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Jan 21, 2012

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21Jan2012

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U.S. Wants Changes to E.U. Space Code of Conduct

Defense News

By MARCUS WEISGERBER

Published: 12 Jan 2012 18:20

 

The United States will not adopt the European Union’s proposed “code of conduct” for space activity as currently drafted on the grounds that it is too restrictive, according to U.S. government officials.

“It’s been clear from the very beginning that we’re not going along with the code of conduct,” Ellen Tauscher, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, said during a Jan. 12 breakfast with reporters in Washington.

Asked why the U.S. government would not sign the document, Tauscher said, “It’s too restrictive.”

However, another U.S. government official said the draft code is not being rejected outright and that it could serve as basis for a future document. “The U.S. has been consulting with the EU on its proposed international code of conduct,” this source said. “The draft code developed by the EU could be a good starting point for future discussions on an international code of conduct.”

The EU has been working the voluntary code of conduct for several years. The document lays out rules of the road for operating satellites and other space vehicles as space becomes increasingly congested, the idea being to minimize the chances of collisions or misunderstandings that could escalate.

The code also focuses on space debris mitigation, an area that began getting greater public attention in 2007 after China destroyed one of its own orbiting satellites with a ground-launched missile.

“We made it very definitive that we were not going to go ahead with the European code of conduct; what we haven’t announced is what we’re going to do, but we will be doing that soon,” Tauscher said.

Her remarks contrasted with previous U.S. government statements regarding the code, which have been relatively circumspect. In April, for example, Ambassador Greg Schulte, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for space policy, described the draft code as a “positive approach” but stressed that the U.S. government had not yet decided whether to sign the document.

Some U.S. lawmakers have raised concerns that signing the nonbinding agreement would tie the U.S. military’s hands in space. “We’ve advanced further technologically in development and actual deployment of these systems than anyone else, and agreements [and] codes of conduct tend to … constrain our military,” Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said during a hearing on the subject in May.

 

The Pentagon has concerns with the European strategy for space traffic management, but there are also “ways to deal with it,” according to Michael Krepon, co-founder of the Stimson Center, a think tank here. The U.S. Defense Department did a lengthy assessment of the code of conduct and reviewed particular provisions within the document that “would make sense for our national security.”

“If the satellite is stealthy, or we want it to be stealthy, how does that fit into a traffic management system?” he said. “Now you argue … major spacefaring nations can figure out the orbital characteristics of objects in space, but it you want to move an object in space do you provide advance notice of this or how do you handle that?”

In 2004, the Stimson Center published a draft code of conduct for space, which is similar to the document pushed by the European Union.

“I think the problematic piece that the administration was struggling with was that it was made in Europe and that the really important space-faring nation felt no ownership of it,” he said.

Russia, China, India and Brazil have all distanced themselves from the document, Krepon said. At the same time, Canada and Japan have endorsed the document.

“I think the conundrum that the administration is facing is how to bring in major space-faring nations that have kept their distance from the EU’s handiwork,” he said.

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. April Cunningham, a spokeswoman for the Defense Department, said the Pentagon supports an international code of conduct for space activities.

 

Pentagon interest in cybersecurity may ease contractors’ pain from cuts

Washington post

By Chris Strohm and David Lerman, Published: January 15

Plans by the Pentagon to invest more in cybersecurity and space-based capabilities may ease the blow for defense contractors such as Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin that are facing cuts in other programs.

The Defense Department intends to beef up spending on computer network protections and satellite intelligence systems while targeting troops for cuts under a global strategy released last week. Funding levels, which were not specified, will be detailed in next month’s federal budget proposal.

President Obama is balancing the need to counter cyberthreats from China and give the military the latest technology with plans to cut almost $490 billion in defense spending through 2021. Contractors may look to expand cybersecurity and space businesses through acquisitions as the nation winds down two wars and buys fewer bullets and bombs.

“Large prime contractors who may be at risk of losing significant revenue from decreases in major weapon systems are looking to go where the dollars are,” said John Hagan, director of aerospace, defense and government services for BB&T Capital Markets in Reston.

Major contractors have about $40 billion available for acquisitions, Hagan said.

“You are seeing a lot of transactions taking place with regard to cyber and space because that’s where the growth is going to be,” he said.

The increased emphasis on cybersecurity and space-based technologies is spurring the creation of start-ups, some of which will be acquired by established contractors, said Rodney Joffe, senior vice president for NeuStar, a Sterling-based data manager.

“When it comes to cyberspace, much of the innovations are occurring at small companies,” Joffe said.

High-growth arenas

Raytheon said Dec. 29 that it bought Henggeler Computer Consultants for an undisclosed amount, the 10th cybersecurity acquisition for the Waltham, Mass., company since 2007. CACI International of Arlington paid $61.5 million for Paradigm Holdings on Sept. 19 and purchased Pangia Technologies on July 1 for an undisclosed sum.

“Our mergers-and-acquisition program is accelerating our momentum in the high-growth cyber arena,” Paul Cofoni, chief executive of CACI, said in a Nov. 2 statement.

U.S defense cybersecurity spending totals $10 billion to $11 billion, Howard Rubel, an analyst at Jefferies & Co. in New York, said in an interview. That spending may increase faster than many other military programs, he said.

Increased reliance on satellites and drone aircraft may raise vulnerability to hackers and other disruptions that are expanding with technological sophistication. The United States will “invest in new capabilities to maintain a decisive military edge against a growing array of threats,” Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said in introducing the plan.

The National Counterintelligence Executive, an advisory panel of senior U.S. intelligence officials, blamed China and Russia in a Nov. 3 report for stealing sensitive U.S. economic and commercial data. The report said that the pace of cyberespionage is accelerating and threatening an estimated $398 billion in spending on research and development.

Northrop chief executive Wes Bush said during an Oct. 26 conference call that the Falls Church-based company considers cybersecurity important “because of the just ever-growing recognition of the threat and the ever-growing magnitude of the threat.”

Northrop is the Defense Department’s largest supplier of unmanned systems and the government’s biggest cybersecurity provider, spokesman Randy Belote said in an e-mail.

Both sides of the coin

Linking cybersecurity and space systems is “encouraging because it reflects reality that we need to be doing more on both sides of the coin,” said Roger Cressey, senior vice president for Booz Allen Hamilton, a McLean-based security and intelligence consulting firm.

The Pentagon requested about $10.2 billion this fiscal year for its space initiatives, including about $5.8 billion for satellites and $2 billion in launch costs.

Two of the space programs are being developed by Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin: the Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite and the Space Based Infrared System, a network of satellites.

Another is the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle, a satellite system using medium- and heavy-lift rockets that the Pentagon requested about $1.7 billion for this year. It’s run by United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Chicago-based Boeing.

Increases in space-defense expenditures may lag behind those in the faster-growing cybersecurity area, said Mark Gunzinger, a military analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington and former deputy assistant secretary of defense.

NeuStar’s Joffe agrees, saying the United States should create “what our enemy already has, really good offensive cyber capabilities. We should be able to get enormous leverage from investments in offensive cybersecurity.”

— Bloomberg Government

 

A Changed Way of War in Afghanistan’s Skies

NYTimes

January 15, 2012

By C. J. CHIVERS

 

INSIDE STRIKE FIGHTER VENGEANCE 13, over Kandahar Province, Afghanistan — Cmdr. Layne McDowell glanced over his left shoulder, through the canopy of a Navy F/A-18, to an Afghan canyon 9,000 feet below. An American infantry company was down there.

The soldiers had been inserted by helicopter. Now a ground controller wanted the three strike fighters circling overhead to send a sign — both to the grunts and to any Taliban fighters shadowing them as they walked.

Commander McDowell banked and aligned his jet’s nose with the canyon’s northeastern end. Then he followed his wingmen’s lead. He dived, pulled level at 5,000 feet and accelerated down the canyon’s axis at 620 miles per hour, broadcasting his proximity with an extended engine roar.

In the lexicon of close air support, his maneuver was a “show of presence” — a mid-altitude, nonlethal display intended to reassure ground troops and signal to the Taliban that the soldiers were not alone. It reflected a sharp shift in the application of American air power, de-emphasizing overpowering violence in favor of sorties that often end without munitions being dropped.

The use of air power has changed markedly during the long Afghan conflict, reflecting the political costs and sensitivities of civilian casualties caused by errant or indiscriminate strikes and the increasing use of aerial drones, which can watch over potential targets for extended periods with no risk to pilots or more expensive aircraft.

Fighter jets with pilots, however, remain an essential component of the war, in part because little else in the allied arsenal is considered as versatile or imposing, and because of improvements in the aircraft’s sensors.

 

Commander McDowell’s career has followed the arc of this changing role. At the outset of the war in 2001, American aircraft often attacked in ways that maximized violence, including carpet bombing, dropping cluster munitions and conducting weeks of strikes with precision-guided munitions.

Flying in an F-14 squadron from the aircraft carrier Enterprise, then-Lieutenant McDowell dropped 6,000 pounds of munitions in the war’s first week, destroying Taliban aircraft and vehicles at Herat airfield and striking training camps and barracks in Kandahar Province.

He had already flown the past two years in Kosovo and Iraq, where in 32 combat sorties he dropped 35,000 pounds of guided munitions, including on Serbian barracks that were struck when the largest number of soldiers were believed to be inside.

“Our culture is a fangs-out, kill-kill-kill culture,” he said. “That’s how we train. And back then, the mind-set was: maximum number of enemy killed, maximum number of bombs on deck, to achieve a maximum psychological effect.”

That was then. A little more than a decade on, his most common mission is what is called an “overwatch,” scanning the ground via infrared sensors and radioing what he sees to troops below.

In 953 close-air support sorties by the 44 F/A-18 Super Hornets aboard the aircraft carrier John C. Stennis, from where Commander McDowell flies now, aircraft struck only 17 times. They flew low- or mid-elevation passes 115 times.

The shifts in missions and tactics partly reflect adaptations by the Taliban. But guided by complex rules of engagement and by doctrine emphasizing proportionality and restraint, they also reflect what Commander McDowell calls “a different mentality.”

These days, striving for certitude in target selection and minimizing civilian casualties have become standard practice. Projecting power nonlethally is routine. Dropping bombs is not.

“So much has changed from when I was here the first time,” he said, looking down at Afghanistan on a six-hour flight early last week. “Now I prefer not dropping — if I can accomplish the mission other ways.”

 

A Day’s Work

Commander McDowell’s workday began at 4:30 a.m., when he woke in a small stateroom and readied for a long sortie. At 5:30 a.m., he gathered for his preflight briefing.

Lt. Cmdr. Fran Catalina, a pilot who would be one of his wingmen, offered a reminder that the Afghan war, in its 11th winter, was grinding on, and that the reach of the Navy’s carrier aircraft was welcome — even far inland. “There were 43 enemy-initiated attacks in the last reporting period,” he said, showing a map. “Lots of kinetics yesterday.”

Each pilot and weapons-systems officer, who flies in the rear seat of an F/A-18F, was assigned a mission supporting a different ground unit.

 

At 7:15 a.m., after donning ejection-seat torso harnesses and survival vests and collecting their pistols, they climbed into their aircraft, which waited, armed and fueled, on the flight deck. The carrier was steaming into the wind in the North Arabian Sea.

The aircraft carried a mix of laser- and G.P.S.-guided bombs, heat-seeking air-to-air missiles and ammunition for 20-millimeter cannon.

Shortly before 8 a.m., after preflight checks, Commander McDowell taxied to one of the ship’s four catapults, where sailors attached a hold-back bar to the jet’s nose wheel. He pushed Vengeance 13’s dual engines to full power. The engines roared. The aircraft shook.

He saluted a sailor on the flight deck. The sailor saluted back. “Five seconds,” Commander McDowell said.

He raised his chin, pressed the back of his helmet against the seat and flexed his muscles as he braced for the rush.

The bar released. The steam-driven catapult slammed forward. Vengeance 13 accelerated to 180 miles an hour in about 200 feet. It vaulted off the carrier’s bow. Perhaps two seconds had passed. He had just experienced 3.5 Gs, and he was flying, just above the waves.

“And we’re airborne,” he said.

Commander McDowell is scheduled to assume command of an F/A-18 squadron in May. He is 38, a graduate of the Naval Academy and a former test pilot. His call-sign — Keebler — reflects what he calls his elfin stature (he is 5 feet 7 inches tall) and insatiable sweet tooth.

The nickname also suggests a compliment. Shorter pilots can typically withstand greater gravitational forces when in fast minimum-radius turns or the dives, rolls and climbs involved in dogfighting and strafing. Commander McDowell, who has withstood seven Gs without losing consciousness, is known, in his trade, as “a G-monster.”

On a previous flight from the carrier he had demonstrated for a reporter in the back seat some of what an F/A-18F can do, making the reporter disoriented — and airsick — at 6.5 Gs, chatting calmly as he put the aircraft into a supersonic dive and a series of maneuvers over the Gulf of Oman.

For a combat flight into Afghanistan, however, he would conserve energy and fuel. He flew level at 500 feet for seven miles, banked left and climbed to 25,000 feet, where he was joined by two other Super Hornets.

The trio headed north for their first mission, to support the company freshly landed in the valley in Kandahar.

To get there, they flew toward a designated slot of airspace in western Pakistan. Known as “the Boulevard,” the corridor is a busy air bridge — the route through which Pakistan allows NATO aircraft access to Afghanistan. For planes from air bases in the Persian Gulf, this is the way around Iran.

Commander McDowell’s flight, commanded by Capt. Dell Bull in Vengeance 11, overtook slower aircraft heading to the war. Around 9:15 a.m., the flight crossed over the Afghan border.

 

An Air Force KC-10 tanker waited ahead, flying a wide circle over a Central Asian desert. It dragged a hose ending in a basket surrounding a small valve. It was time to refuel.

Vengeance 13 went first. After Vengeance 11 had refueled, too, the two aircraft broke off and headed to their mission; Vengeance 12 would join them later. Captain Dell checked in with the ground controller, who said the company had taken fire earlier in the morning.

For about an hour, the aircraft used infrared sensors to watch buildings and the canyon, covering the soldiers’ movement. The Taliban did not show themselves.

 

A New Mind-Set

After refueling a second time, the jets checked in with a ground controller near the Arghandab River, the area that in late 2010 was a high-profile part of the offensive to displace the Taliban.

Before that offensive, the American presence along the river had been light. Now, from the air, the military footprint was clear. The river was a network of outposts and bases with high walls, many watched over by cameras mounted on tethered blimp-like balloons.

If one place might suggest the way Commander McDowell’s role on the battlefield had changed over his career, this was it. He flew a slow left turn, pointing to an area where several days before an infantry patrol had skirmished with Afghan gunmen.

The gunmen had fired from a field not far from Forward Operating Base Wilson and then dashed into a cluster of mud-walled buildings, he said. Commander McDowell had arrived overhead within minutes.

What happened next framed the contrast between the old practices and the new.

The infantrymen talked him toward the building. Then they marked it by firing a smoke grenade at its walls. Above the river, Commander McDowell fixed his infrared sensor on the compound, sharing the video feed with a ground controller, who confirmed he was looking at the right place. What to do?

In 1999, late in the war in Kosovo, Commander McDowell said pilots routinely killed. On one sortie, in the rush to stop Serbs from killing ethnic Albanians, Commander McDowell dropped a 1,000-pound, laser-guided bomb at the mouth of a tunnel that five trucks carrying Serbian soldiers had just entered. The shrapnel and pressure wave from the blast probably killed every man.

Back then, the rules of engagement allowed pilots to track suspected military vehicles.

“And if a military vehicle stopped at a house, we would get a reading of where the driver went,” he said. “If we were able to identify that the truck was Serbian military, and it stopped for a long period of time at the house, we made the assumption that they were stopping for resupply and within a couple days that house was taken out.”

A little more than a dozen years later, he was above a home in which at least two Taliban fighters had taken shelter after firing on an American patrol. But he did not know who else might be inside. Neither he nor the soldiers requested clearance for an airstrike.

“What if we hit that house and two guys inside had guns and we get eight kids, too?” he said.

 

High over the Arghandab River, he banked over the home that he and the rules had spared.

Referring to the targeting display in the cockpit, he pointed out its proximity to other homes, and described the limits of what he knew about so-called “patterns of life” — the rhythm of the human activity at the compound where Taliban fighters hid.

“I didn’t think about these things at all in Kosovo,” he said.

The reach of a nuclear carrier, augmented with aerial tankers, made it possible for strike aircraft to penetrate 800 miles from the ship. But what was the point of projecting power if it was not projected responsibly? The changes, he said, have been good.

“I would say that in my younger days I would have been frustrated, because we have ordnance and we know where the enemy is, and I would have wanted permission to strike that building,” he said. “Did I feel frustrated this time? Not in the slightest. It is a different mission. It calls for a different mentality.”

 

Cyberattacks Temporarily Cripple 2 Israeli Web Sites

NYTimes

January 16, 2012

By ISABEL KERSHNER

 

JERUSALEM — Israel faced an escalating cyberwar on Monday as unknown attackers disrupted access to the symbolically strategic Web sites of the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange and El Al, the national airline.

 

A hacker identifying himself as oxOmar, already notorious for posting the details of more than 20,000 Israeli credit cards, sent an overnight warning to Israel’s Ynet news outlet that a group of pro-Palestinian cyberattackers called Nightmare planned to bring down the sites in the morning.

The attackers did not break into the sites’ operating systems, but used a far simpler tactic: creating an overload of access attempts. Neither the Israeli economy nor flights in and out of the country were endangered, and the sites appeared to be recovering within hours, but the assault left many Israelis feeling vulnerable.

Yoni Shemesh, who is responsible for the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange Web site, said that his team had already began preparing for an attack a few days ago and went on high alert after the Ynet report.

“We are putting up blocks to the hackers,” he told Israel Radio at noon, some three hours after the attack started. “It is a real cyber war.”

El Al said it took down its site as a cautionary measure as soon as unusual activity was noticed about 10 a.m.

 

The Web site usually sees about 50 simultaneous access requests at any given moment in the morning hour, according to a spokeswoman for the airline, speaking anonymously per policy. “As soon as we saw that the number had risen to about 1,000, we closed it down,” she said.

A spokesman for Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls Gaza, praised the hackers for opening up a new resistance front against Israel.

Israel is widely considered a technological powerhouse and a hub of high-tech industry. But Avi Weissman, the chief executive of See Security InfoSec & Cyber Warfare College and chairman of the Israeli Forum for Information Security, a nonprofit organization, told the radio that in the cyber realm, Israel may be a power “in terms of attack, but in terms of defense, we are a very small and pretty neglected country.

Professor Yitzhak Ben Yisrael, a military scientist who has advised the government on cybersecurity, said that the country had been working to protect its most vital systems in the security establishment and in the civilian sphere, including electricity, water and trains, for more than 10 years.

The hacker oxOmar described himself as a 19-year-old from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, when he posted the details of the thousands of Israeli credit cards, turning himself into a household name here. A few days later, a hacker presenting himself as an Israeli and going by the name oxOmer — a twist of the Saudi handle — countered by posting details of what he said were more than 200 Saudi credit cards. But he did not expose the security codes, saying his aim was only to “alert.”

 

Malware targets DoD smart cards

Federalnews radio.com

Tuesday – 1/17/2012, 5:32am ET

A new version of malware is targeting Defense Department smart cards.

AlienVault Labs said it has found evidence of a trojan that tries to compromise the standard authentication cards, by working its way into the card readers, Info Security Magazine reports. It uses a keylogger to steal the smart card PIN numbers in targeted email phishing attacks. It then allows the hacker to access sensitive information remotely when the user swipes in.

DoD uses the cards to ID active duty military staff, reserve personnel, civilian employees, and contractors. Infosecurity reports, AlienVault labs have detected the malware may have originated in China.

 

NSA crafting cyber guidelines

Federaltimes.com

By ZACHARY FRYER-BIGGS | Last Updated:January 16, 2012

The National Security Agency is developing cybersecurity guidelines to apply to its own systems and ultimately to any government or contractor network, according to sources familiar with the effort.

 

A 38-member team is drawing up the guidelines, which will be based on a list of 20 cybersecurity controls developed two years ago by an independent panel of government and nongovernment experts.

NSA spokesmen would neither confirm nor deny the program’s existence.

The original guidelines were designed to promote continuous network monitoring, but they were largely sidestepped by the Defense Department and contractors. Still, they generated intense debate in military security circles, leading to the NSA’s current project.

“What you are seeing is while the 20 points were developed two years ago and a lot of things have languished publicly, there has been an effort to run these things,” said retired Maj. Gen. Dale Meyerrose, a former chief information officer for the office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Meyerrose said that while he was familiar with the effort, he is not involved in it.

Knowledge of the NSA program emerges as the Pentagon evaluates its Defense Industrial Base Cyber Pilot, a test program in which more than a dozen volunteer contractors received DoD information about cybersecurity threats in exchange for information about attacks on their own corporate networks.

The pilot program was viewed as a potential model for improved cybersecurity in the contracting community, and experts say it has seen some success. But sources said participating companies have not been fully forthcoming about attacks, and much of the intelligence shared with the business by DoD was not new to the defense companies.

Still, the pilot could determine whether NSA officials decide that voluntary programs are unworkable and insist instead on mandatory compliance.

Meyerrose cited parallels between the pilot and the new guidelines.

They are not unrelated, and I’m very confident that [NSA Director] Gen. [Keith] Alexander will draw off of that on things not to do and things to do,” he said.

Alexander, who also runs U.S. Cyber Command, wants his program to be a “lead first” approach, according to a source with knowledge of the general’s thinking.

“Right now, this is demonstrating what works,” said the source. “They’re doing it for themselves.”

The NSA team aims to first apply the 20-point list internally and later encourage other agencies to follow.

Drawn up by a group led by former Air Force chief information officer John Gilligan, “Twenty Critical Security Controls for Effective Cyber Defense” was released in 2009 in part to move organizations from periodic paper reports, which failed to detect problems quickly enough, toward continuous security awareness.

Gilligan said he was surprised by DoD’s delay in implementing the various points.

“I’ve asked myself, ‘Why is this taking so long?’ It seems so obvious,'” he said.

 

NSA would not comment on that either. But Gilligan said NSA has been involved in these efforts for years.

“NSA was a major player in the origins of the controls,” he said. “They probably won’t say that publicly, but the analysis threat patterns originally came from the NSA.”

NSA routinely tests defense network security and frequently penetrated networks Gilligan was responsible for protecting when he was with the Air Force.

“I said to the NSA, ‘You coming in every year and just pointing out that you can break in relatively easily is not helpful. You need to tell me how to prevent that,'” he said.

Three-quarters of the points in the document address continuous monitoring, while the remaining quarter deals with wider analysis of systems.

Some of the suggestions in the document have been used by government agencies. The State Department, for example, saw a 90 percent decline in attacks in the first year after converting to continuous monitoring, according to a Department of Homeland Security report. State’s effort was headed by John Streufert, who will take over duties as the new director of the National Cyber Security Division at DHS this month.

But many of the ideas listed in the critical controls document have yet to be implemented by DoD or by defense contractors with access to classified information.

“We know that it’s effective,” said James Lewis, who was part of the group that developed the list of controls and is a cyber expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “It will take another push to get people to move toward continuous monitoring.”

Extending coverage and creating guidelines does, however, raise the question of what, if any, kind of control the government should have over companies’ networks, a question that has not been fully addressed by the framework team yet.

“It is this age-old question of trying to figure out what role the military should have in cyberspace,” Meyerrose said. “There are two sets of opposing good intentions. The first is that the best assets of the United States government ought to be available to the American people, in commerce and other things. And there’s the other, where we don’t want the military intruding into other areas beyond the dot-military domain.”

 

Obama’s reorganization plans earn early criticism

Washington post.com

By Ed O’Keefe

The folks who make weather charts would move to the Interior Department as part of President Obama’s reorganization efforts.

Think President Obama’s plans to reorganize federal agencies is going to be easy? Talk to the federal government’s weather forecasters.

By our count, the proposed reorganization unveiled Friday would involve several agencies and departments, including elements of the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Health and Human Services, Interior, Labor and Treasury and independent agencies, including the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and the Export-Import Bank.

Though the White House focused most of its attention Friday on plans to combine disparate federal trade- and commerce-related entities under one roof, one of the most notable proposals would move the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to the Interior Department.

The plan upsets the union representing employees of NOAA and its National Weather Service, who say the plan runs counter to the agency’s history.

“Whomever is advising the president on this issue is ignorant of the mission and history of the National Weather Service,” said Richard Hirn, general counsel and legislative director of the National Weather Service Employees Organization, representing 4,000 NOAA workers responsible for compiling weather data.

Hirn said Obama’s reorganization plans go against the original intent of the weather service, which Franklin D. Roosevelt moved from the Agriculture Department to the Commerce Department in recognition of the burgeoning aviation industry and the need to provide accurate, timely weather forecasts.

Today, NOAA continues promoting commerce through its protection of the nation’s commercial fisheries and by forecasting “space weather” and potential solar electromagnetic radiation and its affects on telecommunications and aviation, Hirn said. Plus, agency officials are preparing several pilot programs that should improve weather forecasting. Any reorganization and rejiggering of agency funding would jeopardize those projects.

Put simply, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Hirn said in an e-mail. He said his members, who were caught off-guard by Friday’s announcement, agree.

White House officials familiar with the reorganization plans dispute Hirn’s interpretation of history and said moving NOAA to the Interior Department would allow several agencies with weather, oceanic and geographical and geological responsibilities to work together under one agency.

In an interview Friday, Jeffrey D. Zients, the White House chief performance officer who led the reorganization review, claimed his team talked to hundreds of federal employees, union leaders and business leaders who would be affected by the changes, including NOAA officials. (His staff hasn’t provided details of the meetings or who he met with, despite several requests.)

And did NWSEO — the first federal worker union to endorse Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign — get a call from Zients and his aides?

“No, they ignored us,” Hirn said.

 

Taiwan unlikely to move to reunify with China, despite Ma Ying-jeou’s reelection

Washington Post

By Andrew Higgins, Published: January 15

TAIPEI, Taiwan — At the 228 Memorial Museum, a shrine to the victims of a 1947 massacre by Chinese troops, staff members were in mourning Sunday over the reelection of Ma Ying-jeou, a president who they think wants to turn Taiwan over to China.

“China has us by the throat, and now he’s going to surrender,” said Ang Hwih Hwih, a die-hard advocate of independence for Taiwan, an island of 23 million people that Beijing views as a wayward Chinese province. Ang cried at the news that Ma — whose Kuomintang party orchestrated the slaughter of 1947 — had won a second four-year term and thus a mandate to press ahead with a policy of rapprochement with Beijing.

‘No rush’ for talks

But although Saturday’s election results may have dispirited Ang and other believers in independence — and delighted Communist Party leaders in Beijing who want unification — there is little sign that Ma has any intention of moving toward, or has any public backing for, a political settlement with China on Taiwan’s status.

“There is no rush to open up political dialogue,” Ma said shortly after declaring victory over Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party. “It’s not a looming issue.”

It is not a popular issue, either. Public support for unification, which Beijing views as the aim of political discussions, has withered to insignificance, according to public opinion surveys by the Election Study Center at Taiwan’s National Chengchi University. Independence is not popular either, but it enjoys far more support than a merger with China.

Reunification unpopular

In a 2011 poll, only 1.4 percent of respondents said that they wanted swift unification, and 60 percent favored keeping the status quo indefinitely or until some undecided future date. Only 8.7 percent said they preferred the status quo with eventual unification, compared with 23 percent who want either immediate independence or the status quo with moves toward independence.

Beijing has repeatedly said it would use force to block any move by Taiwan, already a separate state in all but name, to declare independence.

Even Ma’s fervent fans dismiss the idea of joining China anytime soon. “When the Communist Party is gone and they have democracy, we can talk about it,” said Lin Chun-ching, an elderly Kuomintang supporter. He spent Election Day feeding birds outside a giant memorial hall to Chiang Kai-shek, the Chinese leader who was defeated by Mao Zedong during China’s civil war and decamped to Taiwan in 1949.

Chiang, who dreamed of reconquering China and was hailed for decades in Taiwan as a hero, is now widely dismissed as delusional, a dictator or simply irrelevant. The grounds of his memorial hall used to be named in his honor but are now called Freedom Square. Most of the visitors are tourists, many from China.

Chiang’s old — and the Communist Party’s current — dream of a single, united China holds little appeal for most people in Taiwan, said Su Chi, the former head of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council. Both unification and independence are “issues of faith” best left to one side.

Business across the Taiwan Strait has grown steadily for two decades and is set to surge following a landmark 2010 trade accord. Taiwan’s sense of separateness, however, also has grown.

Between 1992 and 2011, according to surveys by the Election Study Center, the proportion of people describing themselves as Taiwanese rather than Chinese soared from 17 percent to 54 percent. The share identifying themselves as Chinese, meanwhile, plunged from 25 percent to 4 percent.

“The growth of Taiwanese identity is very, very significant” and “makes it more and more difficult for Ma to maneuver vis-a-vis China,” said Bruce Jacobs, an expert on Taiwan at Australia’s Monash University. Having quietly backed Ma during the election campaign, Beijing is “now expecting a payoff, but Ma is really constrained,” Jacobs said.

When Jacobs first came to Taiwan in 1965, the island was under martial law, talk of a separate identity for Taiwan was taboo and the Kuomintang was dominated by refugees from China yearning for their homeland. Now, he said, even the “KMT is overwhelmingly Taiwanese” and any bid by Ma to reach a political deal with Beijing “would be stopped cold in his own party.”

Although China is still prone to rhetoric about the “sacred mission” to unify the “motherland” and the occasional menacing propaganda blast from the military, it has dropped a push from the 1990s for unification and shifted its focus under party leader Hu Jintao to preventing Taiwan’s independence.

Beijing applauds vote

China’s official Xinhua News Agency on Sunday welcomed Ma’s victory and said it “may open new chances.” But it acknowledged that the “situation in the island is still complicated” and that “there are still some long-term disputes and divergences existing between the two sides.” The issue of independence, it added, “will continue to haunt the cross-strait relations development.”

As the presidential campaign reached its climax last week, Ma, who was born in then-British-ruled Hong Kong to parents who had fled China’s 1949 communist takeover, scoffed at warnings by his opponents that he might rush to Beijing for a political deal.

“If I win this election, I will not be visiting China,” he said.

 

 

The Invisible Hand Behind Bonuses on Wall Street

NYTimes

By KEVIN ROOSE

Published: January 16, 2012

“The misunderstanding many people have” of compensation consulting “is that pay is whimsical,” said Alan Johnson. “It’s not.”

“You know those big paydays on Wall Street?” he says, typically waiting a beat to deliver the punch line. “I have something to do with them.”

Mr. Johnson, a consultant who speaks with a light twang from his native Alabama, has never worked for a bank. Nor will his company, Johnson Associates, pay million-dollar bonuses to any of its 12 employees this year. But as one of the nation’s foremost financial compensation specialists, Mr. Johnson is among a small group of behind-the-scenes information brokers who help determine how Wall Street firms distribute billions of dollars to their workers.

“The misunderstanding many people have about this industry is that pay is whimsical,” Mr. Johnson said in a recent interview at his company’s Manhattan office. “It’s not.”

Compensation consulting is an obscure corner of the management consulting industry, where practitioners operate in the shadows of high finance. Large Wall Street banks, as well as hedge funds and private equity shops, rely on such consultants to help them structure bonus payouts and devise severance packages, and to provide data on what competitors pay.

“You can give them some insights,” Mr. Johnson said of his clients, who have included the boards of Credit Suisse and Lehman Brothers. “You can say to them, ‘You’re being too wimpy this time,’ or, ‘You were being too aggressive last time.’ ”

This year’s bonus season, which began in late December and will continue until February at some companies, is expected to be the worst for industry employees since 2008, as regulatory measures and economic uncertainty have cut deeply into profits and made pay pools smaller.

In his annual compensation survey, a closely watched report that was sent to roughly 800 of the company’s clients in November, Mr. Johnson estimated that bonuses in the industry would fall 20 to 30 percent from last year’s levels.

That would still leave employees at firms like Goldman Sachs, where the average worker took home $430,700 in total compensation in 2010, much better off than workers in other industries. But it would represent further slippage from the sector’s highs before the crisis.

Bonus math in a financial downturn is a delicate art. Because the payments typically make up at least half of an employee’s yearly pay, erring on the low side can mean losing a star performer to a rival firm.

“Someone on Wall Street might go apoplectic when he heard he got $3 million and another guy got $3.5 million,” Mr. Johnson said.

Decades ago, banks determined bonuses according to a relatively simple formula that took into account an employee’s seniority and performance. After the financial crisis, as politicians and regulators began criticizing what they saw as eye-popping pay packages, those all-cash bonuses went out of fashion.

Now, Wall Street pay packages routinely include deferred cash payments and restricted stock awards that can be redeemed only after multiyear waiting periods.

The increased complexity of Wall Street compensation has been a boon for consulting businesses, which can charge hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for advice. Goldman Sachs has used the consultancy Semler Brossy; Morgan Stanley’s directors have relied on the Hay Group; and Bank of America’s board has used the services of Frederic W. Cook & Company, according to public filings by those banks. All three consulting companies, and all three banks, declined to comment.

Some consultants are hired by banks merely to provide data on industry compensation trends, or to rubber-stamp the decisions of the banks’ internal compensation teams, while others are more directly involved in setting pay levels.

“Directors don’t want to be embarrassed in the media by a compensation decision,” said Yale D. Tauber, a compensation consultant who works with the board of Citigroup, among other clients. “They’re the guardians of investors’ capital.”

Being a Wall Street pay specialist often means being on call for emergencies. Michael Karp, the managing partner of the Options Group, was awakened by a 4 a.m. telephone call while vacationing in Hawaii. The caller, a bank executive based in London, told Mr. Karp that December profits had come in below expectations. The company already planned to reduce its year-end bonuses 35 percent, and with the new numbers, it looked as if even deeper cuts would be necessary.

“He wanted me to gauge what other competitors were doing,” said Mr. Karp, who immediately began using his BlackBerry to e-mail his contacts in the industry.

For the Options Group, which is primarily an executive search business, one advantage of interviewing thousands of Wall Street employees a year is accumulating extensive salary information. That information is used to estimate for clients what, for example, a crude oil trader with five years of experience should be paid, Mr. Karp said.

“The big question is: how do you pay people fairly, but in line with their peers?” he said. “If everyone’s pay is down 35 percent, and your firm’s pay is down 25 percent, people may not be happy about it, but they’ll accept it.”

To come up with a recent recommendation for a hedge fund executive who wanted to figure out how much to pay one of his senior employees, Mr. Karp made calls and used the Option Group’s compensation guide, a detailed annual report that sells for $11,000 a copy. He told the executive that a reasonable bonus for the employee, given the probable pay levels of rival firms, would be $650,000 to $800,000. That put the executive’s proposed bonus of about $750,000 squarely within range.

Mr. Johnson, whose business does not do executive search, relies on public filings, analysts’ reports and information from industry insiders to compile his compensation data. He says that although he has been responsible for helping firms devise extravagant pay packages — in one case, a single package worth about $100 million — he does so only because the competitive market requires it.

“From my personal political standpoint, I wish people got paid less,” Mr. Johnson said of his Wall Street clients. “But my guiding star is not my political belief.”

Predictions about this year’s dismal bonuses have no doubt disappointed financiers on Wall Street, who often complain that they are underpaid even when all evidence points to the contrary. But for a compensation consultant, breaking bad news to people unaccustomed to hearing it is often part of the job.

“I take no glee in saying that things are going to be bad,” Mr. Johnson said. “Up is better for everybody. But people need the facts.”

 

Convenient, but How Secure?

NYTimes

Published: January 16, 2012

 

According to a survey commissioned by the American Bankers Association last year, 62 percent of Americans preferred to do their banking online rather than at a branch or ATM. Banks and their online customers also lost more than $2 billion in 2010 because of payment card scams, fraudulent wire transfers and other Internet swindles, according to data from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation as reported by The Financial Times.

Losses have declined from their peak of $8 billion in 2006, as banks have gotten better at preventing fraud. But criminals aren’t giving up and regulators have decided that current security systems based on passwords, tokens and cookies aren’t strong enough.

Starting this month, they want financial institutions to add a new layer that detects unusual patterns of activity — like a volley of transfers to an account in Russia — in real time. Too many banks are not yet up to speed with the new guidelines. Regulations limit losses for individual victims of a cyberstrike to $500, forcing the bank to cover the balance. But businesses are not covered, and small companies are especially vulnerable because they move more cash around than individuals and cannot afford high-technology defenses.

New malware has been designed to get around the security fixes of recent years. Qakbot, which has been infecting computers since 2009, downloads from infected Web sites and piggy backs on legitimate online transactions to evade the security provided by one-time, changing passwords. The Zeus trojan propagates through spam and is estimated to have infected 3.6 million computers in the United States. It waits for users to log on to their bank accounts and steals their information as they type it. It can even replace the bank’s Web pages with its own on the victim’s browser to entice the user to divulge even more information.

If the new guidelines fail to stem the tide of online fraud, regulators have suggested additional possible measures: Banks could require customers to authorize transactions through two devices, like a computer and a phone; they could limit the size or number of transactions allowed; and they could block connection to bank servers from unknown or suspect Internet addresses.

Regulators will need to push bankers to improve security, especially at community and regional banks whose systems lag far behind those at large multinational institutions. The safety instructions are guidelines — not make-or-break rules — that will figure among many others when regulators evaluate the general safety and soundness of banks’ operations. That may not be enough.

The Financial Times reported that a poll of bankers done by a bank technology firm in November suggested that 40 percent of banks weren’t even aware that regulators want them to adopt new measures to detect anomalous online transactions.

 

 

  1. Cracking Open the Scientific Process

NYTimes

By THOMAS LIN

  1. Published: January 16, 2012

The New England Journal of Medicine marks its 200th anniversary this year with a timeline celebrating the scientific advances first described in its pages: the stethoscope (1816), the use of ether for anesthesia (1846), and disinfecting hands and instruments before surgery (1867), among others.

For centuries, this is how science has operated — through research done in private, then submitted to science and medical journals to be reviewed by peers and published for the benefit of other researchers and the public at large. But to many scientists, the longevity of that process is nothing to celebrate.

The system is hidebound, expensive and elitist, they say. Peer review can take months, journal subscriptions can be prohibitively costly, and a handful of gatekeepers limit the flow of information. It is an ideal system for sharing knowledge, said the quantum physicist Michael Nielsen, only “if you’re stuck with 17th-century technology.”

Dr. Nielsen and other advocates for “open science” say science can accomplish much more, much faster, in an environment of friction-free collaboration over the Internet. And despite a host of obstacles, including the skepticism of many established scientists, their ideas are gaining traction.

Open-access archives and journals like arXiv and the Public Library of Science (PLoS) have sprung up in recent years. GalaxyZoo, a citizen-science site, has classified millions of objects in space, discovering characteristics that have led to a raft of scientific papers.

On the collaborative blog MathOverflow, mathematicians earn reputation points for contributing to solutions; in another math experiment dubbed the Polymath Project, mathematicians commenting on the Fields medalist Timothy Gower’s blog in 2009 found a new proof for a particularly complicated theorem in just six weeks.

And a social networking site called ResearchGate — where scientists can answer one another’s questions, share papers and find collaborators — is rapidly gaining popularity.

Editors of traditional journals say open science sounds good, in theory. In practice, “the scientific community itself is quite conservative,” said Maxine Clarke, executive editor of the commercial journal Nature, who added that the traditional published paper is still viewed as “a unit to award grants or assess jobs and tenure.”

Dr. Nielsen, 38, who left a successful science career to write “Reinventing Discovery: The New Era of Networked Science,” agreed that scientists have been “very inhibited and slow to adopt a lot of online tools.” But he added that open science was coalescing into “a bit of a movement.”

On Thursday, 450 bloggers, journalists, students, scientists, librarians and programmers will converge on North Carolina State University (and thousands more will join in online) for the sixth annual ScienceOnline conference. Science is moving to a collaborative model, said Bora Zivkovic, a chronobiology blogger who is a founder of the conference, “because it works better in the current ecosystem, in the Web-connected world.”

Indeed, he said, scientists who attend the conference should not be seen as competing with one another. “Lindsay Lohan is our competitor,” he continued. “We have to get her off the screen and get science there instead.”

Facebook for Scientists?

“I want to make science more open. I want to change this,” said Ijad Madisch, 31, the Harvard-trained virologist and computer scientist behind ResearchGate, the social networking site for scientists.

Started in 2008 with few features, it was reshaped with feedback from scientists. Its membership has mushroomed to more than 1.3 million, Dr. Madisch said, and it has attracted several million dollars in venture capital from some of the original investors of Twitter, eBay and Facebook.

A year ago, ResearchGate had 12 employees. Now it has 70 and is hiring. The company, based in Berlin, is modeled after Silicon Valley startups. Lunch, drinks and fruit are free, and every employee owns part of the company.

The Web site is a sort of mash-up of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, with profile pages, comments, groups, job listings, and “like” and “follow” buttons (but without baby photos, cat videos and thinly veiled self-praise). Only scientists are invited to pose and answer questions — a rule that should not be hard to enforce, with discussion threads about topics like polymerase chain reactions that only a scientist could love.

Scientists populate their ResearchGate profiles with their real names, professional details and publications — data that the site uses to suggest connections with other members. Users can create public or private discussion groups, and share papers and lecture materials. ResearchGate is also developing a “reputation score” to reward members for online contributions.

ResearchGate offers a simple yet effective end run around restrictive journal access with its “self-archiving repository.” Since most journals allow scientists to link to their submitted papers on their own Web sites, Dr. Madisch encourages his users to do so on their ResearchGate profiles. In addition to housing 350,000 papers (and counting), the platform provides a way to search 40 million abstracts and papers from other science databases.

In 2011, ResearchGate reports, 1,620,849 connections were made, 12,342 questions answered and 842,179 publications shared. Greg Phelan, chairman of the chemistry department at the State University of New York, Cortland, used it to find new collaborators, get expert advice and read journal articles not available through his small university. Now he spends up to two hours a day, five days a week, on the site.

Dr. Rajiv Gupta, a radiology instructor who supervised Dr. Madisch at Harvard and was one of ResearchGate’s first investors, called it “a great site for serious research and research collaboration,” adding that he hoped it would never be contaminated “with pop culture and chit-chat.”

Dr. Gupta called Dr. Madisch the “quintessential networking guy — if there’s a Bill Clinton of the science world, it would be him.”

The Paper Trade

Dr. Sönke H. Bartling, a researcher at the German Cancer Research Center who is editing a book on “Science 2.0,” wrote that for scientists to move away from what is currently “a highly integrated and controlled process,” a new system for assessing the value of research is needed. If open access is to be achieved through blogs, what good is it, he asked, “if one does not get reputation and money from them?”

Changing the status quo — opening data, papers, research ideas and partial solutions to anyone and everyone — is still far more idea than reality. As the established journals argue, they provide a critical service that does not come cheap.

“I would love for it to be free,” said Alan Leshner, executive publisher of the journal Science, but “we have to cover the costs.” Those costs hover around $40 million a year to produce his nonprofit flagship journal, with its more than 25 editors and writers, sales and production staff, and offices in North America, Europe and Asia, not to mention print and distribution expenses. (Like other media organizations, Science has responded to the decline in advertising revenue by enhancing its Web offerings, and most of its growth comes from online subscriptions.)

Similarly, Nature employs a large editorial staff to manage the peer-review process and to select and polish “startling and new” papers for publication, said Dr. Clarke, its editor. And it costs money to screen for plagiarism and spot-check data “to make sure they haven’t been manipulated.”

Peer-reviewed open-access journals, like Nature Communications and PLoS One, charge their authors publication fees — $5,000 and $1,350, respectively — to defray their more modest expenses.

The largest journal publisher, Elsevier, whose products include The Lancet, Cell and the subscription-based online archive ScienceDirect, has drawn considerable criticism from open-access advocates and librarians, who are especially incensed by its support for the Research Works Act, introduced in Congress last month, which seeks to protect publishers’ rights by effectively restricting access to research papers and data.

In an Op-Ed article in The New York Times last week, Michael B. Eisen, a molecular biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, and a founder of the Public Library of Science, wrote that if the bill passes, “taxpayers who already paid for the research would have to pay again to read the results.”

In an e-mail interview, Alicia Wise, director of universal access at Elsevier, wrote that “professional curation and preservation of data is, like professional publishing, neither easy nor inexpensive.” And Tom Reller, a spokesman for Elsevier, commented on Dr. Eisen’s blog, “Government mandates that require private-sector information products to be made freely available undermine the industry’s ability to recoup these investments.”

Mr. Zivkovic, the ScienceOnline co-founder and a blog editor for Scientific American, which is owned by Nature, was somewhat sympathetic to the big journals’ plight. “They have shareholders,” he said. “They have to move the ship slowly.”

Still, he added: “Nature is not digging in. They know it’s happening. They’re preparing for it.”

Science 2.0

Scott Aaronson, a quantum computing theorist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has refused to conduct peer review for or submit papers to commercial journals. “I got tired of giving free labor,” he said, to “these very rich for-profit companies.”

Dr. Aaronson is also an active member of online science communities like MathOverflow, where he has earned enough reputation points to edit others’ posts. “We’re not talking about new technologies that have to be invented,” he said. “Things are moving in that direction. Journals seem noticeably less important than 10 years ago.”

Dr. Leshner, the publisher of Science, agrees that things are moving. “Will the model of science magazines be the same 10 years from now? I highly doubt it,” he said. “I believe in evolution.

“When a better system comes into being that has quality and trustability, it will happen. That’s how science progresses, by doing scientific experiments. We should be doing that with scientific publishing as well.”

Matt Cohler, the former vice president of product management at Facebook who now represents Benchmark Capital on ResearchGate’s board, sees a vast untapped market in online science.

“It’s one of the last areas on the Internet where there really isn’t anything yet that addresses core needs for this group of people,” he said, adding that “trillions” are spent each year on global scientific research. Investors are betting that a successful site catering to scientists could shave at least a sliver off that enormous pie.

Dr. Madisch, of ResearchGate, acknowledged that he might never reach many of the established scientists for whom social networking can seem like a foreign language or a waste of time. But wait, he said, until younger scientists weaned on social media and open-source collaboration start running their own labs.

“If you said years ago, ‘One day you will be on Facebook sharing all your photos and personal information with people,’ they wouldn’t believe you,” he said. “We’re just at the beginning. The change is coming.”

 

 

 

  1. Symantec backtracks, admits own network hacked

    1. Warns pcAnywhere users they face increased risk, confirms theft of source code of prominent consumer programs

 

Gregg Keizer

January 17, 2012 (Computerworld)


 

Symantec today backed away from earlier statements regarding the theft of source code of some of its flagship security products, now admitting that its own network was compromised.

In a statement provided to the Reuters news service, the security software giant acknowledged that hackers had broken into its network when they stole source code of some of the company’s software.

Previously, Symantec had denied that its own network had been breached, and instead pointed fingers at an unnamed “third party entity” as the attack’s victim. Evidence posted by a hacker nicknamed “Yama Tough” — a self-proclaimed member of a gang calling itself “Lords of Dharmaraja” — indicated that the information was obtained from a server operated by the Indian government.

Two weeks ago, Symantec spokesman Cris Paden said that the hacker made off with source code of Symantec Endpoint Protection 11.0 and Symantec Antivirus 10.2, enterprise products between five and six years old.

At the time, Paden downplayed the seriousness of the theft.

Today, however, Paden said that source code of Norton Antivirus Corporate Edition, Norton Internet Security, Norton Utilities, Norton GoBack and pcAnywhere, had been stolen.

Some of those — Norton Internet Security and Norton Utilities — are among Symantec’s most prominent consumer-grade products.

Symantec missed one bullet, however.

Last Saturday, Yama Tough promised to release more than a gigabyte of the source code for Norton Antivirus — the hacker did not specify which version — but he said the group has since reconsidered.

“We’ve decided not to release code to the public until we get full of it,” Yama Tough wrote on Twitter Monday. “1st we’ll own evrthn we can by 0din’ the sym code & pour mayhem.”

In the message, “0din'” likely stands for “zero-daying,” meaning attacks launched against unpatched vulnerabilities.

Also on Monday, Yama Tough claimed that he had some or all of the source code for pcAnywhere, a multi-platform remote access suite that Symantec sells.

“PCAnywhere code is being released to blackhat community for 0d expltin!,” said Yama Tough, again on Twitter.

Paden confirmed Yama Tough’s claim when he told Reuters that pcAnywhere users face “a slightly increased security risk” because of the hacker’s activities.

“Symantec is currently in the process of reaching out to our pcAnywhere customers to make them aware of the situation and to provide remediation steps to maintain the protection of their devices and information,” Paden said.

Paden did not reply to Computerworld‘s requests for comment on Symantec’s revised statement.

 

 

 

  1. Pentagon cedes control of Defense cyber pilot to DHS

Nextgov.com

By Aliya Sternstein 01/17/2012

The Homeland Security Department is taking over a heralded Pentagon project that shared classified intelligence with select military contractors and their communications providers, DHS officials said.

The new arrangement puts DHS, the civilian agency responsible for facilitating the protection of private critical infrastructure, in charge of communicating with private Internet service providers. The Defense Department will continue to be the point of contact for contractors, officials said.

During the summer, National Security Agency employees, the military’s code breakers, had been disclosing to contractors and their ISPs the “signatures” — the unique fingerprints of threats — for uploading into virus-detection systems. The goal of the so-called DIB Cybersecurity Pilot was to block intruders from accessing the computers and networks that support Pentagon operations.

The Obama administration has opted to temporarily extend what was originally a 90-day initiative, DHS officials said Tuesday.

The officials added that the program remains restricted to the initial participating companies while all parties enhance operations based on lessons gleaned from the trial run. Wide interest from the military industry has sparked talks of expanding the program to all Defense Department companies and, perhaps, nondefense critical sectors, such as the power and banking industries.

Under the extension, data will be exchanged only among communications company and Defense and Homeland Security personnel who have security clearances, according to a Jan. 13 privacy notice.

Companies that choose to share information about incidents are prohibited from providing customer data that identifies individuals, the notice stated. The threat indicators divulged by government officials, however, can contain personal information, such as email addresses or other content in infected messages.

Some security specialists have said, going forward, Defense technicians may be hesitant to share the more sensitive data with Homeland Security — a department traditionally run by policy experts. New blood at DHS, however, with the arrival of a former energy-sector security chief and a State Department pioneer in threat monitoring, could help build a stronger rapport between the two departments, they added.

“If the technical people only have lawyers to meet with, they don’t develop a lot of trust,” said Alan Paller, research director at the SANS Institute. “Because the lawyers can’t speak the language.”

During the next six months, communication between DHS and NSA technical professionals will be critical, he said.

“There is a period of trust building that begins right now,” Paller said.

Some lawmakers said statutory changes may be required to safeguard private sector networks. About 85 percent of the critical infrastructure supporting Americans and U.S. troops is commercially operated.

“This format allows DHS to strengthen the information sharing effort and potentially expand it to other areas of critical infrastructure,” Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., co-chairman of the congressional cybersecurity caucus, said in a statement. “We need to improve the ability of the government and private sector to communicate about threats, but Congress must pass comprehensive legislation that also requires key industries to meet effective security standards internally.”

 

 

  1. Pentagon-funded games would crowdsource weapons testing

Nextgov

By Dawn Lim 01/19/2012

The Pentagon plans to fork over $32 million to develop “fun to play” computer games that can refine the way weapons systems are tested to ensure they are free from software errors and security bugs, according to a Defense Department solicitation.

The goal is to create puzzles that are “intuitively understandable by ordinary people” and could be solved on laptops, smartphones, tablets and consoles. The games’ solutions will be collected into a database and used to improve methods for analyzing software, according to the draft request for proposals put out by the military’s venture capital and research arm, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

As weapons systems have become complex, the military’s methods for verifying that the software running on them is glitch-free and secure against hackers has fallen short. Formal verification is the process analysts use, through the application of mathematical theories, to determine if software code is free from bugs. Crowdsourcing this complicated task would help the Pentagon cut costs while it grapples with a shortage of computer security specialists.

“Formal verification has been too costly to apply beyond small, critical software components,” the document said. “This is particularly an issue for the Department of Defense because formal verification, while a proven method for reducing defects in software, currently requires highly specialized talent and cannot be scaled to the size of software found in modern weapon systems.”

DARPA’s three-year experiment, known as Crowdsourced Formal Verification, will address the question: How can developers translate formal verification problems into compelling puzzles people will want to solve?

The agency estimates that it will spend $4.7 million on the project this year.

The games will be released for testing by the public at the end of the program’s two research phases. Researchers must provide programming tools that allow robots to play the games. “However, some problems are expected to remain beyond any robot’s ability to solve,” the solicitation notes. DARPA did not respond to requests for an interview.

The use of crowdsourcing and games to tackle complex, real-world problems has gained traction since players of Foldit, a protein-folding computer game that analyzes possible protein combinations, recently deciphered an AIDS-related enzyme that had baffled scientists for more than a decade. The creation of Foldit by the University of Washington was funded in part by DARPA.

Another game, EteRNA, allows players to design RNA — or ribonucleic acid — molecules, creating genetic blueprints that scientists could build on to influence what happens inside living cells and possibly treat diseases in new ways.

“One of the really exciting things is that when we inject a new kind of problem in the world and provide tools to solve that problem, experts at the task just emerge,” said Adrien Treuille, an assistant computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University who has been involved in developing both games.

Security professionals, while intrigued by the potential of DARPA’s idea, have reservations about whether the program will meet the ambitious goals.

It would be more cost-effective for the government to focus efforts on ensuring that software is secure while it’s being engineered rather than after it has been deployed in systems, said Gary McGraw, chief technology officer at Cigital, a Dulles, Va.-based security consultancy. “It’s easier to build something right than to build a broken thing and then have to fix it.”

If players know a game is mapped to a weapons system’s software, there’s the alarming possibility that they could rig its results. “They could collude and play the game to show there are no security problems,” said Nasir Memon, director of the Information Systems and Internet Security Laboratory at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University. “How can you trust results from that?”

 

  1. Contractors will remain in limbo during debates over automatic Defense cuts

Nextgov

By Charles S. Clark

cclark@govexec.com

January 18, 2012

“Fasten your seat belts,” a panelist told Defense Department contractors ahead of likely sparring between lawmakers and the White House over the details of automatic budget cuts slated to hit the Pentagon in January 2013.

“Defense contractors are hostages in the showdown between the president and Congress over funding decisions on taxing and spending.” John Cooney, a partner at Venable LLP law form and a former Office of Management and Budget general counsel, told a panel convened Tuesday by the Professional Services Council, a contractors trade group.

Despite the failure last fall of a group of lawmakers dubbed the super committee to agree on $1.2 trillion in savings, the Congressional Budget Office and the Office of Management and Budget have determined that no automatic cuts — called sequestration under the 2011 Budget Control Act — are necessary immediately.

But barring legislative intervention, spending related to national security, which in addition to the Pentagon includes the Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs departments and intelligence agencies, could face across-the-board cuts on Jan. 3, 2013.

Robert Keith, former senior specialist at the Congressional Research Service, said in a review of the budget procedures that Defense would be hit with a cut of 9.3 percent in 2013 if the president exercises his discretion to exempt military personnel, or 7.5 percent if he does not exempt them. From 2014-2014, that would translate to cuts of about $55 billion a year, Keith said.

“There have been such cuts in the past, but not of this magnitude,” he said.

In reviewing the legal procedures used in a sequestration, Cooney noted the practice has been invoked only once, following passage of the 1985 Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act, known as the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings budget act. Back then, contractors “got a free ride,” he said, whereas this year the Obama administration negotiated to put many more contractors’ interest on the table. “The only silver lining from Gramm-Rudman,” he said, “was that both Congress and the executive branch figured out that the cuts and revenues generated the intellectual capital for the 1986 reform of the tax code.”

If the sequestration kicks in next January, the details will not be known until there is an analysis from CBO, then a report from OMB and then an order to agencies from the president, the panelists noted. The cuts, technically called “impoundments” and “apportionments,” would be legally binding for every agency, with violators subject to criminal penalties.

“But the president can put his thumb on the scale,” Cooney said, meaning he has some discretion in favoring some programs within line items, though he may chose not to exercise it for fear of alienating Congress. “It’s highly controversial within agencies. The contracting officers will be told of the cuts’ impact relatively late in the process.”

Agencies also will have some discretion, Cooney said, in weighing personnel cuts against contract expenditures, for example. Their least attractive option would be to terminate contracts; their most feasible options would be to lower the cap on existing cost reimbursement contracts by telling contractors, in effect, “Use your best efforts but don’t exceed $Y dollars,” he said. Though prior-year contracts would be exempt, there would likely be few new contracts, and agencies would rely more on indefinite delivery-indefinite quantity contracts.

Contractors were encouraged to be proactive and “engage their customers” by staying in touch with contracting officers despite the limits on what they will know about future cuts.

Alan Chvotkin, PSC’s executive vice president and counsel, said agencies likely will reduce mandatory contracting commitments, maximize discretionary commitments and defer contract award decisions. That means adjusting acquisition strategies for new awards based on available funds, he said, and looking at “long-term agency mission flexibility.”

He predicted greater use of General Services Administration schedules for products and services, and he counseled contractors to review their past performance records in federal databases.

 

  1. Another test finds LightSquared satellite service interferes with GPS

  2. WashingtonPost

    1. By Cecilia Kang, Published: January 17

Federal regulators have renewed charges that the mobile Internet service LightSquared interferes with military and aviation operations, in what experts say is a severe blow to the fledgling business.

The fresh test results, released late last week, had been a last-ditch chance for Reston-based LightSquared to prove that its satellite service was safe. But the results confirmed findings that the network would interfere with key Global Positioning System technology used to steer planes and operate sensitive construction and military equipment.

On Wednesday, the company is slated to announce its business plans in the wake of the report.

Some government officials said the problems didn’t seem fixable.

“There appear to be no practical solutions or mitigations that would permit the LightSquared broadband service, as proposed, to operate in the next few months or years without significantly interfering with GPS,” wrote Ashton Carter, deputy secretary of defense, and John Porcari, deputy secretary of transportation, in a letter. The officials head the interagency National Space-Based Positioning, Navigation and Timing group.
Their conclusion, after several months of testing, will put off the company’s attempts to gain license approval by the Federal Communications Commission to light up its satellite network and begin selling broadband Internet service that would compete with AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile.

“There’s no way the FCC will grant that approval after this report,” said Christopher King, an analyst at Stifel Nicolaus. “The question will be, when will they run out of money?”

Indeed, an urgency to resolve interference problems brought Philip Falcone, founder of LightSquared, to Washington on Jan. 4 to meet with FCC staff. At the meeting, the hedge fund billionaire and founder of Harbinger Capital highlighted the company’s extensive investment — of $3 billion — in the venture that supports the agency’s goals of extending broadband Internet to more U.S. homes, according to public filings.

The FCC is under investigation by some Republican lawmakers, who question the agency’s decision in early 2011 to grant LightSquared an initial waiver to fast-track its business.

Amid its regulatory headaches, LightSquared has responded with its own offense against federal officials. It has protested the government’s process in testing its network, saying the interagency group’s vice chairman, Brad Parkinson, has a conflict of interest because he serves on the board of GPS maker Trimble, which has lobbied against LightSquared.

“Government testing has become unfair and shrouded from the public eye,” LightSquared said in a news release. “Under an agreement worked out directly between representatives of Trimble — the same company that has paid for a year-long lobbying campaign against LightSquared’s network — LightSquared was specifically excluded from the testing process.”

The interagency group and Trimble both failed to respond to requests for comment.

 

 

  1. Treasury’s Thrift Savings Plan maneuver aims to keep government under debt cap

    1. Washington Post

    2. By Eric Yoder,

    3. Published: January 17

 

The federal government resorted to a favorite accounting maneuver Tuesday to stay under its debt limit, suspending the issuance of securities in a retirement savings program for federal and postal employees.

The Treasury Department announced the maneuver involving the Thrift Savings Plan’s government securities fund to keep the government below the $15.2 trillion debt ceiling, pending approval of a higher limit.

The fund, commonly called the G fund, consists of special-issue securities available only through the TSP. It operates much like a mutual fund for employees saving through the 401(k)-style program.

By not issuing new securities for the fund, the Treasury in effect frees up money on investment in the fund to stay below the debt limit. However, the G fund money remains on account with the Treasury, and investors “are guaranteed interest when Treasury securities are issued to the fund, and they are guaranteed interest when securities are not issued to the fund,” TSP spokesman Tom Trabucco said.

A statement from TSP Executive Director Greg T. Long posted at www.tsp.gov said the guarantee “has effectively protected G fund investors many times over the past 25 years. That protection, which was established by the Thrift Savings Plan Investment Act of 1987, will again work to ensure that G fund investors are completely unaffected by the limitation on securities issued by the U.S. Treasury. G fund account balances will continue to accrue earnings and be updated each business day, and loans and withdrawals will be unaffected.”

Trabucco said that the 1987 legislation “was enacted to protect investors in just this situation and keep them insulated from the politics of the debt limit.”

The Treasury has resorted to similar maneuvers about a dozen times during the TSP’s two-decade existence with no effect on investors, he said. The most recent occurrence was last spring and summer, when Congress and the White House deadlocked over raising the debt ceiling. An agreement was reached in August.

As of the end of 2011, the G fund held about $148 billion of the roughly $295 billion on investment in the TSP. The TSP is open to military personnel and retirees as well as to federal and postal employees and retirees.

 

  1. Obama reorganization could affect at least 12 agencies

    FCW.com

    By Alice Lipowicz

    Jan 17, 2012

The federal agency reorganization announced by President Barack Obama last week has a much broader reach than it initially appeared, with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the bulk of the other Commerce Department agencies affected.

The president on Jan. 13 asked Congress for authority to consolidate six business and trade agencies, including the Small Business Administration, into a new business and trade department. The initial announcement indicated six agencies in total would be involved. However, additional details made available by a White House official indicates a planned second phase of the reorganization would transfer at least six major Commerce Department agencies out of that department and into the Interior Department, or into the newly created department. The later phase appears to be larger in scope than the first. 

Under the second-phase plan, the $5.5 billion NOAA—which comprises more than half of the Commerce Department’s budget and includes the National Weather Service—would be moved into the Interior Department, Jeff Zients, federal chief performance officer, said in a conference call with reporters on Jan. 13. An audio recording
of the call is available online from FierceGovernment.com.

“NOAA would move to Interior as part of a specific proposal, once we have consolidation authority,” Zients said in the call. NOAA’s integration within Interior “would be carefully worked through,” he added.

That idea of moving NOAA has already sparked some opposition from the National Weather Service Employees Union, considering the importance of maintaining accurate weather forecasts for airlines, shipping and other industries, according to an article in the Washington Post’s Federal Eye. The National Resources Defense Council also has raised concerns about possible risks to ocean environmental concerns if NOAA shifts departments.

Additionally, five other Commerce agencies, including the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the Census Bureau and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, would be moved into the new department, Zients said

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration, Bureau of Labor Statistics and Bureau of Economic Analysis also would move to the new cabinet-level department, Zients said.

The new department would be organized under four pillars, Zients said:

  • Small business and economic development;
  • Trade and investment;
  • Technology and innovation;
  • Economic statistics.

The NTIA, patent office and NIST would move into the technology and innovation office, he said.

Zients said the reorganization plan would potentially eliminate 1,000 to 2,000 federal jobs, which would occur through attrition.

He said the administration vetted the reorganization ideas for months with federal officials, employees, unions and outside entities.

“We have talked with hundreds of businesses and employees,” Zients said. “It was very rigorous work.”

The first phase involves consolidation of six agencies, including the SBA, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, Export-Import Bank, Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the Trade Development Agency.

Additional changes affecting NOAA, NIST, NTIA and other Commerce agencies would be developed in the coming months, he said.

  1. Air Force gets new space and cyber operations director

Brig. Gen. James McLaughlin has been picked for promotion to director for space and cyber operations, and deputy chief of staff for operations, plans and requirements at Air Force headquarters in Washington, D.C.

He previously served as deputy director for global operations at U.S. Strategic Command headquarters in Offutt Air Force Base, Neb. He was responsible to the commander on matters of situational awareness, command and control and integrated plans and operations across space, nuclear and cyber operations.

Posted by FCW Staff on Jan 17, 2012 at 10:27 AM

 

 

 

  1. Full steam ahead for gigabit wireless, report says

    1. The arrival of the first products based on 802.11ac will get a warm welcome later this year

Computerworld

By Mikael Ricknäs

January 17, 2012 09:05 AM ET

IDG News Service – The uptake of wireless networks based on 802.11ac is expected to be high when the first products arrive later this year, according to a report from IMS Research.

More than 3 million products with 802.11ac, including access points and notebooks, will be shipped in the first year of availability alone, IMS expects.

“That is a very positive start,” said Filomena Berardi, senior market analyst at IMS.

The first products are expected to arrive in stores by the end of the year. Chipsets and routers were demonstrated at last week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

It won’t be long before more laptops are shipped with 802.11ac than without, according to Berardi. The technology will then become more widespread, and in 2016 more than 400 million devices will be shipped.

It’s now full steam ahead for the standard, according to IMS.

The upcoming 802.11ac standard will offer higher speeds than what is possible using 802.11n, thanks to the use of more spectrum and more advanced antenna technology.

But the performance improvements will come at a cost. Enterprises will have to buy new clients and access points, as existing Wi-Fi chipsets can’t be upgraded to handle 802.11ac, according to Aruba Networks, which still expects that the technology will be very popular, it said.

The driving force is a growing amount of video traffic in enterprise networks, Aruba Networks’ Peter Thornycroft said in a recent video on the basics of 802.11ac.

Not all products will have integrated support for the standard from day one. The first smartphones with 802.11ac won’t arrive until 2014, IMS said. This is mainly a result of higher costs and footprint issues, it said.

But smartphones and other clients will still be able to access W-Fi networks using 802.11n, as most access points will be able to handle both standards at the same time — 802.11n on the 2.4GHz band and 802.11ac on the 5GHz band.

Despite tough economic conditions, enterprises are spending more money on Wi-Fi networks. Overall revenue grew more than 20 percent during the third quarter over the same period last year, driven in large part by a 40 percent bump in enterprise sales, according to market research company Dell’Oro Group.

 

  1. Boeing Departure Shakes Wichita’s Identity as Airplane Capital

 

Steve Hebert for The New York Times

 

WICHITA, Kan. — The crowd gathered at the local headquarters for Boeing was euphoric. The company had just won one of the largest military contracts in history. Thousands of the resulting jobs, Boeing had promised, would be headed here, to the sprawling manufacturing complex where residents have been building airplanes for generations.

It’s good for Kansas, it’s good for Wichita and it’s a great day to be alive here and to profess victory,” said Senator Pat Roberts, part of the political team that spent a decade battling on behalf of the company. “Every once in a while the good guys win.”

That celebration last February was supposed to confirm this city’s enduring status as the “Air Capital of the World.” But less than a year later, on Jan. 4, Boeing executives solemnly gathered here for another announcement. The jobs would not be arriving after all, they said. Instead, they would shut down all of the company’s local operations by the end of 2013.

Barring some unexpected act of salvation, this is how Boeing leaves Wichita after eight decades as one of its biggest employers and most prestigious brands: in a trail of broken promises and bitter recriminations.

For most of the country, this is just one more plant closing, just 2,160 more lost jobs in a Midwestern city — nothing particularly dramatic in these difficult times. But the exit has been another painful blow to the city of Wichita and the airplane manufacturing industry that has sustained it, the sudden reversal of fortune only adding to the feeling of betrayal.

After waves of layoffs and threatened departures by the plane makers, there is a growing fear that this city, like so many other manufacturing centers, is at risk of losing its identity as one of those American places where people make things and are paid well for it.

David Robertson, who has worked at Boeing for 35 of his 54 years, following his father into the business, said he suspected that when the jobs head elsewhere his employer will miss the commitment and expertise built through company clans like his.

“What did we talk about at supper?” Mr. Robertson asked. “We talked about planes. You go to a place where people don’t have that history, where people haven’t been doing it for generations, and to them it’s just a job.”

This was a fading cow town when a few eyes-to-the-skies businessmen helped transform Wichita into the largest city in Kansas and a major aviation manufacturing hub. Cessna, Beech and Lear are a few whose names still grace planes made here. The city still makes almost half the general aviation airplanes in the world. And Wichita is where Air Force One goes for a tuneup.

Some believe the departure of Boeing will be damaging only symbolically because the company sold off its much larger commercial division here, now called Spirit Aerosystems. But others, worried about an eroding identity and a declining share of the market, ask whether this time is different.

“This is not a cyclical thing,” said Bob Brewer, president of the local chapter of the aerospace engineering union. “This isn’t Boeing cycling down. This is Boeing cycling out.”

Boeing, which is based in Chicago, anchored itself to the community when it took over the local Stearman Aircraft Company in 1929. With a focus on building larger planes for commercial travel and military use, as opposed to the small-plane makers that dominate here, Boeing gained a reputation for generous compensation and opportunities for career growth.

Today, a typical airplane worker here earns about $71,000 a year, about 80 percent higher than the average income in the city, according to the Federal Reserve Bank in Kansas City.

A Boeing employee for four decades, Steve Rooney, who runs the local machinists’ union, joined the company just like his father and grandfather. His daughter worked at Boeing as well, until she was laid off several years ago.

“How can you tell people, ‘Learn the trade, get involved, there is a future here’?” Mr. Rooney asked. “Is there?” He nodded his head and let the question linger.

This scene — a major local airplane maker departing while citing costs — almost played out a year ago. Hawker Beechcraft was on the verge of moving to Louisiana before the company agreed to take a smaller incentive package to remain for at least a decade, embracing what the company calls “the stay and make it work strategy.”

W. W. Boisture Jr., the chairman and chief executive of the company, which cut its local work force by nearly half, said the decision was between “a very attractive economic offer” and “a multigenerational work force that has been committed to this company for decades.” He did not pretend that the decision was easy.

Though employment in airplane manufacturing here dropped to 29,000 from 42,000 in 2008 — accounting for more than half the lost jobs during that period — there are some positive signs. Airbus, the European rival to Boeing, expanded the office it opened here. Spirit has been increasing production. Last week Bombardier Aerospace announced it was expanding its Learjet site. But it is Boeing’s departure that dominates the conversation.

For residents, the message seemed unequivocal before the $35 billion contract to build aerial refueling tankers was secured. “Tanker Win Would Bring 7,500 Jobs, $388 Million to Kansas,” one Boeing press release declared.

But when the company concluded that it was prohibitively expensive to stay in the enormous facility — which includes 97 buildings — executives deflected charges of deceit by saying that the issues had not been anticipated.

Representative Mike Pompeo, a Republican who is investigating whether the company planned to close the factory even as it assured the jobs were headed here — as union leaders have charged — dismissed the explanation as “incomprehensible.”

Mr. Roberts, also a Republican and a part of the Congressional delegation that fought for the contract, called the episode a bitter lesson. “They broke their promise not just to me but to the men and women who have worked for them for 80 years,” he said.

A Boeing spokesman, Jarrod Bartlett, said executives would not discuss the departure because, “We’re still trying to work through everything.” The company has emphasized that it spent $3.2 billion with 475 Kansas suppliers last year and that those relationships would be continuing.

As shift workers streamed out of aviation factories here last week, Debbie Humble, 46, who has survived her own layoffs over the years, said that even though her job at Spirit felt secure she had been unnerved by the recent developments.

“You never thought you’d see Boeing leave,” Ms. Humble said. “They were the biggest thing out here.”

 

 

 

  1. Contractors will remain in limbo during debates over automatic Defense cuts

By Charles S. Clark

cclark@govexec.com

January 18, 2012

“Fasten your seat belts,” a panelist told Defense Department contractors ahead of likely sparring between lawmakers and the White House over the details of automatic budget cuts slated to hit the Pentagon in January 2013.

“Defense contractors are hostages in the showdown between the president and Congress over funding decisions on taxing and spending.” John Cooney, a partner at Venable LLP law form and a former Office of Management and Budget general counsel, told a panel convened Tuesday by the Professional Services Council, a contractors trade group.

Despite the failure last fall of a group of lawmakers dubbed the super committee to agree on $1.2 trillion in savings, the Congressional Budget Office and the Office of Management and Budget have determined that no automatic cuts — called sequestration under the 2011 Budget Control Act — are necessary immediately.

But barring legislative intervention, spending related to national security, which in addition to the Pentagon includes the Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs departments and intelligence agencies, could face across-the-board cuts on Jan. 3, 2013.

Robert Keith, former senior specialist at the Congressional Research Service, said in a review of the budget procedures that Defense would be hit with a cut of 9.3 percent in 2013 if the president exercises his discretion to exempt military personnel, or 7.5 percent if he does not exempt them. From 2014-2014, that would translate to cuts of about $55 billion a year, Keith said.

“There have been such cuts in the past, but not of this magnitude,” he said.

In reviewing the legal procedures used in a sequestration, Cooney noted the practice has been invoked only once, following passage of the 1985 Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act, known as the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings budget act. Back then, contractors “got a free ride,” he said, whereas this year the Obama administration negotiated to put many more contractors’ interest on the table. “The only silver lining from Gramm-Rudman,” he said, “was that both Congress and the executive branch figured out that the cuts and revenues generated the intellectual capital for the 1986 reform of the tax code.”

If the sequestration kicks in next January, the details will not be known until there is an analysis from CBO, then a report from OMB and then an order to agencies from the president, the panelists noted. The cuts, technically called “impoundments” and “apportionments,” would be legally binding for every agency, with violators subject to criminal penalties.

“But the president can put his thumb on the scale,” Cooney said, meaning he has some discretion in favoring some programs within line items, though he may chose not to exercise it for fear of alienating Congress. “It’s highly controversial within agencies. The contracting officers will be told of the cuts’ impact relatively late in the process.”

Agencies also will have some discretion, Cooney said, in weighing personnel cuts against contract expenditures, for example. Their least attractive option would be to terminate contracts; their most feasible options would be to lower the cap on existing cost reimbursement contracts by telling contractors, in effect, “Use your best efforts but don’t exceed $Y dollars,” he said. Though prior-year contracts would be exempt, there would likely be few new contracts, and agencies would rely more on indefinite delivery-indefinite quantity contracts.

Contractors were encouraged to be proactive and “engage their customers” by staying in touch with contracting officers despite the limits on what they will know about future cuts.

Alan Chvotkin, PSC’s executive vice president and counsel, said agencies likely will reduce mandatory contracting commitments, maximize discretionary commitments and defer contract award decisions. That means adjusting acquisition strategies for new awards based on available funds, he said, and looking at “long-term agency mission flexibility.”

He predicted greater use of General Services Administration schedules for products and services, and he counseled contractors to review their past performance records in federal databases.

 

 


 

 

  1. Space, Cyber, Spectrum Key to New Defense Operations Concept

NextGov

By Bob Brewin  

01/19/12 05:57 pm ET

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey on Tuesday released a new operational concept that reinforces the importance of space and cyberspace to military operations, a point emphasized in the new Defense strategy announced by President Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta earlier this month.

The new Joint Operational Access Concept puts even more emphasis on operations in space and cyberspace and adds spectrum and position and timing systems — GPS — to the mix. The concept redefines freedom of navigation way beyond the maritime domain to include “nonsoverign cyberspace, space, and the electromagnetic spectrum. U.S. access to and freedom of navigation within these global commons are vital to national interests,” the 75-page document says.

The document indicates that the United States could try to dominate operations in these areas well ahead of any anticipated conventional warfare:

“Moreover, because the critical support provided by space and cyberspace generally must be in place in advance and because many operations in those domains, especially offensive operations, require significant lead time, space and cyberspace operations likely will commence well in advance of other operations. In fact, even in the absence of open conflict, operations to gain and maintain cyberspace superiority and space control will be continuous requirements.”

Dempsey, in a blog post, said, “This framework describes how we will gain entry and maintain access anywhere and in any domain: land, air, space, sea, and cyber. No matter how formidable our forces, if we are unable to bring our capabilities to bear in any of these domains, we may not be able to complete the mission or meet our nation’s needs.”

The concept says the United States needs to conduct future operations on a cross-domain basis that melds conventional warfare with the new high-tech domains, which will put a “heavy burden” on increasingly decentralized command and control systems.

Risks involved in this new approach to warfare include budgetary considerations, the document notes. “In its fullest form, this is a resource-intensive concept. The emphasis on cross-domain synergy implies a degree of joint interdependence at relatively low echelons that will demand a robust command and control system and a major investment in frequent and realistic training for those forces.”

But the document comes with a warning [emphasis included]: “The concept could be economically unsupportable in an era of constrained Defense budgets.

Risks unidentified in the concept document include the lack of a backup to GPS; space systems that are over budget and behind schedule; and the Army’s continuing problems with development and deployment of battlefield communications systems.

 

  1. Working In Word, Excel, PowerPoint on an iPad

    1. WSJ.com

  2. By WALTER S. MOSSBERG

     

 

Although Apple‘s popular iPad tablet has been able to replace laptops for many tasks, it isn’t a big hit with folks who’d like to use it to create or edit long Microsoft Office documents.

While Microsoft has released a number of apps for the iPad, it hasn’t yet released an iPad version of Office. There are a number of valuable apps that can create or edit Office documents, such as Quickoffice Pro, Documents To Go and the iPad version of Apple’s own iWork suite. But their fidelity with Office documents created on a Windows PC or a Mac isn’t perfect.

This week, Onlive Inc., in Palo Alto, Calif., is releasing an app that brings the full, genuine Windows versions of the key Office productivity apps—Word, Excel and PowerPoint—to the iPad. And it’s free. These are the real programs. They look and work just like they do on a real Windows PC. They let you create or edit genuine Word documents, Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations.

I’ve been testing a pre-release version of this new app, called OnLive Desktop, which the company says will be available in the next few days in Apple’s app store. More information is at desktop.onlive.com.

My verdict is that it works, but with some caveats, limitations and rough edges. Some of these downsides are inherent in the product, while others have to do with the mismatch between the iPad’s touch interface and the fact that Office for Windows was primarily designed for a physical keyboard and mouse.

Creating or editing long documents on a tablet with a virtual on-screen keyboard is a chore, no matter what Office-type app you choose. So, although it isn’t a requirement, I strongly recommend that users of OnLive Desktop employ one of the many add-on wireless keyboards for the iPad.

OnLive Desktop is a cloud-based app. That means it doesn’t actually install Office on your iPad. It acts as a gateway to a remote server where Windows 7, and the three Office apps, are actually running. You create an account, sign in, and Windows pops up on your iPad, with icons allowing you to launch Word, Excel or PowerPoint. (There are also a few other, minor Windows programs included, like Notepad, Calculator and Paint.)

In my tests, the Office apps launched and worked smoothly and quickly, without any noticeable lag, despite the fact that they were operating remotely. Although this worked better for me on my fast home Internet connection, it also worked pretty well on a much slower hotel connection.

Like Office itself, the documents you create or modify don’t live on the iPad. Instead, they go to a cloud-based repository, a sort of virtual hard disk. When you sign into OnLive Desktop, you see your documents in the standard Windows documents folder, which is actually on the remote server. The company says that this document storage won’t be available until a few days after the app becomes available.

To get files into and out of OnLive Desktop, you log into a Web site on your PC or Mac, where you see all the documents you’ve saved to your cloud repository. You can use this Web site to upload and download files to your OnLive Desktop account. Any changes made will be automatically synced, the company says, though I wasn’t able to test that capability in my pre-release version.

Because it’s a cloud-based service, OnLive Desktop won’t work offline, such as in planes without Wi-Fi. And it can be finicky about network speeds. It requires a wireless network with at least 1 megabit per second of download speed, and works best with at least 1.5 to 2.0 megabits. Many hotels have trouble delivering those speeds, and, in my tests, the app refused to start in a hotel twice, claiming insufficient network speed when the hotel Wi-Fi was overloaded.

The free version of the app has some other limitations. You get just 2 gigabytes of file storage, there’s no Web browser or email program like Outlook included, and you can’t install additional software. If many users are trying to log onto the OnLive Desktop servers at once, you may have to wait your turn to use Office.

In the coming weeks, the company plans to launch a Pro version, which will cost $10 a month. It will offer 50 GB of cloud document storage, “priority” access to the servers, a Web browser, and the ability to install some added programs. It will also allow you to collaborate on documents with other users, or even to chat with, and present material to, groups of other OnLive Desktop users.

The company also plans to offer OnLive Desktop on Android tablets, PCs and Macs, and iPhones.

In my tests, I was able to create documents on an iPad in each of the three cloud-based Office programs. I was able to download them to a computer, and alter them on both the iPad and computer. I was also able to upload files from the computer for use in OnLive Desktop.

OnLive Desktop can’t use the iPad’s built-in virtual keyboard, but it can use the virtual keyboard built into Windows 7 and Windows’ limited touch features and handwriting recognition. As noted above, I recommend using a wireless physical keyboard. But even these aren’t a perfect solution, because the ones that work with the iPad can’t send common Windows keyboard commands to OnLive Desktop, so you wind up moving between the keyboard and the touch screen, which can be frustrating. And you can’t use a mouse.

Another drawback is that OnLive Desktop is entirely isolated from the rest of the iPad. Unlike Office-compatible apps that install directly on the tablet, this cloud-based service can’t, for instance, be used to open Office documents you receive via email on the iPad. And, at least at first, the only way you can get files into and out of OnLive Desktop is through its Web-accessible cloud-storage service. The free version has no email capability, and the app doesn’t support common file-transfer services like Dropbox or SugarSync. The company says it hopes to add those.

OnLive Desktop competes not only with the iPad’s Office clones, but with iPad apps that let you remotely access and control your own PCs and Macs, and thus use Office and other computer software on those.

But, in my tests, I have found those tricky to use. They require you to leave your computers running and either install special software or learn to use certain settings.

Overall, I found OnLive Desktop to be a notable technical achievement, but it has so many caveats that it’s best for folks who absolutely, positively need to use the full, genuine versions of the three big Office productivity programs on their iPads. For everyone else, the locally installed Office clones are probably good enough, and simpler to use.

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