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May 19, 2012

May 21, 2012

19 May2012

Newswire

 

Agencies must cut travel by 30% beginning in October

Federal Times

By SEAN REILLY | Last Updated:May 11, 2012

 

Agencies must cut travel spending by 30 percent next year and publicly report all conferences costing more than $100,000, under instructions issued Friday by the Office of Management and Budget. The new restrictions also set a $500,000 cap on spending for a single conference.

 

“These are all common sense steps that will save taxpayer dollars by eliminating waste and improving government operations,” Acting OMB Director Jeff Zients wrote in a blog post accompanying the six-page memo.

 

While the White House had ordered agencies last September to review conference spending, the crackdown follows an uproar over the recent disclosure that General Services Administration employees spent $823,000 on a 2010 Las Vegas conference that featured a mind reader and in-room parties. In separate bills, both the House and Senate have approved their own limits on conference spending, although neither measure has won final passage.

 

Under the OMB policy, the 30 percent reduction in travel spending in 2013 will be measured against a 2010 threshold. Agencies can get waivers if trips are deemed essential to national security, health and safety inspections, oversight activities and other “critical government functions,” Zients said.

 

The new reporting requirements take effect in January. For all conferences costing more than a net of $100,000, agencies will have to annually list on their websites the total expense of the gathering, the location, and a brief justification of how the gathering advanced the agency’s mission. Absent a compelling reason, agencies are barred from spending more than $500,000 on any single conference.

 

The memo also sets other limits:

• Agency officials must hold on to government-owned sedans for at least three years or for 60,000 miles before turning them in.

• Agencies must not increase the total size of their real estate holdings. When acquiring new federal building space, they should offset it through consolidation, co-location or disposal of property elsewhere, Zients wrote.

http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20120511/TRAVEL02/205110302/1001

 

 

Opinion: Tax hikes will exact steep price

The Hill

By Judd Gregg – 05/14/12 05:00 AM ET

 

If current law goes into effect, consider the changes that 2013 will bring:

Payroll taxes will increase by $120 billion; bonus depreciation will end, adding $64 billion in taxes; the Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare, will kick in, adding $46 billion in taxes; the tax cuts will end for upper-income Americans, increasing taxes by $83 billion; the tax cuts will end for middle-income Americans, increasing taxes by $198 billion.

The likely consequences are obvious. Such a massive increase in taxes will lead to a significant slowdown in the economy as investment and disposable income both drop dramatically. People and businesses will have to retrench in order to deal with these higher taxes.

 

This will result in less economic activity and potentially less revenue for the federal government. The opportunity to partly address deficit problems through economic growth will be lessened, and this will ensure that our deficits and debt situation will continue to grow and become even more of a drag on our prosperity and national culture.

Yet along with these evident effects of the tax increase gluttony, there will also be a number of very significant occurrences that have, so far, gone unnoticed or at least not discussed — especially by this administration, which is so enamored of taxing more people at higher rates to support its massive expansion in the size of the federal government.

 

First, under the Obama plan, the tax on dividend income will jump to a record high. It will go from 15 percent to a new top rate of 43.4 percent. This will create numerous unintended consequences that will pervert investment decisions and drive down economic activity.

 

For people who are retired and living on a fixed income, it will mean a massive adjustment. This is especially pernicious as we head into a time when the largest generation in American history, comprised of the so-called baby boomers, is moving into retirement. This is the first generation in history to retire depending primarily not on defined benefit plans but rather on contribution plans that are disproportionately comprised of dividend income.

 

Thus this generation, aging out of alternative ways to generate income, will find itself being socked with a tax increase promoted by the left as a prerequisite for “fairness.” It will be a bitter pill to swallow for a lot of people whose only pathway to adjusting to their reduced income will be through a commensurate reduction in their standard of living — and all this to feed the left’s insatiable appetite for a large and more costly government.

In addition, the tax on capital gains will go from 15 percent to 23.8 percent. It is also fairly certain that the new 3.8 percent tax on passive income will take effect. Both of these changes will further retard any possibility of economic expansion.

 

We must also consider the effect that these tax increases on capital gains and especially dividends will have on stocks. Companies that pay dividends have seen their stock price surge amid the extremely low interest rates of the last few years, for the simple reason that people have sought a better return through dividends.

 

These companies are going to see their stock prices come under pressure. The attractiveness of investing in dividend-paying stocks will be significantly muted when the tax rate on those dividends jumps from 15 percent to as high as 43.4 percent.

Thus the baby boom generation takes a double hit. First, income is impacted by the higher tax on their dividends; second, the value of their portfolio is reduced due to the fall in the value of dividend-paying stocks.

 

All this will lead to a further contraction in economic activity by a generation that has lost considerable spending and savings power through the simple act of getting old. This cannot be good for the nation or the economy as a whole.

 

When the tax man cometh, he brings with him a whole array of unintended consequences.

Judd Gregg is a former governor and three-term senator from New Hampshire who served as chairman and ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and as ranking member of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Foreign Operations. He also is an international adviser to Goldman Sachs.

Source:

http://thehill.com/opinion/columnists/judd-gregg/227083-tax-hikes-will-exact-too-steep-a-price

 

 

Taxmageddon sparks rising anxiety

Washington Post

By Lori Montgomery and Rosalind S. Helderman,

 

Defense contractors have slowed hiring. Tax advisers are warning firms not to count on favorite breaks. And hospitals are scouring their books for ways to cut costs.

Across the U.S. economy, anxiety is rising about the potential for widespread disruptions after the November election, when a lame-duck Congress will have barely two months to resolve a grinding standoff over taxes and spending.

 

The halls of the U.S. Capitol are already teeming with people warning of disaster if lawmakers fail to defuse a New Year’s budget bomb scheduled to raise taxes for every American taxpayer and slash spending at the Pentagon and most other federal agencies.

Last week, hospital executives came to complain about big scheduled cuts in Medicare payments. Next month, university presidents plan to raise the alarm about big scheduled cuts in federal research grants. And the chief executives of Lockheed Martin and other aerospace giants last Wednesday passed out digital countdown clocks ticking off the seconds until “over 1 million American jobs” will be lost to big scheduled cuts in defense.

 

“How do you plan for chaos?” Marion Blakey, president of the Aerospace Industries Association, sighed during a break between meetings with lawmakers, who could provide little assurance that the spending cuts would be averted. “It’s almost a unique moment in government because there’s so much at stake. And there’s nothing that inspires confidence that this will get done.”

 

The uncertainty is already prompting some firms to take action. Many more say they will be forced to contemplate layoffs and other cost-cutting measures long before the end of the year unless the Republican House and the Democratic Senate come up with an alternative path to tame deficits. But with control of the White House and both chambers of Congress in play on Nov. 6, aides say it is impossible to begin mapping a strategy for compromise until they know who wins the election, by how much and on which issues.

In the meantime, political leaders are focused less on finding solutions than on drawing lines in the sand. In a speech Tuesday, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) plans to address the issue of national debt, which will once again be nearing its legal limit in

January, just as the tax hikes and spending cuts are due to hit.

 

According to advance remarks provided to The Post, Boehner will insist that any increase in the debt limit be accompanied by spending “cuts and reforms greater than the debt limit increase” — the same demand that pushed the Treasury to the brink of default during last summer’s debt-limit standoff.

 

“This is the only avenue I see right now to force the elected leadership of this country to solve our structural fiscal imbalance,” Boehner plans to say at the Peter G. Peterson Foundation fiscal summit. “If that means we have to do a series of stop-gap measures, so be it.”

 

Last week, the House approved a plan to protect the Pentagon in January by reconfiguring $110 billion in across-the-board spending cuts — known as “sequestration” — so they would fall exclusively on domestic programs, such as food stamps and health care for the poor.

 

But one aerospace lobbyist glumly noted that the House bill will be “dead on arrival” in the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has vowed to block any effort to undo the defense cuts unless Republicans drop their opposition to higher taxes for the wealthy.

 

“The answer is very simple to our Republican colleagues who want to help with defense: Revenues,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.). “The way to deal with sequestration is put revenues on the table.”

 

As lawmakers bicker, the approaching deadline has taken on the nightmarish “aspect of a slow-motion train wreck,” said Ajay Rajadhyaksha of Barclays Capital, with onlookers helpless either to prevent the carnage or to get out of the way.

“I feel like we’re really in uncharted waters,” said Robert Greenstein, president of the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. “On the one hand, you say: ‘We’re a functioning country. Somehow, we’re going to work this out.’ But then you ask: ‘What’s the scenario for a potential solution?’ And you can’t come up with anything that you can see actually passing Congress.”

 

The impending upheaval is the result of multiple policy changes all set to hit at the same time. The George W. Bush-era tax cuts are scheduled to expire in December, along with a temporary payroll-tax holiday sought by President Obama. Meanwhile, Congress last summer paired a debt-limit increase with $1.2 trillion in across-the-board spending cuts over the next decade that almost no one wants to see happen.

 

For the moment, most economic forecasters are taking a sanguine view. Mark Zandi of Moody’s Analytics predicts that the lame-duck Congress will make a deal to rescind half the spending cuts and raise taxes for the wealthiest 2 or 3 percent of households — but leave everyone else alone.

 

“There’s a lot of room for compromise,” Zandi said, noting that Boehner and Obama came close to agreement last summer.

But others are skeptical that lawmakers, fresh from the combat of the campaign trail, will be able to agree on anything. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke recently warned that the Fed would have “absolutely no .?.?. ability whatsoever” to cushion the shock to the economy if the nation sails over what he calls the “fiscal cliff” in January. And many analysts worry that the uncertainty will itself begin to dampen economic growth long before New Year’s Day.

 

Kaman Corporation chief executive Neal Keating said his firm is already scaling back hiring in Jacksonville, Fla., where the company builds cockpits for Blackhawk helicopters. He was hoping for new contracts to refit the nation’s aging fleet of A-10 Warthog attack planes.

 

“So many of those things are now uncertain,” Keating said, adding that plans to hire 200 workers have been put on hold. Without further clarity, Keating said, he could be forced to start ramping down purchases and cancelling shifts sometime this summer.

“One of the most frustrating things is [that] people in Washington say, ‘Well, we don’t think sequestration is going to happen,’?” he said. “But we’re responsible for planning and running a business.”

 

Nicholas Wolter, chief executive of the Billings Clinic, a chain of nonprofit medical facilities in Montana, said a scheduled 2 percent cut in Medicare payments would hammer his finances. But options being circulated to replace those cuts could also hurt, he said. In addition, a formula that maintains Medicare rates for doctors is also set to expire.

 

“You’re not sure which of them might end up in legislation,” Wolter said. “They’re all potentially real.”

Tax policy is also causing heartburn. Kate Barton of Ernst & Young said she is advising clients not to count on the renewal of a slew of popular business tax breaks that expired in December. Even incentives for research and development, which are revered in both parties, could get caught in the year-end logjam.

“We’re not trying to be alarmist. But it’s a time when the telescope and the crystal ball are really foggy,” Barton said. “You talk to one person and you hear one thing; you talk to another and you hear something else.”

 

This month, about 120 university lobbyists gathered near Metro Center in hopes that top aides to Reid and Boehner would shed light on the fiscal end game. They didn’t. Instead, Reid’s deputy chief of staff for policy, Bill Dauster, cited a “good, if dour,” independent analysis that “many election outcomes would produce dynamics not conducive to getting a deal” at all before the new Congress takes office in January.

 

“You just don’t get the sense that there’s even a secret plan yet. It’s scary,” said Maya MacGuineas, president of the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, who has been meeting with corporate leaders in an effort to build support for a comprehensive deficit-reduction plan.

 

During a recent dinner in Washington, Lawrence H. Summers and Robert Rubin mulled the situation. Both men led the Treasury Department during the Clinton administration, and Summers was Obama’s top economic adviser in 2009 and 2010. They concluded that, whatever happens on Election Day, exhausted lawmakers are likely to resort to a short-term deal that extends all the tax cuts, postpones the spending cuts and pushes the deadline for fiscal calamity into the spring of 2013.

 

But even that move would be risky, Rubin argued, potentially inviting another downgrade of the U.S. credit rating, roiling financial markets and shattering confidence that the United States will ever get its debt problem under control.

Solutions are easy to come by “when you’re sitting at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York,” said Rubin, the council’s co-chairman. “It’s a lot harder to do it when you’re sitting in Washington and it’s one minute of midnight.”

 

 

House Passes Appropriations Bill, Blocks Certain Programs

Securitymanagement.com

By Teresa Anderson

05/14/2012 –

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed an appropriations bill (H.R. 5326) that provides funding for several agencies including the Department of Justice, the Commerce Department, several science agencies, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The bill allocates $367 million in funding for the EEOC, but blocks implementation and enforcement of several key programs, including those that deal with age discrimination and the use of arrest and conviction records in preemployment screening.

Amendments to the bill prevent the implementation, administration, or enforcement of the EEOC’s final regulations on “Disparate Impact and Reasonable Factors Other Than Age Under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.” The regulations, which were released in March, clarify the circumstances under which an employer may successfully claim that an older employee was fired or demoted for reasonable factors other than age (RFOA).

The RFOA argument is determined on a case-by-case basis and the employer bears the burden of proof. The new rules provide some guidance on when an employer may successfully use the defense. For example, the rules note that courts will consider the extent to which the RFOA is related to the purpose of the business and whether the employer trained supervisors and managers on avoiding age discrimination.

H.R. 5326 would also prohibit funding to implement, administer, or enforce the new EEOC enforcement guidance on “Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions.” The guidance urges that employers rely on conviction records rather than arrest records because a decision based on an arrest “is not job related and consistent with business necessity.” However, a company may base decisions on the underlying actions that brought about the arrest, if that conduct is related to the job on offer.

The guidance also notes that employers may face discrimination claims over the use of arrest and conviction records because these records disproportionately affect African-Americans and Hispanics. To avoid such claims, employers are encouraged to develop a targeted screening program. Such a program would consider the nature of the crime, the time that has passed since the incident, and the nature of the job duties in question. The company would also need to prove that it considered those excluded by arrest or conviction and found that these applicants would not be right for the job for reasons consistent with business necessity.

Amendments to H.R. 5326 would also prevent funding of lawsuits against state immigration laws and legal defenses to the Affordable Care Act.

The Senate appropriations bill to fund these same agencies (S. 2323) does not include these amendments. The bill has been approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee and is now pending before the Senate. Once the Senate bill has been approved it will be moved to a conference committee where the differences between it and the House bill will be reconciled.

 

 

Public vs. private cyberattack responsibility debate heats up

From: http://www.csoonline.com

by Taylor Armerding, CSO

May 14, 2012

Should the federal government combine legislative muscle with fear to pressure private enterprise leaders into funding defenses for a cyberwar? Or should it be up to the government to fund and create a “cyber army” to protect private industry, just as it protects factories and infrastructure in the physical world?

That debate is raised in two reports last week on National Public Radio on the escalating threat of cyberattacks from foreign and terrorist enemies. In the first, reporter Tom Gjelten profiles a public-private partnership called the “Enduring Security Framework,” which began at the end of 2008 and, “brings chief executives from top technology and defense companies to Washington, D.C., two or three times a year for classified briefings.

The purpose is to share information about the latest developments in cyberwarfare capabilities, highlighting the cyberweapons that could be used against the executives’ own companies.”

[See also: U.S. seeking to build international unity around cyberdefense for industrial control systems]

Or, in more colorful terms, “We scare the bejeezus out of them,” Gjelten quotes one U.S. government participant as saying.

At one such briefing in 2010, U.S. officials told business executives, “We can turn your computer into a brick.” That, according to NPR, prompted computer manufacturers to fix a design flaw in their firmware.

But now there is legislation pending that would take it beyond persuasion. In a second story, Gjelten reports on a U.S. Senate bill that would require private enterprises, particularly those that, “control the U.S. power grid, the financial system, water treatment facilities and other elements of critical U.S. infrastructure,” to improve their cybersecurity capabilities.

The leading backers of the bill are Sens. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Susan Collins of Maine, among others. Lieberman, an Independent, still caucuses with Democrats. Collins is a Republican.

Leaders in government and private industry agree on the need for those improvements, but the report says, “they divide over the question of who bears responsibility for that effort.”

That is a key dispute over passage of the bill, which is the Senate version of CISPA (Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act), recently passed by the House. The Senate version is more popular among privacy advocates because it would give the civilian Homeland Security Administration oversight of information sharing between the public and private sectors, rather than the military’s National Security Agency. But the Senate bill puts heavier, and more costly, regulation, on private business.

Can business afford that burden? NPR cites a study by Bloomberg Government that estimated that those in charge of critical infrastructure, “may need to increase their cybersecurity spending as much as nine times to reach satisfactory levels.”

Larry Clinton of the Internet Security Alliance told NPR, “The legally mandated role of the government is to provide for the common defense, and they’re willing to spend pretty much whatever it takes to do that. If you’re in a private organization, your legally mandated responsibility is to maximize shareholder value. You can’t spend just anything on the cyberthreat.”

John Linkous, VP and chief security and compliance officer of eIQnetworks, says business and government both have plenty to lose from a cyberattack, “but they’re viewing the problem from very different perspectives: The government is viewing this as a ‘macro’-level problem that could potentially affect the entire nation, particularly if a mass attack on critical infrastructure were to occur at the same time. Business views [the threat] as a ‘micro’-level problem, scoped tightly to the business and its shareholders, employees and [occasionally] customers. I believe this means the cost burden needs to be shared.”

Still, some in both the private and public sector say businesses may have no choice but to do most of the heavy lifting, unless they want to give up control to government.

At a panel on cyberespionage at the Bloomberg Link Cyber Security Conference in April, FBI veteran Frank Montoya, recently named national counterintelligence executive, told the audience that unlike in World War II, when the U.S. military protected civilian infrastructure, “We’re an information-based society now. Information is everything. That makes you, as company executives, the front line — not the support mechanism, the front line — in what comes.

“National security has expanded beyond the old spy vs. spy model. You are part of that effort, whether you like it or not,” Montoya said.

His fellow panelist, former Navy Admiral Mike McConnell, who is both a past head of the NSA and director of National Intelligence, appeared to be in essential agreement with those like Cigital CTO Gary McGraw, who frequently says the best way to protect infrastructure from cyberattack is to, “make things that aren’t broken.”

As McConnell’s put it, “85% of the problem could be solved by good cyber hygiene.” But he was pessimistic about what he said is the need for government and industry to cooperate with information sharing, since cyberattacks occur at light speed. “If you’re going to be successful, you have to see it and react in milliseconds,” he said. “It’s about 30 milliseconds from Tokyo to New York.”

Linkous agrees that a partnership is necessary, but he and others say so far the government wants a one-way street. “The federal government needs to do more than just play scare tactics. It needs to start communicating more effectively with the private sector,” he says. “Many agencies in the federal government want to ‘control’ cybersecurity in the private sector, but the private sector absolutely will not yield that authority (and, I believe, rightly so).”

That debate will only end when a catastrophic attack occurs, McConnell believes. “Those bills [in Congress] are necessary, but not enough,” he said. “We’re going to talk but not act, sufficiently. We’re going to have catastrophic event. I don’t know what it will be or who will do it, but some of these (cyberattack) tools that have already been built are going to leak or somehow be siphoned off and be given to a group that wants to change the world order.”

When that happens, he predicted, “then we’re going to overreact.”

 

Darpa Seeks Mini-Sats For Fractionated-Satellite Demo

 

By Graham Warwick

Source: Aerospace Daily & Defense Report

May 14 , 2012

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Project Agency is seeking bids to provide four small satellites to demonstrate its fractionated spacecraft architecture in orbit.

The System F6 program is developing technology to enable the functions of a large, expensive monolithic satellite to be distributed across a cluster of smaller, less costly satellites wirelessly sharing resources such as computing and communications.

Darpa plans a six-month on-orbit demonstration in the second half of 2015, launching four small satellites into low Earth orbit as secondary payloads on Atlas V or Delta IV Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles.

Each satellite will host an F6 Technical Package that will enable the wireless links between the spacecraft and allow semi-autonomous cluster-flight operations.

The cluster will demonstrate the ability to scatter, each spacecraft leaving a 20-km threat box within 5 min. of the command, and subsequently regathering.

Each of the four spacecraft will host a unique shared-resource payload . One will carry a SwiftBroadband transceiver that will communicate with an Inmarsat I-4 satellite in geostationary orbit to provide broadband connectivity from the cluster to the ground.

Other spacecraft in the cluster will carry a government-furnished sensor, high-performance computing element and a high-speed space-to-ground downlink transmitter.

 

Panetta Selects Trusted Hand for New Air Force Chief

USNews

May 14, 2012

 

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta opted for a familiar ally to pilot the Air Force through its latest period of turbulence and transition, as it searches for a niche with an aging fleet in the post-9/11 era.

Panetta announced Thursday that Gen. Mark Welsh, a senior officer who worked closely with Panetta when he was CIA director, will be nominated by President Obama to become the next Air Force chief of staff. Experts say the relationship between Welsh and Panetta, could hand the military branch an upper hand in Defense Department policy and budget battles after years of tension between past defense secretaries and past Air Force leaders.

“Success in many ways is based on an organization chart, and personalities and the trust people form with one another,” says David Deptula, a retired three-star Air Force general who served as the service intelligence chief for the force. The Panetta-Welsh ties “will be a plus for both the Department of Defense and the Air Force.”

One national security insider said Welsh was “Panetta’s preferred choice” to replace Gen. Norton Schwartz, the outgoing air chief. Their relationship will be key, after service leaders and defense secretaries have clashed for years about everything from the Air Force’s stubborn pursuit of more super-advanced but super-pricey F-22 fighters, to sending additional surveillance planes into war, to buying more drone planes.

Welsh was associate director for military affairs at the CIA from August 2008 to December 2010. Panetta was the agency’s director from February 2009 to June 2011.

“His ties to the defense secretary should help him to restore some balance to the Pentagon’s modernization plans, which have tended to favor sea power and ground forces in recent times,” says Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute, a longtime Pentagon observer and industry consultant.

Yet, his ties to the defense secretary alone will not be enough to overcome the myriad problems the Air Force faces, former officials and experts say. If confirmed by the Senate, Welsh is set to inherit a service with an aging fleet of aircraft in a time of shrinking annual Pentagon budgets.

“He’s going to have a big challenge with the budget pressure that all the services are under,” says Michael Wynne, a former Air Force secretary. “In particular, the Air Force has got to recapitalize its aircraft. He will have a tough time balancing the hardware needs of the service and the budget pressures.”

And the service’s aircraft needs are many.

“The Air Force’s fighters, bombers, tankers and radar planes have become decrepit, and yet policy makers continue to delay replacement efforts,” says Thompson.

Sources say Panetta determined Welsh was well-suited to tackle the issue.

“It’s about coalition building, and his experience there is overriding in that direction,” says Wynne, citing Walsh’s CIA stint and work with NATO partners in his current role as head of U.S. Air Forces in Europe.

“Panetta was looking for someone who can recognize what the strategic outcome of these budget and policy challenges needs to be,” says Wynne. “I think Panetta wants someone who is capable of looking three or four years out, not just at next month or next year.”

The air chief job, however, is about much more than just buying new aircraft fleets. It’s also about making the service a relevant option for the president when it comes to dealing with national security issues.

 

“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 in a statement shortly after Panetta announced Welsh’s nomination.

But that has been true for some time. Since the onset of the post-9/11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Air Force leaders and air power proponents have talked about a service at a crossroads that seems in a constant state of justifying its own existence.

“The issue is really ‘What is the mission and role of the service?’ ” says Wynne. “We’re coming off five decades of no strafing of our troops,” meaning the Air Force has had to find other missions beyond engaging enemy aircraft.

Another aspect of the service’s invariable inflection point is its high-technology identity. From its super-sophisticated fighter jets, surveillance aircraft, and even its tanker planes, the service is not shy about its technological advantage over would-be foes.

Ironically, however, this is what pushed the service to the periphery of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and sent it into a decade-long spiral of searching for an identity.

Within the service, his peers and insiders say Welsh is highly regarded.

“Mark Welsh is a natural leader with an impressive record of accomplishments and a wide range of experience,” Schwartz said.

“Welsh is highly regarded within the force and among his general officer peers,” says Eaglen. “He is considered a respectful but assertive four-star general, and likely to take the service in a different direction.”

It remains unclear just where he will take it, but Welsh is a return to the long history of a fighter jock as chief. After his brazen and bold fighter pilot predecessor, Gen. T. Michael Moseley, was dismissed by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Schwartz for four years has been, as Eaglen says, “the ultimate team player.”

“Norty thought about the force balance and transport aircraft a little more than past chiefs of staff did,” says Wynne. “And he had more of a special operations background than Welsh does. Picking Welsh seems to be a good move because with this shift to the administration’s shift to the Asia-Pacific, the need for air dominance is coming back.”

This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

 

Global Automakers Demo Fast Charging EV Technology

 

May 16, 2012

Eight automakers demonstrated a fast-charging technology for electric vehicles (EV) that can recharge compatible systems in as few as 15-20 minutes. Audi, BMW, Chrysler, Daimler, Ford, General Motors, Porsche, and Volkswagen have agreed to support a harmonized single-port fast charging approach—called DC Fast Charging with a Combined Charging System—for use on EVs in the United States and Europe.

 

The automakers gave charging demonstrations during the EVS26 Electric Vehicle Symposium, held in Los Angeles, May 6-9. The combined charging system integrates one-phase AC-charging, fast three-phase AC-charging, DC-charging at home, and ultra-fast DC-charging at public stations into one vehicle inlet. This will allow customers to charge at most existing charging stations regardless of power source, and it may speed more affordable adoption of a standardized infrastructure. The International Society of Automotive Engineers has chosen the Combined Charging System as the fast-charging methodology for a standard that incrementally extends the existing Type 1-based AC charging. The standard is to be officially published this summer. And ACEA, the European association of vehicle manufacturers, has selected the system as its AC/DC charging interface for all new vehicle types in Europe beginning in 2017. Commercially available combined charging units are projected to be available later this year. All committed manufacturers have vehicles in development that will use the Combined Charging System. The first vehicles to use this system will reach the market in 2013.

 

 

Panel rejects proposals to raise military retirees’ health care premiums

GovExec

By Kellie Lunney

May 14, 2012

At the same time the House passed a bill requiring civilian federal employees to contribute more to their pensions, lawmakers on the Armed Services Committee rejected the Obama administration’s proposals to increase the amount military retirees pay for their health care insurance.

The committee advanced the fiscal 2013 National Defense Authorization Act Thursday, approving a 1.7 percent pay raise for military service members next year as well as limiting increases to enrollee pharmacy co-pays under the TRICARE program. A fact sheet from Armed Services called the TRICARE-related hikes in the markup “modest” vis-à-vis the administration’s recommendations for the program outlined in its fiscal 2013 budget proposal.

The panel’s bill would increase co-pays for brand and nonformulary drugs in 2013, ranging from an additional $4 to $19 either monthly or every three months, depending on the enrollee’s prescription refill schedule. It also would cap pharmacy co-pays beginning in 2014 so that such fees are in line with the annual retiree cost-of-living adjustment. The costs associated with the fee increases would be offset by a five-year pilot program requiring TRICARE for Life recipients to obtain maintenance drug refills through the mail.

But the panel rejected the administration’s recommendations to raise premiums for military retirees based on their retirement pay, among other fee hikes. “These proposals went too far and were not included in the bill,” committee Republicans said in a statement. TRICARE serves 9.3 million beneficiaries, including 5.5 million military retirees.

Under Obama’s plan, premiums for TRICARE retirees under the family plan would increase between $31 and $128 per month, with those in the upper-income bracket seeing the biggest hike. The White House in its budget recommendations also proposed new co-pays, initiation of standard and extra annual enrollment fees, and adjustments to deductibles and catastrophic coverage caps, all in an effort to keep pace with medical inflation. The president proposed increases for drug co-payments in the brand and nonformulary categories that range from an additional $14 to $26 per month or every three months, depending on the refill schedule.

TRICARE beneficiaries would retain the $5 monthly co-pay for generic drugs under both the House and administration proposals.

The administration said its recommended changes to TRICARE would save the Defense Department an estimated $12.9 billion in discretionary funding and generate $4.7 billion in mandatory savings on Medicare-eligible retiree health care over the next five years. It is projected to save the department $12.1 billion over the next 10 years.

Increasing health care costs for service members and retirees has long been a politically sensitive subject, with lawmakers and military advocates wary of appearing ungrateful for the sacrifices of service members. Participant fees under TRICARE were set in 1995 and have remained at $460 per year for the basic family plan. “This has become one of those third-rail issues in American politics,” said Todd Harrison, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, who follows Defense issues.

Defense implemented TRICARE Prime fee increases for new retiree enrollees beginning in fiscal 2012. New beneficiaries in TRICARE Prime now pay an additional $2.50 per month for individual members and $5 per month for family enrollment — bringing the total annual fee to $260 and $520, respectively. Costs for retirees already in the program, as well as survivors of active-duty service members and medically retired participants, remain at $230 per year for individuals and $460 per year for families.

Like most federal agencies, Defense is under pressure to cut costs and streamline its operations. The $554 billion authorization bill Armed Services approved is $3.7 billion more than Obama’s 2013 request, which has put lawmakers and administration officials at odds over where and how to make budget cuts. “They [committee lawmakers] are making the cost of military personnel higher than it would have been under the president’s request,” said Harrison. That means the department and Congress will have to come up with savings elsewhere, possibly in areas such as troop readiness, research and development, or procurement, he added.

The Senate’s version of the authorization legislation, including the provisions related to TRICARE, likely will be different from the House version, Harrison said. As it relates to TRICARE, the Senate’s bill will look more like the administration’s plan, according to Harrison. “They’ll be more inclined to let some of these savings stand,” he said.

 

http://www.govexec.com/pay-benefits/2012/05/panel-rejects-proposal-raise-military-retirees-health-care-premiums/55729/

.

Political Economy: The Real Sequester

CQ WEEKLY

May 12, 2012 – 12:38 p.m

By John Cranford, CQ Columnist

 

Senate Democrats have no interest in considering the House bill, which suggests that the GOP-controlled chamber was just talking to itself. Still, there are real fears about what will happen if the sequester’s across-the-board spending cuts are allowed to bite.

That’s why, at year’s end after the election, earnest negotiations to avoid the automatic cuts are expected. To that end, the House GOP has made its negotiating position clear, and it will be up to the Democrats to make an offer.

What’s interesting — and even arguably bizarre — about this preliminary positioning is the degree to which it amounts to whistling past the graveyard. The conversation is focused entirely on the first year of the automatic cuts. But the sequester would actually curtail spending in each of the next nine years. Lawmakers, however, are saying nothing about the cuts in years two through nine, which presumably would inflict far more pain.

It’s a classic example of congressional backloading: schedule the bad news for down the road and hope that conditions change so that the problem goes away of its own accord. Or at least that the “fix” is minimal. The alternative minimum tax and the Medicare doc fix are case studies.

The math for the automatic cuts is compelling. If the sequester law isn’t changed, $98 billion will be stripped in January from enacted discretionary appropriations for fiscal 2013. What everyone is ignoring is that an estimated $720 billion more will be cut from currently expected levels of appropriations over the eight years from fiscal 2014 through 2021. That will amount to a sevenfold increase over the first-year sequester that already has many worried.

Lest anyone be confused, these sequester cuts would come on top of roughly $841 billion in discretionary savings enacted last August in tandem with the debt limit increase and already taking effect. Many of the same appropriations accounts that will bear the brunt of the August savings will be hit a second time by the sequester cuts.

Overall, that will amount to roughly a 15 percent annual discretionary spending reduction, using “baseline” estimates from the Congressional Budget Office and sequester calculations from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

It’s easy to see why the first year of automatic cuts have agitated folks on the right and the left. Virtually every agency and program will undergo the same uniform percentage reduction. Military accounts will be sliced by a total of almost $55 billion, or an estimated 7.5 percent each. Non-defense accounts will be reduced by $39 billion in the aggregate, or 8.4 percent each.

It will be ugly, and Congress, which jealously guards its handle on the federal purse, hates the lack of control, even though it wrote the law, of course.

Waiting for the Light

The fundamental concern here is that lawmakers of all stripes appear to be acting as if the elves and the fairies will save them from their own devices. What else explains how lawmakers can just assume that the first-year sequester will be avoided in the end and how they can stay silent on the latter years of automatic cuts?

Wishing the sequester away and making that happen are very different things, however. Almost any bill to prevent the sequester will require enactment of offsetting budgetary savings to prevent the deficit from widening. That just sends us back to last year.

Recall that the sequester was intended to be a draconian weapon to force negotiations on entitlement spending cuts and revenue increases. Lawmakers aiming for a serious assault on the deficit a year ago understood they needed to go after entitlements and revenue because discretionary spending now accounts for only a third of the budget. And entitlements, not discretionary spending, are the source of the vast majority of future spending increases.

But we saw how well the threat of sequester worked in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, when a joint select committee with special powers couldn’t find a compromise on entitlements and revenue. Lawmakers who had committed themselves to savings then accepted the path of least resistance, allowing almost all the promised cuts to fall on the discretionary side of the budget.

Even if there were a consensus that some discretionary programs are unnecessary, it’s hard to imagine that such a consensus would embrace the scope of those cuts already enacted and those waiting to be enforced through the sequester. As time draws near, it will become more evident to Congress that it will need to find an alternative to the full nine years of automatic cuts.

For now, though, lawmakers seem mostly inclined to wait for intervention — divine, electoral or otherwise — to light the path to that alternative.

 

 

Technologies That Could Transform War-Fighting

InformationWeek

http://www.informationweek.com/news/galleries/government/security/240000339

 

John Foley

 

President Obama and defense secretary Leon Panetta announced a new defense strategy earlier this year, one that hinges on the U.S. military becoming “more agile, flexible, innovative, and technically advanced.” The Pentagon intends to meet that challenge by implementing new technologies, ranging from the latest mobile devices and applications to surveillance systems and next-generation aircraft.

In some cases, those will be revamped versions of long-used tools, such as a smaller, lighter “manpack” radio that the Army has begun using in Afghanistan. In other cases, they will be entirely new capabilities like the small, in-development drone nicknamed Shrike that will deliver intelligence to commanders in the field.

Building on its work with directed-energy technology, the Office of Naval Research has just revealed plans to take the next step in the development of solid-state laser weapons that can be used against small boats and aerial targets. ONR will host an industry day on May 16 to discuss its plans, to be followed by a request for proposals.

Much of the Department of Defense’s most advanced research and development goes on at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), where work is underway on everything from a jet that shoots across the sky at Mach 20 to disaster-response robots. (See U.S. Military Robots Of The Future: Visual Tour.)

DARPA’s not the only source of war-fighting innovations. The Naval Research Laboratory, major defense contractors, and IBM have projects underway, too.

In this visual tour, we highlight 20 defense technologies that are being deployed or on the drawing board. It remains to be seen which of the in-development systems see the light of day. The prospect of deep cuts to the defense budget–as much as $460 billion during the next 10 years–could put an end to some of the work. The proposed Defense budget for fiscal year 2013 would cut R&D funding by $2.2 billion, to $69.7 billion, though DARPA’s budget would be spared significant cuts.

Some of the technologies in development, such as supersonic aircraft, have potential application in the commercial world. Others rewrite the rules of battleground transportation.

 

Transformer

DARPA’s Transformer (TX) program seeks to bring together the utility of a ground vehicle and the navigation properties of a helicopter in a hybrid vehicle that would feature maximum flexibility of movement (as pictured, above.) Applications could include transporting troops and supplies to the battlefield quickly, medical evacuation, and more. The design calls for a vehicle capable of transporting up to four people and that can be operated by a typical soldier as well as a trained pilot. ( DARPA)

 

Small Surveillance

DARPA’s Nano Air Vehicle (NAV) program aims to develop a miniscule “air vehicle system” that’s less than 15 centimeters long and weighs less than 20 grams. One experimental design incorporates flapping wings, disguised here as a hummingbird, making it possible for the device to navigate both indoors and outdoors. DARPA expects the NAVs to push the limits of aerodynamics and maneuverability. ( DARPA)

 

Flying Circuit Board

A “disposable aircraft,” the CICADA Mark III is comprised simply of a printed circuit board, which minimizes wiring and makes it fast and inexpensive to assemble. (CICADA stands for Close-In Covert Autonomous Disposable Aircraft.) Resembling a toy airplane, it can accommodate light payloads, such as chemical, biological, and other signals intelligence sensors. Other electronic payloads can be incorporated by updating the circuit board and “re-winging” the aircraft.

(U.S. Naval Research Laboratory)

 

Hitch A Ride

The X-51A is hydrocarbon-fueled experimental craft travels in the Mach 4.5 to 6.5 range. In a test flight last June, the X-51A was released at an altitude of 50,000 feet. In a reminder of the challenges of pushing the boundaries of science, it failed to reach full power. Future applications for hypersonic flight include space travel, reconnaissance, and commercial transportation. (Boeing)

 

Measured In Minutes

When developing leading-edge defense technologies, things don’t always go as planned. DARPA’s experimental HTV-2 aircraft is capable of flying at Mach 20, or 20 times the speed of sound, for a few minutes at a time. However, a test of the system last August (HTV-2’s second test flight) had to be cut short due to a “flight anomaly” that was most likely the result of degradation to its aero shell exterior. The HTV-2 initiative is tied to a DOD goal of being able to reach any destination in the world in less than an hour. ( DARPA)

 

Brain Control

Some projects promise a better life for wounded soldiers. Last September, a mechanical arm was controlled by a volunteer with tetraplegia (characterized by loss of use of the limbs and torso) via his brain signals, a breakthrough in the control of a prosthetic arm. Development of the prosthetic limb was overseen by Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory, with funding from the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Next, UPMC and Caltech researchers will conduct trials aimed at achieving brain control of advanced mechanical limbs by volunteers with spinal cord injuries in DARPA’s Revolutionizing Prosthetics program. (DARPA)

 

Faster, Cheaper Satellites

The U.S. military wants a faster, cheaper way to get small satellites into orbit. DARPA’s Airborne Launch Assist Space Access (ALASA) program would do that with an aircraft designed for the job. The program aims to launch 100-pound satellites for less than $1 million per flight, and without extensive planning. ALASA would provide the capability to launch a satellite within 24 hours from a runway anywhere in the world. ( DARPA)

 

DiscRoter Helicopter

What do you get when you combine the lift of a helicopter with the thrust of a jet? Potentially, the DiscRotor Compound Helicopter. DARPA is looking to develop an aircraft that’s capable of vertical take-offs and landings and forward speeds in the range of 450 miles per hour. The aircraft design accomplishes that by incorporating a mid-fuselage disc with rotor blades that can be retracted for transitioning to full fixed-wing flight. ( DARPA)

 

Space Lens

Suppose you need an image or video of any place on earth, and you need it right now. That’s the challenge that DARPA is addressing through Membrane Optical Imager for Real-Time Exploitation (MOIRE), a geosynchronous orbit-based system that uses a membrane optic etched with a diffractive pattern to focus light on a sensor. Think of MOIRE as a very large (60 feet across) lens in space that could be used to peer into off-limits areas or for missile defense. ( DARPA)

 

3D Battle Planning

The Urban Photonic Sandtable Display employs advanced 3-D technology to create a 360-degree, 3-D holographic display for use in battle planning. A team of up to 20 planners can view the large-format, interactive display, according to DARPA. (No special 3-D glasses required.) ( DARPA)

 

Brain Power

Can a computer chip mimic the human brain? That’s the goal of DARPA’s Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics (SyNAPSE) program, which aims to develop systems that not only mimic the brain, but do so at biological scale. That requires development of integrated circuits that are packed with electronics and integrated communications that approximate the function of neurons and synapses. The ultimate goal is to build systems that “understand, adapt, and respond” to information, says DARPA. Potential uses include robotic systems and sensory applications. (DARPA)

 

Robo Boat

An unmanned surface vehicle patrolled during the Trident Warrior experiment last year, directed by U.S. Fleet Forces Command. The experimental boat can be controlled remotely or operate autonomously. ( U.S. Navy)

 

Perch And Stare

Think of Shrike as a personal drone for the commander in the field. DARPA describes Shrike as a “perch-and-stare micro air vehicle” that provides real-time intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. It’s also “man-packable,” a reference to the gear that soldiers carry with them. The device’s four-rotor design enables vertical take-off and landing and forward flight. Shrike is capable of high-res observation for several hours, during which it transmits data and information to a ground station. Once done, Shrike re-launches from its perch and returns home. ( DARPA)

 

Fighting Flutter

The X-56A Multi-Use Technology Testbed (MUTT) is a prototype unmanned aircraft made of lightweight, flexible materials that’s being developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory in collaboration with Lockheed Martin. Its long, thin wings (28 feet across) are susceptible to vibrations, or flutter, that results from air flow and turbulence. Engineers plan to use MUTT’s flight-control software to find ways to minimize flutter. That knowledge will inform the design of the proposed X-54 aircraft, which is intended to demonstrate technologies that muffle sonic booms, potentially opening the door to supersonic commercial flights over the United States. (AFRL/Lockheed)

 

3G For DOD

The Navy’s Mobile User Objective System satellite (MUOS-1), launched in February from Cape Canaveral, Florida, gives the U.S. military its own 3G network. The Navy provides narrowband satellite communications to the Department of Defense, and MUOS-1 uses 3G technology to provide voice, data, and video communications. The system includes four ground stations, and plans call for a constellation of four satellites and an in-orbit spare. (US Navy)

 

Smaller, Lighter Radio

Roger that. The Army’s newest handheld radio is the AN/PRC-117G, which can transmit voice, video, and data, including biometrics from the battlefield. The commercial, single-channel radio, made by Harris, is 30% smaller and 35% lighter than “manpack” radios currently in use. More than 2,300 of the devices have been shipped to Afghanistan. ( U.S. Army)

 

New-Look Apache

The revamped Apache helicopter, the Apache Block III, incorporates 26 new technologies, including an updated communications system. The Army has depended on the Apache for more than 40 years. This new model, which will be put to work in the next year, is better able to fly in inclement weather and can communicate with and control unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones. ( U.S. Army)

 

Next-Gen Chopper

The Army-led Joint Multi-Role program is focused on development of a next-generation helicopter with improved avionics, electronics, performance, and payload capacity. It would be capable of flying at speeds in excess of 170 knots and at distances greater than 800 kilometers, and of hovering at 6,000 feet in summer heat (95 degrees). It would be “optionally manned,” or capable of at least some degree of autonomous flight. The JMR program aims to develop prototype aircraft by next year, begin tests in 2017, and field a new fleet of helicopters by 2030. ( U.S. Army)

 

Virtual Danger

This virtual reality combat simulator trains soldiers in how to deal with improvised explosive devices, or IEDs. The environment comprises a simulated armored vehicle, complete with high-def video and sound, and replicates the conditions of hostile territory, including smoke, poor visibility, confusion, and explosions. A digital recording of the training session can be used to review team performance. ( U.S. Army)

 

 

See Through Clouds

DARPA is looking to develop an “extremely high-frequency” sensor that can locate targets through clouds as effectively as infrared sensors do in clear weather. The goal of the agency’s Video Synthetic Aperture Radar (ViSAR) program is to develop radar that provides high-res, full-motion video for use in engaging ground targets from an aircraft, as well as algorithms that can be used with the new technology. Some of the technical challenges involved include detection, auto focusing, and geo-location. An additional twist: the system must be able to detect moving targets, not just stationary ones.

(DARPA)

 

 

Panetta Orders Extra Safety Measures for F-22s

AF Magazine

5/16/2012

To help ensure the well-being of F-22 pilots in flight, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has instructed the Air Force to institute some additional safety measures, announced Pentagon officials May 15. First, Panetta directed the Air Force to expedite the installation of an automatic backup oxygen system in all F-22s. This means wrapping up this system’s testing in November and beginning installations in December, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. John Kirby told reporters during a briefing. Starting in January, retrofits are scheduled to occur at a rate of 10 aircraft per month, he said. Second, Panetta ordered that, effective immediately, “all F-22 flights will remain within the proximity of potential landing locations to enable quick recovery and landing should the pilot encounter unanticipated physiological conditions during flight,” said Panetta’s spokesman George Little at the briefing. Other fighter types will now perform the long-duration aerospace control flights in Alaska in place of F-22s, noted Little. However, defense officials believe that the F-22s currently deployed to Southwest Asia “can safely continue that deployment given the geography of the region,” he said. Third, Panetta wants the Air Force to brief him monthly on the progress it is making to determine the root cause of why some F-22 pilots have experienced hypoxia-like systems such as disorientation and dizziness in the cockpit. Little said Panetta “supports the measures taken so far by the Air Force” to address this issue, but he wanted the additional steps since “the safety of our pilots remains his first and foremost concern.” (Little-Kirby transcript)

 

 

White House’s cybersecurity official retiring

Washington Post

By Ellen Nakashima, Published: May 16

 

The White House’s cybersecurity coordinator said Thursday that he is stepping down at the end of this month after a 2 1 / 2-year tenure in which the administration has increased its focus on cyber issues but struggled to reach agreement with lawmakers on the best way to protect the nation’s key computer networks from attack.

Howard Schmidt, who oversaw the creation of the White House’s first legislative proposal on cybersecurity, said he is retiring to spend more time with his family and to pursue teaching in the cyber field.

Schmidt leaves at a time when the administration still has much work to do to ensure the protection of the computer systems of companies that provide electricity and other critical services. He will be succeeded by Michael Daniel, chief of the White House budget office’s intelligence branch.

Daniel has worked at the Office of Management and Budget for 17 years, the past 10 handling cybersecurity issues.

Schmidt, 62, who also served a turn as a White House adviser on cyber issues during the administration of President George W. Bush, had signed up for a two-year-stint, officials said. It was a job few wanted, seeing it as a position with much responsibility but little real authority.

“We prevailed on him to spend a few more months,” White House counterterrorism adviser John O. Brennan said Thursday.

Schmidt, a former Air Force officer and chief information security officer at Microsoft, said the job came with built-in authority. “When you’ve got the president directing you to do something, I don’t know how clout gets any bigger than that,” he said.

During Schmidt’s tenure, the White House unveiled its first international strategy for cyberspace, which stated that the United States will respond to hostile acts in cyberspace as it would to any other threat to the country, reserving the right to use “all necessary means,” including diplomatic and military, to defend the country.

Schmidt also led the creation of the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace — a program aimed at developing methods for people and businesses to authenticate their identities online that are safer than using passwords, which can be stolen by hackers.

The United States’ growing dependence on digital networks for daily commerce, energy production and military operations has made cybersecurity a prime national-security issue.

In May 2009, President Obama declared networks that handle data for such purposes a “strategic national asset” and warned that the cyberthreat was one of the most serious economic and national security challenges the nation faced. Other officials say it could overtake terrorism as the top threat to the country.

Brennan said that Schmidt and his team have worked to identify vulnerabilities in the nation’s critical systems and identified resources to address them. “On both the threat side and vulnerability side, we have a better appreciation of what we’re dealing with,” he said.

Schmidt’s role has often been overshadowed by that of Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency and head of the military’s Cyber Command, with a debate over the role of the NSA in defending private sector networks gaining more public attention.

But Brennan said Schmidt’s role is an important one: to help the government understand how to “prevent intruders from carrying out successful attacks” and to help coordinate the partnership between the NSA and the Department of Homeland Security, which is responsible for protecting critical infrastructure.

Schmidt’s leadership “has made a difference both within the federal government and throughout the nation, and he will be missed,” Alexander said in a statement.

At OMB, Daniel, 41, played a key role in shaping intelligence budgets and has worked on every major issue affecting the intelligence community, including implementing intelligence reforms after the 2001 terrorist attacks, officials said. He has coordinated funding for the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative, begun under the Bush administration.

At the end of May, Schmidt said he will ride his Harley-Davidson motorcycle west. His home is near Seattle, and he has extended family in Wisconsin, including a sixth grandchild on the way.

 

 

FCC chooses spectrum for wireless medical devices

Reuters

By Sinead Carew

 

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The U.S. telecommunications regulator is expected to announce plans on Thursday to set aside spectrum to connect wireless medical devices for more convenient health monitoring.

The Federal Communications Commission said it is scheduled to vote on May 24 to adopt the plan for so-called Medical Body Area Networks, according to the telecom regulator, which has been working on the project for about two years.

The idea is that doctors could monitor a patient’s vital signs at home or in hospital via low-cost wearable sensors that are attached to the patient’s body and wirelessly connected to the machines that process and display the data for doctors.

Currently, such sensors have to be attached directly to machines by wires, making it difficult for patients to leave their beds.

According to the FCC, the new devices could help speed a diagnosis or allow earlier intervention in the case of a medical problem as doctors may be able to respond more quickly.

The regulator hopes to set aside two spectrum bands for the devices, one of which would only be valid for devices used in medical facilities. A second spectrum band could be used for remote monitoring of patients who are in their own homes.

(Editing by Leslie Gevirtz)

 

 

U.S. Army Chief Disputes Latest Congressional Budget Submission

Defense news

May. 16, 2012 – 02:31PM |

By PAUL McLEARY

 

A fiscal 2013 budget proposal submitted by the House Armed Services Committee would force the U.S. Army to cap its planned force reductions at 552,000 troops, which Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno said is at odds with the 543,000-soldier end strength he is planning to reach. (U.S. Army)

 

U.S. Army reset and modernization programs face several budgetary risks over the next several months, Army chief Gen. Raymond Odierno said May 16.

 

The biggest threat is sequestration, which would trigger almost $600 billion in defense spending cuts on top of the $500 billion already planned for, beginning in January 2013. Such reductions would be “disastrous” for the Army, Odierno said.

 

“It would cause a hollowness, a significant hollowness in the force,” he said.

 

While the service is already planning to cut more than 70,000 troops over the next several years, the congressionally mandated cuts would force the Army to cull another 80,000 to 100,000 troops from its active-duty and Reserve rosters, the general told reporters at the Pentagon.

 

While the threat of sequestration hangs over the Pentagon, a fiscal 2013 budget proposal submitted by the House Armed Services Committee would also force the Army to cap its planned force reductions at 552,000 troops, which Odierno said is at odds with the 543,000-soldier end strength he is planning to reach by the end of fiscal 2013.

 

The higher number is problematic because “we will not be able to use attrition — this might cause us to force more people out of the Army than we want instead of using natural attrition.” About 65 percent to 70 percent of the Army’s planned reduction-in-force size will come through natural attrition, the general said.

 

“I’ve talked with the House. I’ve told them that I don’t agree with those amendments. I’d like to see them adjustable,” he added. Specifically, if the higher end strength number carries the day, “we start to lose the balance between what I call the three rheostats, which are end strength, readiness and modernization,” he said. “What we don’t want is a hollow force.”

 

Sequestration, plus the larger force size, “would probably cause us to breach many contracts that we already have in place,” Odierno said, “because we would not meet the current requirements that we have on our developmental contracts, so it would affect every asset that we have in every area,” he said.

 

Odierno also said his staff is not planning for sequestration, which has been the official line coming from all the services and the secretary of defense.

 

Budget Fight Likely to Go into 2013

CQ TODAY ONLINE NEWS

May 16, 2012 – 11:17 p.m.

By Paul M. Krawzak, CQ Staff

 

A succession of public gambits, from a White House meeting with congressional leaders to serial Senate votes on lost-cause budget resolutions, is raising the political heat on the big tax and spending issues looming after the November election.

But the actions may only complicate any chance that lawmakers will reach agreement on a comprehensive debt reduction deal this year.

Some lawmakers and congressional insiders say it is almost inevitable Congress and the White House will have to seek an extension of existing temporary tax cuts and put off the automatic “sequester” spending cuts for several months into 2013, providing time for the two parties to work out their differences and avoid the so-called fiscal cliff.

President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Wednesday rejected House Speaker John A. Boehner’s call to begin negotiating an increase in the debt limit under Boehner’s terms, seemingly slowing any progress that Congress will make in reaching a deal.

“We ought to work on it, we ought to try, we ought to make our proposals,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. “But my guess is an extension is almost inevitable.”

Alexander said the expiring tax cuts, sequester and other issues that have to be resolved “would be an awful lot to digest within a few months. So we ought to be prepared to extend everything, including the tax rates, so we can have ample time to deal with all these items.”

Experts warn that allowing all the tax cuts and related provisions to expire and permitting the automatic spending reductions required by the August debt limit law (PL 112-25) to take effect in January would have more than a $7 trillion impact over a decade and could throw the economy into recession next year.

Sequester Comes First

With all the issues crashing together at the end of the year, many say nothing can be solved before a lame-duck session after the November elections.

But Boehner, R-Ohio, sought to push up the timetable for negotiations Tuesday when he warned Democrats that he would not support an increase in the debt limit, anticipated to be needed later this year or early next year, without spending cuts equal to or greater than the increase.

“‘Nothing’ is not an option, and ‘anything’ is not a plan,” he said. “To get on the path to prosperity, we have to avoid the fiscal cliff, but we need to start today.”

Democrats initially reacted by accusing Boehner of putting the government’s credit rating at risk, as they say he did last year, leading to a downgrade imposed by Standard & Poor’s.

Democrats on Wednesday issued their own threats. Obama warned Boehner during a lunch at the White House with congressional leaders that he wanted a “clean” debt limit increase and would not sign a measure with the spending cuts that Boehner specified.

The president said “we’re not going to recreate the debt ceiling debacle of last August,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said. “It is simply not acceptable to hold the American and global economy hostage to one party’s political ideology.”

Reid, D-Nev., said at the same lunch that he would not talk about a debt limit increase until Congress first determines what to do about the sequester.

“Since no debt ceiling increase will likely be necessary until after the end of the year, Sen. Reid conveyed his view that any discussion of the debt ceiling is premature until after the sequester takes effect or is replaced with a balanced agreement, and after Congress deals with the expiring Bush tax cuts,” said a Senate Democratic aide familiar with Reid’s statements at the event.

Reid also threatened to oppose any effort to turn off the sequester unless it is replaced with “a balanced agreement that pairs smart spending cuts with revenue measures asking millionaires to pay their fair share,” the aide said.

Open to Extension

Because it is a presidential election year, it is widely believed that no comprehensive deal is possible until after the November election. But in recent weeks there has been increasing talk about extending the tax cuts that expire at the end of the year for three to six months, as well as postponing the sequester for the same period.

House Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., said he could entertain a six-month extension, when asked about it during a fiscal affairs conference Tuesday. “I’m totally open to that,” he said. “The duration of the extension I think is probably up for negotiation, but I think most people are thinking we’ll have some kind of an extension into the 2013 window.”

Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., put the odds of reaching a deal during the lame-duck session at “50-50 or better.” But he said an extension “may prove necessary if we can’t work something out before” the end of the year.

“It’s obvious to me that if something can’t be worked out, you can’t accept sequestration,” he said Wednesday.

Republicans in both chambers have sought to put Democrats on the defensive over deficit reduction. GOP senators on Wednesday lambasted the Democratic majority for not bringing a budget resolution to the floor in three years as they unsuccessfully sought consideration of several Republican senators’ budget proposals. They also brought out an outline of Obama’s proposed fiscal 2013 budget and the House-passed budget resolution.

Steven C. LaTourette, R-Ohio, defended Boehner’s demand for spending cuts equal to the amount of a debt limit increase. “It’s the only leverage we have” to get a deal, he said. Democrats have “dug the same line in the sand that [they’re] not going to touch entitlements.”

Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., said it’s unclear to him how or when an agreement will be reached. “There’s nobody on the Hill who knows,” he said. “What you can say is right now we do not have the ability to solve a problem.”

 

 

House GOP lawmakers take aim at earmark ban

By Molly K. Hooper – 05/18/12 06:00 AM ET

 

A group of Republicans is working on a game plan aimed at lifting the House ban on earmarks early next year.

While the frustrated GOP lawmakers concede that eradicating the ban is not going to happen this Congress, they have become more outspoken in recent weeks and months. Their goal is to change the House’s policy in 2013.

However, significant obstacles are in their way, most notably Speaker John Boehner. The Ohio Republican worked for years to institute the ban and has touted it throughout his Speakership. Moreover, Mitt Romney, the presumptive 2012 GOP nominee, has endorsed a permanent ban on earmarks.

Conservative Rep. John Culberson (Texas) is the most recent GOP lawmaker to publicly push back against the ban that was formally adopted when Republicans took control of the House in 2011.

Culberson, the chairman of a military-construction appropriations panel, expressed exasperation earlier this week that he can’t expedite the expansion of a governmental military facility in Ohio, which is now slated for 2016.

“In light of new security threats to our country and our allies, expansion of [the Foreign Materials Exploitation Lab] is desperately needed now. And because of the earmark ban, I can’t move it … it’s just nuts,” Culberson told The Hill.

Several weeks ago, Rep. Mike Rogers (Ala.) stood up during a closed-door GOP conference meeting to tell leaders that a majority of members want earmarks to return. His comment sparked applause from some Republican members.

Rogers told The Hill, “What I would like to see happen is a situation where we can’t advocate for private company and for-profit [companies]. But if it’s a state, county or local government in our district, we should be able to advocate for a project that is beyond the scope of what they can do and need federal partnership. I think you are going to see a lot of members advocating for [that arrangement]. Because right now we are prohibited from advocating for anything for our states.”

The Alabama lawmaker claimed Boehner told the conference that “it may be worthwhile for us to revisit the subject.”

A House GOP leadership aide disputed Rogers’s comments, saying the Speaker did not respond to Rogers in the conference meeting.

Culberson says he’s been “pounding” the leadership to move on the reforms, as well as “educating” his colleagues on the “urgency” of the situation.

“This is an evolving conversation … This was designed as a temporary ban, and I’m only talking about infrastructure for national security purposes or critical infrastructure. For example, flood control or transportation, that’s critical public infrastructure, which we have no conflict of interest, no personal interest of any kind and is utterly transparent,” Culberson said.

Kevin Smith, Boehner’s communications director, said, “We have an earmark ban in place and there are no plans to change it.”

As pro-earmark House Republicans huddle, there appears to be less of an appetite to lift the ban in the Senate.

Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), a senior appropriator who voted in February against an amendment calling for a permanent earmark ban, said the matter has not come up much in the Senate Republican Conference.

But when asked if he believes the earmark ban is temporary, Cochran responded, “Yes.”

The earmark ban measure was rejected, though it was backed by most Senate Republicans, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.).

For many, both inside and outside Congress, “earmark” is a dirty word in the wake of various earmark-related controversies and scandals. It also serves as a bitter reminder of how Republicans lost their fiscal way before losing control of Congress in 2006.

For that reason, outgoing Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) contends that the GOP will long shun earmarks.

“With elections coming up and everyone having anti-incumbency problems, there’s absolutely no way,” Burton said.

Rogers, who is optimistic that reforms will be made in the organization of the next Congress, acknowledged that the matter might not be addressed until after the elections in November.

“I don’t think you are going to hear a lot about it between now and the election because the word ‘earmark’ is what changed these things, and what we’re talking about is advocacy, not parochial gigs for specific companies,” Rogers said.

Earmark proponents say a permanent ban on earmark spending would be an abdication of the Article I declaration that Congress has the power of the purse.

“Constitutionally, the power to appropriate is the Congress’s. We have given it over to the administration. Earmarks have not stopped. They’ve just been done by the administration now, and they are being done in all Democrat districts,” Rogers said.

Prior attempts to reform the earmark process have been unsuccessful.

In early 2009, a 10-member select committee was unable to resolve differences over how to reform the process.

Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), an appropriator and member of that panel, attributed that failure, in part, to the panel’s inability to define the term “earmark.”

“There are some people who think that earmarks are just in appropriations bills, and that the limited tariff provisions shouldn’t apply or that transportation shouldn’t apply or that water projects shouldn’t apply. If you are going to reform the process, then you’ve got to spend some time deciding what exactly you are going to do,” Simpson said.

GOP lawmakers, supportive of the current ban, said that earmarks would likely return in a limited fashion, and under a new name.

Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) denounced the “horrible abuse” of the earmark process under the prior GOP majority, pointing out that lawmakers have been running into problems — such as facilitating a land-transfer deal to a city — because of the ban.

“We need to sit down systemically with some people who are not excited about having earmarks again, give them a name … In Utah we call them ‘line-item’ spending or directed spending … come up with a way that there’s going to be transparency and that you’re not going to be able to airdrop them in, sneak them through, do it on the floor at the last minute, and I think we could come up with a way of doing it,” Bishop said.

— Bob Cusack contributed to this report.

 

Source:

http://thehill.com/homenews/house/228245-republicans-taking-aim-at-earmark-ban

 

Obama’s NATO juggling act

The Hill

By Carlo Munoz and Jeremy Herb – 05/18/12 12:00 AM ET

 

On the eve of a key NATO summit in Chicago, President Obama is facing several political and policy battles that could upend his strategy for a post-war Afghanistan.

World leaders attending the NATO summit, scheduled to begin on Friday, will look to build on the post-war agreement that Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed on May 1.

That deal states that American and coalition forces will be out of the country by 2014. But it also mandates that an undetermined number of U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan until 2024 to assist local Afghan forces.

Rampant corruption in Karzai’s government has cast doubt on whether Afghan forces will be ready to assume the security mission, while the continuing presence of Taliban safe havens along the Afghan-Pakistani border has called into question whether the terror group will ever be completely ousted from Afghanistan.

The Obama administration is also increasingly under attack from lawmakers over the troop withdrawal plan.

 

How the White House handles the juggling act will help determine the outcome of a war that has come to define the Obama administration.

 

Attacks from the left

In the midst of campaign season, Obama has said he will make no decisions about the size of the U.S. force in Afghanistan until the surge troops are withdrawn this fall, likely pushing off any troop announcements until after the election.

Postponing that decision could blunt potential criticism from presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, but it hasn’t warded off pressure from members of his own party.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday argued in favor of legislation calling for an acceleration of U.S. troop withdrawals from Afghanistan.

Citing recent polls showing waning support for the war, anti-war Democrats held a press conference Wednesday touting a letter signed by more than 85 lawmakers demanding a quicker drawdown in Afghanistan.

“We’re here to tell the president of the United States: We want to be the wind in your back in terms of you bringing this war to an end,” Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.) said at the press conference.

“I think deep in his soul, he understands it’s pointless for us to be there another year, another two or three years and beyond that,” McGovern said.

 

Afghan corruption

 

Hawks on the right, meanwhile, led by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), are calling for keeping all 68,000 troops in Afghanistan through the 2013 fighting season. They warn that drawing down too quickly would open the door to a resurgence of the Taliban.

But the biggest threat to stability in Afghanistan might be the country’s fledgling government.

Corruption within Karzai’s administration remains the biggest threat to Afghanistan’s security, regardless of whether American troops leave in 2014 or earlier, according to McCain.

Government corruption, particularly at the local level, “is the single biggest reason [Afghans] sign up to fight for the Taliban,” said Joshua Foust, a fellow at the American Security Project specializing in Central and South Asian affairs.

The problem, according to Foust, is that the Karzai government lacks the resources and local knowledge to properly vet government officials at the local level.

DOD and State Department officials were forced to shut down an Afghan-led anti-corruption working group last year, according to a State Department official speaking under the condition of anonymity, after members “learned new ways” to defraud the Afghan government, based on their reviews of corruption cases.

What had been intended to curb rampant corruption inside Afghan government ministries instead ended up “teaching [officials] how to be corrupt,” according to the official.

There is little that can be done policy-wise by either the United States or its allies that can effectively curb the corruption, according to Foust.

American and NATO leaders can try to institute a better vetting process for potential government officials or demand more accountability from the Karzai administration, he said, but in the end those efforts are “not going to go very far.”

“Realistically [the United States is] not going to have the time or attention to do that,” Foust said, adding that there will be “zero appetite for funding Afghanistan [support] for the next decade,” once American troops pull out in 2014.

 

The Pakistan question

Pakistan’s agreement to attend the NATO summit has been seen as a thawing of relations between Washington and Islamabad.

Recent news of a tentative deal to reopen U.S. supply routes into Afghanistan via Pakistan that had been closed to American forces since last November is also being touted as a positive sign.

However, heading into Friday’s summit, U.S. lawmakers and administration officials continue to be wary of Pakistan and its role in Afghanistan. A DOD official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Pakistan’s shared border with Afghanistan is “still assumed as a risk” to American forces.

Members of the Haqqani network, a Pakistan-based terror group affiliated with the Taliban, continue to stage attacks against American troops in Afghanistan from Pakistan.

Those cross-border raids are a main reason why eastern Afghanistan is being targeted as the main objective for U.S. and coalition forces during this summer’s fighting season.

McCain on Monday said Pakistan’s intelligence agency, known as the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), plays a direct role in the Haqqani network’s operations.

Despite administration claims that no direct links between the Haqqani network and the ISI have been established, those claims “cannot be [supported] by the facts,” McCain said.

Islamabad’s decision to attend the NATO summit, along with the decision on the supply routes, is part of the delicate game of diplomacy being played between the United States and Pakistan, according to Foust.

The outcome of that game between Pakistan and the White House could very well determine the future of Afghanistan once American troops come home.

 

Source:

http://thehill.com/homenews/news/228233-obamas-nato-summit-juggling-act-puts-afghanistan-strategy-to-the-test

 

 

 

US at risk of ‘catastrophic cyber-attack’ says intelligence panel chairman

 

By Julian Pecquet – 05/17/12 03:32 PM ET

 

The United States is woefully unprepared to counter a “catastrophic cyber-attack” that’s expected within 12 to 24 months, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said Thursday.

 

The House has been doing its part, Rogers said, easily passing his cybersecurity bill last month while his own committee on Thursday adopted its spending bill for fiscal 2013 by a unanimous 19-0 vote. But the White House, citing privacy concerns, has issued a veto threat against the legislation that would allow the government to inform private companies about impending cyber-attacks.

 

“We are today involved in a cyber war,” Rogers said in remarks at a Carnegie Endowment for International Peace event marking the launch of The Hill’s Global Affairs blog. “Our challenge is … can we prepare ourselves quickly enough?”

 

Rogers said U.S. companies get attacked hundreds of thousands of times a day. China in particular, he said, is breaking into businesses to steal their intellectual property to help Chinese firms compete on the international market without having to spend time and money on research and development and trial and error.

 

During the wide ranging discussion, Rogers tore down the notion that the United States would enjoy a “peace dividend” as the decade-long war in Afghanistan winds down. Rather, he said, the world is getting “more complicated day by day.”

 

He mentioned in particular North Korea’s recent rocket launch, Russia’s investment in its nuclear submarine fleet and China’s claims on the South China Sea, which Rogers said has been patrolled by the U.S. Navy ever since the nation’s birth. And he raised concerns about Iran’s nuclear ambitions, al Qaeda’s remnants and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s desire to be a “destabilizer to U.S. interests.”

 

Rogers took particular aim at media reports that downplayed the threat of an alleged Iranian agent who is accused of trying to kill Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States. Far from dealing with a “buffoon,” he said, the United States caught a lucky break because the alleged agent turned to a violent criminal — “John Gotti’s John Gotti” — who just happened to have been turned in 18 months earlier by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

 

Apple gets OK for Maiden solar farm

By Bruce Henderson The Charlotte Observer

Posted: Thursday, May. 17, 2012

 

Apple won state approval Thursday for a 20-megawatt solar farm, the biggest proposed in North Carolina, near its data center in Maiden.

No complaints were filed and the project passed muster under environmental standards, the N.C. Utilities Commission said in approving the certificate of public necessity and convenience. Maiden is about 40 miles northwest of Charlotte.

Apple will sell the electricity to Duke Energy.

Apple has also applied for state approval to build the nation’s largest fuel cell project, at 4.8 megawatts, at the site. The fuel cells would generate electricity from hydrogen.

Copyright 2012 The Charlotte Observer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2012/05/17/3247948/apple-gets-ok-for-maiden-solar.html#storylink=cpy

 

 

Cybersecurity: Rushing to Stall?

CQ WEEKLY – COVER STORY

May 12, 2012 – 12:16 p.m.

By Tim Starks, CQ Staff

 

When 2012 dawned, cybersecurity legislation was bathed in a glow of congressional harmony rare during an election year, particularly this one. On both sides of the aisle and on both ends of Capitol Hill, there was broad consensus that the cyberthreat was so severe that Congress had to act immediately. Not acting, officials from two administrations insisted, risked potentially trillions of dollars worth of economic damage from data theft or even a catastrophic attack on computer networks that could, say, push a nuclear power plant into meltdown.

 

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, threw himself into the topic and pressed committees to produce a comprehensive bill. He then vowed to bring it to the floor, which could now happen as early as this month. House GOP leaders teed up their own slate of bills, passing four of them last month.

 

After several years of wrestling with cybersecurity legislation to no avail, 2012 seemed primed like never before.

 

But that progress is deceptive. As the debate has become more and more prominent, the differences have become magnified. Pressures that always threatened to block action — disagreement over the role of federal regulations in defending privately owned computer networks, concerns about the privacy and civil liberties ramifications of any bills, and even election year politics — have begun to exert themselves. And the lobbies that have been working for months to sway lawmakers — telecommunications companies, the technology industry, privacy groups and others — have suddenly become huge players behind the scenes.

 

Now, despite the procedural advancement of cybersecurity legislation, Congress might actually be getting further away from, not closer to, delivering the first major cybersecurity bill to the president.

 

“It gets harder every week,” says Stewart Baker, who served as assistant secretary for policy at the Department of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush and is now a partner at Steptoe & Johnson, LLP.

 

The comprehensive Senate bill backed by President Obama and Reid would give the Department of Homeland Security regulatory authority to write new security standards on the most at-risk critical infrastructure owned by industry, such as computer networks tied to the electricity grid or banking system. That has drawn passionate opposition from business groups.

 

By contrast, legislation brought to the floor last month by House GOP leaders skipped over anything with even the faintest hint of regulation. That has elicited criticism from security hawks and proponents of the Senate bill, who say that without new security standards for industry, the House-passed bills fall far short.

 

Bills in both chambers have come under attack from privacy and civil liberties groups for provisions aimed at fostering better sharing of threat information between the federal government and businesses, prompting a contingent of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to vote no or to threaten to do so.

 

And a more partisan tone has crept into the debate. A group of top Senate Republicans filed a counterproposal to the Reid-backed Senate bill after accusing its sponsors of not taking into account all points of view, even though the sponsors of that bill had repeatedly invited them to negotiations with little success. The Obama administration threatened to veto a House information-sharing bill for reasons that were widely seen by Republicans and industry figures as purely political.

 

“Business would like to have the information-sharing provisions,” says Baker, “but they don’t want anything on the other topic. The privacy groups don’t want anything on information sharing and are sort of neutral on security standards. Everyone’s mostly lobbying to stop stuff. And the easiest fight is one where you’re just trying to slow a bill down and kill it in an election year.”

 

Despite the setbacks, Rhode Island Democratic Rep. Jim Langevin sees progress in the battle lines taking shape.

 

“We’re narrowing in and focusing on where those areas of agreement are and where there are differences that need to be resolved,” says Langevin, who co-chaired the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Commission on Cybersecurity in the 44th Presidency. “Before, we had nothing to go on. Now at least, we’re seeing movement.”

 

And even those who have felt the anger of business groups and privacy groups say their lobbying has sometimes played a constructive role in the debate, helping to shape bills with their criticisms.

 

Meanwhile, every week seems to brings news of a major new cyberattack. On May 4, the Homeland Security Department warned of a “gas pipeline sector cyber intrusion campaign.” More such threats could help push the legislation forward, and many lawmakers remain publicly optimistic about the odds of passage.

 

Still, a growing number of outside observers look at the confluence of forces and fear that 2012 might pass without anything happening at all.

 

“It’s going to be a tough row to hoe,” says James A. Lewis, director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ technology and public policy program.

 

Big Business

Cybersecurity has become a particularly complex issue for Congress because the private sector owns almost all of the nation’s most crucial computer networks — an estimated 85 percent to 90 percent of them. That means any catastrophic attack would almost surely target industry in some way. Therefore, any legislation has to wrestle with such topics as whether or how to mandate that businesses comply with security regulations, as well as what kind of incentives could nudge businesses to protect their networks on their own, such as incentives to break down barriers to sharing threat information between businesses and the federal government.

 

The bill that has drawn the greatest animosity from business groups is the Reid-backed measure, which is sponsored by Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Joseph I. Lieberman, a Connecticut independent, and a number of other top senators. It includes incentives for information sharing, an overhaul of security for federal computer networks and a variety of other provisions.

 

But the section that worries business groups is the one that would lead to the establishment of new security standards for the most at-risk privately owned computer networks.

 

Under the bill, the Department of Homeland Security would consult with industry to determine which digital infrastructure was most vulnerable to attacks that could result in heavy loss of life or do catastrophic damage to the economy or national security. It would evaluate existing security protocols for those computer systems and work with businesses to set performance standards for vital infrastructure in vulnerable industries.

 

And it would give those businesses the chance to meet those performance standards as they see fit, through self-certification or third-party audits.

 

Eventually, businesses out of compliance with the standards could face fines or civil penalties. Those meeting the standards would be protected against lawsuits in the event of an attack.

 

To some security experts, such as Baker and Lewis, those regulatory provisions are too meek to ensure the security of the most vital networks, and the bill’s sponsors have already bent too far to please business groups.

 

But establishing some system of security standards, they say, is essential to any cybersecurity legislation. There is no stark partisan line among those experts.

 

Many top administration officials have endorsed legislatively created security standards for businesses — including, most recently, National Security Agency Director Keith B. Alexander, who wrote in a May 4 letter to Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain that “recent events have shown that a purely voluntary and market-driven system is not sufficient.” Past George W. Bush administration officials have also backed such standards, including former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and former Assistant Attorney General Jack Goldsmith.

 

At a Feb. 16 hearing on the Lieberman bill, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce explained its opposition to the legislation. Tom Ridge, another former Bush secretary of Homeland Security who also chairs the Chamber’s national security task force, said it gave his old department too much leeway to write strict security regulations, no matter the intention of the bill’s sponsors to keep the bill light on government mandates.

 

“A light touch can become very prescriptive,” he said. That could lead to economic damage to those companies without many gains in security, Ridge said.

 

McCain and a number of other Republicans soon introduced their own cybersecurity legislation that addressed many of the same topics as the Lieberman bill, but left out any mention of new security standards for critical infrastructure. The Chamber endorsed that bill.

 

It also endorsed the House leadership slate of bills as part of a coalition with a number of business groups.

 

House leaders had earlier planned to include in that slate a measure sponsored by Dan Lungren, a California Republican. But business groups pushed back against provisions outlining Homeland Security Department authority over critical infrastructure. Even after the Homeland Security Committee watered down that language, business groups still rejected it, arguing that it could be a slippery slope toward regulation. Lungren’s bill was removed from the House calendar.

 

Businesses have found philosophical allies in tea party conservatives, who fundamentally oppose government regulation. “If you look at the combination of the business groups and tea party guys, they completely overturned the House,” says Lewis.

 

Says Langevin: “Clearly the private sector — the Chamber of Commerce and that community — have weighed in with Republicans, and Republicans have decided to listen to them that they don’t want any regulation of critical infrastructure.”

 

That doesn’t mean business groups haven’t conceded some ground elsewhere. Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Select Intelligence Committee — chaired by Michigan Republican Mike Rogers — says businesses played a constructive role in the debate over legislation they cosponsored on voluntary sharing of threat information, which was one of the bills passed by the House last month.

 

Business groups agreed to a number of rules aimed at protecting privacy in the Rogers-Ruppersberger bill, Ruppersberger says, although they drew the line at mandatory “minimization” to reduce the amount of personal information businesses pass along to the government. Ruppersberger says business groups have told him that would have been too expensive.

 

Some lawmakers also say businesses ought to lobby against regulations.

 

“It is true that businesses are looking after their best interests, and that’s what we expect them to do,” says Rep. William M. “Mac” Thornberry, the Texas Republican who chaired the House GOP task force on cybersecurity legislation. “That does not mean that businesses get a veto on every idea related to cyber. On the other hand, much of the answer to our cyber problems is going to come from business,” he says, since they own most of the infrastructure that is being attacked.

 

Nor are all businesses speaking with one voice.

 

“I’ve had no opposition from business,” says Senate Select Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat and cosponsor of the Lieberman legislation. “The California companies I’ve spoken to understand that there needs to be a standard of security for critical infrastructure.”

 

Matthew Eggers, senior director of national security and emergency management with the Chamber of Commerce, says the group has worked hard to pass cybersecurity legislation, including the Rogers-Ruppersberger bill, which, along with the McCain bill, “point the way toward greater economic and national security.” But it opposes the Lieberman bill.

 

“Senate leadership needs to cast aside costly and unproven regulatory proposals that would tie the hands of security professionals,” Eggers said. “A new federal cybersecurity program is conceptually not the best approach, and it’s far from certain that it would be managed by government officials in such a way that would return to business owners and operators a dollar’s worth of security for each dollar spent on compliance mandates.”

 

Power of Privacy

While it is a Senate bill that most perturbs business groups, the Rogers-Ruppersberger bill is the one that has most perturbed privacy and civil liberties groups.

 

That information-sharing legislation would require the director of national intelligence to issue guidelines for temporary or permanent security clearances to allow the government to share classified cyberthreat intelligence with certified entities. Businesses that shared information with the government would in return be shielded against lawsuits arising from their information sharing.

 

Privacy groups argue that the bill allows too much personal private information to get into the hands of the federal government without sufficient protections on its use.

 

They were so opposed to that bill that they spent the week before the House vote — which they labeled “Stop Cyber Spying Week” — campaigning against the legislation in an electronic grass-roots-style effort meant to stir up opposition similar to the tidal wave that drowned a pair of Internet anti-piracy bills last winter.

 

Rogers and Ruppersberger tried with a series of amendments to win over privacy groups that opposed the bill, but for the most part they were unsuccessful. Privacy advocates say the bill as passed by the House on April 26 would grant overly broad lawsuit protections, allow businesses to share personal private information directly with military agencies and would not do enough to ensure “minimization” of personally identifying information.

 

The administration threatened to veto the bill in part because it didn’t include any security standards for critical infrastructure and in part because the White House contended that it didn’t provide enough privacy protections. Democrats and Republicans alike said it didn’t make sense to threaten to veto a bill for provisions that were absent, particularly when the bill contained other things the administration favored. And some cybersecurity experts sensed that in criticizing the bill’s privacy protections, the administration was trying to cater to the political left, which was up in arms about the issue.

 

The bill passed the House by a wide margin, but significant numbers of Republicans and Democrats voted against it. One technology lobbyist says Rogers had tried to gain support of some privacy groups with changes to his bill beforehand because he feared that Republicans would abandon the legislation, fearing a constituent backlash like the one from the anti-piracy legislation.

 

Rogers says that wasn’t the idea.

 

“We were trying to get to a bill where people would say, ‘Yeah, that’s rational,'” Rogers says, adding that he had his own personal reservations about government intrusion. “I have privacy concerns. I have no interest in having people’s personal data flying around government circles.”

 

The fight will move to the Senate soon. A coalition of civil liberties groups announced last week that they would oppose the Lieberman legislation because, as they wrote in a letter to senators, it would “allow companies, ‘notwithstanding any law,’ to share sensitive Internet and other information with the government without sufficient privacy safeguards, oversight or accountability.” A Lieberman spokeswoman says the senator is working with those groups to make revisions to the bill.

 

It’s not clear yet what percentage of senators would vote against that bill purely on the basis of whether it adequately safeguards privacy, but at least one senator was recently highly critical of both the Lieberman and the McCain bills.

 

“Both of these bills sweep aside decades of privacy laws,” Minnesota Democrat Al Franken said April 25 at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

 

Commerce, Science and Transportation Chairman John D. Rockefeller IV, a West Virginia Democrat and a cosponsor of the Lieberman legislation, says he doesn’t think privacy concerns have kept Democrats from getting on board.

 

Thornberry says the privacy issue does have political potency, though. “If you get people frightened on privacy issues, you’ll get people in both parties bolting,” he says.

 

Rogers has criticized some groups, namely the American Civil Liberties Union, for opposing any cybersecurity legislation no matter what. Michelle Richardson, legislative counsel for the group, says that’s not her organization’s view. She says the ACLU has no problem with some of the other House-passed bills, such as the two that deal with cybersecurity research and development, and doesn’t object to most provisions of the Lieberman bill. And, she says, she can envision a narrowly tailored information-sharing bill that the ACLU could support.

 

But there are circumstances in which Richardson says the ACLU would be happy with no cybersecurity legislation at all, citing surveillance-related legislation that Congress has enacted in recent years and never modified afterward.

 

“No bill is better than a bad bill,” Richardson says. “Once this passes, we’re stuck with it.”

 

Election Year Politics

Overall, whether lawmakers are most worried about regulation, privacy, or something else, the election year is amplifying the urge to resist cybersecurity legislation.

 

Already, the combination of lawmakers who are worried about privacy or regulation amounts to a “potent mix,” says Jim Dempsey, vice president for public policy with the Center for Democracy and Technology.

 

And election years tend to inject partisanship into issues where party lines would otherwise be less relevant, says Lewis. “An election year is a bad idea to try to do this,” he says. “People are taking a step back and looking at it through a partisan lens.”

 

Adds Baker: “What you worry about is that people start thinking that maybe if the other side wants it, it must be bad for them, and backing away from progress that could otherwise be made. We are seeing a little of that. The president’s bizarre veto message is part of that. Senate Republicans hardening their opposition is troubling.”

 

All the sides remain confident in public right now that they will get their way and are trying to avoid sacrificing their goals. Rockefeller says he isn’t open to compromising on security standards for critical infrastructure to get more Republicans on board. “Definitely not,” he says. “That’s like giving up the basic national security protection of the country.”

 

Thornberry says passing an information-sharing bill this year would be a good start, since there is the most agreement on that topic. If need be, Congress can come back later to some of the thornier questions on topics such as critical infrastructure security standards.

 

“All this progress we’ve made to this point is not going to matter much if there is no bill signed into law on any issue,” he says.

 

Ambreen Ali, Jennifer Scholtes, Emily Cadei and Rob Margetta contributed to this story.

 

FOR FURTHER READING: The Lieberman legislation is S 2105; the McCain legislation is S 2151. House passage of Rogers-Ruppersberger bill (HR 3523) and others (HR 4257, HR 2096, HR 3834), CQ Weekly, p. 885; privacy issues, p. 486; Reid’s role in cybersecurity legislation, p. 190; outlook for cybersecurity legislation in 2012, p. 159; cybersecurity and regulation, 2010 CQ Weekly, p. 1858.

 

 

U.S. must strut cyber might to stop attacks, Cartwright says

NextGov

By Aliya Sternstein

May 15, 2012

 

The United States must frighten adversaries by displaying an arsenal of operational hacking weapons to fight cyber threats, said retired Gen. James E. Cartwright, who crafted the Pentagon’s current cyber policy before retiring last summer.

Some war hawks say the Defense Department should assault opponents publicly to stop hackers, but the department’s July 2011 strategy for operating in cyberspace takes a “deterrence” approach of dissuading enemies from attacking by signaling the strength of U.S. network protections. Cartwright, arguably one of the most tech-savvy leaders to have served at the Pentagon, said an effective deterrence plan requires signaling offensive measures, too.

“You have to scare them. You have to convince them that there is a price for any action that is counter to good order and discipline,” he said Monday evening at The George Washington University Homeland Security Policy Institute. “That means you need an offensive capability.”

The United States should demonstrate a balance of offensive and defensive maneuvers, said Cartwright, who now sits on the board of directors of defense contractor Raytheon and serves as an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“An airplane generally can drop bombs, shoot missiles — that’s credible,” he said, explaining that the world knows the United States has kinetic tools capable of exerting physical force under appropriate checks and balances. “We have not gotten to that level, we are moving to that direction in cyber.”

To establish credibility that America has the will and means to execute a cyberattack, Defense has begun simulating large-scale network attacks on “cyber ranges.”

“At some point, we have to demonstrate the willingness to use it in national security. It doesn’t mean we attack somebody,” Cartwright said. “If we are attacked, we have to be able to say to somebody ‘I know who you are. I can figure it out. Even if I don’t know who you are –I will find you eventually, and if I do, then I will remain proportional in my response and timely, but I will respond.”

Time is critical, according to Cartwright, who expects a life-threatening incident to occur in the near future, perhaps in the civilian space. If the computers supporting a car or tank are tampered with, the driver can typically pull over or get out of the vehicle. But “there are venues in transportation in particular where that’s not the case. In airplanes, it’s really hard to pull over and park,” he said.

When breaches start to endanger people’s lives, in real time, it may make sense for police to enter private property in “hot pursuit,” without a warrant, Cartwright said. “That’s coming — this nation will take that issue on within the next year,” he forecasted.

Unlike Defense Secretary and former CIA Director Leon Panetta, who frequently predicts “the next Pearl Harbor” could be a cyberattack on the power grid, Cartwright does not worry as much about lights going out due to a cyber strike. He acknowledged that different segments of the population experience cyber threats in their own ways, including the national security and business communities. “If you’re a member of the business community, or the industrial base, there is no doubt in your mind that you are losing intellectual capital very quickly — investments in research and development that are prematurely taken from you and applied somewhere else,” he said.

Other observations by Cartwright:

Nobody wants to hear this but anti-virus “patches” meant to immunize computers against software bugs actually make hacking easier. What happens is a security company applies new coding on top of the flaw to fix it — creating yet another code to attack. Breaking a code will “cost the offender almost nothing,” while for “the defender, it costs a lot.” The “basic surface area is increased every time you patch your software.”

Any safeguards built into an airplane’s computer now likely will be outsmarted by attackers before the 30-year lifespan of the jet is over. Aviation will require continuous and expensive protections.

The cost and benefit of an ongoing public-private partnership that shares classified threat intelligence with military contractors should be evaluated before the Homeland Security Department opens the program to non-defense industries.

On Friday, the Pentagon announced all Defense vendors are now eligible for the program that was tested on a small group during summer 2011. “At the end of this — let’s just say that it’s wildly successful — then I have to turn back to DHS [and ask], ‘What is it you want us to protect? Is this something we give to everybody? Is it something we give only to critical activities? Who’s going to bear the cost of all these clearances?’ There’s some questions that have to be answered once you get the process down.”

http://www.nextgov.com/cybersecurity/2012/05/us-must-strut-cyber-might-stop-attacks-cartwright-says/55745/

 

 

Brain scanning computer system takes over the work of stressed multitaskers

NextGov

By Dawn Lim

May 15, 2012

 

Researchers at MIT and Tufts University are creating a computer program that detects when users are stressed out from multitasking, and then kicks in to help them with tasks, according to a report by ExtremeTech. The system could potentially be used to help pilots operate unmanned aerial vehicles.

The scientists used brain-scanning technology, called functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), to determine when a person is multitasking, ExtremeTech reported. If Brainput detects that someone is trying to process too much at once, it kicks in to assist with the work. In one experiment conducted, an operator had to navigate robots through a maze. Once Brainput determined that the subject was multitasking, it commanded the robots to use their own sensors to help with navigation.

Going forward, the research team will investigate other mental states that can be reliably measured using fNIRS, Technology Review reports. 

The Pentagon has been interested in ways to monitor how troops fare in combat situations to minimize stress. The U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command is seeking small business proposals on how to create stress sensors powered by the soldiers who wear them. It has also solicited ideas on ways to develop commercial products that carry out real-time monitoring of brain chemistry.

http://www.nextgov.com/emerging-tech/2012/05/brain-scanning-computer-system-takes-over-work-stressed-multitaskers/55734/

 

 

Ahead of IPO, Facebook loses GM ads

Washington Post

By Hayley Tsukayama, Published: May 15

 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/ahead-of-ipo-facebook-loses-gm-ads/2012/05/15/gIQAzCLLSU_print.html

 

 

General Motors threw cold water on the buildup to Facebook’s red-hot initial public offering Tuesday, saying it will stop paid advertising on the social network, just days before Facebook’s market debut.

The carmaker has found that its paid Facebook ads are not effective enough, a person familiar with the matter said.

“In terms of Facebook specifically, while we currently do not plan to continue with advertising, we remain committed to an aggressive content strategy with all of our products and brands, as it continues to be a very effective tool for engaging with our customers,” GM spokesman Greg Martin said. He said the company would continue to maintain a strong presence on Facebook, but without paying to place advertisements.

Facebook declined to comment on GM’s media strategy, which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

The social network, which has 901 million users worldwide, accounted for 14.6 percent of all Web traffic in 2011, according to a recent report from ComScore. Facebook is expected to make its stock market debut Friday. It said Monday that it will price shares between $34 and $38 for a potential valuation of $106 billion.

Facebook relies heavily on advertising to generate revenue, and the company’s value could be threatened if other advertisers follow GM’s lead, despite its online reach. This year, $872 million of its $1.06 billion in revenue came from advertising.

The social network leads the Web in display advertising revenue, according to a February report from the online advertising analysis firm eMarketer, but it is on a pace to lose its lead to Google by the end of the year.

GM is the third-largest online advertiser, according to advertising analysis firm Kantar Media. GM spends $40 million to generate advertising on the network — $10 million of which goes directly to Facebook, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday. GM spokesman Tom Henderson declined to confirm those numbers, but he said the company devotes 25 percent to 30 percent of its advertising budget to Web ads.

While traditional advertising is mainly about raising awareness, a Facebook campaign requires extra effort to build up a fan base, said Rex Briggs, a social media advertising consultant with Marketing Evolutions.

Michael McHale, director of corporate communications for Subaru, said his company has seen its Facebook presence grow from 100,000 fans to half a million in the past year, with campaigns that have asked Facebook users to submit their experiences with Subaru cars to the company page.

Bill Collins, a spokesman for Ford, said his company is investing more in ads on Facebook and other social platforms. “We’ve found Facebook ads to be very effective when strategically combined with engagement, great content and innovative ways of storytelling, rather than treating them as a straight media buy.”

Forrester Research analyst Melissa Parrish said she “would not be surprised to see other marketers follow” GM’s lead.

The Washington Post Co.’s chairman and chief executive, Donald E. Graham, is a member of Facebook’s board of directors.

 

 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/ahead-of-ipo-facebook-loses-gm-ads/2012/05/15/gIQAzCLLSU_print.html

 

LightSquared’s bankruptcy is a cautionary tale

The would-be hybrid mobile operator's woes prove that wireless is an unpredictable investment

Computerworld

Stephen Lawson

May 15, 2012 (IDG News Service)

After more than a year of active testing and debate over LightSquared’s plan for a nationwide, wholesale 4G network, the now bankrupt company may end up as no more than a cautionary tale for mobile investors.

Industry observers say there are three things that might bring some value to LightSquared’s main asset, a chunk of disputed radio spectrum: The company could swap the spectrum for another block, sell it to another carrier, or win a lawsuit against the U.S. Federal Communications Commission. But all three are unlikely, they said.

LightSquared filed for bankruptcy protection on Monday, declaring assets of US$4.48 billion and debts of $2.29 billion. Lengthy negotiations with its creditors failed to produce an agreement on how to handle the debt. Philip Falcone, whose Harbinger Capital Partners owns most of LightSquared, said in a statement that declaring bankruptcy will give the company more time to gain regulatory approval for its network. In its bankruptcy filing on Monday, the company acknowledged that getting permission to build its network may take two years, a prediction some observers say is optimistic.

LightSquared and its predecessor companies had won approvals from the FCC to launch an LTE mobile data network using spectrum located next to the frequencies used by GPS. It planned to sell access to that network at wholesale to other carriers, alongside service on satellites that are already in the air. But a waiver that let the company sell those services separately was conditioned on resolving any interference that might affect GPS. Based on tests that showed continued interference, the FCC said in February it would kill LightSquared’s LTE plan.

With FCC approval, spectrum that had been awarded to LightSquared’s predecessor companies without an auction would have been transformed into a much more valuable commodity, because cellular data is far more popular than the spectrum’s original purpose, satellite mobile services. But as Falcone learned, not all mobile deals are a sure bet.

“I think it’s a lesson for the investment community that there are a lot of technology and commercial considerations that come into these types of network deployments … that are outside of the norm,” said Tolaga Research analyst Phil Marshall. “You need to be quite conservative when looking at spectrum.”

As the FCC and mobile operators seek additional spectrum to fuel networks that can satisfy consumers’ demands for high-speed data, LightSquared’s travails may be repeated in other bands, Marshall said. Efforts to use frequencies in the 2.3GHz and 1.5GHz bands may reveal interference concerns, he said. “There certainly are other places where this can or will occur,” Marshall said.

LightSquared, insisting on its rights to the so-called L-Band spectrum where it planned to deploy its network, has said the FCC is obligated to swap that spectrum for another band if it doesn’t allow the LTE network. That solution probably can’t happen soon, if ever.

“If the FCC were to do a spectrum swap, they would basically be saying, ‘Yeah, we made a mistake,'” Marshall said. In addition, that would set a precedent that the FCC doesn’t want, giving a company spectrum in return for frequencies that it never unconditionally controlled, he said.

With a U.S. presidential election coming up in November, political considerations will at least delay a resolution of the regulatory tangle, said TMF Associates analyst Tim Farrar.

“If it was going to happen, [a spectrum swap] obviously wouldn’t happen until after the election,” Farrar said. Partly as a result of that concern, Falcone will try to maintain control of the bankruptcy restructuring process for as long as possible, he said. After a defined period, he would have to cede some control of that process to creditors. “His focus would be on preserving control though to the end of the year,” Farrar said.

Rather than a pure swap of its troubled spectrum for a cleaner band, LightSquared may pursue a deal to repurpose the L-Band for a portion of someone else’s service, Farrar believes. A plan by Dish Network to launch an LTE network on another piece of satellite spectrum, which doesn’t have the interference concerns of the L-Band, is now pending before the FCC. If the agency combined its proceedings about Dish’s and LightSquared’s satellite bands, it might be able to assign the L-Band frequencies as part of Dish’s service, specifically for upstream transmissions from client devices, Farrar said.

Limiting that band to upstream use by radios in phones and tablets, rather than the much more powerful ones in base stations, might make the spectrum useful without running a major risk of interference, Farrar said. That would give it value to Dish, which would then buy the spectrum to beef up its cellular performance.

However, testing that solution for interference would take time that Dish might not want to spend, considering it already has an LTE plan just using the spectrum it already knows about.

“At least it’s a technically reasonably logical possibility. Whether it’s desirable from a financial and a regulatory point of view is the question,” Farrar said.

Marshall doubts that Dish wants to take on the risk of that interference testing.

“I would be surprised if Dish got themselves … financially incumbent on that,” he said.

If it can’t get satisfaction from the FCC through either of those arrangements, LightSquared may well sue the government, observers say. The company has used increasingly hawkish language in referring to what it sees as its rights to use the spectrum, while simultaneously hiring top-notch legal talent. LightSquared says any interference is caused by GPS receivers instead of its base stations and that the FCC needs to secure the L-Band frequencies for its use.

A lawsuit against the FCC is likely, according to Farrar. However, that suit would be hard and could backfire if the agency found evidence that LightSquared pursued its network plan knowing it would lead to interference.

“I think it’s a very risky strategy,” Farrar said.

http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9227189/LightSquared_39_s_bankruptcy_is_a_cautionary_tale?source=CTWNLE_nlt_dailyam_2012-05-16

 

DOD’s proposed acquisition rule changes faltering in Congress

FCW.com

By Amber Corrin

May 15, 2012

Recently, Defense Department leadership asked Congress to change acquisition laws that open the door to systemic abuse – but the House so far has declined to alter the rules. However, a last-minute change of plans is keeping the rule change on the table, throwing the future commercial of-a-type acquisition into question.

DOD gave Congress a number of proposed legislative changes for consideration in the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, and many of them were incorporated. Omitted was a proposal to more narrowly define commercial of-a-type acquisition, designed make it easier for the government to buy everyday items similar to those sold in the private sector.

Now, a late amendment has been offered on the House floor to include changes to U.S. Federal Acquisition Regulation language governing commercial of-a-type acquisition, according to Trey Hodgkins, senior vice president for national Security and procurement policy at TechAmerica. It’s unclear whether the amendment will be considered.

DOD officials have expressed concern about abuse of commercial of-a-type’s looser rules on providing data and competitive pricing. Some commercial of-a-type acquisitions have been modified to the point that they’re no longer adequate for any customer other than DOD, which some say defeats the purpose of the practice altogether.

But opponents of the rule change say it would lock out businesses and prevent the government from taking advantage of the latest technologies, many of which are currently considered commercial.

Under commercial of-a-type rules, companies – typically familiar to DOD buyers – don’t have to provide as much of the detailed pricing data that drives competition and helps DOD determine how much a given item should cost. The idea is that since it’s a commercially available item, the pricing has already been through the process of determining fair market value.

Recently, Shay Assad, DOD director of defense pricing, expressed frustration with the overly broad language, which is part of U.S. Federal Acquisition Regulation.

“This is the number one topic that I get from contracting officers in the field. The issue is when we don’t have a valid basis for comparing what someone’s asking us to pay for a particular product that they’re claiming is an of-a-type commercial item, and the contractors don’t have the pricing data to support their claims,” Assad said at an April 27 event. “We’re addressing this in Congress. We think there should be a change in that definition.”

Abuse of commercial of-a-type acquisition makes it harder for DOD to gauge the right price of a product, but industry has been vocal in its opposition of changing the language.

“Dropping the definition will remove a number of goods and services from the government’s acquisition catalog as commercial items…that includes almost every hardware device the government buys. Smart phones, desktop computers, laptops, tablets – they’re all networked and they all have unique requirements and revisions. They would become ineligible for federal government acquisition as a commercial item,” Hodgkins said.

Those modifications have been accommodated in current FAR rules on commercial of-a-type “to open up the commercial marketplace for the government to take advantage of the innovation and technological advancement in the private sector,” Hodgkins said. “These changes would be using a sledgehammer to kill a gnat.”

Source: FCW (http://s.tt/1bUBg)

 

AF Space Command realigns cyberspace capabilities

5/15/2012 – PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. (AFNS) — The Air Force Network Integration Center will go through a restructure as it divests cyberspace lead command functions to Air Force Space Command to allow AFNIC to focus on its core mission of Air Force network integration and engineering services.

 

The changes are a result of an AFSPC chartered study in April 2011 that took a detailed look at AFNIC in order to determine how best to align and incorporate its unique cyberspace capabilities into AFSPC’s organization and mission. The study was conducted by a diverse, cross-functional team consisting of AFSPC and AFNIC representatives.

 

General William L. Shelton, commander of AFSPC, adopted the study recommendations and directed they be implemented.

 

The study looked across the entire organization focusing on efficient and effective operations. Any civilian position reductions were included in Air Force-wide civilian reduction numbers previously announced by the Air Force in November 2011. The personnel affected by the civilian reduction are being supported by the local Civilian Personnel Section at Scott Air Force Base, Ill.

 

Any military position reductions were included in the Air Force’s recent overall force structure announcement.

 

Specific restructuring actions will concentrate AFNIC resources on its core mission of network integration and engineering responsibilities for the Air Force Network and divest the remaining responsibilities to other organizations to better align them within the structure of AFSPC. This will make AFNIC a leaner and more efficient center for the Air Force.

 

Current organize, train and equip staff functions within AFNIC, such as records, forms,

publications, cyber training programs, cyber requirements support, plans, and maintenance policy, will transfer to an AFSPC Cyberspace Support Squadron (CYSS), which stood up today at Scott AFB.

 

Oversight of current line operations and maintenance functions at AFNIC will transfer to AFSPC organizations managed by 24th Air Force, which is headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio — Lackland, Texas. These functions include operationally-based line activities, such as DISN long haul communications provisioning, transmission and infrastructure systems technical support, and Information Assurance Assessments.

 

Some of these functions will be realigned to an existing squadron within 24th AF, the 92nd Information Operations Squadron, and an additional squadron, the 38th Cyber Readiness Squadron to oversee other operational functions. Both units stood up at Scott AFB on April 27.

 

“As the lead major command for space and cyberspace, Air Force Space Command is chartered to organize, train and equip space and cyberspace forces and is tasked to review and efficiently use the resources assigned to the command,” said Lt.Gen. Michael J. Basla, vice commander of Air Force Space Command.

 

“These changes will allow AFNIC to focus on its core mission and ultimately make AFNIC the premier Air Force organization providing network integration and engineering services for the Air Force. Those individuals whose responsibilities are aligned to other units in Air Force Space Command will be in a position to make an even greater impact on the Air Force cyberspace mission.”

 

Air Force Space Command is headquartered at Peterson AFB, Colo. and is the parent major command for AFNIC. AFSPC’s mission is to provide resilient and cost-effective space and cyberspace capabilities for the joint force and the nation.

 

(Courtesy of Air Force Space Command Public Affairs)

 

 

 

 

Consumerization trend creates IT worries, worker benefits

Wichita Falls, Texas, rolls out iPads as an extension of its content management system

Matt Hamblen

May 18, 2012 (Computerworld)

A Cisco-commissioned survey of 600 businesses found that 95% permit the use of employee-owned smartphones and tablets in the workplace.

The survey also found that 76% of IT managers consider the consumerization-of-IT a positive for their companies because employees can be more productive and feel more satisfied with their jobs.

Cisco’s study even put a dollar value on the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend, estimating productivity gains with workplace use of consumer devices of between $300 and $1,300 annually, depending on the worker.

Despite that value, however, BYOD has costs, especially for IT support. Cisco’s survey found that 20% of all IT spending in 2014 will be for mobility initiatives, up from 10% in 2010.

“No doubt, BYOD’s difficult, and if there were a way to get out of it, IT would,” said Joseph Bradley, general manager of Cisco’s Internet business solutions group, which commissioned the survey. “It’s a serious challenge. But what the survey shows is that IT understands that consumerization’s actually happening and they wonder how they can create value. It’s a painful process, not just to support a consumer device, but provide security. There are so many things to consider.”

The survey validates what might seem obvious to many IT managers who have been grappling with the consumerization trend for years, well before the first iPhone’s introduction in 2007.

IDC analyst Rohit Mehra said that while Cisco’s survey shows 95% of companies allow use of consumer devices on corporate networks in some fashion, the number of consumer devices accessing business applications inside of an enterprise is still relatively small.

Only 41% of employee-owned consumer devices were used to access business applications, according to a survey IDC conducted last year, Mehra said.

“It’s one thing to just let an employee-owned device on the [corporate Wi-Fi] network [for browsing or social networking] and not allow access to enterprise applications, and that penetration is pretty high,” he said. “But the real proof in the pudding is how many users have true enterprise application access with their devices, and those numbers are still relatively low.”

BYOD bolsters Mobile Device Management needs

Analysts said the BYOD trend has led to an expanding number of Mobile Device Management (MDM) vendors eager to help IT groups better manage devices running on different operating systems. Generally, MDM software offers ways to inventory which users have certain devices and permission to access various internal apps. Security capabilities in MDM give IT the ability to wipe data from devices and block access to certain applications.

Gartner has estimated there are 50 to 100 MDM vendors globally, depending on how the category is defined. IDC said the entire MDM market was about $300 million in revenue in 2010, but will reach $1.2 billion in 2015.

With such a large market for MDM, choices for IT managers will only grow more complex, analysts said. In addition to MDM, some vendors profess it is better to control content and not devices and call themselves Mobile Content Management providers. Some wireless device controls are packaged by vendors along with smartphones or tablets or added by wireless carriers.

Here comes Telecom Expense Management

A variety of Telecom Expense Management (TEM) vendors are now also offering MDM support.

Global TEM vendor Quickcomm recently blogged about the value of combining MDM with TEM services to lower support costs for end user devices.

Ian Murray, head of customer solutions for Quickcomm, said his company recommends MDM software from partners such as MobileIron, Sybase Afaria and AirWatch.

“Very few IT groups can deal with all the operating systems end users have” on new devices, Murray said. “We find companies are toying with BYOD because employees are bringing in devices and expecting to work with them. So IT is reacting and, yes, there’s concern about how to get their hands around the problem. Those companies are in the minority still, and a lot of companies are taking a wait-and-see attitude.”

For traditional TEM, Quickcomm offers the ability to save up to 30% on telecom expenses, including wireless fees paid to carriers, at a cost of less than 5% of the total telecommunications costs, Murray said.

Wichita Falls, Texas, shows value of content management

Even though companies are wrestling with ad hoc use of consumer devices by their workers, many organizations have planned and executed rollouts of smartphones and tablets to reduce costs.

One unusual example is the city of Wichita Falls, Texas, which has rolled out seven iPad 2 tablets to municipal court workers, including Municipal Court Judge Larry Gillen, to reduce paperwork and backlogs for traffic ticket and other non-criminal legal proceedings.

The tablets are a recently added wireless extension of a content management system from Laserfiche that was installed two years ago at a cost of $132,000, said Patrick Gray, database applications analyst for Wichita Falls.

The judge and court clerks can use the iPads for real-time updates of judgments in cases, sometimes even right from the judge’s bench, Gray said. The judge can even easily work on cases remotely when defendants aren’t in the same location. “He can work on the move, and a two months’ wait for a record under the old system might be a two-minute wait,” Gray said.

In terms of paper reduction, the iPads and Laserfiche approach have reduced 14 file cabinets-full of paper records to two drawers in a single cabinet, with a resulting savings in records processing, Gray said. He didn’t have an estimate of the amount saved, but said, “It’s cost effective and paying for itself. There’s savings in paper and to the community looking up documents.”

Like so many IT managers, Gray said that integrating new technology takes some customer-service swagger that software and vendors can’t really provide. Gray said he was fortunate to find a tech-savvy end user in Gillen, who has helped others understand the value of tablets as an extension of the content management system.

“He’s a very tech-savvy judge, and can even write scripts,” Gray said. “He’s been able to be proactive.” Eventually, the iPads could be used for videoconferences, allowing the judge to administer cases from his bench without going to the jail, Gray said.

“What I learned with this process was not to go paperless all at once, to start small…,” he said. “You have to get the main people to accept [technology] and make it theirs. It’s a lesson that if you are in IT, you better be good at customer service. End users look at an IT person and think, ‘He’s a geek and smarter than the rest of us,’ so you have to work at it.”

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at  @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt’s RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9227238/Consumerization_trend_creates_IT_worries_worker_benefits?source=CTWNLE_nlt_dailyam_2012-05-18

 

U.S. manufacturing makes a comeback

Washington Post

By Martin Neil Baily and Bruce Katz, Published: May 18

Amid continuing mixed signals about the economy, one notable bright spot is the revival of U.S. manufacturing. The surprising strength of this once-battered sector holds promise for reenergizing the U.S. economy overall, and despite troubles in Europe, its new vigor may provide a boost to the global economy. In the latest “How We’re Doing” Index, a team of scholars at the Brookings Institution looked at the past five quarters of economic data to explore how growth in manufacturing is helping to support the nation’s fragile economic recovery — with a particular emphasis on key metropolitan areas in a 21st century dominated by high-tech industries.

The latest broad economic reports have been somewhat disappointing. The economy grew at a 3 percent rate in the fourth quarter of 2011, but the advance estimate for the first quarter of 2012, 2.2 percent, was lower than expected. Monthly jobs growth averaged more than 250,000 positions from December through February, but the increase slowed to 154,000 jobs in March and the economy added only 115,000 positions in April. The unemployment rate is still inching downward, but it remains above 8 percent. Stronger payroll growth will be needed for continued improvement.

Because households contribute about two-thirds of U.S. economic demand, the fairly strong pace of consumer spending — it rose 2.9 percent in the first quarter — is encouraging. Unfortunately, disposable income is growing more slowly than consumption, a trend that must change if consumers are to keep spending. If U.S. employment gains expand, incomes are likely to rise and the fragile recovery will strengthen. But faltering employment growth could still trigger a self-reinforcing cycle of weakness. The chances are good that the U.S. economy is on a self-sustaining path of recovery, but it could be derailed, notably by a worsening crisis in Europe or conflict in the Middle East that pushes up oil prices.

Amid all this uncertainty, U.S. manufacturing is returning. The industry was knocked to its knees by the recession, but it should not be counted out. Some 16,000 manufacturing jobs were added in April — a weaker number than those of the previous two months but still an increase. Manufacturing employment, output and exports are headed in the right direction: In April, the number of U.S. manufacturing jobs was up 489,000 from the January 2010 low of 11.5 million. The Institute of Supply Management’s manufacturing index has shown 33 consecutive months of expansion.

Overall, the U.S. economy remains strongest in advanced manufacturing sectors with high technological and skills requirements, such as aerospace, industrial and energy equipment, automobiles and medical devices. These types of manufacturing are prominent in several metropolitan areas that were hit hard by the recession but are recovering, thanks to the sector’s sharp rebound. Detroit benefited greatly from the revival of the auto industry after the federal rescue of General Motors and Chrysler in 2009, and it has added jobs rapidly over the past year. Firms in the Cleveland and Charlotte areas have ramped up production to take advantage of the shale-gas boom sweeping much of the country. By contrast, manufacturing employment has grown more weakly or continued to slide in services- or government-oriented economies such as Las Vegas and the Washington region. A new Brookings report on trends in the industry shows how manufacturing employment has retrenched toward more specialized areas of the Midwest and Northeast after three decades of steadily southward movement.

Manufacturing accounts for 12 percent of U.S. gross domestic product and less than 10 percent of national employment; alone, it cannot power the economic recovery. Yet manufacturing accounts for 70 percent of private-sector research and development in the United States. High levels of investment in R&D, the potential to reduce the trade deficit and the ability to produce good jobs for middle-skilled workers merit the increased attention the sector is receiving after decades of policy drift. The administration, for example, has included a manufacturing initiative of roughly $1 billion in its fiscal 2013 budget, and notable plans have been proposed in Massachusetts and in Chicago.

Supporting basic science and technology development, providing advanced infrastructure and financing to help more manufacturers export to growing foreign markets such as East Asia and Latin America, and building a manufacturing workforce equipped with quality science, technology, engineering and math skills are essential for long-term economic recovery.

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