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July 14 2012

July 16, 2012

14July2012

Newswire

 

$374M impact over 5 years estimated for Calamityville

Some residents stay skeptical of Fairborn’s disaster-training center.

By Steven Matthews, Staff Writer

5:46 PM Sunday, July 8, 2012

FAIRBORN — The city is banking on the development of Calamityville, the National Center for Medical Readiness, as a driver of economic growth in the region.

But, that impact won’t be seen for several years because the 54-acre site run by Wright State University is not yet fully operational.

Calamityville is a collaborative training and research facility. Its purpose is to prepare civilian and military medical communities and first-responders for disasters. Calamityville — the former CEMEX plant at 506 E. Xenia Drive — opened in March 2011. Emergency medical simulations also take place at two other sites, totaling 340 acres, in Greene County.

Fairborn City Manager Deborah McDonnell said she hopes to reap the economic development rewards of the project during the coming five years.

“For us, it really is the biggest economic boost since Wright State opened their doors over 40 years ago,” McDonnell said. “It opens up so much for potential in research and development consistent with the medical training Wright State provides in the area of national preparedness for response and recovery.”

The city has turned attention to economic development along the Interstate 675 corridor to support the people who they expect to come to the center to train.

In the city of Fairborn’s 2010 comprehensive annual financial report, Calamityville — when fully operational — has a projected economic impact of $374 million over a five-year period for the Miami Valley region, according to an economic analysis prepared by Wright State.

Those are the latest, and only, figures available, and according to Wright State spokeswoman Stephanie Gottschlich, those numbers still apply today.

“We’re truly excited,” said Ryan Fendley, interim director of Calamityville. “We now stand on the cusp of delivering for the community a tremendous regional asset that is unique and has the potential to draw federal work as well as support a number of state initiatives.”

It cost $3 million to clean up the Calamityville site, and it was paid for by a Clean Ohio Fund grant ($1.8 million), Wright State ($1 million) and a federal grant ($200,000), McDonnell said. No city funds were used.

“The hard part for people is conceptualizing what this is,” McDonnell said. “The general public doesn’t fully understand what they’re doing there. They’re not fully operating, so there’s a sense that nothing’s happening there. In fact, there’s a lot happening. They’re just not advertising it to the public.”

Bud McCormick, the associate director of Calamityville, said nearly 10,000 people have participated in health care professional training since 2006 at Wright State’s Boonshoft School of Medicine and Calamityville combined. In 2010-11, more than 5,500 medical simulations were conducted.

No numbers were available as to how many have trained there since it opened.

Calamityville has a partnership with the Ohio Emergency Management Agency, and hosts organizations such as the FBI, SWAT, Ohio State Highway Patrol and Ohio National Guard.

Nancy Dragani, the executive director of the Ohio EMA, said Calamityville’s proximity to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base gives it a unique advantage.

“From the very beginning, this is a project that has tremendous appeal to me because it’s not being done anywhere else in the nation where the focus is on emergency medicine training,” Dragani said.

Not everybody in Fairborn, though, is sold on the idea, including longtime resident Cheri McGee, who called the site an “eyesore in our community.”

“I think it’s the biggest mistake they’ve made,” McGee said. “They haven’t done anything with it. They’ve promised the moon and delivered nothing.”

But city and university officials are waiting on a key piece to occur — clearance from the Environmental Protection Agency. Once the city, which owns the land after it was donated by CEMEX, receives a “no further action” letter from the EPA, it will turn the property over to Wright State.

McDonnell said she expects that to all be finalized in the next 12 months.

“We still think that’s relevant and a reasonable expectation,” Fendley said of Wright State’s economic analysis. “I would say the clock on that would probably begin six months after the EPA cleared it, and we’d see an uptick in training, testing and research. We’d see our portfolio grow. Then within the next five years I could see it get to the point where we’ve had that kind of an impact.

“Clearly, Calamityville has had a positive impact on the city of Fairborn so far,” he added. “It is our goal, desire and expectation that the impact to date only represents the tip of the iceberg of the impact it’s going to have.”

Find this article at:

http://www.daytondailynews.com/news/dayton-news/-374m-

 

 

1936: A Year of Global Warming, Climate Change in America

Joe Dorish, Yahoo! Contributor Network

http://voices.yahoo.com/shared/print.shtml?content_type=article&content_type_id=2749411

 

Global warming and climate change are upon us. No less than 16 record setting or tying hottest days occurred in 16 different states this summer and to prove that global warming and climate change causes weather extremes two states even recorded record setting low temperatures this winter also. If you saw this headline today wouldn’t you be more likely to believe that global warming and climate change were occurring in the United States? Well guess what? This info is 100% correct only it all happened almost 75 years ago in 1936.

Stuck and mired in the worst economic period in our history during the Great Depression in 1936 the unemployment rate averaged a whopping 17%. As if a very high unemployment rate wasn’t bad enough the summer of 1936 saw extreme heat temperature conditions across the country as sixteen different states set or tied records for the hottest day ever recorded. The people in North and South Dakota really had a tough weather year as both those states not only set record hot temperatures but also recorded record cold temperatures that winter too. Here are the states, the dates, the towns or cities and the record hot and cold weather temperatures.

 

Record Setting Hot Temperatures in 1936

Ozark, Arkansas – 120 degrees on August 10.

Collegeville, Indiana – 116 degrees on July 14.

Alton, Kansas – 121 degrees on July 24. (tied record)

Plain Dealing, Louisiana – 114 degrees on August 10.

Cumberland and Frederick, Maryland – 109 degrees on July 10 (tied record)

Mio, Michigan – 112 degrees on July 13.

Moorhead, Minnesota – 114 degrees on July 6.

Minden, Nebraska – 118 degrees on July 24.

Runyon, New Jersey – 110 degrees on July 10.

Steele, North Dakota – 121 degrees on July 6.

Tishomingo, Oklahoma – 120 degrees on July 16. (record tied in 1994)

Phoenixville, Pennsylvania – 111 degrees on July 10. (tied record)

Gannvalley, South Dakota – 120 degrees on July 5. (record tied in 2006)

Seymour, Texas – 120 degrees on August 12. (record was tied in 1994)

Martinsburg, West Virginia – 112 degrees on July 10. (tied record)

Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin – 114 degrees on July 13.

 

Record Setting Cold Temperatures in 1936

Parshall, North Dakota – minus 60 degrees on February 15.

McIntosh, South Dakota – minus 58 degrees on February 17.

 

Those are the kinds of weather temperature data numbers that make advocates of global warming and climate change salivate at the mouth. With data like that the green agenda they are currently pursuing with things like cap and trade would have a much better chance of passing. Of course this extreme temperature weather data is from 1936 and global warming and climate change were probably terms nobody back then would have used or recognized. The extreme temperature data and conditions from 1936 did not signify that global warming or climate change was occurring back then. Whether global warming and climate change are occurring today or not is still up in the air and the advocates of global warming will find no help from the temperature records data in the United States as twice as many record setting cold temperature dates have been set or tied in the United States over the last 50 years than record setting hottest days (20 to 10).

 

Based upon the theory put forth by advocates of global warming and climate change that extreme weather conditions can be expected due to the effects of global warming than the year 1936 was the year of global warming and climate change in the United States. Sixteen different states recorded record setting or tying hottest temperatures while two of those states also recorded record setting coldest temperatures in 1936. But in the end the extreme weather temperature data from 1936 really only signified that it was very hot summer that year in most of the United States and also a very cold winter in the Dakotas.

 

Sources: http://www.usatoday.com/weather/wheat7.htm


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S._state_temperature_extremes


http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/2691449/temperature_records_provide_clue_why.html?cat=37

 

Analysis: Educating the brass

GovExec

By John Grady

July 6, 2012

 

Professional military education has an inside baseball stigma that is hard to shake. The topic often receives a “so what” shake of the head when it comes up for discussion at conferences. And it rarely comes up on Capitol Hill since Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., the strongest advocate of professional training in the military, lost his seat in 2010.

Yet it was Congress that required two-tiered professional military education at the command and general staff colleges, war colleges, National Defense University and Industrial College of the Armed Forces. Thousands of officers eligible for promotion must complete specific education requirements before moving up in rank. This was a key ingredient in the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols reform law that emphasized unified mission objectives over service parochialism and the need for the military and civilian arms of government to work together to educate the nation’s armed forces.

During the last 10 years of war, waivers of these requirements have been routinely given to officers focused on battlefield assignments, setting the military’s academic programs adrift. The services insist there will be no more waivers. While combat experience is important, officials are saying service members must learn how to lead in other situations and will have to go to school to be promoted. We’ll see.

 

Old habits die hard.

For many officers, the objective of professional military education is to be selected but get out of going, according to retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert Scales, a former commandant of the Army War College. That idea has to be put to rest. “They need to see the value” of attending the war colleges, he says, beyond the accelerated master’s degree. The senior-level resident program at the Army War College, for instance, is a 10-month stint. Most civilian master’s programs take up to two years to complete and require a thesis or special project.

The military services need officers, warrants and noncommissioned officers with broad perspectives.

“The Army has a set of lieutenant colonels, colonels and senior NCOs — in both the active and reserve components — who are less than fully prepared for senior leadership,” retired Army Lt. Gen. James Dubik warned in the June issue of ARMY Magazine, noting they lack experience at headquarters and education on how the Army operates. Likewise, NCOs have insufficient developmental and educational backgrounds to be effective as tomorrow’s sergeants major and command sergeants major.

Complicating matters is a Defense Department debate over whether professional development programs should be considered education or training. The Army uses the phrase “select-train-promote” to describe its system of molding future leaders. Adding to the tension at the most advanced institutions is the changing relationship between the war colleges and the service chiefs, and between NDU and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

In a world of rank consciousness, the fact that the last NDU president wore two stars rather than three is important. Looking at the war colleges, reporting directly to the service chief of staff puts a school commandant higher in the pecking order than reporting to the service training chief.

The war colleges are considered the top of the military’s education system, but they need to “get rid of the deadwood,” Scales says. He argues the schools are staffed often by retired officers who transitioned out of uniform into their civilian positions and were never trained to teach, and a steadily growing crop of administrators with semi-academic titles.

Joan Johnson-Freese, a professor of national security at the Naval War College, has a similar view of the practitioners teaching at the war colleges. Many have engineering degrees, she says, noting one could be a pilot or ship driver one week and the next week teaching history or national security. Johnson-Freese advocates a comprehensive career path in academia that provides time to research, write and develop relevant curriculum.

Even though war colleges are accredited by the same authorities as civilian colleges, they are no John F. Kennedy School of Government. Likewise, Harvard’s Kennedy School and other elite programs offering graduate-level national security studies are not war colleges, which are in a unique position of being “both a college and a serious preparation for the defense of the nation,” says Johnson-Freese. That’s clear from Congress’ intent. Education at the most senior level in the military should concentrate on strategic thinking, military history, leadership, national security affairs and joint military operations.

In his congressional push to beef up military education, Skelton emphasized these programs needed rigor. Scales agrees: “You give grades, and you have class standing” — those two steps are absolute musts. The war colleges between World War I and World War II were known for their academic rigor and broad thinking.

Today’s programs are in stark contrast, critics say. “The students are critically aware that no one fails,” Johnson-Freese wrote in a recent issue of Orbis, a publication of the Foreign Policy Research Institute. “Students should be told in no uncertain terms that they are not the masters or owners of the schools.” She noted that being selected to attend a war college was a privilege.

What is at stake is not only how the U.S. military chooses to prepare a rising generation of flag officers, but whether this nation’s officer education systems will remain the gold standard for other militaries. It has a direct impact on the fledgling efforts by the services, the Army particularly, to develop a comparable professional education system for its civilians.

As push comes to shove over federal spending, there is increasing pressure to scale back resident programs. Critics argue the services already have distance learning and should expand it. True, but some say gone is the collegiality and mentoring that is vital to educating adults, not necessarily training them.

“Read, educate and think. There is no substitute for sitting down and reading,” says Rear Adm. John Christenson, president of the Naval War College.

But James Jay Carafano, director of the Heritage Foundation’s Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, sees potential value in a hybrid system that combines the best of distance learning and resident education. Carafano, who attended the Army War College through its distance learning program, believes schools like the command and general staff and war colleges should be much more universal and be offered to service members in their 20s rather than 40s. “People can use this kind of education in their 30s,” he says, not just at the tail end of their careers. “Strategic thinking takes 10 years to develop.”

Entire institutions likely will go away in the budget crunch this year, even without sequestration, if they cannot demonstrate value.

But as dark as the horizon may appear, there is cause for optimism. The Army recently surveyed 41,000 officers, warrants and NCOs who said they want to be pushed through crucibles to succeed in their profession. They realize they have a lot to learn.

John Grady, retired director of communications for the Association of the United States Army, writes about defense and national security.

http://www.govexec.com/defense/2012/07/analysis-taking-officers-school/56647/

 

Faster than a speeding bullet: Pentagon wants to fly anywhere in under an hour

NextGov

By Dawn Lim

July 9, 2012

7:12 AM ET

After last year’s failed attempt to fly what would have been the fastest aircraft ever built — the experimental Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 — the Pentagon wants to develop a flight vehicle that would “enable DoD to get anywhere in the world in under an hour,” the Defense Advanced Research Program Agency announced. DARPA is looking to spend $70 million on the program.

The Defense Department wants to “develop, mature, and test next-generation technologies needed for global-range, maneuverable, hypersonic flight at Mach 20” — 13,000 miles per hour, or 20 times the speed of sound — with the goal of test-flying an experimental vehicle by 2016, according to a draft solicitation.

The technology would give the U.S. an edge in stealth technology, where other nations are rapidly catching up.

DARPA, the Pentagon’s venture capital wing, is seeking engineers and scientists to develop the aircraft. The agency will host an industry briefing on August 14 in Arlington, Va., to discuss research areas it intends to fund. It plans to spend $40 million in base awards and an additional $30 million for optional renewals as part of the Integrated Hypersonics funding program.

DARPA is specifically interested in funding thermal protection technology. Aircraft get hot when flown at such high speeds and have to endure temperatures over 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit. The skin of the experimental Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle began peeling off during its 2011 flight in the searing heat, an investigation into the failed demonstration revealed.

The agency also is seeking proposals on how to design the vehicle’s aerodynamics along with its guidance, navigation and control system, propulsion elements, and data collection technology.

DARPA will issue another solicitation for a contractor to integrate the technologies developed into the vehicle for a test flight by 2016, contract documents say.

In the meantime, DARPA intends to tap aerospace contractor Lockheed Martin Corp. to draw on designs from the Hypersonic Technology Vehicle to assemble and test in-progress ideas through 2014, according to a notice of intent to award the contract without competition.

http://www.nextgov.com/emerging-tech/2012/07/faster-speeding-bullet-pentagon-wants-fly-anywhere-under-hour/56670/

 

 

Retirement claims backlog slowly shrinks

NextGov

By Kellie Lunney

July 5, 2012

 

The government processed more federal retirement applications in June than it expected to, and the total claims backlog is down 21 percent since the beginning of the year, according to the latest statistics.

The backlog now stands at 48,323 claims, down 12,785 since January and 55 less than the total number of outstanding retirement claims in December 2011. The Office of Personnel Management, the agency responsible for processing retirement applications, completed 8,964 claims in June — 464 more claims than it estimated it would process that month. OPM also received 186 fewer applications in June than it projected.

The agency has made slow but steady process in chipping away at a backlog that, until recently, it struggled to control. OPM reported a backlog of 49,473 retirement claims in May, a 19 percent decrease from January, when the pileup stood at 61,108 claims. Despite the progress, many federal retirees still wait several months for their applications to be fully processed and their entire annuity payments to kick in. On average, it takes 156 days to process a claim, but many retirees wait much longer than that for their full annuity payments.

The order in which applications are processed is a mystery to many retirees and outside observers. “I retired 2 July 2011 and I am still receiving interim checks,” said one Government Executive reader in response to a June story on the retirement backlog. “I have friends who retired in November and December [2011] and they received their full checks in a two-month time period.”

Director John Berry and other OPM officials have partly blamed individual agencies for delays and other problems associated with processing retirement claims. Retirement information can be lost, incorrect or incomplete when it finally makes its way to OPM staffers, who then have the time-consuming task of filling in the holes and verifying data.

OPM administers benefits for 2.5 million federal retirees and processes about 100,000 new claims annually. Berry has said eliminating the backlog is his highest priority in 2012. Earlier this year, OPM unveiled a plan that aims to get rid of the claims backlog within 18 months and to reduce processing times so that 90 percent of claims are administered within two months of receipt.

Lawmakers asked OPM in February to report monthly on the status of the backlog. Many retirees have taken their concerns about the matter to their individual congressional representatives, who in turn have pressured OPM publicly and privately to fix the problem.

 

Processing retirement claims, particularly disability claims, can be complex, especially since OPM relies heavily on other federal agencies to provide retirees’ information, including the amount of their annuity. The agency uses more than 500 procedures, laws and regulations to process retirement applications.


http://www.govexec.com/pay-benefits/2012/07/retirement-claims-backlog-slowly-shrinks/56638/

 

Wind Power Faces Taxing Headwind

WSJ.com

Updated July 8, 2012, 10:35 p.m. ET

By MARK PETERS And KEITH JOHNSON

WEST BRANCH, Iowa—Acciona Windpower’s generator-assembly plant here in the heart of the corn belt is down to its last domestic order as the U.S. wind energy industry faces a sharp slowdown.

Demand for the school bus-size pods it assembles to house the guts of a wind turbine is drying up as a key federal tax credit nears expiration. Acciona is now banking on foreign orders to keep the plant going next year, while hoping the credit will be extended.

The debate over renewing the credit is dividing Republicans, with conservative lawmakers from wind states joining Democrats to push for an extension even as the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, has made attacks on government support for clean energy, including wind, a centerpiece of his fight against President Barack Obama.

After several years of domestic growth, the U.S. wind industry faces possible layoffs and shutdowns as a key federal tax credit is set to expire. Mark Peters reports from West Branch, Iowa.

The tax policy, initiated two decades ago, currently gives operators of wind farms a credit of about two cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity they generate. Without the credits, wind power generally can’t compete on price with electricity produced by coal- or natural gas-fired plants. Analysts predict that if the tax credit expires on Dec. 31, as it is scheduled to, installations of new equipment could fall by as much as 90% next year, after what is expected to be a record increase in capacity in 2012.

Democrats generally support federal backing for wind power and other clean energy, arguing that it needs help to compete with entrenched fuel sources whose environmental and health impacts often aren’t included in their costs. Mr. Obama has made several campaign trips to Iowa, where he argued for wind energy’s tax credits to be extended. Most Republicans are less bullish on clean energy’s prospects, and say the government shouldn’t support technologies that aren’t commercially viable on their own.

Still wind power has vigorous support from some of the reddest districts in the country, with Republican congressmen in wind-power heavy states like Texas, Iowa, and Colorado backing the industry tax credit.

Mr. Romney has criticized the Obama administration’s support for clean- energy subsidies. “Solar and wind is fine except it’s very expensive and you can’t drive a car with a windmill on it,” Mr. Romney said at a campaign event in March in Youngstown, Ohio. His economic plan says wind and solar power are “sharply uncompetitive” forms of energy, whose jobs amount to a “minuscule fraction” of the U.S. labor force. A campaign spokeswoman said Mr. Romney supports “the development of affordable and reliable energy from all sources, including wind.” He hasn’t publicly called for the renewal of the tax credit for wind.

“That’s a conversation I need to have with Gov. Romney,” said Rep. Steve King, an Iowa Republican and a member of the House Tea Party Caucus who says 5,000 wind-industry jobs statewide and locally-produced clean energy are proof of the benefits of federal policies that support wind power. Iowa has gained several wind-power manufacturing facilities in recent years and ranks second among U.S. states in number of wind farms, after Texas. Terry Branstad, the state’s Republican governor, also backs a renewal of the credit.

The production tax credit has spurred huge growth since it was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush in 1992, but it has kept the industry’s future tied to the vagaries of Congress. The credit now is caught in the congressional gridlock of an election year, and a vote on renewal isn’t likely until after November. Even if renewed then, the pipeline of projects next year is already crimped.

“In some way, it’s too late to save 2013 build,” said Matthew Kaplan of consultancy IHS Emerging Energy Research.

The credits for wind have expired three times before, most recently in 2004, with new construction slowing sharply each time before the credit was later renewed.

Now the stakes are higher, because the wind industry has established a manufacturing base in the U.S. to build many of the 8,000 parts that go in a typical turbine. Industry data show manufacturing facilities in the U.S. have more than doubled since 2009 to around 470 in 2011. Meanwhile, wind’s share of U.S. electricity output has grown to 2.9% last year, from about 1.3% in 2008, according to the Energy Information Administration.

“There is a lot more skin in the game,” said Joe Baker, chief executive of the North American wind power subsidiary of Acciona SA, a Spanish company. Its Iowa plant gets 80% of its components from North America, mostly made in the U.S. Almost no components came from the U.S. when the plant opened in 2008.

Many Republicans argue that any benefits from wind power don’t justify government investment. “What do we get in return for these billions of dollars of subsidies?” Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican who has long criticized the tax credit for the wind industry, said in a speech earlier this year. “We get a puny amount of unreliable electricity.”

Local communities are now fearing layoffs in the industry, which employs an estimated 75,000 people nationwide. A Siemens AG turbine-blade factory is the largest employer in Fort Madison, Iowa, which has struggled with one of the state’s highest unemployment rates. Mayor Brad Randolph said getting the plant “really was a corner turner,” but with industry’s current outlook “you could see a large number of employees getting laid off. That could be a game changer the other way.”

Vestas, a Danish company that is the biggest manufacturer of wind turbines in the world, employs about 1,700 people at four factories in Colorado, a relatively energy-rich state that has also benefited from wind’s growth. Uncertainty over the tax credit “requires us to have a flexible plan for the future that allows us to add, adjust or eliminate positions in 2012,” a Vestas spokesman said.

That uncertainty trickles down the supply chain. Walker Components, a privately held company in Denver, expanded operations more than two years ago to supply gear for Vestas turbines. Now, like others that supply the wind industry, the company is contemplating layoffs in its wind division if the credit expires.

Acciona’s Mr. Baker said a few employees recently left for other jobs, telling him they wanted to be in industries with more stable outlooks. “It became an employment issue for them. They’re not sure. They don’t like the seesaw effect,” he said.

Write to Mark Peters at mark.peters@dowjones.com and Keith Johnson at keith.johnson@wsj.com

A version of this article appeared July 9, 2012, on page A4 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Wind Power Faces Taxing Headwind.

 

 

Drone makers and their friends in Washington

NextGov

By Dawn Lim

July 6, 2012

The Unmanned Systems Caucus – a Congressional network dedicated to the promotion of drones – is drawing in big lobbying bucks, KPBS reports.

The caucus is chaired by Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., who also chairs the House Armed Services Committee. Its 58 drone caucus members received a total of $2.3 million in contributions from political action committees affiliated with drone manufacturers since 2011, according to data obtained by KPBS from First Street Research Group, a Washington-based company.

Twenty-one members of the drone caucus are from border states, the report notes. These members collected around $1 million in campaign contributions from large aerospace contracts during the 2010 and 2012 election cycles, according to campaign finance data collected by the think-tank Center for Responsive Politics.

The top five donors to the drone caucus members from border states from 2010 to 2012 were Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems and General Dynamics, the report states.

The caucus includes eight members of the House Committee on Appropriations. The committee in May pushed to maintain $278 million in funding for Global Hawk Block 30 drones, which the Pentagon had originally purged in its 2013 budget request, according to a statement.


http://www.nextgov.com/defense/2012/07/drone-makers-and-their-friends-washington/56668/

 

The Mind-Reading Machine

Veritas Scientific is developing an EEG helmet that may invade the privacy of the mind

IEEE Spectrum

By Celia Gorman / July 2012

9 July 2012—Memories and thoughts are private—or at least they used to be. A new company, Veritas Scientific, is developing a technology that promises to peek into a person’s brain to reveal some of their secrets. “The last realm of privacy is your mind,” says Veritas CEO Eric Elbot. “This will invade that.”

Elbot’s device belongs in a Philip K. Dick novel: It’s a futuristic motorcycle-type helmet containing metal brush sensors that will read brain activity as images of, say, bomb specs or Osama bin Laden’s face flash quickly across the inside of the visor. Scientists have shown that familiar images prompt spikes of electrical brain activity that indicate recognition. Recognition indicates memory, and memory implies knowledge. Veritas’s goal is to create an electroencephalogram (EEG) helmet with a slideshow of images that could reliably help to identify an enemy.

But whose enemy? Veritas would provide the U.S. military with the device first, as a way to help them pick friend from foe among captured people. But Elbot imagines that the brain-spying, truth-telling technology will also be useful for law enforcement, criminal trials, and corporate takeovers. Eventually, it will even make its way into cellphone apps for civilians, he says.

 

“Certainly it’s a potential tool for evil,” says Elbot. “If only the government has this device, it would be extremely dangerous.”

EEG experiments on mock terrorism plots have been conducted in laboratories, identifying participants and detecting criminal details. Veritas wants to put its helmets on real suspected terrorists. According to Elbot, the U.S. military used an earlier Veritas device called BrainTruth to test the thoughts of suspected Iranian agents crossing the Mexican border into the United States.

Elbot envisions a scenario in which troops in a village in Afghanistan round up all the men and put helmets on them, and then the soldiers will able to classify them as friend or foe almost instantly. Elbot hopes to have a prototype ready for the U.S. military’s war games this fall and is pursuing a military contract.

Veritas draws heavily on the work of J. Peter Rosenfeld, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Northwestern University, in Evanston, Ill. Rosenfeld develops EEG tests that ferret out lies; the U.S. military sponsors some of his research.

Rosenfeld’s tests—and Veritas’s work—is based on certain types of brain activity known as event related potentials (ERPs). When the brain recognizes someone, there is a specific, well-documented response called a P300. A person sees a face and then identifies it as John, Mary, or Mom. As the person’s brain puts a name to the face, a sharp dip in the EEG appears between 200 and 500 milliseconds after first seeing the face. That dip reveals that the subject recognizes that person. The same reaction occurs with a photo of an object, a place, or even a name.

It sounds simple, but it isn’t. For each test, there is a probe image—the one the subject may recognize. It has to be a surprise, so it is mixed into a series of dummy images, some related to the probe, some not. Sometimes there’s an image that prompts a physical response, such as pressing a button, to show the subject is paying attention.

It will be hard to avoid reacting inside Veritas’s helmet. Fitted tightly to the head without being painful, it will be soundproofed against the outside world, says Elbot. The visor will display images only centimeters from the eyes. The metal brush sensors, still in development, are being designed to go easily through hair and conduct brain signals without the conductive gel used in hospitals.

Veritas isn’t the first company to try to commercialize ERPs. Behavioral neuroscientist Lawrence A. Farwell founded Brain Fingerprinting Laboratories, also based on ERPs, with a goal similar to that of Veritas. Lauded by the media but denounced by peers, Farwell’s venture has so far not succeeded.

P300s are tricky signals, says Paul Sajda, an associate professor of biomedical engineering at Columbia University. Sajda conducts research on the P300 response, but to a very different end: to aid in image recognition. Sajda has also offered his work to intelligence agencies, but as a way for image analysts to spot more of whatever they’re looking for, not as interrogation technology. This is a situation where a false positive won’t hurt anyone, and there are false positives with ERPs, he says.

The trouble with the P300 response is that it’s related to more than recognition. Loud noises, arousal, surprises, and suddenly focused attention can all cause P300s. Stress and depression can alter the intensity or timing as well. “It’s an interesting signal, but it’s also complicated,” says Sajda. What’s worse, EEG readings are noisy and messy and must be interpreted carefully using computer algorithms. “It would have to be a situation where false positives and negatives don’t matter that much,” says Sajda. Which brings up the question: When a person’s life or freedom is at stake, what is an acceptable margin of error?

Veritas claims it is devoted to extremely high accuracy and doesn’t intend its device to be the only factor in whatever scenario it’s used in, says Peter Lauro, head of Veritas’s neuroscience research. Decisions and interpretation would ultimately fall to human beings. The company is at the “very beginning of testing, testing, testing” to find the right combination of ERPs, questions, and patterns of images for a reliable deception test, says Lauro. They’re also adding functional near-infrared imaging (fNIRs) to the helmet, a brain imaging technology that measures blood flow.

Using ERPs requires a delicate combination of psychology and neuroscience, Rosenfeld says, including an understanding of how and why a person will react and what that reaction will look like on an EEG. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible to use them, he says; it’s just difficult.

The helmet isn’t ready yet, but mind-reading tech is inevitable—even if it’s far in the future, experts say. Whether this technology should be used seems the bigger question. “Once you test brain signals, you’ve moved a little closer to Big Brother in your head,” says Sajda.

 

House to take up Defense spending bill, hold off on others

GovExec

By Katy O’Donnell

After considering the defense spending bill for fiscal 2013 next week, the House will not bring any more appropriations measures to the floor before the election, according to aides, making it highly likely each chamber will have to bundle messy funding bills during the lame duck session.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Tuesday made clear the Senate would not take up any of the 12 annual spending bills before the election, an announcement received poorly in the House.

“It is extremely disappointing that the Senate Democrat leadership is defaulting on their most basic fiscal duty as representatives of the people of this country,” House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers said in a statement Wednesday morning. “The 12 annual appropriations bills cannot be swept under the rug and ignored until a more convenient political time.”

But it is increasingly likely the House, once it takes up defense funding next week, will also be unable to pass each of its five remaining bills under regular order.

 

http://www.govexec.com/oversight/2012/07/house-hold-most-spending-bills-until-after-elections/56741/

 

OMB plans for automatic cuts, urges Congress to find sequestration alternative

By Kedar Pavgi

July 11, 2012

Sequestration doesn’t threaten only national security. Critical infrastructure and domestic programs also face a budgetary “brick wall” early next year, according Jeff Zients, the acting head of the Office of Management and Budget.

The 2011 Budget Control Act is scheduled to trigger across-the-board cuts of nearly 8 percent off federal spending beginning January 2013 if lawmakers can’t agree on an alternative. The cuts will bring government outlays to their lowest levels since the Eisenhower administration, Zients wrote on Politico.com, emphasizing the upcoming budget sequester was intended to be a means to encourage responsible bipartisan deficit reduction, not to force “destructive” cuts to the federal government.

 

Some of the actions mandated by the law would result in cutting the number of FBI and Border Patrol agents, reducing Federal Aviation Administration safety operations and closing national parks, he said. Additionally, money set aside for children’s nutrition programs, teachers’ pay and federal research also would face key losses.

Top Obama administration officials, including Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, have warned Congress of the dire consequences the automatic cuts could have on national security.

“The truth is no amount of planning or reports will turn the sequester into anything other than the devastating cut in defense and domestic investments that it was meant to be,” Zients wrote.

Analysts at Goldman Sachs have warned that the cuts due to take place on Jan. 2, 2013, will contribute to a “fiscal cliff” that will throw the weak U.S. economy back into recession.

Zients said the automatic cuts “would be terrible for our country.”

In case Congress can’t break past its gridlock, agencies are planning for the worst. Zients said OMB is working on plans and analyses on how it would execute the sequester.

“As long as Congress fails to develop a balanced and meaningful deficit-reduction package, OMB will continue planning for the sequester,” he said. “We will answer further questions about its operation as time moves forward.”

http://www.govexec.com/management/2012/07/omb-plans-automatic-cuts-urges-congress-find-sequestration-alternative/56728/

 

White House takes appropriators to task on pay, TRICARE


By Kellie Lunney

July 10, 2012

 

The White House has threatened to veto a House appropriations bill that includes a pay raise for service members but not for civilian federal employees.

The Obama administration’s opposition to the Defense Department spending bill, which the House plans to take up next week, covers a lot of territory. In particular, the administration objected to appropriators not including a recommended 0.5 percent pay raise for civilians and for rejecting its proposals to increase TRICARE fees.

A permanent pay freeze for federal workers “is neither sustainable nor desirable,” the Office of Management and Budget said in a June 28 statement of administration policy, referencing the same language it has used to describe appropriators’ silence on a fiscal 2013 pay raise in other spending bills. The Defense spending bill does include a 1.7 percent pay raise for service members, which Obama recommended in his fiscal 2013 budget proposal. The House in May approved Defense authorization legislation that also includes 1.7 percent pay boost for military members. That legislation also rejected the administration’s recommendations to raise premiums for military retirees based on their retirement pay, among other fee hikes, but modestly raised TRICARE co-pays for brand and nonformulary drugs in 2013.

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 administration said its recommended changes to TRICARE would save Defense 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.

The Defense spending bill provides $519.2 billion in nonwar funding, which is about $1 billion more than current spending levels, and more than $3 billion above Obama’s budget request, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The appropriations legislation includes $128.5 billion for more than 1 million active-duty troops and more than 800,000 reservists. The funding is $2.6 billion less than fiscal 2012 levels because of the reduction in troop totals, according to a press release from the committee’s majority staff.

In addition, lawmakers appropriated $35.1 billion for Defense health and family programs, $334 million more than fiscal 2012 and $348 million above the administration’s request. That total includes $245 million for medical facility and equipment upgrades, $125 million for traumatic brain injury and psychological health research, and $20 million for suicide prevention outreach programs. The bill also provides $2.3 billion for family support and advocacy programs.

The Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee plans to mark up its version of the spending bill before the August recess.

http://www.govexec.com/pay-benefits/2012/07/white-house-takes-appropriators-task-pay-tricare/56701/

 

Some corn farmers mow fields as drought worsens

Associated Press

11:13 AM Wednesday, July 11, 2012

 

DES MOINES, Iowa — Some cornstalks in fields around the farm where David Kellerman works stand tall, but appearances can be deceiving. When the husks are pulled back, the cobs are empty. No kernels developed as the plants struggled with heat and drought.

The soil in Kellerman’s part of southern Illinois is like dust after less than an inch of rain since mid-April. This week, he and the farmer he works with packed it in. They cut and baled the withered plants to use as hay for their cattle.

As the worst drought in nearly 25 years spreads across the nation, farmers in Illinois and Indiana are finding themselves among the hardest hit. But they are not alone, and conditions are likely to get worse throughout the middle of the country with an unusually hot summer in the forecast.

Almost a third of the nation’s corn crop is already showing signs of damage, and on Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released yet another report predicting that farmers will get only a fraction of the corn anticipated last spring when they planted 96.4 million acres, the most since 1937.

It’s too soon to say how that will affect food prices. The cost of meat is most likely to be affected because corn is used to feed cattle, and its price is usually passed along in the cost of hamburger and steak. But meat prices were already rising and were expected to stay high after last year’s drought in Texas forced many ranchers to reduce their herds.

Corn also is widely used as an ingredient — in corn flakes to ketchup, bread and soda pop — but it accounts for a small fraction of their costs compared to such things as transportation and marketing.

A rule of thumb is that food prices typically climb about 1 percent for every 50 percent increase in average corn prices, said Richard Volpe, a USDA food markets research economist.

 

The government has already predicted food prices will increase this year by as much as 3.5 percent. It won’t be clear until the fall, when all the damage is known, how much the crop loss will add to that, Volpe said.

Kellerman, 28, farms near Du Bois, Ill., with his neighbor Gerald Kuberski. He said they had been holding out hope for rain, but gave up last week after more than a week of 100-degree or hotter days.

Temperatures over 95 degrees while corn is pollinating can stunt the growth of ears and prevent kernels from fully developing.

“Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday we had 108 degrees. It just pretty much fried the corn,” Kellerman said.

He and Kuberski considered selling 20 cattle because they expect feed costs to be high, but so many farmers are trying to sell animals that prices in their area have plummeted.

“You can’t really give them away so we decided to keep them and feed them this baled corn,” Kellerman said. “We don’t know how it’s going to work.”

The drought stretches from parts of Ohio to California. The historic drought that gripped Texas and other parts of the Southwest last year was more severe, but this year is notable for the ground covered.

“To see something on this continental scale where we’re seeing such a large portion of the country in drought you have to go back to 1988,” said Brad Rippey, a USDA agricultural meteorologist.

That year, farmers saw corn yields, or the amount produced per acre, drop by nearly a third.

The USDA said Wednesday it now expects farmers to get 146 bushels per acre this year, rather than the 166 bushels per acre it predicted at the beginning of the year. They will harvest an estimated 12.97 billion bushels of grain, a 12 percent reduction from an estimate in June of 14.79 billion bushels.

But even with that loss, farmers may still do better than they would have 10 years ago because plant breeders have developed corn varieties better able to withstand drought. The average yield in 2002 was about 129 bushels per acre.

Even farmers who lose much or all of their corn this year are unlikely to go under. Most take out crop insurance to cover weather-related losses.

Matt Johnson’s popcorn fields in Redkey, Ind., have been burning up by the day, and he expects his insurance adjuster to tell him to mow them over if no rain comes by next month.

“It’s pretty sad,” said Johnson. “Everything’s just so short, so small. We haven’t mowed our yard since sometime in May. We didn’t even get an inch of rain in June and haven’t gotten an inch yet in July.”

In the end, it may be farmers’ spirits that take the hardest hit.

“It’s a farmers’ nature to want to grow a good crop, and that’s a very depressing state to be in when that doesn’t happen,” said Don Duvall, who farms near the Illinois-Indiana state line in Carmi, Ill.

“Not only has it hit the corn crop, but there are well-established trees that are dying,” he added. “Leaves are falling like it’s autumn, and a lot of the landscape is just dying.”

Find this article at:

http://www.daytondailynews.com/business/some-corn-farmers-mow-fields-as-drought-worsens-1403372.html

 

 

 

House will put off postal reform debate until the fall, Hill source says

 

By Amanda Palleschi

July 11, 2012

 

The House will not debate its postal reform bill before Congress leaves for August recess, a source on Capitol Hill says.

House leadership’s decision to postpone the debate comes despite objections from the bill’s architects and pressure from U.S. Postal Service officials and regulators.

Many believed the bill would come up between the July 4 holiday and August recess. Now, with debate tabled until after August, the legislation is unlikely to pass before the lame duck session following the November elections. According to The Hill, the House will be in session only seven weeks before Nov. 6, when the post-election session will begin. Then, it likely will have to juggle a long list of other outstanding business, including appropriations and a farm bill.

A source on the Hill confirmed that House leadership decided not to debate the bill before August recess, over the objections of House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., both architects of the House bill. Other sources with knowledge of postal reform confirmed that the bill would not be debated prior to Aug. 6.

The House measure takes a more austere approach than the postal reform bill the Senate passed in the spring. The House legislation would reduce postal delivery from six to five days a week, transfer about $11 billion in surplus retirement contributions into the Postal Service’s coffers, decrease the agency’s contribution to employees’ health and life insurance premiums, and restructure the payments USPS is required to make annually to prefund retirees’ health benefits. It also would establish a panel similar to the Defense Department’s Base Closure and Realignment Commission to make decisions about closings and finances.

The Senate bill, which passed by a bipartisan vote of 62-37, allows USPS to offer buyout and early retirement incentives to 100,000 employees, switches to five-day delivery only after giving officials two years to come up with cost-savings alternatives, and restructures the congressional mandate that the agency prefund its retirement health benefits.

The House bill, passed by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee earlier this year, does not eliminate the prefunding requirement and includes bigger cuts and more postal facility consolidations than the Senate proposal.

USPS has a $5.5 billion retiree health benefit prepayment from fiscal 2011 due Aug. 1, but there is no statutory penalty for not meeting that deadline, according to Issa spokesman Ali Ahmad. The House bill would require USPS to pay $1 billion of its fiscal 2011 and fiscal 2012 prepayment obligations and make up the remainder in fiscal 2015 and 2016.

Ahmad said the House bill has the support needed to pass when it comes up for debate, and it focuses on the long-term solvency of the Postal Service, meaning deadlines for payments would have no immediate effect on reforms included in the House bill.

 

Senate leaders have repeatedly urged the House to act on the measure. Earlier this summer, Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., an architect of the Senate bill, created a Facebook page outlining the House’s failure to act on comprehensive postal reform.

“The longer the House delays action, the more consumers and businesses become uncertain about the future of the Postal Service,” Carper said in a statement earlier this summer. “To protect a mailing industry that employs over 8 million people and generates almost $1 trillion in economic activity each year, we need congressional action.”

Union leaders, the Postal Regulatory Commission and the Postal Service itself also have urged the House to act soon so that Congress can pass comprehensive postal reform.

http://www.govexec.com/oversight/2012/07/house-will-put-postal-reform-debate-until-fall-hill-source-says/56735/

 

Yahoo confirms theft of 450K unencrypted passwords

‘Utter negligence,’ says expert about latest online business black eye that included disclosure of .gov and .mil account info

Gregg Keizer

July 12, 2012 (Computerworld)

 

Yahoo today confirmed that 450,000 unencrypted usernames and passwords were stolen Wednesday from one of its services, although it downplayed the threat.

“We confirm that an older file from Yahoo! Contributor Network, previously Associated Content, containing approximately 450,000 Yahoo! and other company usernames and passwords was compromised yesterday, July 11,” Yahoo said in a statement forwarded by a company spokeswoman Thursday.

“Of these, less than 5% of the Yahoo! accounts had valid passwords,” the company maintained. However, it did not say what percentage of the remaining accounts, which included over 100,000 Gmail addresses and more than 55,000 Hotmail addresses, included valid passwords.

 

Yahoo Contributor Network is a platform that lets writers, photographers, and others share content with Yahoo members and earn money based on the traffic it generates. Users who contribute to the network are required to sign in using a Yahoo, Google or Facebook ID.

Yesterday, a hacker group calling itself “the D33Ds Company” claimed to have hacked into a Yahoo database by exploiting an SQL injection vulnerability found on a Yahoo subdomain. The group published a list of 453,492 plain-text email addresses and passwords.

Based on a host name left in the published materials, speculation yesterday focused on Yahoo Voices as the most likely subdomain that was hacked. Yahoo Voices is the portal where uses access the content posted by the Yahoo Contributor Network.

Yahoo said it was “fixing the vulnerability that led to the disclosure of this data,” but did not confirm that the bug had actually been quashed. The company was also changing the passwords of affected Yahoo members.

 

“We apologize to all affected users,” said Yahoo.

Almost a third — 30.3% — of the leaked email addresses were ones from yahoo.com, while 23.6% were Gmail addresses and 12.2% were Hotmail addresses, said security company Rapid7, which did a quick analysis of the data published on the Web Wednesday.

Aol.com, comcast.com msn.com, sbcglobal.com, live.com, verizon.net and bellsouth.net addresses rounded out the top 10.

Also included in the cache, said Marcus Carey, security researcher at Rapid7, were 123 government email accounts — ones ending with “.gov” — and 235 military-related addresses (ending with “.mil”).

“Some of the government addresses were from various [U.S.] intelligence agencies, the FBI, TSA [Transportation Security Administration] and DHS [Department of Homeland Security],” said Carey. “Those, and of course, the .mil accounts, could be used for targeted attacks later.”

Yahoo accounts made up less than a third of the 450,000 stolen from an online content-sharing service. (Data: Rapid7.)

Yahoo did not immediately respond to follow-up questions, including whether the leaked addresses and passwords were only from the pool of people who had registered with the Content Network to post their work on the site, or whether others, including those who may have accessed the content via the Voices portal, also needed to be concerned about the breach.

The Yahoo leak, which followed a much larger one last month that involved approximately 6.5 million encrypted passwords belonging to LinkedIn members, was another black eye for the online industry.

Several security researchers, including Carey, drew comparisons between the two. “Organizations and users still aren’t taking security seriously enough,” he said, referring to the constant barrage of credential breaches.

Carey, like Yahoo and scores of other security experts, urged Yahoo users to change their email accounts’ passwords immediately, then follow that with changes to other site logins that rely on the same email address/username and password combination.

But Carey went further, noting that Yahoo may provide more information on the breach later, which could necessitate a second password reset if the leak has not been totally contained.

“You should still go ahead and change it straight away, but you may have to change it a second time if it turns out the attacks are still entrenched in Yahoo’s systems,” Carey said.

Carey recommended that people install and use a robust password manager that can create complex passwords automatically, then store them for instant retrieval on multiple devices.

“I use KeePass,” said Carey, referring to a free open-source password manager for Windows. He also recommended LastPass for Windows, and said researchers at Rapid7 who worked on Macs relied on KeePass X and 1Password.

A password manager makes it easier to create and manage separate passwords for each website, online service or email account, thus limiting the damage if any one username/password combination leaks.

“There’s always the potential of a [leaked] passwords also being used on, perhaps, a PayPal account,” Carey said.

But the move toward aggregate credentials that access a slew of services provided by a single company — like Gmail accounts and passwords being used for all Google’s services, including Google Docs — can make a password manager practice moot or nearly so.

 

“If someone has one account on one service, it lets them log in everywhere,” said Carey, using Google as an example. “A lot of business processes store sensitive information on Docs. And because almost everything is Web-based now, ‘in the cloud,’ this is a problem that’s only going to get worse.”

Not surprisingly, Yahoo drew the ire of some experts.

“If what is stated is true, it’s utter negligence to store passwords in the clear,” said Mark Bower, a data protection expert at Voltage Security, in an email Thursday. “This breach just goes to show that even big companies aren’t taking enough steps to protect critical data.”

 

 

Budget-cutters eye DOD civilian workers

Politicio

By: Austin Wright

July 11, 2012 10:22 PM EDT

 

Overshadowed by all the political posturing over the prospect of automatic cuts in defense spending, one thing seems certain: The Defense Department’s huge civilian workforce will shrink.

The question is by how much — and whether the cuts will be achieved through a slowdown in hiring, prolonged furloughs or even mass layoffs.

The looming reduction follows a five-year growth spurt in which the number of civilian defense employees jumped 15 percent, from about 700,000 in 2007 to roughly 800,000 now. In recent years, the Defense Department’s nonuniformed workforce has become a target for those seeking to trim the fat from the Pentagon budget — including former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who led a failed push in 2010 to stop the expansion.

“Gates said he was going to cut them, and when he left they actually grew,” said Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee. “So, I don’t know how you stop the behemoth that is the DOD and is the Pentagon. I don’t know how you do it.”

Unless the growth is curbed, Hunter said, civilians could soon outnumber service members, who also face reductions in force. “You could almost have like a one-to-one,” he added. “Each military person could have literally their own DOD civilian counterpart. That’s pretty crazy.”

But with the Pentagon projecting a slight reduction this fiscal year and next — and congressional Republicans and Democrats alike pushing competing plans that would cut the workforce by 5 percent to 10 percent — continued growth is threatened on all fronts.

“It is almost certain the number of DOD civilians will be cut significantly, whether sequestration happens or not,” said Todd Harrison, a defense analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. “Even if Congress finds a way to avoid sequestration, the way they avoid it will probably include cuts to the entire federal workforce.”

And if Congress isn’t able to reach a deal to stave off the cuts that are set to take effect Jan. 2, Harrison said, the Defense Department’s civilian workforce is likely to shrink rapidly.

“We could see 10, 15 or a higher percentage being laid off or furloughed shortly after sequestration goes into effect,” Harrison predicted.

 

Military planners are already grappling with several potential scenarios.

The different plans circulating on Capitol Hill are “being reviewed at the highest levels within the Department of Defense,” said Pentagon spokeswoman Cynthia Smith. “Right now, we are looking at all of our options, but no decision has been made in terms of civilian cuts.”

In the House, Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) is pushing a bill that would cut the entire federal workforce through attrition by 10 percent over 10 years. Under the plan, which would delay sequestration by a year, the federal government would hire just one new worker for every three who leave.

And in the Senate, Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and ranking member John McCain (R-Ariz.) have unveiled a proposal that would cut the number of civilians and service contractors employed by the Defense Department by 5 percent over five years. The plan is part of the Senate defense authorization bill, which has been approved by the Armed Services Committee and could be considered on the Senate floor as early as this month.

In March, McCain called the provision “one of the most important things we did.”

Levin, meanwhile, has said he’d be open to cutting an additional $100 billion in Pentagon spending over the next decade in order to stave off sequestration — a plan that almost certainly would include even steeper reductions in the civilian workforce.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, on the other hand, has urged lawmakers not to use the civilian workforce as a bargaining chip in their negotiations.

“Frankly, I don’t think you should de-trigger sequester on the backs of our civilian workforce,” Panetta said at a House Appropriations Committee hearing, when pressed about the impact of further reductions. “I realize that savings could be achieved there, but [the] civilian workforce does perform a very important role for us in terms of support.”

Not all lawmakers, however, are on board with the reductions.

For instance, Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.), a member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, contends the cuts could serve only to increase the Pentagon’s reliance on contractors.

“These gimmicks are causing mass layoffs of civilian employees, but they aren’t actually saving any money,” Hinchey said in a statement. “Because of the arbitrary standards set by the Pentagon, civilian employees are being fired, and private contractors that charge more for the exact same service and are less accountable to the public are being hired.”

On the other side of the aisle, Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) told POLITICO the Senate’s plan to cut the civilian workforce by 5 percent was the result of laziness. “The Senate is shirking its responsibility,” he said after Levin and McCain unveiled their plan.

The proposed across-the-board reduction, Turner said, has allowed senators to boast about cutting the Pentagon’s budget without making any tough decisions.

“The House took a dutiful look to identify areas that we could responsibly cut,” he said.


http://dyn.politico.com/printstory.cfm?uuid=38F0D965-56B8-49F4-B85E-4E761C5BC91F

 

 

Chief’s Perspective: Analog leadership in digital times

Posted 7/13/2012 Updated 7/13/2012

by Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Roy

 

7/13/2012 – WASHINGTON (AFNS) — The United States Air Force is the world’s most advanced air, space and cyberspace force. Most of that can be attributed to you — our outstanding Airmen — but technology also plays a huge role. Advanced tools help us maintain an advantage over our adversaries. Technology has enabled our continuing success.

However, technology also threatens to cripple us.

As electronic communication becomes more widely used, our face-to-face interaction skills are beginning to suffer. We know how to text, Skype, and FaceTime, but some of us seem reluctant to engage in a meaningful face-to-face conversation.

We value technology because it saves us time, provides conveniences and helps us to be more efficient. But we must also recognize its potential to strip us of critical human connection skills.

This high-tech challenge has a low-tech solution. We need to strike a balance; we must continue to emphasize the importance of technology – a resource we cannot and will not stop exploiting – and at the same time emphasize the importance and value of analog leadership.

Analog leadership means temporarily putting down the iPads and Android tablets, logging out of Facebook and Twitter, and switching phones to airplane mode to stop the stream of texts coming in and out. It means shutting off the technology and talking to each other.

 

Face-to-face. One-on-one.

Real human interaction – yes, for some of us it may be awkward at first, but getting to know each other better is an investment that will yield incalculable returns. Stronger connections will create a foundation on which we can grow more meaningful relationships.

And then we can turn the devices back on and use them for their intended purpose: to augment and add value to our real-life relationships.

As Airmen, we have to understand how to use technology, because without it we are not as well-equipped to do our jobs. However, as human beings, we also have to understand how and when not to use technology, because when distracted by it we are not as well-equipped to relate to others.

Thank you for your service and your continued dedication to duty. I look forward to seeing you face-to-face as I travel around our great Air Force.

 

DARPA to get a new director — one with Solyndra connections

NextGov

By Dawn Lim

July 11, 2012

 

The Obama administration has tapped Arati Prabhakar to lead the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Pentagon’s venture capital arm, according to an internal memo obtained by Wired’s Danger Room blog. She starts in her new position on July 30.

 

In 2001, Prabhakar joined U.S. Venture Partners, the venture capital firm focused on early-stage companies in information technology, life sciences and technologies that address climate change. The business of supporting high-risk and potentially high-payoff technologies is fraught with challenges, something Prabhakar understands first hand — the firm backed Solyndra, the now infamous solar company that declared bankruptcy in August 2011 after receiving $528 million in federal loan guarantees, reports note.

Prabhakar also has experience leading complex federal organizations. During the Clinton Administration she headed the National Institute of Standards and Technology before which she founded and directed the Microelectronics Technology Office at DARPA.

Former DARPA chief Regina Dugan left DARPA for a job at Google earlier this year. In 2011, the Pentagon’s Office of Inspector General opened an investigation into potential conflicts of interests at the agency after watchdog group Project on Government Oversight highlighted that RedX Defense, a bomb-detection firm Dugan founded, received funding from DARPA.

http://www.nextgov.com/emerging-tech/2012/07/darpa-get-new-director-one-solyndra-connections/56736/


 

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