.S. official and private-sector reports attributing large-scale hacking of American networks to China.

China’s official Xinhua news agency last month said the Snowden case showed the United States was “the biggest villain in our age” and a hypocrite for complaining about Chinese cyber attacks.


China’s stance appears to be bolstered by Snowden’s revelations of widespread surveillance by the National Security Agency and his assertion that the agency hacked into critical network infrastructure at universities in China and in Hong Kong.

Snowden first fled to Hong Kong before his leaks to newspapers became public last month, and has subsequently gone to Moscow. He is believed to be holed up in the transit area of the city’s Sheremetyevo International Airport and has been trying to find a country that would give him sanctuary.



Now in their fifth year, the annual U.S.-Chinese talks, known as the Strategic and Economic Dialogue, will cover topics from U.S. concerns about North Korea’s nuclear weapons and expanding U.S.-China military ties to climate change and access to Chinese financial markets.

China’s exchange-rate policy is on the agenda, although it has receded as a issue with the gradual strengthening of the yuan and a reduction of huge current account imbalances.

This year Secretary of State John Kerry and Lew host Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi and Vice Premier Wang Yang for the first S&ED session since China’s once-a-decade leadership change in March when Xi took over.

The meetings follow Obama’s summit last month with Xi in California, where the two men developed what aides called a productive relationship. Nevertheless, Obama demanded Chinese action to halt what he called “out of bounds” cyber spying.

Civilian and military officials from the two countries discussed international law and practices in cyberspace at low-level talks on Monday. Cyber security is due to come up at other meetings throughout the week that will also likely address U.S. accusations that Beijing gained access electronically to Pentagon weapons designs.

IP theft costs U.S. businesses $320 billion a year, equal to the annual worth of U.S. exports to Asia, authors of a recent report say.

A bipartisan group of high-ranking former U.S. officials known as the Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property said in a May report that China accounts for between 50 percent and 80 percent of IP theft suffered by U.S. firms.

Cyber theft of industrial designs, business strategies and trade secrets is only a portion of IP pilfering.

IP theft more commonly involves “planted employees, bribed employees, employees who were appealed to on the basis of nationalism and all the traditional means of espionage, often accompanied by cyber,” said Richard Ellings, president of the National Bureau of Asian Research think tank, who co-wrote the report.

The U.S. District Court in Manhattan charged three New York University researchers in May with conspiring to take bribes from Chinese medical and research outfits for details about NYU research into magnetic resonance imaging technology.

Arrests by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Homeland Security Department for IP infringements rose 159 percent and indictments increased 264 percent from 2009-13, according to a report released in June by the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator.

The Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property called for tough penalties including banking sanctions, bans on imports and blacklisting in U.S. financial markets.



Special Report: Cyber Priorities

Snowden Incident Returns Spotlight to Employee Danger


Defense News

Jul. 9, 2013 – 06:00AM |



WASHINGTON — Edward Snowden, the leaker currently stuck in Russia who disclosed a wide range of secrets about US government surveillance and spying, has changed the conversation about cybersecurity. Not because of the documents he released, but as a reminder of the vulnerability organizations have to the threat of insiders with access to large swathes of information and system components.

It’s a lesson that was the talk of the cyber community following the WikiLeaks disclosures through the alleged actions of Bradley Manning that faded as experts began to focus on the growing threat of foreign governments, particu­larly China. It is back in vogue because of the volume and sensitivity of information Snowden has made public.

Some of the fallout from the Manning case, such as the banning of thumb drives and other external media from sensitive systems, has been walked back in some instances in the name of practicality. One of the problems, as is the case with any security issue, is you can’t make a network truly safe from an insider.

“It’s akin almost to insider attacks in Afghanistan,” Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a late June speech. “Well, the answer is that you can’t prevent it. You can mitigate the risk, and what I’d like you to take away from this conversation about the incident with Snowden is you can’t stop someone from breaking the law 100 percent of the time. You just can’t stop that from happening.”

Dempsey did, however, suggest steps to reduce the threat of insiders to Defense Department networks, including cutting the number of people in positions like Snowden’s.

“I think systems administrators is the right place to begin to clean this up because they have such ubiquitous access, and that’s how he ended up doing what he did,” he said. “We really need to take advantage of thin client and cloud technology, to dramatically reduce the number of systems administrators that we have managing programs, which will make it both more effective and safer.”

That approach carries risk because fewer individuals will have access concentrated in their hands, said Jeff Moulton, director of information operations at Georgia Tech Research Institute.

“What they’ve done now is rather than mitigating the threat, they’ve increased the likelihood of a catastrophic impact from a threat,” he said. “It’s not going to help. It introduces other problems, like the broader access of the cloud.”

One idea suggested by several cyber experts, including Moulton, is to adopt nuclear launch security as a guide. When it comes to the use of nuclear weapons, two separate individuals have to provide authentication before a weapon can be used. Not only does this prevent accidents, but it guarantees that a second person will be monitoring the activity of the first.

In the cyber realm, this could be achieved by requiring two people to provide their security credentials before either could access certain kinds of documents or segments of the network control system.

“Is it time consuming? Perhaps,” Moulton said. “But what’s more time consuming, doing this or armchair quarterbacking?”

Still, there will always be a residual threat from insiders, which is why deterrence is key, said Ian Wallace, a visiting fellow with the Brookings Institution and a former official with the British Ministry of Defence.

“The insider threat will always exist, and it will be next to impossible to stop it completely,” Wallace said. “But there are also plenty of ways in which that can be deterred. Not the least of those is the traditional deterrent of getting caught and prosecuted, something which is even more likely with the emergence of companies doing big data analysis of behavior on their own systems.”

Wallace cautioned that all of this attention on the insider threat may be misguided. Statistically, insider attacks are exceedingly rare, even if the data that is lost or the risk to systems from a determined insider is significant.

“All of the evidence that I have heard from the best cybersecurity firms suggests that the main threat is still the remote threat, for three compelling reasons: the risk of being caught is much less, it is much more scalable, and at present it is still, sadly, relatively easy for a sophisticated and determined intruder to get into all but the best protected systems,” Wallace said.

In the hunt for solutions to the insider threat, one of the big questions is how to detect intent from an employee ahead of a problem. In much the same way that concerns have surfaced about what radicalized the Boston bombing suspects and whether it could have been detected earlier, experts are studying how to discover the intentions of insider threats sooner.

That can take the form of such mundane facts as the speed at which an employee types. Changes in the rate of typing can indicate mood, a tip that further inquiry might be needed.

But to gain that type of data, a certain degree of invasiveness is required, and some superficial profiling of behavior is employed.

That creates all kinds of legal and ethical questions but may be a necessity for large organizations with many people to monitor, Moulton said.

“You can’t monitor everybody all the time,” he said. “Look at what the casinos do. They profile, but that’s a really difficult word. Are we prepared to profile?”

Dempsey emphasized that some actions would be taken to improve the system, but he described a certain degree of risk acceptance.

“You can certainly increase the scrutiny in terms of their background investigations, you can reduce the number of them you get, there are different degrees of oversight in place,” he said. “But at some point, if somebody is going to break the law and commit an act of treason, I don’t know what he’ll eventually be charged with or espionage, they’re going to be able to do that.”



DOD building its own secure 4G wireless network

By Kathleen Hickey

Jul 03, 2013


The Defense Department expects to have its own secure 4G wireless network up and running by the middle of next year, hosting a variety of iPhones, iPads and Android devices.

The network is part of DOD’s four-year, $23 billion dollar investment in cybersecurity, which also calls for hiring an additional 4,000 people for its cyber workforce, establishing common standards and improving coordination in investing and managing cyber resources, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a recent speech given at the Brookings Institution.

Dempsey said he had a secure mobile phone that “would make both Batman and James Bond jealous.”

Dempsey also spoke about creating a federal app store using off-the-shelf technology to “allow any DOD user to write and share phone and tablet apps.” On June 28, the Defense Information Systems Agency announced it awarded Digital Management, Inc. a $16 million contract to build the DOD’s first enterprisewide mobile application store and mobile device management system.

The secure 4G network is part of the DOD’s Joint Information Environment initiative to consolidate its 15,000 networks into a cloud environment.

“The new Joint Information Environment will deepen collaboration across the services and mission areas. It will also be significantly more secure, helping ensure the integrity of our battle systems in the face of disruption,” said Dempsey.

A few news outlets, such as TechInvestorNews, speculated whether the network was a ploy by DOD to exclude itself from the National Security Agency’s surveillance program, since its calls would not go through Verizon or other commercial carriers from which NSA collects metadata.

But the network could also just be a sign of DOD recognizing the growing importance of mobile computing. The military has long had its own non-classified and classified IP networks — NIPRnet and SIPRnet. As it uses more smart phones and tablets, that approach to security is extending to mobile.

Since Dempsey was appointed chairman in 2011, critical infrastructure attacks have increased 17-fold, he said at Brookings, although he did not specify the exact number of attacks, nor how many occurred prior to his taking office.

“Cyber has escalated from an issue of moderate concern to one of the most serious threats to our national security,” he said. And in addition to military systems, securing civilian infrastructure and businesses, such as those in the banking, chemical, electrical, water and transport sectors, is vitally important.

“Although we have made significant progress embracing cyber within the military, our nation’s effort to protect civilian critical infrastructure is lagging,” Dempsey said. “Too few companies have invested adequately in cybersecurity.”

“One of the most important ways we can strengthen cybersecurity across the private sector is by sharing threat information. Right now, threat information primarily runs in one direction — from the government to operators of critical infrastructure. Very little information flows back to the government,” he said. “This must change. We can’t stop an attack we can’t see.”


Commentary: Can Driverless Cars Save the Postal Service?

By Samra Kasim and Matt Caccavale

July 5, 2013

Ding! That sound could soon be the USPS app alerting you to an imminent delivery, after which a driverless Postal Service vehicle arrives at your door and a robotic arm delivers your package.

While this may sound like science fiction, driverless vehicles will be coming to streets near you sooner than you may think. Sixteen states already have introduced driverless vehicle legislation and California, Nevada, Florida, and the District of Columbia have enacted laws allowing driverless vehicles on their roads. Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google and a driverless vehicle advocate, forecasts fully autonomous vehicles will be available for sale in five years.

Driverless vehicles have the potential to transform many enterprises focused on transporting goods. The Postal Service’s fleet of 215,000 vehicles traveled over 1.3 billion miles in 2012, roughly equivalent to circumnavigating the globe 172 times every business day. Driverless vehicles could reduce operating costs through increased safety, fuel efficiency, and new business models. After posting a quarterly loss of $1.9 billion in May, it’s time for USPS to explore reinvention.

Think about what a day in the life of a USPS driverless vehicle might look like:

12:18 a.m. The latest software package with updated mapping information and the day’s optimized delivery route is downloaded directly from fleet headquarters.

12:30 a.m. The vehicle begins delivery on its suburban route — the pre-determined optimal time for mail delivery on that particular day.

5:00 a.m. A local bakery’s two-hour reservation through USPS’s CloudCar program begins and the vehicle delivers bread to grocers around town. Since the bakery owner no longer has to maintain his own fleet of delivery trucks, he can hire two more bakers and double production.  

7:22 a.m. The vehicle stops at a full service gas station, refuels and reports a maintenance diagnostic assessment to fleet headquarters, allowing USPS to forecast maintenance requirements and plan accordingly.

11:13 a.m. After completing initial deliveries, the car is identified as available. Just then, a business executive pulls up the USPS mobile app on her phone, checks-in at her current location and orders a rush delivery of a time sensitive document.

3:15 p.m. While en route, the car’s sensors detect a large pothole, triggering an automatic report to the local transportation department with geotagged images of the hazard.

4:18 p.m. A businessman suddenly remembers that today is his anniversary. He places an order at a local florist, who has an urgent delivery contract with USPS’s new dynamic pricing system. The vehicle stops at the florist and is then routed to the spouse’s residence.

7:14 p.m. After completing its custom delivery orders and returning to the USPS regional warehouse, the vehicle sends its daily diagnostic report to fleet headquarters, and begins the next round of deliveries.

While this is only a thought experiment, the potential for new operating models and cost savings is very real.

Removing the driver from a vehicle enables it to be used around-the-clock. Routes could be designed around optimal traffic patterns and delivery needs. Driverless vehicles also could be used as a shared service with other businesses and government agencies leasing time when the vehicles are available, similar to the Uber Taxi model. With its significant vehicle fleet and 42,000 ZIP code reach, the Postal Service is well positioned to pilot new service models. It could, for instance, coordinate with auto manufacturers and the State of California to test the readiness of its highways for driverless cars.

Driverless vehicles also have the potential to reduce vehicle operating costs. In 2012, Google reported that after driving 300,000 miles, its driverless cars were not involved in any accidents. Computer control of cars mitigates against human error, such as fatigue or distraction, leading to greater safety. Vehicle accidents and wear-and-tear create significant operating costs for large enterprises like USPS. In FY 2011 alone, USPS had over 20,000 motor vehicles accidents. According to OSHA, the average vehicle crash costs an employer $16,500. The average cost skyrockets to $74,000 when an employee has an on-the-job crash resulting in injury. With fewer vehicle-related accidents, USPS could see substantial cost savings.

As gas prices continue to climb, fuel is another major cost for large fleet operators. The Postal Service spent nearly $500 million in 2011 and required $614 million in maintenance. With an average vehicle age of 16 years, fuel and maintenance costs will continue to climb. A Columbia University study identified that “cars simply managing their own speed would increase efficiency by an appreciable 43 percent.”  Further, the study estimated that once there are more driverless vehicles on the road that are able to platoon with each other, energy savings may jump to 273 percent.

Federal agencies have long promoted innovative technologies, from GPS to the Internet. As the largest purchaser of goods and services and operator of the largest vehicle fleet in the world, the federal government and USPS have the potential to usher in the driverless car revolution.


Sources: DoD Considers 3 Options for JIEDDO

Defense News

Jul. 6, 2013 – 06:00AM |


WASHINGTON — Senior US defense officials are preparing to determine the future of a powerful, high-profile Pentagon organization that has spent nearly a decade developing equipment, tactics and training to defeat roadside bombs.

Last month, House lawmakers included a provision in their version of the 2014 defense authorization bill that requires the Defense Department to provide a report on the future of the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO).

At a time when the Pentagon is facing hundreds of billions of dollars in spending cuts over the next decade, senior military leadership is said to be considering three options for restructuring JIEDDO: eliminate the organization; break up its duties among the military services through a process called disaggregation; or restructure JIEDDO into a smaller office within the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD).

In March 2011, then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates called for the elimination of the JIEDDO director billet, a position held by four different three-star generals since 2008. The elimination would be “based upon deployment of forces and IED threat,” Gates wrote in a memo at the time.

But supporters of JIEDDO said the counter-IED mission must be preserved through the Quadrennial Defense Review, which lays out future US military strategy and is due to Congress early next year. These supporters point to recent intelligence assessments that say terrorist networks will continue to use IEDs against the United States and its allies.

“We have to realize that the IED is part of our operational environment now,” said retired Army Command Sgt. Maj.Todd Burnett, a former senior enlisted adviser to JIEDDO.

A May Center for Naval Analyses assessment of the “post-Afghanistan IED threat” found the IED will likely persist in the coming years.

With that in mind, JIEDDO supporters argue that the third option — creating a smaller office within OSD — would be best.

“DoD needs a small, scalable, agile, OSD-level organization with special authorities, ramp-up ability and flexible funding to implement and synchronize … enduring counter-IED capabilities,” a defense official said.

Since its birth in 2006, JIEDDO has spent about $20 billion, according to budget documents. Spending peaked near $4 billion in 2008, around the time of the surge in Iraq. Since then, spending has declined to about $2 billion. A scaled-down counter-IED organization would likely cost about one-fourth of that, a defense official said.

Officials close to JIEDDO said the office has already cut costs, and they point to the cancellation this year of a number of underperforming programs.

These cancellations have allowed the office to reinvest more than $289 million in training and to purchase reconnaissance robots and bomb-detection equipment. The JIEDDO office is expected to cut 22 percent of its staff by September, a reduction expected to save $163 million.

The majority of the money spent by JIEDDO has gone toward what it calls defeating the device, or purchasing systems and equipment to detect or protect soldiers from IEDs. This includes purchases of robots, electronic jammers, vehicles and even aerostats.

The equipment includes both US and foreign-made systems, such as more than 800 British-built Self-Protection Adaptive Roller Kits, giant rollers that can be mounted on vehicles to detect roadside bombs

The rest of the funding has gone toward intelligence used to go after IED networks and training equipment.


The Options on the Table

In January, the Joint Requirements Oversight Council, a panel that vets military requirements, said the Pentagon must maintain counter-IED capabilities, including the ability to identify threat networks that employ or facilitate IEDs, detect bombs and components, prevent or neutralize bombs, mitigate explosive device efforts, distribute bomb-related data across the the community of interest and train personnel in counter-IED capabilities.

Since then, three options have emerged as likely courses of action, sources say.

The first — eliminating JIEDDO and its mission — is not likely, a defense official said. The two more likely courses of action are scaling down the existing organization or delegating the training and equipping mission to the services through disaggregation.

If the disaggregation option is chosen, many of JIEDDO’s components could be split among the services, with acquisition authority most likely going to the Army, the official said.

JIEDDO reports to OSD and has special acquisition authority, allowing decisions and purchases to move quicker.

Through disaggregation, each of the services would likely be responsible for its own training, which supporters of JIEDDO said means different methods and equipment might be used.

Also unclear is how the intelligence apparatus within the organization would be restructured.

The other option is consolidating JIEDDO into a smaller OSD-level organization. An organization under this framework would be best equipped to rapidly procure counter-IED equipment, officials said. Special acquisition authority used by JIEDDO could be applied to this organization, allowing it to field equipment, quicker.

JIEDDO’s goal is to field what it calls capabilities in four to 24 months. After that time frame, the initiatives typically become official programs of record or terminated.

A review of 132 initiatives deployed showed that 93 — with a total price tag of $5.9 billion — were proved “operationally effective.” An additional 18, costing $900 million, were “operationally effective with some limitations in capability.” An additional 21 — totaling $400 million — were “not operationally proven,” or lacked evaluation information.

A key aspect of JIEDDO likely to be retained in a consolidated organization is the Counter-IED Operations/Intelligence Center (COIC). The center provides operational intelligence and analysis on threat networks to commanders in the field by fusing more than six dozen data sources.

The COIC also regularly interacts with more than two dozen US government intelligence agencies and international partners, including Canada, the UK, Australia and NATO.


An International Problem

IEDs are seen as a threat globally, not just in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. Since January 2011, more than 17,000 IED “events” have occurred in 123 countries, according to David Small, a JIEDDO spokesman. Outside Afghanistan, there are an average of 700 IED events each month.

Between December 2012 and May, Iraq experienced 3,352 incidents, the most of any country other than Afghanistan. Colombia experienced 1,005 during that period, with Pakistan third at 883. Syria, which has been in the midst of a civil war, has experienced 382 IED incidents.

In May, JIEDDO signed an agreement with Pakistan to minimize the IED threat. The arrangement allows sharing of information, including tactics, finding of IED incidents, lessons learned, information about IED financiers and information about the flow of IED materials.

Joe Gould contributed to this report.



Activity-Based Intelligence Uses Metadata to Map Adversary Networks

Defense News

Jul. 8, 2013 – 02:59PM |

By Gabriel Miller     


Few outside the intelligence community had heard of activity-based intelligence until December, when the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency awarded BAE Systems $60 million to develop products based on this newish methodology. But ABI, which focuses not on specific targets but on events, movements and transactions in a given area, is rapidly emerging as a powerful tool for understanding adversary networks and solving quandaries presented by asymmetrical warfare and big data.

Indeed, ABI is the type of intelligence tool that could be applied to the vast wash of metadata and internet transactions gathered by the NSA programs that were disclosed in June by a whistle-blower.

In May, the U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation’s Activity-Based Intelligence Working Group hosted a top-secret forum on ABI that drew representatives from the “big five” U.S. intelligence agencies.

At the SPIE 2013 Defense, Security + Sensing Symposium on May 1, NGA Director Letitia Long said the agency is using ABI to “identify patterns, trends, networks and relationships hidden within large data collections from multiple sources: full-motion video, multispectral imagery, infrared, radar, foundation data, as well as SIGINT, HUMINT and MASINT information.”

The technique appears to have emerged when special operators in Iraq and Afghanistan reached back to NGA analysts for help plugging gaps in tactical intelligence with information from national-level agencies. These analysts began compiling information from other intelligence disciplines — everything from signals intelligence and human intelligence to open sources and political reporting — and geotagging it all. The resulting database could be queried with new information and used to connect locations and establish a network.

This experience led to a series of seminal white papers published in 2010 and 2011 by the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence. The papers call ABI “a discipline of intelligence where the analysis and subsequent collection is focused on the activity and transactions associated with an entity, population, or area of interest.”

This focus on interactions is the fundamental difference between ABI and previous efforts to integrate different types of intelligence, which were often confined to a single agency and aimed at a specific target.

“When we are target-based, we focus on collecting the target and, too often, we are biased toward what we know and not looking for the unknown,” NGA’s Dave Gauthier said last year at GEOINT 2012. Gauthier, who handles strategic capabilities in the agency’s Office of Special Programs, called ABI “a rich new data source for observing the world and the connectedness between objects and entities in the world.”

ABI attempts to meet two challenges with traditional intelligence-gathering. First, there are no clear signatures for and no doctrine governing the activities of nonstate actors and insurgents who have emerged as the most important threats to U.S. national security. Second, the volume of big data has become “staggering,” in Gauthier’s words. Take, for example, the recent bombing in Boston: There was a massive amount of surveillance imagery available, but analysts initially had no idea whom they were looking for, and moreover, the suspects turned out to look little different from thousands of other spectators on hand.


“ABI came out of the realization that the scheduled, targeted, one-thing-at-a-time, stove-piped analysis and collection paradigm was not relevant to non-nation-state and emergent threats,” said Patrick Biltgen, a senior engineer in the intelligence and security sector at BAE Systems. “We are breaking this one-thing-after-another paradigm because information is flowing … all the time and we don’t know what to do with it because if you’ve stopped to try and collect it, you’ve missed everything else that’s coming.”



Though the USD(I) white papers call ABI a new discipline, many prefer to think of it more as a methodology with several components.

The first is the constant collection of data on activities in a given area, then storing it in a database for later metadata searches. The NGA’s Long recently said the agency is working to create a “model that allows us to ‘georeference’ all of the data we collect persistently — over a long period of time,” one that allows “analysts to identify and evaluate data down to the smallest available object or entity.”

The second is the concept of “sequence neutrality,” also called “integration before analysis.”

“We collect stuff without knowing whether it’s going to be relevant or not. We may find the answer before we know the question,” said Gregory Treverton, who directs the Rand Center for Global Risk and Security. “It’s also not so driven by collection; the collection is just going to be there.”

The third is data neutrality — the idea that open-source information may be just as valuable as HUMINT or classified intelligence.

“Humans, unlike other entities, are inherently self-documenting. Simply being born or going to school, being employed, or traveling creates a vast amount of potentially useful data about an individual,” the white papers say. This tendency has exploded on the Internet, “where individuals and groups willingly provide volumes of data about themselves in real time — Twitter and social network forums like Facebook and LinkedIn are only a few examples of the massive amounts of unclassified data that is routinely indexed and discoverable.”

Finally, there is knowledge management, which covers everything from the technical architecture that makes integrated intelligence and information-sharing possible to the metadata tagging that allows analysts to discover data that may be important, but not linked spatially or temporally.



ABI products take the form of customizable Web-based interfaces that allow analysts to locate associations among data sets using metadata.

“You could call them Web services, apps, widgets, but they help analysts sift through large volumes of data,” said BAE Systems’ Biltgen.

These do not compete with giant systems like the armed services’ Distributed Common Ground Systems, end-to-end databases that connect thousands of users with intelligence information. Rather, they are generally designed to plug into DCGS, then help smaller working groups deal with specific problems.

“Really, what we’re doing is working with the metadata — the dots and the indexes and extracted ‘ABI things’ — to get those on the screen, whereas the large systems really manage streams of imagery for exploration,” Biltgen said. “We go, ‘Let’s take clip marks and the tags that come from exploited video streams and look at all of them at the same time without ever having to touch a frame of video.’ “

He said the goal is to “precondition the data and make it easier for the analyst to correlate them, apply their cultural awareness and knowledge to them, and really put the thought muscle on the data after it’s been well conditioned.”

So what does ABI actually produce? One common format is activity layer plots. An analyst might, for example, place all available intelligence about an explosion of an improvised explosive device atop information about a kidnapping in the same area, then lay in data about the local bus line, the fruit market at the corner, or the local timber-smuggling operation.Once displayed, the information may overlap or intersect in interesting ways.

To date, ABI has primarily been used in the kinds of operations that have defined Iraq and Afghanistan: manhunting and uncovering insurgent networks. But because ABI is more a methodology than a discipline, and because the products that enable ABI are customizable, the intelligence community sees ABI applied to a broad range of problems.

“The immediate question is, can we expand it beyond counterterrorism and manhunting and the fight against terror?” Treverton said.

He suggested applications such as maritime domain awareness, in which signatures exist for Chinese frigates but not junks.

ABI can theoretically be brought to bear on any problem that might be aided by a “pattern of life” analysis, a prominent phrase in the white papers. In finance, for example, ABI might identify patterns left by a particular kind of criminal.

“You could use this in the insurance industry to try and understand the patterns of life of individuals that steal things from you and make false claims. We do some of that work today,” Biltgen said.

While ABI can help anticipate patterns, advocates don’t claim it can predict future behavior.

“I wouldn’t call it predictive,” Treverton said. “I wouldn’t call anything predictive. That’s asking way too much.”

Still, it may help officials anticipate threats by building a deep understanding of the networks that give rise to specific incidents.



Two things could hinder ABI — one technical, one cultural.

It sounds relatively uncomplicated to develop a visual network, say, by tracing all of the tire tracks captured by wide-area motion video in a given area over a period of time. Origins and destinations become nodes, and hundreds or even thousands of tire tracks describe a network from which analysts can extract meaning. But the devil is in the details. For example, it is difficult to define a “vehicle stop” in an algorithm, much less assign meaning to it. Does a “stop” last five seconds or one minute?

“It sounds easy, until you touch the data. You realize that every proposition in that value chain has hidden complexity,” said Gary Condon, an intelligence expert at MIT’s Lincoln Lab, at GEOINT 2012.

The second set of issues are cultural. Even in the post-9/11 era, legal boundaries and security clearances can prevent the kind of data-sharing that makes ABI work. The quantity of publicly available information swells by the day, but the intelligence community still often prizes classified over open-source information. And just as complex: Some of that open-source intelligence raises privacy concerns when U.S. persons are involved.

That’s been at the heart of the outcry over the NSA’s Prism program and phone-record collection.

Still, top-level intelligence officials see ABI as a valuable new tool. Several senior officials from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence remarked on its growing importance at the U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation forum in early May.
“The defense and intelligence worlds have undergone, and are still undergoing, a radical transformation since the events of 9/11. The Department of Defense and the Director of National Intelligence have made information sharing and efficiency priorities,” the spokesman said. “This will increase collaboration and coordination, which will have a multiplying effect on approaches such as ABI.”



Analysis: Policies and Opportunities That Will Shape Cybersecurity Spending

Special to Homeland Security Today

By: Stephanie Sullivan, immixGroup Inc.

07/08/2013 (11:16am)

Editor’s Note: Homeland Security Today has partnered with immixGroup Inc. to bring you exclusive market insight and analysis.

In this installment, Stephanie Sullivan, Market Intelligence Consultant, offers a look at the major White House and Congressional efforts impacting cybersecurity programs throughout the federal government, as well as some of the main contracting opportunities on the cyber horizon.


As cyber threats continue to dominate the headlines, it is important for the innovators in the government security market to understand how the legislative and executive branches are tackling cybersecurity and the potential ramifications of these efforts for industry.  

FY14 Legislation Impacts on Cyber

These are some of the several legislative directives that could impact the commercial-of-the-shelf (COTS) vendor community in FY14, and aim to encourage the adoption of cybersecurity best practices on a voluntary basis. The underlying motivation of these directives is to spur industry and government collaboration on information sharing and defending networks.

The framework proposes to allow intelligence gathering on cyber-attacks and cyber threats, as well as address network security gaps in critical components of U.S. infrastructure, including banking, utility, and transportation networks.

NIST in collaboration with GSA, DOD, and DHS released a Request for Information (RFI) last February in order to gather feedback from industry and relevant stakeholders regarding the development of the framework, and has been holding a series of workshops to identify priority elements the framework must address.

An initial draft of the framework was publicly released on July 1st with revisions expected to be made following the 3rd Cybersecurity Framework Workshop being held on July 10-12th in San Diego, and will be expanded and refined leading into the fourth workshop anticipated to be held in September. Additional framework milestones include the release of the preliminary version due in October; with a final version expected in February 2014.

Keep an eye on this – participating in stakeholder engagements and familiarizing yourself with the draft guidelines will be critical to all COTS vendors, because you need to understand how your products and solutions can enhance the framework and meet these ‘voluntary’ but critical security needs. After all, the end goal of these working groups will be to eventually bake cybersecurity standards into federal acquisitions to ensure cyber protection.

  • The Presidential Policy Directive – 21 or PPD 21 on Critical Infrastructure and Security Resilience is serving as a replacement and update to 2003 Homeland Security PPD – 7, and was also issued on February 12, 2013 as a complement to the Cybersecurity Executive Order.  PPD – 21 defines what critical infrastructure is and encourages the Federal Government to strengthen the security and resilience of its own critical infrastructure, which is outlined in the directives three strategic goals. It also defines sector-specific agencies (SSAs) for critical infrastructure segments, and mandates information sharing and cooperation between the SSAs, state & local organizations, and international partners.  

The new policy establishes “national critical infrastructure centers” in the physical and cyber space designed to promote information sharing and collaboration, as well as ordering the State Department to work with DHS on issues of international interdependencies and multi-national ownership, and growing concerns of the global economy. However, some speculate that not enough has changed from the former Presidential Directive to be truly noteworthy.

  • The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) is a bill designed to encourage voluntary information sharing between private companies and the government in order to gain information surrounding incoming cyber threats. In a perfect scenario a private company, like an Amazon or Google, would identify unusual network activity that may suggest a cyber attack and alert the government, or if the government detected a threat to a private business network they would share their findings.

The bill was originally introduced into Congress last year, but privacy concerns proved to be a major roadblock, and the bill didn’t make it to the Senate floor. The bill could meet the same fate this year, even after it was passed by the House of Representatives on April 18, 2013. The NSA PRISM program has halted any movement regarding cybersecurity legislation until at least September, if not further down the road due to increased scrutiny of private information sharing.

One of the provisions of note calls for mandatory reporting requirements by defense contractors when there has been a successful cyber penetration. Additionally, the NDAA also calls for improved monitoring and alert technologies to detect and identify cybersecurity threats from both external sources and insider threats. The NDAA also contains a provision aimed at addressing longstanding concerns over elements of the Pentagon’s supply chain. The NDAA hints that statutory requirements to address this problem may be down the road. DOD is encouraged to cooperate with industry.   

FY14 Federal IT Sales Opportunities in Cyber

The federal government plans to spend about $13 billion in FY14. This reflects the fact that cybersecurity continues to be a strategic concern for federal agencies. Just as important, cybersecurity will benefit from bipartisan reluctance to curb spending in this high profile area. Fiscal constraints do exist, however, and agencies will have to be circumspect in how they earmark money. The following are a small selection of programs with significant cybersecurity requirements and large allocations for new starts. It is important to understand which programs have funding and map your solutions to these programs.

FY14 Opportunities: Civilian

Funded cybersecurity opportunities within the civilian arena can be found in almost every Executive Branch agency. Below are the top three civilian programs by Development, Modernization and Enhancement (DME) funding – money used to buy new products.

  • Department of Homeland Security (DHS) National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) – The Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation (CDM) program is the agency’s largest cybersecurity investment dedicated to continuous monitoring, diagnosis, and mitigation activities to strengthen the security posture across federal .gov domain. This investment will assist DHS in overseeing the procurement, operations and maintenance of sensors and dashboards deployed to federal agencies.
    • FY14 DME IT spend for CDM is $121.4 million
  • Department of Commerce (United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)) – Network and Security Infrastructure investment describes the IT operations and services provided to the USPTO and external customers by the OCIO Enhancements and upgrades of this IT infrastructure will include firewall enhancements, antivirus software, network security, data protection and compliance too.
    • FY14 DME IT spend for NSI is $89.5 million
  • DHS (NPPD) – The National Cyber Security Division, through its National Cybersecurity Protection System (NCPS), which is operationally known as ‘Einstein’, protects the Federal civilian departments and agencies IT infrastructure from cyber threats. Potential FY14 requirements for this program could include: intrusion prevention, intrusion detection, and advanced cyber analytics.
    • FY14 DME IT spend for NCPS is $72 million

FY14 Opportunities: Defense

Generally speaking, cybersecurity opportunities within the Department of Defense can be found within major network and infrastructure programs. Below are the top three defense programs by Development, Modernization and Enhancement (DME) funding – money used to buy new products.

  • Warfighter Information Network Tactical System Increment (WIN-T): High speed, high capacity tactical communications network serving as the Army’s cornerstone tactical communications system through 2027. Developed as a secure network for video, data, and imagery linking mobile warfighters in the field with the Global Information Grid. Potential FY14 procurements include firewall enhancements, intrusion protection and detection, continuous monitoring, and encryption.
    • FY14 DME IT spend for WIN-T is $815.4 million
  • Next Generation Enterprise Network (NGEN): An enterprise network which will replace the largest intranet in the world, the Navy Marine Corps Intranet, providing secure, net-centric data and services to Navy and Marine Corps personnel. NGEN forms the foundation for the Department of Navy’s future Naval Network Environment. HP was recently awarded the contract potentially worth up to $3.5 billion. The entire gamut of information assurance requirements are at play here, specifically due to the high reliance on cloud technology that NGEN will require.
    • FY14 DME IT spend for NGEN is $195.05 million
  • Consolidated Afloat Networks Enterprise Services (CANES):  Consolidates the Navy’s multiple afloat networks into one network. CANES replaces these existing networks with new infrastructure for applications, systems, and services and will improve interoperability along the way. The RFP is currently out with an award expected this winter.
    • FY14 DME IT spend for CANES is $195.1 million


About immixGroup Inc.

Founded in 1997, immixGroup® is a fast-growing company and a recognized leader in the public sector technology marketplace. immixGroup delivers a unique combination of services for software and hardware manufacturers, their channel partners, and government agencies at the federal, state, and local levels. immixGroup is headquartered in McLean, Virginia, close to Washington, DC and near the epicenter of the government IT community.



Darpa Refocuses Hypersonics Research On Tactical Missions

By Graham Warwick

Source: Aviation Week & Space Technology

July 08, 2013


For the Pentagon’s advanced research agency, blazing a trail in hypersonics has proved problematic. Now a decade-long program to demonstrate technology for prompt global strike is being wound down, with some hard lessons learned but no flight-test successes.

In its place, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) plans to switch its focus to shorter, tactical ranges and launch a hypersonics “initiative” to include flight demonstrations of an air-breathing cruise missile and unpowered boost-glide weapon. If approved, the demos could be conducted jointly with the U.S. Air Force, which is eager to follow the success of its X-51A scramjet demonstrator with a high-speed strike weapon program.

Darpa’s original plan for its Integrated Hypersonics (IH) project was to begin with a third attempt to fly the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works-designed HTV-2 unmanned hypersonic glider, after the first two launches in 2010 and 2011 failed just minutes into their Mach 20 flights across the Pacific. This was to be followed by a more capable Hypersonic X-plane that would have pushed performance even further.

The original plan drew sharp criticism from Boeing executives, who viewed the proposed program as a thinly veiled excuse to fund a third flight of Lockheed’s dart-like HTV-2, which they consider unflyable. In laying out its revised program plan, Darpa makes no mention of any political lobbying against the HTV-2, but acknowledges a third flight would not make best use of its resources for hypersonic research.

Instead, as the Pentagon refocuses on China as a threat, Darpa is looking to work with the Air Force to demonstrate hypersonic weapons able to penetrate integrated air defenses and survive to strike targets swiftly, from a safe distance. Air-breathing and boost-glide weapons present challenges different to each other and to HTV-2, but the agency believes the lessons learned so far will prove valuable.

Key take-aways from HTV-2, says Darpa program manager Peter Erbland, include that the U.S. “has got kind of lean” in hypersonics competency as investment has declined from the heady days of the X-30 National Aero-Space Plane, and that “we have to be careful assuming our existing design paradigms are adequate” when developing a new class of hypersonic vehicles.

The HTV-2 sprung some surprises on its two failed flights, first with aerodynamics then with hot structures. Working out what happened “required us to mine all the competency in hypersonics that we have,” he says, and took a team assembled from government, the services, NASA, the Missile Defense Agency, industry and academia.

Erbland says the decision not to fly a third HTV-2 was influenced by “the substantial knowledge gained from the first two flights in the areas of greatest technical risk: the first flight in aerodynamics and flight performance; the second in the high-temperature load-bearing aeroshell.” Another factor was the technical value of a third flight relative to its cost. A third was the value of investing resources in HTV-2 versus other hypersonic demonstrations. “We’ve learned a lot; what is the value of other flights?” he asks.

While the Air Force Research Laboratory had two successes in four flights of the Mach 5, scramjet-powered Boeing X-51A, Darpa’s two HTV-2 flops followed three failures of the Mach 6, ramjet-powered Boeing HyFly missile demonstrator. But as is often the case in engineering, more is learned from failure than from success, and investigation of the HTV-2 incidents will result in more robust hypersonic design tools that increase the likelihood of future success, Erbland argues.

To ensure all lessons are absorbed, work on the HTV-2 will continue to early next summer “to capture technology lessons from the second flight, and improve design tools and methods for high-temperature composite aeroshells,” he says. Information from the post-flight investigation will be combined with additional ground testing to improve the models used to design load-bearing thermal structures—”how they heat up, the material properties, their uncertainties and variables, and how we use modeling and simulation to predict thermal stresses and responses.”

HTV-2 was intended to glide an extended distance at hypersonic speed—roughly 3,000 nm. in 20 min.—and required a slender vehicle with high lift-to-drag (L/D) ratio and a carbon-carbon structure to fly for a prolonged time at high temperatures. While Flight 1 in April 2010 failed when adverse yaw exceeded the vehicle’s control power, Flight 2 in August 2011 failed when the aeroshell began to degrade, causing aerodynamic upsets that ultimately triggered the flight-termination system.

“From the first flight it was clear our extrapolation of aero design methods was not adequate to predict behavior in flight,” says Erbland. “From the first to the second flights we redid the ground testing, and rebaselined the aero using new tools. On the second flight, the changes were completely effective, even in very adverse flight conditions.” But the modifications set up the HTV-2 for failure on the second flight.

“Changes to the trajectory made it a more severe aero-thermal environment than the first flight,” he says. “We have been able to reconstruct how it failed from the limited instrumentation, and the most probable cause is degradation of the structure. Thermal stresses led to failure.” While the vehicle retained its structural integrity, temperature gradients over small areas led to local material failures that caused the upsets.

“From the second flight, we learned a lesson on how to design refractory composites, to improve our understanding of how to model hot structures under thermal load,” says Erbland. “We learned a critical lesson about variability and uncertainty in material properties. That is why we are taking time to fund the remediation of our models to account for material and aero-thermal variability.”

HTV-2 is all that remains of the once-ambitious Falcon program (for Force Application and Launch from the Continental U.S.), started in 2003 with the goal of demonstrating technology for prompt global strike. Falcon had two elements, a hypersonic cruise vehicle (HCV) and a small launch vehicle (SLV) needed to boost the cruiser into a hypersonic glide. The SLV effort helped fund Space Exploration Technologies’ Falcon 1 booster, but the HCV went through several changes.

The original HTV-1 hypersonic test vehicle was abandoned in 2006 when the sharp-edged carbon-carbon aeroshell proved impossible to manufacture. Darpa and Lockheed proceeded with the easier-to-produce HTV-2, but then departed from the original unpowered HCV concept to propose an HTV-3X testbed, with turbojet/scramjet combined-cycle propulsion. Congress refused to fund the vehicle, dubbed Blackswift, and it was cancelled in 2008, leaving two HTV-2s as the remnants of Falcon.

Now Darpa is seeking to reinvent its hypersonics focus by moving away from the global- to the tactical-range mission. But while an air-breathing weapon can draw directly on the X-51, boost-glide over a 600-nm range is a different vehicle to the HTV-2. “To get the performance we need to look at high L/D with robust controllability. Thermal management is a different problem to HTV-2. We need robust energy management. And affordability.”

Boost-glide challenges include packaging a weapon for air and surface launch. “The mass and volume constraints are different. We had a very high fineness ratio for global strike; we will have to be very innovative to get high L/D without a high fineness ratio,” says Erbland. On the other hand, “trajectory insertion velocities are lower, and the booster problem could be more tractable. The problem with global range is that orbital launch systems with the energy needed are not designed to put a vehicle on an ideal start of glide, so we have to make them fly in ways they don’t want to,” he says.

But Darpa believes its HTV-2 experience will prove useful. “It provided critical technical knowledge to enable us to design a future boost-glide vehicle capable of prompt global strike. We made huge progress in understanding what we need to do in ground-test and flight-test to design the aerodynamics and hot structure,” Erbland says. “These are lessons we would not have learned without flight test, because of the limitations with ground test. We know going forward how to use modeling and simulation and ground test to give us more confidence that we can design a successful system.”


The State Of Broadband

Only by keeping pace with the latest in regulations, competition, and technology will companies rise above low-capacity, high-priced telecom networks.

By Jonathan Feldman, InformationWeek

July 10, 2013



We all remember the bad old days of having to load data into removable media in order to send it off to the data center. After all, it would have taken days to transmit the necessary data over slow telecom links.


Problem is, the bad old days aren’t over. Instead of shipping tapes to data centers, organizations now regularly ship entire hard drives to cloud providers. Despite tremendous advances in line speeds, it still can take a week or more to transmit very large data sets, even if your line speed is 10 Mbps. Of course, companies don’t regularly need to transfer terabytes of data over the internet, but the current level of sneakernet that’s necessary for the transfer of even a few hundred gigabytes seems a bit high for the 21st century.

The state of broadband matters to your organization. There’s been considerable consumer interest over the past several years, culminating in an FCC plan announced earlier this year to expand broadband coverage and speeds and promote competition. IT organizations can benefit by staying in touch with those regulatory issues, as well as taking advantage of new technology trends, such as wireless broadband, and partnering with alternative providers and municipal networks that buck the status quo. There are clearly risks in doing so, but taking no action almost guarantees that enterprise IT, with pockets of presence in rural and other nonurban areas, will continue to be held back by low-capacity, high-expense networks.

There are many reasons why the state of consumer broadband should matter to enterprise customers:


Problem With The Status Quo

In June, National Cable and Telecommunications Association CEO Kyle McSlarrow called America’s broadband deployment over the last 10 years “an unparalleled success story,” alluding to the rise of cable IP networks and faster and more extensive broadband in the consumer market. He’s right by some measures. Among the G7 countries, even though the U.S. is only No. 5 in broadband penetration (see chart on previous page), it’s been making headway. But when you look at average broadband prices worldwide, the U.S. doesn’t compare favorably–service in the United Kingdom, Sweden, France, Japan, Korea, Germany, and many other industrialized countries is cheaper, on average. And when you look at broadband subscribers per 100 inhabitants, the U.S. is ranked No. 22, slightly above the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development average but below the Scandinavian countries, Korea, Canada, France, the U.K., and others.

As with many things, where you stand depends upon where you sit. Tony Patti, CIO for S. Walter Packaging, a century-old manufacturing company in Philadelphia, says that even in the SOHO market, significant bandwidth is for sale relatively cheaply (see chart, below). “People always want more for less, but we’re at a remarkable and revolutionary time in the history of the convergence of computing and communications,” Patti says. But the two key questions are these: Are you in the provider’s service area; and if you are, does the actual speed match the advertised speed? In major markets, the answer is: probably. But talk to someone in smaller cities and rural America, and a different story emerges.

Kris Hoce, CEO of Pardee Hospital, a 200-bed facility in Hendersonville, N.C., says the hospital’s telecom lines are “stretched” today, and when the management team looks at tomorrow’s challenges, including telemedicine and telemetry, he gets even more concerned.

Until a second competitor, Morris Broadband, entered the market a year ago, the incumbent provider was Pardee’s only option. “You’ll take whatever capacity they give you, do it on their time schedule, and you’ll pay through the nose for it,” Hoce says. Since Morris Broadband’s entry, Pardee has realized a 10% to 15% reduction in telecom costs, though it can’t always get sufficient bandwidth, he says.


National Broadband Plan

The FCC’s 376-page National Broadband Plan, while a testament to the ability of federal bureaucracy to fill large amounts of paper, stands to benefit enterprise IT over the next few years in several areas, if the agency follows through.

First, the FCC says that it will be publishing market information on broadband pricing and competition. Will this be as useful as PriceWatch and eBay are in determining what you should pay? We’re not sure. But transparency itself should help: A market where all players know what everybody’s charging tends to be one where prices dip as low as possible.

Second, the FCC says it will make additional wireless spectrum available, and it will update its rules for backhaul spectrum. President Obama has thrown his weight behind this movement, directing the National Telecommunications and Information Administration–the folks behind the broadband stimulus–to help the FCC with a plan to make 500 MHz of spectrum available by the fourth quarter of this year.

It’s unclear what the licensing procedures will be, and for which portion of the additional spectrum. Our bet: some mix of unlicensed spectrum (like 2.4 GHz, a nightmare for IT departments that want to avoid interference), some fully licensed (like 800 MHz, whose paperwork can take months or years to get processed), and some “lightly licensed” (like the 3,650-MHz band that was allocated for WiMax in 2005, which requires two or more licensees in the same region to cooperate). When additional spectrum comes online, it should revitalize the market and create product innovations, which should make broadband wireless a bit less difficult for enterprises to deploy.

The FCC also plans to improve rights-of-way procedures. Power and other companies that own poles either have undocumented or onerous agreements for anyone wanting to attach to a pole or bridge. Streamlining and standardizing this process would be welcome news to telecom market entrants and user organizations that want to bypass the telecom providers. The unanswered question is, how will the FCC “encourage” rights-of-way owners to improve these procedures?

The National Broadband Plan also stipulates longer-term (within the next decade) goals, including that 100 million consumers are able to access affordable 100-Mbps actual download speeds, 50-Mbps upload–more than 10 times faster than what most U.S. consumers can now get. More interesting to enterprise IT, the plan outlines a goal of affordable access to 1-Gbps links for “anchor institutions”–hospitals, community centers, schools, and so on. As these institutions get affordable links, other large institutions, like big companies, will also get affordable high-speed links.

The FCC doesn’t always have the authority to say how these goals will be accomplished. But in the “implementation” chapter of the National Broadband Plan, it suggests who (including the FCC) should pursue them. For example, it recommends that the executive branch create a “broadband strategy council” consisting of advisers from the White House and its Office of Management and Budget, NTIA, FCC, and other agencies. The FCC also has committed to publishing an evaluation of its progress as part of its annual 706 report, named after section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. You can track 706 reports at


Emerging Competition

Simplifying and streamlining the status quo won’t be as quick as we want it to be, but the situation isn’t bleak.

True, many of the wireline highways are owned by the same folks that own the off-ramps and have a big interest in resisting competition (the likes of AT&T, Verizon, and Qwest from the telco sector and Comcast, Time-Warner, and Cablevision from cable TV). But competition is in fact emerging.


Players like Morris Broadband serve relatively small and rural areas, catering to customers the larger players simply won’t touch. CenturyLink, a larger player, serves rural customers in 33 states. PAETEC competes in 84 of the top 100 areas, known as “metropolitan service areas,” which are anything but rural. Then there are municipal broadband projects such as LUS Fiber, a fiber-to-the home network started by the utility in Lafayette, La., that offers business services (10-Mbps symmetric) starting at $65 a month.

It’s hard to get information out of the incumbents–we tried, but folks like Verizon said that they don’t see how consumer broadband is related to serving enterprise customers. But the conventional wisdom is that they won’t serve an area unless they can get 25 potential customers per mile. Smaller players will look at areas with five or 10 potential customers per mile. Bottom line: Whenever competitors enter a market, prices fall. In a striking irony, the incumbents opposed to broadband regulation have lobbied local and state authorities to prevent broadband buildouts by municipal entities.

In addition to the wireline broadband alternatives, consider that the airwaves are wide open. Wireless ISPs like Clear and mobile phone and 3G data providers like T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless are interesting, but your bandwidth and reliability may vary when attempting to use their business-class SOHO service. That said, back in the day of the bag phone, nobody would rely on a cell phone for anything that was hugely important, but that didn’t keep IT organizations from playing with them in noncritical areas.

We’re also interested by the services offered by the likes of Texas-based ERF Wireless, which is completely focused on serving businesses, mainly banking and oil companies. ERF’s model: Customers invest in their own wireless infrastructure to backhaul to ERF’s network and then pay an ongoing port fee to access a secured backbone. CEO Dean Cubley says ERF’s banking customers pay about half of what they were paying to incumbent providers and have about a three-year payback on their capital investment.

Jacobson of North Carolina not-for-profit NCREN says the group’s successful BTOP round 1 application (awarded $28.2 million) came from efforts by the state’s office of economic recovery. It’s going to trickle up to the hospitals, too. “All the medical schools in the state are on NCREN today,” he says, and “the nonprofit hospitals will be eligible to interconnect to us as well.”


Welcome Back To Sneakerville

Some caution is necessary. There will be no shortage of poorly conceived broadband initiatives. Savvy IT organizations will stay close to operations, leaving the speculation to investors and economic development types.

Moving beyond sneakernet will require more than just fatter pipes. “Civil engineers discovered some time ago that building more lanes on highways does not really relieve traffic problems,” says Mark Butler, director of product marketing with Internet services company Internap. “Relief comes when you use the available capacity in a more efficient manner.”

So as you keep track of the legislation and other craziness coming out of Washington, keep pace with technical realities, lest you invest in higher-speed lines only to find that your use case isn’t quite as you had planned. George Bonser, a network operator with mobile messaging provider Seven, cites cases of companies that install high-speed lines and then discover they can’t get anywhere near their theoretical limit because of the software in use. It’s a complicated matter that deserves your attention in the same way that keeping track of broadband competition, accessibility, and fairness does.





NIST seeks input on cybersecurity framework

Upcoming Cybersecurity Framework workshop this week aims for feedback from private sector on practices that can reduce the risk of cyber attacks


Cynthia Brumfield, CSO

July 09, 2013

Starting tomorrow, July 10th, in San Diego, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will host the third, and perhaps most important, in a series of workshops aimed at developing a voluntary comprehensive cybersecurity framework that will apply across sixteen critical infrastructure sectors.

Mandated by an Executive Order (EO) issued by President Obama on February 12, 2013, the NIST-developed framework represents the first time the federal government has sought to prescribe a wide-ranging approach to protecting critical cyber assets, a tough task that has been characterized by Department of Homeland Security Secretary (DHS) Janet Napolitano as an “experiment.” The framework must be accomplished in preliminary form by October and finalized by February 2014.

During the San Diego workshop, NIST will for the first time delve into details of the emerging framework, which is based on two earlier workshops as well as formal comments NIST received in response to a public notice. To speed things along ahead of the workshop, NIST has issued three reference materials — a draft outline of what the framework might look like, a draft framework “core” that focuses on key organizational functions and a draft compendium that features existing references, guidelines, standards and practices.

Based on the recommendations of industry commenters, NIST has placed a large emphasis in the draft framework on reaching the very senior levels of management, including CEOs and boards of director. Top “officials are best positioned to define and express accountability and responsibility, and to combine threat and vulnerability information with the potential impact to business needs and operational capabilities” NIST states in the draft outline.

This focus on top executives has not surprisingly been praised by industry participants.

“Cybersecurity is just not a technological problem,” Jack Whitsitt, Principal Analyst of energy industry cybersecurity consortium EnergySec said. “This is a business management, business maturity problem. People build what you tell them to build, people build what you fund them to build. Unless we do a better job at the business side of cybersecurity, the problems won’t go away.”

Many cybersecurity experts say that reaching that top level of management is one of the biggest challenges to ensuring adequate cybersecurity protection of critical assets. CEOs, they say, typically engage in “cybersecurity theater,” implementing hollow programs that only pay lip service to the issues.

“The reality is that most of the CEO’s are relying on their trade organizations to ‘fix the problem’ for them,” one top cybersecurity consultant said. “And the trade organizations are one of the loudest voices in the echo chamber convincing themselves that this is all just a bunch of low-probability hype and a stepping stone to more regulation.”


Another challenge, at least so far as a federal framework is concerned, is the division of responsibilities among government agencies as spelled out in the EO and accompanying Presidential Policy Directive (PPD). For example, DHS has been assigned a number of tasks under the EO that seem to relate to the framework, such as defining what constitutes critical infrastructure.

Some asset owners have suggested that there are too many moving parts in the overall cybersecurity landscape and have noted rising tensions between NIST, an arm of the Commerce Department, and DHS.


“NIST and DHS aren’t doing a good job in deciding how this is going to work,” one expert noted.


But one senior government official overseeing the process said that many cybersecurity efforts in the EO and PPD just aren’t relevant to how the framework gets developed.


“The framework is supposed to work for the widest range of industries” and therefore it doesn’t matter how critical infrastructure gets defined, for example.


“DHS is making the decision that has no bearing on this framework,” he said, adding that it is likely that the list of critical infrastructure assets won’t be made public anyway.


Yet another challenge is the degree to which the framework process is being shaped by technology vendors and consultants, who far outnumber asset owners in the workshop meetings held to date. Although NIST wants to bake-in cybersecurity through vendor-supplied technology, thereby ensuring that even small organizations which lack resources to pay cybersecurity specialists are guaranteed basic protection, some asset owners balk at being force-fed technology that may better fit vendor agendas than their own safety. One telecom cybersecurity specialist said he wished that NIST would separate asset owners from vendors and consultants in the workshop sessions.


Despite these challenges, most of the participants in the process believe that NIST is on track and that the draft framework materials released for the July workshop meet expectations. However, the real action will take place at the workshop as NIST go into greater detail on where they’re headed with the framework.


With only about three months left to meet the October deadline, most of the key players are taking a wait-and-see attitude, hoping to gain a better sense of the situation until after the workshop in San Diego. As one telecom industry representative said “we have to see whether this whole process has the result we’re looking for, which is to improve our cybersecurity posture, and not some feel-good government exercise.”


Cynthia Brumfield, President of DCT Associates, is a veteran communications industry and technology analyst. She is currently leading a variety of research, analysis, consulting and publishing initiatives, with a particular focus on cybersecurity issues in the energy and telecom arenas.



North Dakota company specializes in aerial crop imagery


by Press • 9 July 2013

By: Jonathan Knutson


GRAND FORKS, N.D. — When David Dvorak launched Field of View in 2010, he foresaw a bright future for aerial crop imagery. Today, after working with farmers, agronomists and even a South American plantation manager, he’s more optimistic than ever.

“A few years ago, there was some behind-the-scenes interest in this,” says Dvorak, CEO of Grand Forks, N.D.-based Field of View.

Now, “I’m quietly confident there’s this perfect storm brewing where the precision agriculture market really takes off and the civil UAS (unmanned aircraft system) market takes off. They’re both on a trajectory to make that happen about the same time,” he says.

Field of View’s mission is to “bridge the gap between unmanned aircraft and precision agriculture,” according to the company’s website.

Its flagship product, GeoSnap, is an add-on device for multispectral cameras mounted on either manned or unmanned aircraft. Such cameras capture images in the red, green and near-infared bands, allowing users to visualize plant stress better than they can with most other camera systems, Dvorak says.

GeoSnap takes images captured by the multispectral camera and maps them with real-world coordinates, a process known as georeferencing. That allows users to know the aerial images’ exact location on the ground.

“It’s a very complex process. We developed a product that hopefully makes the process easier,” Dvorak says.

GeoSnap costs about $5,000 per unit, with the multispectral cameras costing about $4,000 each.

Field of View only recently began selling the add-on devices. So far, the company has sold a half-dozen, including one to NASA.

Dvorak thinks NASA will use the GeoSnap to learn more about vegetative cover on Earth, though he isn’t sure of specifics.

GeoSnap generally has drawn more interest overseas because other countries have fewer restrictions on air space, he says.

- See more at:


Hagel warns senators of 2014 budget dangers

By Amber Corrin

Jul 10, 2013

In a July 10 letter to lawmakers on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned of potentially dire threats to national security if Congress fails to reverse steep budget cuts for the 2014 fiscal year.

Hagel advised lawmakers that a potential $52 billion budget cut for fiscal 2014, which would be mandated under sequester spending caps imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act, would continue to erode military readiness and weaken national defenses.

“I strongly oppose cuts of that magnitude because, if they remain in place for FY 2014 and beyond, the size, readiness and technological superiority of our military will be reduced, placing at much greater risk the country’s ability to meet our current national security commitments,” Hagel wrote in to Sens. Carl Levin and James Inhofe, the committee’s chairman and ranking member, respectively. “This outcome is unacceptable as it would limit the country’s options in the event of a major new national security contingency.”

The secretary warned that “draconian actions” would be necessary to meet the budget-cut requirements. His comments stem from findings in the Strategic Choices and Management Review he directed earlier this year.

Such moves could include ongoing hiring freezes and layoffs as Defense Department officials seek to avert a second year of furloughs. Cutbacks in training and readiness could continue, and investments in areas such as research and development would also decline. DOD’s sustained efforts in acquisition reform additionally would take a hit, he said.

“The department hopes to avoid a second year of furloughs of civilian personnel, but DOD will have to consider involuntary reductions in force to reduce civilian personnel costs,” Hagel wrote. “The resulting slowdown in modernization would reduce our long-term, critically important and historic technological superiority and undermine our better buying power initiatives.”

Hagel called on members of Congress to cooperate with the Pentagon, the White House and each other to help mitigate what he deemed to be serious adverse consequences. He urged congressional support for controversial measures proposed by President Barack Obama in his 2014 budget, including slowed growth in military pay raises, increased TRICARE fees and the retirement or cancelation of lower-priority weapons programs.

Hagel also asked Congress to eliminate restrictions on military drawdown timelines and firing practices to reduce poor-performing civilian personnel, and reiterated his push for another round of the Base Realignment and Closure Act.

Training and modernization remain poised to take the biggest hits in the 10 percent across-the-board cuts. Cutbacks in training programs already in place under this year’s sequestration would have to continue or be accelerated, putting troops and citizens at greater risk, Hagel wrote. New programs would be hard-hit as well.

“DOD would be forced to sharply reduce funding for procurement, [research, development, testing and evaluation] and military construction. Indeed, cuts of 15 percent to 20 percent might well be necessary,” Hagel said. “Marked cuts in investment funding, especially if they continue for several years, would slow future technology improvements and ay erode the technological superiority enjoyed by U.S. forces.”

He also warned that cuts would spill over into private industry as purchases and acquisition plans would be interrupted and costs increased.

“Defense industry jobs would be lost and, as prime contractors pull back and work to protect their internal work forces, small businesses may experience disproportionately large job losses,” Hagel wrote.


Sequestration Would Force Civilian Personnel Cuts in 2014, Hagel Says

By Eric Katz

July 11, 2013

The Defense Department is considering civilian reductions in force in fiscal 2014 to match reduced budget levels required by sequestration.

In a letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that while he is “fully committed” to enacting President Obama’s budget, he is currently planning a  “contingency plan” in case sequestration remains in effect.

“DoD is hoping to avoid furloughs of civilian personnel in fiscal year 2014,” Hagel wrote, “but the department might have to consider mandatory reductions in force.”

Hagel added the RIFs do not offer much in the way of immediate savings, but would help the department reach future budget caps. The Pentagon would have to slash $52 billion from its budget next year if Congress fails to strike a deal to end sequestration.

“While painful,” Hagel wrote, “RIFs would permit DoD to make targeted cuts in civilian personnel levels rather than the more across-the-board cuts associated with furloughs.”

Military personnel would fare better, as their funding cuts would be “disproportionately small” due to separation costs. If Congress moves forward with its plan to raise military pay 1.8 percent — rather than the 1 percent Obama called for — implementing sequester cuts would be even more difficult, Hagel said.

The Defense Department could severely trim military personnel, but it would require halting accessions, ending permanent-change-of-station moves, stopping discretionary bonuses and freezing promotions. As the Pentagon has repeatedly emphasized, continued cuts would also negatively affect maintenance, modernization and readiness.

“In sum,” Hagel said, “the abrupt, deep cuts caused by the [2011 Budget Control Act] caps in FY 2014 will force DoD to make non-strategic changes. If the cuts continue, the department will have to make sharp cuts with far reaching consequences, including limiting combat power, reducing readiness and undermining the national security interests of the United States.” 


What I learned from researching almost every single smart watch that has been rumored or announced


By Christopher Mims

July 11, 2013

Smart watches! I sure hope you like them, because literally everyone is developing one. And yet, given the vanishingly small proportion of watches that are “smart,” clearly, something is holding them back. Here are the trends that jumped out when I undertook a more or less comprehensive catalog of the forthcoming wrist-top wearables.

Smart watches are going to be big. As in physically large.

I hope you have man hands, because the average smart watch is going to have a 1.5″ display and look like one of those oversize G-shock watches that are favored by IT support guys and gym coaches. Some smart watches are actually just smartphones with a wrist band, and therefore truly gigantic.

Insufficient battery life is killing the smart watch dream.

This chart is old, but it illustrates a trend that continues to this day. (I asked the man who created it for an update, and he says none exists.) The bottom line: Moore’s law does not apply to batteries. That is, every year, we get more processing power per watt of electricity we put into a microprocessor, but battery technology is not proceeding at the same pace.

That’s a problem for a device that needs to be connected to a smartphone (via bluetooth) and/or a cell phone network. Those radios will kill your battery. (Incidentally, turning them off is the single best way to preserve the battery life of your smartphone.) And the color, back-lit, 1.5″ LCD display mentioned above? It’s not doing your smart watch battery any favors, either.

The result of all this are smart watches with only three to four days of battery life, and that’s likely to be reduced significantly as developers find new ways to make smart watches useful (and therefore force them to use their radios and change their displays more often).

Some manufacturers are talking about adding things like inductive (i.e. wireless) charging to their smart watches. That will add bulk, but dropping your watch on a charging pad every night might be way less annoying than remembering to plug it in alongside your smartphone.

Smart watches are going to come with a variety of intriguing display technologies not seen elsewhere.

Nothing  begets creativity like constraints, and given the battery issues outlined above, some makers of smart watches are turning, or have already resorted to, display technologies that require less power than traditional LCD displays.

Qualcomm’s rumored smart watch, for example, supposedly uses Mirasol, a kind of reflective, full-color display that requires no power unless it’s being updated. (Mirasol displays color by refracting light like a butterfly’s wings, rather than emitting actual red, green and blue light, like an LCD.) The Pebble smart watch uses an e-paper display like that found in the Kindle and many other e-readers. And the Agent smart watch, which just raised a million dollars on Kickstarter, uses a black and white “memory LCD” produced by Sharp, which unveiled the technology in 2008 and has been trying to find a suitably mass-market use ever since.

All of the non-LCD displays represent a compromise of some kind, when compared to the bright, extra-sharp LCD displays we’ve become accustomed to on our smartphones. This will make smart watches less a “second screen” than a place to push updates like Facebook alerts and text messages. If that sounds less useful than, say, a little smartphone, well that’s one more reason smart watches have yet to take off.

Smart watches could be the next netbooks—in other words, a huge flop.

Samsung, Apple, Google, Microsoft, LG, Qualcomm, Sony—they’re all pouring money into smart watches, but so far every indication is that the devices they’re working on are at best their take on the existing smart watch concept, which frankly isn’t all that compelling. But every consumer electronics manufacturer is looking for the next iPhone or tablet, anything to stop the red ink in their PC divisions.

Or smart watches could allow for the kind of unobtrusive, always-on computing that is the promise of Google Glass.


Thanks, local retailer, for letting me know I should buy this thing online.EmoPulse

The same constraints that are forcing smart watch designers to get creative with their displays are also forcing them to come up with something better for these things to do than save you the three seconds it takes to get your phone out and read a text message. For example, the wrist is a logical place to put the kind of RFID chips that allow “digital wallets”—just touch your watch to the payment pad, and you’re done. Or maybe your watch helps you not to forget your keys, wallet and anything else that’s critical, as you run out the door. Or even, maybe your smart watch makes it less likely you’ll be shot with your own gun. The possibilities are endless, and that’s probably what keeps backers coming back to smart watch projects on Kickstarter. Whether or not the mega-corporations rolling them out will find ways to answer these needs with their mass market products remains to be seen.

Demand for laptops is so weak that analysts have declared all of 2013 a “write-off”


By Christopher Mims @mims

July 10, 2013

Demand for laptop computers is so weak in the first half of 2013 that the analysts at IHS iSupply have declared it virtually impossible that the overall market for laptop and desktop PCs will grow in 2013 over 2012. It’s the same death-of-the-PC-story we’ve heard before, only now the infection has spread to laptops as well. The numbers:

  • 6.9% drop in laptop shipments between the first and second quarters of 2013. That’s twice the 3.7% drop seen in 2002 after the dot-com bust.
  • Compare that to a 41.7% increase in laptop shipments from Q1 to Q2 of 2010. Typically, the second quarter of the year sees a sharp uptick in purchases of notebook computers, a bounce-back after soft demand in the beginning of the year.
  • 2013 will be the second year in a row in which PC shipments shrank overall. Unless a miracle happens in the second half of 2013, the PC industry is going to have to face the fact that its decade of expansion, from 2001 to 2011, is over.

The culprit in all of this? “Media tablets,” says iSupply. And those are only becoming more versatile at the high end, more affordable at the low end, and more popular overall. Given those trends, could 2014 be the third year in a row that PC sales decline? It would be unprecedented, but manufacturers can’t rule it out.



Report: Use of coal to generate power rises

Miami Herald

Tribune Washington Bureau

Posted on Wed, Jul. 10, 2013

Power plants in the United States are burning coal more often to generate electricity, reversing the growing use of natural gas and threatening to increase domestic emissions of greenhouse gases after a period of decline, according to a federal report.

Coal’s share of total domestic power generation in the first four months of 2013 averaged 39.5 percent, compared with 35.4 percent during the same period last year, according to the Energy Information Administration, the analytical branch of the Energy Department.

By contrast, natural gas generation averaged about 25.8 percent this year, compared with 29.5 percent a year earlier, the agency said in its most recent “Short-Term Energy Outlook.”

With coal prices dropping and gas prices rising, the agency said it expected the use of coal to remain on the upswing, accounting for 40.1 percent of electricity generation through 2014. Natural gas would fuel about 27.3 percent.

Power plants are the single largest source of greenhouse gases that drive climate change. The growing use of coal is occurring against the backdrop of President Barack Obama’s announcement of a sweeping plan to reduce greenhouse gases, including curtailing emissions from power plants. His initiative has already sparked opposition from the coal industry, congressional Republicans and coal-state politicians.

Opponents say new regulations are unnecessary in part because utilities have relied more on natural gas, which emits less heat-trapping carbon dioxide than coal does. But the new data indicate that power plants will readily return to coal if the price of natural gas gets too high.

“Markets on their own may go in your direction for a period of time, but to ensure that we get reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in a significant, sustained way, you’re going to need government intervention,” said James Bradbury of the World Resources Institute, a Washington think tank.

The energy administration estimated that carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels would rise by 2.4 percent in 2013 and 0.6 percent in 2014, after falling about 3.9 percent in 2012.

“The increase in emissions over the forecast period primarily reflects the projected increase in coal use for electricity generation, especially in 2013 as it rebounds from the 2012 decline,” the report said.

In a speech last month, Obama directed the Environmental Protection Agency to propose rules by June 2014 to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. A rule for new power plants is expected by September.

Coal-fired generation accounted for about 50 percent of the electricity produced in the U.S. about a decade ago. But a natural gas boom driven by hydraulic fracturing has pushed down prices, making natural gas more competitive with coal. By April of last year, coal and natural gas each produced about one-third of the country’s power.

Lower demand for coal drove down its average price, said Elias Johnson, a coal industry expert for the agency. At the same time, the price of natural gas ticked upward, buoyed by demand and somewhat reduced production.

Utilities, many of which have natural gas and coal plants, will probably toggle between the two fuels in the near term, burning the cheaper one more often.

“What is the least expensive form of generation gets dispatched first: renewables, hydro, then maybe nuclear and then coal or natural gas,” said Karen Obenshain of the Edison Electric Institute, a utility trade group in Washington.

Coal is not expected to grab a 50 percent share of power generation again because new regulations curtailing mercury emissions from power plants will probably shutter many small, older coal plants, said Mark McCullough of American Electric Power, one of the country’s largest coal-fired utilities. Even with such closures, the U.S. will probably fail to sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, a goal set by Obama in 2009, without a comprehensive effort to address carbon dioxide pollution.

Said Bradbury, “Electricity markets are very dynamic, and while there’s been a lot of press about the success story of the benefits of natural gas, it’s important to realize that that’s temporary and it depends on gas prices staying really low, and we’re starting to see there are these thresholds where utilities will switch back to higher-carbon fuel, like coal.”


Does Wearable Tech Have A Place In The Enterprise?

Posted by Dan Swinhoe

on July 04 2013

This week saw the first Pebble smartwatches selling online. Sony, Acer, Google, Apple, Foxconn and Samsung are all working on their own versions. The era of wearable tech is within sight.

According to Juniper research, almost 70 million smart wearable devices will be sold in 2017, and the market will be worth more than $1.5 billion by 2014. ST Liew, president of Acer’s smartphone group, told Pocket-Lint “We are looking at wearable, I think every consumer company should be looking at wearable.” While that might be true, should enterprises be doing the same?

Right now wearable tech is mostly for sporty types; heart rate monitors, fancy pedometers, HUD for skiers etc. But soon the market will be flooded with a tidal wave of smartwatches and Google Glass. And while this will no doubt affect how companies collect user data, develop apps and interact with consumers, will we be seeing workers around the office or datacenter wearing them?

Rose-Tinted Google glass?

Smartwatches probably won’t be essential to any enterprise mobility program, merely a notification tool with additional security pains to account for. But despite being banned in many places before it’s even released, Google Glass is getting plenty of people excited.

So far most of it has been on the consumer side of things. Some doubt whether it could ever be used for the enterprise, while others think it’s the best thing since sliced bread (or the Cloud at least). Chris Hazelton of 451 Research told Computerworld it would be the next step in Mobility & BYOD trends, which would eventually help drive its acceptance.

Fiberlink have jumped on board early, offering its MaaS360 platform to IT admins through the device, and said that since most EMM and MDM platforms support Android already, much of the hard work is already done. Meanwhile Dito, a company that provides services for Google applications, have promised enterprise apps for Glass  (AKA Glassware) by late 2013/early 2014. The company’s co-founder, Dan McNelis, explained at the E2 conference that one of its clients was looking at building information modelling, or BIM, applications, which could help construction workers on site check schematics and that everything was in the write place/angle.

Along with construction, Glass has been cited as a hands-free tool for utility workers while dealing with high voltage, or as a potential HUD for pilots, and possibly even real-time polling.

Though facial recognition might be banned, the core concept of early Glassware apps MedRef – brining up a person’s medical records instantly – highlights the potential wearable gear has within the healthcare industry. Whether it’s tracking nurses with RTLS (Real-Time Location Systems) or better diagnosis and delivery methods, or even live from the operating table, hospitals could be wearable tech’s first home outside the sports ground.

It’s not just glasses and watches that are entering the enterprise. A smart bracelet for workers at risk of being kidnapped has been developed, sending pre-set warnings to social media and other workers in the area, while Motorola has developed some heavy duty engineering gear more tailored towards their needs and is also customizable. A new smartring has been developed by Chinese company  Geak, which has great potential for being a very useful security/authentication tool. I can see far more of a market for specially tailored wearable tech arising once the bluster over Glass & smartwatches has died down.

So does wearable tech have a place in business, or is it just another consumer procrastination device? I think some do, especially if they’ve been custom-made for the purpose. But I doubt we’ll be seeing an office full of smart this and wearable that.The future success of the likes of Google Glass or any number of future smartwatches will depend entirely on the quality of the hardware & apps provided, and the imagination of those using them.

 I also agree with Hazelton’s view that BYOWD (Bring-Your-Own-Wearable-Device) will be an important factor.


Quinoa should be taking over the world. This is why it isn’t.

Washington Post

By Lydia DePillis, Updated: July 11, 2013


In the Andean highlands of Bolivia and Peru, the broom-like, purple-flowered goosefoot plant is spreading over the barren hillsides–further and further every spring. When it’s dried, threshed, and processed through special machines, the plant yields a golden stream of seeds called quinoa, a protein-rich foodstuff that’s been a staple of poor communities here for millennia. Now, quinoa exports have brought cash raining down on the dry land, which farmers have converted into new clothes, richer diets, and shiny vehicles.

But at the moment, the Andeans aren’t supplying enough of the ancient grain. A few thousand miles north, at a downtown Washington D.C. outlet of the fast-casual Freshii chain one recent evening, a sign delivered unpleasant news: “As a result of issues beyond Freshii’s control, Quinoa is not available.” Strong worldwide demand, the sign explained, had led to a shortage. A Freshii spokeswoman said that prices had suddenly spiked, and the company gave franchises the choice to either eat the cost or pull the ingredient while they renegotiated their contract.

Quinoa is a low-calorie, gluten-free, high-protein grain that tastes great. Its popularity has exploded in the last several years, particularly among affluent, health-conscious Americans. But the kinks that kept the grain out of Freshii that day are emblematic of the hurdles it will face to becoming a truly widespread global commodity and a major part of Americans’ diet. It shows the crucial role of global agribusiness, big-ticket infrastructure investment, and trade in bringing us the things we eat, whether we like it or not.

In short, it’s hard to keep something on the menu if you might not be able to afford it the next day. And the American agricultural economy makes it hard for a new product to reach the kind of steady prices and day-in-day-out supply that it takes to make it big.


A grain whose time has come

Quinoa went extinct in the United States long before upscale lunch places started putting it in side salads. Agronomists have found evidence of its cultivation in the Mississippi Valley dating back to the first millennium AD, but it faded away after farmers opted for higher-yielding corn, squash, and bean crops.


Enthusiasts started growing quinoa again in the 1980s, mostly in the mountains of Colorado. It’s not easy, though–sometimes it takes several seasons to get any harvest, since seeds can crack, get overtaken by weeds, or die off because of excessive heat or cold. In 2012, the U.S. accounted for a negligible amount of the 200 million pounds produced worldwide, with more than 90 percent coming from Bolivia and Peru.

Demand started to ramp up in 2007, when Customs data show that the U.S. imported 7.3 million pounds of quinoa. Costco, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods began carrying the seed soon after, and the U.S. bought 57.6 million pounds in 2012, with 2013 imports projected at 68 million pounds. And yet, prices are skyrocketing; they tripled between 2006 and 2011, and now hover between $4.50 and $8 per pound on the shelf.

What’s driving the increase? Part of it is that Peru itself, already the world’s biggest consumer of quinoa, patriotically started including the stuff in school lunch subsidies and maternal welfare programs. Then there’s the United Nations, which declared 2013 the International Year of Quinoa, partly in order to raise awareness of the crop beyond its traditional roots.

But it’s also about the demographics of the end-user in developed countries–the kind of people who don’t think twice about paying five bucks for a little box of something with such good-for-you buzz. A few blocks away from Freshii in Washington D.C. is the Protein Bar, a four-year-old Chicago-based chain that uses between 75 and 100 pounds of quinoa per week in its stores for salads and bowls that run from $6 to $10 each (Their slogan: “We do healthy…healthier”).

Right now, the company has so far decided to absorb the higher prices, which still aren’t as much of a cost factor as beef and chicken. It will even pay a little extra to ship the good stuff from South America, rather than the grainier variety that Canada has developed.

“As much as I don’t like it–you never want to pay more for your raw materials–it’s central to our menu,” says CEO Matt Matros. “I’m pretty positive that as the world catches on to what a great product is, the supply will go up and the price will come back down. It’ll come down to the best product for us. If we find that the American quinoa is as fluffy, then we’ll definitely make the switch.”

Cracking the quinoa code

The Andean smallholders are trying to keep up with the demand. They’ve put more and more land into quinoa in recent years; Bolivia had 400 square miles under cultivation last year, up from 240 in 2009. The arid, cool land that quinoa needs was plentiful, since little else could grow there. And thus far, that trait has made it difficult to grow elsewhere.

But that doesn’t mean the rest of the world isn’t trying. A Peruvian university has developed a variety that will grow in coastal climates. There are also promising breeding programs in Argentina, Ecuador, Denmark, Chile, and Pakistan. Washington State University has been developing varieties for cultivation in the Pacific Northwest, and in August will hold a quinoa symposium bringing together researchers from all over to talk about their work.


“To me, the imagination is the limit, and a whole lot of effort,” says Rick Jellen, chair of the plant and wildlife sciences department at Brigham Young University. “Quinoa is a plant that produces a tremendous amount of seed. So you have potential, with intensive selection, to identify variants that have unusual characteristics.”

The South American quinoa industry, and the importers who care about it, are worried about the coming worldwide explosion of their native crop. Despite a bubble of media coverage earlier this year about how strong demand is making it difficult for Bolivians to afford to eat what they grow, it’s also boosted incomes from about $35 per family per month to about $220, boosting their standards of living dramatically. Now, the worry is maintaining a steady income level when production takes off around the world.

Sergio Nunez de Arco, a native Bolivian who in 2004 helped found an import company called Andean Naturals in California, likes to show the small-scale farmers he buys from pictures of quinoa trucks in Canada to prove that the rest of the world is gaining on them, and that they need to invest in better equipment. Meanwhile, he’s trying to develop awareness about the importance of quinoa to reducing poverty, so that they can charge a fair trade price when the quinoa glut comes.

“The market has this natural tendency to commoditize things. There’s no longer a face, a place, it’s just quinoa,” de Arco says. “We’re at this inflection point where we want people to know where their quinoa is coming from, and the consumer actually is willing to pay them a little more so they do put their kids through school.”

He’s even helping a couple of Bolivian farmers who don’t speak English very well fly to that Washington State University conference, so they’ll at least be represented.

“It kind of hurts that the guys who’ve been doing this for 4,000 years aren’t even present,” de Arco says. “‘You guys are awesome, but your stuff is antiquated, so move over, a new age of quinoa is coming.’”

Why isn’t the U.S. growing more of it?

So far, though, the mystery is why the new age of quinoa is taking so long to arrive.

Americans have been aware of the crop for decades, and used to produce 37 percent of the world supply, according to former Colorado state agronomist Duane Johnson. It never took off, partly because of pressure from advocates of indigenous farmers–in the 1990s, Colorado State University researchers received a patent on a quinoa variety, but dropped it after Bolivian producers protested it would destroy their livelihoods.

You don’t need a patent to grow a crop, of course. But the switching cost is extremely high, says Cynthia Harriman of the Whole Grains Council. “Can you get a loan from your bank, when the loan officer knows nothing about quinoa? Will he or she say, ‘stick to soybeans or corn?’” It even requires different kinds of transportation equipment. “If you grow quinoa up in the high Rockies, where are the rail cars that can haul away your crop? Or the roads suitable for large trucks?”

All that infrastructure costs money, and the only farmers with lots of money are in industrial agribusiness. But U.S. industry has shown little interest in developing the ancient grain. Kellogg uses quinoa in one granola bar, and PepsiCo’s Quaker Oats owns a quinoa brand, but the biggest grain processors–Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland–say they’ve got no plans to start sourcing it. Monsanto, the world’s largest seed producer, has nothing either.

Instead, their research and development dollars are focused entirely on developing newer, more pest-resistant forms of corn, soybeans, wheat, sugar, and other staples. All of those crops have their own corporate lobbying associations, government subsidy programs, and academic departments devoted to maintaining production and consumption. Against that, a few researchers and independent farmers trying to increase quinoa supply don’t have much of a chance.

“This is something where it would truly have to come from the demand side–no one wants to get into this and get stuck with all this excess inventory,” says Marc Bellemare, an agricultural economist at Duke University. And how do you determine how much demand is enough, or whether a fad has staying power? “We still haven’t fully unbundled what the decision bundle is. It’s like shining a flashlight in a big dark room.”

That’s why it’s hard for any new crop to make the transition from niche to mainstream. Products, maybe: Soy milk is ubiquitous now, after years as a marginal hippie thing, but it comes from a plant that U.S. farmers have grown for decades. An entirely new species is something else altogether. “I wouldn’t even go so far as to say that’s a non-staple that went big-time,” Bellemare says.

For that reason, quinoa prices are likely to remain volatile for a long while yet. Brigham Young’s Rick Jellen says the lack of research funding for quinoa–relative to the other large crop programs–means that even if they come up with a more versatile strain, it won’t have the resilience to survive an infestation.

“Once that production moves down to a more benign environment, you’re going to get three or four years of very good production,” he predicts. “And then you’re going to hit a wall, you’re going to have a pest come in, and it’s going to wreak havoc on the crop. I think we’re going to see big fluctuations in quinoa prices until someone with money has the vision and is willing to take the risk to invest to really start a long-term breeding program for the crop.”

Which means that if you’re looking forward to a quinoa lunch in downtown D.C., be prepared for a disappointment.


Defcon founder’s message to feds fair to some, hypocritical to others

Dis-invitation is interesting because last year Defcon opened with General Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency

Jaikumar Vijayan

July 12, 2013 (Computerworld)

Defcon founder Jeff Moss’ request to government agencies asking them not to attend next month’s annual Defcon hacker conference has evoked a mixed response from the security community.

Many see it as little more than a symbolic gesture meant to convey the hacker community’s discomfort over recent revelations of government surveillance activities by fugitive document-leaker Edward Snowden.

Others though see it as somewhat hypocritical move by an organization that has for long prided itself on giving a platform for all members of the security community to exchange ideas and share information freely.

Two researchers from the network security-consulting firm Secure Ideas on Thursday announced that they would not present at Defcon as scheduled, to protest Moss’ actions.

Moss launched Defcon 21 years ago and has overseen its growth into one of the industry’s largest hacker conferences. On Wednesday, he published a blog post in which he asked government agencies to “call a time-out” from the conference.

“For over two decades Defcon has been an open nexus of hacker culture, a place where seasoned pros, hackers, academics, and feds can meet, share ideas and party on neutral territory. Our community operates in the spirit of openness, verified trust, and mutual respect,” he wrote.

“When it comes to sharing and socializing with feds, recent revelations have made many in the community uncomfortable about this relationship,” he said in asking them not to attend Defcon this year.

The dis-invitation is interesting because it was only last year that Defcon had opened with a keynote from General Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency, the entity at the center of the surveillance controversy.

“Jeff Moss’s post was a statement, not an order, but it was an important one,” said Michael Sutton, a vice president of security research with Zscaler.

Moss is well respected within both the black hat and white hat communities and has strong government connections in his role as an advisor to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Sutton noted.

“His statement illustrates the deep disappointment of the Defcon community, who feel that they were blatantly lied to in light of the PRISIM scandal,” he said referring to Alexander’s denials last year when asked at the conference if the NSA was spying on U.S. citizens.

“Jeff is standing up for the community by saying ‘you disrespected us in our own house — we’d prefer you not visit this year’,” Sutton said.

For many at Defcon, Edward Snowden’s recent revelations of widespread NSA surveillance activities are likely to have only reinforced their suspicion of all things government, said Richard Stiennon, principal at IT-Harvest.

With Defcon, there’s always been a bit of the “young generation versus the Man,” Stiennon noted. In recent years, NSA and other three-letter government agencies have been recruiting from Defcon ranks, leading to a gradual thawing in relations between the two communities, he said. Even so, members of the Defcon community have only shown a “wary willingness” to interact with government types at best.


That willingness likely has been tested by the Snowden affair, Stiennon noted. “A group of security professionals who are aligned to doing things and creating things that are protective of security and privacy and going to find themselves at odds with the NSA. So it may be best for both sides to cool off a bit,” Stiennon noted.

Lawrence Pingree, an analyst at Gartner cautioned against making too much of Moss’ statement. From a publicity standpoint, it makes a certain amount of sense to ask federal agencies not to attend Defcon, considering the sentiments that have been aroused by Snowden’s revelations, he said.

In reality, it is unlikely that Moss will want to, or will even be able to stop government security types from attending the event if they really want to, he said.

In the end Moss is just sending a gentle reminder to the government that they are likely to be less than welcome among those at Defcon considering recent revelations about PRISM, said Robert Hansen, a white hat hacker and director of product management at WhiteHat Security.

“I don’t believe that anyone who works directly with the staff at Defcon really hates feds,” said Robert Hansen, a white hat hacker and director of product management at WhiteHat Security. “What they hate are that the free and open Internet has been taken from them in some sense and that theft is embodied in some sense by the people who are tasked with fulfilling often secret laws.”

“The only issue I see with Jeff’s announcement is that a lot of the most important, die-hard, freedom advocates work in or work directly with the military industrial complex, and it’s unfair to paint them as the enemy of hackers,” Hansen noted. “Though Jeff has never said that directly, and I don’t believe he feels that way, I worry that people less familiar with the situation would mis-represent his words.”

Others though see Moss’ stance as needlessly politicizing the annual hacker fest.

In a blog post, James Jardine and Kevin Johnson, two researchers from Secure Ideas, announced they would not present at Defcon this year citing Moss’ statement about not wanting the government at the show, as the reason.

“The basis of our decision, is that we feel strongly that Defcon has always presented a neutral ground that encouraged open communication among the community, despite the industry background and diversity of motives to attend,” the blog noted. “We believe the exclusion of the ‘fed’ this year does the exact opposite at a critical time.”

Ira Winkler, president of the Information Systems Security Association, and a Computerworld columnist said that Moss was being unfair in asking the federal government not to attend Defcon.

Much of Defcon’s popularity has stemmed from the effort put into making it completely neutral venue for the information security community. By asking the government to stay away, Defcon has lost some of that neutrality, he said.


The surveillance activities revealed by Snowden, and that Moss alluded to in his statement, have all been found to be completely legitimate and vetted by all three branches of the government. So rather than try and exclude government agencies, it would have been better to use Defcon as an opportunity to get more answers on the surveillance practices, he said.

“It would be better to have a legitimate discussion on the issue,” Winkler said. “Why is it legal, why is it constitutional. Stopping a group of people from attending goes against the spirit of what Defcon is supposed to be,” he said.

Defcon has always thrived on presenting controversial security topics and has gone out of the way to make it possible for people to do so, Winkler noted.

“Why is the government being singled out when no group has been singled out and prevented from speaking,” he said.

July 6 2013




Joint Chiefs Chair: Fewer Admins Needed

Military Network Consolidation Should Help Mitigate Insider Threat

By Eric Chabrow, June 29, 2013.



A side benefit of the Department of Defense’s continuing consolidation of some 15,000 U.S. military networks will be the need for fewer systems administrators; that should make IT less vulnerable to insider threats, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says.

Army Gen. Martin Dempsey’s remarks come as federal authorities hunt for Edward Snowden, the former systems administrator at the Defense Department’s National Security Agency who leaked classified information about NSA intelligence collection programs .

“I think systems administrators is the right place to begin to clean this up, though, because they have such ubiquitous access, and that’s how he ended up doing what he did,” Dempsey said in a June 27 speech at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank. “We’re got to take a much harder look at this as we become more reliant on cyber-activity.”

Air Force Lt. Col. Damien Pickart, a Pentagon spokesman, says the military has thousands of systems administrators, but he couldn’t provide a precise number.

Dempsey, in his presentation, compared the Snowden leak to the insider attacks on American troops by allied Afghani soldiers. “You can’t prevent; you can mitigate the risk,” he said.

“You can’t stop someone from breaking the law 100 percent of the time. You can certainly increase the scrutiny in terms of their background investigation. You can reduce the number of them. You can put different degrees of oversight in place.”


Building Its Own Secure, 4G Network

Dempsey said the DoD’s previously announced network consolidation effort, known as the Joint Information Environment, would increase security and help ensure the integrity of battle systems in the face of disruption. The new environment, based on secure cloud, will include a 4G wireless network that will provide network access for certified smart phones and tablets. “In fact, I have a secure mobile phone with me here today,” the general said, holding up a smart phone. “The phone would make both Batman and James Bond jealous.”


Mobile devices connected to military networks must meet stringent DoD guidelines [see DoD's Influence on Smart Phone Security].

Dempsey touched on a wide range of cybersecurity concerns during his hour-long presentation.

Rules of Cyber-Engagement: The chairman said the military has developed a draft of a playbook that describes how the United States should respond to a cyber-attack on the nation’s critical infrastructure by taking specific steps. Those include:

1. Gather information on the malicious code and the systems under attack. “Our first instinct will be to pull up the drawbridge and prevent the attack, that is to say, block or defend.”

2. Launch an active defense if the attack cannot be repulsed. Dempsey characterized that response as being a proportional effort to disable the attacking botnet.

3. If that fails, consult with other “higher-level” authorities in the government to determine what to do next. Any massive retaliation would require decisions by civilian leaders, he said.

Cyber-Attack Response: Dempsey said a cyber-attack on the United States could, conceivably, be met with a conventional military response. “There is an assumption out there … that a cyber-attack that had destructive effects would be met by a cyber-response that had destructive effects. That’s not necessarily the case. I think that what [President Obama] would insist upon, actually, is that he had the options and the freedom of movement to decide what kind of response we would employ.”

Negotiating with the Chinese: Dempsey dismissed the idea that Snowden’s disclosures of the cyber-intelligence collection programs weaken America’s moral standing in cybersecurity negotiations with the Chinese. He said all nations, including the United States and China, conduct espionage in a variety of domains, including cyber, but China has developed a particular niche of stealing intellectual property.

“Their view is there are no rules in cyber, there are no laws that they are breaking, there are no standards in behavior. So, we have asked them to meet with us … in order to establish some rules of the road so that we don’t have these friction points in our relationship.”

Future of Cyber Command: The chairman envisions a day when the U.S. Cyber Command, a sub-unified command under the U.S. Strategic Command, becomes its own command. He said the current structure works, for now, but added that passage of cyberthreat information sharing legislation before Congress could change that. “If we get the kind of information sharing we need, that could be a catalyst for changing the organization, because the span and scope of responsibility will change.”

Hack-Back Opposition: The general said he opposes private companies launching their own counter-attacks against cyber-assailants – so-called hack-back attacks [see Questioning the Legality of Hack-Back]. “We don’t want private cyber-organizations conducting operations that could be perceived as hostile acts. And, if they’re perceived as hostile acts, it could lead us into conflict.”



U.S. Looks to Blunt Corporate Espionage by Chinese Firms


BEIJING—The U.S. could be signaling stepped-up prosecution of Chinese companies accused of stealing trade secrets as it filed criminal charges against one of China’s largest wind-turbine manufacturers and two of its executives, experts said.

“Maybe five years ago, it was sexier to chase drug cases than trade-secret cases,” said Benjamin Bai, a partner at Allen & Overy in Shanghai. However, “the political climate is brewing the perfect storm in the U.S. for prosecutions to increase.”

A recent law strengthening the U.S. Economic Espionage Act will likely encourage more prosecutions, said Mr. Bai, who has represented U.S. clients on intellectual-property issues.

In December U.S. President Barack Obama signed into law an amendment that allows prosecutors to seek charges against those who steal the trade secrets of not only products but also of services. The amendment was passed after a former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. computer programmer had his conviction overturned when a U.S. court ruled that the software he stole was used only internally.

The latest case, filed Thursday, involved products. U.S. prosecutors accused Sinovel Wind Group Ltd. of stealing source code for software used to control wind turbines from American Superconductor Corp., a Massachusetts-based engineering company, and then shipping four turbines equipped with the code to customers in the U.S.

“This case is indicative that American companies and the U.S. government are fed up, and can and should pursue all available legal remedies, including criminal sanctions, to put an end to trade-secret theft,” said James Zimmerman, managing partner of law firm Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP in Beijing and a former chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China. “Chinese companies need to heed the warning that U.S. industry is determined to protect its core technology.”

A spokeswoman for Sinovel said Friday that the company was still studying the charges and didn’t have a formal response to allegations. U.S. prosecutors also indicted an employee of AMSC, as the Massachusetts firm is known, and two Sinovel executives. They couldn’t be reached for comment.

A spokeswoman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said she wasn’t familiar with details of the Sinovel case. “China has been enhancing the laws for intellectual-property protection and will continue to improve laws and regulations for intellectual property and copyright,” she said.

The issue has risen in prominence in recent months as companies reported that they had been hacked by groups that appeared to have connections with the Chinese government. The Obama administration has been pressing the issue of commercial hacking with Chinese officials.


China has repeatedly said it is a victim of cyberattacks, and points to the allegations of former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden as proof that the U.S. hacks into Chinese computers.

In an annual survey, members of the American Chamber of Commerce in China said they were becoming increasingly concerned about intellectual-property theft in China. Thirty-four percent of respondents said intellectual-property infringements caused “material damage” to their China operations last year, up from 22% a year earlier and 9% in 2010, the survey said. One in four said they experienced a breach or theft of data or trade secrets from their China operations, the chamber said.

A U.S. commission on intellectual-property theft, headed by former Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair and former U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman, issued a report in May accusing China of being responsible for as much as 80% of the intellectual-property theft against U.S. companies. The commission made several recommendations, including increasing resources for the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to investigate and prosecute cases of trade-secret theft.

Louis Schwartz, president of China Strategies, a consulting firm focusing on Chinese trade and investment in renewable energy, said U.S. prosecutions against China for intellectual-property theft are still rare and that he was surprised at how aggressive AMSC was in pursuing its claims against Sinovel.

“My advice for clients is to see if you can get enough compensation upfront so if you lose intellectual-property rights in China, at least you have some compensation,” he said. “The lure of the China market is so great that people tend to look the other way.”

Xiang Wang, Asia managing partner for the law firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, said the number of criminal cases his firm has handled involving corporate espionage charges leveled at Chinese companies by foreign rivals has increased by 50% over the past two years. “The number of criminal cases will certainly increase,” he said.

Although companies pay fines in civil disputes over the theft of trade secrets, the penalties often aren’t effective deterrents, said Mr. Wang, who is based in Beijing. However, someone who steals trade secrets may think twice about going to prison, he said.

A version of this article appeared July 1, 2013, on page B9 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: U.S. Acts Tough on Trade Secrets.


How Edward Snowden Could Derail the Global Economy

By DAVID FRANCIS, The Fiscal Times July 2, 2013

NSA leaker Edward Snowden is at it again. This time, he’s leaking to the Germans.

Over the weekend Der Spiegel magazine published a report indicating that the United States has been spying on its European allies, including Germany, France and Italy. Documents provided by Snowden indicate that NSA is collecting data on European communications and planted bugs in EU offices in New York and Washington to detect rifts in the troubled monetary alliance.

Reactions from European leaders were swift and harsh. This is especially true in Germany, where the protection of private correspondence is written into its Constitution.

President Obama shrugged off the report, saying all nations collect intelligence. But this argument isn’t likely to fly with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a former East German who grew up living under the intrusive eye of the Stasi and Soviet surveillance. She immediately condemned the United States, while a parliament member said Snowden should be rewarded for this information with asylum in Germany.

“The monitoring of friends — this is unacceptable. It can’t be tolerated. We’re no longer in the Cold War,” Merkel said through spokesman Steffen Seibert.

But the more troubling response, both for the United States and the European Union, came from French President François Hollande. He said that talks on a bilateral U.S.-EU trade deal should be put on hold until questions about the spying were answered.

“We can only have negotiations, transactions, in all areas once we have obtained these guarantees for France, but that goes for the whole European Union, and I would say for all partners of the United States,” he said of the talk set to begin next week. For good measure, French minister of foreign trade Nicole Bricq added, “We must absolutely re-establish confidence… it will be difficult to conduct these extremely important negotiations.”

Things could get worse. In a letter asking Ecuador for asylum, Snowden – who is still stuck at the Moscow airport – said he would release more documents that he deemed to be in the public interest. Russian President Vladimir Putin has also opened the possibility of Snowden remaining there.

There’s a lot at stake. The United States wants it’s economy recovery to accelerate, while Europe is desperate for economic growth (the deal is expected to add $157 billion to the EU economy and $133 billion to the U.S. economy).

Now, low-level European diplomats could leverage NSA’s spying to win concessions as negotiations over the deal get underway. Expect France, which has called for provisions to fund French movies and art in the deal, to be especially aggressive with anti-NSA rhetoric.

One can argue about whether Snowden’s revelations have made America less safe. But it’s undisputable that he has caused an erosion of trust between partners and their citizens. This trust is essential in building international trade agreements, as popular support for trade pacts is essential.

Without these pacts, international trade dries up and hundreds of billions are removed from the global economy. Put simply, these agreements eliminate barriers to doing business. For instance, a 2010 Congressional Research report found that exports to countries that are part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement totaled $747 billion in 2008.

The mistrust also has political implications. Take Germany. Much was known about PRISM when Obama visited Berlin two weeks ago, but according to the German media, Merkel asked few questions about it. Now that the German public is outraged by Snowden’s latest disclosure and has turned on Obama, Merkel will try to harness that outrage to win election in the fall, causing a further strain on German-American relations.

“This could slow down [the EU-U.S. deal] considerably,” Joerg Wolf, editor of the Berlin-based open think tank, told The Fiscal Times. “European citizens will mistrust the U.S. even more, which then would make it more difficult for EU governments to cooperate with the US in the future.”


The U.S.-EU trade pact is not the only one at risk. The pending trade deal between the United States and Ecuador has fallen apart because of Snowden. Last week, Ecuador – a country thought to be considering offering Snowden asylum- withdrew from talks, saying they feared “blackmail” if they refused to offer up the fugitive.

Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) refused to back down, warning Ecuador, “Your economy will pay a very big price. We should end all foreign aid, repeal trade agreements worth billions of dollars.”

Ecuador risks losing billions in exports to the United States if the deal falls apart. And while the dissolution of the deal hurts the Ecuadorian side more, the end of a two-decade old trade deal represents a diplomatic setback for both sides.

Wolf said there is potential for the same thing to happen with the U.S.-EU deal.

“Whatever U.S. public diplomacy achieved in Germany in the last four years [since George W. Bush's presidency ended], it’s gone,”’s Wolf said. “Any positive impact President Obama’s trip to Berlin two weeks ago might have had, it’s gone.”


Snowden’s Real Job: Government Hacker

Mathew J. Schwartz    | July 01, 2013 11:42 AM


How did the apparently low-level IT-administrator-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden, 30, manage to gain access to details of numerous top secret National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance programs?

Simple: He wasn’t actually an IT or system administrator. Intelligence officials had repeatedly suggested this while also noting that the agency employs numerous contractors to help maintain its systems. Or as Gen. Keith Alexander, the director of the NSA, told ABC News last month about post-Snowden changes at the agency: “We’re now putting in place actions that would give us the ability to track our system administrators, what they’re doing and what they’re taking, a two-man rule, we’ve changed the passwords.”

In fact, Snowden himself stated in a video that his most recent job title wasn’t that of system administrator. “My name is Ed Snowden, I’m 29 years old. I worked for Booz Allen Hamilton as an infrastructure analyst for NSA in Hawaii,” he told Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald in a video recorded in Hong Kong and broadcast after he’d asked to be identified as the source of the leaks involving Prism and other surveillance programs. Prior to that job, Snowden said, “I’ve been a systems engineer, systems administrator, senior adviser for the Central Intelligence Agency, solutions consultant, and a telecommunications information system officer.”

Many commentators read “infrastructure analyst” as NSA-speak for a system administrator role, and many news reports of Snowden’s leaks actually labeled him as being a sysadmin. But according to intelligence officials, the infrastructure analyst role refers to a position tasked with finding new ways to hack into foreign networks, to keep the NSA abreast of the signals intelligence it’s charged with gathering.

Why hasn’t Snowden’s real role been highlighted to date? Principally because government officials haven’t wanted to highlight the online espionage equivalent of breaking and entering into other countries’ networks and telecommunications equipment, according to a Sunday report in The New York Times that cited no sources.

That revelation finally explains how 30-year-old Snowden came to possess official documents relating to some of the country’s most sensitive surveillance programs, including intercepts of online audio, emails and video (Prism), traffic analysis of cell phone calls (Mainway), Internet metadata collection (Marina), and telephone content interception (Nucleon), not to mention secret court orders authorizing the surveillance programs.

Snowden said he took a job in March as a contractor at Booz Allen Hamilton — reportedly taking a pay cut — to gain access to the documents that he’s since leaked.

“My position with Booz Allen Hamilton granted me access to lists of machines all over the world the NSA hacked,” Snowden told The South China Morning Post prior to leaving Hong Kong for Moscow last week. “That is why I accepted that position about three months ago.”

Snowden now remains in limbo — his U.S. passport has been revoked — in the transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport.

Regardless, expect the leaks to keep on coming. Greenwald has said that Snowden leaked thousands of documents, of which at least dozens are newsworthy.

Most recently, the Guardian Sunday released documents that it said detailed NSA operations against 38 embassies and missions, which were labeled as targets. That target list included not just Middle Eastern countries, but also U.S. allies such as France, Greece, Italy, Mexico, Japan and South Korea. Detailed interception methods included bugs planted in fax machines used to transmit official cables between the European Union embassy in Washington and EU headquarters in Brussels, as well as antenna intercepts and taps in networking cables.


Why the US doesn’t use cyber-weapons to attack its enemies more often

By Kevin J. Delaney    @kevinjdelaney    June 30, 2013


The US government doesn’t like to talk about it, but it has developed an arsenal of cyber-weapons that can be used to attack adversaries. Why doesn’t it deploy computer worms and other technologies for disrupting enemies’ networks and computer-controlled physical infrastructure more often in conflicts around the world?

Mike McConnell, vice chairman at government contractor Booz Allen Hamilton and former head of the National Security Agency and US director of National Intelligence, says the US has the best capabilities in the world for cyber-attacking and “can do some pretty significant damage if we choose to.”

But the government hesitates because it’s wary of making itself an even bigger target for cyber-attacks against the US, according to McConnell. Speaking at the Aspen Ideas Festival (co-organized by Quartz’s sister publication The Atlantic), he elaborated:

“Let’s say you take an action. We depend on this stuff more than anyone else. We’re more vulnerable than anybody else in the world. If we could put a map up here of the world with the US on center and we put bandwidth on top of it, it’s a bell curve. Most of the communications in the world flow through the United States and we are the biggest user and beneficiary. So there’s a great hesitancy to use anything in a cyber context because it’s relatively easy to punch back in a pretty aggressive way.

So every discussion I’ve ever participated in is ‘You’ve got some options. Well, let’s just hold those aside and consider other options.’ But we could do major damage.”

McConnell, who’s credited with building US capabilities for fighting cyber threats, notes that the purpose of the US Cyber Command unit of the Defense Department is both offense and defense. “And the offense will get a lot of attention,” he adds.

The US reportedly has used cyber-weapons against Iran’s nuclear enrichment efforts as part of a program code-named “Olympic Games.” The Stuxnet computer worm developed by the US and Israel reportedly succeeded in disrupting the centrifuges Iran was using to purify uranium in its pursuit of nuclear weapons. (Retired US general James Cartwright is now reportedly the target of a Justice Department investigation into the leaking of information about Stuxnet to the press.)


Cyber-Attackers Constantly Hitting Gas Utilities in 2013


By Robert Lemos | Posted 2013-07-01


Unknown attackers have targeted the Internet-connected systems of natural-gas companies, using brute-force attacks to attempt to access the companies’ business and process-control networks, according to a report published last week by the Internet Control System Cyber Emergency Response Team (ICS-CERT).

The incidents, which occurred in January and February, were first reported to the ICS-CERT, a component of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, in late February, the group stated in its quarterly public report on cyber threats. Following the initial report and a subsequent warning from the ICS-CERT, more critical infrastructure companies came forward with news of other incidents.

“The companies reporting this activity operate gas compressor stations across the Midwest and Plains states within the US, although some of the attempts reported were solely against business networks,” the report stated. “While none of the brute force attempts were successful, these incidents highlight the need for constant vigilance on the part of industry asset owners and operators.”

The last attack occurred on February 23, according to the report. Yet, while the ICS-CERT claimed that no new attacks have been detected, it’s unlikely that the attacks have stopped altogether, Tommy Stiansen, chief technology officer and co-founder of threat-intelligence firm Norse, said in an e-mail interview.

“Today all public facing IP addresses are attacked on a regular basis, but the questions are really by whom and how targeted and sophisticated are the attacks,” he said. “While there may be an element of failure to report, it may be that some of these installations are compromised but admins remain unaware due the stealthy nature of the compromise.”

Recent research published by security firm Trend Micro found that Internet-connected industrial-control systems are frequently targeted by online attackers. The company’s researchers set up fake industrial control systems, made them appear valuable and logged 39 attacks over 28 days against the spoofed systems, the company stated in its report.

While the U.S. called out China for its attacks against sensitive industries, the attacks detected by Trend Micro have come from Internet addresses in 14 different nations. IP addresses in China accounted for about a third of the attacks, while Laos and the United States came in second and third, respectively.

The experiment, which occurred in 2012, underscores that attackers are continuously probing these important systems. While the ICS-CERT reportedly informed industry members of the specific IP addresses that were involved in the attacks, creating block lists based on such quickly changing attributes does not work very well, Norse’s Stiansen said.

“The use of IP block lists described in the report often give admins a false sense of security,” Stiansen said. “Today cyber criminals can setup and launch attacks using botnets and other compromised hosts, quickly changing the IP address and obfuscating the location of the actual attackers.”


Obama: U.S. will give allies info on spying claims

Seattle Times


AP White House Correspondent

Originally published July 1, 2013 at 11:04 AM | Page modified July 1, 2013 at 3:44 PM

Facing a European uproar over more U.S. eavesdropping claims, President Barack Obama argued Monday that it’s no surprise that governments spy on each other but said the United States will provide allies with information about new reports that the National Security Agency bugged European Union offices in Washington, New York and Brussels.

The latest revelations were attributed in part to information supplied by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Obama on Monday also said the U.S. has held “high-level” discussions with Russians to get Snowden out of a Moscow airport and back to the United States to face criminal charges.

Obama, in a news conference with Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, pushed back against objections from key allies over a report in the German news weekly Der Spiegel that the United States installed covert listening devices in EU offices. He suggested such activity by governments is not unusual.

“We should stipulate that every intelligence service – not just ours, but every European intelligence service, every Asian intelligence service, wherever there’s an intelligence service – here’s one thing that they’re going to be doing: they’re going to be trying to understand the world better and what’s going on in world capitals around the world,” he said. “If that weren’t the case, then there’d be no use for an intelligence service.

“And I guarantee you that in European capitals, there are people who are interested in, if not what I had for breakfast, at least what my talking points might be should I end up meeting with their leaders. That’s how intelligence services operate,” Obama added.

European officials from Germany, Italy, France, Luxembourg and the EU government itself say the revelations could damage negotiations on a trans-Atlantic trade treaty between the EU and the United States. Agreeing to start those talks was one of the achievements reached at meetings last month in Northern Ireland between Obama and the European members of the Group of Eight industrialized economies.


Obama said the NSA will evaluate the claims in the German publication and will then inform allies about the allegations.

At the same time, he tried to reassure allies such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron that he relies on personal relationships, not spying, to determine what other leaders have on their minds.

“I’m the end user of this kind of intelligence,” he said. “And if I want to know what Chancellor Merkel is thinking, I will call Chancellor Merkel. If I want to know President Hollande is thinking on a particular issue, I’ll call President Hollande. And if I want to know what, you know, David Cameron’s thinking, I call David Cameron. Ultimately, you know, we work so closely together that there’s almost no information that’s not shared between our various countries.”

Obama’s remarks came shortly after Hollande demanded on Monday that the United States immediately stop any eavesdropping on European Union diplomats.

Obama also said law enforcement officials in the U.S. and Russia were working to find a way to get Snowden back to the United States, where he is charged with violating U.S. espionage laws. The U.S. does not have an extradition treaty with Russia. Moreover, Russia has claimed Snowden is not technically on their soil because, while he is in the transit terminal of the Moscow airport, he has not passed through immigration. The U.S. has revoked his passport.

“We are hopeful that the Russian government makes decisions based on the normal procedures regarding international travel and the normal interactions that law enforcement has,” Obama said.


Identifying the Top Threat Actors

Ex-FBI Investigator on New Targets

by Jeffrey Roman, July 1, 2013. Follow Jeffrey @ISMG_News


Cyber-attacks continue to hamper organizations, says former FBI investigator Shawn Henry. And the actors waging the attacks are targeting organizations for more than just fraud, he says.

The three main groups launching cyber-attacks, Henry says: organized crime, foreign intelligence services and terrorists. And while these groups haven’t changed much over the past 12 months, their techniques have.

“They’ve become more capable,” Henry says during an interview with Information Security Media Group [transcript below]. “They’ve become more sophisticated.”

As organizations work to improve their defenses, threat actors have reacted by becoming more flexible and adaptable, he adds.

“The reality is: The offense outpaces the defense, so they’ve been able to adapt and to overcome, even against what we would consider to be some of the most resilient defenses,” Henry says.


Threat Actors’ Targets

The financial services sector continues to be the most-targeted by organized crime, which aims to pilfer sensitive information that can quickly be monetized, Henry says.

“We’ve also seen some denial-of-service attacks against networks where there might be groups or individuals that are looking to make some type of a social or political statement,” he says (see Are DDoS Attacks Against Banks Over?).

Foreign intelligence services, on the other hand, target multiple sectors, from government to manufacturing and energy to communications, in order to extract data that can be shared with industries in their specific countries, Henry says.

The other main threat: terrorist organizations, which seek to disrupt critical infrastructure and cause harm to, in particular, the United States, he says.

Henry, who left the Federal Bureau of Investigation in March 2012, is now the president of cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike. While at the FBI, he oversaw international computer crime investigations involving DDoS attacks, bank and corporate breaches and state-sponsored intrusions. Over the course of his 24-year career, Henry worked in three FBI field offices, as well as in the bureau’s headquarters. He oversaw the posting of FBI cyber-experts in police agencies around the world, including the Netherlands, Romania, Ukraine and Estonia.


FBI Background

TRACY KITTEN: Tell us about the work that you did with the FBI.

SHAWN HENRY: I worked with the FBI for 24 years and had a number of different positions. In my last position, I was responsible for all cyber-investigations worldwide, as well as criminal investigations and critical incident response. On the cyber-side, I focused primarily on breaches into networks by criminal groups, organized crime groups, terrorist organizations and foreign intelligence services. That included exfiltration of data where the adversary was reaching into a network to pull out data that they see of value, whether it be intellectual property, research and development, corporate strategies, financial data, as well as denial-of-service attacks against networks and other types of breaches where an adversary is looking to wreak some havoc on an organization or on the victim network.

KITTEN: When did you join CrowdStrike?

HENRY: I left the FBI in March of 2012 and joined CrowdStrike the following week, so April 2012. I’ve been there about 13 months now.


Evolving Cybersecurity Landscape

KITTEN: How would you say the cybersecurity landscape has evolved or changed in the last 12 months?

HENRY: It’s an interesting question. I don’t think the landscape has actually changed much. I think the exact same threats that were here when I left the Bureau are still here. What has changed is the awareness of the private sector. There’s a lot more that’s occurred here in the media that has gone out publicly. People have become aware of the threats. Organizations have begun to recognize the impact that they face and the real damage that can be inflicted, and that’s not been out publicly for many years in my service in the government. That really is the most significant change, the awareness. But the activities have not significantly changed.


Top 3 Threats Facing Banks

KITTEN: What would you say are the top-three threats banking institutions face?

HENRY: The financial services sector is probably, in my opinion, among the best protected sectors regarding networks. What we see primarily facing the financial services sector is theft of PII, personally identifiable information; primarily organized crime groups who are targeting networks, trying to steal data which they can very quickly monetize. They do that regularly. They target not only the corporate networks, the financial networks, but individuals as well, trying to capture credentials, usernames and passwords so that they can access accounts. We’ve also seen some denial-of-service attacks against networks where there might be groups or individuals that are looking to make some type of a social or political statement. They recognize that western society and the United States as a whole relies substantially on the financial services sector, so it really is seen as a target of the west, as a symbol of the west and the prosperous United States of America. It’s oftentimes a target of those types of groups.


Threats to Other Sectors

KITTEN: What about other sectors, including government?

HENRY: They’re similar; they’re not the same as what the financial services sector faces. As it relates to government and other sectors, there are oftentimes foreign intelligence services that are looking to pilfer data which they can then share with their industries in their countries, so that they have some type of a competitive advantage. Certainly, the financial services sector is not immune to that. They do get breached by foreign intelligence services that are looking for financial strategies, are interested in mergers and acquisitions, and are interested in partnership deals the financial services sector might be facilitating or enabling. But they’re not the primary threat. It’s those organized crime groups. The foreign intelligence services are hitting every sector in the country: government, military, defense contractors, manufacturing, energy and communications. It really cuts across all sectors. The other group that’s a significant threat is terrorist organizations that seek to potentially disrupt critical infrastructure and to cause harm to the United States.


Threat Actors

KITTEN: How have the actors who are waging some of these attacks changed in recent years?

HENRY: I don’t know that they’ve changed drastically. The same types of groups that I put into three different buckets – organized crime, foreign intelligence services and terrorists – remain primarily the same. We’ve seen these hacktivist groups which I would really kind of put in the terrorist bucket, but the groups themselves haven’t changed. Their capabilities have changed. They’ve become more capable; they’ve become more sophisticated. They’ve had to become flexible and they’ve had to adapt their capabilities as defenses have gotten better and as organizations have become more aware or more resilient in their defense. But the reality is the offense outpaces the defense, so they’ve been able to adapt and to overcome even what we would consider to be some of the most resilient defenses.


Nation-State Attacks

KITTEN: Would it be fair to say that attacks backed by nation-state are posing greater worries today?

HENRY: Again, I think it really depends. It depends on who you are. If you’re a defense contractor that’s developing certain military capabilities for the next-generation war fighter, nation-state is a significant worry to you. If you’re a financial organization, you’re probably more concerned about the organized crime group because that’s the thing that might impact your bottom line. If there’s a $10 million loss, it’s going to be on the balance sheet. People are going to see it, maybe the media. It’s going to pose a risk to the organization’s reputation. That’s going to pose a risk to their operations and customer confidence sometimes. It really depends who you are what the greatest worry should be to you.

Some have said that nation-states, because they’re so closely tied to the U.S. economy, that they would not necessarily take destructive actions, where a crime ring might attack a company and pose some type of a threat to data, to destroying data, in exchange for some type of a monetary reward. We’ve actually seen extortions where companies have had their networks breached, and they’ve then contacted the company and said, “We’ll be happy to turn your data over for a $150,000 consulting fee. And if you don’t, then we’re going to destroy your data.” It really depends on who the organization is [regarding] what their greatest threat to them is.

KITTEN: Would you say that the lines that divide these groups are blurring?

HENRY: We have seen some overlap. It’s not always clear. It used to be clearer in the past, but I think that the capabilities of some of these organized crime groups are such that they actually approach the maturation level of foreign intelligence services. They’re very, very capable; they’re not just kids [moving] around on the network. These are organized, methodical and well-practiced, so I do think that there’s a bit of a blur. It’s also not always clear that the groups and some of the individuals in the groups aren’t crossing lines perhaps, working for the government on one hand and then perhaps on the weekends moonlighting and doing some work for themselves.

International Investigations

KITTEN: Do you see international investigations improving?

HENRY: Every cyber-investigation for the most part has some international nexus. There’s something that either originates or ends internationally or transcends an international point. From an information-sharing perspective, it requires good coordination and good lines of communication, both in the private sector and in the government sector. In terms of identifying who the adversaries are, there needs to be what I call actionable intelligence sharing, where government-to-government they’ve got to share indicators that will help to identify who the adversary is and if they can arrest them or take some type of action to thwart the attack.

From the private sector perspective, there needs to be sharing even within the same companies that have international capabilities across many countries. They need to share information, actionable intelligence, so that they can better defend themselves and provide a better defense. I do think it’s improving. Again, the awareness piece is really important, the fact that more organizations have visibility into these types of attacks and they have a sense of understanding about what the impact is. That encourages better sharing of actionable intelligence.


Information Sharing Challenges

KITTEN: What are some of the challenges facing information sharing?

HENRY: There are a couple things. One, I think the sharing between the government and the private sector is still not as robust as it needs to be. There are a lot of reasons for that. One is the lines are not clearly drawn of exactly what companies need and what governments need. There’s a national security perspective sometimes, so it’s difficult to share classified information. That’s a bit of a challenge. Companies still have some concerns that by sharing information they’ll be revealing unnecessarily to the public that there’s a problem on their network, causing some type of a lost confidence potentially with their client base. All in all, I think it is getter better. There’s still a long way to go, but it’s certainly one of the bigger challenges.

The last piece I’ll add is the concern people have about privacy. What are we sharing? I would argue that there’s no need to share content. You don’t need to share Word files; you don’t need to share content of e-mails; you don’t need to share spreadsheet information. What you need to share is a lot of the technical data, what we call indicators if there’s been a compromise, the signatures of malware and the types of information that would help to identify how an attack occurred and who might have launched an attack, but does not compromise the actual content of data. But that privacy piece is rightfully so a concern by many people, both public and private, and it does cause some consternation when you talk about information sharing because people just need to be educated about what that information really is.


DDoS Attacks

KITTEN: What can you tell us about what’s likely going on behind the scenes?

HENRY: Let me first say that I do not have any inside information about what’s occurring. Any of my comments relate specifically to my observations from the outside looking in. But I think that there’s certainly a cause for concern any time there’s some disruption of service; or when people have difficulty accessing their networks, there’s a cause for concern. I would think that the FBI would be looking quite closely to try to determine where the attacks are coming from. I think that they would likely be working with international partners, both in the intelligence community as well as in the law enforcement community, to try and identify what the sources of attacks are. Once you can determine where those attacks are coming from, you can take law enforcement action to disrupt the networks that are launching those attacks and actually disrupt the people that are causing those attacks. Through the execution of search warrants or arrest warrants and the like, that’s going to be an action that’s going to help mitigate the threat, by actually taking the bad actors off of the playing field.


New defense cyber policies are in the works


By Amber Corrin

Jul 02, 2013


DOD’s cyber strategy from 2011 is due for an update.


The Defense Department is working on a new plan for operating in cyberspace, policy that would update the official strategy first released two years ago this month.

Army Maj. Gen. John Davis said that while significant progress has been made in the military’s cyber domain so far, there remains work to be done and that two years in real time could equal 20 years in cyberspace’s boundless landscape.

“Senior leaders in the department and beyond the department understand that cyber is a problem [and] cyber is important,” Davis said at an industry event in Baltimore on June 28. “They’ve made cyber a priority, and there is a sense of urgency.”

In July 2011, then-Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn rolled out the defense strategy for operating in cyberspace, which encompasses five strategic pillars. They included the establishment of cyberspace as an operational domain and plans to ready forces to go with it; the introduction and employment of new operational concepts on DOD networks; cross-agency partnerships, including with the Homeland Security Department; the build-up of cyber defenses, coordinated with allies and international partners; and the capitalization of U.S. resources, including technology, workforce and rapid innovation.

Davis highlighted progress over the past two years, including the launch of service cyber components operating under U.S. Cyber Command, joint cyber centers at the combatant commands, military orders for cyber operations, an interim command and control framework, cyber force structure and training exercises.

As a result, Davis said, the U.S. military has been able to refine its role in cyberspace, as well as the partnerships that support it. That role is shared with agencies like DHS and Justice Department, he added, as well as the private sector and global collaborators.

“We have three main cyber missions, and three kinds of cyber forces will operate around the clock to conduct those missions,” Davis said.

He noted that national forces will act to counter cyber attacks on the U.S., while a second, larger group of combat mission forces will help execute military operations and integrate digital capabilities into the DOD arsenal. The largest set of cyber operators will operate and defend critical Pentagon networks.

“We will deter, disrupt and deny adversary cyberspace operations that threaten vital U.S. interests when approved by the president and directed by the secretary of defense,” he said. “If a crippling cyber attack is launched against our nation, the Department of Defense must be ready for an order from the commander in chief to act.”


Can DIA become the Defense Innovation Agency?

By Amber Corrin

Jul 01, 2013



DIA Director Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, shown here speaking at a meeting in 2012, says DIA has to ‘break down legacy walls’ to emerge as an innovation leader. (Army photo)

“Innovation” is pretty big as far as government buzzwords go. Often found hand-in-hand with “doing more with less,” the idea of innovation is one that seems to excite leaders and frequently surfaces in briefings and talking points.

But what is actually getting done? Who is really out there taking innovation for a spin?

The intelligence community might not immediately seem like the leader, but if the Defense Intelligence Agency has anything to say about it, it is in the driver’s seat.

“The agency was established to understand the plans of the adversary. In the process of that, we became an organization that focuses on planning,” said Dan Doney, DIA’s chief innovation officer. “Planning and sticking to the plan are the opposite of innovation. Innovation is deviating from the plan, rapidly moving it and changing. When it comes to innovation, we haven’t had a great reputation. Put that in the past.”

Today, DIA is moving forward with what officials call an entirely new approach — one that eradicates traditional silos, aggressively seeks outside input and quickly implements new ideas. The objective is to avoid strategic surprise and push forward with a new way of conducting the government’s intelligence business after more than a decade of war.

“We have to break down legacy walls,” DIA Director Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn said at the agency’s June 27 Innovation Day at its Washington headquarters. “Innovation is not just about technology — it’s about a lot of things. Pay close attention to how this organization has adjusted and what we’re working toward.

Training, education and professional development are a big deal. We can’t lose the gains from the last decade.”

The biggest area of focus in DIA’s new approach is information sharing. The year-old Intelligence Community IT Enterprise (ICITE) is designed to link the 17 intelligence agencies and significantly reduce IT costs.

Among DIA’s contributions to ICITE is the Innovation Gateway, an online information-sharing environment that forges easier connections between the intelligence community and industry. The goal is to help the agencies identify and adopt better solutions, particularly those that might not have surfaced without such a system. “No more middle man,” Doney said. “No more cloudiness, no more special relationships where you need to know the right person to know what we’re looking for.”


Reaching out to industry

Users access the gateway via DIA-granted public-key infrastructure credentials. Much of the environment uses a wiki-style format, which is fitting for a system designed to free people from the constraints of standardization.


“There are some tricks associated [with] making a coherent environment that isn’t coherently planned, but the first place you show up to…is a wiki, where you’re made aware of the capabilities of the space,” Doney said. “Underneath that is a description for how a technology provider participates in the space…and they’re able to offer their technologies within the space, they’re able to link to a set of core services” for others to access.

To protect against potential theft of intellectual property, the system has safeguards in place in the form of what Doney called stakeholder management authorization.

“One of the advantages is that providers host their own [areas], so they maintain complete control over their own capabilities, technologies and configurations,” Doney said. “They’re not constrained by other people’s ways of doing things.”

The gateway is still in its early stages, but officials expect initial operating capability in December. Reaching critical mass in terms of users will be the key to the project’s success and progress, Doney said. He likened getting there to the early days of Wikipedia, when the popular online resource relied on passionate early adopters to generate content.

“The first phase is the hardest,” he said. “It takes action and energy to get over the initial barriers.”


Measuring results

Another tricky aspect of the Innovation Gateway is measuring success, particularly by traditional government models, officials said.

“There’s not going to be one way to look at it and either you passed or failed. It’s going to be all-encompassing,” said Janice Glover Jones, DIA’s CIO. She added that productivity is one key marker, but success writ large will be a little tougher to define. “And even if you fail, you get lessons learned.” Doney, too, indicated that the focus should be on the less tangible goals.

“Innovation is a means, not an end,” he said. “We’re driven by mission, so the bottom line is how much better are we able to execute on our mission, not whether or not we’re the best innovators in the world. It’s a mistake many folks make to measure the means instead of the ends.”

Still, he pointed to his “stretch goals” as crucial milestones, such as the 30-day transition requirement that reforms discovery, evaluation, integration and acquisition. Other goals are characterized by the existence of cross-functional teams of analysts, collectors and technologists who work together seamlessly; rapid access to tools and capabilities; and the availability of mission-relevant data.

The goals illustrate the agency’s wider drive to get back on track after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which drastically changed the business of government.

“We’ve exercised the wrong muscles. We have to go back to a place where we exercise the right muscles and think about how we conduct business,” Flynn said. “We have to allow for failure…. It’s a risk, but that’s OK. The return on investment on risk is so good.”


NIST Unveils Draft of Cybersecurity Framework

Executives Given Key Role in Voluntary Framework

By Eric Chabrow, July 3, 2013


The cybersecurity framework, ordered by President Obama, will emphasize the importance of senior executives in managing programs to secure their enterprises’ information systems and assets, according to a draft of the cybersecurity framework released by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

“By using this framework, these senior executives can manage cybersecurity risks within their enterprise’s broader risks and business plans and operations,” says the draft dated July 1, but made public a day later.

In February, Obama issued an executive order directing NIST, working with the private sector, to develop a framework to reduce cybersecurity risks that the mostly private operators of the nation’s critical infrastructure could adopt voluntarily [see Obama Issues Cybersecurity Executive Order].

NIST concedes much more work must be done by the time the final version of the framework is issued next February. Among the areas NIST identifies that need to be addressed in the framework are privacy and civil liberties standards, guidelines and practices as well as helpful metrics for organizations to determine their cybersecurity effectiveness.

“We want to provide something that has flexibility, that can be implemented by different sectors,” Donna Dodson, chief of NIST’s computer security division, said in an interview with Information Security Media Group prior to the draft’s release [see Fulfilling the President’s Cybersecurity Executive Order]. “We want it to be specific in other ways so that we are sure we are working to reducing cybersecurity risks in the critical infrastructure.”


5 Core Cybersecurity Functions

The framework, according to the draft, will revolve around a core structure that includes five major cybersecurity functions, each with its own categories, subcategories and information references. The five functions include Know, Prevent, Detect, Respond and Recover.

The Know function, for instance, would include a category entitled “know the enterprise risk architecture” with subcategories of “understand corporate risk tolerance” and “identify risk assessment methodologies,” as well as others. An information reference, in this instance, would link to guidance such as NIST Special Publication 800-53: Security and Privacy Controls for Federal Information Systems and Organizations and ISO 31000: Risk Management.

The framework also will include three implementation levels that reflect organizational maturity in addressing cybersecurity. Incorporated into the framework will be a user’s guide to help organizations understand how to apply it as well as a compendium of informative references, existing standards, guidelines and practices to assist with specific implementation.


Framework as a Guide, Not Detailed Manual

NIST says the framework should not be seen as a detailed manual, but as a guide to help executives, managers and staff to understand and assess the cybersecurity capabilities, readiness and risks their organizations face, as well as identify areas of strength and weakness and aspects of cybersecurity on which they should productively focus.

Some 240 entities including major technology and security vendors, trade groups, local and state governments, not-for-profit organizations and individuals this past spring submitted to NIST their ideas on IT security best practices to incorporate into the framework. NIST held a workshop in late May in Pittsburgh, where it reviewed the submissions and started to create the framework. Another workshop is scheduled for July 10-12 in San Diego, where the framework will be refined.

“Many comments advised that the cybersecurity framework would not be effective unless the very senior levels of management of an organization were fully engaged and aware of the vulnerabilities and risks posed by cybersecurity threats and committed to integrating cybersecurity risks into the enterprise’s larger risk management approach,” according to the draft.

“Time and again, comments reflected that these senior executives, including boards of directors, need to integrate and relate cybersecurity concerns and risks to critical infrastructure to the organization’s basic business and its ability to deliver products and services,” the draft says. “It is clear that these officials are best positioned to define and express accountability and responsibility, and to combine threat and vulnerability information with the potential impact to business needs and operational capabilities.”



Funding is up in the air for FAA control tower upgrade

The NextGen GPS air control plan, which would cut airline delays and fuel consumption, costs $40 billion that sequestration puts at risk.

LA Times

By Hugo Martín

7:53 PM PDT, June 30, 2013


Air travel in the future will be faster, cleaner and less expensive if the Federal Aviation Administration’s $40-billion overhaul of the nation’s air control system is completed.

That’s a big if.

With the federal sequestration fight in Washington, FAA officials say funding for the seven-year project could be in jeopardy.

The plan, known as NextGen, replaces outdated radar-based technology with global positioning systems and digital communications to modernize the country’s air control system.

By allowing pilots to fly more direct routes and giving air traffic controllers more accurate and up-to-date information, the system is expected to cut airline delays 41% by 2020, compared with the delays without NextGen, according to a new report by the FAA.

The efficiencies in the system are also forecasted to save 1.6 billion gallons of fuel and cut 16 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions, with $38 billion in cumulative benefits to airlines, the public and the FAA, the report said.

A key component of the system is that air traffic controllers using GPS will get more precise information on planes’ locations and speeds, allowing controllers to better manage the 7,000 or so planes in the air at any given time, according to the FAA. Because the current radar system is slower and less precise, controllers must add a bigger safety cushion of separation between planes.

In a recent speech, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta slammed lawmakers for failing to reach an agreement on future spending plans.

“Because of the financial uncertainty, we can hope for the best, but we have to plan for the worst,” he said. “This is not a sustainable course of action, and it’s no way to run a government.”


Good news for Internet junkies who fly out of Los Angeles International Airport: You’ve got plenty of flights equipped with wireless Internet to choose from.

Fliers departing from LAX to San Francisco International Airport or John F. Kennedy International Airport have the greatest number of daily domestic flight offering Wi-Fi, according to a new study by the travel site

Between LAX and San Francisco, fliers can choose from 31 daily flights that offer Wi-Fi, the study found. Between LAX and JFK, air travelers can pick 27 daily flights with Wi-Fi service, according to the study.

“Wi-Fi is not going away,” said John Walton, director of data for “Passengers want it and will pay for it.”

Overall, 38% of the domestic flights in the U.S. offer Wi-Fi, a number that has been growing 5% to 7% a year, he said. But the rate will likely surge as more airlines install satellite-based Wi-Fi on more of their fleet, Walton said.

“In the next quarter, I imagine we will see a situation where satellite Wi-Fi should be rolling out in big numbers,” he said.

• Airlines in the U.S. lose or damage about 140,000 bags a month, or about three for every 100,000 passengers.

It’s a relatively small loss rate. Still, several companies hope to capitalize on the frustration travelers feel waiting by the baggage carousel only to realize their luggage didn’t make it onto their flight.

Next week, Los Angeles company GlobaTrac plans to begin shipping a palm-sized device that travelers can toss into their bags to track luggage via the Internet or a smartphone app. The device, called Trakdot, sells for $50, plus fees from

Meanwhile, European aerospace company Airbus announced last month that it is producing luggage with built-in technology that allows passengers to track their bags. The luggage even includes a built-in scale to tell whether it is exceeding the maximum weight limits.

No word on the cost of the high-tech suitcase, but Airbus is reportedly considering letting airlines rent the bags to passengers.


Another potential roadblock for UAS integration in the USA


by Gary Mortimer • 1 July 2013


As I watch the UA story in America unfold from afar the more it seems to be like a game show. Phil from The Amazing Race has just thrown up another potential roadblock for the teams.

Last Thursday the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the 2014 transportation funding bill which asks that the FAA is to stop the rule making process until privacy concerns have been addressed.

This process is expected to take at least one year. It first has to pass through the Senate and House.

I have said it before if you want to start in the UA industry and you are from the USA probably best to move overseas. Your ideas will not be subject to ITAR and a viable commercial market exists.

Lets hope test site selection continues in parallel with this process along with all the other bits and pieces other countries seem to have managed more than 5 years ago.

Look out 2047 here we come. After the break scenes from next weeks episode.

From Senate Appropriations Committee:

The development of unmanned aerial systems [UAS] offers benefits in a wide variety of applications, including law enforcement and border patrol, precision agriculture, wildfire mapping, weather monitoring, oil and gas exploration, disaster management, and aerial imaging. The UAS industry also presents an opportunity for substantial domestic job growth.

The FAA is taking important steps toward integrating UAS into the national airspace, including implementing a UAS test site program to help the agency gather critical safety data. The expanded use of UAS also presents the FAA with significant challenges. The Committee is concerned that, without adequate safeguards, expanded use of UAS by both governmental and nongovernmental entities will pose risks to individuals’ privacy.

The FAA has recognized the importance of addressing privacy concerns by requiring that UAS test sites have privacy policies in place before test flights begin. However, as the FAA looks to integrate UAS into the national airspace, a more comprehensive approach to privacy may be warranted. The United States Constitution, Federal, and various State privacy laws apply to the operation of UAS, but in consideration of the rapid advancement of technology in this area, the Committee questions whether current laws offer sufficient protections to adequately protect individuals.

FAA’s oversight and regulatory authority over the national airspace places the agency in a position to work with other agencies on addressing privacy concerns. To that end, the Committee directs the FAA to collaborate with other Federal agencies in evaluating the impact that broader use of UAS in the national airspace could have on individual privacy.

Furthermore, the Committee includes bill language that prohibits the FAA from issuing final regulations on the integration of UAS into the national airspace until the Secretary submits a report detailing the results of such collaboration. The Committee expects this report to address the application of existing privacy law to governmental and non-governmental entities; identify gaps in existing law, especially with regard to the use and retention of personally identifiable information by both governmental and non-governmental entities; and recommend next steps in how the FAA or other Federal agencies can address the impact of widespread use of UAS on individual privacy. The Committee directs the FAA to submit this report to the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations not later than 1 year after enactment of this act.


Some states may lose Air National Guard flying units

By Brian Everstine

Staff writer

Jun. 26, 2013 – 06:00AM |

Air Force


F-16 Fighting Falcons from the Colorado Air National Guard arrive at a training base in northern Jordan as part of an exercise June 6. Budget realities may force the Air National Guard to shut down some aircraft squadrons.F-16 Fighting Falcons from the Colorado Air National Guard arrive at a training base in northern Jordan as part of an exercise June 6. Budget realities may force the Air National Guard to shut down some aircraft squadrons.

Budget realities could force the Air National Guard below its guiding principle of one flying unit per state, and state leaders could be OK with that.

During last year’s budget deliberations, the Guard and state leaders drew a line on cuts, focusing on its “capstone principle” of one unit capable of flying missions per state, while the Air Force was targeting the component for cuts.

But the realities of sequestration and an uncertain budget future may mean the closure of some aircraft units, although state leaders say they would agree to the cuts as long as there are enough assets available regionally to respond to natural disasters.
“If they don’t have (the assets), they are interested in making sure that at least regionally, they can access it very quickly,” said Heather Hogsett, the director of the homeland security committee at the National Governors Association.

Currently, all states have an aircraft unit, although there has been a push at increasing the number of Air National Guard units with cyber missions such as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, which could replace flying units.

The idea came up during the third public meeting of the National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force on June 26. The congressionally mandated commission, created in last year’s defense spending bill, is made up of members nominated by the president and Congress. It will produce a report next year on the future force structure needs of the service.

Members of the commission spoke critically of the need for each state to have a flying unit. Les Brownlee, a former acting undersecretary of the Army, asked state leaders directly: “Why does a governor need an F-16?”

Maj. Gen. Tim Orr, the adjutant general of Iowa, said the 132nd Fighter Wing in his state was one of two units that lost their F-16s under last year’s spending bill. He said other parts of the wing — including medical units, maintenance, security forces, other support units — were crucial to his state, along with having pilots and their F-16s able to deploy for the Air Force.

“It’s the other capabilities in the wing that are crucial,” he said. “In (2008) floods, we used all personnel to accomplish the mission on the ground.”

Brownlee responded by saying the state has Army National Guard units that would be more effective on the ground in disasters than fighter pilots.

“We had so much flooding that it took the whole Air National Guard and Army National Guard,” Orr said. “That’s not uncommon.”

He said the need for fighters in the Guard is because “we’re the reserve of the Air Force. We have to have that same capability and capacity.”

State leaders are currently meeting with officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to look at the top five possible catastrophes that could occur, and then see what assets would need to be available to respond, Orr said. The report is expected this fall and could help drive debates on the allocation of Air National Guard resources.

Brownlee also highlighted the recent decision to have Air Force Reserve crews work under the Air National Guard in response to homeland disasters and under the direction of a Guard dual status commander. This overlap in abilities begs the question, “Is it time to think of a hybrid of the Reserve and Guard?” he said.

Leaders on Capitol Hill and in the Pentagon should start having that discussion and begin a national debate on if that is possible and the right thing to do, Orr said.


Wi-Fi That Sees Through Walls

Thomas Claburn


June 29, 2013


Researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory have come up with a way to create a low-power, portable device that can see through walls using Wi-Fi signals.

Technology of this sort, similar in concept to radar or sonar, has existed for years and relies on radio waves and other parts of the electromagnetic spectrum. It is used mainly in law enforcement and military applications, ideally when the law allows.

Wall penetration systems have become common enough that the U.S. Department of Justice last year funded a market survey of what’s known as “through-the-wall sensors,” or TTWS.

Security products maker Camero-Tech, for example, offers its Xaver line of through-wall imaging devices for defense and law enforcement applications. But with prices at about $9,000 for the handheld Xaver 100 and $47,500 for the 7 lb. Xaver 400, these aren’t consumer products.

The legality of TTWS technology is sufficiently unclear that ManTech Advanced Systems International, the company that prepared the market survey, recommends those planning to use TTWS equipment seek legal advice in advance.

In 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the use of thermal imaging to monitor what’s going on inside a private home violates Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches. But as the ability to see through walls reaches the civilian market, this legal boundary is likely to be tested again.

There is at least one consumer TTWS device on the market already, STI’s Rex Plus, an $80+ device that can be placed against a wall/door in order to sound an alarm when someone approaches the opposite side of the wall/door.

Dina Katabi, a professor in MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and graduate student Fadel Adib propose wider civilian use of the technology through a simple, affordable device like a mobile phone, equipped with two antennas and a receiver.

In an email, Katabi suggested the technology, which she calls WiVi, can be used for virtual reality and gaming, without requiring the user to remain in a specific area in front of a sensor. She also says the technology could be used for personal safety.

“For example, if I am walking at night in an isolated area and suspect that someone is following me, hiding behind a fence or around a corner, I can then use WiVi to detect that person and alert myself to the person’s movement,” she said.

Katabi says WiVi can be used for “privacy-preserving monitoring,” such as tracking the movements of elderly people or children without actually having them on camera.

In time, however, improvements in Wi-Fi-based sensing may require a reexamination of the privacy implications of making walls effectively transparent.

“Today the technology does not show body parts or the face of the person,” said Katabi. “Hence it is naturally anonymized. However, as we improve the technology it will start giving higher resolution images for things that one cannot see because they are behind a wall. This will raise privacy related questions. As a society, we still have time to look at these issues and ensure our society has the right policies by the time such high-resolution version of the technology becomes available.”

That future already has been contemplated: University of Tokyo researchers have developed paint that blocks Wi-Fi signals.

Wi-Fi-based sensing appears to be a particularly active area of research at the moment. At the University of Washington, researchers have developed a related technology, WiSee, a Wi-Fi-based gesture sensing system that duplicates the functioning of sensor-based motion detection systems like Leap Motion and Microsoft Kinect without the sensing area limitations.



Statement by Secretary Hagel on the 40th Anniversary of the All-Volunteer Force

DoD Public Affairs

July 1, 2013


Forty years ago today, the Department of Defense implemented one of the most consequential and far-reaching changes in the history of America’s armed forces with the establishment of the all-volunteer force.

In commemorating the birth of our modern military, we recognize and thank the millions of men and women and their families who have served our country — on active duty, in the reserves, and in the National Guard. Skeptics and detractors claimed an all-volunteer force could not be sustained, but these remarkable Americans proved otherwise. They helped win the Cold War, stood against aggression in the Persian Gulf, kept peace in the Balkans, and put their lives on the line in Iraq and Afghanistan in the years since 9/11. They choose to serve our country because they believe in a cause that is bigger than themselves. They’ve always put the interestsof the nation first, as have their families. It’s because of their sense of duty that the American military remains the most trusted institution in our society today.

Our all-volunteer force faces challenges. It will need to rebalance, adapt, and evolve, as it has over the last 40 years. America’s all-volunteer force will continue to make our military the strongest, most capable, and most respected fighting force in the history of the world.



What Are We Going to Do About GPS Jamming?


By Bob Brewin July 1, 2013


Not much, based on this updated report from the Department of Homeland Security.

DHS prepared a classified report on Global Positioning System vulnerabilities in November 2012 and the unclassified version, released last week, leaves much to worry about, including the fact that “Detecting, locating and disabling sources of GPS disruption remain a challenge.”

The department suggests manual backups for GPS, which I imagine includes old-fashioned compasses and maps, but observed that “human skills for using manual techniques could erode due to lack of training and practice as GPS becomes more ubiquitous.”

GPS signals sit at the core of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Next Generation Air Transportation System, provide timing signals for wired and wireless networks, guide precision munitions, help mariners navigate tough harbor approaches and are key to precision farming operations.

But nowhere in the report does DHS suggest an automatic back-up system for the simple reason that one does not exist, even though the Department of Transportation’s John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center warned about the dangers of GPS jamming and called for development of an automatic back-up system in a report published 13 years ago.

The Volpe report suggested a terrestrial backup GPS system based on an improved version of the WW II Long Range Navigation System, known as Loran, but the United States abandoned Loran due to the manning costs incurred by the Coast Guard, which literally blew up the tower of the Port Clarence, Alaska, station in 2010.


South Korea, which has a lot of experience with GPS jamming by North Korea, plans to start installing a Loran system in 2016 with full operation planned by 2018 — a better approach than a compass or map.


Government Executive Defense Contractors and Military Personnel Can’t Fill In for Furloughed Civilians


By Charles S. Clark

July 1, 2013


During furlough days set to begin July 8, Defense Department managers may not “borrow military manpower” nor step up assignments to contractors to make up for idled civilian employees, a Pentagon official directed on Friday.

Planning around civilian furloughs and “total force management” requires that “component heads, installation commanders and line managers shall take steps to manage workload, but must ensure that borrowed military manpower is not used to compensate for work resulting from a civilian furlough,” F.E. Vollrath, assistant Defense secretary for readiness and force management, wrote in a memo to the joint chiefs, all undersecretaries and major departmental directors.

Borrowing labor “would be inconsistent with the secretary’s intent and the department’s commitment to protect the viability of the All-Volunteer Force,” he continued. “Additionally, in accordance with the department’s statutory requirements, contractors are prohibited from being assigned or permitted to perform additional work or duties to compensate for the workload/productivity loss resulting from the civilian furlough,” Vollrath wrote.

The policy on contractors was welcomed by the American Federation of Government Employees, whose national president J. David Cox Sr. on Monday issued a statement crediting Vollrath’s position, even though “Congress should have repealed sequestration months ago because it was a failed tactic never intended to be enacted, and Secretary [Chuck] Hagel never should have imposed furloughs on the Department of Defense’s reliable and experienced civilian workforce when there is ample room for reductions in service contract spending that is supposed to be temporary in nature.”

Cox recapped a Monday meeting with Vollrath, during which the union “pressed him to ensure that AFGE’s direct conversion concerns — i.e., when work performed by civilian employees is given to contractors illegally or to military personnel inappropriately — are resolved expeditiously. I asked him to investigate in particular a direct conversion at Anniston [Ala.] Army Depot where core depot maintenance workload is being illegally privatized,” Cox said.

Also on Monday, the Pentagon comptroller released updated fiscal 2013 budget numbers detailing planned cuts under sequestration, as requested in May by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Ranking Member James Inhofe, R-Okla. The new report lays out line items totaling some $41 billion in reduced spending for fiscal 2013, noting that the cost of preparing the new estimates was $38,000.

Levin was traveling and unavailable for comment.





Members of Top Nine Software Teams Move Forward from DARPA’s Virtual Robotics Challenge

by Staff Writers

Washington DC (SPX) Jul 01, 2013


The DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) was created with a clear vision: spur development of advanced robots that can assist humans in mitigating and recovering from future natural and man-made disasters. Disasters evoke powerful, physical images of destruction, yet the first event of the DRC was a software competition carried out in a virtual environment that looked like an obstacle course set in a suburban area.

That setting was the first proving ground for testing software that might control successful disaster response robots, and it was the world’s first view into the DARPA Robotics Challenge Simulator, an open-source platform that could revolutionize robotics development.

Disaster response robots require multiple layers of software to explore and interact with their environments, use tools, maintain balance and communicate with human operators. In the Virtual Robotics Challenge (VRC), competing teams applied software of their own design to a simulated robot in an attempt to complete a series of tasks that are prerequisites for more complex activities.

Twenty-six teams from eight countries qualified to compete in the VRC, which ran from June 17-21, 2013. DARPA had allocated resources for the six teams that did best, but in an interesting twist, good sportsmanship and generosity will allow members of the top nine teams, listed below, to move forward:


1. Team IHMC, Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, Pensacola, Fla. (52 points)

2. WPI Robotics Engineering C Squad (WRECS), Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Worcester, Mass. (39 points)

3. MIT, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass. (34 points)

4. Team TRACLabs, TRACLabs, Inc., Webster, Texas (30 points)

5. JPL / UCSB / Caltech, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. (29 points)

6. TORC, TORC / TU Darmstadt / Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Va. (27 points)

7. Team K, Japan (25 points)

8. TROOPER, Lockheed Martin, Cherry Hill, N.J. (24 points)

9. Case Western University, Cleveland, Ohio (23 points)


The top six teams earned funding and an ATLAS robot from DARPA to compete in the DRC Trials in December 2013 (DARPA is also funding several other “Track A” teams to construct their own robot and compete in the Trials). The Trials are the second of three DRC events, and the first physical competition.


In a demonstration of good sportsmanship, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which also has a DARPA-funded Track A effort with its own robot, decided to merge its two efforts and offer the bulk of the resources it earned in the VRC to other teams. DARPA split the freed resources between the next two teams:

+ The robot associated with the JPL win and some funding now goes to TROOPER (Lockheed Martin).

+ Additional funds are being allocated to a newly formed team of Team K and Case Western. That team, now known as HKU, will use an ATLAS robot generously donated to it by Hong Kong University to participate in the DRC Trials in December.


Thus, in total, seven teams with ATLAS robots and DARPA support will be going to the DRC Trials, where they will compete with other teams with their own robots.

VRC teams were evaluated based on task completion and effective operator control of the robots in five simulated runs for each of three tasks (15 total timed runs) that addressed robot perception, manipulation and locomotion.

The tasks included: entering, driving and exiting a utility vehicle; walking across muddy, uneven and rubble-strewn terrain; and attaching a hose connector to a spigot, then turning a nearby valve. To simulate communications limitations in a disaster zone, the VRC imposed a round trip latency of 500 milliseconds on data transmission, and varied the total number of communications bits available in each run, from a high of 900 megabits down to 60 megabits.

To conduct the VRC, DARPA funded the Open Source Robotics Foundation to develop a cloud-based simulator that calculates and displays the physical and sensory behaviors of robots in a three-dimensional virtual space, in real time. The simulator allowed teams to send commands and receive data over the Internet to and from a simulated ATLAS robot-information very similar to what would be sent between a physical robot and its operator in the real world.

“The VRC and the DARPA Simulator allowed us to open the field for the DARPA Robotics Challenge beyond hardware to include experts in robotic software. Integrating both skill sets is vital to the long-term feasibility of robots for disaster response,” said Gill Pratt, DRC program manager.

“The Virtual Robotics Challenge itself was also a great technical accomplishment, as we have now tested and provided an open-source simulation platform that has the potential to catalyze the robotics and electro-mechanical systems industries by lowering costs to create low volume, highly complex systems.”


Immigration deal would boost defense manufacturers

Washington Post

By Matea Gold, Published: July 1


The border security plan the Senate approved last week includes unusual language mandating the purchase of specific models of helicopters and radar equipment for deployment along the U.S.-Mexican border, providing a potential windfall worth tens of millions of dollars to top defense contractors.

The legislation would require the U.S. Border Patrol to acquire, among other items, six Northrop Grumman airborne radar systems that cost $9.3 million each, 15 Sikorsky Black Hawk helicopters that average more than $17 million apiece, and eight light enforcement helicopters made by American Eurocopter that sell for about $3 million each.

The legislation also calls for 17 UH-1N helicopters made by Bell Helicopter, an older model that the company no longer manufactures.

Watchdog groups and critics said that these and other detailed requirements would create a troubling end-run around the competitive bidding process and that they are reminiscent of old-fashioned earmarks — spending items that lawmakers insert into legislation to benefit specific projects or recipients. In the past several years, Congress has had a moratorium on earmarks.


The language was included in a $46 billion border security package the Senate approved last week as part of a comprehensive immigration bill. The so-called border surge — an additional $38 billion in spending — was added in the final week of negotiations to attract more GOP support for the measure, which passed with 68 votes, including 14 from Republicans.

The legislation would spend $30 billion over the next decade to hire more than 19,000 new Border Patrol agents, an undertaking that would double the size of the force and that many immigration experts consider wasteful and unnecessary.

The measure also would devote $7.5 billion to build 350 miles of fencing along the U.S.-Mexican border and $4.5 billion to buy new border technology. The legislation would have to be fully implemented, along with electronic visa and employment verification systems, before immigrants could receive green cards.

Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.), who co-sponsored the plan, said the provisions were aimed at assuaging the concerns of Republicans who are wary about creating a path to citizenship without tougher border measures.

“I was just trying to work with our caucus to get as many of our guys to participate,” Hoeven said.

That approach did not win over holdouts such as Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who said: “Taxpayer funds should enhance border security, not provide border stimulus for contractors. Unfortunately, the Senate bill does exactly that.”

The list of equipment included in the legislation was drawn from a technological needs assessment developed by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency in 2010, according to a senior Department of Homeland Security official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the internal process. Agency staff members compiled the list at the request of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano after she stopped a virtual-fence project that was plagued by cost overruns and delays.

Border Patrol officials provided the list to congressional staffers who had asked what the agency needed to effectively control the border.

In separate interviews last week, Corker and Hoeven said they decided to add the list to the legislation to help win over GOP senators who did not trust Napolitano to carry out a border plan.

The two senators noted that the proposal would allow Napolitano to substitute equivalent brands of technology as long as she notified Congress within 60 days. “If they want to buy something better, they can,” Corker said.

But critics said that because the measure prescribes specific products, the agency probably would not seek alternatives. “Lawmakers have put their thumb on the scale for particular products and technologies and that is hard for an agency to ignore,” said Steve Ellis, vice president of the nonpartisan Taxpayers for Common Sense, which scrutinizes federal spending.

The $4.5 billion set aside for technology would be a boon for defense contractors, who are looking for opportunities as the United States continues to reduce its presence in Afghanistan.

The parent corporations of the companies that manufacture the products listed in the bill and their employees have given nearly $11.5 million to federal candidates and campaigns since 2009, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. About half of that came from Northrop Grumman.

Neither Corker nor Hoeven has received substantial donations from the companies or the defense sector overall.

“We’re proud of our long partnership with the Department of Homeland Security and are honored they have repeatedly chosen to acquire our helicopters for their important missions,” said Ed Van Winkle, law enforcement sales manager for American Eurocopter. “We stand ready to produce and deliver additional aircraft customized to Customs and Border Protection requirements should Congress authorize and fund their procurement.”

Representatives of Northrop Grumman, Sikorsky and Bell declined to comment.

Most of the equipment required by the legislation is identified by category, not by brand. Among other items, the bill calls for 4,595 unattended ground sensors, 104 radiation isotope identification devices and 53 fiber-optic tank inspection scopes — and specifies how many should be deployed in each Border Patrol sector. It also requires the purchase of four new drones, on top of 10 unmanned aircraft that the Border Patrol already owns.

The items listed by name were identified that way on the border agency’s wish list, according to Senate staff members involved in drafting the plan, who discussed the process on the condition of anonymity. They said the proposal would not override contracting rules that require competitive bidding.

But government watchdogs said it would be difficult to have an open bidding process for equipment identified by brand and model.

“The agency is statutorily required to buy the specific items from the listed vendors,” said Scott Amey, general counsel for the Project on Government Oversight, an independent group that works to expose overspending and corruption. “I’m unsure how an agency could hold a competition.”

One big-ticket item on the list is the VADER radar system, an airborne technology operated from drones that Northrop Grumman developed for the Pentagon’s research arm. The Border Patrol has been testing one of the systems on loan from the Defense Department to detect migrants attempting to cross the border illegally, officials said. This year, the agency received $18.6 million to buy two of the radar systems , and the immigration bill would add six more.

The Black Hawk helicopters required under the plan include five of the latest high-tech models with digital cockpits. As for the American Eurocopter aircraft, the patrol would be required to add eight AS-350 models to the 85 it already has in its fleet.

The legislation spells out how new border patrol agents would be deployed, requiring the agency to assign 38,405 officers to the U.S.-Mexican border by Sept. 30, 2021.

The Border Patrol employs a record 21,000 agents, up from about 10,000 in 2004. In its most recent budget request, the department did not seek new agents.

Many experts on border security say that doubling the force is impractical and a poor use of resources and that the money could be better spent on workplace inspections or the E-Verify system that employers can use to check the citizenship of applicants.

“There is a lot in this border security plan that is fighting the last war,” said Doris Meissner, who was a top Clinton administration immigration official.

Homeland Security officials are confident that they can recruit and train the surge of agents required under the bill. Spokesman Peter Boogaard said the measure would “build on this administration’s historic border security gains.”

Hoeven and Corker said they settled on hiring 20,000 agents in large part because the number fell midway between proposals from other GOP senators.

“I wish I could tell you it was scientific,” Corker said, adding, “We felt like this was something that would get the job done.”

Alice Crites contributed to this report.


What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls

Ramussen Reports

Saturday, July 06, 2013


Americans still share the values enshrined in the Declaration of Independence 237 years ago and remain wary of too much government. It’s clear, too, that many aren’t happy with the government they’ve got.

Eighty-one percent (81%) believe “all men are created equal.” Ninety-two percent (92%) agree that all men are “endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Seventy-two percent (72%) believe “governments derive their only just powers from the consent of the governed.”

But just 25% of voters think the federal government today has that consent.

More Americans than ever (63%) think a government that is too powerful is a bigger danger in the world today than one that is not powerful enough.

Thirty-eight percent (38%) believe the U.S. Constitution doesn’t put enough restrictions on what government can do. Still, 56% think the foundational document shouldn’t be tampered with, and another 33% believe it needs only minor changing.

Just 47% now believe the United States is a nation with liberty and justice for all, the lowest level measured in six years. Still, 77% say if they could live anywhere in the world, it would be the United States.

Scott Rasmussen’s weekly newspaper column notes that “only one-in-four voters today thinks our government has the consent of the governed.” He adds, “That’s a clear call for our government to change its ways and re-earn the trust of those it is supposed to serve. Those are the kind of attitudes that make the Political Class nervous. The fact that we expect more comes from the fact that we as a nation still embrace the Spirit of ’76.”

So how are representative democracy and our constitutionally guaranteed system of checks and balances working these days?

The U.S. Supreme Court finished its term with big decisions on voting rights, affirmative action and same-sex marriage. Following those rulings, public approval of the Supreme Court has fallen to the lowest level ever recorded in more than nine years of polling.

Just seven percent (7%) of voters think Congress is doing a good or excellent job. This marks the sixth consecutive survey that shows Congress’ positive ratings in single digits. Sixty-five percent (65%) believe that no matter how bad things are, Congress can always find a way to make them worse.

Republicans gained the edge over Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot for the week ending June 30, but this is the second time in the past three weeks that support for both sides was below 40%, something that hasn’t happened since June 2009. This is the 11th straight week that the parties have been separated by two points or less.

At the same time, voters like the balance of Congress having final review over the Executive branch’s decisions when it comes to the environment. The Environmental Protection Agency sent revised greenhouse gas regulations to the White House this past week, but 51% of voters think all EPA regulations should require congressional approval before they can be implemented. That’s up eight points from 43% in late December.

Speaking of the Executive branch, 52% of voters think it is good for the nation that the American people know more about the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance programs, and 70% believe the phone and e-mail surveillance programs may have inappropriately violated the privacy of innocent Americans. But as for Edward Snowden, the whistleblower who disclosed the programs, just eight percent (8%) regard him as a hero. Thirty-two percent 32% now consider him a traitor. Most think he’s either somewhere between hero and traitor (34%) or that it’s too early to tell (23%). Those numbers reflect a slightly more negative view of Snowden compared to two weeks ago.

Forty-three percent (43%) rate the NSA’s secret surveillance of Americans’ phone and e-mail communications as a serious scandal. Thirty percent (30%) view it as an embarrassing situation but not a scandal, while 20% say it’s not big deal.

The White House announced late Tuesday that it will delay implementation of the employer mandate, a key portion of President Obama’s national health care law. As the date for implementation draws near, support for state implementation of the health care law is declining. Just 41% of voters now would like their governor to support implementation of the law, while 48% want their governor to oppose it. This marks a complete reversal from January when 47% wanted their governor to support implementation of the law and 39% were opposed.

As projected by the Rasmussen Employment Index, the number of new jobs in June – announced by the government yesterday – slipped slightly from the month before but remains near the highest levels of recent years. Sixty-six percent (66%) of Americans know someone who is out of work and looking for a job. But that’s the lowest it’s been since the Great Recession. Americans are evenly divided as to whether the labor market is better than it was a year ago and also divided as to whether the unemployment rate will be better or worse a year from now.

An increasing number (35%) of Americans think now is a good time to sell a home in their area, but belief that owning a home is a family’s best investment is down to 47%, the lowest level measured in the past year.

Consumer and investor confidence remain near recent highs.

Despite these signs of economic improvement, confidence in the president’s handling of the economy continues to fall. Thirty-five percent (35%) of voters now say Obama is doing a good or excellent job in this area, down from a recent high of 48% in December.

The president had a challenging month of June, and his total Job Approval rating fell two points to 47%. That ties his lowest approval rating since December 2011. The current rating is more in line with his job approval during most of his first term in office.

In other surveys this week:

– For the second week in a row, 30% of voters say the country is heading in the right direction.

Americans consider blacks more likely to be racist than whites and Hispanics.

– Americans continue to strongly believe private sector workers work harder for less money and have less job security than government workers do.

– Only 26% of voters rate the performance of public schools in America today as good or excellent. Sixty-one percent (61%) think most textbooks are chiefly concerned with presenting information in a politically correct manner, little changed from surveys for the past three years. 

– Just 25% think most high school graduates have the skills needed for college. Only 22% think high school graduates have the necessary skills to enter the workforce.

– Americans continue to see the Fourth of July as one of the nation’s most important holidays. It ranks second only to Christmas.

– Most Americans are aware that the Fourth of July celebrates the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Remember, if it’s in the news, it’s in our polls.


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