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March 3, 2012

March 5, 2012

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Pressure builds for civilian drone flights at home

By JOAN LOWY | Associated Press – Feb 27, 2012

WASHINGTON (AP) — Heads up: Drones are going mainstream.

Civilian cousins of the unmanned military aircraft that have tracked and killed terrorists in the Middle East and Asia are in demand by police departments, border patrols, power companies, news organizations and others wanting a bird’s-eye view that’s too impractical or dangerous for conventional planes or helicopters to get.

Along with the enthusiasm, there are qualms.

Drones overhead could invade people’s privacy. The government worries they could collide with passenger planes or come crashing down to the ground, concerns that have slowed more widespread adoption of the technology.

Despite that, pressure is building to give drones the same access as manned aircraft to the sky at home.

“It’s going to be the next big revolution in aviation. It’s coming,” says Dan Elwell, the Aerospace Industries Association‘s vice president for civil aviation.

Some impetus comes from the military, which will bring home drones from Afghanistan and wants room to test and use them. In December, Congress gave the Federal Aviation Administration six months to pick half a dozen sites around the country where the military and others can fly unmanned aircraft in the vicinity of regular air traffic, with the aim of demonstrating they’re safe.

The Defense Department says the demand for drones and their expanding missions requires routine and unfettered access to domestic airspace, including around airports and cities. In a report last October, the Pentagon called for flights first by small drones both solo and in groups, day and night, expanding over several years. Flights by large and medium-sized drones would follow in the latter half of this decade.

Other government agencies want to fly drones, too, but they’ve been hobbled by an FAA ban unless they first receive case-by-case permission. Fewer than 300 waivers were in use at the end of 2011, and they often include restrictions that severely limit the usefulness of the flights. Businesses that want to put drones to work are out of luck; waivers are only for government agencies.

But that’s changing.

Congress has told the FAA that the agency must allow civilian and military drones to fly in civilian airspace by September 2015. This spring, the FAA is set to take a first step by proposing rules that would allow limited commercial use of small drones for the first time.

Until recently, agency officials were saying there were too many unresolved safety issues to give drones greater access. Even now FAA officials are cautious about describing their plans and they avoid discussion of deadlines.

“The thing we care about is doing that in an orderly and safe way and finding the appropriate … balance of all the users in the system,” Michael Huerta, FAA’s acting administrator, told a recent industry luncheon in Washington. “Let’s develop these six sites — and we will be doing that — where we can develop further data, further testing and more history on how these things actually operate.”

Drones come in all sizes, from the high-flying Global Hawk with its 116-foot wingspan to a hummingbird-like drone that weighs less than an AA battery and can perch on a window ledge to record sound and video. Lockheed Martin has developed a fake maple leaf seed, or “whirly bird,” equipped with imaging sensors, that weighs less than an ounce.

Potential civilian users are as varied as the drones themselves.

Power companies want them to monitor transmission lines. Farmers want to fly them over fields to detect which crops need water. Ranchers want them to count cows.

Journalists are exploring drones’ newsgathering potential. The FAA is investigating whether The Daily, a digital publication of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., used drones without permission to capture aerial footage of floodwaters in North Dakota and Mississippi last year. At the University of Nebraska, journalism professor Matt Waite has started a lab for students to experiment with using a small, remote-controlled helicopter.

“Can you cover news with a drone? I think the answer is yes,” Waite said.

The aerospace industry forecasts a worldwide deployment of almost 30,000 drones by 2018, with the United States accounting for half of them.

“The potential … civil market for these systems could dwarf the military market in the coming years if we can get access to the airspace,” said Ben Gielow, government relations manager for the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, an industry trade group.

The hungriest market is the nation’s 19,000 law enforcement agencies.

Customs and Border Patrol has nine Predator drones mostly in use on the U.S.-Mexico border, and plans to expand to 24 by 2016. Officials say the unmanned aircraft have helped in the seizure of more than 20 tons of illegal drugs and the arrest of 7,500 people since border patrols began six years ago.

Several police departments are experimenting with smaller drones to photograph crime scenes, aid searches and scan the ground ahead of SWAT teams. The Justice Department has four drones it loans to police agencies.

“We look at this as a low-cost alternative to buying a helicopter or fixed-wing plane,” said Michael O’Shea, the department’s aviation technology program manager. A small drone can cost less than $50,000, about the price of a patrol car with standard police gear.

Like other agencies, police departments must get FAA waivers and follow much the same rules as model airplane hobbyists: Drones must weigh less than 55 pounds, stay below an altitude of 400 feet, keep away from airports and always stay within sight of the operator. The restrictions are meant to prevent collisions with manned aircraft.

Even a small drone can be “a huge threat” to a larger plane, said Dale Wright, head of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association‘s safety and technology department. “If an airliner sucks it up in an engine, it’s probably going to take the engine out,” he said. “If it hits a small plane, it could bring it down.”

Controllers want drone operators to be required to have instrument-rated pilot licenses — a step above a basic private pilot license. “We don’t want the Microsoft pilot who has never really flown an airplane and doesn’t know the rules of how to fly,” Wright said.

Military drones designed for battlefields haven’t had to meet the kind of rigorous safety standards required of commercial aircraft.

“If you are going to design these things to operate in the (civilian) airspace you need to start upping the ante,” said Tom Haueter, director of the National Transportation Safety Board’s aviation safety office. “It’s one thing to operate down low. It’s another thing to operate where other airplanes are, especially over populated areas.”

Even with FAA restrictions, drones are proving useful in the field.

Deputies with the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office in Colorado can launch a 2-pound Draganflyer X6 helicopter from the back of a patrol car. The drone’s bird’s-eye view cut the manpower needed for a search of a creek bed for a missing person from 10 people to two, said Ben Miller, who runs the drone program. The craft also enabled deputies to alert fire officials to a potential roof collapse in time for the evacuation of firefighters from the building, he said.

The drone could do more if it were not for the FAA’s line-of-sight restriction, Miller said. “I don’t think (the restriction) provides any extra safety,” he said.

The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, north of Houston, used a Department of Homeland Security grant to buy a $300,000, 50-pound ShadowHawk helicopter drone for its SWAT team. The drone has a high-powered video camera and an infrared camera that can spot a person’s thermal image in the dark.

“Public-safety agencies are beginning to see this as an invaluable tool for them, just as the car was an improvement over the horse and the single-shot pistol was improved upon by the six-shooter,” said Chief Deputy Randy McDaniel, who runs the Montgomery drone program.

The ShadowHawk can be equipped with a 40 mm grenade launcher and a 12-guage shotgun, according to its maker, Vanguard Defense Industries of Conroe, Texas. The company doesn’t sell the armed version in the United States, although “we have had interest from law-enforcement entities for deployment of nonlethal munitions from the aircraft,” Vanguard CEO Michael Buscher said.

The possibility of armed police drones someday patrolling the sky disturbs Terri Burke, executive director of the Texas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

“The Constitution is taking a back seat so that boys can play with their toys,” Burke said. “It’s kind of scary that they can use a laptop computer to zap people from the air.”

A recent ACLU report said allowing drones greater access takes the country “a large step closer to a surveillance society in which our every move is monitored, tracked, recorded, and scrutinized by the authorities.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which focuses on civil liberties threats involving new technologies, sued the FAA recently, seeking disclosure of which agencies have been given permission to use drones. FAA officials declined to answer questions from The Associated Press about the lawsuit.

Industry officials said privacy concerns are overblown.

“Today anybody— the paparazzi, anybody — can hire a helicopter or a (small plane) to circle around something that they’re interested in and shoot away with high-powered cameras all they want,” said Elwell, the aerospace industry spokesman. “I don’t understand all the comments about the Big Brother thing.”

 

Bill would require finances of many feds to be posted online


FedTimes

By SEAN REILLY | Last Updated:February 28, 2012

The finances of as many as 350,000 federal employees could be posted publicly on the Internet if Congress approves pending legislation, a federal agency says.

The Office of Government Ethics (OGE) made this observation as part of a broad analysis of the pending Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act aimed at curbing insider trading among lawmakers, political appointees, military officers and senior federal employees.

There are two versions of the bill, one in each chamber of Congress. Various provisions in those bills would direct OGE to post online the financial disclosure forms of between 3,500 and 350,000 federal and military personnel, depending on which provision is eventually approved. OGE said that, whatever version is passed by Congress, the cost of creating and running the “electronic financial disclosure system” would exceed its entire budget, which is less than $14 million this year, according to an unsigned analysis posted on the office’s website Tuesday.

No agency currently has a disclosure system with the “costly searchable, sortable” functions required by the legislation, the analysis says. In addition, “no common system is now in use across the executive branch, in part because systems need to be compatible with their respective agencies’ [information technology] architecture and security parameters.”

An OGE spokesman declined to comment further for the record.

The bill was originally designed to bar lawmakers’ use of inside information to trade stocks or other investments. Along the way, however, both chambers added provisions that would require financial disclosure reports for thousands of federal employees to be posted online. While those disclosures are already public in some cases, they are typically available only in paper form following a written request.

The House-passed bill, for example, would require the online posting of financial disclosure forms — known as OGE Form 278 — filed by more than 28,000 senior political appointees and Senior Executive Service members, as well as general officers, flag officers and employees in SES-equivalent positions, according to the ethics office.

 

The Senate measure is more confusing because it includes two amendments that carry different sets of disclosure requirements, the Congressional Research Service said in its analysis. One amendment, by Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., would post online about 3,500 disclosure reports; the other, by Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., would post the reports of 350,000 civilians and military officers, including many that are now confidential, the ethics office concluded.

In an email Tuesday, however, a Shelby spokesman said that the senator intended only for public filers to be covered and “will continue to work with the House to address OGE’s concerns.”

Lieberman believes that his and Shelby’s amendments overlap but do not conflict, spokeswoman Leslie Phillips said, also via email. Lieberman, however, has no reason to doubt OGE’s estimates, she added.

Under both the House bill and Lieberman’s language, agencies would have to put employees’ disclosure reports on their websites within 30 days until the ethics office develops the central disclosure system.

Although some version of the STOCK Act is expected to win final passage, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has not yet said whether he will name a conference committee to work out the differences between the House and Senate measures. Another option would be to ask the Senate to pass the House bill.

Earlier this month, the Senior Executives Association objected to the proposed online posting of financial disclosure reports for SES members, arguing it was “a solution in search of a problem.”

Existing reporting requirements “are sufficient to address, remedy and prosecute any wrongdoing that may occur,” SEA President Carol Bonosaro and General Counsel William Bransford wrote in a letter to Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Senior federal executives lack mobility, study finds

Govexec.com

By Amanda Palleschi


February 28, 2012

 

The Senior Executive Service has not lived up to the vision lawmakers had when they created it in 1978 as a cadre of “seasoned managers” who move among federal agencies and sectors.

According to a new study from the Partnership for Public Service and McKinsey & Co., mobility is “underutilized” in the federal government. The study found that only slightly more than half the 7,784 SES members have held different managerial positions within their own agencies, few have gained experience working in other agencies, and fewer still have experience working outside the federal government. Specifically, 48 percent of SES workers have never changed positions and only 8 percent have changed agencies, according to the study.

The report was based on interviews and focus groups with approximately 100 political leaders, senior executives and human resources personnel from 39 agencies.

 

“Initiatives designed to spur executive movement — including, notably, joint-duty programs at the Department of Defense and in the intelligence community — have yet to make a governmentwide impact,” the report stated.

The analysis identified several “hindrances” to mobility within the SES. At the federal level, the Partnership found no “system to facilitate mobility” — executives have to rely on word-of-mouth to learn about SES opportunities.

Additionally, some agencies might “hoard talent,” particularly technical experts, the report found. Executives also might view mobility as punishment or not want to make a geographic move.

The Partnership recommended increasing mobility within the SES by including it in selection criteria and requiring SES candidates to demonstrate “multisector, multiagency or multifunctional experience.” The report also suggested experimenting with program designs to promote mobility, ensuring executives who relocate receive financial assistance, investing in programs that promote mobility early in an executive’s tenure and designating a single entity to be in charge of executive professional development.

“The original vision for the SES as a mobile corps of leaders has never come to fruition,” the report stated. “The federal government can revive that vision — not just to be faithful to the spirit in which the SES was founded, but because greater executive mobility will improve the quality of the government’s leaders and, consequently, government performance.”

 

Tablets to Nearly Triple in Federal Government by 2013

Govtech.com

February 29, 2012 By News Staff

 

Federal IT professionals are forecasting rapid growth of mobile devices within their agencies, according to a new report released this week.

More usage of mobile devices in the federal government could add $2.6 billion worth of labor hours in federal productivity, according to a new report.

Federal IT professionals expect tablet use within the federal work force to climb from 7 percent of total users in 2011 to 19 percent in 2013, according to the report by MeriTalk titled Mobile Powered Government. Underwritten by VMware and Carahsoft, the survey of 152 federal level CIOs and IT managers released this week projected smartphone use to increase from 35 percent to 43 percent

To satisfy the added demand, the federal government workforce will need to add approximately 533,000 tablets and 355,000 smartphones in the next two years, the report said.

“If the addition of smartphones enables federal workers to be even 10 percent more productive, the federal government could add $2.6 billion in federal productivity by 2013,” the report said.

 


Biofuel goals could change U.S. farming

BioFuelDaily.com

by Staff Writers

Fort Collins, Colo. (UPI) Feb 29, 2012

 

Meeting U.S. federal biofuel production targets could dramatically change a majority of the country’s agricultural landscape, researchers say.

A study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology found almost 80 percent of current farmland in the United States would have to be devoted to raising corn for ethanol production in order to meet current biofuel production targets with existing technology.

The 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act set a goal of increasing U.S. biofuel production from 40 billion to 136 billion gallons of ethanol per year by 2022.

However, researchers at Colorado State University said the law makes assumptions about technological developments and the availability and productivity of farmland.

Lead researcher W. Kolby Smith and colleagues used satellite data about climate, plant cover and usable land to determine how much biofuel the United States could produce.

To meet the biofuel goals with current technology, farmers would either need to plant biofuel crops on 80 percent of their farmed land or plant biofuel crops on 60 percent of the land currently used to raise livestock, the study found.

Both options would significantly reduce the amount of food U.S. farmers produce, it found.

 

Air Force Materiel Command official to lead new center at Wright-Patterson

Dayton Daily News

Staff Report

12:18 PM Wednesday, February 29, 2012

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE — President Obama has nominated a top official of the Air Force Materiel Command to lead a new center being created at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base this year as part of a cost-cutting restructuring of the AFMC.

Pending Senate confirmation of the nomination, Lt. Gen. C.D. Moore II will serve as commander of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center that is to begin operation on Oct. 1, Air Force officials said Wednesday.

The center will be responsible for managing Air Force weapon systems, foreign military sales and other capabilities.

It will consolidate the existing Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright-Patterson, Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., Air Armament Center at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., and some functions at other AFMC bases. It will also include the Air Force Security Assistance and Cooperation Directorate, formerly the Air Force Security Assistance Center, which manages the service’s foreign military sales program from Wright-Patterson.

The AFMC’s restructuring, a cost-cutting effort announced in November, is to save $109 million annually by reducing overhead costs and redundant layers of headquarters staffs, according to the Air Force.

Moore has served since October as vice commander of the AFMC, which has headquarters at Wright-Patterson. He previously served as deputy director of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program office in Crystal City, Va. The 32-year Air Force veteran has served in several prior assignments at Wright-Patterson between 2002 and 2008.

Moore’s successor as AFMC vice commander hasn’t been announced.

 

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Quandary for GOP in Cybersecurity Bill

CQ WEEKLY – IN FOCUS

Feb. 25, 2012 – 3:46 p.m

By Tim Starks, CQ Staff

 

NEW SPLIT: McCain and Lieberman often see eye to eye, but they have split on the new cybersecurity bill. (TOM WILLIAMS / CQ ROLL CALL)

John McCain, one of the Senate’s premier hawks, hasn’t often found himself arguing against legislation aimed at strengthening national security. But that’s just where he ended up during a Feb. 16 hearing of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, going against another of the chamber’s top security mavens, Connecticut independent Joseph I. Lieberman, the panel’s chairman.

A cybersecurity bill cosponsored by Lieberman, McCain said, would turn the Department of Homeland Security into a “regulatory leviathan.” And McCain said the bill’s prescriptions for securing the most vulnerable and vital privately owned computer networks would create an “adversarial” relationship with business.

The sharp-tongued attack on the legislation by the Arizona Republican caught many by surprise. But it illustrates a dynamic that is central to the fate of cybersecurity legislation this year. In the current debate, Republicans find themselves torn between two backbone GOP priorities: bolstering national security and combating federal regulation. How Republicans resolve their dueling impulses — and how Democrats respond — will be key to whether a cybersecurity bill emerges from Congress and, if so, what kind of bill it will be.

One person who wasn’t caught off guard by McCain’s comments was Stewart Baker, who served as assistant secretary for policy at the Department of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush.

“Having been in a Republican administration, I know quite well that the instinct to avoid regulation is a powerful one. So is the instinct to serve national security,” says Baker, now a partner at Steptoe & Johnson LLP. “It’s always a battle of the heavyweights when those two things come into conflict. I’m not surprised that Republicans are concerned about this.”

 

Most Republicans say they recognize the dire nature of the cyber threat. McCain said the sharp rise in attacks on government networks — as well as cyberespionage from China, cybercrime from Russia and hacking by domestic groups such as Anonymous — demands a response. It’s just that Lieberman’s bill isn’t the answer, McCain argued.

Nor is McCain’s position on that bill unanimous among Republicans. While several ranking members of Senate committees have joined McCain in opposition, Susan Collins of Maine, the top Republican on Lieberman’s panel, is one of the bill’s chief cosponsors. And influential House Republicans have spoken more kindly of the bill, even when they talk about aspects of it they find undesirable.

But already, some outside experts say, the anti-regulatory sentiment on cybersecurity legislation voiced by many Republicans and some business groups is having an effect. Mike McConnell, a former director of national intelligence who now works at the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, said at a George Washington University panel last week that concerns about regulation — as well as privacy — are “getting in the way” of enacting needed security measures.

At the same hearing where McCain launched his critique of the cybersecurity bill, two experts said the legislation had already been overly diluted in response to those who said it was too regulatory. “We need to carefully limit the scope of this regulation,” said James Lewis, a cybersecurity expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “But I fear that we may have gone a bit too far.”

 

Alternative Proposal

For McCain and a group of Senate Republicans who plan to introduce their own cybersecurity measure, the answer to protecting private computer networks is to focus on sharing threat information between the federal government and businesses. McCain offered that as an alternative to the new regulatory regime created in the bill sponsored by Lieberman and Collins, as well as by Commerce, Science and Transportation Chairman John D. Rockefeller IV, a West Virginia Democrat, and Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who chairs the Intelligence Committee.

“The regulations that would be created under this new authority would stymie job creation, blur the definition of private property rights and divert resources from actual cybersecurity to compliance with government mandates,” McCain said.

Collins counters that the bill would help the economy because it would reduce the damage done by cybertheft. “I have opposed efforts to extend regulations that would burden our economy,” she said at the hearing. “But regulations that are necessary for our national security and that promote rather than hinder our economic prosperity strengthen our country — they are in an entirely different category.”

Several House Republicans have spoken warmly of the common ground between their legislative proposals and the chief Senate measure, even as they note that they favor a less regulatory approach.

 

Dan Lungren, a California Republican who is sponsoring one of the main House bills, said in a recent interview that “there is going to have to be some kind of regulation” of the most critical computer networks. The only question is how much — and Lungren favors a “light touch.”

Jim Harper, director of information policy studies at Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, says there is an “interesting tension” between the GOP stances on national security and regulations. But there is another tension between “libertarian Republicans” and “big government Republicans” on the nature of the threat itself, he says — with “libertarian Republicans” of the mind that the most frightening cyberthreat scenarios were “produced in Washington, for Washington.”

For Republicans, who often speak ill of federal regulation, the criticism of the chief Senate cybersecurity bill is in keeping with that. But, it also plays into their political message.

“There is a partisan temptation — this is an election year,” Baker says. “There’s clearly a narrative that says the president has been too aggressive and Democrats in Congress have been too aggressive in imposing regulation on the private sector, so that’s an argument that has some pull.”

 

‘Life-or-Death Issue’

Even before McCain blasted the bill, Democrats were trying to get ahead of the argument, particularly by emphasizing the threat. The administration has repeatedly briefed senators on the dangers to U.S. networks.

“This is not a Republican or Democrat issue; it’s a life-or-death issue for the economy and for us as people,” Rockefeller said in testimony about the need for the measure. “I want to be clear. The cyber threat is a very, very real fact. This is not alarmist.”

Sponsors said they had responded to criticisms of the bill by including some provisions backed by Republicans and excluding others opposed by Republicans.

They also highlighted how the regulations are relatively minor: The new rules would be written with industry input; covered businesses would get to choose their own methods of meeting security standards; and most businesses would not be subject to the regulations, either because they don’t own vital networks or they already meet security benchmarks.

There are other ways that Democrats can counter GOP criticism of regulations, says Alan Paller, research director of the SANS Institute, which conducts cybersecurity training and research. If the federal government could provide “effective cybersecurity” for its own networks, Paller says, it could convince Republicans that regulations can work in the private sector, too.

Baker says that the differing clusters of lawmakers aren’t really that far apart. “When you take various Republican bills in the House, if you stapled them together, you would have something easily conferenceable with the Senate bill,” he says.

And despite the divide between Lieberman and McCain, the pair might yet find common ground. After McCain ripped into the bill, Lieberman said, “The only satisfaction I had from your statement” was that “you’re going to make a proposal.”

 

“Sen. Collins and I and the others working on this bill will consider it,” he said. “And let’s get something done on a clear and present danger to our country this year.”

 

Is Math Still Relevant?

The queen of the sciences may someday lose its royal status

IEEE Spectrum

By Robert W. Lucky / March 2012

 

Long ago, when I was a freshman in ­engineering school, there was a required course in mechanical drawing. “You had better learn this skill,” the instructor said, “because all engineers start their careers at the ­drafting table.”

This was an ominous beginning to my education, but as it turned out, he was wrong. Neither I nor, I suspect, any of my classmates began our careers at the drafting table.

These days, engineers aren’t routinely taught drawing, but they spend a lot of time learning another skill that may be similarly unnecessary: mathematics. I confess this thought hadn’t occurred to me until recently, when a friend who teaches at a leading university made an off-hand comment. “Is it ­possible,” he suggested, “that the era of math­ematics in electrical ­engineering is coming to an end?”

When I asked him about this disturbing idea, he said that he had only been ­trying to be provocative and that his graduate students were now writing theses that were more mathematical than ever. I felt reassured that the mathematical basis of engineering is strong. But still, I wonder to what extent—and for how long—today’s under­graduate engineering students will be using classical ­mathematics as their careers unfold.

There are several trends that might suggest a diminishing role for mathematics in engineering work. First, there is the rise of software engineering as a separate discipline. It just doesn’t take as much math to write an operating system as it does to design a printed circuit board. Programming is rigidly structured and, at the same time, an evolving art form—neither of which is especially amenable to mathematical analysis.

Another trend veering us away from classical math is the increasing dependence on programs such as Matlab and Maple. The pencil-and-paper calculations with which we evaluated the relative performance of variations in design are now more easily made by simulation software packages—which, with their vast libraries of pre­packaged functions and data, are often more powerful. A purist might ask: Is using Matlab doing math? And of course, the answer is that sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn’t.

A third trend is the growing importance of a class of problems termed “wicked,” which involve social, political, economic, and un­defined or unknown issues that make the application of mathematics very difficult. The world is seemingly full of such frus­trating but important problems.

 

These trends notwithstanding, we should recognize the role of mathematics in the discovery of fundamental properties and truth. Maxwell’s equations—which are inscribed in marble in the foyer of the National Academy of Engineering—foretold the possibility of radio. It took about half a ­century for those radios to reach Shannon’s limit—described by his equation for channel ­capacity—but at least we knew where we were headed.

Theoretical physicists have explained through math the workings of the universe and even predicted the existence of previously unknown fundamental particles. The iconic image I carry in my mind is of Einstein at a blackboard that’s covered with tensor-filled equations. It is remarkable that one person scribbling math can uncover such secrets. It is as if the universe itself understands and obeys the mathematics that we humans invented.

There have been many philosophical discussions through the years about this wonderful power of math. In a famous 1960 paper en­titled “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences,” the physicist Eugene Wigner wrote, “The miracle of the appropriateness of the language of mathematics for the formulation of the laws of physics is a wonderful gift [that] we neither understand nor deserve.” In a 1980 paper with a similar title, the computer science pioneer Richard Hamming tried to answer the question, “How can it be that simple mathematics suffices to predict so much?”

This “unreasonable effectiveness” of mathematics will continue to be at the heart of engineering, but perhaps the way we use math will change. Still, it’s hard to imagine Einstein running simulations on his laptop.

 

 

Hackers had ‘full functional control’ of Nasa computers

NASA said the loss of data did not affect the operations of the International Space Station

BBC

2 March 2012

 

Hackers gained “full functional control” of key Nasa computers in 2011, the agency’s inspector general has told US lawmakers. Paul K Martin said hackers took over Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) computers and “compromised the accounts of the most privileged JPL users”.

He said the attack, involving Chinese IP addresses, was under investigation.

In a statement, Nasa said it had “made significant progress to protect the agency’s IT systems”.

Mr Martin’s testimony on Nasa’s cybersecurity was submitted to the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology’s Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight.

State of security

In the document, he outlined how investigators believed the attack had involved “Chinese-based internet protocol [IP] addresses”.

He said that the attackers had “full system access” and would have been able to “modify, copy, or delete sensitive files” or “upload hacking tools to steal user credentials and compromise other Nasa systems”.

Mr Martin outlined how the agency suffered “5,408 computer security incidents” between 2010 and 2011.

He also noted that “between April 2009 and April 2011, Nasa reported the loss or theft of 48 Agency mobile computing devices”.

In one incident an unencrypted notebook computer was lost containing details of the algorithms – the mathematical models – used to control the International Space Station.

Nasa told the BBC that “at no point in time have operations of the International Space Station been in jeopardy due to a data breach”.

Mixed motives

Mr Martin said Nasa was a “target-rich environment for cyber attacks”.

He said that the motivation of the hackers ranged from “individuals testing their skill to break into Nasa systems, to well-organized criminal enterprises hacking for profit, to intrusions that may have been sponsored by foreign intelligence services”.

But while Mr Martin criticised aspects of Nasa’s cybersecurity he noted investigations had resulted in “arrests and convictions of foreign nationals in China, Great Britain, Italy, Nigeria, Portugal, Romania, Turkey, and Estonia”.

Nasa said it was working to implement the security improvements Mr Martin suggested in his testimony.

However the chairman of the congressional subcommittee, Rep Paul Broun, quoted in an online report of proceedings, said: “Despite this progress, the threat to Nasa’s information security is persistent, and ever changing. Unless Nasa is able to constantly adapt – their data, systems, and operations will continue to be endangered.”

 

DHS pinpoints government computers set to lose Internet access

By Aliya Sternstein 02/27/2012

The Obama administration employed a new governmentwide network surveillance tool and private sector assistance to search for corrupted agency computers that are at risk of going offline in less than two weeks, Homeland Security Department officials said.

The DNSChanger virus had infected half of the government’s major agencies as of early 2012, security firm Internet Identity reported on Feb. 2. Researchers there found 27 of 55 government departments had at least one corrupted computer or router. DHS officials on Sunday evening said they could neither confirm nor deny the assessment.

“DHS identified infected agencies by leveraging multiple sources to ensure we have the most comprehensive accounting of machines infected within the dot-gov,” spokesman Peter Boogaard said, referring to the new technology, information from industry and government partners, and data feeds. “Each organization is actively implementing mitigation strategies to alleviate infections.”

DNSChanger, which federal agents started eradicating last year, worked by commanding compromised machines in a botnet to communicate with rogue servers that redirected the victims to fraudulent websites.

The worm changes the computer settings that ordinarily allow users to communicate with Domain Name System servers for navigating to the right sites. Legitimate servers, operated by Internet service providers, act like a telephone operator, looking up Web address in the Internet’s phone book, or Domain Name System. DNS translates alphabetic website names, like Amazon.com, into a series of numbers that computers need for direction. The rogue DNS servers connected victims — or “bots,” as in robots — to the wrong, and sometimes illegal, sites.

The FBI temporarily solved the problem by seizing the bad servers and getting a court order to automatically connect the infected computers with clean servers until March 8. After that, victims could lose Internet connectivity, government officials say.

“The DHS has been engaged with federal agencies to determine impacts and options for the inevitable power down of the FBI-controlled servers,” Boogaard said.

The clean servers were meant to buy time for ISPs and their customers to remove the malicious software. But, now, more than 400,000 computer users in federal agencies, companies, the nonprofit community, and homes worldwide remain dependent on those servers for Internet access, according to Justice Department officials.

DHS officials said they were able to find the agencies hit partly by inputting the footprints of DNSChanger into Einstein, a governmentwide threat-monitoring system. “Various indicators were injected into Einstein sensors to identify victims,” Boogaard explained.

The tool has been activated at 17 of the 19 agencies intended to be covered by the program, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano told lawmakers earlier this month. The department has requested $345 million in its 2013 budget to enhance Einstein with an intrusion-prevention component that can halt breaches before harm is done.

Department officials said they also learned of targets by sharing intelligence with the FBI, ISPs and the Internet Systems Consortium, a nonprofit organization running the temporary servers that the contaminated computers are still contacting.

On Feb. 17, Justice, with the backing of Homeland Security, sought another court order to let the consortium continue operating the clean servers until July 9 so that the remaining victims can be notified and assisted. About a week ago, officials asked the judge to expedite the process by skipping the normal two-week wait period for rendering a decision, according to court documents.

On Wednesday, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski characterized botnets as one of the most significant cyber threats and called on ISPs to adopt voluntary agreements to address the menace. Specifically, he urged that providers detect infections in customers’ computers, teach customers how to spot signs they are being exploited, and offer remedies.

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White House, NSA weigh cybersecurity, personal privacy

By Ellen Nakashima, Published: February 27

The National Security Agency has pushed repeatedly over the past year to expand its role in protecting private-sector computer networks from cyberattacks but has been rebuffed by the White House, largely because of privacy concerns, according to administration officials and internal documents.

The most contentious issue was a legislative proposal last year that would have required hundreds of companies that provide such critical services as electricity generation to allow their Internet traffic to be continuously scanned using computer threat data provided by the spy agency. The companies would have been expected to turn over evidence of potential cyberattacks to the government.

NSA officials portrayed such measures as unobtrusive ways to protect the nation’s vital infrastructure from what they said are increasingly dire threats of devastating cyberattacks.

But the White House and Justice Department argued that the proposal would permit unprecedented government monitoring of routine civilian Internet activity, according to documents and officials familiar with the debate. They spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe administration deliberations. Internal documents reviewed by The Washington Post backed these descriptions.

White House officials cautioned the NSA that President Obama has opposed cybersecurity measures that weaken personal privacy protections. They also warned the head of the spy agency, Army Gen. Keith Alexander, to restrain his public comments after speeches in which he argued that more expansive legal authority was necessary to defend the nation against cyberattacks, according to several officials.

“We have had to remind him to at least be cognizant of what the administration’s policy positions are, so if he’s openly advocating for something beyond that, that is undermining the commander in chief,” an administration official said.

The debate, which is surfacing as Congress considers landmark cyber-legislation, turns on what means are necessary and appropriate to protect vital private-sector systems from attack by China, Russia or other potential adversaries. Even some criminal gangs and hackers, such as the self-styled activist group Anonymous, increasingly may acquire the tools to mount major assaults on the nation’s computer systems, U.S. officials say.

NSA officials said that they have issued warnings about such threats but that they have not sought to establish policy.

“As a major source of the nation’s technical expertise on cyber and cybersecurity, we have a responsibility to ensure our leaders are informed and aware of what is happening in the cyber-realm,” NSA spokeswoman Judith Emmel said. “We also work diligently to team with other agencies, industry and academia to find solutions to protecting our nation’s critical infrastructure.”

Protecting key industries

The proposal was intended to supplement an administration legislative package, unveiled in May, that NSA officials thought did not go far enough in protecting critical industries such as nuclear power, according to administration officials. The proposal was put forth by the Defense Department, which includes the NSA, and the Department of Homeland Security.

The proposal drew on a Pentagon pilot program launched last year in which Internet service providers used the NSA’s library of threat data to scan e-mails and other computer traffic flowing to and from the nation’s top defense contractors . That program was a response to fears that foreign spy services were using cyber-technology to steal corporate or U.S. military secrets.

A Pentagon-commissioned report in November validated the concept but said the effectiveness of such an approach remained uncertain.

The NSA, however, saw the program as a model for expanding its role in protecting other potentially significant targets of cyberattacks. The proposed legislation would have made participation in an expanded program mandatory for designated industries that didn’t reach certain security benchmarks on their own after one year, according to a draft copy of the legislation and officials.

The reason, NSA officials said in internal administration discussions, is that the companies have not shown that they are capable of defeating the rapidly evolving universe of cyberthreats. By the time a major attack on a water system or nuclear plant is discovered, it might be too late to thwart it.

“In order to stop it, you have to see it in real time, and you have to have those authorities,” Alexander, who is also head of the U.S. military’s Cyber Command, said in remarks at Fordham University in New York last month. “Those are the conditions that we have put on the table. Now, how and what the administration and Congress choose, that will be a policy issue.”

His remarks prompted calls to the Pentagon and White House from congressional staff members wondering whether the administration was seeking new powers for the NSA, said several government officials with knowledge of the exchanges.

Fierce debate

The NSA proposal, called Tranche 2, sparked fierce debate within the administration. It would have required an estimated 300 to 500 companies with a role in critical infrastructure systems to allow their Internet carrier or some other company to scan their computer networks for malicious software using government threat data. The Department of Homeland Security, which helped develop the plan, would have designated which companies were required to participate.

NSA officials say this process would have been automated, preventing intrusions into the personal privacy of ordinary users visiting Web sites or exchanging electronic messages with friends.

Only when a scan identified a potential threat would analysts become involved to assess what the software had identified and use it to devise better tools to stop such threats, the agency said in the internal administration debates. Identifying information on specific Internet users would have been blocked.

Agency officials took exception to suggestions that such a procedure amounted to “monitoring” of private-sector Internet traffic, something that Obama has specifically and publicly opposed.

In an interview with The Post, NSA Deputy Director John C. Inglis said, “At no time was there, from the NSA perspective, a proposal that the government enter into an arrangement where it would monitor private-sector networks.”

But the White House and other agencies, including the departments of Justice and Commerce, said the proposal left open the possibility that large Internet carriers themselves could be designated critical entities. This, they said, might have allowed scanning for cyberthreats of virtually all Internet traffic on behalf of the government, opening a more-expansive window into American behavior online.

Officials also worried about the the effectiveness of the approach and the costs to participating industries. Senior officials at numerous government agencies reviewed the NSA proposal. At a White House meeting in August, Tranche 2 was killed, said officials with knowledge of the debate.

“At the end of the day, it was shut down because it looked way too much like a government monitoring program,” a second administration official said.

More recently, in January, NSA officials expressed concern when the White House blocked draft legislation being prepared by a Senate Intelligence Committee staffer that would enable any government agency to monitor private computer networks for cyberthreats and to take measures to counter those threats, according to administration officials and documents. These sources include draft versions of legislation and internal communications discussing them.

A revised version of the bill, which is part of the cyber-legislation introduced in Congress this month, would allow only private-sector entities to monitor networks and to operate the countermeasures.

The issue, said James A. Lewis, a cyber-policy expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, is one of trust. He said that he trusts the NSA to handle the data responsibly but that “the oversight we have in place isn’t enough to reassure everyone the data are not being used for other purposes.”

White House resistance to giving the NSA a greater role in protecting Internet traffic worries some other cyberexperts, who say that private industry should be required to turn over evidence of cyberthreats to the government.

“We’re desperately late in doing this,” said Alan Paller, research director at the SANS Institute, a Bethesda-based cyber-training organization. “Our future economic well-being and future national security are at stake if we don’t mandate it.”

 

Google exec hints of Android 5.0 release this fall

Pattern of earlier releases suggests fall, but Lockheimer says Google wants to be ‘flexible’ on timing

Matt Hamblen

 

February 27, 2012 (Computerworld)

BARCELONA — Google isn’t offering much information about the forthcoming Android 5.0, even though there are rumors saying that the new version of the operating system will be available on a smartphone by early summer.

It’s more likely that it will be rolled out in the fall, based on comments made by Hiroshi Lockheimer, vice president of engineering for mobile at Google. He spoke with Computerworld at Mobile World Congress here on Monday.

“After Android 4 comes 5, and we haven’t announced the timing yet, which we’re still sorting out,” Lockheimer said. “There’s a lot of engineering work behind it still, and there’s also just the question of how to time it.”

Lockheimer added: “In general, the Android release cadence is one major release a year with some maintenance releases that are substantial still.” That statement would suggest a fall 2012 time frame for the release of Android 5.0, given that Android 4.0 was released last November, he acknowledged.

Nonetheless, Lockheimer added a caveat: “Having said that, we’re flexible. The [timing of releases] is not what drives us, but what does is innovation and offering users a great experience.”

Lockheimer wouldn’t divulge the dessert that will be used as a code name for Android 5.0, which follows Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS), as Version 4.0 is known. Google is already getting suggestions for sweets that begin with the letter J, he said. Earlier versions of the mobile operating system were called Cup Cake (1.5) , Donut (2.0), Eclair (2.1), Froyo (2.2), Gingerbread (2.3) and Honeycomb (3.0).

Google is still enjoying the success of Android 4.0, a version that was well received by developers and users. At MWC, the large Google exhibit area, located in the back corner of a major exhibition hall, was crowded with visitors who wanted to see dozens of Google partners show off their ICS-related applications.

One Google partner, Wyse Technologies, uses Android Beam technology in ICS to run its NFC software, which is designed to initiate file transfers between devices.

Wyse employees placed one Galaxy Nexus phone near another Galaxy Nexus phone to give the second device permission to access a file kept in the cloud or on a PC. The actual download of the file to the second phone was sent over Wi-Fi, but a 3G network or other wireless signal could be used. NFC is too constrained to transfer the actual file, they said.

Lockheimer said Android Beam has led to dozens of other applications, many of them sold in Android Market, including an app that allows two users to share a video by bringing two NFC phones close together, even when the clip is in midstream. StumbleUpon demonstrated a similar technology at its booth inside the Google exhibit area.

Lockheimer listed several improvements in Ice Cream Sandwich that have been popular with users, including data-usage and battery-usage meters and widgets on the home screen.

While ICS was center stage at Google’s booth, many users have expressed frustration that the operating system’s new features are not yet available on devices running older Android versions. Lockheimer acknowledged that there is frustration over receiving ICS upgrades in a timely manner, which was why the Android Upgrade Alliance was announced at last year’s Google I/O conference. The premise of the group was that phone manufacturers and wireless carriers would provide timely upgrades of devices during their first 18 months on the market.

“The alliance is definitely making a difference,” Lockheimer said. “We’re making the upgrade process better and are passionate about it…. There’s a lot of progress being made toward making upgrades smoother.”

But “getting upgrades to users is very complicated,” Lockheimer added. “By the time you add up all the players, it’s a big pipeline, a big assembly line, with lots of parts. Everyone needs to be working in tight coordination.”

Lockheimer wouldn’t divulge any specific directions for the next version of Android. “Things we will add in the future are around simplicity and power [simultaneously],” he said. “That’s an ongoing theme at Google, and increasingly so.” Those simultaneous directions are meant to satisfy both sophisticated users and beginners to Android, he explained.

“We’re proud of our work in the OS, and we want to offer a polished experience [in the future] that’s even faster and smoother.” he said. “We call that ‘butter,’ which can take many forms.” Future versions of Android, he quipped, “should run even faster and smoother, and even butter-er.”

Android was founded on the principle of openness, which means it has been customized by carriers and manufacturers alike, so those groups can provide unique features to differentiate themselves, Lockheimer noted. Google is satisfied that some users want plain vanilla Android on their smartphones and tablets, while other users, carriers and device makers want the added layers that support customization, he added.

“Having both traits [of plain vanilla and highly customized Android phones] is a strength of Android,” Lockheimer said. “How did Android get here? It was through openness. And by the way, you can customize it. As long you don’t mess with its compatibility, you can customize it. That’s the secret of our success. [Device makers and carriers] don’t all want to do the same thing as one another; they want to innovate.”

At the same time, Lockheimer said Google is well aware that “some users prefer our true Google experience,” which is one reason that Ice Cream Sandwich includes the ability to strip off many apps and functions added by manufacturers and carriers.

“If you prefer plain ICS, you can disable the [added] apps,” he said. “One slice does not fit all. This way, you can have your cake and eat it too.”

 

LightSquared CEO resigns, will remain chairman

Washington Post

Fb 28, 2012

By Steven Overly

The chief executive of Reston-based LightSquared has resigned from the company’s top position, the firm announced Tuesday, the latest sign of tumult after the Federal Communication Commission revoked its prior approval of the company’s wireless network earlier this month.

Sanjiv Ahuja, who has served as CEO since the venture launched in July 2010, will remain chairman of the board. Doug Smith, chief network officer, and Marc Montagner, chief financial officer, will serve as interim co-chief operating officers while the company searches for a new CEO.

Ahuja’s resignation comes one week after the firm said it would lay off 45 percent of its 330 staff members, about two-thirds of whom are located in the Washington region. The company has denied rumors it will consider filing for bankruptcy.

LightSquared was formed by hedge fund billionaire Philip Falcone’s investment fund, Harbinger Capital, with a commitment of $14 billion, The Washington Post has reported. Falcone will join the firm’s board of director’s according to the news release.

A spokesman for Ahuja declined to comment beyond the news release. A call to the company’s spokesman has not yet been returned.

LightSquared is seeking to build a wholesale wireless network that pairs an on-the-ground broadband infrastructure with satellites. Those plans hit a major snag after several federal agencies and industry leaders said the signals would interfere with global positioning technology.

 

Senate Budget Committee (Budget Request)

As Submitted by Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta, Capitol Hill, Washington D.C., Tuesday, February 28, 2012

 

Chairman Conrad, Senator Sessions, members of the committee.  Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you to discuss the President’s budget request for Fiscal Year 2013 (FY13) for the Department of Defense. 

 

As a former Chairman of the House Budget Committee and Director of the Office of Management and Budget, I have a deep appreciation for the important role played by this committee in helping set the federal government’s overall spending priorities.  It is a tough job, but it is a critical responsibility, particularly given the significant challenges we are facing as a country.  Our economy is still recovering from an historic recession.  We are grappling with very large debt and deficits that over the long-term threaten our nation’s fiscal solvency.  Meanwhile, we remain a nation at war, and we are confronting a complex range of security challenges that threaten global stability and our homeland.

I recognize that there are vigorous debates in Washington about the proper role of government in confronting these challenges.  But if there is consensus on one thing, it is that one of the fundamental duties of the federal government is to protect our national security.  This is a responsibility for both political parties, and all branches of government.  And I know that as members of Congress you take this duty as seriously as I do as Secretary of Defense. 

In order to protect our national security, I believe that we must maintain the strongest military in the world, and I am committed to sustaining our military strength as Secretary of Defense.  But that is not enough.  Our national security also depends on strong diplomacy, it also requires strong intelligence efforts.  Above all, protecting the nation requires a strong economy, fiscal discipline and effective government. 

As someone with a lifetime of experience developing and implementing budgets, I do not believe that we must choose between fiscal discipline and national security.  I believe we can maintain the strongest military in the world, and be part of a comprehensive solution to deficit reduction.  

 

Defense Strategy Review

We were able to achieve that balance because the FY13 budget request for the Department of Defense was the product of an intensive strategy review conducted by the senior military and civilian leaders of the Department under the advice and guidance of President Obama.  The reasons for this review are clear:  first, the United States is at a strategic turning point after a decade of war and substantial growth in defense budgets.  Second, given the size of our debt and deficits, Congress passed the Budget Control Act of 2011, imposing limits that led to a reduction in the defense base budget of $487 billion over the next decade.        

We at the Department decided that the fiscal situation presented us with the opportunity to establish a new strategy for the force of the future, and that strategy has guided us in making the decisions contained in the President’s budget.  These decisions reflect the fact that we are at an important turning point that would have required us to make a strategic shift under any circumstances.  The U.S. military’s mission in Iraq has ended.  We still have a tough fight on our hands in Afghanistan, but 2011 marked significant progress in reducing violence and transitioning to Afghan-led responsibility for security ? and we are on track to complete that transition by the end of 2014, in accordance with our Lisbon commitments.  Last year, the NATO effort in Libya also concluded with the fall of Qadhafi.  And successful counterterrorism efforts have significantly weakened al-Qaeda and decimated its leadership. 

But despite what we have been able to achieve, unlike past drawdowns when threats have receded, the United States still faces a complex array of security challenges across the globe:  We are still a nation at war in Afghanistan; we still face threats from terrorism; there is dangerous proliferation of lethal weapons and materials; the behavior of Iran and North Korea threaten global stability; there is continuing turmoil and unrest in the Middle East; rising powers in Asia are testing international relationships; and there are growing concerns about cyber intrusions and attacks.  Our job is to meet these challenges and at the same time, meet our responsibility to fiscal discipline.  This is not an easy task, but is one that I believe is within our grasp if we all do our part for the American people.                

To build the force we need for the future, we developed new strategic guidance that consists of five key elements:

First, the military will be smaller and leaner, but it will be agile, flexible, ready and technologically advanced.

Second, we will rebalance our global posture and presence to emphasize Asia-Pacific and the Middle East.

Third, we will build innovative partnerships and strengthen key alliances and partnerships elsewhere in the world.

Fourth, we will ensure that we can quickly confront and defeat aggression from any adversary ? anytime, anywhere.

Fifth, we will protect and prioritize key investments in technology and new capabilities, as well as our capacity to grow, adapt and mobilize as needed.  

 

Strategy to FY13 Budget

We developed this new strategic guidance before any final budget decisions were made to ensure that the budget choices reflected the new defense strategy. 

While shaping this strategy, we did not want to repeat the mistakes of the past.  Our goals were:  to maintain the strongest military in the world, to not “hollow out” the force, to take a balanced approach to budget cuts, to put everything on the table, and to not break faith with troops and their families.  Throughout the review we also made sure this was an inclusive process.  General Dempsey and I worked closely with the leadership of the Services and Combatant Commanders, and consulted regularly with members of Congress. 

As a result of these efforts, the Department is strongly united behind the President’s budget request for fiscal 2013, and the Future Years Defense Plan. 

 

Defense Topline

The President’s budget requests $525.4 billion in FY13 for the base budget of the Department of Defense and $88.5 billion to support the war efforts.  In order to be consistent with Title I of the Budget Control Act, our FY13 base budget request had to be roughly $45 billion less than we had anticipated it would be under last year’s budget plan.  Over the next five years, defense spending under the FY13 budget will be $259 billion less than we had planned for in the FY12 budget ? a difference of nearly nine percent.  Over the ten years starting in FY12, it will be reduced by $487 billion.  This represents a significant change to our defense spending plans, and in order to meet these new budget targets and our national security responsibilities, we had to fundamentally reshape our defense spending priorities, based on our new defense strategy.    

Whereas under last year’s budget we had planned for several years of modest real growth in the defense base budget, the $525.4 billion base budget request for FY13 represents a decline of more than two percent over last year’s enacted level in real dollar terms. 

At the same time, we expect total defense spending, which includes war-related costs, to be reduced significantly over the next five years.  Given the drawdown in Iraq and the ongoing transition in Afghanistan, funding requests for overseas contingency operations have already begun to decrease sharply. After adjustment for inflation, we expect total defense spending to be down by more than 20 percent, mostly because of the drop in war costs.  This decline is roughly consistent with the size of the drawdowns after Vietnam and the Cold War ? although we are determined to implement these reductions in a manner that avoids a hollow force and other mistakes of the past.   

While the defense base budget will not be significantly reduced over the next five years ? in fact, it will remain above 2008 levels after adjusting for inflation ? the Department has historically required modest real growth in force structure and modernization accounts in order to maintain our force structure without hollowing out the force.  That means that even with a defense base budget that is roughly flat in real dollar terms, we will have to get smaller in order to maintain a ready, agile, and deployable force. 

I believe that this pattern of defense investment is both appropriate and sustainable within the overall federal budget.  Spending on the defense base budget has increased by about 30 percent in real terms since 2001, and by fiscal 2013, it will make up 45 percent of all Federal discretionary budget authority.  That said, the defense base budget will represent only 3.2 percent of GDP in 2013 ? and as our economy continues to grow, we project that percentage will fall to 2.8 percent by 2017.

Ultimately, we need to base our investment in national defense not on numbers but on strategy, and a clear-eyed assessment of the risks and threats that exist to our national security.  Given the complex and dangerous world we continue to inhabit, the President’s proposal for spending on the defense base budget represents the investment we need to provide an adequate defense for the nation. 

There is no doubt that our budget deficits are too high and that, as the economy recovers, we need to reduce deficits in order to strengthen our long-term economic outlook and protect our national security.  The Department of Defense has stepped up to the plate with its share of the cuts needed to meet the original caps enacted under the Budget Control Act.  But with these record deficits, no budget can be balanced on the back of discretionary spending alone.

Based on my own budget experience, I strongly believe that Congress and the Administration need to put all areas of the federal budget on the table and work together to achieve sufficient deficit reduction, in a balanced way, to avoid the sequester provisions contained in Title III of the Budget Control Act.  Sequester would subject the Department to another roughly $500 billion in additional cuts over the next nine years, and in FY13, these cuts would have to be implemented with limited flexibility.  These changes could hollow out the force and inflict severe damage to our national defense and programs that are vital to our quality of life. 

I understand that sequester is designed to force the Congress to confront the hard choices that must be made in any serious effort to deal with the deficit.  We all recognize what those hard choices are.  They involve dealing with mandatory spending, which represent almost two-thirds of the federal budget, and additional revenues.  It’s a matter of simple arithmetic that discretionary spending, which accounts for only one-third of the federal budget, cannot be expected to contribute 100 percent to our deficit reduction efforts. 

History has made clear that real deficit reduction only happens when everything is on the table ? discretionary, mandatory spending, and revenues.  That has been true for every major deficit reduction plan enacted by the Congress in recent history.  

We still have time to avert sequestration, and the President’s FY13 budget represents a path to doing so.  The President’s FY13 budget proposes a balanced plan to produce about $4 trillion in savings, including the $1.0 trillion in deficit reduction already generated by the Budget Control Act’s discretionary caps.  The President’s plan would add mandatory savings and revenue increases to the already enacted discretionary cuts.  If enacted, this proposal would provide a basis for halting sequestration, while ensuring the maintenance of a strong national defense.

 

Accommodating Defense Budget Cuts

Let me turn now to the changes we made to accommodate the reductions required to be consistent with the Budget Control Act.  I believe that these changes offer convincing evidence that we have made tough choices in the Department of Defense, and that we are doing our part to help achieve the national security imperative of deficit reduction while making decisions that fit within our overall defense strategy. 

The $259 billion in five year savings from defense that are part of this plan come from three broad areas:

First, efficiencies – we redoubled efforts to make more disciplined use of taxpayer dollars, yielding about one quarter of the target savings;

Second, force structure and procurement adjustments – we made strategy-driven changes in force structure and procurement programs, achieving roughly half of the savings;

Finally, compensation – we made modest but important adjustments in personnel costs to achieve some necessary cost savings in this area, which represents one third of the budget but accounted for a little more than 10 percent of the total reduction.

The remaining reductions reflect economic changes and other shifts. Let me walk through these three areas, beginning with our efforts to discipline our use of defense dollars.

More Disciplined Use of Defense Dollars

If we are to tighten up the force, I felt we have to begin by tightening up the operations of the Department.  This budget continues efforts to reduce excess overhead, eliminate waste, and improve business practices across the department.  The more savings realized in this area, the less spending reductions required for modernization programs, force structure, and military compensation. 

As you know, the FY12 budget proposed more than $150 billion in efficiencies between FY 2012 and FY 2016, and we continue to implement those changes.  This budget identifies about $60 billion in additional savings over five years.  Across the military services, new efficiency efforts over the next five years include:

The Army proposes to save $18.6 billion through measures such as streamlining support functions, consolidating IT enterprise services, and rephasing military construction projects;

The Navy proposes to save $5.7 billion by implementing strategic sourcing of commodities and services, consolidating inventory, and other measures;

The Air Force proposes to save $6.6 billion by reducing service support contractors and rephasing military construction projects;

Other proposed DoD-wide efficiency savings over the next five years total $30.1 billion, including reductions in expenses in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Defense Agencies.

As part of these initiatives, we are continuing the initiative to improve the Department’s buying power by seeking greater efficiency and productivity in the acquisition of goods and services.  We are strengthening acquisition support to the warfighter, executing acquisitions more efficiently, preserving the industrial base, and strengthening the acquisition workforce.  This budget assumes that these policies produce savings of $5.3 billion over the next five years.

In terms of military infrastructure, we will need to ensure that our current basing and infrastructure requirements do not divert resources from badly needed capabilities. 

As we reduce force structure, we have a responsibility to provide the most cost efficient support for the force.  For that reason, the President will request that Congress authorize the Base Realignment and Closure process for 2013 and 2015.  As someone who went through BRAC, I realize how controversial this process can be for members and constituencies.  And yet, it is the only effective way to achieve infrastructure savings. 

Achieving audit readiness is another key initiative that will help the Department achieve greater discipline in its use of defense dollars.  The Department needs auditable financial statements to comply with the law, to strengthen its own internal processes, and to reassure the public that it continues to be a good steward of federal funds.  In October 2011, I directed the Department to emphasize this initiative and accelerate efforts to achieve fully auditable financial statements.  Among other specific goals, I directed the Department achieve audit readiness of the Statement of Budgetary Resources for general funds by the end of calendar year 2014, and to meet the legal requirements to achieve full audit readiness for all Defense Department financial statements by 2017.  We are also implementing a course-based certification program for defense financial managers in order to improve training in audit readiness and other areas, with pilot programs beginning this year.  We now have a plan in place to meet these deadlines, including specific goals, financial resources, and a governance structure.

These are all critically important efforts to ensure the Department operates in the most efficient manner possible.  Together, these initiatives will help ensure the Department can preserve funding for the force structure and modernization needed to support the missions of our force.    

Strategy-driven Changes in Force Structure and Programs

But it is obvious that efficiencies are not enough to achieve the required savings.  Budget reductions of this magnitude require significant adjustments to force structure and procurement investments.  The choices we made reflected five key elements of the defense strategic guidance and vision for the military.

  • Build a force that is smaller and leaner, but agile, flexible, ready and technologically advanced  

We knew that coming out of the wars, the military would be smaller.  But to ensure an agile force, we made a conscious choice not to maintain more force structure than we could afford to properly train and equip.  We are implementing force structure reductions consistent with the new strategic guidance for a total savings of about $50 billion over the next five years.

These adjustments include:                                                                                 

Gradually resizing the active Army to 490,000 soldiers;

Gradually resizing the active Marine Corps to 182,100 Marines;

Reducing and streamlining the Air Force’s airlift fleet.  The Air Force will maintain a fleet of 275 strategic airlifters and 318 C-130s – a fleet more than capable of meeting the airlift requirements of the new strategy.  In addition, the Air Force will eliminate seven Tactical Air squadrons but retain a robust force of 54 combat-coded fighter squadrons, maintaining the capabilities and capacity needed to meet the new strategic guidance;

The Navy will retire seven lower priority Navy cruisers that have not been upgraded with ballistic missile defense capability or that would require significant repairs, as well as two dock landing ships.

  • Rebalance global posture and presence to emphasize Asia-Pacific and the Middle East 

The strategic guidance made clear that we must protect capabilities needed to project power in Asia-Pacific and the Middle East.  To this end, this budget:

Maintains the current bomber fleet;

Maintains the aircraft carrier fleet at a long-term level of 11 ships and 10 air wings;

Maintains the big-deck amphibious fleet;

Restores Army and Marine Corps force structure in the Pacific after the drawdown from Iraq and as we drawdown in Afghanistan, while maintaining a strong presence in the Middle East. 

The budget also makes selected new investments to ensure we develop new capabilities needed to maintain our military’s continued freedom of action in face of new challenges that could restrict our ability to project power in key territories and domains. 

Other key power projection investments in FY13 include:

$300 million to fund the next generation Air Force bomber (and a total of $6.3 billion over the next five years);

$1.8 billion to develop the new Air Force tanker;

$18.2 billion for the procurement of 10 new warships, including two Virginia-class submarines, two Aegis-class destroyers, four Littoral Combat Ships, one Joint High Speed Vessel, and one CVN-21-class aircraft carrier.  We are also investing $100 million to increase cruise missile capacity of future Virginia-class submarines; 

  • Build innovative partnerships and strengthen key alliances and partnerships

The strategy makes clear that even though Asia-Pacific and the Middle East represent the areas of growing strategic priority, the United States will work to strengthen its key alliances, to build partnerships and to develop innovative ways such as rotational deployments to sustain U.S. presence elsewhere in the world.

To that end, this budget makes key investments in NATO and other partnership programs, including $200 million in FY13 and nearly $900 million over the next five years in the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance system. 

The new strategy also envisions a series of organizational changes that will boost efforts to partner with other militaries.  These include allocating a U.S.-based brigade to the NATO Response Force and rotating U.S.-based units to Europe for training and exercises; and increasing opportunities for Special Operations Forces to advise and assist partners in other regions.

  • Ensure that we can confront and defeat aggression from any adversary – anytime, anywhere

This budget invests in space, cyberspace, long range precision-strike and the continued growth of special operations forces to ensure that we can still confront and defeat multiple adversaries even with the force structure reductions outlined earlier.  It also sustains the nuclear triad of bombers, missiles and submarines to ensure we continue to have a safe, reliable and effective nuclear deterrent.

Even with some adjustments to force structure, this budget sustains a military that is the strongest in the world, capable of quickly and decisively confronting aggression wherever and whenever necessary.  After planned reductions, the FY17 joint force will consist of:

An Army of more than one million active and reserve soldiers with 18 Divisions, approximately 65 Brigade Combat Teams, 21 Combat Aviation Brigades and associated enablers.

A Naval battle force of 285 ships – the same size force that we have today -that will remain the most powerful and flexible naval force on earth, able to prevail in any combat situation, including the most stressing anti-access environments.  Our maritime forces will include 11 carriers, 9 large deck amphibious ships, 82 guided missile cruisers and destroyers, and 50 nuclear powered attack submarines.

A Marine Corps with 31 infantry battalions, 10 artillery battalions and 20 tactical air squadrons. 

An Air Force that will continue to ensure air dominance with 54 combat coded fighter squadrons and the current bomber fleet.  Our Air Force will also maintain a fleet of 275 strategic airlifters, 318 C-130s and a new aerial refueling tanker. 

  • Protect and prioritize key investments, and the capacity to grow, adapt and mobilize

The force we are building will retain a decisive technological edge, leverage the lessons of recent conflicts and stay ahead of the most lethal and disruptive threats of the future.        

            To that end, the FY13 budget:

Provides $11.9 billion for science and technology to preserve our ability to leap ahead, including $2.1 billion for basic research.

Provides $10.4 billion (base and OCO) to sustain the continued growth in Special Operations Forces;

Provides $3.8 billion for Unmanned Air Systems. We slowed the buy of the Reaper aircraft to allow us time to develop the personnel and training infrastructure necessary to make full use of these important aircraft. 

Provides $3.4 billion in cyber activities.  We are investing in full spectrum cyber operations capabilities to address the threats we see today and in the future;

At the same time, the strategic guidance recognizes the need to prioritize and distinguish urgent modernization needs from those that can be delayed – particularly in light of schedule and cost problems.  Therefore this budget identifies about $75 billion in savings over five years resulting from canceled or restructured programs.  Key modifications and associated savings over the next five years include:

$15.1 billion in savings from restructuring the Joint Strike Fighter by delaying aircraft purchases to allow more time for development and testing;

$13.1 billion by reducing investment in procurement of ships, while continuing to focus on the higher-capability vessels most needed to carry out our defense strategy;

$1.3 billion in savings from delaying development of the Army’s Ground Combat Vehicle due to contracting difficulties;

$4.3 billion in savings from delaying the next generation of ballistic missile submarines by two years for affordability and management reasons;

We will also terminate selected programs, including:

The Block 30 version of Global Hawk, which has grown in cost to the point where it is no longer cost effective, resulting in savings of $2.5 billion; and

The weather satellite program, because we can depend on existing satellites, resulting in savings of $2.3 billion;

We have also invested in a balanced portfolio of capabilities that will enable our force to remain agile, flexible and technologically advanced enough to meet any threat.  To that end, ground forces will retain the key enablers and know-how to conduct long-term stability operations, and the Army will retain more mid-grade officers and NCOs.  These steps will ensure we have the structure and experienced leaders necessary should we need to re-grow the force quickly. 

Another element is to maintain a capable and ready National Guard and Reserve.  The Reserve Component has demonstrated its readiness and importance over the past ten years of war, and we must ensure that it remains available, trained, and equipped to serve in an operational capacity when necessary. 

Another key part of preserving our ability to quickly adapt and mobilize is a strong and flexible industrial base.  This budget recognizes that industry is our partner in the defense acquisition enterprise. 

 

Ensuring Quality of the All-Volunteer Force

Now to the most fundamental element of our strategy and our decision-making process:  our people.  This budget recognizes that they, far more than any weapons system or technology, are the great strength of our United States military.  All told, the FY13 budget requests $135.1 billion for the pay and allowances of military personnel and $8.5 billion for family support programs vital to the well-being of service members and their families.

One of the guiding principles in our decision making process was that we must keep faith with our troops and their families.  For that reason, we were determined to protect family assistance programs, and we were able to sustain these important investments in this budget and continue efforts to make programs more responsive to the needs of troops and their families.  Yet in order to build the force needed to defend the country under existing budget constraints, the growth in costs of military pay and benefits must be put on a sustainable course.  This is an area of the budget that has grown by nearly 90 percent since 2001, or about 30 percent above inflation – while end strength has only grown by three percent. 

This budget contains a roadmap to address the costs of military pay, health care, and retirement in ways that are fair, transparent, and consistent with our fundamental commitments to our people. 

On military pay, there are no pay cuts.  We have created sufficient room to allow for full pay raises in 2013 and 2014 that keep pace with increases in the private sector.  However we will provide more limited pay raises beginning in 2015 – giving troops and their families fair notice and lead time before changes take effect.  Let me be clear:  nobody’s pay is cut in this budget nor will anyone’s pay be cut in the future years of this proposal. 

This budget devotes $48.7 billion to health care costs – an amount that has more than doubled over the last decade.  In order to continue to control the growth of these costs, we are recommending increases in health care fees, co-pays and deductibles to be phased in over four to five years.  None of the fee proposals in the budget would apply to active duty service members, and there will be no increases in health care fees or deductibles for families of active duty service members under this proposal.  Those most affected will be retirees – with the greatest impact on working-age retirees under the age of 65 still likely to be employed in the civilian sector.  Even with these changes, the costs borne by military retirees will remain below levels in most comparable private sector plans – as they should be.

            Proposed changes include:

Further increasing enrollment fees for retirees under age 65 in the TRICARE Prime program, using a tiered approach based on retired pay that requires senior-grade retirees with higher retired pay to pay more and junior-grade retirees less;

Establishing a new enrollment fee for the TRICARE-for-Life program for retirees 65 and older, using a tiered approach;

Implementing additional increases in pharmacy co-pays in a manner that increases incentives for use of mail order and generic medicine; and

Indexing fees, deductibles, pharmacy co-pays, and catastrophic caps to reflect the growth in national health care costs.

We also feel that the fair way to address military retirement costs is to ask Congress to establish a commission with authority to conduct a comprehensive review of military retirement.  But the President and the Department have made clear that the retirement benefits of those who currently serve must be protected by grandfathering their benefits.  For those who serve today I will request there be no changes in retirement benefits. 

 

A Balanced Package

Members of the committee:  putting together this balanced package has been a difficult undertaking and, at the same time, an important opportunity to shape the force we need for the future.  I believe we have developed a complete package, aligned to achieve our strategic aims. 

As a result, the FY13 request is a carefully balanced package that keeps America safe and sustains U.S. leadership abroad.  As you take a look at the individual parts of this plan, I encourage you to do what the Department has done:  to bear in mind the strategic trade-offs inherent in any particular budget decision, and the need to balance competing strategic objectives in a resource-constrained environment.  The best example of this balancing act is the size of the budget itself, which in my view strikes the right balance between both the fiscal and security responsibilities of the Department to the nation. 

But we will need your support and partnership to implement this vision of the future military.  I understand how tough these issues can be, and that this is the beginning and not the end of this process.  Make no mistake: the savings we are proposing will impact all 50 states.  But it was this Congress that mandated, on a bi-partisan basis, that we significantly reduce discretionary funding, which realistically leads to substantial cuts in the defense budget.  We need your partnership to do this in a manner that preserves the strongest military in the world.  This will be a test of whether reducing the deficit is about talk or action.

My hope is that now that we see the sacrifice involved in reducing the defense budget by almost half a trillion dollars, Congress – and this Committee in particular – will be convinced of its important responsibility to make sure that we avoid sequestration.    

The leadership of this department, both military and civilian, is united behind the strategy that we have presented, and this budget.  Like all strategies and all defense budgets, there are risks associated with this spending plan.  I cannot reduce the defense budget by almost half a trillion dollars and not incur additional risks.  In our judgment these risks are acceptable, but nevertheless these additional risks do exist.  Those risks primarily stem from the fact that we will be a smaller military.  Will our forces be able to mobilize quickly enough to respond to crises- Will we be able to compensate with more advanced technology- Can we ensure the continued health of the all-volunteer force and meet our obligations to transitioning service members so they don’t become part of the unemployment rolls-

We believe we can deal with these risks, and that the budget plan we have presented has an acceptable level of risk because it was developed base on our defense strategy.  But there will be little room for error.  If this Congress imposes more cuts in the defense budget, that will increase the risk and could make it impossible for us to execute the strategy we have developed.  And if sequester is triggered, this strategy will certainly have to be thrown out the window and the result will be risks that are unacceptably high.  So I really urge you to try to confront this issue and try to do everything you can to avoid that outcome, and to give us the opportunity to implement the strategy we have developed with the necessary and appropriate level of spending. 

I look forward to working closely with you in the months ahead to do what the American people expect of their leaders: be fiscally responsible in developing the force for the future – a force that can defend the country, a forced that supports our men and women in uniform, and a force that is, and always will be, the strongest military in the world.

 

Apple sets iPad 3 launch event for March 7

Invite hints the next tablet will lack a physical home button, offer higher-res screen

Computerworld

By Gregg Keizer

February 28, 2012 01:18 PM ET

 

Computerworld – As expected, Apple today issued invitations to the media for an event next Wednesday, March 7, where it’s expected to launch the next iPad.

Invitations were received by bloggers and reporters, including those with the IDG News Service, which is operated by IDG, the parent company of Computerworld.

The news confirmed earlier speculation that Apple would debut the newest iPad — which most have labeled iPad 3 — in early March, which later settled on March 7, the same day of the week Apple used to launch the original tablet in 2010 and last year’s iPad 2.

“We have something you really have to see. And touch,” read the invitation, which continues Apple’s tradition of keeping its invitation text cryptic.

 

 

 

Apple will host the launch event at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, a regular venue for the company’s press-only announcements and where former CEO Steve Jobs introduced the iPad 2 on March 2, 2011.

This will be the first time that Jobs, who died last October after a long battle with pancreatic cancer, will not host an iPad launch.

The event will kick off at 10 a.m. PT, and wrap up an hour or so later.

Most experts believe the iPad 3 will feature a higher-resolution screen, a faster processor — perhaps Apple’s first quad-core — and more internal memory. They have been split on whether the new tablet will support the faster LTE data networks like those now being deployed in the U.S. by Verizon and AT&T.

In an interview two weeks ago, Aaron Vronko, CEO of Rapid Repair, a repair shop and do-it-yourself parts supplier for the iPhone, iPod and iPad, said, “I’d be extremely surprised if the iPad 3 didn’t support LTE,” adding that because tablet users consume even more data than smartphone users, the faster speeds will be important as Apple faces competition from Android-powered tablets.

Verizon offers LTE in 195 U.S. markets, while AT&T boasts coverage in just 26 cities.

Apple has not said anything about the price of the new iPad — some recent rumors have claimed it will cost about $80 more than current models — when it will go on sale or even the official name of the tablet.

Prices, on-sale dates and naming are likely to be disclosed March 7.

 

Republican senators introduce their own cybersecurity bill

Grant Gross

March 1, 2012 (IDG News Service)

Seven senior Republican U.S. senators have introduced cybersecurity legislation after saying that an earlier bill would create costly regulations for businesses.

The sponsors of the new Strengthening and Enhancing Cybersecurity by Using Research, Education, Information, and Technology (SECURE IT) Act also complained that they did not have enough input on the earlier legislation.

The Republican senators, including John McCain of Arizona, Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas and Chuck Grassley of Iowa, introduced the SECURE IT Act on Thursday. They touted the bill as a less regulatory alternative to the Cybersecurity Act, a bill introduced by two Democrats, an independent and a Republican in February.

“The SECURE IT Act strengthens America’s cybersecurity by promoting collaboration and information-sharing, updating our criminal laws to account for the growing cyber threat and enhancing research programs to protect our critical networks,” McCain said in a statement. “This legislation will help us begin to meet the very real threat of cyber attack.”

The Cybersecurity Act would allow the secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to designate some private networks as critical infrastructure and require them to submit security plans to the agency. But the SECURE IT Act has no such regulations, instead focusing on encouraging private companies and the federal government to share more information about cyberthreats, sponsors said.

The new bill would give legal protections to private groups that share information about cyberthreats. The older bill also includes some information-sharing provisions, but critics have said legal protections would cover only businesses that share information with the U.S. government.

The new bill would also increase the prison terms for many cybercrimes, with the prison sentence for knowingly accessing a computer without authorization and obtaining national defense information increased from 10 to 20 years. The penalty for intentionally accessing a federal computer without authorization or a computer containing financial records would increase from one to three years, or from five to 10 years if the offense was committed for purposes of private financial gain.

The Cybersecurity Act does not change criminal penalties.

“Our bill represents a new way forward in protecting the American people and the country’s cyber infrastructure from attack,” Grassley said in a statement. “It’s a bill that can be supported by all partners that have an interest in cybersecurity. Instead of the heavy hand of the government, our approach promotes information sharing and keeps the taxpayers’ wallets close.”

Some groups had expressed concern that the new bill would allow the U.S. National Security Agency to monitor U.S. networks in the name of cybersecurity. The SECURE IT Act does not expand the NSA’s role, however.

The sponsors of the competing Cybersecurity Act, including Sen. Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut independent, said they were “encouraged” by lawmakers’ recognition of the need for new cybersecurity legislation.

Trade groups the United States Telecom Association (USTelecom), CTIA and TechAmerica all praised the new bill. TechAmerica, in a statement, encouraged the sponsors of the two bills to work together “to create the best possible, bipartisan framework to enhance our nation’s cybersecurity.”

USTelecom said it can support the new bill because it could strengthen cybersecurity “without creating new bureaucracies or regulatory mandates that would erode, rather than enhance, the ability of network providers to provide nimble and effective responses to cyberthreats.”

 

 

Science-and-engineering workforce has stalled in U.S., report says

Could that mean less innovation?    

Patrick Thibodeau

March 2, 2012 (Computerworld)

The U.S. has a remarkable track record of innovation and continues to lead the world in the development of many new technologies. Why, then, isn’t the nation’s science-and-engineering work force — the people responsible for much of that innovation — growing?

That’s a question posed by the Population Reference Bureau’s recent analysis of the science-and-engineering (S&E) workforce. As a percentage of the total labor force, S&E workers accounted for 4.9% of the workforce in 2010, a slight decline from the three previous years when these workers accounted for 5% of the workforce.

That percentage has been essentially flat for the past decade. In 2000, it stood at 5.3%.

Ideally, the S&E workforce — it numbers more than 7.6 million workers — would be expanding as a percentage of the labor force. That would mean U.S. companies are increasing their use of S&E workers.

There’s no clear explanation for this trend, either anecdotally or in the Bureau’s data. Take IBM. In the same week it announced a breakthrough in quantum computing, it laid off more than 1,400 workers. How many of those workers were in science and engineering is unknown, but IBM has steadily cut the number of employees in the U.S. as it expands in other countries.

I-Ling Shen, a senior research analyst and economist at the Milken Institute, looked at the PRB data and said there could be “a lot of explanations” for its findings. The data may indicate either a supply or demand problem for S&E workers, or it could be signaling a shift in the composition of the workforce, she said.

Regarding demand, wages for these workers have increased relative entire the workforce. If there had been a lack of demand, wages would have gone done, said Shen.

There are possibilities other than wages that may explain the flattening of the S&E workforce. The PRB’s data, which comes from the U.S. Census, defines S&E workers broadly, and includes those in labor-intensive jobs without advanced degrees who may have been replaced by automation, said Shen.

Another factor may be retirements. S&E workers who are 55 and older accounted for 13% of this workforce in 2005; they accounted for 18% in 2010. “This might imply that there aren’t enough young people entering the S&E labor force – and I really thought this might be a key issue,” said Shen.

Mark Mather, an associate vice president at PRB and a report author, said the decline may reflect job losses in high-end manufacturing. “I don’t think it’s good news if you got declines in fields that tend be higher paying and require more skills and higher levels of education — I don’t think it’s a good sign,” he said.

The data might not mean there is an outright shortage of S&E workers; it could indicate a combination of factors related to such things as the recession and offshoring. “I wouldn’t call it a positive development, but I didn’t want to paint it as a negative picture either, because I don’t know if it’s going to last,” said Mather.

The U.S. government believes that more S&E workers are needed and President Barack Obama last year called on the government to produce 10,000 more engineers a year.

 

 

Air Force considers dumping PCs for 1.2 million thin clients

NextGov.com

By Bob Brewin 03/02/2012

This story has been updated.

The Air Force could send personal computers to the junkyard by 2014, depending on the results of a study to replace them with thin clients — 1 million on unclassified networks and 220,000 on classified networks.

The Air Force Space Command said in a request for information to industry released Thursday that a switch to thin or zero clients could cut operations and maintenance costs and improve security.

The service currently uses PCs with hard drives, or fat clients, which store applications locally, while thin, or zero, clients access applications stored on remote servers. Zero clients consist of a keyboard, mouse and monitor with no local processing power, while thin clients have some built-in processing power to support rich graphics displays and multimedia applications.

Space Command said it plans to test the thin client architecture with 9,000 users on the unclassified network and 6,200 users on the classified network at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois. It did not specify a date.

Space Command, which manages the service’s networks through its Air Force Network Integration Center at Scott Air Force Base, said it wants industry input on an end-to-end thin client architecture to include all server hardware, client hardware, server/network-based storage, profile management capability, and zero/thin client hardware.

The goal and vision of the new thin client architecture is to allow Air Force personnel to access desktop PC capabilities through any kind of terminal, including commercial mobile phones and tablet computers, Space Command said. User sign-on to the unclassified thin client network would be controlled by Defense Department Common Access Cards with smart card tokens needed to enter the classified network.

The new thin client network would operate at more than 100 bases worldwide and would be structured to support 700,000 concurrent users on the unclassified network and 75,000 on the classified network, according to Space Command.

Teri Takai, the Defense Department’s chief information officer, said in a speech in February at conference in Colorado Springs sponsored by the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association, that the department plans to move away from its reliance on PCs and shift to thin clients. Marine Corps CIO Brig. Gen. Kevin Nally told the same conference that the Marines eventually could end up with more thin clients than PCs working off its networks as part of a shift to a virtual desktop environment.

Northrop Grumman Corp. tapped Beatty and Co., a thin client provider, as a subcontractor on its $637.8 million Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services contract to upgrade Navy shipboard networks

 

CBS’s “60 Minutes” Casts Its Eye on Stuxnet Worm

AllThingsDigital

Published on March 3, 2012

by Arik Hesseldahl

 

It’s been almost two years since the infamous and mysterious computer worm known as Stuxnet was first detected by a team of researchers in Belarus.

Opinions on this vary, but the worm that is said to have caused explosions at certain nuclear installations in Iran is thought to have set that country’s alleged nuclear energy and weapons ambitions back by as much as much as two years.

The fascination persists. Though no one has ever taken official responsibility for it — the leading suspects in its creation are Israel and the U.S., acting together or independently — Stuxnet is considered widely considered to have been the most successful and innovative weapon of digital warfare ever seen. And though numerous media accounts have, with the help of anonymous sources, filled in some of the narrative around its development, the subject of the covert cyber campaign against the Iranian nuclear program has generally remained outside the attention envelope of mainstream TV audiences.

That will change Sunday night when CBS’s popular television news documentary show “60 Minutes” turns its attention on Stuxnet, and the concept of offensive cyberwar generally.

If you’re not familiar with the particulars of Stuxnet, here’s a brief explanation: It’s a sophisticated worm that expert say required several months and millions of dollars to design. Via long-since-patched vulnerabilities in Microsoft Windows, it is designed to burrow its way into specialized industrial computers called programmable logic controllers made by the German industrial company Siemens. These PLCs sit between conventional computers and industrial machinery like factory equipment, generators and centrifuges used to create nuclear fuel. PLCs and systems like them are widely used and, in many cases, not well secured in part because they were never designed to be connected to the Internet.

(I first wrote about it in my last job in 2010 in stories found here and here.)

The story goes that the worm was first introduced to Iran via infected flash drives that were dropped around the outside of certain targeted facilities. The worm was carefully programmed to target a specific installation and to remain inert until it found its target. When it did, it seized control of some 1,000 Iranian nuclear centrifuges at Natanz, about 200 miles south of Tehran. While displaying seemingly normal operating conditions to workers there, the centrifuges were forced to spin out of control and effectively destroy themselves.

In a preview video released today (see below), “60 Minutes” correspondent Steve Kroft appears to get a tour of the U.S. Cyber Command, the military nerve center for U.S. cyberwar operations. And, in what’s likely to be considered a not-so-subtle message in certain circles, as you see Kroft getting his tour, it’s hard not to notice the screen behind him and his host shows a Google Maps image of Iran with lots of orange dots on it.

The report, for which CBS presumably got a lot of cooperation from the Pentagon, comes not long after the Obama Administration officially declared cyberspace as a theater of war, where the military can conduct both defensive and offensive operations, and that an attack on certain computer systems by other countries or terrorists is essentially equivalent to an attack against U.S. territory, property and people.

It’s not the first time that 60 Minutes has tackled the subject of cyberwar. In 2009, it first introduced TV viewers to the concept of using digital weapons to seize control of industrial infrastructure in order to sabotage it, and included some once-classified footage of test at the Idaho National Lab where a generator was destroyed using nothing more than computer code (though the same report contains now-discredited references to a power outage in Brazil that was once thought to have been the work of digital saboteurs). Aside from that, it older report serves as something of a lead-up to tomorrow’s story on Stuxnet.

It will be interesting to see if “60 Minutes” has unearthed anything new on Stuxnet that fills in any more of the picture surrounding its development and use. Neither the U.S. nor Israel has never acknowledge any involvement in its creation or use, Israeli officials have occasionally been described as “breaking into broad smiles” when asked about the subject. It will also be interesting to see of the program asks any important questions about the state of cyberwar post-Stuxnet. It’s pretty safe to assume that other parties have learned as much as they can about how it was created and how another worm like it might be created again.

What’s impossible to guess is where the next target is.

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