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June 23 2012

June 25, 2012




June 16, 2012 – 1:05 p.m.

Sorting Out Rules of Cyberwar

By Tim Starks, CQ Staff

Congress has made lots of noise over the past two weeks about leaks that reveal the United States’ role in creating Stuxnet, the sophisticated computer worm that infected Iranian nuclear facilities in 2010.

Some Republicans angrily allege that the leaks were brazen politicking by the Obama administration to buttress its national security credentials in an election year. Others call for an investigation by an independent counsel. And both Democrats and Republicans openly worry that the public acknowledgement of a U.S. role in unleashing an offensive cyber weapon opens the way for other nations to retaliate.

Masked by all the outrage, though, are substantial questions about Congress’ role in the new era of warfare and espionage. The debate over how best to defend U.S. computer networks has gone on in Congress for three years and still hasn’t been resolved. The debate over offensive actions against the networks of others has been a quieter one, and has only just begun.

“It’s a huge problem, and we haven’t sorted out the authorities, nor has the military, and they acknowledge it,” says Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat. “There is a lot going on, not just in terms of legislation but inside the administration. There is a huge amount of energy that is being expended, not just in figuring out how to get a better, more effective defense, but also what authorities exist for offense.”

Congress has barely scratched the surface of such issues as the statutory definition of “cyberwar,” and when or how lawmakers should be briefed on military cyber operations — two related topics, since most legal and cyber experts agree that programs such as Stuxnet straddle the line between espionage and attack. That line determines who in Congress is informed about what. The fiscal 2012 defense authorization law made an opening attempt at addressing those questions, and the fiscal 2013 version might make another.

And, as the Stuxnet leak makes clear, cyber offensive operations are hurtling ahead in the meantime. Defense officials have repeatedly stated that right now, the United States’ cyber posture is 90 percent defensive, 10 percent offensive, a ratio they want to invert.

“The world is barreling forward. Technology is barreling forward,” says Republican Rep. William M. “Mac” Thornberry of Texas, who is on both the Armed Services and Intelligence committees. “Our laws, policy and oversight have not kept up with the way the world is changing.”

‘A Lot That We Have to Do’

Army Gen. Keith B. Alexander, who heads both the National Security Agency (NSA) and the U.S. Cyber Command, told members of Senate Armed Services in March that the administration was still sorting out the difference — from a legal and personnel perspective — between attacking computers and exploiting computers to gather intelligence.

“I think there’s a lot that we have to do,” Alexander told Colorado Democrat Mark Udall, adding that the military had recently run a cyber exercise in which it learned lessons about the subject. “I think, at a classified level, we could go into those, and when you see that, you’d say, ‘OK, so you’re headed in the right direction.’ And I think, Senator, we are.”

The technological nature of cyber operations is such that drawing bright lines is difficult, says Eric Jensen, a Brigham Young University law professor and an authority on the laws of war.

“I don’t know if Congress can define what is cyber espionage and what is an attack,” Jensen says. “It’s too hard. In many cases it’s the same type of computer process to establish a door in” to a network, he says. One answer that has been offered, Jensen says, is that it all depends on the final intent for using that door.

The difficulty in drawing stark lines reflects a broader blurring of the lines between military operations and covert operations, though they are governed by different sections of U.S. law. The fact that the NSA — an intelligence agency — and the military’s Cyber Command are collocated and commingled illustrates the trend, University of Texas School of Law professor Robert Chesney wrote in the Journal of National Security last year.

“Small wonder, in light of all this, that convergence has proven especially disruptive to the legal frameworks associated with computer network operations,” Chesney wrote.

Nonetheless, Congress has delved a bit into defining some of the boundaries. The House version of the fiscal 2012 defense authorization bill would have allowed the Pentagon to conduct clandestine cyberwarfare to support conventional military campaigns and defend U.S. forces anywhere in the world. The provision affirmed the Defense secretary’s authority to “conduct military activities in cyberspace,” including “clandestine” ones to protect Defense Department assets or to support military campaigns conducted under the 2001 law authorizing the war on terrorism.

The Obama administration objected to the language for unspecified reasons; one congressional official says the language was merely “poorly written.” The final version of the bill instead tied the military’s ability to employ offensive cyber measures to the 1973 War Powers Resolution. And lawmakers hinted in the conference report at more to come.

The conferees wrote that “because of the evolving nature of cyberwarfare, there is a lack of historical precedent for what constitutes traditional military activities in relation to cyber operations” and that it is necessary to affirm that such operations should follow “the same policy, principles, and legal regimes” of traditional warfare.

Notifying Congress

Other questions for Congress are which of its members should be told of cyberattacks against others and to what extent they should be notified. House and Senate members of both parties have been reluctant to discuss Stuxnet in even the vaguest terms. Upset by the leaks, they don’t want to confirm their accuracy. Levin says he was not briefed about any such program but that he believes leaders of the Intelligence panels were. The vice chairman of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, Georgia Republican Saxby Chambliss, would only say: “We are briefed on a good deal of what happens in cyber.”

The difference is that the Intelligence committees have specific notification requirements, while the Armed Services panels have fewer such rules. One congressional official says of the Intelligence committees: “If there were operations that were going on that are characterized as intelligence activities or forward actions, we would be notified under the government’s responsibility to keep us fully and currently informed.”

Exactly who gets notified can be determined by something as simple as whether the CIA or Cyber Command carries out the action and whether it’s pursuant to a covert action finding from the president, the official says.

Thornberry says he has no complaint about how the Intelligence committee has been kept abreast of cyber operations. But he has been trying to expand how much the Armed Services panels are briefed.

Last year, his Armed Services subcommittee inserted language into the House version of the defense policy bill that would have called for quarterly reports to the Armed Services panels of any “significant” Defense Department cyber operations. The language was left out of the final version of the law, but it is once again in the House’s fiscal 2013 version.

Furthermore, Thornberry says that as the Pentagon works through cyber rules of engagement, Congress should be involved. Because of the speed of cyber operations — and because they could involve machines pre-programmed to take certain actions in certain situations — he argues that after-the-fact notification won’t do. “I don’t think in the history of the country we’ve ever had actions that take place at light speed,” he says.

Mieke Eoyang, a former staff member on the House Intelligence panel, says Congress might need clearer advance authority over offensive cyber operations because of their potential consequences. “There is a process for authorizing use of force or declaring war,” says Eoyang, who is now at Third Way, a left-leaning think tank. “But in the case of classified programs, the approval process is opaque to the public. If Congress’ only option to register their objection is cutting off funding after the fact, it may be too late.”

More broadly, former Rep. Jane Harman, a California Democrat, notes that Congress is still struggling with the best framework for addressing the last war, let alone a new one.

“There are inadequate rules around the post-9/11 world,” says Harman, who used to chair the Intelligence panel. “When you go virtually, it’s the same problem, on steroids.”

Frank Oliveri contributed to this story.

Fiscal 2013 defense authorization bill (HR 4310, S 3254), CQ Weekly, p. 1040; fiscal 2012 defense policy bill (PL 112-81), p. 31; war on terrorism authorization (PL 107-40), 2001 Almanac, p. 7-8; War Powers Resolution (PL 93-148), 1973 Almanac, p. 905.

‘Spectrum crunch’ may slow US mobile revolution

by Staff Writers

Washington (AFP) June 16, 2012




The United States is bracing for a data crunch from the surging use of smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices as the explosion of Internet-ready devices eats up the radio spectrum allocated for mobile broadband.


US regulators say the crunch could come as early as next year and get worse in 2014. If no action is taken, smartphone users could see slowdowns, dropped connections, and higher prices.


Some carriers are already are preparing by imposing data caps or “throttling” speeds for smartphone users.


Each mobile device — whether it is an iPhone, Android device, Internet-connected car, medical wireless device or gadget such as Google glasses — connects to a carrier over the radio spectrum.


Much of the spectrum has been allocated to broadcast television and radio, and other portions are dedicated for air traffic control, military communications, police and emergency use.


Wireless data traffic is expected roughly double in each year through 2015. This will mean a “deficit” of 90 megahertz next year and 275 megahertz in 2014, according to the Federal Communications Commission.




“We are running out of wireless data spectrum. What does that mean? Slowdowns and outages when trying to use one of the many apps like watching television, movies, using GPS and navigation,” says telecom analyst Jeff Kagan.


Kagan said Apple ignited much of the growth with the iPhone and iPad, and now Android devices are gobbling up data use as well.


After the iPhone was introduced, he said, “the entire industry shifted. Now wireless data usage through hundreds of thousands of Apps is squeezing the networks dry.”


Julie Kearney of the Consumer Electronics Association said a data crunch could have adverse economic consequences, hurting consumers as well as wireless gadget makers and sellers.


“Ultimately the consumer will suffer,” she said. “They realize we can build these products but if they don’t have the spectrum, they will stop using or buying them, and then who will make them?”


A White House report this year notes that growth in wireless will have “substantial impact on jobs, growth, and investment” for the US economy.


The crisis was underscored when Lightsquared, a company with an ambitious plan to offer a nationwide mobile broadband service, failed to get a portion of spectrum when the government said it may interfere with GPS.


The impending crunch is setting up a mad scramble among wireless carriers, the broadcast industry, government agencies and others to reallocate some of the spectrum, which has a limited capacity of around 2,500 megahertz.


The Obama administration unveiled a plan in 2011 to free up some 500 megahertz of spectrum over the next decade, through voluntary auctions and streamlined government communications. But only a fraction of that is likely to be available within the next year or two.


Some of the focus has been on the broadcast television industry, which has nearly 300 megahertz, but is losing viewers to cable and satellite.




The National Association of Broadcasters last year sought to deflect criticism and commissioned a study suggesting the case for a spectrum crunch is overstated and that the crisis can be solved with better technology including more efficient antennas and cells.


“The factual basis for the ‘spectrum crisis’ claim is underwhelming,” said consultant Uzoma Onyeije, who led the broadcasters’ study.


Chris Guttman-McCabe, vice president of regulatory affairs for the CTIA, the wireless industry trade group, said broadcasters are ignoring the massive shift in the marketplace.


“All I see is every mode of communication moving to wireless, the majority of broadband access moving over wireless,” he said, adding that every industrialized country is reallocating spectrum for wireless data,


AT&T chairman Randall Stephenson said the industry is in “a race against time” and that if there is a data overload, “the speed of the mobile revolution will slow down (and) prices, download times and consumer frustration will all increase.”


He wrote in the Wall Street Journal that the FCC auction is an important step but that “it will take six to eight years to put that spectrum to use. Our country and our consumers can’t wait that long.”




Thomas Hazlett, head of George Mason University’s Information Economy, said it would be a mistake to see new technology as a silver bullet.


“If you have to use more technology to make up for less bandwidth, it’s going to be more expensive,” Hazlett told AFP.


Hazlett said spectrum has been allocated since the 1920s in a bureaucratic process which fails to take into account the economic value from wireless services.


“The Defense Department says they need all this spectrum, but how do we know that?” he said.


Many government agencies which use big chunks of spectrum “have absolutely no economic incentive to conserve radio spectrum.”


Hazlett said the US plan to expand mobile broadband spectrum “is a step in the right direction but not bold enough” to meet market demands.


“They should go much further in reallocating spectrum to where the consumers and the market really want to use it. There’s a tremendous amount innovation out there in wireless and we don’t want to choke this off.”





Experts Say Romney’s Defense Plan Doesn’t Add Up


Jun. 17, 2012 – 01:33PM |

By KATE BRANNEN | Comments



Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney promises to increase defense spending by close to $2 trillion over the next 10 years. But his plans have people asking: where would the money come from? Romney says he would reverse the defense cuts mandated by last summer’s Budget Control Act, but more importantly, he has set a goal of raising the Pentagon’s base budget to a floor of 4 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). That’s .7 percentage points higher than President Barack Obama’s fiscal 2013 budget proposal.


Yet combined with his commitment to cut taxes and reduce the national debt, Romney’s pledge to grow the defense budget appears politically impossible, if technically doable, according to defense budget experts.


“If you put all of the promises together, it doesn’t all add up,” said Todd Harrison, a senior fellow for defense budget studies at the nonpartisan Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.


“The administration may change, but the math remains the same,” Harrison said. “If you want to increase spending on defense over the next decade and reduce the deficit, then that necessarily means sharp reductions in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid or sharp increases in taxes, or some combination of the two. But those are the major components you have to work with within the budget.”


Over the past decade, the U.S. government borrowed to increase spending, including money to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and larger base budgets at the Pentagon.


With the national debt now surpassing $15 trillion, spending money without finding offsets elsewhere in the budget is no longer viewed as responsible. “I think with any discussion of major increases to any aspect of federal spending at this point, you have to say what the offset is,” said Michèle Flournoy, who until recently served as President Obama’s undersecretary of defense for policy. “You have to say what you are cutting instead. Are you increasing revenues to do that?” Given Romney’s campaign promises to cut taxes for individuals and corporations, raising taxes to pay for more defense spending is not an option. He also has signed the No Tax Pledge, sponsored by Americans for Tax Reform, which was founded by anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist.


Democrats such as Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, are demanding Romney explain where the money would come from if taxes are off the table.


“He should not be allowed to get away with some answer like he’ll go for efficiency and cutting waste,” Levin said at a June 12 news conference. Romney supporters and advisers say the plan is to grow the defense budget gradually, and that the extra spending would be made possible through overall improvements to the economy — which would generate more revenue — and entitlement reform.


“It’s envisioned to be a very gradual process,” one Romney adviser said. “Theoretically, as you grow the economy and grow the number of people paying into it rather than taking out, like with unemployment, the money frees up to do some of these things.”


However, budget experts caution that improving the economy mostly lies outside of the control of the president, and cannot be relied upon to carry out other priorities.


As for entitlement reform, Romney has signaled the need for it, but has mostly put forward broad policy prescriptions.


“He has not yet put forward any detailed plan on Medicare that tells you how he’s going to wring enough money out of it in order to pay for his defense plus-up,” said Gordon Adams, who oversaw defense budgeting at the White House’s Office of Management and Budget during the Clinton administration. “They don’t want to specify those, because they don’t want to lose the senior citizen vote.”


Romney’s message on military spending could pick up votes in key swing states, which have a strong military and defense industry presence, such as Virginia, Ohio, Florida, Colorado, North Carolina and Nevada. Yet his pledges are not changing expectations in Washington, where the Pentagon is preparing for spending cuts that could total $1 trillion.


“Industry is not planning for any kind of windfall in defense spending under any kind of circumstance, because of the country’s fiscal picture,” a retired senior military official said.


“I think industry is very realistic about the world we live in,” the retired official said. “Absent a compelling change in the external threat or a serious internal event, I think people understand that we’re dealing with a relatively flat budget.”


Campaign Promises Romney advisers make clear that his promise to reverse defense cuts and raise the Pentagon’s base budget to 4 percent of GDP isn’t expected to take place during the first year of a Romney White House.


“It’s going to be a gradual growth,” said Dov Zakheim, a Romney adviser who served as Pentagon comptroller from 2001 to 2004 under President George W. Bush. “When the economy expands, you’re in a better situation to increase defense spending.”


Knowing when this growth would start, and just how gradual it would be, would help pinpoint the amount of money being proposed.


If the Pentagon immediately began spending 4 percent of GDP in fiscal 2013, the base Defense Department budget would jump from the $525 billion proposed by Obama earlier this year to $637 billion, according to Harrison, who used the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) January projections for GDP.


From 2013 to 2022, that would add up to $2.3 trillion of additional spending.


If the budget gradually increased to 4 percent of GDP over four years, or one presidential term, it would result in $2 trillion in additional spending over the same 10-year period, Harrison said.


If gradually increased over eight years, or two presidential terms, it amounts to a pledge of close to $1.8 trillion.


This assumes that today’s projections for how fast the economy would grow are valid.


However, the Romney plan assumes the economy is going to grow faster than projected if he is elected president.


Taking this into account, Byron Callan, a defense analyst at Capital Alpha Partners, crunched the numbers, adding 1 percentage point to today’s GDP growth rate to represent the stronger economy Romney promises.


The result is a defense base budget that grows to $740 billion by 2016, $805 billion by 2018, and $890 billion by 2021.


In the Pentagon’s 2011 budget request, crafted by then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates before any of today’s budget cuts were enacted, defense spending was projected at $668 billion in 2021.


The Push for 4 Percent Chris Preble, vice president for defense and foreign policy at the libertarian Cato Institute in Washington, said part of the reason this proposal seems so out of step with today’s budget reality is that it was conceived in 2007, when the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington, began a campaign called “Four Percent for Freedom.”


“At the time, the delta between what that would have been and what we were planning to spend was not huge; it seemed perhaps even reasonable,” Preble said.


However, because of recent efforts to reduce the deficit and the cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act, that gap has widened significantly.


Preble said the size of this defense commitment is causing tension within the Romney campaign.


“My understanding is that the money people are not on board with this,” he said. “They just think it should not be done and cannot be done without reneging on another key commitment.”In a campaign, there is always tension between the candidate’s policy teams, said Adams, who worked as an adviser on the 2008 Obama campaign. “I am certain, based on history, that the budget folks are being driven crazy by these commitments, thinking, ‘How are we going to make this work?'” Romney advisers acknowledge that today’s fiscal reality could make it difficult to realize the 4 percent goal.


“The landscape changes over the weeks and months from when you lay out these very broad policy points to when you’re actually in power and making it happen,” a Romney adviser said. “You have to be cognizant of what the realities are, and that the goalposts do shift in any type of fiscal climate, especially one as volatile today.”


Setting defense at 4 percent of GDP serves to frame the conversation, said Robert Zarate, who serves as policy director at the Foreign Policy Initiative, a conservative think tank whose board is made up of Romney advisers.


“I think in the long term, it’s not an easy proposition to fulfill, although I think it’s an important thing to try to aim for, because there are a lot of programs at risk [in DoD],” he said.


“I don’t think anyone thinks the president by him or herself can change anything. Obviously, folks are aware that you need Congress,” Zarate said. “But you can change the conversation. Campaign statements reflect that. I think people are hopeful that a President Romney could change the conversation.”


Details Needed For Harrison, setting defense spending at 4 percent of GDP isn’t helpful because it’s an arbitrary standard, he said.


The base DoD budget has not been 4 percent of GDP since 1992, he said. During the administration of President George W. Bush, defense spending went from 2.9 percent of GDP in 2001 to 3.7 percent in 2009.


Over the past 20 years, the base defense budget has averaged 3.3 percent of GDP, according to Harrison said.


“What you spend on defense really should be a function of your security needs, and what you think the threat environment is and what you think you need to protect the country,” he said. “It shouldn’t be a formula based on the size of your economy.”


In addition to where the money would come from, analysts say more information is needed about how the money would be spent.


“What is the threat that requires more spending? That is what they need to articulate,” Harrison said.


The most tangible of Romney’s proposals is to increase the Navy’s shipbuilding rate from nine to 15 ships per year within the first 100 days he’s in office.


The campaign has not said what kind of ships it intends to buy, but analysts place the costs somewhere around $5 billion for six extra ships in 2013.


It is difficult to imagine Congress approving a $5 billion budget amendment early next year, Adams said.


Tom Donnelly, a defense analyst at another conservative think tank, the American Enterprise Institute, said the obstacles to increasing the defense budget have more to do with political will than affordability.


“It’s technically doable; not only can you make the two lines meet, but it’s also increasingly politically possible,” he said.


House Republicans are increasingly seeing the value of protecting the Pentagon and the U.S. military from broader efforts to shrink the government, he said.


“It’s more a traditional limited-government approach than it was last year,” Donnelly said. “The libertarian tide has ebbed.”


This could even extend to attitudes toward borrowing, he said. “It sort of depends on what you’re borrowing for.”


Preble disagrees with the notion that Americans would support increased defense spending at the cost of Medicare or larger debt burdens.


“I don’t see overwhelming public support for huge increases in military spending,” he said. “If anything, I see exactly the opposite.” According to a recent Gallup poll, voters are far more concerned about jobs, unemployment, the national debt, health care, political gridlock and immigration than about national security.


That politicians are making campaign promises that will be next to impossible to keep once in office should not be a surprise to anyone, Adams Gordon said.


“There are no facts in an election year,” he said. “Four percent of GDP is not a fact. Fifteen ships a year is not a fact. They are campaign promises. They cannot be achieved in this fiscal environment, and the reason they cannot be achieved is because we are now in a universe where everything is on the table.”





Weapons give way to drones, computers





By Kimberly Dozier, Lolita C. Baldor And Robert Burns – The Associated Press

Posted : Sunday Jun 17, 2012 12:23:26 EDT




WASHINGTON — After a decade of costly conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, the American way of war is evolving toward less brawn, more guile.


Drone aircraft spy on and attack terrorists with no pilot in harm’s way. Small teams of special operations troops quietly train and advise foreign forces. Viruses sent from computers to foreign networks strike silently, with no American fingerprint.


It’s war in the shadows, with the U.S. public largely in the dark.



Related reading


U.S. declassifies attacks in Yemen, Somalia (June 15)


In Pakistan, armed drones, not U.S. ground troops or B-52 bombers, are hunting down al-Qaida terrorists, and a CIA-run raid of Osama bin Laden’s hide-out was executed by a stealthy team of Navy SEALs.


In Yemen, drones and several dozen U.S. military advisers are trying to help the government tip the balance against an al-Qaida offshoot that harbors hopes of one day attacking the U.S. homeland.


In Somalia, the Horn of Africa country that has not had a fully functioning government since 1991, President Barack Obama secretly has authorized two drone strikes and two commando raids against terrorists.


In Iran, surveillance drones have kept an eye on nuclear activities while a computer attack reportedly has infected its nuclear enrichment facilities with a virus, possibly delaying the day when the U.S. or Israel might feel compelled to drop real bombs on Iran and risk a wider war in the Middle East.


The high-tech warfare allows Obama to target what the administration sees as the greatest threats to U.S. security, without the cost and liabilities of sending a swarm of ground troops to capture territory; some of them almost certainly would come home maimed or dead.


But it also raises questions about accountability and the implications for international norms regarding the use of force outside of traditional armed conflict. The White House took an incremental step Friday toward greater openness about the basic dimensions of its shadowy wars by telling Congress for the first time that the U.S. military has been launching lethal attacks on terrorist targets in Somalia and Yemen. It did not mention drones, and its admission did not apply to CIA operations.


“Congressional oversight of these operations appears to be cursory and insufficient,” said Steven Aftergood, an expert on government secrecy issues for the Federation of American Scientists, a private group.


“It is Congress’ responsibility to declare war under the Constitution, but instead it appears to have adopted a largely passive role while the executive takes the initiative in war fighting,” Aftergood said in an interview.


That’s partly because lawmakers relinquished their authority by passing a law just after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that essentially granted the White House open-ended authority for armed action against al-Qaida.


Secret wars are not new.


For decades, the CIA has carried out covert operations abroad at the president’s direction and with congressional notice. It armed the mujahedeen in Afghanistan who fought Soviet occupiers in the 1980s, for example. In recent years the U.S. military’s secretive commando units have operated more widely, even in countries where the U.S. is not at war, and that’s blurred the lines between the intelligence and military spheres.


In this shroud of secrecy, leaks to the news media of classified details about certain covert operations have led to charges that the White House orchestrated the revelations to bolster Obama’s national security credentials and thereby improve his re-election chances. The White House has denied the accusations.


The leaks exposed details of U.S. computer virus attacks on Iran’s nuclear program, the foiling of an al-Qaida bomb plot targeting U.S. aircraft, and other secret operations.


Two U.S. attorneys are heading separate FBI investigations into leaks of national security information, and Congress is conducting its own probe.


It’s not just the news media that has pressed the administration for information about its shadowy wars.


Some in Congress, particularly those lawmakers most skeptical of the need for U.S. foreign interventions, are objecting to the administration’s drone wars. They are demanding a fuller explanation of how, for example, drone strikes are authorized and executed in cases in which the identity of the targeted terrorist is not confirmed.


“Our drone campaigns already have virtually no transparency, accountability or oversight,” Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, and 25 other mostly anti-war members of Congress wrote Obama on Tuesday.


A few dozen lawmakers are briefed on the CIA’s covert action and clandestine military activity, and some may ask to review drone strike video and be granted access to after-action reports on strikes and other clandestine actions. But until two months ago, the administration had not formally confirmed in public its use of armed drones.


In an April speech in Washington, Obama’s counterterrorism chief, John Brennan, acknowledged that despite presidential assurances of a judicious use of force against terrorists, some still question the legality of drone strikes.


“So let me say it as simply as I can: Yes, in full accordance with the law — and in order to prevent terrorist attacks on the United States and to save American lives — the United States government conducts targeted strikes against specific al-Qaida terrorists, sometimes using remotely piloted aircraft, often referred to publicly as drones,” he said.


President George W. Bush authorized drone strikes in Pakistan and elsewhere, but Obama has vastly increased the numbers. According to Bill Roggio of The Long War Journal, an online publication that tracks U.S. counterterrorism operations, the U.S. under Obama has carried out an estimated 254 drone strikes in Pakistan alone. That compares with 47 strikes during the Bush administration.


In at least one case the target was an American. Anwar al-Awlaki, an al-Qaida leader, was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen in September.


According to a White House list released late last year, U.S. counterterrorism operations have removed more than 30 terrorist leaders around the globe. They include al-Qaida in East Africa “planner” Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, who was killed in a helicopter strike in Somalia.


The drone campaign is highly unpopular overseas.


A Pew Research Center survey on the U.S. image abroad found that in 17 of 21 countries surveyed, more than half of the people disapproved of U.S. drone attacks targeting extremist leaders in such places as Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. In the U.S., 62 percent approved of the drone campaign, making American public opinion the clear exception.


The U.S. use of cyberweapons, like viruses that sabotage computer networks or other high-tech tools that can invade computers and steal data, is even more closely shielded by official secrecy and, arguably, less well understood.


Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has been a leading critic of the administration’s handling of information about using computers as a tool of war.


“I think that cyberattacks are one of the greatest threats that we face,” McCain said in a recent interview, “and we have a very divided and not very well-informed Congress addressing it.”


Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and national security officials often talk publicly about improving U.S. defenses against cyberattack, not only on U.S. government computer systems but also against defense contractors and other private networks linked, for example, to the U.S. financial system or electrical grid. Left largely unexplained is the U.S. capacity to use computer viruses and other cyberweapons against foreign targets.


In the view of some, the White House has cut Congress out of the loop, even in the realm of overt warfare.


Sen. James Webb, D-Va., who saw combat in Vietnam as a Marine, introduced legislation last month that would require that the president seek congressional approval before committing U.S. forces in civil conflicts, such as last year’s armed intervention in Libya, in which there is no imminent security threat to the U.S.


“Year by year, skirmish by skirmish, the role of the Congress in determining where the U.S. military would operate, and when the awesome power of our weapon systems would be unleashed has diminished,” Webb said.













NASA, FAA work out spaceship rules










Sierra Nevada Corp.’s Dream Chaser space plane prototype is lifted into the air by a helicopter for a captive-carry flight test in May. The Dream Chaser is one of several proposed spacecraft that could be cleared for liftoff by the FAA and NASA in the coming years.


By Alan Boyle



Follow @b0yle





NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration have worked out their division of labor for clearing a new generation of private-sector spaceships for liftoff — putting the aviation agency in charge of any crew-carrying spacecraft that launches and lands, but requiring the space agency’s additional signoff on any missions it’s paying for.


The arrangement was set out under the terms of a memo signed this month. It’s in line with Congress’ mandate that the FAA regulate spacecraft to protect public safety, while letting spaceship companies fly private passengers at their own risk.







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“As it stands today, our regulatory authority is associated with the launch and re-entry itself,” acting FAA Administrator Michael Huerta explained today during a media teleconference. “We don’t have any charter or authority to do anything beyond that, at least until 2015.”




That’s when the “fly at your own risk” mandate runs out, and it’s also just about the earliest time that any of the companies developing crew-carrying spaceships will be ready to fly passengers.


NASA has been paying four companies — Blue Origin, the Boeing Co., Sierra Nevada Corp. and SpaceX — more than $400 million to develop spaceships for flying U.S. astronauts. Today, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said NASA expected to announce which companies will be involved in the next phase of the commercial crew program by mid-July. Under the terms of a compromise worked out with congressional leaders, the program will give its full support to two spaceship teams, and roughly half that level of support to a third team.


The companies involved in the program have generally said they’d be ready to fly their craft as early as 2015, assuming that they receive adequate support from NASA. Bolden, however, is focusing on 2017 for the resumption of U.S.-based crew launches to the International Space Station.


The White House requested $830 million to support the program in the next fiscal year, but during its budget deliberations, Congress has been setting aside no more than $525 million. “We will ask for a significant increase in 2014 and the other years if we are to hold to the 2017 first-flight date for commercial crew to the International Space Station,” Bolden told reporters.


The FAA-NASA arrangement for crew-carrying vehicles builds upon the existing arrangement for cargo vehicles, exemplified by last month’s successful test of SpaceX’s unmanned Dragon capsule. In that case, SpaceX received a license from the FAA for launch and re-entry, and clearance from NASA and its space station partners for operations at the orbital outpost.


Going forward, the FAA will have to license all U.S. spacecraft that carry passengers, orbital as well as suborbital. As part of the regulatory process, the FAA would focus on such issues as the placement of the launch site, airspace clearance, the availability of the appropriate safety equipment, emergency plans and indemnification, Huerta said. For non-NASA flights, would-be passengers would merely have to sign an informed-consent form acknowledging that they knew the risks of spaceflight. But if NASA is involved, the space agency would be responsible for crew safety and mission assurance.


“Anytime we’re paying for the service from a provider, NASA standards will apply,” Bolden explained. “You have to understand, if this works out the way that we envision, humans will be going to space strictly for commercial purposes, whether it’s tourism, or going to an orbiting laboratory. … Every flight from here on out, because it involves humans, may not be a NASA flight.”


Theoretically, NASA would not have any formal say over the flight of a Boeing CST-100 space capsule that’s launched on an Atlas 5, heading for a Bigelow Aerospace orbital module. But because NASA is expected to be the biggest customer by far for orbital spaceflight services, the space agency would probably play a key role in the development of any private-sector orbital spacecraft developed in the U.S., even if that craft ended up occasionally going someplace other than the International Space Station. Pragmatically speaking, it’s likely that NASA would be to spaceflight standards what California is to auto emission standards, or Texas is to school textbook standards.



In any case, the formal lines of regulatory authority are now set for the coming age of commercial spaceflight.


“This important agreement between the FAA and NASA will advance our shared goals in commercial space travel,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in an FAA-NASA news release. “Working together, we will assure clear, consistent standards for the industry.”


Update for 9:40 p.m. ET: I asked NASA spokesman Joshua Buck how NASA and the FAA would work together if NASA-funded researchers wanted to take suborbital rather than orbital flights with their experiments. Here’s the emailed response:



“NASA follows all due diligence through its own, established safety processes to assure that payloads are safe to fly before manifesting them on a commercial vehicle. We review all safety and licensing data (where appropriate) of the commercial provider before we agree they are a safe ride provider. It is the responsibility of the commercial provider to obtain the requisite license and permits from the FAA.”




Feds to Conduct ‘Connected Vehicle’ Pilot in August

BY: Ryan Holeywell | June 19, 2012


The federal government is studying a new technology that would allow automobiles to communicate with each other wirelessly as they travel along roadways and provide drivers with warnings that could help prevent collisions.


A pilot program scheduled to launch this August in Ann Arbor, Mich., will help the feds decide whether to proceed with developing the technology, which it’s been examining for about 10 years.


The idea is to equip cars with radios that can transmit up to 10 messages per second to vehicles around them using a signal similar to Wi-Fi. Cars would also be equipped with devices that can receive and interpret those signals in order to convey warnings to drivers.


Hypothetically, if you’re driving and there’s someone cruising in your blind spot, that vehicle would send a signal to your own car that conveys its position. Inside your car, a radio would receive that signal and then prompt a flashing light or sound to warn you not to change lanes. Experts say the technology could also help drivers prevent rear-end collisions, T-bone crashes, and several other types of accidents.


U.S. Department of Transportation officials are hoping the technology could be the next big thing for auto safety. Already, the country has made great strides on that front. From 2005 to 2009, the number of fatal auto collisions fell by 20 percent. But auto crashes are still the leading cause of death among people ages 5 to 34.


Federal officials contracted with the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute to conduct the pilot, which will last for a year. It features 2,800 cars, trucks and buses equipped with the technology, and eight auto manufacturers are participating. Drivers were recruited with the promise of donations to their local PTAs. The idea was to make sure the drivers frequently use their cars in order to ensure researchers got lots of data. Soccer moms who shuttle their kids to school and activities proved to be the perfect fit.


The technology would have significant implications for local governments. Traffic signals could change their timing based on the volume of vehicles on the roadway. But local governments would likely need to upgrade their infrastructure to facilitate the new technology. The feds are working with manufacturers of traffic signal controllers to see if they can arrange to have transmitters built into their products in order to ease that transition, says Shelley Row, director of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office. State and local governments likely won’t have rewrite their traffic laws to accommodate the new technology, Row says.


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will use information learned from the pilot to decide in late 2013 how to proceed with the connected vehicle technology. It could scrap the project, allow automakers to voluntarily install the systems, or mandate it in all new vehicles.


If it goes with the third option, the implications would be huge. “If NHTSA chooses to go that route, the minute they make that decision, it will spark the industry,” Row says. “We’ll see the auto industry and the supplier industry move much more aggressively to make this come into being.” If the technology is adopted, it would likely be phased in over time. Newer vehicles would be integrated with the systems, and older vehicles could be equipped with after-market add-ons.


Row expects the technology to be a hit with automakers and consumers alike. Some newer vehicles are already equipped with video cameras and radar systems that try to accomplish many of the same safety goals as the wireless communication. But the radio devices might be more practical. “It’s probably cheaper, and it’s more capable,” Row says. “It can do things that radar and other systems can’t do.”


Row says the Department of Transportation is aware of the privacy concerns surrounding the technology and takes them seriously. The only time the system will be able to identify individual vehicles is when it needs to shut down their transmitters because of malfunctions, she says. “We have not designed a system to be used for enforcement,” Row says. “We worked with privacy advocacy groups from the first day of this program.”


This story was originally published on


Washington Post


U.S., Israel developed Flame computer virus to slow Iranian nuclear efforts, officials say

By Ellen Nakashima, Greg Miller and Julie Tate, Published: June 19

The United States and Israel jointly developed a sophisticated computer virus nicknamed Flame that collected intelligence in preparation for cyber-sabotage aimed at slowing Iran’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon, according to Western officials with knowledge of the effort.

The massive piece of malware secretly mapped and monitored Iran’s computer networks, sending back a steady stream of intelligence to prepare for a cyberwarfare campaign, according to the officials.

The effort, involving the National Security Agency, the CIA and Israel’s military, has included the use of destructive software such as the Stuxnet virus to cause malfunctions in Iran’s nuclear-enrichment equipment.

The emerging details about Flame provide new clues to what is thought to be the first sustained campaign of cyber-sabotage against an adversary of the United States.

“This is about preparing the battlefield for another type of covert action,” said one former high-ranking U.S. intelligence official, who added that Flame and Stuxnet were elements of a broader assault that continues today. “Cyber-collection against the Iranian program is way further down the road than this.”

Flame came to light last month after Iran detected a series of cyberattacks on its oil industry. The disruption was directed by Israel in a unilateral operation that apparently caught its American partners off guard, according to several U.S. and Western officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

There has been speculation that Washington had a role in developing Flame, but the collaboration on the virus between the United States and Israel has not been previously confirmed. Commercial security researchers reported last week that Flame contained some of the same code as Stuxnet. Experts described the overlap as DNA-like evidence that the two sets of malware were parallel projects run by the same entity.

Spokesmen for the CIA, the NSA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, as well as the Israeli Embassy in Washington, declined to comment.

The virus is among the most sophisticated and subversive pieces of malware to be exposed to date. Experts said the program was designed to replicate across even highly secure networks, then control everyday computer functions to send secrets back to its creators. The code could activate computer microphones and cameras, log keyboard strokes, take screen shots, extract geolocation data from images, and send and receive commands and data through Bluetooth wireless technology.

Flame was designed to do all this while masquerading as a routine Microsoft software update; it evaded detection for several years by using a sophisticated program to crack an encryption algorithm.

“This is not something that most security researchers have the skills or resources to do,” said Tom Parker, chief technology officer for FusionX, a security firm that specializes in simulating state-sponsored cyberattacks. He said he does not know who was behind the virus. “You’d expect that of only the most advanced cryptomathematicians, such as those working at NSA.”

Conventional plus cyber

Flame was developed at least five years ago as part of a classified effort code-named Olympic Games, according to officials familiar with U.S. cyber-operations and experts who have scrutinized its code. The U.S.-Israeli collaboration was intended to slow Iran’s nuclear program, reduce the pressure for a conventional military attack and extend the timetable for diplomacy and sanctions.

The cyberattacks augmented conventional sabotage efforts by both countries, including inserting flawed centrifuge parts and other components into Iran’s nuclear supply chain.

The best-known cyberweapon let loose on Iran was Stuxnet, a name coined by researchers in the antivirus industry who discovered it two years ago. It infected a specific type of industrial controller at Iran’s uranium-
enrichment plant in Natanz, causing almost 1,000 centrifuges to spin out of control. The damage occurred gradually, over months, and Iranian officials initially thought it was the result of incompetence.

The scale of the espionage and sabotage effort “is proportionate to the problem that’s trying to be resolved,” the former intelligence official said, referring to the Iranian nuclear program. Although Stuxnet and Flame infections can be countered, “it doesn’t mean that other tools aren’t in play or performing effectively,” he said.

To develop these tools, the United States relies on two of its elite spy agencies. The NSA, known mainly for its electronic eavesdropping and code-breaking capabilities, has extensive expertise in developing malicious code that can be aimed at U.S. adversaries, including Iran. The CIA lacks the NSA’s sophistication in building malware but is deeply involved in the cyber-campaign.

The CIA’s Information Operations Center is second only to the agency’s Counterterrorism Center in size. The IOC, as it is known, performs an array of espionage functions, including extracting data from laptops seized in counterterrorism raids. But the center specializes in computer penetrations that require closer contact with the target, such as using spies or unwitting contractors to spread a contagion via a thumb drive.

Both agencies analyze the intelligence obtained through malware such as Flame and have continued to develop new weapons even as recent attacks have been exposed.

Flame’s discovery shows the importance of mapping networks and collecting intelligence on targets as the prelude to an attack, especially in closed computer networks. Officials say gaining and keeping access to a network is 99 percent of the challenge.

“It is far more difficult to penetrate a network, learn about it, reside on it forever and extract information from it without being detected than it is to go in and stomp around inside the network causing damage,” said Michael V. Hayden, a former NSA director and CIA director who left office in 2009. He declined to discuss any operations he was involved with during his time in government.

Years in the making

The effort to delay Iran’s nuclear program using cyber-techniques began in the mid-2000s, during President George W. Bush’s second term. At that point it consisted mainly of gathering intelligence to identify potential targets and create tools to disrupt them. In 2008, the program went operational and shifted from military to CIA control, former officials said.

Despite their collaboration on developing the malicious code, the United States and Israel have not always coordinated their attacks. Israel’s April assaults on Iran’s Oil Ministry and oil-export facilities caused only minor disruptions. The episode led Iran to investigate and ultimately discover Flame.

“The virus penetrated some fields — one of them was the oil sector,” Gholam Reza Jalali, an Iranian military cyber official, told Iranian state radio in May. “Fortunately, we detected and controlled this single incident.”

Some U.S. intelligence officials were dismayed that Israel’s unilateral incursion led to the discovery of the virus, prompting countermeasures.

The disruptions led Iran to ask a Russian security firm and a Hungarian cyber-lab for help, according to U.S. and international officials familiar with the incident.

Last week, researchers with Kaspersky Lab, the Russian security firm, reported their conclusion that Flame — a name they came up with — was created by the same group or groups that built Stuxnet. Kaspersky declined to comment on whether it was approached by Iran.

“We are now 100 percent sure that the Stuxnet and Flame groups worked together,” said Roel Schouwenberg, a Boston-based senior researcher with Kaspersky Lab.

The firm also determined that the Flame malware predates Stuxnet. “It looks like the Flame platform was used as a kickstarter of sorts to get the Stuxnet project going,” Schouwenberg said.

Staff writer Joby Warrick contributed to this report.



U.S. moves to contain collateral damage from cyber weapons


By Aliya Sternstein


June 19, 2012

The fallout from cyber weapons and perhaps, one day, cyber drones may not greatly affect Americans’ privacy or U.S. computer security, former military officials say.


Speculation about impending cyberwarfare has followed recent revelations about a stealth virus and new U.S. cyberoffensive tools. The virus Flame, a suspected U.S. government invention, was reported in May to have long been harvesting information from computers in various Middle Eastern countries. Days after that account surfaced, The Washington Post reported that a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency program aims to test unmanned cyberattacks that strike without human beings at the keyboard. The Pentagon has said only that it has the ability conduct offensive operations in cyberspace to defend the nation.


There is reason for concern that foreign-aimed cyberattacks are backfiring on Americans by creating new vectors for cybercriminals and by breaching privacy. Yet, on the whole, some former government hackers say they’ve been surprised to see the Obama administration taking considerable care to minimize such risks.


The recently uncovered attacks involved “techniques that could have been used against us just as effectively,” said Dave Aitel, president of cybersecurity firm Immunity Inc. and a former National Security Agency computer scientist. He was referring to Flame and a U.S.-Israeli campaign called Stuxnet that undermined Iran’s nuclear program by overriding a computer system operating plant centrifuges.


The order to deploy Stuxnet reportedly was made after thorough deliberation by the highest power in U.S. government — not a Defense Department official. “Obama has to say, yes or no,” Aitel said. “It’s not completely like ‘Go crazy, Cyber Command.'”


Defense’s strategy for operating in cyberspace states the commander in chief determines when to engage in cyber confrontations. Pentagon officials have said they strongly respect Americans’ rights during operations.


“If so directed, DoD is prepared to defend U.S. national security interests through all available means,” Defense spokeswoman Lt. Col. April Cunningham said. “DoD is committed to protecting the individual privacy of communications on the Internet and the civil liberties of the American people.”


Still, Microsoft suffered some collateral damage from Flame. The designers of the virus exploited a previously unknown flaw in the company’s digital certificates to disguise malicious code as a Microsoft product. The software firm subsequently issued an update to block other hackers from abusing the fraudulent certificates.


Kaspersky Labs, the security firm that discovered Flame, describes the bug as “the largest cyberweapon to date,” referring to its 20 megabytes. The tool can scoop up massive amounts of valuable information such as screenshots of online chats, audio recordings from internal microphones, and storage files.


Gen. John P. Casciano, a former Air Force director of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, acknowledged the U.S. government will never have 100 percent assurance that a cyber offensive will work as planned. Americans, however, have more to fear from adversaries and cybercrooks than from the feds, he said. “I’m not terribly concerned about the U.S. government spying on us,” said Casciano, now a private consultant.


Other former Defense officials say cyberweapons are subject to the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which regulates the monitoring of U.S. international communications during counterespionage activities.


“All new cyberweapons must adhere to all the U.S. federal laws,” said Gen. Harry D. Raduege, a retired director of the Defense Information Systems Agency. Or, more specifically, “it’s U.S. people who employ cyberweapons who are subject to FISA. It’s really the people.” Raduege is now chairman of the Deloitte Center for Cyber Innovation.


Casciano said he trusts the current legal framework will protect Americans in cyberspace, citing established federal protocol for wiretapping communications between Americans and foreigners when there is probable cause for suspecting a nefarious plot.


Civil liberties activists have argued otherwise, based on their longstanding criticism of FISA for sweeping up innocent Americans’ calls, emails and text messages.


Flame so far has spread in a controlled manner among certain nation-state groups and academic institutions and has not self-replicated, according to Kaspersky researchers.


Aitel notes the administration recently demonstrated restraint by threatening to veto a cybersecurity bill that opponents say would encourage companies to indiscriminately share customer data with feds. “The government is afraid of overreach and is essentially afraid of the populace at some level,” he said. “I think it’s amazing that they’ve been going so carefully and following the issues so intellectually. It speaks highly of them that they think this is something you cannot just rush into.”


Jeffrey Carr, a cybersecurity consultant and author of Inside Cyber Warfare, makes a distinction between cyberweapons that are intended to destroy systems such as Stuxnet, and cyber espionage tools such as Flame that compromise systems. He sees clear dangers to using either without restrictions set in advance of combat. One unintended consequence of cyberweaponry could be the accidental disruption of a civilian hospital system overseas, for instance. International cyberspying, he said, could inadvertently encroach on the human rights of foreigners and Americans abroad.


With cyberweapons, collateral damage could harm civilians who use a targeted network, Carr said. “How do we know which networks should be targeted and which ones should be off limits?” he questioned. “I would think that [U.S. officials] would be concerned about their rules of engagement.” As for cyber snooping: “Anything that’s stealing data in any type of big way is going to have some privacy ramifications to it,” Carr said.


Cunningham noted the Pentagon does not discuss operational matters as a manner of longstanding policy and will not comment specifically on the development of cyber offensive tools.


The Post’s Ellen Nakashima in late May wrote that a DARPA initiative, dubbed Plan X, aims “to develop systems that could give commanders the ability to carry out speed-of-light attacks and counterattacks using preplanned scenarios that do not involve human operators manually typing in code — a process considered much too slow.”


Charles Dunlap, former deputy judge advocate general of the Air Force, said the cyberdrones described in the Post article do not seem quite the same as fully autonomous weapon systems that select their own targets, but he said some observers could argue this is a first step in that direction.


“News reports that DARPA is seeking proposals for methodologies that would automate cyber responses in predetermined scenarios is an almost inevitable development given the speed in which cyberattacks can cause harm,” said Dunlap, now a Duke University Law School professor. “The very idea of autonomous weapons systems of any kind, cyber or kinetic, is controversial on legal, ethical and even pragmatic warfighting grounds. Yet the development and deployment of such weaponry is sure to continue even as we sort out the law and policies to address it.”


Other former military officers suspect that unmanned cyber operations would be confined to protective moves, and not used during attacks.


“I see autonomous being used defensively, because you’ve got only nanoseconds to respond” in such instances, Casciano said.




By Aliya Sternstein


June 19, 2012



Dempsey maps sequestration cuts at Defense

By Andrew Lapin

June 19, 2012

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey said Tuesday that automatic cuts to the Defense Department’s budget resulting from the sequestration deal struck by the Obama administration and Congress would have to come from military operations, maintenance, training and modernization.

If lawmakers do not avert sequestration and the cuts take place next year, as scheduled, Dempsey still will have to pay the bill for the military’s “overseas contingency operations” in Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf, he told attendees at a military leadership breakfast sponsored by Government Executive..

“If there’s money taken out of the $88.5 billion that we say we need for OCO, I’m going to have to take money out of the base and invest it. You can’t not pay those bills. So OCO will touch it, but the money’s coming from some place, and that is the base,” he said.

When other options such as personnel cuts and base realignment and closure are taken off the table as well, Defense isn’t left with many choices, according to Dempsey.

“There’s talk about exempting manpower . . . and you’ve also said, ‘Thou shall not BRAC,’ ” he said. “So now you’ve limited the places where that money can come from. It can’t come from manpower. It can’t come from infrastructure. And you have to reinvest in OCO. And what’s left is operations, maintenance and training and modernization.”

Defense has had to transition in recent years to a budget-minded operation, and Dempsey readily acknowledged the department has become accustomed to a large degree of fiscal freedom as a result of a decade of war.

“Over the last 10 years of relatively unconstrained resources, we’ve had a thousand flowers blooming out there. If someone had an idea, it was pretty easy to resource it,” he said.

“We’ve kind of really stretched out the rubber band. Shame on us if we let it go and contract to the same shape it was before. Because then, frankly, I think we’ve got some problems,” Dempsey added

He said Defense plans to reduce its footprint in Europe by half to adjust to manpower reductions, while the footprint in the Pacific Rim won’t change and the level of continued U.S. presence in the Middle East has not yet been decided.

Cyberwarfare, unmanned drones and an “exponential” increase in special operations forces are three key technological capabilities Defense has today that it didn’t have when the global war on terror began, Dempsey said. While the department must continue to invest in technology, it should not “become enamored of shiny objects,” he said.

The chairman also emphasized the importance of transitioning military personnel to a stable civilian workforce while finding a better way to harness the younger generation’s “entrepreneurial” qualities as new recruits enter the armed forces.

“If we don’t get the people right, the rest of it won’t matter. We’re going to put the country at risk,” he said.

By Andrew Lapin

June 19, 2012



PURPOSE: The following talking points highlight major elements, milestones and benefits of the AFMC 5-Center construct. They should be used by commanders, leaders, and PAs at all levels to explain this transition to stakeholder audiences. Talking points will be updated, modified, deleted, etc., as events warrant. POC, AFMC/PA, DSN 787-6308.

•    The command will begin activating centers and transitioning others as it reduces its number of centers from 12 to five (see dates at end of talking points).


•    Following several months of extensive planning, AFMC has now met all Air Force and FY12 Congressional requirements for its 5-Center construct, allowing it to move from a planning to a transition stage on its way toward initial operational capability, or IOC, on 1 Oct 12.


•    The three milestones that have been met are:

(1) Delivery of two Congressionally-mandated reports, one required by the 2012 Consolidated Appropriations Act and a second required by the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act

    (2) Headquarters Air Force formal approval of AFMC’s 5-Center construct

    (3) Senate confirmation of key leadership positions:

        – Lt Gen C.D. Moore II as Air Force Life Cycle Management Center                  commander

        – Lt Gen (sel) Bruce Litchfield as Air Force Sustainment Center                  commander    

        – Lt Gen (sel) Andrew Busch as AFMC vice commander

NOTE: Brig Gen Arnold Bunch, Jr, has been selected to command the Air Force Test Center. As a brigadier general, his assignment does not require Senate confirmation.

•    The command is now in the important transition phase, that key period leading up to IOC. During the transition phase, new centers’ framework will stand up and begin to take shape.


•    Achieving IOC is planned for 1 Oct 2012.


•    Center activations should not be confused with IOC. Activation activities are the first steps of the transition phase that will support IOC and later FOC in mid to late 2013.


NOTE: Dates for the following actions are listed at the end of talking points.


•    The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC) will activate at Wright-Patterson AFB. Following AFLCMC’s activation, Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom AFB, the air armament development portion of Air Armament Center at Eglin AFB, and the Aeronautical Systems Center at Wright-Patterson AFB will transition to AFLCMC in a phased approach after AFLCMC activates. Also, the Air Force Security Assistance Center at Wright-Patterson AFB will become the Air Force Security Assistance and Cooperation Directorate and be aligned to AFLCMC during the transition phase.


•    The Air Force Sustainment Center will activate at Tinker AFB. The Air Logistics Centers at Tinker, Robins and Hill AFBs will then be re-designated as Air Logistics Complexes reporting to AFSC. Also, the Air Force Global Logistics Support Center at Scott AFB will align its mission to AFSC during the transition phase.


•    The Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards AFB will be re-designated as the Air Force Test Center followed by the Arnold Engineering and Development Center at Arnold AFB being re-designated as a complex. In addition, the test organization at Eglin AFB will align to the AFTC organization during this transition phase.


•    The Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center at Kirtland AFB, and the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson AFB round out the five centers. Both will remain essentially as they are today.


•    As units change, their subordinate units will be attached to the new centers’ frameworks during this transition period leading up to IOC 1 Oct, at which time organizations will be formally assigned.


•    Several actions will take place as we “build” our center frameworks.

–    New leadership teams

–    Getting right mix of people in place as AFMC reduces management overhead

–    Attaching units to their respective center frameworks

–    Establish center operating locations at most non-center bases to carry out the functions primarily required for contracting, financial management, personnel services, and engineering


•    Throughout transition, we continue to be led by a very deliberate, focused governance process.




•    We continue to dialogue with all external stakeholders as we move from the planning phase to the transition phase that includes weekly reviews and direction from an Executive Steering Group.

•    As AFMC moves toward implementation, it continues to use all personnel management options available to mitigate impacts on civilian employees.


•    The command has already offered two rounds of the Voluntary Early Retirement Authority and Voluntary Separation Incentive Payment, or VERA/VSIP, program and is in the process of executing a third round where needed across the command.

o    So far, some 1,357 AFMC civilian employees across the command have taken advantage of VERA/VSIP. NOTE: Commanders and PAs can work with their manpower offices to localize these numbers.


•    AFMC officials remain engaged with civilian employee unions to keep them updated on the transition.



•    “We are transitioning the command in a way that will create opportunities for more efficient and responsive support to the warfighter while also saving the taxpayer money.”



•    The 5-Center construct was announced in November 2011 as a major part of the AF response to a Department of Defense challenge to find efficiencies and save tax dollars.


•    AFMC fully supports DOD efficiency efforts and is committed to do everything that can be done to make every defense dollar count and directly support the warfighter.


•    By creating a “lead” center for each of our four primary mission areas (life cycle management, sustainment, test and evaluation, research and development) plus

nuclear support, we streamline the way we accomplish the work of the command while maintaining our ability to perform the mission and focus on our core missions.





•    AFMC’s consolidation of overhead will improve the way it accomplishes its diverse mission and will serve to provide better support to the warfighter.

–    Eliminates 1,051 management-level civilian positions

–    Will save approximately $109 million annually


•    The 5-Center construct better integrates the workforce. We’ll approach our business in a more integrated fashion rather than thinking separately about “acquisition” and “sustainment.”


•    The 5-Center construct will drive us to more standardized business processes across a mission enterprise, foster a life cycle management focus, and improve our goal of presenting a single face to our customers.


•    The 5-Center construct improves acquisition execution and product support management by providing clearer lines of authority and responsibility.


•    Every dollar spent on excess overhead, support or non-core efforts, is a dollar not available for warfighter capability to prepare for threats on the horizon.


Center transition dates:


6 Jul – Air Force Flight Test Center re-designated as the Air Force Test Center

6 Jul – Arnold Engineering and Development Center re-designated a complex

9 Jul – Air Force Life Cycle Management Center activation (ceremony on 20 Jul)

9 Jul – Air Force Security Assistance Center becomes the Air Force     

Security Assistance and Cooperation Directorate

10 Jul – Air Force Sustainment Center activation

10 Jul – Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center re-designated as an air logistics complex

11 Jul – Air Force Global Logistics Support Center transitions to AFSC

12 Jul – Ogden Air Logistics Center re-designated as a complex

13 Jul – Air Force Flight Test Center re-designation ceremony

13 Jul – 95 ABW mission and people at Edwards transition to the 412 TW

16 Jul – Electronic Systems Center transitions to AFLCMC

17 Jul – Warner Robins Air Logistics Center re-designated as a complex

18 Jul – Air Armament Center transitions to AFLCMC

18 Jul – 96 ABW at Eglin re-designated as 96 TW; people and mission of 46 TW          

transition to 96 TW

20 Jul – Aeronautical Systems Center transitions to AFLCMC; AFLCMC activation





Iran Targeted By ‘massive Cyberattack,’ Official Claims

– James Niccolai, IDG News Service (San Francisco Bureau)

June 21, 2012

Iran’s intelligence minister has accused the U.S., the U.K. and Israel of planning a “massive cyberattack” against his country after talks this week over Iran’s nuclear program failed to reach an agreement, Iranian state TV reported on Thursday.

Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi said the attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities was planned after the talks in Moscow aimed at curtailing Iran’s nuclear program broke down.

He didn’t say how Iran had detected the attack or where the information came from, but he said the attack was planned by the U.S. and “the Zionist regime” as well as Britain’s MI6 intelligence service, according to Iran’s state-run Press TV.

“They still seek to carry out the plan, but we have taken necessary measures,” Moslehi said, according to the report.

The New York Times reported earlier this month that President Barack Obama had ordered attacks on the computers that run Iran’s nuclear facilities, accelerating a plan that began before he came to office. That led to the infamous Stuxnet virus that targeted Iran’s Natanz plant, according to the Times.

Press TV also cited a Washington Post report that said the U.S. and Israel had cooperated on a new virus, called Flame, to target Iran’s nuclear program.

Reuters, which was among the first to pick up the Press TV report, said it was unclear if Moslehi’s remarks had been referring to Flame or to a new attack.


Washington post

Study: Across-the-board defense cuts could cost 1 million jobs

By Lori Montgomery, Published: June 21

Across-the-board budget cuts set to hit the Pentagon in January would destroy nearly 1 million jobs by 2014, with Virginia, California and Texas absorbing the biggest hits, according to an analysis released Thursday by the National Association of Manufacturers.

The job losses would probably include about 750,000 private-sector positions, including about 100,000 jobs in manufacturing, even as President Obama is promoting manufacturing as key to the nation’s economic recovery.

The report is the latest in a growing heap of studies warning of dire economic consequences if policymakers fail to avert about $100 billion in cuts to the Pentagon and non-defense programs next year. The cuts, known as a budget “sequester,” were adopted last summer as part of a deal to rein in the soaring national debt.

In recent weeks, separate analyses by George Mason University, the Bipartisan Policy Center and the aerospace industry have reached similar conclusions about the impact of the cuts on jobs and unemployment. More studies are undoubtedly on the way. On Thursday, the Senate approved a bipartisan plan to require the Obama administration to say how it would implement the cuts and to detail the impact on the Pentagon and other federal agencies. If the measure passes the House, a report on the defense reductions would be due in August.

The defense cuts are of particular concern to manufacturers — not just big defense contractors such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin but also hundreds of smaller firms in their supply chains. The NAM study, which was conducted by the Interindustry Forecasting Project at the University of Maryland, projects that the aerospace industry could lose 3.4 percent of its jobs by 2015 because of downsizing at the Pentagon. Shipbuilders could shed 3.3 percent of their workforce by 2014. And the search and navigation equipment industry could see employment drop by nearly 10 percent by 2016.

Taken together, the January cuts and defense cuts already required under budget caps approved last summer could cost the nation as many as 1.1 million jobs by the end of 2014, the peak year for job losses, according to study projections.

California, Virginia and Texas would suffer the most, with each state shedding more than 100,000 jobs. The study predicts that Florida, New York, Maryland, Georgia, Illinois, Pennsylvania and North Carolina would round out the top 10.

Increasingly panicky industry representatives are lobbying Congress to block the cuts, as well as a massive tax increase that is also set to hit in January as the George W. Bush-era tax cuts expire.

NAM representatives went to Capitol Hill on Thursday with a delegation that included Barry DuVal, the president of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, who declared that one out of five jobs in Virginia is connected to defense. They also took Della Williams, the chief executive of Williams-Pyro Inc., a five-decade-old Fort Worth firm that makes an array of products for the military.

Williams said that she isn’t laying off people yet but that her 92 employees are growing increasingly nervous about working in an industry that they view as “a sinking ship.” Although the federal government needs to balance the budget, she said, “sequestration is surgery with a chain saw.”




DHS drones scout Caribbean for cartel speedboats, submarines


By Aliya Sternstein


June 20, 2012


The Homeland Security Department is flying unmanned aircraft over the Caribbean to hunt for narcotics-laden submarines and speedboats, DHS officials told Nextgov.


As DHS’ Customs and Border Protection has strengthened security along the U.S.-Mexico land border, drug traffickers have turned to far-off waterways and more discreet modes of transportation to smuggle tons of cocaine and marijuana, according to Homeland Security officials. CBP’s remotely piloted Guardian aircraft, which flies out of Florida and Texas, is among the tools U.S. authorities are using to fight back in this cat-and-mouse game.


“U.S. Customs and Border Protection constantly monitors activity and trends of transnational criminal organizations and works closely with other federal, state, local, tribal and international partners to combat smuggling in the source and transit zones,” a CBP spokeswoman told Nextgov. “CBP’s Guardian is supporting drug-interdiction operations in the Caribbean.”


In May, the Homeland Security inspector general recommended CBP stop buying drones until the agency maximizes the flight hours of its existing fleet of 10 unmanned aircraft and develops a realistic budget for maintaining them. The drones sit idle 63 percent of the time that the vehicles are supposed to be in the air, according to an IG audit.


The Guardian, a maritime version of Homeland Security’s other Predator drones, is outfitted with search radar and an electro-optical/infrared sensor.


Submarines and semisubmersible vessels are harder for authorities to detect than the discreet, fast-moving cargo boats called pangas, according to the Joint Interagency Task Force South, a command comprising staff from DHS and the intelligence community as well as the Defense and Justice departments. With about $1 million, a crime ring can build a semisubmersible boat that yields more than $100 million in cocaine profits, Rear Adm. Charles Michel, director of Joint Interagency Task Force South, said at a House hearing Tuesday.


Before 2011, the semisubmersibles had traveled only through the Eastern Pacific, but since July 2011, the command has helped disrupt five such vessels in the Western Caribbean, each carrying more than 6.5 metric tons of cocaine. The command has documented about 215 incidents involving the semisubmersibles, but only 45 were disrupted mainly because they are so furtive.


“The semisubmersible and fully submersible vessels are stealthy vessels,” Michel said. “They are not all that fast but they try to avoid detection. The pangas are primarily out there because they are small and very speedy.”


Fully submerged submarines can transport up to 10 metric tons of cocaine at speeds of up to 6,800 nautical miles, he said. While no shipments to the United States have been identified, the vessels are capable of traveling from the west coast of Colombia to coastal Los Angeles, or from the north coast of Colombia to Galveston, Texas. The boats are powered by complex diesel-electric systems that allow them to sail submerged by day on battery power and on the surface at night while recharging their batteries. In 2011, the command documented three submarines, none of which was successfully intercepted.


Michel said both types of submerged boats are “potentially an even more insidious threat to the security of the United States” than the pangas because of their capacity and the extraordinary difficulty in spotting them. “These dangerous drug conveyances could be adapted for transporting other more serious security threats to the United States,” he said.


Lawmakers on the House Homeland Security Committee’s border security panel repeatedly have told Homeland Security to reuse military assets, such as Defense drones and blimp-like aerostats, which have wide-angle cameras, now that many are no longer being deployed in combat.


DHS officials have consistently replied that they need more money to hire veterans to operate the machinery and to maintain vehicle parts.


“I know that there has been some of the aerostat technology that’s been available,” Donna Bucella, assistant commissioner for the CBP Office of Intelligence and Investigative Liaison, told the panel at Tuesday’s hearing. “The problem, or challenge, for us is the funding part.”


Committee member Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., said, “That’s our problem. You just need to tell us what you need. It’s our problem to figure out if we can pay for it or not.”


Bucella praised the returning troops she has been able to employ.


“One of the greatest assets that we’re getting are the people,” she said. “As we’re doing the drawdown, I’ve hired seven full-motion video analysts. It’s a unique a skill set. And obviously for those who’ve been in the combat zone that’s been terrific.” The agency also has purchased helicopters retired from the Marine Corps, Bucella said.


She asked that lawmakers, such as Rogers, who want DHS to use more Defense equipment to consider funding vehicle operations and upkeep. “While they have some great air assets, they cost a lot of money to maintain,” Bucella said.


(Image via Beneda Miroslav /




By Aliya Sternstein


June 20, 2012



NSA chief endorses the cloud for classified military cyber program


By Aliya Sternstein


June 13, 2012


The cloud will be a logical place for sharing classified intelligence on cyber threats with critical industries as the Defense Department presses ahead on an attack-prevention program it recently opened to all defense contractors, former military officials say, and Wednesday, a spokeswoman for Gen. Keith Alexander, the military’s top intelligence official, said he endorsed the idea.


When the Pentagon started the defense industrial base cybersecurity pilot program last summer with select suppliers, many defense and some nondefense companies vital to Americans, such as banks, wanted to join. The military in May expanded the program to all defense contractors and their Internet service providers partly because the department was able to develop “a dedicated threat-sharing and collaboration system, and validated online application procedures in order to support participation by a large number of companies,” preliminary regulations noted.


Alexander, who runs the Pentagon’s National Security Agency, which produces the intelligence disseminated through the program, has repeatedly told lawmakers that the military’s 15,000 networks eventually will move to the cloud. And the Pentagon is attempting to save $680 million annually by consolidating information services through clouds run by the Defense Information Systems Agency.


“As Gen. Alexander said at last year’s [Geospatial Intelligence Foundation] conference, secure cloud computing offers both DoD and the [intelligence community] many advantages and efficiencies that could enhance information sharing and collaboration,” NSA spokeswoman Marci Green Miller said in a statement. The GEOINT symposium is an annual conference that the nonprofit group organizes for intelligence, defense and homeland security professionals.


Under the cyber program, NSA culls the “signatures” or unique characteristics of identified malicious coding for vendors so they can feed those danger signs into antivirus software. The quid pro quo is that what goes into the information sharing system, including Secret intelligence and companies’ confessions of breaches, stays in the system. The cloud — a remote computer hub that transfers data through the Internet or a classified network — could facilitate that reciprocity, experts say.


Former DISA director Gen. Harry D. Raduege explained that the cloud’s flexibility should accommodate the program’s expected high demand. A cloud environment can be compartmentalized based on a user’s authorization level so that, for example, only a defense contractor could read the classified intelligence, while perhaps unclassified threat information would be accessible to nondefense sectors, such as state governments.


“It’s become very, very popular,” Raduege, now chairman of the Deloitte Center for Cyber Innovation, said of the defense contractor program. “It’s become one of those free services, where . . . if they have the proper security clearance, they can get into a secure cloud so that they can get insights to protect their own enterprise.”


Alexander has strongly endorsed the use of the cloud for military operations for more than a year.


“The idea is to reduce vulnerabilities inherent in the current architecture and to exploit the advantages of cloud computing and thin-client networks, moving the programs and the data that users need away from the thousands of desktops we now use — each of which has to be individually secured for just one of our three major architectures — up to a centralized configuration that will give us wider availability of applications and data combined with tighter control over accesses and vulnerabilities and more timely mitigation of the latter,” he testified before a House subcommittee in March 2011.


On March 27, he told the Senate Armed Services committee: “Our DoD cyber enterprise, with the department’s chief information officers, DISA and Cyber Command helping to lead the way, will build a common cloud infrastructure across the department and the services that will not only be more secure but more efficient — and ultimately less costly in this time of diminishing resources — than what we have today.”


Other computer specialists say they also have faith in the cloud to securely transmit information.


“Everybody who is in security these days is into the cloud, partially because you want to start from scratch” in launching new information services, said Dave Aitel, president of cybersecurity firm Immunity Inc. and a former NSA computer scientist. Eventually, the program might encapsulate multiple clouds, he said, because participants may want to interface with the feds through their own clouds. “Getting two clouds to talk to each other will be a very big deal,” Aitel added.


Due to budget cuts and the drawdown of U.S. troops, the Pentagon’s spending priorities have changed. According to the new defense strategy released in January, two areas will receive additional resources: the Asia-Pacific region and cyber operations. To conserve funding and expand the defense contractor cyber program, “DoD is going to need to learn to use the technology called cloud in a more expansive space,” said Dale Meyerrose, the intelligence community’s former chief information officer.


But some cybersecurity specialists and government agencies remain wary of the technology, partly because of its major attribute — the shared space.


“If you’re moving information into the cloud, it just seems to me that all kinds of nasty activity could go on in there,” said. Gen. John P. Casciano, a former director of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance for the Air Force. “I would take a Missouri approach and say, ‘prove it to me, show it to me,’ how it’s more secure.”


Alexander has acknowledged there are reliability and trust issues with the cloud. “This architecture would seem at first glance to be vulnerable to insider threats. Indeed, no system that human beings use can be made immune to abuse. But we are convinced the controls and tools that will be built into the cloud will ensure that people cannot see any data beyond what they need for their jobs and will be swiftly identified if they make unauthorized attempts to access data,” he told the lawmakers in 2011.




By Aliya Sternstein


June 13, 2012



Intel agencies want to know how your brain works


By Dawn Lim


June 18, 2012


The research arm for the intelligence community wants scientists to decode how the brain connects concepts, with the goal of applying breakthroughs to help intelligence analysts and linguists make sense of data more efficiently.


The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity is seeking researchers to develop theories on how the brain resolves ambiguities and makes inferences, and wants them to test their hypotheses by interpreting patterns of brain activity scanned from imaging technology, government documents show.


“Understanding how the human brain represents conceptual knowledge is a step toward building new analysis tools that acquire, organize and wield knowledge with unprecedented proficiency,” a pre-solicitation notice reads.


“Such understanding may lead to the development of novel techniques for training intelligence analysts and linguists,” it adds.


IARPA is hosting a proposers’ day on July 12 to provide further details about the funding program, which goes by the moniker Knowledge Representation in Neural Systems. A solicitation will also be expected to go up shortly on federal contracting databases.


(Image via VLADGRIN /




By Dawn Lim


June 18, 2012



AFITC 2012 canceled




by Jason Bishop

Enterprise Information Systems Directorate


6/4/2012 – MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE-GUNTER ANNEX, Ala. — Due to budgetary concerns, the 2012 Air Force Information Technology Conference (AFITC) has been canceled.


Held annually in Montgomery, Ala., this year’s conference was scheduled to be held Aug. 27-29. The principal driver for the cancellation is the travel cost for Air Force and government attendees, which is approximately $1.4 million.


The mission of the AFITC is to facilitate conversations, interactions and activities which keep Air Force and industry IT users, developers and managers current on progressive best practices to enable more integrated and lethal capabilities to our warfighter.


The Air Force is always focused on the proper stewardship of taxpayer funds. Currently, financial resources are heavily constrained, and this has increased the amount of scrutiny over Air Force-sponsored and co-sponsored events. This scrutiny was highlighted in a recent Office of Management and Budget (OMB) memorandum, which also encouraged government agencies to identify and implement creative and innovative practices to reduce costs and improve efficiencies in such areas such as travel and conferences.


The conference has been held annually since 1983; however, it was canceled in 1985, 1988, 1990, 1991 and 2005, also for budgetary concerns.










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