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14Jan2012

January 16, 2012

Newswire

14Jan2012

 

2012 R&D budget winners and losers

1/10/2012, 7:45am ET

Fed radio

Jolie Lee

Web Writer

An analysis by the American Association for the Advancement of Science found the 2012 budget for research and development will make investments into energy and environment research but cut R&D at the Defense Department and NASA.

The overall R&D budget in fiscal 2012, which started Oct. 1, is down slightly at $142 billion, down about $1.9 billion or 1.3 percent from 2011, according to the AAAS analysis.

Defense R&D decreased this year by $2.5 billion or 3.2 percent, AAAS said.

Basic defense research, development, testing, and evaluation will rise 8.7 percent from 2011 levels, and applied research will rise by 5.6 percent, AAAS said. “But that gain is dwarfed by billions of dollars in cuts to operational systems development and classified programs, among other areas,” according to an AAAS statement.

NASA will also see R&D cuts to a tune of $647 million or 6.6 percent.

“It’s no doubt a tough fiscal environment, but the fact that we actually see some fairly sizable increases in certain research areas suggests persistent support for science and innovation even now,” said Matt Hourihan, director of the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program, in a statement.

Among the winners AAAS identified in the R&D budget are:

  • Energy Department — R&D budget increases 8 percent or $821 million.
  • National Science Foundation — R&D increases 3.1 percent or $165 million.
  • Commerce Department — R&D budget increases 12.7 percent or $158 million. AAAS said most of the increase will go to the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
  • Environmental Protection Agency — R&D budget increases 12.1 percent or $68 million.

AAAS is an international non-profit aimed at advancing science, according to the organization’s website. It publishes the journal Science.

 

Defense cuts could be only the beginning

By Todd Harrison, Special to CNN

updated 12:08 PM EST, Mon January 9, 2012

 

President Barack Obama at the Pentagon last Thursday, where he announced new spending priorities for defense.

(CNN) — President Obama unveiled the Pentagon’s new defense strategy last week, calling it a moment to “turn the page” on the past decade of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The new strategy places a greater emphasis on Asia and reduces ground forces in favor of air and sea forces. It accepts greater risks in some areas — most notably in abandoning the policy that the United States must be able to fight two major, protracted ground wars at once. The Pentagon argues that a two-war construct does not do justice to the complexity of the current threat environment. It has to be able to adapt to a wide, complex array of global threats rather than prepare for an arbitrary number of simultaneous wars.

But while changing threats are no doubt a factor in the shift, constraints from last summer’s budget deal also play an important role. Under the bipartisan budget agreement reached last August, the 2013 defense budget will return to roughly the same level it was in 2008 and grow only with inflation for the rest of the decade. This is a $487 billion reduction from the growth the administration had planned over the next 10 years.

There is a glaring oversight in the Pentagon’s plan. The new strategy claims to plan for a wide array of contingencies, but it fails to plan for perhaps the most likely contingency of all: further defense cuts and the sequestration process set in motion by the super committee’s failure to reach a deficit reduction deal last November.

That failure means that an additional $500 billion in cuts will take effect beginning in January 2013 beyond what the Pentagon already planned for in the new strategy. Unless Congress and the administration act, there will be uniform cuts across every account in the defense budget — the antithesis of a strategic and targeted approach. The new strategy effectively ignores this possibility, and defense officials acknowledge that if sequestration occurs, the new strategy essentially will be thrown out the window.

The fiscal reality is that it will be difficult for Congress to find a way to avoid sequestration or further significant defense cuts. Doing so would require some combination of increased borrowing, major cuts to programs like Social Security and Medicare, and higher taxes. No alternative is particularly attractive. Sequestration would return the defense budget to roughly the level it was in 2007, a decline of about 14% from 2010, adjusting for inflation. To put things in historical perspective, the end of the Cold War saw a decline in defense spending of 34% from the peak in 1985 to the floor in 1998. Further cuts are likely, and the Pentagon would be wise to begin planning for them, even if it requires another rethink of American military strategy.

But for the moment, the Pentagon stopped short of providing specifics on how it will implement even the strategy it announced Thursday, deferring many of the details to the release of the president’s budget request in a few weeks. One unanswered question is how the Pentagon will curb military personnel costs, one of the fastest-growing areas of the defense budget. From 2001 to 2011, military pay and benefits increased by 46% on a per-person basis, excluding war funding and adjusting for inflation. If personnel costs are allowed to keep growing that quickly while the overall defense budget grows only with inflation, pay and benefits will swallow the entire defense budget by 2039. The new budget needs to tackle the complex issue of military compensation reform, and health care in particular.

The new strategy also calls for shrinking the Army and Marine Corps and relying more on air and sea power. This is consistent with the new focus on Asia, and China in particular, where war plans would probably place a greater emphasis on stealthy systems that can operate over longer distances, such as submarines and long-range bombers. But for decades, the military services have garnered roughly equal shares of the budget. If the Pentagon is serious about the strategy, the new budget should show a shift toward funding for the Air Force and Navy.

The bottom line is it is too soon to tell if the Pentagon’s new plan is a real shift in defense strategy or just words on a page. The test will be in a few weeks, when the administration submits its budget request to Congress. To understand if the Pentagon means what it says, follow the money.

 

China Criticizes New U.S. Defense Policy

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Published: 9 Jan 2012 09:09

BEIJING – Beijing said Jan. 9 that a new U.S. defense strategy focused on countering China’s rising power was based on “groundless” charges, and insisted it posed no threat to any nation.

U.S. President Barack Obama unveiled the strategy Jan. 5, calling for a leaner U.S. military focused on the Asia-Pacific region and signaling a shift away from large ground wars against insurgents.

But China, whose People’s Liberation Army has benefited from a huge and expanding budget boosted by the nation’s rapid economic growth, said the fears were baseless, urging the U.S. to “play a more constructive role.”

“The charges against China in this document are groundless and untrustworthy,” foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said in response to a question from state media about whether China poses a threat to U.S. security.

Liu was referring to the strategy document released last week, which said the growth of China’s military power “must be accompanied by greater clarity of its strategic intentions in order to avoid causing friction in the region.”

“To maintain the peace, stability and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region serves the common interest of all countries within the region,” Liu added. “We hope the U.S. side will play a more constructive role to this end.”

Washington’s focus on Asia is fueled by concerns over China’s growing navy and its arsenal of anti-ship missiles that could jeopardize U.S. military dominance in the Pacific. China’s responses to recent U.S. moves to boost its military presence in Asia – including the deployment of up to 2,500 Marines to northern Australia – have so far been restrained.

China’s official Xinhua news agency said Jan. 6 it welcomed a bigger U.S. presence in Asia as “conducive to regional stability and prosperity,” while urging it against “warmongering.”

China “adheres to the path of peaceful development, upholds an independent foreign policy of peace and a defense policy that is defensive in nature,” Liu said. “Our national defense modernization serves the objective requirements of national security and development and also plays an active role in maintaining regional peace and security. It will not pose any threat to any country.”

 

For Microsoft’s last CES keynote, Ballmer hawks Windows 8, Kinect

Steve Ballmer gave Microsoft’s farewell keynote at CES, where he talked up its Xbox, Windows 8 and Windows Phone software

James Niccolai

January 10, 2012 (IDG News Service)

Microsoft’s motion-sensing Kinect technology will be available for Windows PCs in a few weeks and is destined for a lot more than just gaming, CEO Steve Ballmer said at the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas Monday.

It was Microsoft’s last keynote at CES, and Ballmer was joined on stage by actor Ryan Seacrest who helped host the event. But there was no surprise appearance from Bill Gates, as some had expected, and not much in the way of big news — perhaps a reminder of why Microsoft has decided to give up the CES stage.

Ballmer announced that Nokia’s Lumia 800 Windows Phone will go on sale at Microsoft’s retail stores in the US “in the next few months”. The phone will be sold unlocked, he said, meaning Microsoft hasn’t signed a contract with a wireless carrier to offer it.

He also announced a partnership with Fox that will bring “Glee”, “Family Guy”, and “Bones” to the Xbox, and with Comcast for its Xfinity TV service. The new programs will come to the Xbox this year, he said.

Aside from that, there were lengthy demonstrations of Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 8 OS and the new Metro interface, and of its Windows Phone software, but there was little new information about those products.

Microsoft announced its biggest news at the show earlier in the day, when Ballmer appeared on stage at an AT&T event to announce Nokia’s first Windows Phone, the Lumia 900.

A Windows manager showed a version of the game “Cut the Rope” that has been developed in HTML 5 for Internet Explorer 9. And she showed a password feature for Windows 8 that will let people unlock their PC by clicking on parts of a photo in the right order, instead of typing a password.

A beta of Windows 8 will be available for testing in late February, she said, and the Windows 8 store will open with a selection of free apps at that time too, she said. Eventually, businesses will be able to distribute corporate apps to employees through the store as well, she said.

Seacrest kept the 90-minute show moving along and earned his money with kind words about Microsoft’s products. “From Xbox to phones to Windows PCs, I’ve always been impressed by their products,” he said at one point.

There was surprisingly little reminiscing about Microsoft’s keynotes, apart from a video at the beginning that showed some of Ballmer’s and Gates’ more memorable moments. Microsoft has given 15 of the last 18 keynotes at CES, starting with Gates in 1995 — the year Yahoo was incorporated and just before the web went mainstream. Last month it said it would no longer have a big presence at CES, because the show doesn’t fit with the timing of its big product releases.

Microsoft Kinect has been offered so far only for the Xbox, allowing people to control what happens on screen by moving their arms and legs. Microsoft has shipped 18 million Kinect sensors since the technology started shipping about a year ago, Ballmer told the CES crowd, gathered at the Venetian Resort Hotel Casino.

Microsoft is also working with 200 companies to develop Kinect applications for PCs, he said, which will let people use physical gestures to do other things besides gaming. It remains to be seen exactly what, though a Microsoft video suggests things like playing musical instruments, controlling robots and doing exercises.

In fact, the Kinect sensor for Windows is available for preorder now from Amazon’s online store, priced at US$250. The item will be released Feb. 1, the site says.

“Just as Kinect revolutionized gaming, we’ll see it revolutionize other industries, like entertainment, healthcare and more,” Ballmer said.

Microsoft is also using Kinect to bring interactive TV to the Xbox. As an example, it has signed a deal with Sesame Street, which will develop programs that let children interact with puppets. A young girl took the stage to show how she could mime throwing objects at the screen, and count along with the characters as the items landed in a box.

Gary Shapiro, head of the Consumer Electronics Association, predicted Microsoft will return to CES. “I would be shocked if a Microsoft leader does not return to the stage again in the next few years,” he said in introducing Ballmer.

But for next year, the CEA will have to find someone else.

 

DHS guidance to state and local fusion centers going unused

New report shows 83 percent of fusion and emergency operations centers surveyed not utilizing DHS guidance

FCW.com

By Alice Lipowicz

Jan 09, 2012

 

The Homeland Security Department’s outreach to dozens of intelligence fusion centers run by state and local agencies apparently suffered a disconnect along the way, according to a new report.

DHS officials said they distributed the Comprehensive Preparedness Guide-502 to the 64 fusion centers to help them coordinate their anti-crime activities with state and local emergency operations centers. DHS’ goal was to encourage more integrated operations between the two types of centers. Currently, many of them have little interaction despite operating in the same regions.

However, more than 83 percent of the centers reviewed reported they did not receive the DHS guidance or were not using it, Michael Beard, DHS acting assistant inspector general, wrote in the Jan. 9 report.

The blame for the underused federal guidance lies both with DHS and with the state and local officials, the report said.

“Although almost all Fusion Center officials and many of the Emergency Operations Center officials had seen CPG-502, the document was not effectively disseminated to all EOC officials, nor was the importance of its implementation promoted,” Beard wrote.

Out of 17 fusion centers visited, one center had no record of seeing the guidance, and 11 had seen it but were not using it.

Of the 31 emergency operations centers visited, 12 centers had not seen it, and 15 had seen it but were not using it.

Feedback from the state and local directors suggested reasons the guidance might be underutilized. For example, a fusion center director claimed that “products like CPG-502 are released all the time, but there is not enough time to read them to identify how they can be useful. The director also said that CPG-502 is just another document unless resources are available to implement it,” the report said.

The report recommended that the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the DHS Office of Intelligence & Analysis do more to ensure that the guidance is distributed and utilized effectively.

While FEMA agreed, the Intelligence & Analysis officials did not, saying the recommendation ought to have been directed solely to FEMA. Nonetheless, the intelligence office officials said they would continue to distribute the guidance.

However, the inspector general’s office was persistent in directing the recommendation to both FEMA and the intelligence office, and declared the recommendation unresolved and open.

 

LightSquared owner pitches network directly to FCC staffers

Nextgov.com

By Bob Brewin 01/10/12


Philip Falcone, the billionaire chief executive officer of Harbinger Capital Partners, which owns the beleaguered startup wireless broadband carrier LightSquared, personally made a pitch to top Federal Communications Commission staffers last week to approve commercial service over the company’s network, which could blanket the country with 40,000 cell towers.

When FCC granted LightSquared a conditional waiver to start service on Jan. 26, 2011, it said the company first needed to resolve interference issues with Global Positioning System receivers, which operate in a frequency band adjacent to LightSquared’s.

LightSquared last spring flunked the first round of tests, which revealed the company’s transmitters knocked out GPS receivers operating anywhere from 600 feet to 185 miles from its transmitters. The company then proposed to use only the lower portion of its frequency band furthest away from the GPS and conducted another round of interference tests last summer.

The Defense and Transportation departments, along with the multiagency Positioning, Navigation and Timing Executive Committee, reported in December that the latest round of tests showed LightSquared transmitters caused “harmful interference to the majority” of general purpose GPS receivers used in those tests. The Federal Aviation Administration also reported that LightSquared transmitters caused interference with the Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System, which alerts pilots if they fly too close to the ground.

Falcone, along with Jeffrey Carlisle, executive vice president for regulatory affairs at LightSquared, and Ashley Durmer, a consultant to Harbinger, met with top FCC officials on Jan. 4 to address the interference issues, according to a filing posted yesterday on FCC’s LightSquared regulatory proceedings website.

The company executives met with Edward Lazarus, chief of staff to FCC chairman Julius Genachowski; Amy Levine, special counsel and legal adviser to the chairman; and Paul de Sa, chief of FCC’s Office of Strategic Planning and Policy Analysis. Falcone and Carlisle, according to the filing, “urged the commission to continue to work toward a resolution that would enable the commencement of commercial service over the LightSquared network.” They also emphasized the “significant investment” made in LightSquared — $3 billion to date.

The executives told FCC that LightSquared has “invested millions of dollars during the past 12 months in conducting tests and developing filtering solutions to resolve issues with GPS receiver design that causes devices to look into spectrum licensed to LightSquared. As a result, the scope of the GPS technical issues has been narrowed considerably.”

Falcone and Carlisle also discussed with FCC “various alternative technical solutions that will effectively and economically allow GPS receivers to work as intended, and still allow the deployment of the LightSquared network.”

LightSquared faces another potential roadblock to the startup of its network: Language in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, signed by President Obama on Jan. 1, requires FCC to notify Congress of its decision to allow LightSquared to operate and how GPS interference issues have been resolved.

The law also requires the secretary of Defense to report to Congress every 90 days for next two years on interference to military GPS receivers and the costs to mitigate that interference.

Chis Stern, a LightSquared spokesman, said in an email that “the NDAA language does not change the current review process, which the FCC put in place a year ago when it granted its original waiver to LightSquared. At that time, the FCC said it would not move forward until the GPS interference issue is resolved. The FCC still retains full jurisdiction over the issue although the NDAA does direct the Defense Department to make a report to Congress if it has concerns about interference.”

 

Air Force Special Operations Command revises iPad purchase plans

By Bob Brewin 01/10/2012

NextGov.com

The Air Force Special Operations Command has backed off plans to focus exclusively on Apple iPad tablet computers to equip its flight crews with electronic flight bags that hold digital maps and technical manuals.

In December 2011, the command said in a contract justification and approval notice that only iPads met its requirements to provide tablet computers to 2,861 crew members. A three-month test last year showed that the iPad “outmatched all peer competitors — not only meeting but exceeding AFSOC mission specifications.”

Maj. Kristi Beckman, a command spokeswoman, told Nextgov in an email that the command has now decided to take a more open approach to its tablet procurement. “During our initial evaluation, the iPad was the best available commercial off-the-shelf product for our needs. We are, however, platform agnostic and fully expect improvements across the commercial market to develop in a variety of areas that will increase our capabilities,” she wrote.

Due to security concerns, Beckman said the electronic flight bags will only “carry data already publicly available while the command continues to explore solutions across the information technology enterprise to ensure adequate data protection/assurance in a mobile environment.”

Capt. Kristen Duncan, another command spokeswoman, said publicly available data could include, but is not limited to, digital navigation charts provided by the Jeppesen division of Boeing Co. as well as National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency flight information publications

 

The challenge of getting the Taliban to the table

Washington Post

By David Ignatius, Published: January 10

For some intrigue at the start of this new year, take a look at the secret diplomacy under way between the United States and the Taliban. Most observers are skeptical the process will produce any breakthroughs, but it’s interesting that the talks are taking place at all.

The path toward negotiations was charted publicly last Feb. 18, when Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton laid out a framework for a political settlement of the Afghanistan war. Though it wasn’t widely noticed, she dropped previous U.S. preconditions for Taliban participation, such as renouncing al-Qaeda and backing the Afghan constitution. These were termed “necessary outcomes” of negotiations, rather than prior requirements.

U.S. and Taliban representatives had already met in secret in Germany when Clinton gave that speech, and they have met repeatedly since then, mostly in Germany and Qatar, for a total of about a half-dozen sessions. The next step is for the Taliban to open an official office in Qatar and begin discussions with the Afghan government.

The U.S. representative at these talks has usually been Marc Grossman, who took over the post of special representative for Afghanistan after the death of Richard Holbrooke. A retired diplomat with the quiet, self-effacing manner of a George Smiley, Grossman has been the opposite of the gregarious Holbrooke, but that has probably been helpful with a skittish adversary.

The Taliban representative has been Tayeb al-Agha, an aide to Mohammad Omar, the Taliban leader. Agha is a narrow-faced, bearded man who speaks good English and is said to conduct himself professionally. After stories by me and others about his role last May, Agha was said to have disappeared — but that turns out to have been a cover story. In fact, he continued meeting with U.S. officials through the summer and fall, with the most recent session taking place in October.

Agha emerged as a credible Taliban emissary after secret meetings with German government officials in 2010, joined by U.S. officials that November in Munich. The pace of contacts stepped up after Grossman was appointed last February.

Grossman’s first challenge was to establish that Agha really represents the Taliban leadership. So tests were devised to establish his bona fides. The United States would ask Agha, say, to post a notice on an official Taliban Web site — and provide the text in advance. By last summer, the United States concluded that Agha was the real thing.

The meetings with Agha so far have been what diplomats call “confidence-building measures.” That process includes the opening of the Qatar office — and the transfer to Doha of about five Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo, whom the Qatari government has promised to hold under “house arrest.”

The hope was to announce the Qatar office at an international meeting in Bonn on Dec. 5. But Afghan President Hamid Karzai balked at the last minute, fearing that he didn’t have a consensus back home for negotiation. And it’s true enough that many Afghans are wary of any deal with the Pashtun insurgent group. But details began leaking in Kabul, and after the Taliban said on Jan. 3 that they were ready to open the Qatar office, Karzai announced his support the next day.

The Taliban are supposed to make statements soon rejecting international terrorism and supporting a political process in Afghanistan — first steps toward eventual renunciation of al-Qaeda and support for the Afghan constitution. The Taliban have also agreed that the Qatar office won’t be used for recruiting or propaganda. It was the Taliban who requested Qatar as the hub, countering U.S. and Afghan proposals of Turkey or Saudi Arabia.

What about Pakistan’s role in this delicate process? Well, it hasn’t stopped Agha’s contacts on behalf of the Taliban. And the head of Pakistani intelligence, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, personally delivered Ibrahim Haqqani, a son of the chief of a fearsome Taliban group known as the Haqqani network, to a meeting in August with a U.S. official in the United Arab Emirates. That meeting went nowhere, and it was followed by renewed attacks on U.S. targets by Haqqani operatives who, according to U.S. officials, continue to receive funding, intelligence and other assistance from Pakistani intelligence.

If the Qatar office is indeed opened, U.S. officials hope the Karzai government and the Taliban will exchange confidence-building measures of their own — say, a Taliban rejection of suicide bombings in return for government safe passage.

It’s a long shot, but it’s also true that all wars end eventually — starting with a process something like this one.

 

The first next-gen Wi-Fi chips arrive

Broadcom announced its first chip family based on the coming 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard

Computerworld

By Yardena Arar

January 6, 2012 09:58 AM ET

PC World – Wi-Fi is getting faster — again. Today Wi-Fi chipmaker Broadcom announced its first chips based on the coming 802.11ac standard, the successor to todays 802.11n Wi-Fi. Products based on 802.11ac are expected to begin appearing late this year, delivering improved coverage and theoretical speeds up to twice those offered by the fastest 802.11n gear.

Broadcom is calling its 802.11ac products 5G Wi-Fi because 802.11ac will be the fifth-generation IEEE standard for the popular wireless networking technology. The previous four were 802.11, 802.11b, 802.11a/g, and 802.11n.

The 802.11 standard was introduced in 1997, but never gained much traction. It had a theoretical top speed of 2-megabits-per-second. Two years later, 802.11b delivered a theoretical 11mbps, and it became the first widely used Wi-Fi technology. In 2002, the 802.11a and 802.11g standards raised the bar with top theoretical speeds of 54mbps. The two standards used different areas of the wireless spectrum and hence were incompatible, with 802.11a operating exclusively on the 5ghz band and 802.11g (like 802.11b before it) using the 2.4ghz band.

By the mid 2000s, Wi-Fi had become so popular that many more stakeholders had an interest in the next-generation version. Consequently, it took seven years for the IEEE to develop and ratify the 802.11n standard, which encompassed a range of options designed to accommodate the many different types of devices that incorporate Wi-Fi today, from PCs and consumer electronics to cell phones and tablets.

For example, 802.11n devices can operate on either the 2.4Ghz or 5Ghz bands or both, and speeds vary widely based on the number of transmitting and receiving antennas (802.11n on a cell phone usually isnt as fast as 802.11n on a notebook). But the fastest 802.11n devices use technologies such as multiple spatial streams, channel bonding and packet aggregation to offer improved coverage and theoretical top speeds of 600mbps.

Similarly, 802.11ac also offers a number of options, which are reflected in Broadcoms first chip offerings. But all 802.11ac chips will all use the 5Ghz band, which is much wider than the crowded 2.4thz band and can therefore more easily support the 80mhz channels that contribute to 802.11acs speed boosts (802.11n channels max out at 40Mhz). 802.11ac also uses beamforming technology to achieve its faster rates and improved coverage. And because it is more efficient, 802.11ac takes less of a toll on battery life, a key attribute for mobile device use.

Broadcom chips are also backwards compatible with all 802.11n gear (both 5Ghz and 2.4Ghz), although not at 802.11ac speeds.

Broadcoms fastest 5G Wi-Fi chip, the BCM4360, implements 3 spatial streams on a PCI interface to achieve maximum speeds of 1.3GHz. The midrange BCM4352 and BCM43526 chips support a two-stream implementation of 802.11ac for theoretical maximum speeds of 867mbps for use with, respectively, PCI and USB interfaces. The single-stream BCM43516 supports up to 433 mbps with a USB interface. The PCI chips are primarily for routers, access points and computers, while the USB chips are meant for consumer electronics such as TVs, Blu-ray players and set-top boxes.

Broadcom sees 802.11ac gaining traction for a wide range of high bandwidth applications for both businesses and consumers, ranging from streaming media to data sync and backups. On mobile devices, 802.11ac supported is expected to help offload traffic from already choked carrier networks.

The name of the standard, 802.11ac, derives from the IEEE’s convention of naming related standards as their working groups are established. With Wi-Fi, the IEEE had already exhausted single-letter suffixes (a through z) to 802.11 and had started all over again with two-letter suffixes–e.g. 802.11aa 802.11ab and now 802.11ac.

Broadcom expects to see its 5G chips in network gear starting in the third quarter, with other end-user products following by the end of the year.

 

Fcw.com

Facebook Timeline could reveal your hidden connections

By Alice Lipowicz

Jan 11, 2012

Like it or not, Facebook Timeline is expected to become mandatory soon for all of the social networking site’s 800 million users. Timeline brings new and complex features that could pose privacy risks for the thousands of federal executives and employees active on Facebook, according to a privacy advocate.

Facebook Timeline installs a major formatting change to users’ profiles that makes previously archived information much more accessible and also allows for more splashy visual display.

For example, Timeline makes users’ friends lists more viewable and makes it more difficult to control the friends’ lists visibility, David Jacobs, consumer protection fellow for the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), said in a Jan. 11 interview with Federal Computer Week.

This additional exposure presumably could be problematic if a federal user was friends with controversial public figures such as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, or with members of a self-help group for people with addictions or other problems. It also could reveal embarrassing political connections, such as a Democratic appointee who has several prominent Republicans on his friends list.

The risk is greater for some feds than others. Facebook connections could reveal associations that would threaten a security clearance, for example, but possibly be unimportant for feds without clearances. Even though the information, once posted, will always be there to be found unless the user deletes it, before Timeline the past stayed buried unless someone went digging deep to find it, critics point out. The new feature brings each Facebook user’s history closer to the surface.

 Furthermore, Facebook friendships appear to be visible under Timeline even if they had previously been hidden, according to Jacobs.

“Associational privacy is an important issue,” Jacobs said. “I think this is an instance where privacy settings have been changed by Timeline.” A ZDNet blogger described details of the alleged issues with friend settings in a recent post.

Furthermore, addressing this and similar privacy risks requires the painstaking work of combing through the users’ entire history of published items to set them so they don’t appear in Timeline, he added. “There is no global way to hide information from Timeline,” Jacobs said.

Facebook officials were not immediately available to comment on the ability to view friends’ lists, but in general they have insisted that users have full control over their privacy settings with Timeline.

“Timeline does not change the privacy of any content,” a Facebook spokesman told The Hill newspaper’s Hillicon Valley blog in a statement. “Everything is accessible to the same people who could or likely had seen it already in their News Feed sometime in the past.”

Nonetheless, EPIC, along with several bloggers and technology publications, are calling attention to potential risks.

EPIC in December charged that Timeline has violated terms of a privacy settlement agreement reached with the Federal Trade Commission in November 2011.

EPIC had filed a complaint about Facebook’s privacy practices two years ago, which ultimately led to that agreement. Under the terms of that agreement, Facebook pledged to give users prominent notice of privacy changes and obtain their consent for privacy changes.

Timeline began rolling out to users voluntarily on Dec. 15, allowing for display of personal content that previously had been archived. Users have seven days to delete content before it goes live. While Timeline is voluntary for now, it is expected that Facebook will make it mandatory in the coming weeks.

Facebook is recommending that users activate Timeline at their convenience and take advantage of the seven-day period to ensure that their privacy is protected.

Facebook also advises that activity hidden from Timeline still shows up in users’ activity logs and is eligible to appear in friends’ news feeds. For full deletion of a story, users are advised to select “delete post.”

However, as Jacobs warned, there may be some pitfalls for federal workers and other users in trying to address all the Facebook Timeline privacy risks.

News organizations, experts and bloggers are reporting other risks, as well as a few benefits, from Facebook Timeline as well:

  • The ZDNet blog reports that Facebook privacy concerns have deepened as a result of Timeline.
  • Blogger Catherine Alexandra notes that despite the privacy controls for Timeline, it is difficult to determine exactly which Facebook content is being shared: “You won’t necessarily know which parts of your own activity are being published because your own activity isn’t going to show up in your Ticker. This can be a little confusing if you’re trying to pinpoint what is being shared and where,” she wrote in a Jan. 7 blog post.
  • On the other hand, Forbes reported that Facebook Timeline offers an opportunity for users to personalize their profile to display their creativity, which could be a boon for some federal employees and executives who use the network for work, such as new media directors.
  • CNET is reporting that the Facebook Timeline iPhone app doesn’t work smoothly and does not allow for deletion of photographs.

Timeline is the latest in a long line of changes to privacy and user settings made by the giant social network in recent years. It also is one of the most sweeping changes to date, affecting users’ most personal content on the site.

 

Air Force to Recruits: Design Your Own Darn Planes

NextGov.Com

By Bob Brewin   01/12/12 04:48 pm ET

The Air Force Recruiting Service has developed a new iPhone app called “Make It Fly,” which allows users to design their own next-generation aircraft.

How does this help recruiting? Brig. Gen. Balan Ayyar, commander of the recruiting service said in a Air Force News Service article that “This is the first app intended to inspire an association of science, technology, engineering and math disciplines with the Air Force.”

“Part of our recruiting strategy is viewing the social media realm as a recruiting space and developing applications, such as Make It Fly, that will play an increasingly important role in our efforts to connect with future Airmen.”

Who knows, maybe some Make It Fly user can come up with a design for a new stealth bomber priced less than the old B-2, which cost just under a billion dollars per aircraft in the 20-plane fleet

 

WashingtonPost

2 Army brigades to leave Europe in cost-cutting move

By Greg Jaffe, Published: January 12

FORT BLISS, Tex. — The Obama administration has decided to remove two of the four U.S. Army brigades remaining in Europe as part of a broader effort to cut $487 billion from the Pentagon’s budget over the next decade, said senior U.S. officials.

The reductions in Army forces, which have not been formally announced, are likely to concern European officials, who worry that the smaller American presence reflects a waning of interest in the decades-long U.S.-NATO partnership in Europe.

Top Pentagon officials have sought to allay the concerns by telling their NATO allies in private meetings that the United States will continue to rotate Army units through Europe on training missions to augment the presence of the remaining two brigades.

“In the briefing we’ve been giving the Europeans, we have made clear that there is going to be this rotational presence there that will be conducting exercises,” Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said in an interview.

“As a matter of fact, they will probably see more of the Americans under the new strategy because the brigades that were there were actually fighting in Afghanistan and weren’t even there. ... What you are going to have is two [brigades] plus this large rotational presence that is going to be there.”

The reductions are part of a Pentagon plan to shrink the Army from its current 560,000 soldiers to about 490,000, defense officials said. The cuts are being driven by a new defense strategy that calls for smaller, faster and more agile forces and a shift in focus toward the Asia-Pacific region, where China has been investing in submarines, fighter jets and precision-guided missiles.

Senior Obama administration officials have targeted Europe for cuts because they recognize that reductions in U.S. forces abroad will generate less congressional outcry than cuts in the United States, where the soldiers pump money into local economies.

The U.S. military maintains about 80,000 troops in Europe from all of the services. Cutting two Army brigades and the noncombat units that support them will result in a reduction of about 10,000 to 15,000 soldiers.

Panetta’s idea of augmenting American presence around the world by rotating combat brigades or smaller Army units through areas on training exercises is a relatively new concept for the regular Army, which has historically maintained a more static, garrison-based force in Europe.

During the past decade, the Army’s combat brigades have rotated with little rest to Iraq and Afghanistan on 12- to 15-month tours.

“If we can develop these innovative rotational presences elsewhere, we will be in a position to basically cover not only the areas where we are keeping a key focus — the Pacific and the Middle East — but we will be covering the world,” Panetta said.

He said the Pentagon envisions sending Army units to areas such as Latin America and Africa on training exercises as the Obama administration continues to cut the size of the U.S. force in Afghanistan. Such missions have typically been conducted by Army Special Forces units and the Marine Corps.

 

Washington Post

At CES 2012, FCC chairman Julius Genachowski warns of looming wireless spectrum crunch

By Dean Takahashi | VentureBeat.com, Published: January 12

Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski returned to the Consumer Electronics Show to say that we as a country need to address the looming spectrum crunch to enable continued innovation in broadband wireless.

One of the ways to do that is to offer so-called incentive auctions that motivate the owners of current wireless spectrum to make them available to those who bid the highest.

He said a third of Americans don’t have broadband at home. Closing the gap between haves and have nots would give the innovators much larger markets to go after. At the same time, the U.S. leads in the number of 3G subscribers and the American mobile industry has recaptured leadership in the industry. Tens of thousands of jobs have been created.

“Our apps economy is the envy of the world,” he said.

Genachowski said that we need to get incentive auctions done for wireless spectrum and “we need to get it right,” he said. “We’ve led the world in spectrum policy.” He urged Congress to adopt legislation to endorse incentive auctions to make the U.S. more competitive with the rest of the world.The approvals should apply to licensed and unlicensed spectrum.

At the same time, he said that the U.S. should innovate in making wireless spectrum more spectrally efficient by developing new wireless technologies. Without such approval, the country could fall behind.

Last year, Genachowski told Shapiro that innovation was needed for U.S. companies to stay competitive in the creation of 4G wireless networks by moving faster, without interference.

This year, Genachowski walked the show floor and took note that there were more than 3,000 of them, each of them creating new jobs.

“Virtually every company is fueled by broadband internet,” he said. “If you shut off the internet, virtually nothing on the show floor would work.”

He said there was innovation in education, healthcare, business, and other categories.

“We saw smart textbooks, smart thermostats, and smart fitness equipment,” he said.

He noted that Thomas Friedman, columnist for the New York Times, wrote recently that when bandwidth goes up, the technology gets better and the products get more useful communications, Genachowski said.

“Though we can’t see it, spectrum is becoming increasingly essential to the daily lives of almost every American. This invisible infrastructure is the backbone of a growing percentage of our economy and our lives,” Genachowski said. He added that the looming spectrum crunch “threatens American leadership in mobile and the benefits it can deliver to our economy and our lives.”

Last year at CES, Genachowski also discussed wireless spectrum and what it means for universal broadband in America — but we found him to be vague on actual goals. This time around, it’s clear that both Genachowski and the FCC have a plan.

And this time, Genachowski made the case again for his long-awaited National Broadband Plan, which details what needs to be done to expand broadband access to all Americans.

 

Cyber insurance offers IT peace of mind — or maybe not

Cyber insurance can protect your company against data loss and liability, but it’s pricey, and coverage can be complicated.

Mary K. Pratt

 January 13, 2012 (Computerworld)

 

If your company were hit with a cyber attack today, would it be able to foot the bill? The entire bill, including costs from regulatory fines, potential lawsuits, damage to your organization’s brand, and hardware and software repair, recovery and protection?

It’s a question worth careful consideration, given that the price of cyber attacks is rising at an alarming rate.

The second annual Cost of Cyber Crime study, released last August by the Ponemon Institute, reported that the median annualized cost of detection of and recovery from cyber crime per company is $5.9 million — a 56% increase from the 2010 median figures. The costs of cyber crime range from $1.5 million to $36.5 million per company.

A growing number of insurance companies are offering cyber protection in the event of breaches and other malicious data attacks. But so far, they’re having some difficulty making their case. Surveys show companies have yet to embrace these policies, whose costs can be staggering.

The annual PricewaterhouseCoopers Global State of Information Security Survey for the first time in 2011 asked respondents about whether their organizations had an insurance policy to protect against cyber crimes. Some 46% of the 12,840 worldwide respondents — which included CEOs, CFOs, CIOs and CSOs as well as vice presidents and directors in IT and information security — answered yes to the question: “Does your organization have an insurance policy that protects it from theft or misuse of electronic data, consumer records, etc.?”

Additionally, 17% said that their firms have submitted claims, and 13% said they’ve collected on those claims. (PwC didn’t ask why the remaining 4% hadn’t collected, but says it’s likely they were denied.)

Because it’s the first time PwC had asked its respondents about cyber insurance, there’s no way of knowing if those numbers represent an increase; however, a separate, albeit much smaller, survey indicates that companies may be slow to warm up to cyber insurance.

The 2011 Risk and Finance Manager survey, conducted by global professional services company Towers Watson, found that 73% of the 164 risk managers surveyed work at companies that have not purchased network liability policies. Some 37% of those who didn’t have polices said they believed their internal IT departments and controls were adequate, while another 15% either said the cost of a policy was too high or that they weren’t overly concerned about the risk.

Confusion in the marketplace

Lawyers and information security leaders say they encounter many executives who harbor misconceptions about cyber insurance. Decision-makers, they say, often mistakenly believe that standard corporate insurance policies and/or general liability policies cover losses related to hacking or that their cyber policies, if they have them, will cover all costs related to a breach. Most of the time, they won’t.

A February 2011 paper by Khalid Kark of Forrester Research that addresses the fundamentals of cyber insurance indicates that many companies are still trying to understand the basics of these policies, which are offered by such carriers as ACE USA, Chubb, The Hartford and St. Paul Travelers Cos.

The most common questions revolve around what types of polices are out there, what they cover, how to select the right policy and whether such insurance is even needed.

“We’re still seeing a knowledge gap,” says Michael Overly, a Los Angeles-based partner with Foley & Lardner LLP and a member of the law firm’s Information Technology & Outsourcing and Privacy, Security & Information Management Practices.

IT leaders are particularly susceptible to confusion, only because CIOs, CISOs and other IT executives have not traditionally made decisions about corporate insurance policies. Likewise, the risk management and legal teams that typically do make insurance decisions have not customarily sought out their IT counterparts when purchasing insurance.

Yet IT’s input is crucial when it comes to deciding whether to buy cyber insurance and determining what coverage to buy, security experts say.

“The IT people and the risk people desperately need to get together to talk about risk in terms of information technology and the likelihood and outcomes of a breach occurring,” says Don Fergus, an IT risk consultant and 2012 chairman of the IT Security Council for the security professionals’ organization ASIS International.

“Information professionals, especially information security leaders, need to step up. They need to understand that they’re in charge of more than just security. They need to understand and articulate the vulnerabilities that they face in terms of risk. That’s the language of the board.”

What’s covered, what’s not

Cyber insurance policies are relatively new — only about a decade old — and are still evolving. As a result, executives and managers often misunderstand what policies will and won’t cover, Fergus says.

Some companies purchase standard insurance policies and think they’re fully covered, not realizing that the policy might cover physical property but not intangibles. Under a property insurance policy, for example, the cost of a server smashed up by a disgruntled employee would be covered, but not the company’s liability for failing to perform a service for a client as a result of the server downtime.

Liability insurance generally offers protection from lawsuits or claims, but Fergus quickly points out that general liability, errors and omissions, and directors and officers liability insurance policies will not cover claims arising from electronic data loss or the lack of access to that data.

“From a property crime perspective, it’s pretty straightforward. You know what your replacement costs are. That’s well understood,” Fergus says. “But cyber liability insurance is really the sharp end here. It can be the most costly, and it is very misunderstood. There are lots and lots of differences in coverage across the various carriers.”

Ken Goldstein, vice president of Chubb Group of Insurance Companies in Warren, N.J., explains that cyber insurance falls into two general buckets. The first bucket covers costs associated with third-party liabilities, that is, claims from other organizations, and the second covers first-party expenses and/or losses, that is, damage to your own organization.

Additionally, policies are available that cover costs associated with a breach, such as third-party notification and PR expenses.

Of course, companies can purchase policies to address both first and third parties, so they’re covered for a range of scenarios — from the cost of notifying customers whose data was breached, to the cost of hiring a forensic IT team, even to paying extortion/ransom demands, Goldstein says. (See an example of Chubb’s range of offerings here.)

IT pros as insurance experts?

Given that cyber insurance policies aren’t one-size-fits-all and aren’t as straightforward as other types of corporate insurance, companies need to determine exactly what coverage they need and whether it makes sense to pay the premiums associated with that coverage, says Eric J. Sinrod, a San Francisco-based partner at national law firm Duane Morris LLP.

That’s where IT comes in. An organization’s risk management and legal folks understand the language of insurance riders and exclusions, but no one is better equipped to understand and articulate an organization’s information security system than the people who run it.

“The CIO is on the front lines in dealing with information systems and should know about actual and potential problems,” says Sinrod, who hosts his firm’s TechLaw10 audio podcast updates on technology law issues.

IT managers can also assist with facilitating an accurate cost-benefit analysis. “It might cost the company less to recreate the data than it would be to pay for the insurance premium,” he warns.

The risk evaluation process requires more than merely articulating what security measures are in place, explains Mark Lobel, a principal and a security benchmarking expert at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Sample cyber insurance
coverage options

Third-Party Liability 

First-Party Crime Expense 

Disclosure injury 

Privacy notification expense 

Content injury 

Crisis management and reward expense

Reputational injury 

E-business interruption and extra expense 

Conduit injury 

E-theft loss 

Impaired-access injury 

E-communications loss 

 

E-threat expense 

 

E-vandalism expense 

Source: Chubb Group of Insurance Agencies

Companies first must ensure they follow the best information security practices for their industries, he says. Insurance companies will want to know what security exists at a company before they write any policy, and they might even require a third-party audit to verify what’s in place.

Then IT leaders should determine potential threats, their likelihood of occurring, and how such threats would impact the organization should they happen.

“You protect as much as reasonable, and insure against your residual risk. You can’t insure [correctly] if you don’t understand the risks,” Lobel explains. “So you have to have a risk-based approach. You have to be able to say, ‘Here’s what I think can still go wrong because I’m not willing to spend $100 million for security.'”

Lobel suggests companies consider hiring a third party to perform a risk assessment to help fully identify and understand their security risks and identify areas for improvement. In fact, he says many insurance companies require such independent assessments to help determine premiums.

Just what insight can IT contribute to the decision-making process? Foley & Lardner’s Overly offers two examples. The IT lead at a furniture manufacturer, for instance, should be able to articulate the case that his company doesn’t store customer data electronically and therefore isn’t likely to be a target of a hacker looking for credit card numbers but still has critical systems that, if compromised, could shut down not only his own company’s operations but perhaps work at the company’s partner organizations — a chain of events that could open his company up to loss-of-revenue liability.

On the other hand, Overly says, that hacker looking for customer data is of great concern to the CIO at a retail operation; if a breach occurred, the company could be required to spend millions on customer notifications, public relations and legal fees.

“A risk management person can’t make these decisions without talking to the CIO — that’s the person who will give input on how much insurance coverage the company needs and what [threats] it really needs to worry about,” Overly says.

Not all companies — or all IT departments — are comfortable with this level of self-scrutiny, ASIS International’s Fergus points out.

“There is a head-in-the-sand kind of view, ‘I’m happy not knowing what I don’t know,’ ” he says. “IT people and business people in general don’t like to be criticized in terms of their ability to perform their duties. They may know they’re vulnerable, but they don’t want to write it down.”

Sticker shock

Even companies that have done their due diligence in terms of assessing cyber risk can be in for a jolt, Fergus says. “They go out to the [insurance] carriers, and they get sticker shock.”

That’s because cyber liability insurance can cost $7,000 to $40,000 per million dollars of loss. And with losses possibly totaling in the tens — or even hundreds — of millions, getting a policy able to cover such costs can present a staggering additional cost in insurance premiums.

“Insurance companies want to make money, and the only way they can do that is betting that your premium will exceed the cost of mitigating your claim. [They] are well aware of the costs of mistakes and missing security pieces,” says Hord Tipton, executive director at the International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium Inc., or (ISC)2, a nonprofit organization that educates and certifies information security professionals.

Deciding how much coverage to buy can be tricky — too little, and you don’t cover your exposure. Too much, and you face the prospect of sky-high premiums.

Towers Watson’s Risk and Finance Manager survey found that 61% of the responding companies that were carrying network liability policies bought $10 million to $49.9 million limits, with only 8% purchasing policies with $50 million or more in limits.

The survey found various reasons for how companies arrived at their particular limits, but 36% said the limit was proposed by their broker and 15% said they reviewed the level of exposure with a third-party cyber risk management firm.

Plan B: Just say no

Some companies take a look at the cost of coverage and balk. Overly says, “One of the fundamental deciding factors [for not getting it] is that it’s expensive.”

Another concern: A few high-profile cases in which the insurer and the organization filing a claim, including Sony and the University of Utah, wound up in court.

Tipton, whose organization decided not to buy cyber insurance, worries that firms that do purchase cyber insurance can become lax. “A company should not let complacency set in just because they are insured,” he warns. “Negligence is not insurable, nor is your reputation or stock price if due diligence is not practiced.”

More important, Tipton maintains, insurance couldn’t help his firm recover the greatest, most valuable loss it would suffer should a breach occur: its reputation.

“The reputational damage would be huge, and insurance couldn’t fix that, so we spend our effort and time securing [our systems],” he says — while acknowledging that, without insurance, the company would be on the hook if a significant breach were to happen. “There is no such thing as being 100% risk free. Our job is to evaluate and manage our risks — not to try and eliminate all risks.”

Not surprisingly, Chubb’s Goldstein counters that position, saying that organizations might find that they can survive the hit to their reputation — not all breaches are made public, after all — only to realize that the costs of repairing other damage will do them in.

“You’d hate to assume you’d be out of business because of reputational damage, only to find what sunk you wasn’t the reputation but the cost of the liability,” he says.

 

Govexec.com

Obama proposes reorganizing trade agencies, giving SBA Cabinet status

By Tom Shoop and Charles S. Clark January 13, 2012

President Obama on Friday announced he is seeking authority from Congress to reorganize federal trade and business-related functions in the Commerce Department and other organizations, as well as elevate the Small Business Administration to Cabinet status.

  • Speaking to a group of small business owners at the White House, Obama said, “today, I’m outlining changes we could make if Congress gives the green light to allow us to modernize and streamline. These changes would help small business owners like all of you.”

Obama said six agencies focus on business and trade. “In this case, six isn’t better than one,” he said. “With the authority I am requesting today, we could consolidate them all into one department with one website, one phone number and one mission — helping American businesses succeed.”

The White House said the plan, the result of nearly a year of consultation with agencies and private sector leaders, would save up to $3 billion over 10 years. Between 1,000 and 2,000 jobs could be eliminated in the merger, but the reductions would take place through attrition.

Obama said that Congress in 1984 had removed the executive branch’s authority for reorganization — “a generation ago,” in a time when there was no Internet, he noted. He expressed hope that this Congress would see this effort to bring government into the 21st century as a bipartisan effort.

Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., chairman of the House Small Business Committee, said, “I welcome any effort by the president to exercise fiscal responsibility, especially after an unprecedented expansion of government over the last few years. Decreasing the size of government and reducing bureaucracy is something that I support in principle, however, it is important that any effort to make significant changes to federal commerce and trade programs must be done carefully, and in a way that protects America’s small businesses.”

Obama had announced in his 2011 State of the Union address that he would seek to reorganize federal functions, and the White House later said the process would begin with trade and commerce organizations.

The reorganization effort has been led by Jeffrey Zients, the administration’s chief performance officer and deputy director of management at the Office of Management and Budget. He is in charge of the Accountable Government Initiative, which includes a host of federal management and transparency reforms.

In early June 2011, Zients said proposals for reorganizing trade-related functions would be presented to President Obama by the end of the month. Since then, however, the White House has made no formal announcement of its plans.

Reorganization efforts have a very checkered history in government, often because it is difficult to interest members of Congress in how federal organizations are structured. It’s been decades since a president and Congress have agreed on a formal reorganization effort.

 
 

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