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May 12, 2012

May 14, 2012

12May2012

Newswire

 

Alerts say major cyber attack aimed at gas pipeline industry

Intrusions aimed at control systems, agency of Homeland Security warns

By Mark Clayton

Staff writer

Christian Science Monitor

updated 5/6/2012 1:13:23 AM ET2012-05-06T05:13:23

A major cyber attack is currently under way aimed squarely at computer networks belonging to US natural gas pipeline companies, according to alerts issued to the industry by the US Department of Homeland Security.

At least three confidential “amber” alerts – the second most sensitive next to “red” – were issued by DHS beginning March 29, all warning of a “gas pipeline sector cyber intrusion campaign” against multiple pipeline companies. But the wave of cyber attacks, which apparently began four months ago – and may also affect Canadian natural gas pipeline companies – is continuing.

That fact was reaffirmed late Friday in a public, albeit less detailed, “incident response” report from the Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team (ICS-CERT), an arm of DHS based in Idaho Falls. It reiterated warnings in the earlier confidential alerts made directly to pipeline companies and some power companies.

The ICS-CERT is charged with helping secure the nation’s industrial control systems – computerized systems that open and close valves, switches and factory processes vital to the chemical, industrial, and power sectors. Their “fly away” teams visit factories, power plants, and pipeline companies to investigate cyber intrusions.

“ICS-CERT has recently identified an active series of cyber intrusions targeting natural gas pipeline sector companies,” the confidential April 13 alert warns. “Multiple natural gas pipeline organizations have reported either attempts or intrusions related to this campaign. The campaign appears to have started in late December 2011 and is active today.”

Safeguarding industrial control systems from cyber attack is a major point of debate right now in Congress, which has been wrangling over whether to grant the federal government authority to require that vital sectors like the electric utility, oil and gas, and chemical industries meet certain levels of cyber security.

Approximately 200,000 miles of these interstate natural gas transmission pipelines in the US supply 25 percent of the nation’s energy. Pipeline safety has been a major issue in recent years, highlighted by the San Bruno, Calif. pipeline explosion that killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes in the Bay Area in September 2010.

In yesterday’s public warning, ICS-CERT re-affirms that its “analysis of the malware and artifacts associated with these cyber attacks has positively identified this activity as related to a single campaign from a single source. It goes on to broadly describe a sophisticated “spear-phishing” campaign – an approach in which cyber attackers attempt to establish digital beachheads within corporate networks.

Spear phishing has become one of the attack vectors of choice for cyber spies intent on infiltrating corporate networks. In such an attack, a specific person in the organization is researched, often using social networking sites like Facebook or LinkedIn in order to carefully craft a convincing e-mail that appears to be from a close associate.

But the benign seeming e-mail typically contains a malicious software attachment or link. Once clicked on or opened, the malware or link creates a back-door for a hacker to then gain entry and begin prowling for valuable data.

Yet there are several intriguing and unusual aspects of the attacks and the US response to them not described in Friday’s public notice. One is the far greater level of detail in these alerts than in past alerts. Another is the unusual if not unprecedented request to leave the cyber spies alone for a little while.

Each of the three alerts, for instance, includes detailed descriptions of the cyber threat – far more detailed than previous ICS-CERT warnings over the years, cyber security experts who have seen the alerts say. Those private warnings included computer file names, computer IP addresses and other key information that a company’s cyber security experts could use to check and see if their networks have been infiltrated.

“This was far more detail than we’ve ever received in the past – and the number of alerts in succession was unusual,” says one security expert who requested anonymity because he was sharing sensitive material. “It indicated to me this was pretty serious.”

Amazingly, he says, companies were also specifically requested in a March 29th alert not to take action to remove the cyber spies if discovered on their networks, but to instead allow them to persist as long as company operations did not appear endangered.

“In essence they were saying: ‘Do not put in any mitigation or blocks against these active intruders,'” says the individual who has seen all three confidential alerts. “But if you’re telling an investor owned utility not to do anything, that’s pretty unheard of. Step one is always block these guys and get them off the system. It’s pretty unusual in the commercial world to just let them collect data. Heaven forbid that the intruders gains control. It kind of looks like out intel guys were trying to get more information.”

Beyond indicating that multiple companies were targeted and some other systems compromised, neither the alerts nor the public notice indicate just how many companies have been infiltrated. The documents also do not indicate that any companies’ pipeline operations – or their vital computerized industrial control systems that run pumps – have yet been affected.

But other cyber security experts familiar with the alerts warn that access to a company’s corporate system can eventually allow a hacker to wind through a corporate network and into the vital industrial control processes. Those systems, if infiltrated, could allow hackers to manipulate pressure and other control system settings, potentially reaping explosions or other dangerous conditions.

“There’s not enough information available yet to tell exactly what is the target or goal here,” says Jonathan Pollet, founder of Red Tiger Security, who specializes in industrial control system security and who has worked extensively in the oil and gas industry. “But it’s a concern because if they access the corporate network it’s often just a short step to the next level and right into their control system network.”

One reason ICS-CERT may have acted, he believes, is because of the large number of companies discovering attackers on their networks. As many as 20 companies have already come forward to tell ICS-CERT of the infiltrations, Mr. Pollet says. That number could not be independently verified. A DHS spokesman was unavailable to comment at press time Saturday.

Even so, there is at least some support for Pollet’s assertion.

Sanaz Browarny, chief, intelligence and analysis, of the control systems security program at DHS, told a security conference last month that “on a daily basis, the U.S. is being targeted.” In her presentation, as reported in Homeland Security News Wire, she said that ICS-CERT’s response team had taken 17 trips to private utilities last year, seven of those as a direct result of sophisticated spear-phishing attacks. She did not, however, indicate the attacks were against a specific type of utility.

There are also signs the threat could extend across North American. A Canadian cyber security expert told the Monitor authorities in his country also are on alert since the US warnings, although it is not clear if any Canadian companies are affected, he said.

At least one confidential US alert, a portion of which was obtained by the Monitor, urged companies to remain on guard – and send back information.

“ICS-CERT has received additional reports involving targeted and compromised organizations within the gas pipeline sector,” according to the April 13 alert. “Analysis from those reports, including the analysis of hard drives and logs, has yielded new indicators of compromise…. Organizations are strongly encouraged to review this report and contact ICS-CERT to report their findings.”

This article, “Alert: Major cyber attack aimed at natural gas pipeline companies,” first appeared on CSMonitor.com.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/47310697/ns/technology_and_science-christian_science_monitor/t/alerts-say-major-cyber-attack-aimed-gas-pipeline-industry/

 

DISA plans a single global network contract

NextGov

By Bob Brewin

May 4, 2012

 

The Defense Information Systems Agency unveiled Wednesday a bold plan to develop a single, cohesive global network by 2020 that will include all types of wired and wireless communications, with voice, video and data zapped around the world on a 100-gigabit-per second backbone, 10 times the speed of the circuits it uses today.

 

This new strategy fits with a call by Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to develop a “global networked approach to warfare” in a speech to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on Tuesday.

DISA, in a request for information to industry, said it plans to replace its current network transport contracts with a single vehicle that will include Wi-Fi, cellular, satellite and broadband fiber-optic data circuits. In a detailed explanation of its future network vision, DISA said that by 2020 it expects to operate a network with “ubiquitous” 100-gigabit-per second circuits, and may require circuits that operate at speeds as high as 400 gigabits per second.

DISA said the new network contract will replace its $3 billion Defense Information Systems Network Access Transport Services contract awarded in 2006 to AT&T Inc., Qwest Government Services Inc. and Arrowhead Global Solutions Inc. for service in the United States as well as two contracts focused on service in the Pacific and Asia. The DATS contract expires in 2016. The contracts for network communications in the Pacific and Asia include the $2.5 billion Defense Information Network Transmission Services Pacific contract awarded to Verizon in 2009, which expires in 2019, and the $250 million Joint Hawaii Information Technology Services contract awarded to AT&T in 2006, which expires in 2016.

In the past, DISA has purchased network hardware such as switches and routers separate from transport, but the agency made it clear the new contract also will cover hardware.

Though DISA signed an agreement with the General Services Administration in August 2009 for GSA to manage all its satellite bandwidth acquisition, the RFI said the agency may use the new contract vehicle to acquire end-to-end services, which includes teleport receiving stations. DISA said it also could use the new vehicle to acquire satellite dishes.

Currently, all four services have multiple contracts for cellular systems. Under DISA’s new network plan, it would provide global broadband wireless communication for Defense Department users. “In most cases, these wireless services would be managed by the commercial service provider,” DISA said.

DISA envisions an integrated wireless network that includes local Wi-Fi and national and international cellular systems. “The 2020 time frame goal is to enhance secure wireless communication services to provide the user with transparent, integrated seamless mobile service across cellular, wireless wide area network, wireless local area network and satellite boundaries providing service availability to the warfighter that is transparent to the infrastructure used,” DISA said.

Warren Suss, president of Suss Consulting, said DISA wants to use the new contract vehicle to drive down network contract prices to commodity levels. He expected all the major telecommunications carriers to bid on the new contract, and pegged its value at $1 billion a year, or $5 billion over an expected five-year contract.

http://www.nextgov.com/defense/2012/05/disa-plans-single-global-network-contract/55592/

 

Citing safety, two F-22 pilots refuse to fly: report

AFP – Fri, May 4, 2012

Two F-22 pilots say they have stopped flying the US Air Force’s most advanced fighter jet because of safety fears over the aircraft’s oxygen system, according to a CBS television “60 Minutes” report.

The F-22 Raptor was grounded last year after a spate of incidents with pilots suffering dizzy spells and blackouts in the air. The plane was cleared for flying in September 2011 but engineers are still trying to solve what appears to be a problem with the jet’s oxygen supply.

The pilots, Major Jeremy Gordon and Captain Josh Wilson, told the “60 Minutes” program they stopped flying in January, citing safety concerns over a lack of oxygen.

Asked if he believes the jet is safe, Gordon said: “I’m not comfortable answering that question. I’m not comfortable flying in the F-22 right now,” according to excerpts from the interview, due to be aired on Sunday.

“The onset of (hypoxia) is insidious. Some pilots will go the entire mission, land and not know anything went wrong,” Gordon is quoted as saying.

The two pilots, who both served in the Iraq war, have sought legal protection as “whistleblowers” from a Republican lawmaker from Illinois, Adam Kinzinger.

The pilots were from the Air National Guard, officials said.

The airmen’s dismay over safety will add to the controversy surrounding the aircraft, as some lawmakers and analysts have long questioned the costly plane’s value.

The Air Force declined to comment on the television report but a spokesman said it views safety as a top priority.

“While the F-22 program has encountered challenges, the Air Force remains committed not only to their resolution but also to unparalleled dedication to flight safety,” Lieutenant Colonel John Dorrian told AFP.

After the plane was grounded in May last year, a scientific inquiry could not trace the problem to an engineering fault, he said.

But the Air Force has taken precautions, including adjusting a backup system, “to minimize crew risk,” he said.

The F-22 jet, the most expensive warplane ever built by the Pentagon, is designed mainly for dogfights against rival fighters. The radar-evading planes were never used in the NATO-led air campaign over Libya or the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Air Force has more than 160 F-22 Raptors in its fleet and plans to build a total of 187.

http://news.yahoo.com/citing-safety-two-f-22-pilots-refuse-fly-233124895.html;_ylt=A2KLOzGk0qdPKlIArx7QtDMD

 

Fighter Pilots Claim Intimidation Over F-22 Raptor Jets

By LEE FERRAN and MEGAN CHUCHMACH | ABC News – Mon, May 7, 2012

Two F-22 Raptor pilots have said publicly that not only are they afraid to fly the most expensive fighter jets in American history, but the military has attempted to silence them and other F-22 pilots by threatening their careers.

“There have been squadrons that have stood down over concerns. And there’s been threat of reprisals,” F-22 pilot Josh Wilson told CBS News’ “60 Minutes” Sunday. “There’s been threat of flying evaluation boards clipping our wings and doing ground jobs. And… in my case, potentially getting booted out of the Air Force.

“So right now there’s an example being set of, ‘Hey, if you speak up about safety, you’re going to be out of the organization,'” Wilson said.

Despite the Air Force’s glowing descriptions of the next-generation jet as America’s future of air dominance, as an ABC News “Nightline” investigation broadcast last week found, unknown problems with the plane’s oxygen system have already contributed to the death of one pilot, the near-death of another and mid-air scares for dozens more.

Wilson and fellow F-22 pilot Jeremy Gordon, both veteran fighter pilots for the Virginia Air National Guard who came forward under whistleblower protection from Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R.-Ill.), have asked not to fly the F-22 anymore, according to CBS News, citing their concerns with the oxygen problem.

Gordon said that two weeks after he requested not to fly the jet, he was called before a board of officers.

“I was asked to make a decision that day whether I wanted to fly or find another line of work,” he said.

Several current and former F-22 pilots contacted by ABC News for its investigation either did not respond or quickly declined to comment on the plane and two relatives of flyers told ABC News that the pilots had been instructed not to speak to the media on penalty of potentially losing their post with the F-22 — a coveted position despite the safety concerns. One pilot, when initially contacted by ABC News for comment, agreed to speak on the record but only after he checked with the Air Force public affairs office. Since then, the pilot has not responded to any of ABC News’ attempts to communicate.

Air Force spokesperson John Dorrian told ABC News he has no information about any pilots being explicitly told not to speak to the media about the Raptor and noted that several F-22 pilots have been made available to the press at Air Force events. Dorrian did say that if a member of the Air Force wishes to speak with the media as a representative of the Air Force, that engagement is conducted through the Air Force public affairs office, but whistleblowers are still protected.

“Corporately, the Air Force position is the Air Force is not going to tolerate any reprisal actions against whistleblowers,” Dorrian said.

Since Wilson and Gordon are assigned to the Virginia Air National Guard, Dorrian said he did not have specific information on their case. Officials at the Virginia Air National Guard did not immediately return requests for comment for this report.

Top officials at the Air Force and Lockheed Martin refused to take part in one-on-one interviews with ABC News for its broadcast report, but the Air Force provided a statement last week in which it says the service is committed to “unparalleled dedication to flight safety.”

“Flying America’s premier fighter aircraft always entails risk but the Air Force has, and always will, take every measure to ensure the safety of our aircrews while delivering air superiority for the nation,” the statement said. The Air Force has also stressed that reports of “hypoxia-like symptoms” are exceedingly rare — more than two dozen compared to the thousands of flights flown without incident.

Last week the Air Force officially received the last F-22 Raptor from defense contracting giant Lockheed Martin, completing an order of 187 planes that cost U.S. taxpayers an estimated $79 billion — meaning that including research, development and production among other costs, each plane has a price tag of more than $420 million. Despite being the most advanced fighters on the planet, none of the planes have been used on a combat mission since they went combat-ready in late 2005. Critics told ABC News that’s because the jet was designed to fight rival, sophisticated fighters – an enemy that doesn’t exist right now.

F-22 Pilot Blamed in Fatal Crash After Plane Malfunction

Capt. Jeff Haney was flying the Air Force’s next-generation stealth F-22 Raptor on a routine training mission in Alaska in November 2010 when a sudden malfunction cut off his oxygen completely. Capt. Haney never made a distress call but took his plane into a dive and, a little over a minute later, crashed into the winter wilderness at faster than the speed of sound.

After a lengthy investigation, an Air Force Accident Investigation Board could not find the cause of the malfunction but determined “by clear and convincing evidence” that in addition to other factors, Haney was to blame for the crash because he was too distracted by his inability to breathe to fly the plane properly.

But Haney’s sister, Jennifer, told ABC News in an exclusive interview she believes her brother blacked out trying to save himself and said that by blaming him, the Air Force was attempting to deflect attention from the ongoing, mysterious oxygen problem with the costly planes.

“I don’t agree with [the Air Force]. I think there was a lot more going on inside that cockpit,” Jennifer Haney said. “A cover-up? I don’t know. But there’s something.”

In at least 25 cases since 2008, F-22 pilots have reported experiencing “hypoxia-like symptoms” in mid-air, according to the Air Force. Last year the Air Force grounded the full fleet of F-22s for nearly five months to investigate, but still no one knows what is going wrong, even as the planes are back in the air. Hypoxia is caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain and is characterized by dizziness, confusion, lack of judgment and, eventually, unconsciousness.

In one case before the grounding, a pilot became so disoriented that his plane dropped down and skimmed treetops before he managed to save himself and return to base, an Air Force spokesperson told ABC News. Presumably speaking of the same incident, Gordon told “60 Minutes” the pilot had to be told he had hit the trees — he didn’t remember doing it himself.

Wilson described experiencing apparent hypoxia while in the cockpit as a “surreal experience” and Gordon said the onset is “insidious.”

“Some pilots will go the entire mission, land and not know anything went wrong,” Gordon said.

To Jennifer Haney, every time an F-22 goes up, it’s risking the life of its pilot. She spoke to ABC News because she said she couldn’t stand to see another family go through what hers had.

“I know that the Air Force has said that they were very proud to have Jeff and are very sorry for our loss — well then, in Jeff’s name, fix this,” she said. “We want to make sure Jeff did not die in vain — that his death will mean something and that if it saves lives of pilots now, future pilots, then he died for the greater good or something.”

The Air Force has already begun to enact changes to the jet in hopes of mitigating the oxygen problem, including adding pilot-monitoring equipment and improving the emergency oxygen system.

But for all their effort, the Air Force still doesn’t have what Jennifer Haney said is most important both to her family and to the families of pilots that risk their lives every day at the controls of the F-22: answers.

“I believe Jeff deserves that. That was my baby brother and I believe he deserves that. He deserves the truth to be told as to what happened. Not anybody’s guesses,” she said. “He deserves the truth. He deserves honor and so do his little girls.”

 

An Earmark by Any Other Name

CQ WEEKLY – IN FOCUS

May 5, 2012 – 1:50 p.m.

By John M. Donnelly, CQ Staff

When the House Armed Services Committee convenes this week to write its new defense authorization bill, it is expected to require the Pentagon to build a new anti-missile battery on the U.S. East Coast — despite the fact that the general in charge of defending the United States from missile attack says the facility isn’t needed.

The new battery would not be cheap. A provision approved last month by one of the Armed Services subcommittees would authorize $100 million just to study possible locations for the missile silos, which the bill says must be ready by the end of 2015 to fire interceptors at an incoming intercontinental ballistic missile. And the $100 million is merely a down payment. Pentagon budget figures for similar projects suggest that the site would cost billions more over the years.

That’s just one of several expensive programs that House Republicans — with the acquiescence of some Democrats — want to impose on a Pentagon that doesn’t want them. The net effect would add nearly $4 billion to the defense budget request this year and create potentially billions more in new bills in later years, even as members — particularly Republicans — decry Washington’s profligate ways and swear to tighten their belts.

The added programs are not earmarks, as the term is formally defined. But some critics say the extra spending on everything from electronic warfare planes to drones and tanks echoes the earmarking tradition, which has lavished money on the U.S. military for programs that were not vital enough to make the president’s budget, but which create jobs in the lawmakers’ states and districts and provide a return on campaign contributors’ investments.

“Ending earmarks has not ended congressional incentives to spend money on parochial projects, and that is particularly true for the defense bill,” says Laura Peterson, a defense analyst with Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonprofit watchdog group.

 

Down Payment on Billions

Despite the talk from both parties about fiscal discipline, programs such as the proposed new antimissile site, whatever supporters believe its merits might be, only add to the budget pressures.

The third site in the United States was approved for inclusion in the fiscal 2013 authorization bill by a House Armed Services panel chaired by Ohio Republican Michael R. Turner and is aimed expressly at blunting a perceived Iranian threat.

There is good reason to expect its price tag to be in the billions because there are precedents for comparison. The antimissile site that the George W. Bush administration wanted to base in Poland and the Czech Republic would have cost up to $4 billion, the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency says. The cost of Bush’s European proposal, which was later scrapped, might have risen further — as military initiatives are wont to do — had the project gotten under way. Indeed, the agency says, the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) sites that are operational now in Alaska and Hawaii have cost a combined $30 billion.

“This is a project that would cost billions, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it were $10 billion or $20 billion or $30 billion, like the existing GMD sites,” says Philip Coyle, a former director of weapons testing at the Pentagon.

The United States already has spent $149.5 billion on missile defense programs since fiscal 1984, according to the Missile Defense Agency. And over the next five years, the Pentagon wants to raise that total by 29 percent by spending another $44 billion. And that’s without the third site in its plans.

Pentagon officials insist that the proposed missile site is definitely not in their plans. When Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, asked Gen. Charles Jacoby Jr., commander of both the U.S. Northern Command and the North American Aerospace and Defense Command, during a March hearing whether a third missile site is needed, the missile defense chief was unequivocal.

“Chairman, today’s threats do not require an East Coast missile field, and we do not have plans to do so,” Jacoby said.

But the Pentagon’s not requesting something has never stopped Congress from funding it. Indeed, for lawmakers on the defense committees, adding and subtracting authorizations and appropriations is the very definition of their jobs.

“Iran is a threat, and we’ll be using our bill to prepare our military accordingly,” Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, the California Republican who chairs the House panel, said in an April 25 speech.

Beyond the proposed missile site, six House Armed Services panels authorized the spending of hundreds of millions of dollars on numerous other unrequested programs in markups late last month.

All told, the House GOP authorization measure would add roughly $3.6 billion to the president’s request for the Pentagon in fiscal 2013 and $8 billion more than Congress and the White House agreed in last year’s debt ceiling law.

That law required $487 billion less for defense over a decade, compared with the spending planned for those years in fiscal 2011. In addition, the law stipulated that if legislation isn’t enacted this year to reduce the national debt by $1.2 trillion, then another roughly $500 billion will have to come out of defense programs in the coming decade through a budget process known as sequestration.

McKeon and other Republicans say military spending must remain high because equipment needs to be repaired, replaced and modernized after a decade of war. Moreover, despite the end of the war in Iraq and the winding down of the U.S. combat role in Afghanistan, a wide array of threats remain, Republicans say.

“These cuts, deeply damaging to our defense, will hurt everyone associated with the military,” McKeon said in a March speech, referring to the $487 billion in planned reductions. Further cuts through sequestration, he said, “would put this great country in considerable danger.”

 

Budget Nearly Doubled

Notwithstanding such alarming jeremiads, defense spending in fact has nearly doubled since 2001. In the past few years, military spending dropped only slightly and would go down only a bit more in the next decade even if the $487 billion cut goes into effect.

In fact, at those reduced levels, the defense budget would decrease three-tenths of 1 percent after inflation in those years, according to Adam Smith of Washington, the top Democrat on House Armed Services.

“Not only should that be enough, it has to be enough,” Smith said in a recent speech. “Unless we want to come along and make dramatic cuts to mandatory spending and dramatic increases to taxes, it will have to work.”

Even under sequestration, with defense spending declining 14 percent over nine years, the lowest point of spending would be equivalent — in inflation adjusted terms — to fiscal 2007 levels, close to the peak of the Bush-era buildup.

Against that backdrop, Smith and other Democrats say they won’t support any more money for defense than the debt ceiling law allows. Democrats are likely to make a stand against several GOP additions to the bill, including the new anti-ICBM site and proposed increases to spending on nuclear weapons.

Leading that charge will be Loretta Sanchez of California, the top Democrat on the Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces. The third U.S. anti-ICBM site is not needed, she said, “when the Missile Defense Agency had made it clear it is still in the process of fixing problems resulting from two back-to-back test failures.”

In the Senate, Democrats’ narrow majority may give them more clout to prevent increases in defense spending, particularly on programs such as the East Coast antimissile site. The Senate Armed Services Committee begins writing its defense authorization bill later this month. And while defense appropriators in the House mark up their bill this week, their Senate counterparts probably won’t start the review until late June.

In the House, GOP Armed Services members say that because their new defense authorizations are coming from the committee at large and not from individual lawmakers, they’re not violating the ban on earmarks.

But the effect is the same, critics say. The earmark ban has eliminated small-scale projects from individual members, but it has done nothing about multibillion-dollar initiatives of debatable military utility, they argue.

Says Taxpayers for Common Sense’s Peterson: “Even if you don’t see a lot of the penny-ante earmarks of the past, that doesn’t mean they can’t direct big bucks to pet projects.”

FOR FURTHER READING: The debt ceiling law is PL 112-25. The House Armed Services fiscal 2013 defense authorization bill is HR 4310. Defense appropriations outlook, CQ Weekly, p. 864; GOP debate, p. 793; Pentagon sequestration, 2011 CQ Weekly, p. 2534.

 

U.S. House Bill Tops White House Defense Spending Request by $3.1B

May. 7, 2012 – 06:32PM |

By MARCUS WEISGERBER

House Appropriations defense subcommittee Chairman C.W. Bill Young has crafted a 2013 defense spending bill that is $3.1 billion more than the White House request.

The legislation, which will be reviewed by the subcommittee in a closed-door session on May 8, adds $875 million to the Pentagon’s procurement request for equipment and upgrades, according to a May 7 statement released by Young, a Florida Republican.

The chairman’s proposal also boosts the Pentagon’s research and development funding by $576 million.

“We have worked in a true bipartisan fashion to provide the much-needed resources to modernize and maintain readiness at the levels required to preserve our military’s standing as the most capable and superior armed forces in the world,” Young said in a statement.

Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., the ranking member of the subcommittee, said the bill “provides the funding necessary to maintain force structure, including the National Guard and Reserve, and provides for needed investments in research and development, and equipment acquisition.” He called the Republican’s approach to the defense budget “reasonable,” in a May 7 statement.

“I only wish that the same approach would be taken with the non-defense portion of the discretionary budget,” he said.

Young’s legislation directs the Air Force to continue the Alenia Aermacchi C-27 cargo plane program. It also keeps the Northrop Grumman Block-30 Global Hawk, which the Air Force has proposed canceling.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, R-Calif., in his mark of the 2013 defense authorization bill, directed the Air Force to keep its C-27s in service.

Young’s mark also gives the OK for multi-year buys of Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and EA-18G Growlers, Boeing CH-47 Chinooks, Bell-Boeing V-22 Ospreys, General Dynamics Electric Boat SSN–774 Virginia class submarines and DDG–51 Arleigh Burke class destroyers.

The legislation also includes $175.2 billion for operation and maintenance, $221 million above the Pentagon’s request, as well as $88.5 billion for overseas contingency operations in Afghanistan.

The full text of Young’s legislation is available here: http://appropriations.house.gov/UploadedFiles/BILLS-112HR-SC-AP-FY13-Defense.pdf

 

Border Patrol gets first new strategy in 8 years

Tuesday, May 8, 2012 6:20 AM EST

By ELLIOT SPAGAT

Associated Press

SAN DIEGO (AP) – The U.S. Border Patrol on Tuesday unveiled its first national strategy in eight years, a period in which the number of agents more than doubled and apprehensions of people entering illegally from Mexico dropped to a 40-year low.

The new approach – outlined in a 32-page document that took more than two years to develop – uses buzzwords like “risk-based” and “intelligence-driven” to describe a more nuanced, targeted response to constantly evolving threats.

The Border Patrol previously relied on a strategy that blanketed heavily trafficked corridors for illegal immigrants with agents, pushing migrants to more remote areas where they would presumably be easier to capture and discouraged from trying again.

“The jury, for me at least, is out on whether that’s a solid strategy,” Chief Mike Fisher told The Associated Press.

The new strategy draws on intelligence to identify repeat crossers and to try to determine why they keep coming, said Fisher, who was expected to address a House subcommittee on the plan Tuesday.

“This whole risk-based approach is trying to figure out who are these people? What risk do they pose from a national security standpoint? The more we know, the better informed we are about identifying the threat and potential risk,” he said in a recent interview.

Conditions on the border have changed dramatically since the last national strategy, putting pressure on the agency to adapt to a new landscape. An unprecedented hiring boom more than doubled the number of agents to 21,000 since 2004, accompanied by heavy spending on fencing, cameras, sensors and other gizmos.

At the same time, migration from Mexico has slowed significantly. Last year, the Border Patrol made 327,577 apprehensions on the Mexican border, down 80 percent from more than 1.6 million in 2000. It was the slowest year since 1971.

The Pew Hispanic Center reported last month that the largest wave of migrants from a single country in U.S. history had stopped increasing and may have reversed.

The new strategy moves to halt a revolving-door policy of sending migrants back to Mexico without any punishment.

The Border Patrol now feels it has enough of a handle to begin imposing more serious consequences on almost everyone it catches from Texas’ Rio Grande Valley to San Diego. In January, it expanded its “Consequence Delivery System” to the entire border, dividing border crossers into seven categories, ranging from first-time offenders to people with criminal records.

Punishments vary by region but there is a common thread: Simply turning people around after taking their fingerprints is the choice of last resort. Some, including children and the medically ill, will still get a free pass by being turned around at the nearest border crossing, but they will be few and far between.

The new strategy makes no mention of expanding fences and other physical barriers, a departure from the administration of President George W. Bush. Fisher said he would rule out more fences but, “It’s not going to be part of our mantra.”

The strategy makes only brief mention of technology in the wake of a failed $1 billion program that was supposed to put a network of cameras, ground sensors and radars along the entire border. Fisher said the agency is moving more toward mobile surveillance like unmanned aerial vehicles and helicopters.

“We’re still trying to understand what the capabilities are with all the technologies and the platforms,” Fisher said. “I’m just trying to figure out what is the best suite on all this stuff.”

The strategy makes it a top priority to ferret out corrupt agents, which has emerged as a growing threat as the agency has expanded.

It is the Border Patrol’s third national strategy since 1994, when the agency poured resources into the San Diego and El Paso, Texas, areas. That effort pushed migrants to remote mountains and deserts and made Arizona the nation’s busiest crossing for illegal crossings.

 

Are Smartphones Secure on Your Campus?

Covergemag.com

By Tanya Roscorla

ON MAY 7, 2012 POLICY & TECHNOLOGY

More smartphones and tablets pop up on college campuses every year. And whether they’re personal or university devices, they contain information that shouldn’t be shared.

U.S. residents were using nearly 96 million smartphones and PDAs through June 2011, a 57 percent increase from the previous year, according to a 2011 CTIA Wireless Association report. And they also lost mobile phones at a cost of approximately $30 billion last year, reports mobile security firm Lookout Labs, which located 9 million lost smartphones through its app.

These smartphone owners don’t always take the steps they should to protect their information, said Robert Ono, IT security coordinator for University of California, Davis. They don’t enable security features on their phones consistently. The mobile devices have inherent security weaknesses when it comes to protecting the information on them. And their portability makes theft easy.

For these reasons, University of California, Davis, started a campaign this semester to encourage students, faculty and staff to secure their smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices.

The UC Davis campaign highlights six key things they should do to protect their information, Ono said.

* Put a PIN or passcode on their mobile device.

* Encrypt data with the native feature on a phone or download a data encyrption app.

* Update apps and firmware with security patches.

* Shut down connections such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth when not in use.

* Back up the data on smartphones.

* Add physical contact information on the phone, such as an office number, for people to call if they find a phone.

The campaign includes a mobile device security website, Facebook posts, technical news, information tables and posters sharing student and staff’s lost phone stories.

Each student who shows up at a student-manned information table with a PIN on their phone receives an erasable highlighter. If they don’t have a PIN or passcode, they are given a handout of how to do it and can grab the prize once they create the PIN.

At least some of the security measures are being taken by a majoirty of users. Before this drive started, UC Davis took an informal survey on campus. Surprisingly, about 60 percent of respondents already had a PIN or passcode on their phone, Ono said. In June, the university will conduct a post-survey to see how people’s attitudes and actions changed after the security campaign.

 

UC Davis is among a growing number of college campuses across the U.S. trying to improve awareness about the importance of securing mobile devices. As a first step, many universities are posting smarphone security policies and tips online. See Emory University’s security tips here and another example by Washington University in St. Louis.

 

“As these mobile devices are getting more powerful, I believe that people are storing much more data on their smartphone and tablet computers, so the real risk is that — whether it’s personal information or university information — some of that information is likely not public, and that information could be accessed by unauthorized individuals,” Ono said.

 

Lost phones are at serious risk of leaking data. In an experiment by computer security company Symantec Corp., researchers left 50 smartphones in U.S. and Canadian cities to see what would happen. These smartphones contained fake data in files, including online banking and salary information, according to MSNBC.

Half of the smartphones were returned. But the others didn’t make it back.

On the 50 that the finders kept, people searched through the device and found the personal information. Even the people who returned the phones spent some time digging around in them, according to the tracking and logging software the phones contained.

You may use or reference this story with attribution and a link to

http://www.convergemag.com/policy/Smartphone-Security-Campaign-Infiltrates-UC-Davis.html

 

 

U.S., China to cooperate more on cyber threat

By Lolita C. Baldor – The Associated Press

Posted : Monday May 7, 2012 19:38:58 EDT

WASHINGTON — Asserting that cyber attacks against the U.S. don’t come only from China, the U.S. and Chinese defense ministers said they agreed Monday to work together on cyber issues to avoid miscalculations that could lead to future crises.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that since China and the United States have advanced cyber capabilities, it is important to develop better cooperation.

“It’s true, as the general pointed out, that obviously there are other countries, actors, others involved in some of the attacks that both of our countries receive,” Panetta told reporters after an afternoon meeting in the Pentagon marking the first visit by a Chinese defense minister to the U.S. since 2003. “But because the United States and China have developed technological capabilities in this arena it’s extremely important that we work together to develop ways to avoid any miscalculation or misperception that could lead to crisis in this area.”

Gen. Liang Guanglie, China’s minister of national defense, offered a vigorous defense of his country, saying through an interpreter that, “I can hardly agree with the proposition that the cyber attacks directed to the United States are directly coming from China … We cannot attribute all of the cyber attacks (against the) United States to China.”

Just six months ago, however, senior U.S. intelligence officials for the first time publicly accused China of systematically stealing American high-tech data for its own national economic gain.

It was the most forceful and detailed airing of U.S. allegations against Beijing after years of private complaints, and it signaled the opening salvo of a broad diplomatic push to combat cyber attacks that originate in China.

Liang said that he and Panetta talked about ways to strengthen cybersecurity, but they are leaving the details to the experts.

Cybersecurity was just one of the many issues discussed by the two leaders during their meeting, but it is also one of a number of contentious topics that rattle the often rocky relationship between the two nations.

“The U.S. needs to start laying the ground work for better understanding by the Chinese of what we expect from them in cyberspace,” said James Lewis, a cybersecurity expert who has met with Chinese officials and scholars for informal discussions. “We want to figure out some way to get some understanding in place before something bad happens.”

As an example he said American officials want to know who to talk to when Chinese hackers breach U.S. computer networks. And if there is a cyber incident in China, Lewis said, “we need the Chinese to feel confident that they can call us up and ask, ‘was it you?’, and get a straight answer.”

Chinese officials have routinely denied the cyber spying, insisting that their own country also is a victim of such attacks. And they note that the hacking is anonymous and often difficult to track.

U.S. cybersecurity experts acknowledge that attribution can be difficult, and that while they can trace an attack to China, it is often difficult to track directly to the Chinese government. Last December’s report by U.S. intelligence agencies said America must openly confront China and Russia in a broad diplomatic push to combat cyber attacks that are on the rise and represent a “persistent threat to U.S. economic security.”

And, separately, several cybersecurity analysts have concluded that as few as 12 different Chinese groups, largely backed or directed by the government there, commit the bulk of the cyber attacks that aim to steal critical data from U.S. companies and government agencies. Officials estimate that the stealthy attacks have stolen billions of dollars in intellectual property and data.

Because people and businesses in both China and American have been victims of cyber attacks, officials have been talking more about building a better relationship so that they can work together.

Law enforcement is one area of cybersecurity where the two nations have begun to build partnerships, but so far it has been extremely limited. Lewis said that in 2011, U.S. authorities requested assistance from the Chinese 11 times, and in seven of the cases received no information. But, he said the Chinese cooperated with U.S. law enforcement in a high profile financial fraud case late last year.

http://www.armytimes.com/news/2012/05/ap-us-china-cooperate-more-cyber-threat-leon-panetta-liang-guanglie-050712/

 

HASC Adds $2.8 Billion to Procurement Request

May. 7, 2012 – 03:53PM |

By CHRISTOPHER P. CAVAS |

Consistent with a staunch resistance to further cuts in defense spending, the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) has added $2.8 billion to the Pentagon’s fiscal 2013 budget request for ships, aircraft and weapons.

The full markup of the HASC bill isn’t scheduled until May 9, but details were released May 7 under a pledge from chairman Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., to provide more transparency in the committee’s operations.

Overall, the committee’s bill provides $554 billion in defense spending with another $88 billion for overseas contingency funds.

That’s $29 billion over the Pentagon’s request for $525.4 billion in base defense spending, but on par with the contingency request.

Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., ranking member of the committee, noted that “simply spending more money on defense does not make us safer.”

In an email statement, Smith said that “given the size of our debt and deficit and growing budgetary pressures, I am concerned that the top-line number is roughly $8 billion over the Budget Control Agreement. Congress made a commitment to get our budget under control, and I fully expect that the Senate will honor the Budget Control Agreement number. We should do the same.”

Compared with the Pentagon’s fiscal 2013 budget request from earlier this year, the HASC made the following changes to the procurement budget:

 

AIR FORCE

• Aircraft procurement rose $389 million, largely on the strength of plus-ups to the RQ-4 Global Hawk and MQ-9 Reaper UAV programs and $138 million to keep its C-27Js. Advance procurement funds deemed excessive for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter were cut by $64 million, along with another $23 million in “premature” spares for the aircraft, which has not yet entered service.

• Ammunition spending rose $163 million due to increases in Joint Direct Attack Munitions, general bombs, rockets and fuses.

• Missile procurement rose $95 million from increases to the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile and Predator Hellfire missile.

 

ARMY

• Missile procurement jumped $100 million, split between increases for the Hellfire and Patriot PAC-3 missiles.

• Weapons and combat vehicle procurement jumped $383 million, due chiefly to increases in Abrams tank upgrades, the Bradley Fighting Vehicle program and the M88A2 Hercules improved recovery vehicle.

• Ammunition procurement was reduced by $108 million, primarily because of cuts to 5.56 mm and 30mm ammunition and Excalibur 155 mm rounds.

• Funds under “other procurement” dropped $80 million, spread over several programs.

 

NAVY

• Shipbuilding and conversion funds rose nearly $900 million, primarily for advance procurement of an additional submarine and destroyer to the 2014 shipbuilding program.

• Aircraft procurement rose overall about $100 million, and included an additional $170 million to restore five previously-cut MH-60R Seahawk helicopters.

• Weapons procurement rose $113 million, spread over a number of programs.

• Total Marine Corps procurement funding dropped by $140 million due to a decrease requested by the Corps for the light armored vehicle product improvement program.

 

Across the Defense Department, the HASC recommends a rise of $2.141 billion in procurement spending, from $97.432 billion to $99.573 billion.

Procurement spending for overseas operations rose by $620 million, from $9.687 billion to $10.308 billion.

Responding to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report criticizing the lack of a senior-level “point of focus” for urgent operational needs and rapid acquisition efforts, the committee would require the defense secretary to designate a senior Pentagon official as that focal point. The official would “manage, oversee, track, and monitor all emerging capability gaps identified by the war fighter in theater.”

A Senior Integration Group established in June 2011 as a single authority to prioritize and direct fulfillment of joint urgent operational needs falls short of the GAO’s recommendations, the committee said, leading to the need for the “senior-level focal point.”

The committee also expressed its concern that a review of the Pentagon’s joint urgent needs process — mandated by the 2011 defense authorization act and required to be sent to Congress in January 2012 — is not expected to be completed before August of this year.

Iran’s development of nuclear weapons drew the committee’s attention with a provision stating, “it is the policy of the United States to take all necessary measures, including military action if necessary, to prevent Iran from threatening the United States, its allies, or Iran’s neighbors with a nuclear weapon.”

The committee directed that in addition to furnishing an annual report on China’s military power, the Pentagon must also report on that country’s space and cyber strategies, goals and capabilities.

In a new requirement, the Pentagon must also compile a report on North Korea’s military and security developments, due Nov. 1, 2013.

The committee also approved — again — a request to rename the Department of the Navy as the “Department of the Navy and Marine Corps,” a long-time request from Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C.

Under Air Force provisions, the committee denied the service the ability to use any money in 2013 “to divest or retire, or prepare to divest or retire,” C-27J aircraft. A series of reporting requirements after 2013 would need to be met before the aircraft could be disposed of, including an affordable spending analysis for the plane’s operation by the Air National Guard.

More details are available at the HASC’s website.

 

Lawmaker wants to clarify Pentagon’s authority for cyber operations

NextGov.com

By Dawn Lim

House Armed Services Committee chairman Rep. Howard McKeon has called for legislative language to clarify that the Pentagon can launch secret cybersecurity operations to support military efforts and guard against network attacks.

In a release of his draft bill of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2013, the Republican lawmaker pushed for a clause to confirm that the Pentagon has “the authority to conduct clandestine military activities in cyberspace.”

Such operations could be taken to protect against cyber attacks or as an extension of military policy if Congress authorized use of force outside the United States, according to the document.

The draft did not clarify what such clandestine activities would encompass, acknowledging instead that “because of the evolving nature of cyber warfare, there is a lack of historical precedent for what constitutes traditional military activities in cyberspace.” The bill could force lawmakers to debate the scope and the authority of the Pentagon’s ability to wage hacking attacks and infiltrate enemy networks.

Clearer guidelines for offensive operations could provide clarity to defense technology contractors. The top three contributors to McKeon’s campaign committee in 2011-2012 were Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a research group.

“Because of the sensitivities associated with such military activities and the need for more rigorous oversight, this section would require quarterly briefings to the congressional defense committees on covered military activities in cyberspace,” according to the document.

Laws are gradually emerging around the Pentagon’s scope of power for launching military operations in cyberspace. The National Defense Authorization Act for the Fiscal Year 2012 stated that the Pentagon could conduct offensive operations in cyberspace to defend the country and its allies, with the approval of the President.

In March, Regina Dugan, then director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, said the military research arm would “focus an increasing portion of our cyber research on the investigation of offensive capabilities to address military-specific needs.”

http://www.nextgov.com/defense/2012/05/lawmaker-wants-clarify-pentagons-authority-cyber-operations/55624/

 

 

Benefits Of Nuclear UAVs

Aviation Week

By Bill Sweetman

May 01 , 2012

In March, Sandia National Laboratories released a summary of research it had conducted with Northrop Grumman’s unmanned systems division concerning an “ultra-persistent propulsion and power system” for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). The conclusion was that UAVs could be built with longer endurance and lower operating cost than with hydrogen or hydrocarbon fuel, creating “unmatched global capabilities to observe and preempt terrorist and weapon of mass destruction activities.”

An earlier Sandia study concluded that such a UAV could be tested within a decade. It will not be, because it is nuclear-powered, and politics make it impossible. But the technical and operational case is powerful.

Non-solar-powered UAVs, such as Boeing’s hydrogen-fueled Phantom Eye and Aurora Flight Sciences’ Orion, are expected to deliver multi-day endurance. But they cannot carry large payloads or provide much electrical power, and are slow, so have to be forward-based. They are also restricted to propeller propulsion, which makes stealth unattainable.

The Sandia-Northrop activity is linked to studies of nuclear-powered UAVs in the U.S. Air Force that started in the mid-1990s, not long after the Advanced Airborne Reconnaissance System, a conventionally powered long-endurance stealth drone planned in the 1980s to track Soviet mobile nuclear missiles, was terminated.

Sandia was heavily involved by 2001. A paper from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments noted that Sandia’s Special Projects Department had proposed an “extremely long-endurance vehicle (ELEV)” or “air-breathing satellite.” The ELEV could fly at 70,000 ft. and stay on station for six months to a year with up to a 5,000-lb. payload. According to Sandia, building a modern nuclear-turbojet engine “would not be an R&D project,” the CSBA report stated, “but rather an engineering development effort that could culminate in a flight test within a decade.”

Boeing’s Phantom Works was involved with the design of the nuclear UAV, a high-subsonic, blended-wing body. Propulsion was based on concepts that emerged from the Airborne Nuclear Power (ANP) program of the 1950s, which was intended to lead to a strategic missile carrier that would remain on continuous airborne alert for a week or more. It combined two turbojet engines with a reactor. ANP looked at two designs: “direct cycle,” in which the engine airflow cooled the reactor; and “indirect cycle,” in which a liquid-metal coolant carried heat from the reactor to the engine.

The 2000-era UAV enjoyed three advantages over ANP, which struggled to reach a performance level where the aircraft could fly. Two stemmed from the fact that it was a UAV, which could take advantage of the propulsion system’s endurance. Planners envisioned features such as magnetic engine bearings to eliminate oil. Importantly, more than half the weight of the ANP propulsion system was radiation shielding, which could be reduced in a system that would not run at full power near humans. (In the Sandia studies, the engines burned jet fuel for takeoff and landing.) A USAF study of a Global Hawk with a nuclear engine indicated it might need only 2,700 lb. of shielding.

The third advantage was improved reactor technology. Air Force interest in ELEV coincided with the winding-down of the Space Nuclear Thermal Propulsion technology program, in which Sandia was also involved. SNTP started in 1987 as the Strategic Defense Initiative Office’s Project Timberwind, aimed at producing a nuclear-thermal rocket (developing thrust by superheating hydrogen) for a missile interceptor, but was canceled after the Cold War. A Timberwind rocket engine would have incorporated a particle bed reactor (PBR), with some designs weighing as little as 2,000 lb., using carbon-carbon and ceramic-matrix composites.

New reactor designs are safer. They “would only hurt you if they fell on you,” it has been suggested, because of specially fabricated and shielded fuel elements and robust “poison” systems to perform an emergency shutdown. It is not known whether a PBR or a different modern reactor technology was the basis for the ELEV concept or the Sandia-Northrop Grumman study, which covered eight heat sources, three power conversion systems, two dual-cycle propulsion systems and an electrical generation system. However, it was stated in 2001 that the propulsion system would power the aircraft while delivering several hundred kilowatts to onboard radar, communications and electronic attack systems. Conventional turbine engines optimized for range and fuel consumption and sized for typical UAVs struggle to deliver 50+ kw at altitude.

Not that any of this matters. Politically speaking, the answer to the Louvin Brothers’ musical challenge of the 1950s—”Are you ready for that great atomic power?”—is a resounding “no,” particularly in a UAV.

 

Stop Fighting over Interest Rates — There’s a Better Way for Congress to Fix the Student Debt Crisis

By MARK KANTROWITZ AND MARK SCHNEIDER | Time.com

May 8, 2012

Interest rates on federal subsidized Stafford loans were cut from 6.8% to 3.4% during the current economic downturn. This “temporary” reduction is scheduled to expire this summer, halfway through an election year. With potentially millions of student votes at stake, President Obama, presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney and some members of Congress are racing to support an extension. But as politics triumphs over policy, underlying facts about student loan levels go ignored along with an opportunity to help students make better enrollment and borrowing decisions.

 

Changes in the interest rates on student loans do not reduce the amounts students borrow. Nor would a one-year extension of the rate save them much. And while stories of students with six-figure debt are legion, the average debt for graduating seniors is around $27,000. Repaid over 10 years, that totals about $330 a month, with only $20 coming from the interest rate increase. Since the average college graduate earns around $42,000 per year, roughly $20,000 more than a high school graduate, this monthly payment — whether $310 or $330 — is manageable for most students.

The real problem is that students are taking on too much debt, and politicians can help fix that by providing more information about the links between college majors, graduation rates, education debt and employment outcomes. After all, debt is a problem only if students don’t graduate or if graduates can’t get jobs that pay enough to allow them to repay their loans. Taking on $25,000 in student loans to earn an additional $25,000 per year is a good investment; borrowing $100,000 to earn an additional $5,000 per year is not.

Students need to know both their likely salaries and their likely debt levels at graduation. As a general rule, total student loan debt at graduation should be less than the expected annual starting salary. If it’s higher than that, borrowers will struggle to repay their loans. But currently there is not enough data on how many college graduates have debt out of sync with income. Nor are there data for each college on the link between debt and income by undergraduate major. Psychology majors at one college might snag lucrative secure jobs while those at another don’t. Only with information on the likely job market outcomes from particular schools and majors can students make informed decisions about where to enroll and how much debt they can manage.

The U.S. Department of Education will soon release data on the ability of students graduating from career and technical programs to repay their student loans. It’s a great way to help students determine whether a diploma from a covered program is, on average, a good financial investment. But why not measure the success of students from all programs on all campuses and make the data available in a user-friendly format?

States should follow suit, releasing their own data on how their grads fare in the labor market. Already, many states have matched student-level transcript data with state unemployment insurance records. Made public, the results would allow students, families and policymakers to see salaries by college and major across the state. In the next few months, Virginia and Texas, among other states, will share their linked data with the public. The bipartisan legislation introduced by Senators Ron Wyden and Marco Rubio would ensure all schools and states go this route.

Of course, the other side of making useful and easy-to-understand information about the true costs and benefits of every higher education program available is making sure students and their families have the skills and tools to understand and interpret the data. Financial literacy needs to be taught in secondary schools and colleges specifically to help students make sound education investment decisions and more generally to help tomorrow’s citizens better manage money. This is the double-barreled way to end today’s sterile posturing over student debt and advance to a more informed discussion of the benefits and costs to students and the country of the various courses of study our colleges and universities offer. This in turn could lead both consumers and policymakers into making better decisions about where to invest their time and money in higher education.

Mark Kantrowitz is Publisher of Fastweb.com and FinAid.org, the leading web sites about college scholarships and financial aid. Mark Schneider is Vice President at the American Institutes for Research and President of College Measures, which is working with Virginia and Texas to make their wage data public. He served as the National Commissioner of Education Statistics from 2005-2008.

 

Civilian takes the reins at AFIT

Dayton Daily News

By Barrie Barber, Staff Writer

2:42 PM Tuesday, May 8, 2012

 

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE — For the first time in its 93-year history, the Air Force Institute of Technology will take orders from a civilian leader of the post-graduate school.

Retired Maj. Gen. Todd I. Stewart, 66, took command of the institute as the director and chancellor in a ceremony Tuesday at Wright-Patterson inside AFIT’s Kenney Auditorium.

“It’s great to be off the bench and back in the game,” he told a crowd of about 800 who attended the pomp and circumstance gathering to mark the milestone in the school’s history.

Proponents say appointing a civilian leader for up to five years at a time will bring continuity and more time to set a direction at the national security-related educational and research program. The school bestows master’s and doctoral degrees to military and civilian students and conducts technical and scientific studies. A military commandant typically stays at the helm two to three years before heading to another assignment.

The chancellorship pays between $153,848 to $165,300 a year, although the exact amount wasn’t immediately provided.

Stewart, a Milwaukee, Wisc., native, retired from the Air Force a decade ago after a 34-year career and then spent time in academia.

“The bottom line is, public service has been my life,” he said in an interview.

In an era of budget and personnel cuts, Stewart emphasized AFIT will produce “relevant, high-impact” students and technologies that meet the Air Force and others needs at an “affordable cost.”

“From my point of view, the most important thing we do is create a passion for lifelong learning,” he said.

A Department of Defense reorganization that reduced, downgraded or converted the number of top-level military and civilian posts to create more efficiency paved the way for the civilian chancellorship, said Lt. Gen. David S. Fadok, commander and president of Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. Fadok attended the event Tuesday.

The new organizational structure mirrors the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterrey, Calif.

Stewart is a former AFIT associate professor of management and served as command civil engineer and director of plans and programs at the Air Force Materiel Command headquarters at Wright-Patterson.

Since he retired from the military, he led initiatives at The Ohio State University and Michigan Technological University, focused on national security-related research and studies.

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Centerville, both members of their respective legislative chambers’ Armed Services Committee, introduced legislation to set standards for the appointment of military and civilian leadership at the institute.

Air Force Col. Timothy Lawrence will become vice chancellor and remain AFIT commandant, a role he has had for about a year.

The position of vice commandant remains in question, Stewart said. Navy Capt. Tim Duening, who serves in the role today, is expected to retire this month, the chancellor said.

Contact this reporter at (937) 225-2363 or bbarber@DaytonDailyNews.com.

Find this article at:

http://www.daytondailynews.com/business/civilian-takes-the-reins-at-afit-1372423.html

 

20 Colleges Not Worth Their Tuition In 2012

By David Schepp , Posted Apr 17th 2012 @ 2:00PM

As the class of 2012 prepares to graduate, another group of bright-eyed youths are anticipating beginning college life this fall. But many face the daunting challenge of affording it.

With the cost of a four-year degree escalating, many parents (and students) want to know they’re getting good value for their education dollars.

So how do you know if you’re getting a good return on your investment, or ROI? PayScale recently crunched the data of more than 850 colleges in the U.S., examining both in- and out-of-state tuition, when applicable, and what grads typically get back in lifetime earnings.

The calculations are based on the average amount that alumni of their respective colleges earned working — minus the total cost of college — and the amount they would have earned as a high school graduate.

The result is a list of winners and losers — and as you can see below, some of the 20 colleges with the lowest ROI have recognizable names. But with any list of winners and losers, those institutions that ranked at the bottom have their defenders, as comment posted on PayScale’s site show.

One graduate of Savannah College of Art and Design, which finished dead last in PayScale’s rankings with an ROI of -$189,000, said that he “wouldn’t change a thing” about his educational experience.

“The skills that I learned through my degree program are incredibly valuable,” said the student, who identified himself as Chris Brinlee Jr.

Others chimed in, arguing that PayScale’s methodology is flawed. Noting that the survey multiplied ROI by the school’s retention rate, “h.spaeth” argued that “It comes as no surprise then that all of the top schools for “ROI” are private schools with high retention rates.”

See rankings at http://www.payscale.com/college-education-value

 

Medical Radar: Coming Soon To A Hospital Near You?

RFGlobalNet.com

May 9, 2012

By Paul Kruczkowski, editor

When I hear the words “radar technology,” I (and many other engineers, I would imagine) tend to think about military target or threat identification, air traffic control, marine navigation, weather monitoring, or even the new automotive accident avoidance systems. Using radar for medical diagnostics, such as non-contact monitoring of patient vital signs, is not an association I would immediately make. However, I was intrigued to learn recently that just such a medical radar system is on the verge of adoption in hospitals and other medical centers.

Medical radar has been the subject of research papers and experiments for decades. According to a report published by the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment (a research institute that conducts R&D for the Norwegian Armed forces), the use of radar for medical diagnostics first received serious consideration in the 1970s, to detect organ movements and water condensation in the lungs. The use of continuous wave (CW) radar to monitor heart rate and pulmonary motion dominated research publications in the 1980s, while the 1990s ushered in the use microwave impulse radar for such applications. Pulsed radar advanced the theory of medical radar significantly, since short duration pulses translate to wide bandwidth, and radar bandwidth directly impacts range resolution, thus making it possible to measure both organ movement and range of movement. Since this breakthrough, the focus of study has been on two types of medical radar, CW Doppler radar and impulse ultra-wideband (UWB) radar operating over a wide range of frequencies.

Years of research has finally paid off with the announcement of operational medical radar hardware. On April 30, 2012, Sensiotec Incorporated unveiled its new Virtual Medical Assistant (VMA) non-contact vital signs monitor at the 17th Annual American Telemedicine Association Meeting & Exposition in San Jose, CA. The system utilizes patented UWB, radar to remotely measure heart and respiration rates, as well as patient movement, without the need for implants, electrodes, or sensors that contact the patient. The VMA technology has received FDA 510(k) Class II pre-market clearance to enter field trials, which is a significant step forward for medical radar technology.

Let’s take a look at how the VMA technology works. The system is driven by a lightweight sensor panel that is placed within 5 feet of the patient — above, below, or next to the bed at the hospital or other point of care. This device emits UWB high-frequency, low-power nanosecond pulses that are 20 million times weaker than mobile phone signals yet are capable of producing high temporal and spatial resolutions and ultra-low-power specific absorption, without ionizing radiation. The UWB pulses penetrate the body and reflected signals from the torso, lungs, and heart are detected, separated, filtered, and processed, converting them to medical data on body movement, respiration and heart rates.

The system acquires patient data every two seconds and streams it in real-time on a ZigBee wireless mesh network utilizing scalable client-server architecture. This patient data can be continuously distributed to multiple care givers (doctors, nurses, and/or EMTs) via computer, pager, tablet, or smart phone. In addition, special alerts can be set for patients who experience deteriorating heart and respiratory rates, are in danger of falling, or require pressure ulcer prevention management.

 

http://www.rfglobalnet.com/doc.mvc/medical-radar-coming-soon-to-a-hospital-near-you-0001?sectionCode=Welcome&templateCode=EnhancedStandard&user=2753709&source=nl:33905

 

Power Without The Cord

RFGlobalNet.com

April 2, 2012

Cell phones and flashlights operate by battery without trouble. Yet because of the limited lifespan, battery power is not a feasible option for many applications in the fields of medicine or test engineering, such as implants or probes. Researchers have now developed a process that supplies these systems with power and without the power cord.

For more than 50 years, pacemakers have set the rhythm for many hearts. The engineering of microelectronic implants has since advanced by leaps and bounds: they have become ever-smaller and more technologically sophisticated. The trend is moving toward miniaturized, intelligent systems that will take over therapeutic and diagnostic functions. For example, in the future implantable sensors will measure glucose levels, blood pressure or the oxygen saturation of tumorous tissue, transmitting patient data via telemetry. Meanwhile, medication dosing systems and infusion pumps will be able to deliver a targeted release of pharmaceutical substances in the body, alleviating side effects in the process.

 

Technology that can be worn on a belt

All these solutions are composed of probes, actuators, signal processing units and electronic controls – and therein lies the problem, too: they must have a power supply. Batteries are usually ruled out because of their limited durability – after all, implants stay inside the body for years. Currently, radio wave-based (HF) and inductive systems are most commonly in use. However, these exhibit differences in efficiency based on location, position and movement and are also often limited in range. Soon, a new power transfer system should circumvent the limitations of previous methods. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems IKTS in Hermsdorf succeeded in wirelessly transmitting power from a portable transmitter module to a mobile generator module – the receiver. “The cylindrical shaped transfer module is so small and compact that it can be attached to a belt,” says Dr. Holger Lausch, scientist at IKTS. The transmitter provides an electric current of over 100 milliwatts and has a range of about 50 centimeters. As a result, the receiver can be placed almost anywhere in the body. “With our portable device, we can remotely supply power to implants, medication dosing systems and other medical applications without touching them – such as ingestible endoscopic capsules that migrate through the gastrointestinal tract and transmit images of the body’s inside to the outside,” says Lausch. The generator module can be traced any time – regardless of power transfer – with respect to its position and location. So if the generator is located inside a video endoscopy capsule, the images produced can be assigned to specific intestinal regions. If it is placed inside a dosing capsule, then the active ingredient in the medication can be released in a targeted manner.

 

Energy can pass through all non-magnetic materials

How does this new, already patented system work? In the transfer module, a rotating magnet driven by an EC motor generates a magnetic rotary field. A magnetic pellet in the receiver connects to the alternating exterior magnetic field and as a result, is set in rotation itself. The rotational movement is transformed into electricity, thus the power is produced right in the generator module. “With magnetic coupling, power can be transported through all non-magnetic materials, such as biological tissue, bones, organs, water, plastic or even a variety of metals. Moreover, the magnetic field produced has no harmful side effects on humans. It doesn’t even heat up tissue,” says Lausch, highlighting the advantages of the system.

Because the modules available as prototypes are scalable in terms of range, size and performance capacity, they can be used for more than medical technology applications. They can also supply power wirelessly to hermetically sealed sensors – such as those inside walls or bridges. This makes them suitable for use in mechanical engineering and plant construction and in the construction industry. Other conceivable applications include the charging of power storage units and activation of electronic components.

Using a hip implant as a demonstration tool, Lausch and his team will demonstrate how their wireless power transmission system functions at the Hannover Messe from April 23–27 (Hall 13, Booth C10). As used here, the technology electrically stimulates the ball-and-socket joint to stimulate the growth of cartilage and bone cells.

SOURCE: Fraunhofer

http://www.rfglobalnet.com/doc.mvc/power-without-the-cord-0001?sectionCode=News&templateCode=EnhancedStandard&user=2753709&source=nl:33905

 

Pentagon seeks to join 3-D printing revolution

NextGov.com

By Dawn Lim

May 9, 2012

The Pentagon will fund an institute for agencies, companies and academics to advance three-dimensional printing techniques, with the eventual goal of cheaper and faster manufacturing of aerospace and defense parts.

Also known as additive manufacturing, 3-D printing uses special machines to make solid objects, layer by layer, from a digital file. Designers use 3-D printers to create cheap prototypes without needing to turn to an assembly line; hobbyists and tinkerers build do-it-yourself projects with the technology. Now the Pentagon wants to capitalize on 3-D printers to shave the costs of assembly tools.

 

The agency seeks to launch a $60 million 3-D printing research and educational program, documents show. Defense expects to fund $30 million from fiscal 2012 through 2014. The bulk of the funding — $18.8 million — is expected to be forked over in fiscal 2012. The 3-D printing initiative will offer a proof of concept on how to build a network of 14 institutes to spur ideas on improving domestic manufacturing, as part of a $1 billion White House initiative called the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation. The program will be managed by various federal agencies, including Defense, the Energy Department, and the National Science Foundation.

The Pentagon is soliciting nonprofit organizations and universities to launch the pilot. The institution should house additive manufacturing experts, have a business plan to ensure it is financially sustainable, and be able to protect the patent rights of inventors. A proposer’s day for the pilot program will be held May 16. Proposals are due on June 14.

“Due to the advantages of additive manufacturing, considerable capability improvements and manufacturing cycle time reductions can be realized for new platforms,” the solicitation notes. “In addition, parts needed for DoD legacy systems can have a significant cost and cycle time savings because assembly tools are not required.”

The Pentagon’s participation in the 3-D printing revolution would give additional boost to an industry that is expected to grow to $3.1 billion by 2016 and $5.2 billion by 2020, according to research group Wohlers Associates.

http://www.nextgov.com/defense/2012/05/pentagon-seeks-join-3-d-printing-revolution/55647/

 

Efforts to limit feds’ conference attendance meet opposition

FCW.com

By Camille Tuutti

May 09, 2012

More than 800 organizations are up in arms about new proposed legislative language that restricts federal employees from attending conferences, insisting it would hurt the dialog between government and private industry. However, the bills that contain the measures are moving closer to becoming law.

In a May 4 letter to Congress, the American Society of Association Executives and more than 800 associations urged lawmakers to consider revisions to amendments that limit government employees from attending meetings and conferences organized by associations, nonprofits and other industry groups. These amendments were included in the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act and the 21st Century Postal Service Act. The DATA act was passed April 25 by the House, and the other bill was passed the same day by the Senate.

 

ASAE said it supports Congress’ effort to promote greater transparency and accountability in spending by limiting government-sponsored conferences and travel expenses for federal employees. However, the language would also exclude federal employees’ participation in non-governmental meetings and conferences as well, the letter stated.

“The dialog that takes place at these meetings between government and the private sector is essential to the development of informed policymaking that facilitates economic growth and job creation,” the letter stated. “The dangers of government operating in a vacuum – with fewer opportunities to learn and exchange information with private industries in a conference or meeting setting – are too great to ignore.”

The amendments also prohibit agencies from spending money on more than one conference sponsored or organized by an organization during any fiscal year, unless the agency is the primary sponsor and organizer of the event. ASEA and the other associations also opposed the broad definition of “conference” meaning “every conference held by an association, corporation or virtually any other non-governmental organization,” and suggested revising the definition to a meeting sponsored by one or more agencies.

Under these amendments, agencies are required to post online a report on each conference for which the agency paid travel expenses and information including related expenses, who organized the event, and where it was held. If the organizer is a federal agency, the agency would have to justify the location of the event.

ASEA said the language in the amendments could be easily changed to allow federal employees to attend educational events held by nongovernmental organizations.

This is not the first time lawmakers have taken steps to prevent federal employees from attending specific gatherings. In September 2011, the Office of Government Ethics proposed a rule that would prevent feds from attending lobbyist-sponsored social events such as cocktail parties and movie screenings.

http://fcw.com/Articles/2012/05/09/Opposition-amendments-strict-limits-on-feds-conferences.aspx?s=fcwdaily_100512&p=1

 

 

House votes to replace Pentagon cuts mandated by debt deal

The Hill

By Erik Wasson and Pete Kasperowicz – 05/10/12 02:17 PM ET

 

The House voted Thursday to override steep cuts to the Pentagon’s budget mandated by last summer’s debt deal and replace them with spending reductions to food stamps and other mandatory social programs.

While doomed in the Senate and opposed by the White House, the legislation, which would reduce the deficit by $243 billion, is a Republican marker for post-election budget talks with the White House.

Members approved the Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act in a party-line 218-99 vote. As expected, the bill was supported by nearly all Republicans — only 16 opposed it, and no Democrats supported it.

Republicans voting against the bill were Reps. Justin Amash (Mich.), Roscoe Bartlett (Md.), Charlie Bass (N.H.), John Duncan (Tenn.), Mike Fitzpatrick (Pa.), Chris Gibson (N.Y.), Louie Gohmert (Texas), Jaime Herrera Beutler (Wash.), Tim Johnson (Ill.), Walter Jones (N.C.), Raul Labrador (Idaho), Steve LaTourette (Ohio), Frank LoBiondo (N.J.), Todd Platts (Pa.), Ed Whitfield (Ky.) and Frank Wolf (Va.). GOP Rep. James Sensenbrenner (Wis.) voted present.

Republicans cast the bill as a first step back toward controlling federal spending, after years of allowing spending and deficits to balloon.

“We believe the purpose of the sequester was to replace the fact that Congress isn’t governing,” House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said during the opening debate on the bill. “Well, let’s have Congress govern. That’s why we’re doing this.”

Both parties are looking to avoid $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts to Pentagon and domestic discretionary spending that are mandated to begin in 2013 because of the failure of the deficit supercommittee to agree to a deficit-reduction plan. The entire process was set up by the 2011 deal between Congress and the White House to raise the debt ceiling.

The House bill would leave pending mandatory cuts in place, including cuts to Medicare. It would turn off $72 billion in cuts to both the Pentagon and on defense spending mandated by sequestration, but add $315 billion in new cuts, none of which are imposed on the Pentagon.

Under the House-approved legislation, food stamp eligibility is tightened, the Prevention and Public Health Trust Fund under the 2010 healthcare law is ended, the Federal Medicaid match to states is reduced, new stricter eligibility standards for Medicaid are imposed, and the Social Services Block Grant, which funds Meals on Wheels, is ended.

More savings come from cutting all funding for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, cutting federal worker pay and through medical tort reform.

The cuts would reduce the overall discretionary spending cap for 2013 by $19 billion below the level set in the debt deal.

But the GOP bill is highly controversial because it completely exempts defense cuts and focuses cuts only on social programs, a move Democrats blasted as the bill was debated.

“Today, my Republican friends have brought to the floor a reconciliation bill that actually makes sequestration look good,” Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) said.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called the bill part of the “Republican, Ryan, Tea Party” budget that she said would “assault women’s health” and hurt families by “literally taking food out of the mouths of babies.”

Democrats offered an alternative that also included no defense cuts, but they bristled at the absence in the GOP bill of any new tax revenue, which they say should help contribute to deficit reduction, and rejected language in the bill that requires government workers to contribute more to their retirement.

“Federal employees … are ready to participate … but do not ask them to do it alone,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said.

On Wednesday and Thursday, Democrats tried unsuccessfully to convince Republicans to let them to offer an alternative plan as an amendment. That proposal would have cut $24 billion in farm subsidies, saved $5 billion by reforming the National Flood Insurance Program reform, and raised $84 billion by imposing a “Buffet Rule” tax on the wealthy and increasing taxes on the five biggest oil and gas companies.

But Republicans said the Democratic language didn’t do enough, and mostly relied on tax increases to reduce the deficit.

“The gentleman’s substitute raises taxes $85 billion and raises spending $55 billion on the net, to achieve … $30 billion in deficit reduction,” Ryan said on the House floor. The GOP bill, in contrast, “achieves $243 billion in deficit reduction without raising taxes.”

House passage sends the bill to a Senate that has said it would not consider it at all; the White House has also issued a veto threat.

The bill the House passed is technically a budget reconciliation measure and if the Senate were to act on the bill it would be free from filibuster. Reconciliation was used to speed passage of President Obama’s health reform and the Bush tax cuts.

Seven members in each party missed the vote.

Source:

http://thehill.com/blogs/on-the-money/budget/226703-house-votes-to-replace-pentagon-cuts-mandated-by-debt-deal

 

House action amounts to federal pay cut

Washington Post

By Joe Davidson

It’s been a good week for federal employees.

Mostly.

There was one event after another praising their work and sacrifice as part of Public Service Recognition Week. On Tuesday, the Senate passed legislation that would strengthen protections for federal whistleblowers. On Thursday morning, the National Academy of Public Administration sponsored a scholarly discussion on the founding fathers and the federal civil service.

Then, Thursday afternoon, House Republicans pounced.

They brought federal employees back to earth by approving what amounts to a 5 percent pay cut for the workforce, as part of a larger budget saving package.

The 218 to 199 vote was on a “reconciliation” bill designed to find reductions that would allow the government to avoid automatic hits to Defense and other programs scheduled to take effect in January. No Democrats voted for the bill, which would cost federal workers about $83 billion. Sixteen Republicans joined the opposition.

Under the bill, federal paychecks aren’t directly slashed, but workers would be required to pay an additional 5 percent of salary for retirement benefits, with no increase in those benefits.

“After this goes into effect, they will in fact not have as much take-home as they did the day before,” Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) acknowledged on the House floor. Issa is chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that earlier approved the 5 percent hike.

It would be phased-in, starting with 1.5 percentage points next year, then half a percentage point in 2014 and an additional full percentage point in each of the following years. New employees hired after this year would pay the extra 5 percent immediately.

“Instead of using this week to celebrate the good work of government employees who dedicate their lives to serving others, the Republican Majority has put legislation on the House floor today that would take billions of dollars out of their pockets.,” Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) said shortly before the vote. He is the top Democrat on the committee.

“Our middle-class federal employees have already contributed $75 billion towards deficit reduction and other government programs, while millionaires and billionaires have not been asked to contribute one additional cent to improve our government’s financial condition,” Cummings added.

The $75 billion represents the $60 billion the government is saving over 10 years through the current two-year freeze on basic federal pay rates. The other $15 billion comes from earlier congressional action requiring those hired after this year to contribute an additional 2.3 percent of salary for retirement.

The Obama administration also opposes the reconciliation bill, although its statement on the legislation made no mention of the hit on federal employees.

Now the bill goes to the Senate, where the Democratic majority is much less likely to pass it.

Much of the discussion during Public Service Recognition Week focused on the many ways talented and dedicated federal employees serve the nation. This bill could hamper hiring others like them and make some on the payroll consider leaving.

The reconciliation measure “undercuts the ability to recruit and retain the talented individuals our government needs, and further endangers the critical services that our nation depends on by seeking to replace the majority of the automatic sequester defense cuts with additional domestic discretionary spending cuts, which would force agencies to cut services,” said a statement by the National Treasury Employees Union.

Members of Congress also would pay more for retirement under the bill. Their required contributions would rise by 8.5 percent of salary over the five years. Issa says this would mean all federal employees would pay their “fair share” toward retirement.

There’s nothing fair about it say union leaders.

Under federal budget rules, the mandatory pension contribution increase is considered a tax increase, according to the American Federation of Government Employees, and that violates a cardinal rule of Republicanism.

The “bill’s drastic tax increase,” Beth Moten, the union’s legislative and political director said in a letter to Congress, could result in lower employee contributions to their Thrift Savings Plan, savings that for most employees get a government match.

“So employees will pay much more now,” she wrote, “and are virtually guaranteed to receive much less when they retire.”

Staff writer Eric Yoder contributed to this story.

 

Panetta says House debt deal a recipe for gridlock

The Hill

By Carlo Munoz – 05/10/12 04:49 PM ET

A House plan to swap deep defense budget cuts for reductions to a number of mandatory social programs drew sharp rebuke from Pentagon leaders on Thursday

In a sharply-worded statement, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta laid into the House Republican plan during a briefing with Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey at the Pentagon.

The Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act is a recipe for “confrontation [and] gridlock” that will only make automatic defense cuts more likely to happen, Panetta told reporters.

The plan, crafted by House Republicans, would shave $243 billion from the national deficit, mostly on the backs of social welfare programs.

Proponents argue the plan would spare the Defense Department a $250 billion budget cut over the next five years.

Reasserting that the national debt cannot be shouldered by defense cuts alone, Panetta argued that neither should it be squared “by taking these funds from the poor, middle-class Americans [and] other vulnerable parts of our American constituencies.”

“It is not balanced. It is not fair,” he added regarding the House GOP plan.

The Pentagon chief also had some stern words for House lawmakers, who passed their version of the fiscal 2013 Defense authorization bill early Thursday morning.

 

The $643 billion spending package includes billions of dollars for missile defense programs and for keeping several weapons systems DOD had pegged for retirement in the U.S. arsenal.

The Pentagon budget sent to Capitol Hill in February represented a delicate balance between the department’s dire fiscal situation and its need to meet critical national security demands, Panetta explained.

“When Congress restores funds to protect particular constituencies … then they risk upending the kind of careful balance that we’ve worked very hard to achieve,” Panetta said.

For his part, Dempsey said DOD and Congress must “make sure our armed forces have what they need and no more than what we need” to keep U.S. national security priorities intact.

“Before giving us weapons we don’t need or giving up on reforms that we do need, I would only ask to make sure it’s the right choice, not just for our armed forces, but for the nation,” the four-star general said.

With the Senate set to begin marking up its version of the fiscal 2013 defense bill, Panetta pleaded for cooperation between Capitol Hill and the Pentagon.

As the budget debate continues, both sides must recognize “the budget realities that we face, not the ones that some would like to pretend are not there,” he said.

“If Congress now tries to reverse many of the tough decisions that we reached . . . then they risk not only potential gridlock [but] … they could force the kind of trade-offs that could jeopardize our national defense,” Panetta said. “There is no free lunch here.”

Source:

http://thehill.com/blogs/defcon-hill/policy-and-strategy/226779-panetta-says-house-debt-deal-a-recipe-for-gridlock-

 

House OKs spending bill — first of the year

By Pete Kasperowicz – 05/10/12 02:52 PM ET

The House on Thursday approved the first appropriations bill of the year, a measure that spends $51 billion on the Departments of Commerce and Justice, NASA and other related agencies.

The spending bill, H.R. 5326, was approved in a 247-163 vote in which eight Republicans voted against it, reflecting opposition to the amount spent in the bill. But it also picked up the support of 23 Democrats.

Republicans voting against the bill were Reps. Justin Amash (Mich.), Paul Broun (Ga.), John Campbell (Calif.), John Duncan (Tenn.), Jeff Flake (Ariz.), Trent Franks (Ariz.), Cynthia Lummis (Wyo.), and Tom McClintock (Calif.).

The bill is among the least controversial of the 12 annual appropriations bills but has little chance of becoming law on its own. The White House has said President Obama will veto any and all of the 12 bills until the House renounces the top-line spending level in the overall budget written by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

The legislation cuts spending by about 3 percent compared to current levels, which Republicans said shows their ongoing commitment to trim spending. The GOP said spending by agencies covered by the bill has been cut by 20 percent over the last three budget cycles.

But similar to last year, Republicans were often split over proposals to cut further. During amendment debate, younger Republicans — including some associated with the Tea Party movement — offered amendments that would have chopped at least $3.5 billion more, but nearly all of them were defeated with the help of senior Republicans.

Among these were proposals to cut $1.2 billion from the National Science Foundation, and several amendments to cut all salaries and administrative expenses by an additional amount.

While Republicans split on these ideas, they came together in support of several funding limitations, particularly those that limited the authority of the Justice Department and Attorney General Eric Holder.

One of the more controversial amendments added to the bill would prevent Justice from using taxpayer funds to lie to Congress. That language, from Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), was a reaction to GOP arguments that Justice lied to Congress about its involvement in a gun-walking program that allowed weapons to leave the United States, one of which was later used to kill a U.S. border patrol agent.

Chaffetz said during debate that Justice’s purposeful decision not to tell Congress the truth about the “Fast and Furious” program was “wholly unacceptable,” and his amendment was passed easily 381-41 with the support of 142 Democrats.

The House also voted to cut $1 million from the Justice Department in retaliation for the department’s failure to come clean about Fast and Furious.

Additionally, members approved amendments preventing Justice from defending the 2010 healthcare law, suing states with voter ID laws and taking action against state immigration laws.

 

DOE Hybrid Cloud May Be Model For Future

Department of Energy and National Nuclear Security Administration develop secure cloud that will be available to other departments and potentially other federal agencies.

By Barbara DePompa, InformationWeek

May 10, 2012    

URL: http://www.informationweek.com/news/government/cloud-saas/240000076

The Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration are creating a cloud computing environment that could be a model for other federal agencies.

Working together, the DOE and NNSA are combining a private cloud and commercial cloud services to create a secure, hybrid cloud that will be available to other DOE departments, and potentially to other federal agencies. Just last week, Federal CIO Steven VanRoekel released a shared IT services strategy that directs agencies to adopt services that are available “for consumption by multiple organizations within or between federal agencies.”

The cloud project was described by Energy CTO Pete Tseronis, along with two IT executives of NNSA–CTO Travis Howerton, and management and operations CTO Anil Karmel–at InformationWeek’s Government IT Leadership Forum on May 3 in Washington, D.C. NNSA, which is responsible for the security of the U.S. military’s nuclear weapons stockpile, operates within the DOE.

[ Read Federal Researchers Push Limits Of Cloud Computing. ]

An integrated project team with representatives from DOE and NNSA is developing the hybrid, community cloud, which builds on an infrastructure-as-a-service environment deployed at Los Alamos National Laboratory. “We will broker services, layer services on top of the infrastructure,” said Howerton.

The new cloud environment is scheduled to be available by September. Key technologies include a cloud services broker developed by NNSA and access controls and identity management for security. “If it’s good for [a] nuclear weapons complex, it’s likely good enough for everyone to use,” said Howerton.

Other elements of the project include smart metering, operational and cybersecurity dashboards, and other tools that “foundationally change how we work and how we deliver services,” Howerton added.

Algorithms will let users determine the costs of cloud services in advance of using them, according to Karmel. The plan calls for virtual servers to be available within 30 minutes of requesting them.

Cloud computing is part of a broader DOE strategy that includes using virtualization and mobility to support an agile, efficient workplace. Tseronis said it’s essential that agencies establish policies that take into account new technologies and ways of working. “With the right policies in place, any agency can manage risks and empower users,” he said.

 

Newly discovered Mayan calendar goes way past 2012

12:04 PM, May 11, 2012 |

USA Today

By Dan Vergano

Newly discovered wall writings found in Guatemala show the famed Maya culture’s obsession with cycles of time. But they also show calendars that go well beyond 2012, the year when the vanished civilization, according to popular culture, expected the end of the world.

“So much for the supposed end of the world,” says archaeologist William Saturno of Boston University, lead author of a study in the journal Science, which reported the discovery on Thursday.

Discovered in the ruins of Xultun, the astronomical calendar was unearthed from a filled-in scribe’s room. While about 7 million Maya people still live in Central America today, the “Classic” Maya civilization of pyramid temples had collapsed there by about 900 A.D., leaving only a few birch-bark books dating to perhaps the 14th century as records of their astronomy, until now.

“The numbers we found indicate an obsession with time and cycles of time, some of them very large,” Saturno says. “Maya scribes most likely transcribed the numbers on the wall in this room into (books) just like the ones later seen by conquistadors.”

Explorers first reported the site of Xultun, once a large Maya center, in 1915. But it was only two years ago that National Geographic Society-funded archaeologists noted a small residential room partly exposed by looters. The room’s walls proved to hold murals and small, delicate hieroglyphs inscribed in rows between paintings of scribes and rulers that not only corresponded to a 260 day ceremonial calendar and 365-day year, but the 584-day sky track of Venus and 780-day one of Mars.

Examination of the rows shows they are columns of numbers and symbols similar to lunar eclipse calculations found in early 16th century Maya writings that tied astronomical events to rituals. Some of them include dates corresponding to a time after the year 3500.

“A fascinating discovery and a first in Maya archaeology,” says Maya anthropologist Victoria Bricker of Tulane University in New Orleans. She notes its conclusive linkage of the later books to the Classic Maya calendar carved in stone dating back to before 300 A.D. The room’s wall calculations likely served as a blackboard for scribes, in a society where festivals, rituals and farming were tied to astronomical observations.

“Seeing the actual writing on the wall certainly gives us a little insight into history,” says Maya writing expert Simon Martin, co-curator of the “Maya 2012: Lords of Time” exhibition now ongoing at Philadelphia’s Penn Museum. Although once viewed as peaceful star-gazers, more recent scholarly work has revealed that politics, war and trade dominated ancient Maya society. “We’re seeing the pendulum swing back with this discovery, where we can now see astronomy playing a role in ordering their society,” Martin says.

http://www.freep.com/article/20120511/FEATURES01/120511026/With-video-Newly-discovered-Mayan-calendar-goes-way-past-2012

 

Nurse practitioners look to fill gap with expected spike in demand for health services

Washington Post

By Sarah Kliff, Sunday, May 13, 12:10 AM

President Obama’s health-care law is expected to expand health insurance to 32 million Americans over the next decade. Health policy experts anticipate that the wave of new insurance subscribers will lead to a spike in demand for medical services.

That has a battle heating up over who will provide that care. Nurse practitioners are rolling out a campaign this week to explain what, exactly, nurse practitioners do — and why patients should trust them with their medical needs.

“We know that the Affordable Care Act will extend health coverage to millions of Americans,” said Penny Kaye Jensen, president of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. “It’s important for consumers to understand what we do and that we’re fully prepared to care for them.”

Through advertisements, public service announcements and events, the organization will try to raise the profile of the country’s 155,000 nurse practitioners.

The campaign looks to exploit what many say is a looming doctor shortage. The Association of American Medical College predicts that the country will have 63,000 too few doctors as soon as 2015.

“With the serious shortage of family doctors in many parts of the country, nurse practitioners — or NPs as they are known — can provide expert, compassionate and affordable care,” the group will contend in a radio public service announcement.

The AANP will follow up on the public relations blitz with state-level lobbying efforts, looking to pass bills that will expand the range of medical procedures that their membership can perform.

“A fully enabled nurse practitioner workforce will increase access to quality health care, improve outcomes and make the health-care system more affordable for patients all across America,” Jensen said.

All states have “scope of practice” laws, which regulate what medical procedures each profession can, and cannot, perform, given their level of education. These laws regulate everyone from dental hygienists to physician assistants up to nurse practitioners, who all hold graduate degrees in medical education.

In 16 states, nurse practitioners can practice without the supervision of another professional such as a doctor. Other states, however, require a physician to sign off on a nurse practitioner’s prescriptions, for example, or diagnostic tests.

As the health insurance expansion looms, expanding those rules to other states has become a crucial priority for nurse practitioners. “We’re all educated and prepared to provide a full range of services,” said Taynin Kopanos, AANP’s director of state government affairs.

The nurse practitioners’ campaign, however, is unlikely to move forward without a fight: doctors’ groups have often opposed such efforts of other professional societies to expand their medical authorities. The American Medical Association, which lobbies for doctors, often contends that such laws could put patients at risk.

“Non-physician professionals play vital roles in providing high-quality patient care, but no other health-care professionals’ education and training comes close to physicians’ more than 10 years of medical education and 16,000 hours of clinical experience,” AMA President Peter Carmel said.

Legislative analysts at the AMA say they’ve seen an uptick in state legislation meant to increase the powers of other professionals since the Affordable Care Act passed. Legislators have introduced about 400 such bills this year.

Nurse practitioners say they do have the skills necessary to treat patients with more autonomy. Unlike other nurses, all nurse practitioners hold either a master’s or doctorate degree in medical education.

Alongside the legislative push, the group also will focus on public education. Data suggest that they have their work cut out for them: A 2010 AANP poll found that while most Americans report having been seen by a nurse practitioner, few knew that their medical expertise goes beyond that of traditional, registered nurses, who go through less medical training.

Fourteen percent of the adults surveyed thought that nurse practitioners could prescribe medication, although sometimes with a physician’s supervision, an authority they have in all states. They can also order diagnostic tests and scans, such as X-rays and MRIs, but only 18 percent thought such powers were within their scope of practice.

“People stop at the word nurse and don’t understand the word practitioner,” Jensen said. “Obviously we are nurses, but we also have advanced education. We think there’s a misunderstanding on the patients’ behalf.”

Jensen hopes to see her members out at health fairs, church groups, rotary clubs and other community events to get the word out about the work they do, and the role they hope to fill as health insurance coverage expands.

“I think I was surprised about patients knowing so little, even if they’ve seen us,” she said. “That really was the springboard for this campaign, that we need to be expanding our visibility.”

 

Foreign banks freezing out U.S. millionaires

Washington Post

By Sanat Vallikappen, Published: May 12

Go away, American millionaires.

That’s what some of the world’s largest wealth-management firms are saying ahead of Washington’s implementation of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, known as Fatca, which seeks to prevent tax evasion by Americans with offshore accounts. HSBC, Deutsche Bank, Bank of Singapore and DBS Group all say they have turned away business.

“I don’t open U.S. accounts, period,” said Su Shan Tan, head of private banking at Singapore-based DBS, Southeast Asia’s largest lender, who described regulatory attitudes toward U.S. clients as “Draconian.”

The 2010 law, to be phased in Jan. 1, 2013, requires financial institutions based outside the United States to obtain and report information about income and interest payments accrued to the accounts of American clients. It means additional compliance costs for banks and fewer investment options and advisers for all U.S. citizens living abroad, which could affect their ability to generate returns.

“In the long run, if Americans have less and less opportunities to invest overseas, it would be a disadvantage,” Marc Faber, the fund manager and publisher of the Gloom, Boom and Doom report, said last month in Singapore.

The almost 400 pages of proposed rules issued by the Internal Revenue Service in February create “unnecessary burdens and costs,” the Institute of International Bankers and the European Banking Federation said in an April 30 letter to the IRS, one of more than 200 submitted to the agency. The IRS plans to hold a hearing May 15 and could amend how and when some aspects of the rules are implemented. It can’t rescind the law.

Bank transparency

The government needs to be tougher on offshore tax crimes than it has been, said Rep. Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.) and one of the original sponsors of the legislation. Fatca, introduced after Zurich-based UBS said in 2009 that it aided tax evasion by Americans and agreed to pay $780 million to avoid prosecution, is already helping to improve banking transparency, he said.

“People should know, and the IRS should know, what money is being held offshore and for what purpose,” Neal said. “I don’t think there’s anything unreasonable about that.”

UBS, the world’s biggest non-U.S. private bank according to London-based industry tracker Scorpio Partnership, said in 2008 it would discontinue offshore accounts for U.S. citizens. The firm now refers them to its U.S. wealth-management offices, or to its Swiss Financial Advisers unit, which complies with U.S. and Swiss regulations, said Serge Steiner, a spokesman for UBS. The company continues to provide Americans outside the United States with services other than securities investments, including consumer and commercial loans, foreign-currency spot trading and precious-metals transactions, he said.

Investments in products offered by third parties that non-U.S. citizens can buy through UBS or other banks also may be restricted.

“Most of the hedge funds I know in Asia won’t take American clients,” Faber said.

Bank of Singapore, the private-banking arm of Oversea-Chinese Banking, ranked strongest in the world for the past two years by Bloomberg Markets magazine, has turned away millions of dollars from Americans because it doesn’t want to deal with the regulatory hassle, according to chief executive Renato de Guzman. The bank had $32 billion under management as of the beginning of the year.

“It’s too complex, too challenging,” de Guzman, who at 61 has more than 35 years of banking experience, said in an interview in Singapore in March. “You probably should have a dedicated team to handle them or to understand what can be done or what cannot be done.”

 

Rejecting Americans

At industry meetings he attends in Singapore, not accepting U.S. clients is “quite a prevailing sentiment,” de Guzman said. There are 18 private banks operating in Singapore, including units run by UBS, Credit Suisse Group, Deutsche Bank and HSBC, he said.

“We have enough business in Asia, so we don’t want to make our lives too difficult,” de Guzman said.

Asia has the world’s fastest-growing number of people with more than $1 million in investable assets, according to a report last year by Bank of America and Capgemini. Its number of millionaires climbed 9.7 percent in 2010 to 3.3 million people, higher than the 8.6 percent growth in North America. The combined wealth of Asian millionaires increased to $10.8 trillion, topping Europe for the first time, the report said.

Singapore is Asia’s largest wealth-management center, with $512 billion in offshore assets in 2010, data compiled by the Boston Consulting Group show. Bank of America is the world’s No. 1 wealth manager, with $1.9 trillion under management, followed by Morgan Stanley and UBS, with $1.6 trillion, according to Scorpio.

HSBC decided last July that it would no longer offer wealth-management services to Americans from locations outside their home country after tax authorities stepped up a probe of the London-based bank’s U.S. clients.

Americans would be “better served” by private bankers in the United States, Goh Kong Aik, a spokesman for the firm in Singapore, said in an e-mail. He declined to say whether those who have private-banking accounts abroad will be allowed to remain customers, except that they would be helped through an undefined “transition process.”

Deutsche Bank said it terminated securities accounts held abroad by people with U.S. residency as of mid-2011. The action didn’t include checking or savings accounts and didn’t affect citizens living outside the United States. The Frankfurt-based bank said “only a small number of customers” were affected.

Spokesmen for Credit Suisse, France’s BNP Paribas and Amsterdam-based ABN Amro Bank, also among the top 10 non-U.S. global wealth managers, said their banks are studying the issue and haven’t decided what to do with American account holders.

 

Collateral damage

“Bank accounts, investment accounts, mortgages and insurance policies are being refused to American clients, and those with accounts are seeing them closed or have been threatened with closure,” said Marylouise Serrato, executive director of American Citizens Abroad, a Geneva-based organization.

U.S. citizens who live in countries that aren’t served by U.S. banks may find themselves unable to bank at all, and implementation of the law in its current form could cause collateral damage to American businesses abroad, she said.

“Americans either will not be allowed to enter into international partnerships or live and work overseas, and will be replaced by foreign nationals who do not have these limitations,” Serrato wrote. “The extensive reporting requirements of Fatca will be destructive to those who wish to do business internationally as well as to those Americans who are legitimately living and working overseas.”

That view is shared by Richard L. Weisman, Hong Kong-based head of law firm Baker & McKenzie’s global tax practice.

“U.S. expatriates already face severe U.S. tax rules related to their non-U.S. income and investments,” Weisman said. “Fatca will increase the extent to which they are turned away by non-U.S. financial institutions.”

Tan of DBS said she refers Americans seeking private-banking services to U.S. institutions with operations in Singapore such as Citigroup, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs Group and JPMorgan Chase, which are able to open securities accounts for Americans because they’re regulated by U.S. authorities. Such accounts allow purchases of investment products without restricting Americans to cash and time-deposit accounts.

While that may be easy for Americans in Singapore, those who live elsewhere face obstacles. Before Fatca, U.S. citizens in Bangkok or Manila could find investment opportunities through non-U.S. banks such as HSBC. Now their only option is to fly to cities where U.S. firms operate.

 

Limited choices

If Americans choose to bank with a non-U.S. firm such as HSBC, their investment choices are limited. At the HSBC branch in the bank’s Asia regional headquarters in Hong Kong, Americans can hold only savings deposits. They’re prohibited from opening accounts to trade local stocks or buy products available to non-U.S. customers, including 45 equity funds investing in China or other geographies and industries. There’s only one comparable emerging-markets equity option available on HSBC’s U.S.-based investors’ Web site.

Financial institutions that choose not to accept American customers still must determine whether new or existing clients are “U.S. persons,” in order to comply with Fatca, according to Michael Brevetta, director of U.S. tax consulting at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Singapore.

The definition includes citizens, green-card holders and non-Americans deemed U.S. residents by being present in the country for at least 183 days over a three-year period, which makes them subject to U.S. tax on their worldwide income, according to the IRS.

The compliance costs for banks, asset managers and insurance companies “could stretch into the billions of dollars,” Brevetta said. Private-banking firms in Hong Kong and Singapore already have operating costs between 88 percent and 90 percent of their revenue, compared with 70 percent at Swiss banks, PricewaterhouseCoopers estimated in a September report.

Penalties for not complying will be stiff. Non-U.S. firms that don’t make required disclosures will be subject to 30 percent withholding of certain dividends, interest or proceeds from the sale of assets they or their customers receive from U.S. sources, according to Baker & McKenzie’s Weisman, who has conducted workshops and seminars on the proposed rules for current and potential clients in Hong Kong and Singapore.

“Overwhelmingly, financial institutions outside the U.S. don’t like it, for obvious reasons,” Weisman said, calling the withholding tax a “stick” the U.S. is wielding. “The U.S. is outsourcing a tax-compliance function, which is enormously expensive.”

 

Renouncing citizenship

Americans who don’t comply with Fatca are deemed “recalcitrant,” and income they receive from U.S. sources also is subject to a 30 percent withholding tax, said Jason Choi, a Singapore-based tax lawyer with Latham & Watkins.

Renouncing citizenship is an option chosen by increasing numbers of Americans. A record 1,780 gave up their U.S. passports last year compared with 235 in 2008, the IRS reported.

Royal Bank of Canada, the sixth-biggest wealth manager with $435 billion under management as of the beginning of 2011, said it sees an opportunity as competition is exiting, including in emerging markets, where it manages $60 billion.

“We are one of the few wealth managers to hold a Securities and Exchange Commission license offering U.S.-compliant investment advice in Switzerland and London and see an opportunity in accepting tax-compliant U.S. persons as clients outside of the U.S.,” said Barend Janssens, the Singapore-based head of the bank’s wealth-management unit for emerging markets.

Coutts, the wealth division of British government-owned Royal Bank of Scotland, plans to comply with Fatca and to continue accepting tax-compliant U.S. persons, according to Tim Winter, associate director of the U.S. Competence Centre at Coutts. The London-based bank has invested since July 2010 in a “global program of work established to support the implementation of Fatca,” he said in an e-mail.

The Swiss government has been in talks for more than a year with U.S. authorities, who, after obtaining data on about 4,700 UBS clients, are investigating 11 other firms, including Zurich-based Credit Suisse and Julius Baer Group, for alleged assistance in U.S. tax evasion.

Credit Suisse continues to “work hard” to resolve the probe, chief executive Brady Dougan said in an interview. Julius Baer exited its U.S. private-client business between 2009 and 2011, said Jan Vonder Muehll, a bank spokesman.

 

Wegelin forfeiture

Wegelin & Co., a Swiss private bank established in 1741, became the first Swiss lender to face criminal charges in the U.S. crackdown on offshore firms suspected of abetting tax evasion. It had to sell its assets in January to Switzerland’s Raiffeisen Group to save its non-U.S. business before the United States indicted the firm in February. The St. Gallen-based private bank helped Americans hide more than $1.2 billion in assets and evade taxes, wooing clients spurned by UBS, according to an indictment filed in federal court in New York.

U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain ordered Wegelin to forfeit $16 million on April 24, allowing the U.S. government to take the amount from Wegelin’s U.S. account, held at UBS in Stamford, Conn. Albena Bjoerck, a spokeswoman for Wegelin, declined to comment.

Spokesmen for Citigroup, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase all declined to comment on how Fatca is affecting their business, with some citing company policies not to discuss government regulation. Standard Chartered, France’s Societe Generale, Barclays and Hong Kong-based Hang Seng Bank, which all have wealth-management businesses, also declined to comment.

The restrictions on products available to Americans may not matter to a savvy investor, according to Hugh Young, who helps manage $70 billion in Asian equities in Singapore for Aberdeen Asset Management.

“The financial institutions can restrict you from some of the best products, but you have others of the best,” he said.

Still, the limitations create complications that act as an investment deterrent, said Philip Marcovici, a retired U.S. tax lawyer who advises wealthy families and governments.

“It’s a pain for Americans to invest in markets outside of the U.S.,” he said.

— Bloomberg Markets

 

 

3 federal agencies must cooperate on unmanned aerial vehicles

Turner amends bill to help UAV industry take off locally.

Dayton Daily News

By Barrie Barber, Staff Writer

10:46 PM Thursday, May 10, 2012

Three key federal agencies would have to collaborate on the integration and development of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles if the next defense bill becomes law, according to a local congressman.

U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Centerville, added an amendment to the defense bill that, if passed, means the Department of Defense, the Federal Aviation Administration and NASA would work together on technical challenges to integrate unmanned air systems into the nation’s manned air travel system.

“This is a growing and exploding industry area to the extent that we can get in on the ground floor, this is something that can grow significantly in our community,” Turner said in an interview with the Dayton Daily News.

The House Armed Services Committee passed the amendment early Thursday as part of the proposed fiscal year 2013 defense bill, according to Turner’s office.

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, home to the Aeronautical Systems Center and the Air Force Research Laboratory, is a key link in the research, testing and acquisition of UAVs as the region’s UAV support and industrial base is growing.

The latest congressional amendment arrives as the FAA is expected to select six sites across the nation to test UAV systems in the nation’s manned air system, which could happen by the end of the year. The Miami Valley has touted Wright-Patterson, Springfield Air National Guard Base and the Wilmington Air Park as ideal sites in Southwest Ohio.

“Another issue for us locally is to the extent that we can require the Air Force to be involved, the greater likelihood we have that our area will be chosen as a UAV test site,” Turner said.

Michael Gessel, a vice president of the Dayton Development Coalition’s Washington, D.C., office said the research-oriented amendment doesn’t favor any one region of the country, but Wright-Patterson’s AFRL and a growing Dayton UAV-related industry have the potential for “enormous opportunity” to benefit.

“We think this amendment will provide significant long-term opportunity for UAS work in the Dayton region, but it will happen incrementally,” he said.

Within 15 years, the work of bringing UAVs into an integrated air system domestically could create 23,000 jobs nationwide, he said.

Contact this reporter

at (937) 225-2363 or

Barrie.Barber@coxinc.com.

 

Find this article at:

http://www.daytondailynews.com/news/dayton-news/3-federal-agencies-must-cooperate-on-unmanned-aerial-vehicles-1373954.html

 

DoD NEWS RELEASE

No. 370-12

May 11, 2012

DOD Announces the Expansion of Defense Industrial Base (DIB) Voluntary Cybersecurity Information Sharing Activities

 

                 The Department of Defense in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security announced today important developments in defense industrial base cyber security activities.  After a year-long Defense Industrial Base (DIB) cyber security pilot, the DoD’s Voluntary DIB Cyber Security/ Information Assurance (CS/IA) Program is now available to all eligible DIB companies.  In addition, DIB Enhanced Cyber security Services (DECS) will become part of the expanded program.

                 These activities enhance and supplement existing cyber security capabilities to help safeguard sensitive DoD information that is maintained on DIB company unclassified information systems.

                 “The expansion of voluntary information sharing between the department and the defense industrial base represents an important step forward in our ability to catch up with widespread cyber threats,” said Ashton Carter, deputy secretary of defense.  “Increased dependence on Internet solutions have exposed sensitive but unclassified information stored on corporate systems to malicious probes, theft, and attacks.  This expanded partnership between DoD and the defense industrial base will help reduce the risk of intrusions on our systems.”

                 The United States continues to face a significant risk that critical defense information residing on DIB networks and systems can be compromised by malicious cyber actors resulting in potential economic losses or damage to United States national security.  The Department of Defense is actively engaged in multiple efforts to foster mutually beneficial partnerships with the DIB to protect Department of Defense information residing on or passing though DIB systems. 

                 “I am pleased by the deep collaboration between DoD, DHS and DIB partners.  The success of this program encourages us to explore additional ways to enhance the protection of defense industry networks and DoD information,” said Carter.  “Shared information between DoD, DHS and the defense industrial base can help us defend against the ever-growing threat of cyber attacks.” 

                 These expanded partnering opportunities will advance and support the administration’s efforts to improve the cyber security posture of both public and private critical infrastructure.

                 For more information on these DIB cyber security activities:

Fact Sheet:  Defense Industrial Base (DIB) Cyber security Activities http://www.defense.gov/news/d20120511dib.pdf

DIB CS/IA Program public website:  http://dibnet.dod.mil

Interim final rule for the DoD-DIB Voluntary Cyber Security and Information Assurance (CS/IA) Program can be accessed at: http://www.ofr.gov/OFRUpload/OFRData/2012-10651_PI.pdf

 
 

Can DOD handle its business?

FCW.com

By Amber Corrin

May 10, 2012

It has been 22 years since the Defense Department launched financial management reform efforts under the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990. After more than two decades of legislation, failed programs and billions of dollars spent, the department still isn’t audit-ready. But with unprecedented fiscal pressure bearing down, 2012 might just be the year DOD eradicates its systemic bookkeeping troubles.

There is a sense of optimism powered, at least in part, by declarations from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta that DOD would not only deliver on financial management reform but would do so at an accelerated pace, producing a statement of budgetary resources by 2014 and full audit readiness by 2017.

The Government Accountability Office has published a series of reports over the years outlining DOD’s problems, making recommendations and noting progress. The latest report, released April 18, reveals improvements but also enduring challenges.

Although much work lies ahead, GAO auditors say the goals aren’t unattainable — if the right steps are taken.

“It is critical that DOD continue to build on its current initiatives,” Asif Khan, GAO’s director of financial management and assurance, wrote in the April 18 report. “Oversight and monitoring will also play a key role in making sure that DOD’s plans are implemented as intended and that lessons learned are identified [and] addressed. Absent continued momentum and necessary future investments, the current initiatives may falter, similar to previous well-intended, but ultimately failed, efforts.”

Examples of endemic financial mismanagement go back as far as the 1970s and have ballooned over the years to hundreds of billions of dollars falling between the cracks. Some blame DOD’s inherently decentralized, bureaucratic structure. Alvin Tucker, executive director of the American Society of Military Comptrollers and former deputy chief financial officer at DOD, said today’s issues go back to the 1990 CFO Act, the first law to require audits and financial statements.

“The structure and framework wasn’t there to support that kind of framework,” Tucker said. “It required enterprise resource programs and changes in procedures and processes. DOD is the most diverse government organization, has the most resources and is all spread out. Consequently, it’s been a long-term problem.”

But DOD officials are confident that their current activities are propelling DOD into a new era of business reform. At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in April, two top DOD finance officials outlined promising efforts to overhaul financial operations. DOD Comptroller Robert Hale and Beth McGrath, DOD’s deputy chief management officer, said they’ve instituted new tools and training, established new oversight rules, and improved the business enterprise architecture.

 

The ERP thorn

Much is riding on notoriously difficult enterprise resource planning systems, considered to be DOD’s business backbone. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said DOD’s ERPs “cumulatively are $6 billion over budget and 31 years behind schedule,” and a failure to fix them could threaten true reform.

Although Hale and McGrath highlighted successes with the Marine Corps’ Global Combat Support System and the Defense Logistics Agency’s EProcurement program, GAO said it had found problems in others.

For example, six ERP systems will deploy too late for the audit-readiness deadline, and the Navy’s system was approved for deployment without full compliance and might be inaccurate and unreliable, GAO said.

And then there are the Army’s General Fund Enterprise Business System and the Air Force’s Defense Enterprise Accounting and Management System, two of DOD’s biggest and perhaps most troubled ERPs. GAO cited interoperability deficiencies between existing systems and the new ERPs, interface flaws, a lack of query features and inadequate training.

However, GAO also noted that DOD is taking corrective action.

Tucker was confident that a more realistic attitude within DOD, recognition that success rides on more than ERPs and a willingness to tackle the tough problems will facilitate financial reform.

“It’s going to take a lot of effort and cost a lot, but it will be worth it because there are efficiencies and savings,” Tucker said. “The important part is Secretary Panetta putting his weight behind it. That’s a huge impact. As long as the department has the will to do it, it will get done.”

 

Welsh nominated as next CSAF

5/10/2012 – WASHINGTON (AFNS) — Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta announced May 10 that the president has nominated Gen. Mark A. Welsh III to be the next chief of staff of the Air Force, succeeding Gen. Norton Schwartz, who has served in the position since August 2008.

“I’m tremendously honored and deeply humbled by the nomination to serve as the next Air Force chief of staff,” said Welsh, who is currently serving as the U.S. Air Forces in Europe commander. “If confirmed, I’ll do everything in my power to live up to the example set by Gen. Norty Schwartz and the other great officers who have led our service so well throughout its remarkable history.

“It’s always a great day to be an Airman … but this one is extra special for me. I came into the Air Force because I was in love with the airplanes; I stayed in because I fell in love with the people,” he said. “Being allowed to continue to serve them, our Joint partners, and the nation in this role would be the privilege of a lifetime.”

Welsh entered the Air Force in June 1976 as a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy. He has been assigned to numerous operational, command and staff positions. Prior to his current position, he was the associate director of the Central Intelligence Agency for Military Affairs at the Central Intelligence Agency in Washington, D.C.

During a Pentagon press briefing May 10, Panetta recalled his close working relationship with Welsh when the secretary served as the CIA director.

“Over the course of our time working together, I developed a deep appreciation for his wisdom and his counsel,” said Panetta. “A former Air Force academy commandant, I believe that he has the right leadership qualities and distinguished background to follow his extraordinary predecessor, General Schwartz.”

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey echoed Panetta’s praise for the nominee.

“I am pleased to join Secretary Panetta in applauding the nomination of Mark Welsh to be the twentieth chief of staff of our United States Air Force,” said Dempsey. “I know about his courage in combat, his acumen in acquisition and his passion for developing future leaders. Mark is ready to join the ranks of renowned Airmen like Carl Spaatz, Curtis Lemay, David Jones and also his immediate predecessor, Norty Schwartz.”

Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley described Welsh as an outstanding Airman and leader.

“General Welsh’s proven performance, deep experience and leadership ability make him the ideal candidate to be the next chief of staff of the Air Force,” Donley said. “Pending his confirmation, I look forward to working with Mark to continue building on the outstanding accomplishments achieved by Gen. Norty Schwartz in support of our Air Force.”

Schwartz also praised the president’s selection of Welsh to succeed him, saying he is the right leader at the right time for the Air Force.

“We are at an inflection point for our Air Force as we shape a smaller but superb Air Force in an increasingly complex geopolitical and security environment,” Schwartz said. “Mark Welsh is a natural leader with an impressive record of accomplishments and a wide range of experience. He and his lifelong partner Betty are perfectly suited to lead our Airmen in the years ahead.”

Schwartz will complete his four-year tenure as Air Force chief of staff in August.

Welsh previously served in the Pentagon as chief of the Defense and Space Operations Division on the Joint Staff, and as director of Global Power Programs in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition.

He is a command pilot with more than 3,400 flying hours, principally in the F-16 Fighting Falcon and the A-10 Thunderbolt II. Welsh has received numerous awards for his military service including the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Distinguished Service Medal with oak leaf cluster, the Defense Superior Service Medal with oak leaf cluster, the Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster and the Distinguished Flying Cross with oak leaf cluster.

The president has forwarded Welsh’s nomination to the Senate for consideration and confirmation.

(Courtesy of the Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs)

 

DOD components could lose funding over service contract inventories

FCW.com

By Matthew Weigelt

May 08, 2012

The House Armed Services Committee is emphasizing the importance of service contract inventories with a threat to withhold money.

“The committee continues to be disappointed that the defense agencies, the Navy, and the Air Force have not fully implemented the Inventory of Contracts for Services,” according to a report on the fiscal 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 4310).

The Army has successfully undertaken an extensive manpower and cost inventory of all its service contractors since 2002. The Army’s inventory has been designated as the model for the other departments and agencies, according to the report, but much of the rest of DOD is flailing.

As a penalty, Congress would withhold 20 percent of authorized funding from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Navy, the Air Force, the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, and Acquisition, and the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition.

To get the funding restored, the defense secretary would have to certify to House and Senate defense committees that the inventories are making progress. Defense agencies would have to be on their way to meeting the requirements laid out in the law. Congress instituted a department-wide contract inventory in the fiscal 2008 defense authorization bill.

The provision is contained in the “chairman’s mark,” a marked-up version of the bill with the committee’s proposed changes.

Committee members wrote they are convinced that the inventory is important for transparency in government contracting and benefits decision-makers in planning and budgeting.

The Government Accountability Office reported in April that officials have made progress in tracking their service contracts. However, DOD isn’t in the clear yet in gathering accurate data. DOD officials turned in a plan to Congress on how they might build such a department-wide system, but officials said they likely would not collect manpower data through it until 2016.

The authorization bill is in its infancy stage at this point, with the first committee mark-up scheduled for May 9.

In addition to the inventory provision, Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said the bill includes ways to develop DOD’s relationship with industry while enhancing competition.

DOD would have to report to Congress on areas of risk within the defense industrial base, such as points of failure and if there’s an over-reliance on foreign companies. DOD would have to develop a national security strategy for industry. The strategy would have to clarify that the base must be able to supply and support DOD’s force structure.

The bill also would establish new goals for procurement contracts awarded to small businesses and boost the importance of advocates for small business contracts. The bill would strengthen their authority in advising officials throughout the acquisition process.

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