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February 25, 2012

February 27, 2012




Report: NSA chief sees possible Anonymous hit on power grid

USA Today

By Michael Winter, USA TODAY

The computer-hacking confederacy Anonymous might be able to cause a limited power blackout in a year or two, the general who directs the National Security Agency has warned officials, TheWall Street Journal is reporting.

Gen. Keith Alexander’s warning of a cyberattack on the electrical grid has come in White House meetings and in “other private sessions,” the Journal writes, citing “people familiar with the gatherings.”

Although the so-called hacktivists have not indicated a desire to disrupt the power system, the article continues, “some federal officials believe Anonymous is headed in a more disruptive direction,” pointing to the Anonymous announcement last week that members will attempt to shut down the Internet on March 31. Computer security experts doubt that “Operation Global Blackout” will succeed.

Any electrical grid attack would likely “inflict limited damage but would be certain to sow alarm, especially if Anonymous took credit publicly,” the Journal writes.

Grid officials said their systems face regular attacks, and they devote tremendous resources to repelling invaders, whether from Anonymous or some other source. “The industry is engaged and stepping up widely to respond to emerging cyber threats,” said one electric-industry official. “There is a recognition that there are groups out there like Anonymous, and we are concerned, as are other sectors.”

Another industry official noted that the electric grid has a number of backup systems that allow utilities to restore power quickly if it is taken out by a cyberattack or other event.

Intelligence officials believe that, for now, the cyber threat to the power grid is relatively limited. The countries that could most quickly develop and use cyber means to destroy part of the grid — such as China and Russia — have little incentive to do it. Those who might have more incentive, like Iran or North Korea, don’t have the capability.

So far, Anonymous has targeted government and corporate sites, including Visa, MasterCard, PayPal and the public sites of the CIA (Feb. 10) and the Federal Trade Commission (Friday). Members also intercepted a call between the FBI and Scotland Yard and have disrupted sites overseas over new laws on intellectual property and online privacy.

Over the weekend, the group announced it would launch attacks every Friday “with the specific purpose of wiping as many corrupt corporate and government systems off our Internet.”



Air Force Special Operations Command eyes Russian security software for iPads


By Bob Brewin 02/17/12

When the Air Force Special Operations Command decided to buy 2,861 made-in-China Apple iPad tablet computers in January to provide flight crews with electronic navigation charts and technical manuals, it specified mission security software developed, maintained and updated in Russia.

The command followed in the path of Alaska Airlines, which in May 2011 became the first domestic carrier to drop paper charts and manuals in exchange for electronic flight bags. Alaska chose the same software, GoodReader, developed by Moscow-based Good.iware, to display charts in a PDF format on iPads. Delta Air Lines kicked off a test in August for electronic flight bags and the carrier said it planned to use GoodReader software.

Originally developed for the iPhone, GoodReader won rave reviews, which helped make it the best-selling non-Apple iPad app until its developer, Yuri Selukoff, quadrupled its price from 99 cents to $4.99. PC Magazine said GoodReader “transforms your iPad into the best reader, file manager and annotator on the market.”

Macworld also raved that Good.iWare, Selukoff’s company, “hit a home run” when it developed the iPad version. “What adds an extra sparkle to GoodReader is that it supports most common document file types, while also allowing you to save and view Web pages (either in HTML or Safari Web archive format), and download, listen to, or view photos, audio and video files,” the publication said.

GoodReader also can encrypt data files, a key selling point for federal users, such as Air Force Special Operations Command, since the iPad has not yet received Federal Information Processing Standard 140-2 certification for data stored in or transmitted to or from the tablet.

According to Good.iWare, GoodReader uses the Apple data protection applications programming interface “to make sure your data will be secure, even if your device gets lost or stolen . . . If you use it properly, it will continue to protect your files even if an attacker jailbreaks your device and uses various hacking techniques to access encrypted files.”

This dovetails with the requirements AFSOC wrote into its original proposal to buy iPads: “Device must be capable of using the GoodReader application, which meets mission security and synchronization requirements. Operation of this application requires the iOS operating system and its inherent security features.”

Despite the enthusiastic reviews and the software’s ability to encrypt data at rest, present and former military officials question why AFSOC, which operates a fleet of specialized gunships and surveillance aircraft, would allow its pilots to rely on software developed in Russia. They also questioned the command’s vetting process for Good.iWare, which one active-duty official pointed out has a website that lacks basic contact information.

Michael McCarthy, director of the Army’s smartphone project, Connecting Soldiers to Digital Applications, based in Fort Bliss, Texas, questioned the plan. “I would not use encryption software developed in Russia . . . I don’t want to put users at risk,” he said, adding that he was concerned about the integrity of the supply chain with GoodReader. In November, he expressed similar concerns about the integrity of Apple’s Chinese hardware supply chain.

Bernie Skoch, a defense industry consultant and a retired Air Force brigadier general with extensive security experience, said AFSOC’s decision to use GoodReader reflects the globalization of the information technology industry, where domestic companies may no longer supply key software.

That means, Skoch said, that when it comes to mission-critical applications, every line of source code must be examined to ensure it does not contain malicious code. It does not take much imagination “to conjure the catastrophic consequences” that could result from malicious code in an electronic flight bag, Skoch said.

Command spokeswoman Capt. Kristen Duncan did not directly address questions about whether AFSOC had security concerns about GoodReader in response to a query from Nextgov. “We continue to look at each component of the [electronic flight bag] program to ensure we do the right thing for our airmen, don’t introduce unnecessary risk into operations and provide the best tools available to conduct the mission,” she said.

Selukoff, in an email exchange with Nextgov, bridled at the suggestion that GoodReader could pose a security risk to U.S. government users just because he is Russian. “Ha, someone’s still living in 1970, aren’t they?” he replied when asked about security concerns. When asked to address concerns about malicious code in GoodReader, Selukoff replied, “What is this offensive and insulting assumption based on? Are there any actual facts or complaints that such thing has ever happened?

“I am not affiliated with any government institution, neither Russian, nor any other,” he added. “GoodReader doesn’t have any malicious code built into it. Having said that, I am open to any security/penetration tests that anyone would be willing to perform on the app.”



Air Force Special Operations cancels iPad buy


By Bob Brewin 02/21/12


The Air Force Special Operations Command canceled its planned acquisition of Apple iPad tablet computers last week, two days after receiving a query from Nextgov about the inclusion of Russian-developed security and documents reader software specified in procurement documents.

The command did not provide any explanation for the move in its notice on the Federal Business Opportunities website. Officials originally planned to acquire 2,861 iPad2 tablet computers to serve as electronic flight bags, storing digital versions of paper charts and technical manuals. The procurement — kicked off in January — specified the use of GoodReader software developed in Russia to meet mission security requirements.

Michael McCarthy, director of the Army’s smartphone project, Connecting Soldiers to Digital Applications, based in Fort Bliss, Texas, told Nextgov last week he would not use software developed in Russia because he would not want to expose end users to potential risk.

Bernie Skoch, a defense industry consultant and a retired Air Force brigadier general with extensive security experience and a student pilot, said with mission-critical applications, every line of source code must be examined to ensure it does not contain malicious code. It does not take much imagination “to conjure the catastrophic consequences” that could result from malicious code in an electronic flight bag, he said.

Capt. Kristen Duncan, an AFSOC spokeswoman, said Tuesday the command “continues to explore options to develop the electronic flight bag program. Included in this continual evaluation is the procurement aspect of providing tablets to the field.” She added, “We continue to look at each component of the [electronic flight bag] program to ensure we do the right thing for our airmen, don’t introduce unnecessary risk into operations and provide the best tools available to conduct the mission.”


White House pushes semi-retirements


By STEPHEN LOSEY | Last Updated:February 20, 2012

Federal Times


About 500,000 retirement-eligible federal employees would have an attractive new option to consider if the White House gets its way: semi-retirement.

President Obama’s 2013 budget proposal calls on Congress to allow federal employees to work part-time while also collecting partial pension checks and earning partial retirement benefits for their part-time service.

The benefits of the idea are twofold, proponents say. It would save money — the administration estimates $720 million over the next decade — by spacing out retirements and new hires. And it would help alleviate the government’s brain drain problem by keeping experienced staff on board longer to mentor younger feds.

“It’s a no-brainer,” said the idea’s biggest champion, Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry, who called it one of the most significant proposals in the 2013 budget.

“You can only play so much golf” in retirement, Berry said Feb. 15. “We have this incredible pool of talent in the federal government. People are living longer, and they want to continue to contribute.”

The administration has proposed the idea before — in 2010 as part of a hiring reform bill — but it went nowhere. Being included in the president’s budget proposal may lend it more clout and visibility, increasing its chances.


Agencies would save by not having to immediately replace employees phasing into retirement, and by delaying payment of full retirement benefits, the budget said. The plan could also reduce the government’s need to temporarily rehire retirees to fill critical skills gaps. Those rehired workers are now paid both their full salaries and pensions.

“Many individuals who are nearing the end of their working lives do not want to completely stop working, although they no longer wish to do so on a full-time basis,” the budget said. “This proposal will help encourage those individuals to continue working for the federal government and will enhance the attractiveness of late-career part-time employment, thereby facilitating continuity of operations and training of less experienced employees.”

The National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association applauded OPM’s proposal.

“A transition phase seems like an efficient way to help an agency with its succession planning,” said David Snell, NARFE’s director of retirement benefit services. “There are no apparent downsides to the affected employee in terms of pay or retirement and health benefits.”

John Palguta, vice president for policy at the Partnership for Public Service, also said it’s a good idea. “It’s all about knowledge transfer,” Palguta said. “There’s no particular logic that suggests that when someone has announced they’re leaving, you wait until they’re out the door to bring their replacement in.”

But one federal employee — Robert Scherer, the chief of the exercise and evaluations branch at the Air Force’s Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey — has his doubts.

Scherer, who is 60 and thinking about retiring in three years, said he’d like to ease into retirement. But he said it would be difficult to scale his duties down to part-time work, and he thinks many older feds would have the same trouble. He fears that partial retirees would end up trying to do their full jobs in half the time.

“If you can afford to have a person work half-time, odds are you don’t need that person,” Scherer said.

The alternative to that, Scherer said, would be to hire a partial retiree’s replacement to work alongside him. But with budget cuts squeezing the entire government, he doesn’t see agencies finding enough money to do that.

“It’s a good idea,” Scherer said. “But the glass-half-empty guy in me says it’s not going to work.”

Palguta said agencies should sit down with phased retirees and come up with new responsibilities and duties to accommodate their part-time schedules.


More delayed pensions?

Adding yet another variation to federal retirements could throw one more wrinkle into OPM’s already complicated pension calculating process, and hurt its ability to eliminate a longstanding annuity backlog. OPM has pledged to fix its sluggish pension process, and the 2013 budget calls for increased staffing to do so.


Berry told Congress last month that the many varied retirement systems in the federal government make it impossible to create a single automated processing system.

But last week, Berry said OPM’s pension processing will be able to adjust to the change.

“That is such an important reform,” Berry said. “To the extent that it will layer on some complexity to our challenge, I’m willing to take that on, and I think we can handle that.”

Palguta also doubted that the plan will overly complicate the claims process.

“It adds a little more complexity to the workload, but not enough to throw a monkey wrench in it,” Palguta said. “In fact, if they were to use it for folks in the retirement section at OPM who are getting ready to leave, they could keep some of them on board to take care of this backlog before they go.”


Stemming the brain drain

Employees phasing into retirement would be required to spend at least 20 percent of their time mentoring younger employees.

Most employees phasing into retirement would work half time, though OPM could allow other increments ranging from one-fifth to four-fifths. Employees would not be able to change the amount of time they work during the phased retirement, even if they transfer to another federal job. Agencies would have to approve all phased retirements.

They would be able to return to full-time status if their employing agency agrees, and their phased-retirement period would be treated as part-time employment. But those employees would not be able to move back into phased-retirement status.

Law enforcement officers — including Customs and Border Protection, Capitol Police and Supreme Court Police officers — firefighters, nuclear materials couriers and air traffic controllers, all of whom face a mandatory retirement age, would not be eligible for phased retirement.

Employees under phased retirement would receive an annuity that is reduced by the proportional amount that they work. So if an employee works half-time, he would get a half-pension, and if he works one-fifth of the time, he would get four-fifths of his pension. Partial pensions would not include credit for unused sick leave.

When someone enters into full retirement, OPM would then recalculate his pension. That retiree would get the full annuity he would have been owed on the day he entered into phased retirement, plus a partial pension accounting for his phased-retirement period.


Nortel Breach Highlights Security Vulnerabilities of All Enterprises

By: Fahmida Y. Rashid


Nortel is dealing with the fallout from a 10-year data breach that exposed thousands of sensitive company documents to cyber-spies. The question security experts now are asking is how many other enterprises are vulnerable to a similar attack?

The decade-long security breach at Nortel that exposed thousands of company documents is just one example of how vulnerable corporations are to cyber-espionage. What’s even more worrisome is the likelihood that many businesses have been breached and are unaware of it, security experts said.

Industrial espionage is not new, as perpetrators try to bridge technology gaps by stealing from others. Companies can bypass years of research and development by somehow obtaining technical documents, prototypes and other sensitive information. This can allow them to create products that are highly similar or underbid competitors because they don’t have to take into account their research and development costs.

The Internet has made spying “so much easier,” Chris Petersen, CTO of LogRhythm wrote on the company blog. It’s just a matter of compromising a password, logging in to the system and getting down to business, Petersen wrote.

“How many other U.S. corporations are breached and leaking right now? Personally, I’m afraid we’d be appalled by the number; it is likely very high,” Petersen said.

Nortel first discovered the breach in 2004 when its IT staff noticed a suspicious set of documents being downloaded by an executive, according to a Feb. 14 report in The Wall Street Journal. It turned out attackers had accessed the network using log-in credentials stolen from seven senior executives as early as 2000, and sensitive information was being transmitted back to a computer with a Chinese IP address.

Although some at the company were aware of the breach, Nortel’s own IT security department was still discovering—as late as 2009—that spyware rootkits were placed on some of the company’s computers.

At the time, this operation would have been considered “sophisticated,” but now would be considered “pedestrian,” said Anup Ghosh, founder of Invincea.

The “unsettling truth” is that these types of attacks can still work today, Ghosh said. Enterprises are still focusing heavily on the network perimeter and not securing the inside, as well.

The Aurora attacks, the RSA breach and other attacks identified in 2011 clearly demonstrated that corporations are under constant threat from nation-states, such as China, seeking shortcuts to technological advances, said Neil Roiter, research director of Corero Network Security.

CIOs, CTOs and CSOs have long known that this type of extended and invasive breach was a “possibility” and “likely occurring” in a number of companies, said Mike Logan, president of Axis Technology.

It is expensive and time-intensive to extensively investigate a breach, and companies often stop as soon as they get reports that everything is fine, Logan said. Nortel changed passwords and monitored certain activity before declaring the job done. It did not search extensively for other malicious activity or continue monitoring, which allowed these attacks to continue for several years.

Stopping the internal investigation too soon can be “devastating,” Logan said.

The failure of Nortel, which many viewed as an “innovative and sophisticated IT company,” to fully investigate and then address the risks posed by this data breach is “puzzling,” Roiter said.

It’s possible the company underestimated the risks eight years ago, Roiter added. Recent events may also lead to more aggressive monitoring of enterprise networks to detect suspicious outbound traffic and other activity in the event of a breach.

The new guidelines from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for organizations to disclose breaches and any security risks that may have a material impact on the company’s operations may result in more disclosures, Roiter said. Companies will be more up-front about these events for the sake of the business community at large. If the guidelines had been in place even a few years ago, Nortel would likely have had to disclose the incident.

Even if Nortel was not sure what intellectual property had been stolen, the fact that computers belonging to key executives were compromised is material enough.

The guidelines will also force organizations to start thinking about preventive measures to stop the attack before it gets through the network, Ghosh said. “The more disclosure we see, the more likely we are to adopt innovative solutions that defend against these types of attacks,” he said.

U.S. corporations and agencies must become more diligent and vigilant in their approach to network-security monitoring, said Petersen. Organizations can stem the leak, but they need to invest resources and effort to detect and respond to breaches. “The perimeter simply cannot hold; cyber-threats will find a way in,” Petersen said.


Android Malware Grew 3,000 Percent in 2011: Report


By: Fahmida Y. Rashid


Mobile malware developers targeted Google’s Android more than any other mobile operating system in 2011. However, cyber-crooks also abused Apple’s iOS, RIM’s BlackBerry and Symbian.

Malware that specifically targeted mobile operating systems increased in 2011 as smartphones became more popular with enterprise users, as well as consumers. These cyber-criminals also developed affection for the Google Android OS, which saw the biggest jump in malware during the past 12 months, according to a new report from Juniper Networks.

Malware targeting the Android mobile operating system grew by a whopping 3,325 percent in the last seven months of 2011, according to the 2011 Mobile Threat Report, which Juniper released Feb. 15. Android malware accounted for about 46.7 percent of unique malware samples that targeted mobile platforms, followed by 41 percent for Java Mobile Edition.

Overall, mobile malware more than doubled in 2011, growing by 155 percent across all platforms, which included Apple’s iOS, Research In Motion’s BlackBerry and Symbian. New malware samples targeting Java Mobile Edition increased by a little less than 50 percent in 2011. Java ME is popularly used on Symbian and Windows Mobile devices.


Juniper saw a “significant increase in the amount of mobile malware, its sophistication, as well as new nimble social-engineering-based attacks,” said Daniel Hoffman, chief mobile security evangelist at Juniper Networks.

The Mobile Threat Center at Juniper Networks examined more than 793,631 applications and 28,472 unique malware samples to compile the report. Despite the eye-popping growth numbers, the total number for mobile malware remains minuscule, compared with malware targeting traditional computers.

The explosion in Android malware is a direct result of the platform’s diverse and open marketplace where developers are free to post their apps as well as growing market share, according to Juniper. Google’s market share in the mobile space, at 46.9 percent, is statistically the same as the proportion of Android malware detected by Juniper.

“Hackers are incented to target Android, because there are simply more Android devices as compared to the competition,” said Hoffman.

Google’s “Bouncer” service has been scanning apps in the Android Malware and removing offenders toward the second half of the year to make it harder for scammers to upload malicious apps. Bouncer will “certainly help” reduce infection rates from downloads on the official market of known threats, said Hoffman.

Apple is slightly more secure due to its screening policies and closed marketplace, but iOS users have their own set of mobile security challenges, according to the report. Jailbreaking remains common and users with iOS devices are vulnerable to malicious jailbreaking services that infect the device during the rooting process.

Mobile devices are just as vulnerable to browser-based attacks triggered when a user navigates to a malicious Website as computers. There are fewer choices available for iOS users when it comes to security products to protect them from these kinds of threats.

“This lack of software protection and a competitive security market leave users with little protection if malware were ever to make it through Apple’s application-vetting process,” the report found.

In fact, there are several examples of developers slipping apps past Apple’s screeners last year. The most prominent example was when Apple researcher Charlie Miller got a seemingly innocuous app approved for the App Store, and then was able to use the app to remotely execute code on devices.

Malicious apps and scams targeting mobile users have become more sophisticated and many rely on social engineering tactics to trick users into downloading and installing, Juniper found.

“Industrious hackers” moved from proof-of-concept samples to developing profitable malware, according to the report.

Mobile malware can be classified into two different groups, Short Message Service (SMS) Trojans and spyware. Spyware was the most common form, accounting for about 63 percent of malware. Spyware on mobile devices generally goes after GPS data, text messages, contacts and browser activity and transmits it to a third-party.


SMS Trojans, accounting for 46 percent of malware, trick users into agreeing to send premium SMS messages to attackers. As they generally run in the background, users are usually unaware these messages are being sent until they see the charges on their bills.

Scammers often piggyback SMS Trojans onto “fake installers,” which are apps that trick users into paying for them even though they may be legitimately available for free.

These fake installers create a “low barrier to entry” for cyber-criminals interested in mobile scams but lacking the technical skills, according to the report. Application stores are the prime delivery mechanism for infected apps, and it’s far easier to turn around these types of apps rather than those targeting actual vulnerabilities.



NIST, Md. to operate joint cybersecurity center



Last Updated:February 21, 2012

The federal government, in partnership with the state of Maryland and Montgomery County, Md., will launch a National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence that aims to speed industry’s development of secure information technology products.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology announced the agreement Tuesday through which NIST researchers will share with industry solutions and standards they’ve developed to improve cybersecurity.

NIST’s 2012 budget provides $10 million to launch and operate the center.

“This is all about tech transfer,” said NIST Director Patrick Gallagher. “This is about a very efficient process where ideas move from the desktop into practice.”

NIST aims to open the cybersecurity center “as quickly as possible,” Gallagher said, and the agency is working to identify an existing facility outside the NIST campus in Gaithersburg, Md., to house the center.

Initially, NIST will work with specific industry sectors, such as health care, cloud computing services and mobile computing vendors to test cybersecurity solutions.

“We want to make sure if we do the research and we have it early, to encourage entrepreneurs to develop the product,” said Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., a proponent of the center.


Gen. Hayden says it’s time to look at the consequences of cyber attacks

Tue, 2012-02-21 03:57 PM

By: Jacob Goodwin


Gen. Michael Hayden (USAF-Ret.), having served as head of the NSA and then head of the CIA, ought to know a few things about the current state of cyber security in America. So, when Hayden says the U.S. may be spending too much time thinking about cyber vulnerabilities and not enough time thinking about the actual consequences of a successful cyber attack, it probably makes sense to pay attention.

Hayden told a symposium for cyber security professionals in Bethpage, Long Island on Feb. 21 that government officials and industry executives were expending too much of their energies trying to reduce our cyber vulnerabilities and strengthen our network perimeters.

“We may be at the point of diminishing returns by trying to buy down vulnerability,” the general observed. Instead, he added, maybe it’s time to place more emphasis on coping with the consequences of a successful attack, and trying to develop networks that can “self-heal” or “self-limit” the damages inflicted upon them.

“I cannot stop them at the perimeter,” Hayden acknowledged, “so, how do I deal with the fact that they are on the inside.”

These observations emerged at a symposium dedicated to describing the current cyber landscape, assessing the cyber legislation moving through Congress and urging cyber-related companies on Long Island to band together in an effort to protect their own networks, grab a piece of the federal government’s cyber procurement and R&D budgets and, perhaps, develop a new cyber monitoring center or test bed to serve Long Island.

Frank Otto, the president of the Long Island Forum for Technology, which co-hosted the symposium, told Government Security News that “there’s always strength in numbers,” and that he will be interested to see what the local IT security companies might want to create. His list of possibilities included a center that could seek federal or state cyber grants, monitor cyber attacks across Long Island, seek government contracts or hold training exercises.

Hayden, like the day’s other speakers, placed a strong emphasis on the need for government and industry to develop stronger-than-ever “public-private partnerships.” It seems that at any forum where cyber security threats are discussed, the new buzz words have become public-private partnerships. In part, that’s because government officials seem to be overwhelmed by the relentless, broad-based attacks that are being launched continuously against civilian government (.gov), military (.mil) and commercial (.com) domains. Public-private partnerships have also come into vogue because government officials anticipate smaller and smaller budgets in the years ahead, with less and less of those budgets being available to help commercial enterprises defend their .com domains.

Paul Schneider, a former deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, delivered pessimistic news to the business people who filled the room at the Morrelly Homeland Security Center. Schneider praised some of the cyber legislation being developed in the House and Senate, but suggested that very few of the dollars included in those bills would ever find their way down to small- and mid-sized businesses at the local level. “I don’t see these bills impacting you at all,” he told his audience. “Most of the money will go to strengthen the .gov networks.”

General Hayden called the cyber legislation percolating on Capitol Hill a “great step forward,” but admitted that, as a society, “we have not worked out the rules for what we want the government to do in cyber space, or what we will allow the government to do in cyber space.”

That being said, Hayden suggested that the U.S. Government inevitably will wind up doing less to defend America in cyberspace than the government traditionally has done to defend the country in physical space.

Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY), who represents the second congressional district on Long Island, supported the embryonic effort to draw together the cyber brains on Long Island, fondly recalling the days when Northrop Grumman and other local technology companies built major weapon systems for the Pentagon and helped put a man on the moon.

Rep. Israel said the “bi-partisan” cyber legislation moving through both chambers might not be perfect, but it would certainly improve the nation’s cyber preparedness. “Anytime you can get both parties to agree on anything, just pass it,” he advised.

He drew a parallel between the intelligence agencies of the federal government before 9/11, when they operated in too many separate “stovepipes” that often didn’t talk with each other, and the federal government’s current cyber landscape, when too many government agencies have broad responsibilities spreading across the spectrum. “We’ve got to get out of that bubble,” said the congressman, “and reach out to all stakeholders.”


DoD budget cuts aimed at avoiding termination fees

Fed Times


Last Updated:February 21, 2012

The Defense Department carefully selected the programs it wants to cancel in fiscal 2013 to avoid termination fee negotiations that have plagued the Pentagon in prior years.

In some cases, DoD will simply let existing production contracts expire and take delivery of new aircraft, only to turn around and park them in the desert, just to avoid the headache of stopping these efforts midstream.

“These select number of program kills are really things that … appear to have been very carefully thought out to have the minimum quantity of termination liability associated with them to begin with,” said Jim McAleese, who runs McAleese & Associates, a Virginia-based consulting firm.

This fact could make this year’s cuts less costly than those made in 2010. DoD is still negotiating termination fees with Boeing for the Army’s Future Combat System, which was canceled in 2010.

In the budget submitted Feb. 13, the DoD proposed canceling or changing production schedules for about 20 major programs, a move defense officials claim will save it $75 billion over the next five years.

Among the cancellations are the Northrop Grumman Global Hawk Block 30 spy UAV, Boeing C-130 Avionics Modernization Program (AMP) and L-3 Communications-Alenia C-27J cargo plane.

Although the costs associated with ending these efforts might not be that large, the amount of money already spent on them is substantial — at least $6.8 billion, according to DoD budget documents.

To put this in perspective, the Air Force could have used that money to purchase 47 F-22A Raptors, the Army could have sustained about 80,000 soldiers for a year, the Navy could have purchased almost half an aircraft carrier or Norway could run its entire military.

Over the past 10 years, the Pentagon has spent about $46 billion, using current dollar estimates, on development programs that were terminated and never entered production, according to a July 2011 report by Todd Harrison at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

Still, the proposed cancellations themselves are not likely to cost DoD much. It appears that the programs eyed for axing in 2013 are not locked into multiyear or extensive contracts, meaning there would be less cost incurred by DoD when canceling them.

The cost of canceling the programs in 2013 is dependent on the type of contract. How the government cancels a contract is also a factor. If the government terminates a contract for cause — meaning poor performance or being over budget — it might not be responsible for a termination fee. Terminating for convenience is a different issue.

“If it’s not well-defined in the contract to get out of the contract, you may have to negotiate to pay even more to a contractor for them to be willing to let you out of it,” Harrison said. “A lot of these savings from cutting these things, these are just estimates. They don’t really know what the termination costs are going to be until they try to do it.”

Calculating the termination cost for these programs is difficult because individual contract language is unique.

“If you … signed a contract and said, ‘We’re going to buy 10 of these platforms.’ They ramp up, hire people and start ordering materials in line with your contract, and when you terminate it, they’ve got costs,” Harrison said.

There are enough funds from within existing program accounts to cover termination liabilities, Lt. Col. Elizabeth Robbins, a Pentagon spokeswoman, wrote in an email on Friday. DoD has just begun termination discussions with contractors, she said.

The proposed cancellations and program restructures in 2013 are part of a Pentagon goal to cut $487 billion in planned spending from its budget over the next decade. The cuts were mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011, a law designed to help lower the U.S. deficit.

The first part of those cuts, totaling about $259 billion, is outlined in DoD’s 2013 budget proposal, which was submitted Feb. 13.

The Air Force has spent $3.4 billion developing and purchasing 18 Block 30 Global Hawk aircraft, according to Jennifer Cassidy, a service spokeswoman.

The service — which had originally planned to buy 42 Block 30 Global Hawks —- has not yet issued a stop-work order to Northrop.

The Air Force has issued a stop-work order on the Boeing C-130 AMP, which was about to begin initial flight tests. The company has delivered three modified aircraft and the Air Force has modified one on its own using the upgrade kit built by Boeing, said Jennifer Hogan, a Boeing spokeswoman.

Budget documents show the Air Force has spent at least $2.1 billion on the C-130 avionics program. The Pentagon already has spent at least $1.2 billion buying 21 C-27Js, according to budget documents.

In all, the Air Force has received 12 of 21 ordered C-27Js. Two of those aircraft are operating in Afghanistan. The Air Force plans to take delivery of the remaining C-27J and then retire them. It also plans to retire the Block 30 Global Hawks.

All together, DoD says canceling these three programs will save it $5.2 billion over the next five years, $2.5 billion for Global Hawk, $2.3 billion for C-130 AMP and $400 million for C-27J.

While DoD sees savings, particularly from slowing purchases, this move will also raise the per-unit cost of targeted systems in the near term.

“[T]hat’s a fair point,” DoD Comptroller Robert Hale said when asked about stretching program buys out during a Feb. 13 briefing at the Pentagon. “If we had our way, we probably wouldn’t have done it.”

Hale noted that the Budget Control Act required DoD to cut spending.

“We tried to do them in a way that minimized the adverse effects,” Hale said.


Air Force Transitions its Cyberspace Domain

Posted 2/22/2012 Updated 2/22/2012 Email story Print story

by Capt. Tamara Fischer-Carter

Air Force Space Command Public Affairs


2/22/2012 – PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Changing the Air Force’s Cyber infrastructure implementation and acquisition was a central topic during the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association Cyberspace 2012 Symposium held at the Broadmoor Hotel, Colorado Springs, Colo.

Brig. Gen. Marty Whelan, Air Force Space Command Director of Requirements, spoke to transitions in the Air Force’s Cyberspace Domain and stressed the importance of industry relationships, during the symposium’s closing speech recently.

Whelan echoed AFSPC Commander General William Shelton’s sentiments from his AFCEA 2012 opening remarks, addressing the migration from individual system architectures to an AF-provided standard infrastructure platform and integrating operations across cyberspace.

“As our operational model has transitioned, our acquisition model has remained rooted in the industrial age acquisition processes,” Whelan said. “The model for acquisition of new Cyber/IT capabilities has been haphazard and piecemeal. In the military, we have lived year-to-year, buying what we can on ‘end-of-year funds,’ yet we all know we need to look forward and build to that future.


“We need to be smarter and more efficient in looking at future Air Force requirements,” the general continued. “The Air Force needs to reduce stovepipe infrastructure by centralizing and standardizing infrastructure builds.”

With AFSPC as the lead Major Command to organize, train, and equip Air Force cyberspace forces for the warfighter, the command is responsible for overseeing the implementation of standardized infrastructure and the management of the network itself. Whelan said AFSPC will work with government and industry teammates to help build applications to fit the baseline, not create new architectures for each new capability.

In accordance with General Shelton’s statements, this means fielding devices and software quickly, as well as identifying evolving requirements and the acquisition processes to normalize cyberspace using a standardized approach to acquisitions.

“These changes will only be possible if we change the way in which we do cyber acquisitions,” Gen. Whelan said.

“We must look at infrastructure as enabling cyberspace and do long term “cradle to grave” planning,” said the general.

According to Gen. Whelan, industry manages to do cyber acquisitions smartly and quickly and the Air Force will need to mimic that to the widest extent possible.

“In the future, cyber-based capabilities will be built to a standard Air Force infrastructure,” Whelan said. “We will need industry to help us do smart acquisitions that keep up with current technologies. In the Air Force, we have made a number of efforts to balance the need of government oversight with rapid acquisitions.

“To change infrastructure implementation, we need to determine the migration strategy for new infrastructure and systems,” Whelan continued.

He also urged that the way in which cyberspace is operated in and through must also change along with the infrastructure. Gen. Whelan said the Air Force must better understand the missions traversing cyberspace, provide agile response to mission needs, further develop Cyber Operations capability, and tailor acquisitions to Cyber Warfare requirements.

“Our cyberspace operators and systems will be required to provide agile response to mission needs,” Gen. Whelan said. “These processes feed into each other and we must understand and be aware that all four are necessary for better providing infrastructure and core services to the Air Force.”

The goal is to have future systems integrate operations across cyberspace, while still being able to defend and support missions, regardless if that management means routing mission traffic via land, space or air.

“In the future, cyber systems will rely on the integration of terrestrial, airborne and space-based networks,” Whelan said. “The Air Force must operationalize and normalize the cyberspace domain to ensure that information is seamlessly shared across the full range of military operations and business functions.”



For Space Mess, Scientists Seek Celestial Broom



Published: February 18, 2012

The most obvious sign that there is a lot of junk in space is how much of it has been falling out of the sky lately: a defunct NASA satellite last year, a failed Russian space probe this year.

While the odds are tiny that anyone on Earth will be hit, the chances that all this orbiting litter will interfere with working satellites or the International Space Station are getting higher, according to a recent report by the National Research Council.

The nonprofit group, which dispenses advice on scientific matters, concluded that the problem of extraterrestrial clutter had reached a point where, if nothing was done, a cascade of collisions would eventually make low-Earth orbit unusable.

“NASA is taking it very seriously,” said Mason A. Peck, chief technologist for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

There is a straightforward solution: dispose of the space junk, especially big pieces, before they collide and break into smaller ones. Researchers are stepping in with a variety of creative solutions, including nets that would round up wayward items and drag them into the Earth’s atmosphere, where they would harmlessly burn up, and balloons that would similarly direct the debris into the atmosphere. Also on the table: firing lasers from the ground. Not to blow things up, which would only make more of a mess, but to nudge them into safer orbits or into the atmosphere.

Just last week, researchers at a top Swiss university, the Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, announced that they were designing CleanSpace One, a sort of vacuum cleaner in the sky — an $11 million one — that will be able to navigate close to a satellite and grab it with a big claw, whereupon both will make a fiery death dive.

The Swiss have only two satellites in orbit, each smaller than a breadbox, but they are concerned about what to do with them when they stop operating in a few years.

“We want to clean up after ourselves,” said Anton Ivanov, a scientist at the institute’s space center. “That’s very Swiss, isn’t it?”

The space junk problem is so old and widely acknowledged that it even has a name: the Kessler Syndrome. In 1978, Donald J. Kessler, who led NASA’s office of space debris, first predicted the cascade effect that would take place when leftover objects in space started colliding.

Today, Dr. Kessler is retired in North Carolina but still contemplating the issue — and the need to clean up. “The sooner they do it, the cheaper it will be,” he said. “The more you wait to start, the more you’ll have to do.”

With so many items whizzing around at more than 17,000 miles per hour and shattering as they crash, the threat to working satellites, which are vital to hurricane tracking, GPS systems and military surveillance, has grown more immediate. Three years ago, a derelict Russian satellite slammed into an Iridium communications satellite, smashing both into tens of thousands of pieces. The Air Force currently tracks 20,000 pieces of orbiting space junk, which includes old rocket parts and dead satellites.

For now, the risk is real but manageable. Satellite operators can dodge the big debris and armor their satellites to withstand impact with smaller pieces. But eventually, if not cleaned up, low-Earth orbit would become too perilous for people and satellites. “It will be a huge risk for an astronaut to go to space,” said John L. Junkins, a professor of aerospace engineering at Texas A&M University, adding: “No one will insure a space launch.”

The United States has about 500 pieces of large space junk, Dr. Junkins said, and Russia about twice that number. “I’m talking about going after things the size of a Greyhound bus,” he said. “Absolutely, this is the heart of the problem.”

Taking down five or six of the large intact objects each year would be enough to halt the cascade effect, he said. Eliminating 10 a year would quickly reverse the trend.

NASA has started financing research to come up with some solutions. Raytheon, for one, is studying whether a high-altitude balloon might be able to carry a machine that would essentially shoot puffs of air into the path of orbiting debris. Even that slight increase in atmospheric drag could force junk to fall back to Earth.

“It actually doesn’t require much,” said Dr. Peck, NASA’s chief technologist.

NASA just gave $1.9 million to Star Technology and Research, a small company in South Carolina, to develop and test technologies for a spacecraft it calls the ElectroDynamic Debris Eliminator — Edde, for short. Powered by a 6-mile-long wire — make that “space tether” — that generates energy as it is pulled through the Earth’s magnetic field, Edde would sidle up to a piece of junk, whip out a disposable net to catch it and then move to a lower orbit, where air friction would coax the item to re-enter the atmosphere. Edde, staying in orbit, would then move on to its next target.

Jerome Pearson, the president of Star Technology, says it would take only a few years and a few hundred million dollars for a fleet of Eddes to clean up the near-Earth neighborhood. (Others suspect that it would take longer and cost more.)

Technology is just one hurdle. International politics might be a more serious one. Space junk, even if it is just junk, still belongs to the nation that put it there. So if the United States tried to lasso part of a spent Russian rocket, Russia would most likely protest. Many nations would certainly worry that a ground-based laser capable of pushing satellites around would also be wielded as a weapon.

Meanwhile, the space junk problem will not be solved unless everyone launching rockets stops adding to it. The United States has largely done that: all new satellites are now accompanied by plans for how to bring them safely out of orbit.

Last month, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton suggested setting up a code of conduct for nations to follow, but that may be more easily said than done. European countries have also been putting together a set of ground rules, but the United States called them too restrictive.

Dr. Junkins of Texas A&M said the United States should not wait for new international agreements, but instead follow the example of the Swiss in cleaning up after itself. “The U.S. alone could reverse the growth by tackling the several hundred things that we’ve put there that are our responsibility,” he said. “That gives us the moral and technical high ground.”

Iran Raid Seen as a Huge Task for Israeli Jets



Published: February 19, 2012

WASHINGTON — Should Israel decide to launch a strike on Iran, its pilots would have to fly more than 1,000 miles across unfriendly airspace, refuel in the air en route, fight off Iran’s air defenses, attack multiple underground sites simultaneously — and use at least 100 planes.

That is the assessment of American defense officials and military analysts close to the Pentagon, who say that an Israeli attack meant to set back Iran’s nuclear program would be a huge and highly complex operation. They describe it as far different from Israel’s “surgical” strikes on a nuclear reactor in Syria in 2007 and Iraq’s Osirak reactor in 1981.

“All the pundits who talk about ‘Oh, yeah, bomb Iran,’ it ain’t going to be that easy,” said Lt. Gen. David A. Deptula, who retired last year as the Air Force’s top intelligence official and who planned the American air campaigns in 2001 in Afghanistan and in the 1991 Gulf War.

Speculation that Israel might attack Iran has intensified in recent months as tensions between the countries have escalated. In a sign of rising American concern, Tom Donilon, the national security adviser, met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel in Jerusalem on Sunday, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, warned on CNN that an Israeli strike on Iran right now would be “destabilizing.” Similarly, the British foreign secretary, William Hague, told the BBC that attacking Iran would not be “the wise thing” for Israel to do “at this moment.”

But while an Israeli spokesman in Washington, Lior Weintraub, said the country continued to push for tougher sanctions on Iran, he reiterated that Israel, like the United States, “is keeping all options on the table.”

The possible outlines of an Israeli attack have become a source of debate in Washington, where some analysts question whether Israel even has the military capacity to carry it off. One fear is that the United States would be sucked into finishing the job — a task that even with America’s far larger arsenal of aircraft and munitions could still take many weeks, defense analysts said. Another fear is of Iranian retaliation.

“I don’t think you’ll find anyone who’ll say, ‘Here’s how it’s going to be done — handful of planes, over an evening, in and out,’ ” said Andrew R. Hoehn, a former Pentagon official who is now director of the Rand Corporation’s Project Air Force, which does extensive research for the United States Air Force.

Michael V. Hayden, who was the director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 2006 to 2009, said flatly last month that airstrikes capable of seriously setting back Iran’s nuclear program were “beyond the capacity” of Israel, in part because of the distance that attack aircraft would have to travel and the scale of the task.

Still, a top defense official cautioned in an interview last week that “we don’t have perfect visibility” into Israel’s arsenal, let alone its military calculations. His views were echoed by Anthony H. Cordesman, an influential military analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “There are a lot of unknowns, there are a lot of potential risks, but Israel may know that those risks aren’t that serious,” he said.

Given that Israel would want to strike Iran’s four major nuclear sites — the uranium enrichment facilities at Natanz and Fordo, the heavy-water reactor at Arak and the yellowcake-conversion plant at Isfahan — military analysts say the first problem is how to get there. There are three potential routes: to the north over Turkey, to the south over Saudi Arabia or taking a central route across Jordan and Iraq.

The route over Iraq would be the most direct and likely, defense analysts say, because Iraq effectively has no air defenses and the United States, after its December withdrawal, no longer has the obligation to defend Iraqi skies. “That was a concern of the Israelis a year ago, that we would come up and intercept their aircraft if the Israelis chose to take a path across Iraq,” said a former defense official who asked for anonymity to discuss secret intelligence.

Assuming that Jordan tolerates the Israeli overflight, the next problem is distance. Israel has American-built F-15I and F-16I fighter jets that can carry bombs to the targets, but their range — depending on altitude, speed and payload — falls far short of the minimum 2,000-mile round trip. That does not include an aircraft’s “loiter time” over a target plus the potential of having to fight off attacks from Iranian missiles and planes.

In any possibility, Israel would have to use airborne refueling planes, called tankers, but Israel is not thought to have enough. Scott Johnson, an analyst at the defense consulting firm IHS Jane’s and the leader of a team preparing an online seminar on Israeli strike possibilities on Iran, said that Israel had eight KC-707 American-made tankers, although it is not clear they are all in operation. It is possible, he said, that Israel has reconfigured existing planes into tankers to use in a strike.

Even so, any number of tankers would need to be protected by ever more fighter planes. “So the numbers you need just skyrocket,” Mr. Johnson said. Israel has about 125 F-15Is and F-16Is. One possibility, Mr. Johnson said, would be to fly the tankers as high as 50,000 feet, making them hard for air defenses to hit, and then have them drop down to a lower altitude to meet up with the fighter jets to refuel.

Israel would still need to use its electronic warfare planes to penetrate Iran’s air defenses and jam its radar systems to create a corridor for an attack. Iran’s antiaircraft defenses may be a generation old — in 2010, Russia refused to sell Iran its more advanced S-300 missile system — but they are hardly negligible, military analysts say.

Iranian missiles could force Israeli warplanes to maneuver and dump their munitions before they even reached their targets. Iran could also strike back with missiles that could hit Israel, opening a new war in the Middle East, though some Israeli officials have argued that the consequences would be worse if Iran were to gain a nuclear weapon.

Another major hurdle is Israel’s inventory of bombs capable of penetrating the Natanz facility, believed to be buried under 30 feet of reinforced concrete, and the Fordo site, which is built into a mountain.

Assuming it does not use a nuclear device, Israel has American-made GBU-28 5,000-pound “bunker buster” bombs that could damage such hardened targets, although it is unclear how far down they can go.

Earlier this month, a Bipartisan Policy Center report by Charles S. Robb, the former Democratic senator from Virginia, and Charles F. Wald, a retired Air Force general, recommended that the Obama administration sell Israel 200 enhanced GBU-31 “bunker busters” as well as three advanced refueling planes.

The two said that they were not advocating an Israeli attack, but that the munitions and aircraft were needed to improve Israel’s credibility as it threatens a strike.

Should the United States get involved — or decide to strike on its own — military analysts said that the Pentagon had the ability to launch big strikes with bombers, stealth aircraft and cruise missiles, followed up by drones that could carry out damage assessments to help direct further strikes. Unlike Israel, the United States has plenty of refueling capability. Bombers could fly from Al Udeid air base in Qatar, Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean or bases in Britain and the United States.

Nonetheless, defense officials say it would still be tough to penetrate Iran’s deepest facilities with existing American bombs and so are enhancing an existing 30,000-pound “Massive Ordnance Penetrator” that was specifically designed for Iran and North Korea.

“There’s only one superpower in the world that can carry this off,” General Deptula said. “Israel’s great on a selective strike here and there.”


Panetta defends civilian workforce


By Amanda Palleschi

February 17, 2012

The Pentagon’s top brass is cautioning that the Defense Department’s civilian workforce might have to be reassessed in future years.

Testifying at a Defense Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the Obama administration’s fiscal 2013 budget request, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta concurred with Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., that legislation that proposes cutting the federal workforce by 10 percent in 10 years through attrition ultimately could be detrimental to the department.

“I realize that savings could be achieved there, but the civilian workforce does perform a very important role for us in terms of support,” Panetta told Moran. “I just think that if we are going to do sequester, we really need to look at all of the areas that the president and others have suggested in order to try to detrigger not just the defense side of the budget, but the domestic side of sequestration.”

If lawmakers allow scheduled governmentwide budget cuts — sequestration — to move forward in 2013, then the Defense Department faces an additional $600 billion in cuts on top of a fiscal 2013 budget request that is $45 billion below its initial projections.

Many defense analysts think sequester is not likely and some maintain the department could weather such cuts anyway.

The Downpayment to Protect National Security Act, proposed late last year by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., would reduce the number of federal employees by 10 percent over 10 years through attrition to offset the potential sequestration spending cuts for one year. Under the plan, one federal worker would be hired for every three who retire.

Senate Republicans have proposed similar, companion legislation to the House bill. Moran argued at this week’s hearing that both pieces of legislation would target a large share of Defense’s workforce.

“Federal employees have already contributed more than $60 billion to deficit reduction. They did not cause our national debt and they should not have to shoulder the full burden of efforts to fix it,” Moran said in a statement.

Defense’s fiscal 2013 budget request proposes lowering the Army’s ranks from 570,000 — its highest-ever post-Sept. 11, 2011, level — to 490,000, and decreasing and Marine Corps troops from 202,000 to 182,000 within the next five years. The Army also plans to eliminate eight brigade combat teams to achieve the reduction.

Defense Comptroller Robert Hale cautioned that cuts to the department’s federal civilian workforce would have to be considered in the future, calling its decline in the last few years — somewhere between 1 percent and 2 percent — “pretty modest” and similar to reductions in the military.

“I think it’s an issue we’ll have to look at again,” Hale told Moran during the hearing. “We are trying hard to make some reductions in contractor workforce where that’s a cost-effective decision.”

The department’s fiscal 2013 budget request includes provisions that also affect defense contractors, including reimbursement caps on contractor pay.

“And that’s part of the reason there’s modest decline, but I do think in the out-years we’ll have to look at the mix,” Hale said.


Obama presses for agency consolidation

By Camille Tuutti

Feb 17, 2012

Roughly a month after announcing plans to seek authority to consolidate agencies, President Barack Obama has now sent Congress the Consolidating and Reforming Government Act of 2012, which would reinstate the power to reorganize the federal government.

The proposal includes a new requirement that any reorganization plan must save money or decrease the size of government, according to a White House statement. The act also would provide Congress a process to quickly hold an up-or-down vote on reorganization plans.

“This authority is essential to creating a 21st-century government that is fiscally responsible, works ever more efficiently and effectively for the American people, and helps make America more competitive,” Jeffrey Zients, deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, wrote in a Feb. 16 letter accompanying the act addressed to House Speaker John Boehner.

Obama announced in January that if granted the authority to reorganize government – which previous presidents have held — he would merge six business and trade agencies and several other related programs into one entity. The consolidation would save $3 billion over 10 years and cut 1,000 jobs, according to the administration.

Zients also told reporters in January that once Obama has the consolidation authority, there will be other proposals that address fragmentation within the government and further initiatives to save money and boost efficiency.


Capitol Hill hearings show rough times ahead for White House over its proposed defense cuts

Washington Post

By Walter Pincus, Published: February 20

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta has joked that he wants a combat badge “with clusters” for his three days on Capitol Hill last week spent fighting off critics of the Obama administration’s fiscal 2013 defense budget.

During his appearances before the Senate and House Armed Services committees and the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, Panetta — a former eight-term House member himself — defended the $45.3 billion in proposed trims meant to meet provisions of the August 2011 Budget Control Act.

No member called for deeper reductions. Instead, Panetta faced member after member who questioned the stretching out of purchasing aircraft, or the cancellation of a weapons system, or the changing of pay or health care or retirement costs, or the possible shift of mission or closing of a base or a National Guard or reserve unit.

Panetta confessed Friday afternoon during a town hall meeting at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana:

“I’ve been in hearings for the last three days. . . . I think I should get some kind of award going through that. . . . [Laughs.]

“I mean, I told — I told General [Martin] Dempsey [the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who appeared with him] I need a new, you know, combatant — a new combat badge [laughter] for going to Capitol Hill — with clusters [laughter].”

But there are serious fiscal lessons from this first week of hearings on defense.

First, forget about the sequestration threat to take an additional $500 billion from Pentagon spending in the next 10 years. It’s not going to happen. Congress has to find some additional revenue streams — a war tax, for example — or cut spending somewhere else.

These initial hearings clearly showed that the administration will have its hands full just maintaining the proposed 2013 reductions.

Take the decision to halt procurement of one version of the unmanned, long-range surveillance aircraft, Global Hawk Block 30. The Pentagon will buy 21 and not the previously planned fleet of 31. Fourteen of these unmanned aerial vehicles are in service, four are in production, and three more have been funded at roughly $200 million each.

The administration’s plan is to put the 21 in storage and continue using piloted U-2 aircraft for intelligence and surveillance missions.

Both the Global Hawk and the U-2 have two basic sensors — one for imagery, another to intercept electronic messages. The latter sensors are roughly equal, but imagery on the U-2 is “far superior,” said Air Force Lt. Gen. Larry O. Spencer of the Joint Staff. “It would be cost prohibitive to try to get the Global Hawk to be as capable as the U-2,” he said.

“The Block 30 Global Hawk has fundamentally priced itself out of our ability to afford it when the U-2 gives in some cases a better capability and in some cases just a slightly less capable platform,” Dempsey told the House Armed Services Committee.

Panetta repeatedly had to defend his support of unmanned systems when asked about the Global Hawk decision.

Before the House subcommittee, he said, “When you look at the cost effectiveness here, actually the U-2 provides an even better picture at a lesser cost and does the job.” He even pointed out that other elements of Global Hawk — the Block 40 version, which provides a unique ground surveillance capability — are still being procured from Northrop Grumman.

If you think the Block 30 battle is over, think again.

According to the Feb. 13 issue of the San Diego-based North County Times, Northrop spokesman Jim Stratford said “the Air Force has told us that there is no change to the contract and that we are to continue work as contracted.”

Northrop, which disputes the claim that the Global Hawk is too expensive, has the option of making its arguments directly to Congress. “So it really is too early in the process to speculate on any reductions,” Stratford told the North County Times.

Another procurement change that drew repeated questions related to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the highly complex, fifth-generation aircraft with stealth capability and highly sophisticated, new offensive and defensive technologies.

About 2,400 are to be bought over more than a decade. It is the Pentagon’s most costly procurement program. The decision was made to slow down production schedules because planes were being built while development work was still being done on key systems. For example, software controlling the F-35’s major war-fighting functions, the most complex ever planned for an airplane, has been delayed so that the last block will not be introduced to the aircraft until at least June 2015.

While 29 F-35s will be funded in 2013, 179 fewer aircraft will be produced in the next five years, saving about $15.1 billion. The 179 will be bought in later years.

More than once, Panetta had to answer questions from lawmakers who argued that when you delay production in large acquisition programs such as the F-35, your costs increase.

Slowing production, Panetta explained to the House subcommittee, would allow the manufacturer to “incorporate the changes that have to be made and make it less expensive when it comes to full production, as opposed to go into full production and then [later] having to make horrendous changes that are going to add to the cost.”

When the same question came up later in the same hearing, Panetta was briefer: “We want to make damn sure that we don’t wind up . . . redoing these planes and adding to the cost. That’s what I’ve got to be careful of, and that’s why we slowed the production of these planes.”

Let’s give Panetta another oak-leaf cluster, but don’t bet he’s going to come out a total winner in this particular war.


DHS vows to cancel border project if technologies seem high risk


By Aliya Sternstein 02/21/2012

The Homeland Security Department plans to scrap a second attempt at a failed $1 billion virtual fence along the border with Mexico if officials are unable to find technologies already on the market that can operate in the rugged Southwest.

The department has not released a formal request for the work yet, but DHS’ Customs and Border Protection informed contractors on Feb. 16 that the government is not willing to risk another money-losing venture. In a strongly worded update to an earlier draft, DHS officials said they want technology that is ready for activation right off the production line.

The new initiative involves deploying camera-studded towers along the U.S.-Mexico border capable of flagging illegal activity under the harsh conditions that foiled the project’s predecessor, the Secure Border Initiative network.

This month’s notice repeatedly stresses DHS does NOT — in all caps — want technologies that require engineering. “First and foremost, CBP is NOT interested in any kind of a system development,” the update states. “CBP will cancel the solicitation rather than procure an ineffective or high-risk offering.”

DHS first issued requirements for the job in a December 2011 draft request for proposals. The new notice describes the department’s long-term approach for border technology and asks that vendors fashion their proposals to fit within that goal. It also pushes back the date for issuance of a final RFP from February to March 7.

The strategy, officials say, envisions this deployment as a test bed for potential improvements under future contracts: “Instant procurements of nondevelopmental systems will provide a sort of technology baseline, which CBP can use to assess the value of potential enhancements in the future,” the document states. “CBP has not forsaken technology development and improvement . . . But technology development is NOT an interest for the systems which are the subject of this solicitation.”

Unlike SBInet, the tower equipment used in the new project will not be networked, according to officials. Though, networking may be added as an enhancement if the initial operation works. “For now, the intent is to avoid ‘overshooting’ mission needs at all costs by delivering low-risk systems that can give immediate support to the overall border security mission,” the notice states.

DHS officials abandoned SBInet in January 2011, after a yearlong review found the one-size-fits-all approach to standing up towers across the Southwest border would not work. Federal auditors and lawmakers had long faulted the management and design of the project, which began in 2006. Going forward, installations are expected to suit the weather and landscape of each surveillance location.

The new system must be able to function around-the-clock under all weather, terrain, vegetation and lighting conditions, solicitation documents state.

Officials say they are willing to consider contractors that cannot cater to every request, noting that the government recognizes “it is unlikely that there are existing (nondevelopmental) systems that meet ALL of its aspirations and desires.” While there are a few must-haves, the department is looking for a proposal that offers the best mix of capabilities at a reasonable price.

The non-negotiable requirements include the system’s ability to pinpoint an average-size adult within five miles at night, even if the view is 95 percent obstructed for up to three seconds. The equipment also must be able to endure sustained wind speeds of up to 10 miles per hour and gusts up to 15 miles per hour.

After SBInet suffered technical problems, officials realized that defense contractors and other industrial manufacturers probably could have provided similar — yet functional — products, officials say.

“Industry (often in response to military needs) appears to have many already available systems that could provide the type of capabilities offered by portions of SBInet, although they may not meet all of the aspirations for SBInet,” the notice states.

Aspiring contractors are asked to demonstrate that their equipment can automatically see and track walking humans; people traveling on animals, and moving automobiles such as motorcycles and ATVs. The system also should be able to provide CBP personnel with live video of such observations so they can send responders.

The Obama administration is requesting $327 million for border security, fencing, infrastructure and technology in its 2013 budget proposal, less than the $400 million in appropriations that Congress recently granted for the remainder of the fiscal year


Researcher: 200,000 Windows PCs vulnerable to pcAnywhere hijacking

Users aren’t patching problem-plagued remote access program; up to 5K point-of-sale systems at risk


By Gregg Keizer

February 22, 2012 12:27 PM ET

Computerworld – As many as 200,000 systems connected to the Internet could be hijacked by hackers exploiting bugs in Symantec’s pcAnywhere, including up to 5,000 running point-of-sale programs that collect consumer credit card data, a researcher said today.

The revelations came just four weeks after Symantec took the unprecedented step of telling pcAnywhere users to disable or uninstall the program because attackers had obtained the remote access software’s source code.

Several days later, Symantec said it had patched all the known vulnerabilities in pcAnywhere, but declined to declare that the product was safe to use.

According to Rapid7, which prowled the Web looking for pcAnywhere systems, an estimated 150,000-to-200,000 PCs are running an as-yet-unpatched copy of the Symantec software, and are thus vulnerable to be hijacked by remote attacks, which could commandeer the machine’s keyboard and mouse, and view what’s on the screen.

About 2.5% of those vulnerable Windows PCs, or between 3,450 and 5,000 systems, are running a point-of-sale system — Windows PCs are often paired with cash registers by small businesses — potentially putting credit card data at risk, said HD Moore, chief security officer at Rapid7.

Moore reached those conclusions by scanning the Internet for the TCP port the software leaves open for incoming commands, running more targeted scans for evidence of the remote access software, then using the number of programs that identify themselves as older than the patched editions to estimate the extent of the problem.

Some of the computers returned queries with replies consistent with specific point-of-sale software, Moore said.

Point-of-sale software often relies on pcAnywhere for remote support, not for transmitting credit card data, but by exploiting pcAnywhere, a cyber criminal could control the machine and easily harvest the information. “These [point-of-sale] systems are an attractive target for break-in,” said Moore.

Previously, Symantec declined to comment when asked how many machines ran its pcAnywhere software, so it’s unclear what percentage of all installations are vulnerable.

But Moore sees it as a big problem. “There are a lot [of PCs] that haven’t been updated,” he said. “It seems the recent patches have been very much ignored.”

And it will likely get worse before it gets better.

Last week, Johnathan Norman, director of security research at Texas-based Alert Logic, posted proof-of-concept code that crashes any copy of pcAnywhere, even those that have been recently patched.

While Moore said that Norman’s code conducts a denial-of-service attack that results in a crash and automatic restart of pcAnywhere, there may be a way to exploit the DoS to hijack the software. “Where there’s smoke there’s fire,” said Moore.

DoS attacks can sometimes be leveraged to execute remote code.







The source code leak also ups the risk to pcAnywhere users, Moore maintained, even though Symantec has patched some flaws. With the source code at their disposal and the software’s problems highlighted in the media, researchers on both sides of the law will spend time looking for vulnerabilities, he said. And some of that research may result in new, exploitable bugs.

An anonymous researcher has already published findings from his examination of the pcAnywhere source code. Although his description on the InfoSec Institute website did not claim any new vulnerabilities, he noted that the source code also revealed the workings of LiveUpdate, the Symantec service used to update much of its software, including its consumer antivirus programs, such as Norton Antivirus.

“We now know how their LiveUpdate system works thanks to the included architecture plans and full source code,” said the researcher.

Although Symantec did not reply to a request for comment on Moore’s research, a company spokesman said the firm “is aware of [Norman’s] proof-of-concept code and is investigating the claims.”


DARPA Official: Computing Speed Headed for a ‘Fallow Period’


By Joseph Marks   02/22/12 06:20 am ET

The most important change in the next two decades of computing might be the lack of change in computer processing speeds, Bob Colwell, a deputy director at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, predicted Tuesday.

For about the past 40 years, the number of transistors that can be inexpensively placed on a computer chip has doubled roughly every two years, a phenomenon known as Moore’s Law after Intel co-founder Gordon Moore first noted the trend in 1965.

That trend is likely to reach its limit in the next six to 12 years, as the complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor technology that underlies modern silicon computer chips reaches its physical limits, said Colwell, deputy director of DARPA’s Microsystems Technology Office and a former longtime Intel chip architect.

“When I make that statement, a lot of people say ‘yeah, yeah, a lot of people have always predicted Moore’s Law will always end and it never has yet so let’s move on to something else,'” Colwell said. “And that’s true. People have said that forever and they have not been right yet. Unfortunately, physics being what it is, someone will eventually have to be right.”

“The point is,” Colwell added,” the single best exponential technology curve mankind has ever seen is what we just lived through the last 40 or 50 years and it’s going to end real soon. So, how can you possibly think that won’t make a difference to the Department of Defense or computing or electronics or any other related industry?”

Colwell was speaking at an Emerging Technologies Symposium sponsored by the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association, a government and industry group.

That doesn’t mean computing speeds will hit a permanent brick wall. “There’s a lot of government money chasing new switches,” to replace CMOS-engineered silicon, Colwell said. But none of the alternatives looks promising so far and there’s likely to be a “fallow period” while computing power simply rests at is outside limit.

For some companies that may spell doom if they can’t periodically offer consumers a new upgrade. But, “in a perverse sort of way, it may mean there’s a new flowering of computer architectures,” Colwell said, as electronics companies come out with specialized architectures for different fields and tasks.

In the past, companies rarely put out “special purpose” computers, Colwell said, because the pace of new computing power outran anything but a one-size-fits-all approach. With a decade or so of downtime on more computing speed, though, the industry might begin launching specialty computers for graphics designers, engineers, architects and all sorts of different industries


Industry leaders briefed on ISR future

by Tech. Sgt. Richard A. Williams, Jr.

Air Force Public Affairs Agency


2/23/2012 – WASHINGTON (AFNS) — Lt. Gen. Larry James, Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, briefed industry leaders about the service’s ISR future during the Aviation Week Defense Technology, Affordability and Requirement Conference here, Feb. 15.

The Air Force provides distinctive global ISR capabilities to its joint, interagency and coalition partners and must remain at the cutting edge of technology to remain successful, James said.

With current fiscal constraints looming, the Air Force looks to improve upon existing capabilities which have been successful in supporting the warfighter in Iraq and Afghanistan and improve ISR capabilities as it focuses on a changing role in the Asia-Pacific region.

“We must look beyond the permissive environment we have been using in Afghanistan where you can fly Predators and Reapers with impunity because there is no aerial threat,” James said. “In the future we must be prepared to operate in a different environment where there is an air threat.”

As the Air Force prepares for its future needs and requirements outlined in the national defense strategy, it must find new ways to combine and deploy emergent capabilities, James said.

A key future goal for the Air Force ISR enterprise is to combine information obtained from a variety of air, space and cyberspace assets into an integrated network that can provide a single source of full spectrum, actionable data to analysts around the globe. This would go a long way toward ensuring more efficient and effective support to combatant commanders and other ISR customers, James said.

The force must also decide which future collection vehicles it will need to maintain technological superiority given today’s austere fiscal environment, James said.


“We took some decrements in terms of the ISR budget and we had to make some tough decisions,” James said. “I would offer that in this budget, and if you look at the future, ISR will fare as well as if not better than most areas of our budget simply because of the understanding of the importance of ISR.”

Continuing to utilize the U-2 because it could meet the mission requirement, verses investing funds on the Global Hawk Block 30, was the deciding factor in plans to move away from that platform, James said.

“The U-2 currently has better sensor performance, in general, and therefore we didn’t need to invest the dollars to bring the Global Hawk Block 30 on when we could meet the combatant commander requirements with the reliable U-2.”

A lot of tough choices were made for fiscal year 2013 within the ISR enterprise, and the Air Force is already looking ahead to FY14 to understand what future requirements will be needed, James said

“This is not just your father’s imagery analyst anymore where you just sit down and look at an image try to ascertain what is there,” James said. “It is really this all-source intelligence analyst who is able to critically think and figure out the answers to some of the hard problems out there.”

To maintain the level of support Joint, Coalition and interagency partners have come to expect from the Air Force, training Airmen properly and ensuring proper equipment availability is imperative to ISR’s future success, James said.

“I think the Air Force from a Service perspective sets the standard in terms of global ISR and I think that is important as we move forward into the future,” James said.



Number of U.S. adults with college degrees hits historic high

Washington Post

By Daniel de Vise, Published: February 23

Representing a historic high, three in 10 adult Americans held bachelor’s degrees in 2011, census officials reported Thursday.

College attainment has crept upward, slowly but steadily. In 1947, just 5 percent of Americans 25 and older held degrees from four-year colleges. As recently as 1998, fewer than one-quarter of the adult population held college degrees.

“We believe this is a notable milestone,” said Kurt Bauman, chief of the Census Bureau’s Education and Social Stratification Branch, during a telephone news conference to announce the data.

The Washington region remains the nation’s best-educated metropolis. As of 2010, 46.8 percent of adults in the area held at least a bachelor’s degree, the highest rate among the 50 largest metro areas. California’s Silicon Valley ranked second, with 45.3 percent college attainment.

In 2009, President Obama set a national goal of reclaiming the world lead in college attainment, which the United States once held. But instead of gaining ground, the nation has fallen in global rank, slipping from 12th to 16th in the share of people ages 25 to 34 holding college degrees, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. South Korea, Canada and Japan are the world leaders.

The new data show African Americans and Hispanics gaining ground in college completion. From 2001 to 2011, Hispanics rose from 4.4 percent to 6.1 percent of the nation’s college-educated population. In the same span, blacks rose from 6.7 percent to 7.6 percent of all degree-holders.

But in terms of future earnings, education level matters less these days than in previous generations, and field of study matters more.

Census data show that an associate’s degree in engineering or computers is worth as much or more, on average, than a bachelor’s in education or the liberal arts.

An associate’s degree in engineering yielded $4,257 in monthly earnings in 2009, compared with $4,000 for a bachelor’s in the liberal arts and $3,417 for a bachelor’s in education.

A two-year degree in computers fetched $4,000 a month, the same median earnings as a four-year degree in the humanities.

Even a vocational certificate, a credential that generally requires months — not years — of school, can yield more future earnings than a bachelor’s degree in a low-paying field. Employees with construction certificates earned $4,904 a month in 2009, better than the median pay for a bachelor’s in the humanities.

“So the point here,” Bauman said, “is that sometimes a subject a person has pursued is as important as how far they went in school.”

The data come from several new reports and are largely drawn from the American Community Survey and Current Population Survey.

Although certain fields pay well at any education level, the data suggest that going to school remains a shrewd investment. Median monthly pay for a professional degree reached $11,927 in 2009. That was more than twice the monthly pay for someone with a bachelor’s degree: $5,445. By contrast, a high school diploma was worth $3,179 a month, and an elementary school education yielded $2,136 a month.

College-educated people were less likely to lose their jobs during the economic downturn. Unemployment peaked at 17.9 percent in early 2010 for those without a high school diploma; for those with bachelor’s degrees, the highest unemployment rate was 5.9 percent.

Women still “earn less than men at every level of education,” Bauman said. Men with advanced degrees earned almost 50 percent more annually than women in 2009: $89,400 compared with $61,500.


U.S. should focus on business services, not manufacturing

Washington Post

By J. Bradford Jensen, Published: February 23

As President Obama tirelessly points out, the U.S. manufacturing sector is experiencing a long-sought rebound — adding about 400,000 jobs over the past two years. This is welcome news, and it is justifiably generating headlines.

But a rebound in the manufacturing sector alone will not be enough to speed the recovery. Manufacturing is an important component of the U.S. economy, but it accounts for about only 10 percent of employment.

Further, a Washington focus on manufacturing — such as Obama’s proposed corporate tax break for manufacturing companies, announced Wednesday — may lead policymakers to overlook significant opportunities for growth in a much larger part of the economy: the business services sector, which includes software, finance, architecture and engineering services.

This sector is large, pays well and is growing. Business services employ 25 percent of U.S. workers, more than twice as many as the manufacturing sector. The average business-service job pays about $56,000 a year — more than 20 percent better than the average manufacturing job. And over the past 10 years, business-service employment grew by more than 20 percent, while manufacturing employment decreased by more than 20 percent.

Yet this part of the economy could be growing faster. Many business services are delivered at a distance within the United States and could be exported. America also has a comparative advantage in offering these services globally, thanks to its highly skilled workforce, and indeed it consistently runs a trade surplus in this area — in stark contrast to the large merchandise trade deficit.

However, the business-service sector significantly lags behind manufacturing when it comes to exports. Twenty percent of U.S. manufacturing output is exported — five times more than tradable business-service output. This could and should change.

The time is ripe for such a push. A global boom in infrastructure spending over the next two decades could generate $40 trillion, according to financial analysts, as the large, fast-growing developing economies undertake the building of roads, airports, harbors, residential and commercial projects, water treatment plants and utilities. This work will require armies of architects, engineers, project managers and financiers — exactly the type of labor in which the United States has a comparative advantage over the rest of the world.

U.S. firms are already helping to build this infrastructure. HOK of St. Louis and DDG of Baltimore planned the $10 billion Lavasa city development project in India, and the development firm Gale International and the architecture firm Kohn Pedersen Fox (both based in New York) collaborated on the $35 billion Songdo International Business District development in South Korea.

Yet in India, China, Brazil, Russia, Indonesia and other countries with fast-growing economies, the deck is still stacked against foreign firms by requiring a maze of regulations and licensing procedures, commercial presence mandates and local set-asides.

In contrast, the United States and the European Union are relatively open to services trade. We need to level the playing field.

The United States should join other developed countries in pushing assertively in the World Trade Organization (WTO) for the opening of these large and fast-growing markets to service trade. Because much of the coming infrastructure spending will involve governments (whether national, regional or local), Washington should also encourage large and fast-growing countries to sign on to the WTO’s agreement on government procurement.

The imminent infrastructure boom presents a huge opportunity for U.S. firms and workers. Politicians’ preoccupation with manufacturing distracts us from the hard work necessary to capitalize on this historic opportunity.


Pentagon-inspired border plan elicits congressional support


By Aliya Sternstein 02/23/2012

Congressional overseers say they support a new strategy to monitor the Southwest border with military-grade aircraft and other existing surveillance tools as a substitute for a botched $1 billion virtual fence. Some Republicans also praise the Homeland Security Department for considering the deployment of Pentagon drones no longer being used in overseas wars.

DHS officials on Feb. 16 issued a revised solicitation for the first round of new border technology that centers on defense or industrial “predeveloped” machinery that has been through the production line. The 10-year, $1.5 billion project is intended to keep drug smugglers, terrorists, illegal immigrants and other suspicious individuals from entering the United States.

“We don’t want to develop something from the ground up. I hope this works,” Rep. Candice S. Miller, R-Mich., chairwoman of the House Homeland Security Committee’s border security panel, said in an interview with Nextgov.

A final request for proposals is scheduled for release on March 7. Officials have pledged to ditch the project if vendors lack suitable products currently operational, rather than proceed with risky, new engineering. Equipment developed for the now-defunct Secure Border Initiative network, or SBInet, malfunctioned in the desert climate.

“I’m very interested in working with the department in every way that we can — to hopefully be a creative thinker and assist in areas where we can help,” Miller said. “I think this is a historic moment in time in terms of the drawdown” of Defense Department troops and equipment.

At a Feb. 15 full committee hearing, Miller urged DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano to examine off-the-shelf hardware such as drones back from Iraq and Afghanistan that DHS can get “on the cheap.”

Napolitano said, “we’re constantly interchanging with DoD to see if there are technologies that we’ve already paid to have developed that we can use in our civilian missions. That’s an ongoing process.”

This week, Miller welcomed the secretary’s apparent receptiveness.

Some DHS-owned drones — unmanned, remotely piloted aircraft — currently survey Cape Canaveral, Fla.; Corpus Christi, Texas; and several other border areas.

Military helicopters and airplanes returning from overseas this year will replace many National Guardsmen along the Southwest border, DHS officials recently announced. But drones are not part of that fleet.

Miller said demilitarized unmanned aircraft, robots and land vehicles all should help guard the U.S.-Mexico border.

Before this month, the department’s previous technology solicitations aimed to prop up a series of interconnected towers, wide-area cameras, ground radars and data feeds that could share information.

Now officials have simplified their ambitions. They aren’t interested in networking everything just yet. They’ve decided they don’t need the radars. And cameras need only detect walking humans from up to five miles away, not seven and a half miles away, as previously required. They want, at most, six stand-alone towers suited to the terrain and weather of each surveillance point. The more sophisticated features can be added over time, officials said.

At a hearing Miller chaired last fall, DHS officials expressed interest in fielding surplus military systems and said Pentagon research already is guiding the department’s acquisition of sensors for the project. They cautioned, however, that some promising vehicles, such as blimp-like aerostats, require extra funding for training civilian crews and adapting technology to DHS’ command-and-control environment.

“One of things that Congress needs to step up on is focusing attention on the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense to really coordinate on various things,” Miller said in the interview.

While lawmakers this week seemed satisfied with the new technical approach, some noted that Homeland Security still may be biting off more than it can chew. DHS, an amalgam of 22 agencies joined a decade ago, struggles to supervise large contracts, according to numerous studies by the Government Accountability Office.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said in an email that “the department’s new emphasis on deploying proven technologies to the border is appropriate.”

But, he added, “I am concerned by a recent GAO report that found the current technology deployment plan doesn’t incorporate performance metrics and that DHS has not documented its justifications for deploying different kinds of technologies to different parts of the border. The last thing we need is a repeat of some of the mistakes that resulted in the cancellation of SBInet.”

GAO auditors in the fall derided DHS officials for neglecting to articulate a rationale for each step of the strategy and for failing to calculate a cost range should unforeseen events occur, such as schedule slips. The new SBInet offshoot comes on the heels of the U.S. Coast Guard’s failed modernization project called Deepwater, which went $5 billion over budget, and a computerized immigration casework system that, after exhausting $700 million and more than five years of labor, still has not materialized.

GAO officials this week said they have not yet reviewed February’s solicitation but they expect to start doing so in the next several months.

Ray Bjorklund, chief knowledge officer at market research firm Deltek, said DHS does not always see the bigger picture: “Oh, you mean we have to sustain this system once we get it out there?” he said of their planning. “If they were to truly embrace all the concepts that DoD uses, it may cost a little more to dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s — and it will keep GAO off their backs.”

Currently, funding appears on track for the initial acquisition, Bjorklund said. He pegged the contract value at about $350 million, if all options are exercised. Congress recently dispensed $400 million to fund border security, fencing, infrastructure and technology for the rest of the fiscal year. The White House has asked for $327 million in its 2013 budget request


Air Force planning makes major shift in cyber era

By Amber Corrin

Feb 23, 2012

Cyber operations are causing a shift in Air Force priorities, driving the service to reconsider the established ways airmen and personnel are trained and money is spent, according to the Air Force CIO.

“With the evolution of the airplane in World War II…rapid changes in aircraft technology meant rapid obsolescence. Sound familiar?” Lt. Gen. Bill Lord said Feb. 23 at the AFCEA Air Force IT Day in Vienna, Va. “The world is changing and the cyber piece will be at the center of that.”

To deal with the changes the Air Force has to adjust the way it trains aimen, civilian employees and even industry partners, Lord said.

“We require a differently trained force than we have today,” Lord said. “Operators in cyberspace no longer just support the mission.”

While support functions are still part of that job description, these airmen and employees are being pulled into new areas, including creating combat effects in the cyber arena. That change means these people are developing a new area of expertise that requires a broader perspective operational picture, rather than the separate specialties that have long been the norm.

A new approach to training will be wide reaching, from the lowest-level airmen brand new to the force to highly developed military occupational specialties. The Air Force will also look to incorporate the skills of combat veterans re-entering the workforce, Lord said.

The Air Force also is developing a new core function master plan aimed at cyber workforce, investments and spending, and also tactics, techniques and procedures, Lord said.

The Air Force Space Command is developing the plan, which will include directives focused on the next five to 10 years, he said. The plan will be shaped by the mission needs relayed from combatant commanders, he said.

The goal is to drive progress in a world where cyber advancement is “akin to the World War I-World War II era of air power,” Lord said, adding, “You could argue the 20th century was the century of air and space power. Will the 21st century be the century of cyberspace?”


Bill could turn contractors into lobbyists

By Matthew Weigelt

Feb 23, 2012

As federal contracting officials begin to warm up to more interaction with industry, many government contractor employees could be redefined as lobbyists under a new bill, possibly chilling discussions on upcoming business opportunities.

Congress is now working out the final details of a bill aiming to stop insider trading by senior government officials. However, industry groups fear the bill could turn business analysts into lobbyists. The groups say it would wreak havoc on industry and government relationships.

The Acquisition Reform Working Group, a conglomeration of eight industry groups, sent letters Feb. 16 to members of Congress, urging them to rework a broad definition of “political intelligence consultants” in the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act (S. 2038). Under the Senate’s version, the language would require even government contractors who talk to their customer agencies to register as lobbyists under the Lobbying Disclosure Act.

“Political intelligence contact” would be any communication to or from certain officials that is intended for use “in informing investment decisions.”

Trey Hodgkins, senior vice president for national security and procurement policy at TechAmerica, a member of the working group, said a company’s employees, who talk with officials to learn about upcoming contracts that an agency may be considering, could be gathering intelligence on where it will invest its resources and time in preparing a bid on a contract.

“Applying this nebulous term could result in broad reporting requirements for federal government contractors and others simply for engaging in the regular and necessary day-to-day communications with their federal customers,” the group wrote in its letter.

To further impact the situation, a proposed rule by the Office of Government Ethics would block many industry experts from interacting with government employees, not just political appointees, Hodgkins said.

“It’s a Catch 22 for companies,” he said.

The intent of the original STOCK Act was to eliminate insider trading by legislative and executive branch officials is an understandable concern, Hodgkins said. But the definition could go beyond the intent.

At a time when senior leaders in the Executive Branch are encouraging improved communication between industry and government, it strikes our associations as counterproductive to adopt language that discourages such communication between federal and private sector partners,” according to the letter.

In talking with congressional staff members, Hodgkins said this wasn’t the intent of the definition. They had analysts at hedge funds in mind.

Hodgkins also said the staff members would consider clarifying the definition in the Senate’s bill.

The working group urged lawmakers to let the Government Accountability Office and the Congressional Research Service report on the role of political intelligence in the financial markets before putting a definition in statute. Both the House and Senate bills would require an investigation by both GAO and CRS.

The STOCK Act passed the Senate 96 to 3 on Feb. 2. The House passed its similar version 417 to 2 Feb. 9. The two chambers are working out the differences in the bills before sending it to the White House for President Barack Obama’s signature. The administration has said it strong supports the Senate’s bill.


SecAF: Air Force must continue to modernize

by Tech. Sgt. Richard A. Williams Jr.

Air Force Public Affairs Agency


2/24/2012 – ORLANDO, Fla. (AFNS) — Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley highlighted the service’s need to continue future modernization plans during remarks to approximately 400 Airmen, industry officials and Air Force Association members Feb. 24 here.

Donley spoke on the second day of the Air Force Association’s 2012 Air Warfare Symposium and Technology Exposition, telling attendees the Air Force must recapitalize needed capabilities despite fiscal challenges.

“We made some hard choices to closely align our FY13 budget submission with the new (Defense Department) strategic guidance,” he said. “Even as budgets decline, we must still provide the essential force structure and capabilities on which the Joint Force depends, and be ready to respond to a challenging and dynamic security environment.

“Yet, the new strategic guidance also requires continuing modernization, both to recapitalize aging systems and platforms and to address the proliferation of modern technologies and threats,” Donley said.

To meet this requirement, the secretary said service leaders determined that the Air Force’s best course of action is to trade size for quality.

“We will become smaller in order to protect a high quality and ready force, that will continue to modernize and grow more over time,” he said. “In this decision, we sought the proper balance between today’s Air Force and meeting the immediate needs of combatant commanders, while also laying the groundwork for the Air Force our nation will need ten years from now and beyond.”

While the fiscal 13 budget proposal slows the pace and scope of modernization, Air Force officials took measures to protect programs that are critical to future warfighter needs as outlined in the new strategic guidance, Donley said.

He said these programs include the Long Range Strike bomber; the KC-46A refueling tanker; key space programs such as Space-Based Infrared System and Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellites, as well as follow-on GPS work; advanced intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; and initiatives related to the Air-Sea Battle concept.

Building fifth-generation fighter capabilities is also critical, Donley. said

“We remain fully committed to the F-35 (Lightning II joint strike fighter),” he said. “This is the future of the fighter force, not only for the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps, but for about eleven other air forces as well. The F-35 remains the largest single Air Force program, accounting for nearly 15 percent of our total investment.”

The secretary said that one of the keys to successful modernization within the Air Force is an effective acquisition process.

“Recapturing acquisition excellence has been a top priority for the Air Force, and in the last few years we have made important progress in….revitalizing the acquisition workforce, improving our requirements generation process, instilling budget and financial discipline, improving source selections, and establishing clear lines of authority and accountability within our acquisition organizations,” he said.

There is renewed emphasis in the Air Force on linking requirements and acquisition to ensure better understanding of capability, cost, and cycle time in decision making, and a continuing effort to simplify how the services does business, he said.

Donley told the audience that maintaining momentum in critical modernization programs while budgets are declining will be difficult. However, there is a compelling need to invest in next-generation, high-impact systems so that the Air Force can continue to provide the capabilities on which the nation relies, he said.

“Our systems are growing older and new technologies are being fielded in regions of critical interest, by state and non-state actors alike, diminishing our marginal advantages,” Donley said. “Modernization, as challenging as it is in this resource constrained period, will not wait and remains essential to maintaining U.S. advantages in contested air, space and cyber domains.”

Donley concluded by saying that Air Force senior leaders, to include Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz, are determined to ensuring today’s Air Force and its Airmen remains the world’s best.

“General Schwartz and I feel deeply that our leadership team has inherited the finest Air Force in the world,” he said. “It’s one that was built over decades, passed down from one generation to the next.

“It’s our obligation to keep it that way going forward, so that our joint and our coalition partners know that they can count on the Air Force to deliver the capabilities that we need together to meet future security challenges,” he said.



U.S. Agencies See No Move by Iran to Build a Bomb


Published: February 24, 2012


WASHINGTON — Even as the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog said in a new report Friday that Iran had accelerated its uranium enrichment program, American intelligence analysts continue to believe that there is no hard evidence that Iran has decided to build a nuclear bomb.


Recent assessments by American spy agencies are broadly consistent with a 2007 intelligence finding that concluded that Iran had abandoned its nuclear weapons program years earlier, according to current and former American officials. The officials said that assessment was largely reaffirmed in a 2010 National Intelligence Estimate, and that it remains the consensus view of America’s 16 intelligence agencies.

At the center of the debate is the murky question of the ultimate ambitions of the leaders in Tehran. There is no dispute among American, Israeli and European intelligence officials that Iran has been enriching nuclear fuel and developing some necessary infrastructure to become a nuclear power. But the Central Intelligence Agency and other intelligence agencies believe that Iran has yet to decide whether to resume a parallel program to design a nuclear warhead — a program they believe was essentially halted in 2003 and which would be necessary for Iran to build a nuclear bomb. Iranian officials maintain that their nuclear program is for civilian purposes.

In Senate testimony on Jan. 31, James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, stated explicitly that American officials believe that Iran is preserving its options for a nuclear weapon, but said there was no evidence that it had made a decision on making a concerted push to build a weapon. David H. Petraeus, the C.I.A. director, concurred with that view at the same hearing. Other senior United States officials, including Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have made similar statements in recent television appearances.

“They are certainly moving on that path, but we don’t believe they have actually made the decision to go ahead with a nuclear weapon,” Mr. Clapper told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Critics of the American assessment in Jerusalem and some European capitals point out that Iran has made great strides in the most difficult step toward building a nuclear weapon, enriching uranium. That has also been the conclusion of a series of reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency’s inspectors, who on Friday presented new evidence that the Iranians have begun enriching uranium in an underground facility.

Once Iran takes further steps to actually enrich weapons grade fuel — a feat that the United States does not believe Iran has yet accomplished — the critics believe that it would be relatively easy for Iran to engineer a warhead and then have a bomb in short order. They also criticize the C.I.A. for being overly cautious in its assessments of Iran, suggesting that it is perhaps overcompensating for its faulty intelligence assessments in 2002 about Iraq’s purported weapons programs, which turned out not to exist. In addition, Israeli officials have challenged the very premise of the 2007 intelligence assessment, saying they do not believe that Iran ever fully halted its work on a weapons program.

Yet some intelligence officials and outside analysts believe there is another possible explanation for Iran’s enrichment activity, besides a headlong race to build a bomb as quickly as possible. They say that Iran could be seeking to enhance its influence in the region by creating what some analysts call “strategic ambiguity.” Rather than building a bomb now, Iran may want to increase its power by sowing doubt among other nations about its nuclear ambitions. Some point to the examples of Pakistan and India, both of which had clandestine nuclear weapons programs for decades before they actually decided to build bombs and test their weapons in 1998.


“I think the Iranians want the capability, but not a stockpile,” said Kenneth C. Brill, a former United States ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency who also served as director of the intelligence community’s National Counterproliferation Center from 2005 until 2009. Added a former intelligence official: “The Indians were a screwdriver turn away from having a bomb for many years. The Iranians are not that close.”

To be sure, American analysts acknowledge that understanding the intentions of Iran’s leadership is extremely difficult, and that their assessments are based on limited information. David A. Kay, who was head of the C.I.A.’s team that searched for Iraq’s weapons programs after the United States invasion, was cautious about the quality of the intelligence underlying the current American assessment.

“They don’t have evidence that Iran has made a decision to build a bomb, and that reflects a real gap in the intelligence,” Mr. Kay said. “It’s true the evidence hasn’t changed very much” since 2007, he added. “But that reflects a lack of access and a lack of intelligence as much as anything.”

Divining the intentions of closed societies is one of the most difficult tasks for American intelligence analysts, and the C.I.A. for decades has had little success penetrating regimes like Iran and North Korea to learn how their leaders make decisions.

Amid the ugly aftermath of the botched Iraq intelligence assessments, American spy agencies in 2006 put new analytical procedures in place to avoid repeating the failures. Analysts now have access to raw information about the sources behind intelligence reports, to help better determine the credibility of the sources and prevent another episode like the one in which the C.I.A. based much of its conclusions about Iraq’s purported biological weapons on an Iraqi exile who turned out to be lying.

Analysts are also required to include in their reports more information about the chain of logic that has led them to their conclusions, and differing judgments are featured prominently in classified reports, rather than buried in footnotes.

When an unclassified summary of the 2007 intelligence estimate on Iran’s nuclear program was made public, stating that it had abandoned work on a bomb, it stunned the Bush administration and the world. It represented a sharp reversal from the intelligence community’s 2005 estimate, and drew criticism of the C.I.A. from European and Israeli officials, as well as conservative pundits. They argued that it was part of a larger effort by the C.I.A. to prevent American military action against Iran.

The report was so controversial that many outside analysts expected that the intelligence community would be forced to revise and repudiate the estimate after new evidence emerged about Iran’s program, notably from the United Nations’ inspectors. Yet analysts now say that while there has been mounting evidence of Iranian work on enrichment facilities, there has been far less clear evidence of a weapons program.

Still, Iran’s enrichment activities have raised suspicions, even among skeptics.


“What has been driving the discussion has been the enrichment activity,” said one former intelligence official. “That’s made everybody nervous. So the Iranians continue to contribute to the suspicions about what they are trying to do.”

Iran’s efforts to hide its nuclear facilities and to deceive the West about its activities have also intensified doubts. But some American analysts warn that such behavior is not necessarily proof of a weapons program. They say that one mistake the C.I.A. made before the war in Iraq was to assume that because Saddam Hussein resisted weapons inspections — acting as if he were hiding something — it meant that he had a weapons program.

As Mr. Kay explained, “The amount of evidence that you were willing to go with in 2002 is not the same evidence you are willing to accept today.”


Atomic Agency Says Iran Is Making Fuel at Protected Site



Published: February 24, 2012


WASHINGTON — International nuclear inspectors reported on Friday that Iran was moving more rapidly to produce nuclear fuel than many outsiders expected, at a deep underground site that Israel and the United States have said is better protected from attack than Iran’s older facilities.

The report by the International Atomic Energy Agency indicated that for the first time, Iran had begun producing fuel inside the new facility, in a mountain near the holy city of Qum. The agency’s inspectors found in their most recent visits that over the past three months, Iran had tripled its production capacity for a more purified type of fuel that is far closer to what is needed to make the core of a nuclear weapon.

The report is likely to inflame the debate over whether Iran is nearing what Israel’s defense minister, Ehud Barak, calls entering a “zone of immunity.” The phrase refers to a vaguely defined point beyond which Iran could potentially produce weapon fuel without fear of an air attack that could wipe out its facilities.

The Iranians showed the inspectors the progress they had made at the underground facility, also known as Fordo, as part of the regular inspection of declared nuclear sites. They seemed eager to demonstrate that despite sanctions, sabotage and several United Nations Security Council resolutions, they were forging ahead in building a facility with a capability they insist is purely for energy production and medical research. But the Iranians know that this facility, under 250 feet of granite, is the one that worries Israel and the West the most, and the resources that Iran is putting into equipping it leaves considerable ambiguity about their intent.

For years, the Iranians have refused to answer questions raised by the inspectors about what the I.A.E.A. delicately calls “possible military dimensions” of the Iranian program — evidence that some work has been conducted on warhead designs, trigger devices and similar technologies that strongly suggest that the country is contemplating using its fuel for weapons.


The White House, which has been trying to increase the economic pressure on Iran while trying to dissuade Israel from attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities, characterized the newest report as more evidence of Iranian defiance. “Iran has continued to pursue its uranium enrichment program in violation of multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions without demonstrating any credible or legitimate purpose for doing so,” the National Security Council spokesman, Tommy Vietor, said on Friday. “When combined with its continued stonewalling of international inspectors, Iran’s actions demonstrate why Iran has failed to convince the international community that is nuclear program is peaceful.”

Despite the I.A.E.A.’s findings at Fordo, American officials insist that Iran’s overall progress has been halting at best. The report also shows that despite Iran’s repeated boasts, it is still having trouble using a significant amount of next-generation equipment to make fuel. The United States also argues, in anonymous interviews and in conversations with Israeli officials, that Iran’s program has a number of vulnerabilities that could be exploited should it decide to try to develop a bomb. American intelligence officials say they do not believe that Iranian leaders have made that decision, though Israeli and British intelligence disagree.

When President Obama and other Western leaders first made public the discovery of the new facility in 2009, American officials said they believed that its exposure meant it would never be used. However, the report on Friday indicated that 696 centrifuges — the tall, silvery machines that enrich uranium by spinning it at supersonic speeds — have been installed. An additional 2,088 have been partially installed, meaning the facility is approaching its design capacity.

The 11-page report also described how Iran has refused, in two separate meetings with inspectors, to answer questions raised in the I.A.E.A.’s last report, issued in November, about experiments that could be linked to work on nuclear weapons. Inspectors were told they could not visit a military site called Parchin, where the inspectors suspect that work was done on conventional explosives that can be used to trigger a warhead. “Iran stated that it was still not able to grant access to that site,” the report said.

Iran has said that it produces fuel enriched to 20 percent purity, the highest level the I.A.E.A. reported being produced at Fordo, to replenish a small nuclear reactor in Tehran that is used to make medical isotopes. That claim appears to be true, at least in part: the inspectors say a fraction of the fuel was used to manufacture a single fuel assembly that was inserted in that reactor in recent days as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad watched. The event was televised in Iran, underscoring the country’s intent to continue its nuclear program despite international sanctions and sabotage.

Iranian officials have said in recent months, however, that they plan to produce more of the fuel enriched to 20 percent purity than is needed for the reactor. “They have now produced nearly enough 20 percent to fuel the Tehran Research Reactor for the next 20 years,” one diplomat in Europe who closely follows the agency’s work in Iran said on Friday. The fact that Iran is increasing production further has heighted suspicions in the West that it wants to stockpile the fuel in case it decides, in the future, to produce bomb-grade material. It would take relatively little additional work to get that fuel to the 90 percent purity needed for weapon fuel.


Iranian officials deny that this is their intent, and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country’s supreme leader, explicitly ruled out producing a weapon in a recent speech.


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