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November 17 2012

November 19, 2012

17Nov2012

Newswire

 

Popular vote, Election results 2012: Voter turnout lower than 2008 and 2004, report says

Nov 12, 2012

By: CNN wire

 

A report estimating the percentage of eligible voters who cast ballots in Tuesday’s election shows the rate was lower than in the past two presidential contests, though it surpassed the rate from 2000.

Thursday’s report, from the Center for the Study of the American Electorate, put 2012 voter turnout at 57.5% of all eligible voters, compared to 62.3% who voted in 2008 and 60.4% who cast ballots in 2004. In 2000, the turnout rate was 54.2%. [Ed. – The turnout rate in Ohio was 67.2% in 2012 and 67.8% in 2008.]

The group estimated 126 million people voted in the election, where President Barack Obama defeated GOP nominee Mitt Romney. That means 93 million eligible citizens did not cast ballots.

In all states except two (Iowa and Louisiana) the turnout rate was down from four years ago, though six states had higher total numbers of people voting than in 2008: Delaware, Iowa, Louisiana, North Carolina, North Dakota and Wisconsin.

States with the highest turnout rates were all either considered battlegrounds in the presidential election (Wisconsin, Iowa and New Hampshire) or had a high-profile down-ballot contest. In Massachusetts, where Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown were battling for Senate, 66.6% of eligible voters turned out.

Minnesota’s turnout rate of 74.6% was the highest in the nation, and could have been bolstered by the ballot measure there banning same-sex marriage, which failed.

The lowest turnout rate in the nation was in Hawaii, where 43.6% of voters cast ballots, followed by West Virginia, New York, Oklahoma and Texas. All of those states were considered locks for either President Barack Obama or Mitt Romney.

Hawaii’s 2012 turnout rate was a record low for the island state. Six other states set records for low turnout: Kansas, Montana, New York, Oklahoma, Utah and West Virginia.

In the report, the writers note that the turnout results are a “one-time setback to the rise in turnout which started with the 2000 election or a return to the slide in participation that began in 1964.”

“That question will likely be answered by the 2014 midterm election and the 2016 presidential election,” the report said.

 

Obama considering John Kerry for job of defense secretary

Washington Post

By Karen DeYoung and Greg Miller, Published: November 12

President Obama is considering asking Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) to serve as his next defense secretary, part of an extensive rearrangement of his national security team that will include a permanent replacement for former CIA director David H. Petraeus.

Although Kerry is thought to covet the job of secretary of state, senior administration officials familiar with the transition planning said that nomination will almost certainly go to Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

John O. Brennan, Obama’s chief counterterrorism adviser, is a leading contender for the CIA job if he wants it, officials said. If Brennan goes ahead with his plan to leave government, Michael J. Morell, the agency’s acting director, is the prohibitive favorite to take over permanently. Officials cautioned that the White House discussions are still in the early stages and that no decisions have been made.

Petraeus’s resignation last week after revelations of an extramarital affair has complicated what was already an intricate puzzle to reassemble the administration’s national security and diplomatic pieces for Obama’s second term.

The process has become further complicated by congressional ire at not being told that Petraeus was under FBI investigation, on top of what are likely to be contentious closed-door hearings this week on the administration’s actions surrounding the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.

Rice, one of an inner circle of aides who have been with Obama since his first presidential campaign in 2007, is under particular fire over the Benghazi incident, in which U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed.

Some Republican lawmakers have suggested that she was part of what they suspect was an initial election-related attempt to portray the attack as a peaceful demonstration that turned violent, rather than what the administration now acknowledges was an organized terrorist assault.

Rice’s description, days after the attack, of a protest gone wrong indicated that she either intentionally misled the country or was incompetent, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said Sunday. Rice, he said, “would have an incredibly difficult time” winning Senate confirmation as secretary of state.

But several White House officials said Obama is prepared to dig in his heels over her nomination to replace Hillary Rodham Clinton, who has long said she will serve only one term.

Rice’s post-Benghazi remarks on several television news shows were merely a recitation of administration talking points drawn directly from intelligence available at the time, said the senior administration officials, who agreed to discuss the closely held transition planning on the condition of anonymity.

Tommy Vietor, spokesman for the National Security Council, said the White House would not comment on personnel matters.

The upcoming hearings and an independent State Department review of the Benghazi attack — being led by retired diplomat Thomas Pickering and retired Adm. Mike Mullen, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — may reveal some intelligence lapses and security missteps, one official said. But they will also demonstrate that there was no attempt at subterfuge, the official added.

Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter also has been mentioned as a possible replacement for Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, as has been Michele Flournoy, former undersecretary for policy at the Pentagon.

The timing of a nomination for Panetta’s successor is unclear. On Monday, he said he had no imminent plans to step down but indicated that he was unlikely to stay in the job for the duration of Obama’s second term.

“Who the hell knows,” Panetta said when asked by reporters traveling with him to Australia whether he would remain in office for four more years. “It’s no secret that at some point I’d like to get back to California.”

Kerry did not respond to requests for comment on his possible nomination at the Pentagon. A spokeswoman, Jodi Seth, said: “Senator Kerry’s only focus right now is his job as senior senator from Massachusetts and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.”

But administration officials, one of whom described Kerry as a “war hero,” said his qualifications for the defense job included not only his naval service in Vietnam but also his knowledge of the budget and experience in the diplomacy that has increasingly become a part of the defense portfolio. They said the Democrats’ retention of the Senate majority, with a net gain of two seats, in the election provided a cushion that allowed them to consider Kerry’s departure from the chamber.

White House national security adviser Thomas E. Donilon, principal deputy Denis R. McDonough and Benjamin Rhodes, deputy for strategic communications, are more likely than not to remain in place, at least initially, officials said.

Antony J. Blinken, Vice President Biden’s national security adviser, is said to be under consideration for Rice’s job at the United Nations, as is Samantha Power, the National Security Council’s senior director for multilateral affairs and human rights.

It was unclear who would take Brennan’s job if he leaves government or moves to the CIA. He was the top contender to lead the agency when Obama was elected in 2008, but he withdrew under criticism, which he deemed unfair, of his role in intelligence excesses in the administration of George W. Bush. Although that challenge is now seen as behind him, officials said he has not indicated whether he would like to be considered again to head the agency where he spent 25 years.

Beyond complicating the overhaul of the national security team, Petraeus’s departure will send ripples through management layers at the CIA.

Many had expected Petraeus to stay in place for Obama’s second term, and he had spent recent months planning transitions at other key posts at CIA headquarters. Now, four of the agency’s most critical positions — director, deputy director, head of the National Clandestine Service and chief of the Counterterrorism Center — have become question marks.

Within hours of Petraeus’s resignation Friday, his biography was excised from the CIA Web site and replaced with that of Morell.

If Morell ends up permanently in the job, he will need to designate a new deputy and would be in charge of other pending personnel decisions that Petraeus had been poised to make.

Michael G. Vickers, undersecretary of defense for intelligence, also has been mentioned as a candidate for CIA director.

The head of the clandestine service, John Bennett, was talked out of retirement to take that job and has signaled his intent to step down in the coming months, current and former officials said.

The top position in the Counterterrorism Center, which carries out the CIA’s drone campaign, is also expected to come open. The current director, known by his cover name, “Roger,” has been in the job for more than six years. Former CIA officials said Roger has wanted to be named director of the clandestine service but has a reputation for harshness toward subordinates and had been expected to be passed over by Petraeus.

Morell was considered a standout analyst at the CIA before entering the agency’s upper ranks and is highly respected among his colleagues and at the White House. Obama, a White House official said, “has enormous trust in [Morell’s] ability to lead the CIA for as long as is necessary.” He is also considered a possible candidate to replace Brennan at the White House.

Craig Whitlock, traveling with Panetta, and Scott Wilson in Washington contributed to this report.

Pentagon Aims to Reduce Time, Cost for Weapons Design

Defense News

By MARCUS WEISGERBER

The U.S. Defense Department is looking at designing new weapons and equipment so foreign nations could more easily purchase them, thereby eliminating costly and time consuming redesigns needed to export many military systems today.

Senior Pentagon officials are already looking at exportability within development programs — including one for a radar and another for an electronic warfare system — that will serve as pilots for this effort.

Early in the design phase of these systems, components like “anti-tamper characteristics” and protection of certain technology will be considered, said Frank Kendall, undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics.

“We might want to have a slightly different variation of the product that we sell,” he said at a Nov. 13 briefing at the Pentagon.

This initiative is part of a hefty overhaul of DoD weapon buying guidance — dubbed Better Buying Power 2.0 — which is designed to improve efficiency and give the military more bang for its buck.

The Pentagon has looked to foreign exports of weapons, particularly in recent years as defense spending is slated to decline.

“In the current climate with budgets around the world coming down for defense spending, industry is looking to foreign sales more than ever to help keep their base healthy,” Kendall said. “This is a way to help them do that.”

Kendall acknowledged “it’s going to be a long-term journey to put this in place as you go through development and finally get into production and sales, but it’s going to pay dividends for the long term.”

Congress gave DoD the OK to run a pilot program that looks at designing exportability into a system from the beginning.

The pilot looks at several programs, including the Air Force Three Dimensional Expeditionary Long-Range Radar (3DELRR) and Navy Next-Generation Jammer.

The 3DELLR program is developing a mobile, long-range surveillance and ballistic missile defense radar. The Next-Generation Jammer is a Navy airborne electronic attack program.

“These are things that we would expect at some point to candidates for foreign sales or exports,” Kendall said. “This is relatively early in the design to take that into account.”

The new version of Better Buying Power updates guidance put into place two-and-a-half years ago by then DoD acquisition executive Ashton Carter, now the deputy defense secretary.

“Better Buying Power 2.0 … is a natural recognition of the fact that we can and must do more each and every year to get even better buying power and better value for the taxpayer and the warfighter,” Carter said during the Nov. 13 briefing.

The updated version of the weapons buying guidance focuses on support for the acquisition workforce. It also stresses incentivizing industry “by aligning profitability more tightly with [DoD] goals and employing appropriate contract types” and increasing the use of performance-based logistics contracts.

More detailed information about Better Buying Power 2.0 is available here: https://dap.dau.mil/bbp”>https://dap.dau.mil/bbp .

 

Air Force scraps massive ERP project after racking up $1B in costs

The Expeditionary Combat Support System ‘has not yielded any significant military capability’

 

By Chris Kanaracus

November 14, 2012 04:37 PM ET

 

IDG News Service – The U.S. Air Force has decided to scrap a major ERP (enterprise resource planning) software project after spending US$1 billion, concluding that finishing it would cost far too much more money for too little gain.

Dubbed the Expeditionary Combat Support System (ECSS), the project has racked up $1.03 billion in costs since 2005, “and has not yielded any significant military capability,” an Air Force spokesman said in an emailed statement Wednesday. “We estimate it would require an additional $1.1B for about a quarter of the original scope to continue and fielding would not be until 2020. The Air Force has concluded the ECSS program is no longer a viable option for meeting the FY17 Financial Improvement and Audit Readiness (FIAR) statutory requirement. Therefore, we are cancelling the program and moving forward with other options in order to meet both requirements.”

The Air Force will instead need to use its “existing and modified logistics systems for 2017 audit compliance,” the statement adds.

Air Force officials restructured the program three times within the past three years, and ultimately determined the military division “will be better served by developing an entirely new strategy versus revamping the ECSS system of record again,” it states.

The system dates back to 2005, when Oracle won an $88.5 million software contract, securing the deal over rival SAP and other vendors. It was supposed to replace more than 200 legacy systems. CSC had served as a systems integrator on the project, until its contract was terminated in March, according to an Air Force spokesman. An Oracle spokeswoman declined comment on Wednesday.

CSC “completed work on the ECSS contract in April,” a spokeswoman said in a statement. “The Air Force’s recent ECSS program announcement has no impact on CSC or its employees.”

ECSS’ demise had been foreshadowed for some time, with Air Force officials publicly stating they were assessing their options, and others openly bemoaning the project’s failings.

Military officials’ decision to stop the project now drew a stinging rebuke from analyst Michael Krigsman, CEO of consulting firm Asuret and an expert on IT project failures.

“This situation raises more questions than answers,” Krigsman said. “Why did it take the [Air Force] $1 billion and almost 10 years to realize this project is a disaster? What kind of planning process accepts a billion dollars of waste?”

Krigsman also questioned whether the Air Force will in fact have auditable books by 2017. “How can they achieve such a goal when this program is cancelled?” he said. Instead, it would be wise to revisit the topic in 2017, “at which time I suspect we will see another failure story accompanied by many excuses,” Krigsman added.

 

 

Cybersecurity bill fails in U.S. Senate

Some senators had raised concerns about government authority and privacy issues in the legislation

By Grant Gross

November 14, 2012 07:48 PM ET

IDG News Service – The U.S. Senate has voted against moving forward on a cybersecurity bill that supporters have called critical for national security.

The Senate late Wednesday voted 51-47 to end debate and move toward a final vote on the Cybersecurity Act but 60 votes were needed to move the bill forward. The Senate also failed to move forward on the bill during an August vote.

Tech trade group BSA called on lawmakers to give a high priority to cybersecurity legislation in 2013.

“It is disappointing that senators haven’t yet been able to reach an agreement on cybersecurity legislation — but stalemate doesn’t make the issue go away,” BSA President and CEO Robert Holleyman said in a statement. “There is no getting around the fact that we need to bolster America’s cybersecurity capabilities. We urge both parties to put this issue at the top of the agenda in the next Congress.”

 

Some Republicans have raised questions about the bill, which would allow the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to set cybersecurity standards, developed with the help of private companies, for operators of critical infrastructure. Critics have said the bill gives DHS too much power.

Other senators have raised privacy concerns about the bill, saying it would allow Internet service providers and other Web businesses to spy on customers to share information with the government without the need for a warrant.

The bill would create a new intra-agency council to work with private companies to develop cybersecurity standards that businesses could voluntarily adopt. The bill would offer incentives to companies that volunteer for cybersecurity programs, including protection from lawsuits related to cyberincidents and increased help and information on cybersecurity issues from U.S. agencies.

 

DoD News Release

IMMEDIATE RELEASE No. 901-12

November 15, 2012

Statement by the Press Secretary on Review of General and Flag Officer Ethics

 

The Secretary believes that the vast majority of our senior military officers exemplify the strength of character and the highest ethical standards the American people expect of those whose job it is to provide for the security of our nation. They represent not only the best of the American military but the American people. The majority of these officers lead by example, which is one of the reasons the United States military stands without peer.

Over the past several months, the Secretary has spoken with the service secretaries, service chiefs, and combatant commanders about those instances when senior officers have not lived up to the standards expected of them. This has been an ongoing discussion reflecting shared concerns.

This week, the Secretary directed General Dempsey to work with the other members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to review how to better foster a culture of stewardship among our most senior military officers. Their initial findings are due to the Secretary within the next few weeks.

This process is intended to reinforce and strengthen the standards that keep us a well led and disciplined military. Input to the Secretary will form the basis of a report to the President on the Department’s progress in this area by December 1, 2012.

 

 

Eurozone back in recession in Q3

Eurozone back in recession as official figures show 0.1 percent quarterly contraction in Q3

By Pan Pylas, Associated Press | Nov 15 2012

LONDON (AP) — The 17-country eurozone has bowed to the inevitable and fallen back into recession for the first time in three years as a sprawling debt crisis took its toll on the region’s stronger economies.

 

And with surveys pointing to increasingly depressed conditions across the eurozone at a time of high unemployment in many countries, there are fears that the recession will deepen, and make the debt crisis even more difficult to handle.

Official figures Thursday showed that the eurozone contracted by 0.1 percent in the July to September period from the quarter before as economies including Germany and the Netherlands suffer from falling demand.

The decline reported by Eurostat, the EU’s statistics office, was in line with market expectations and follows on from the 0.2 percent fall recorded in the second quarter. As a result, the eurozone is officially in recession, commonly defined as two straight quarters of falling output.

“We can dispense with the euphemisms and equivocation, and openly proclaim that the euro area economy is indeed in technical recession,” said James Ashley, senior European economist at RBC Capital Markets.

Because of the eurozone’s grueling three-year debt crisis, the region has the focus of concern for the world economy. The eurozone’s economy is worth around €9.5 trillion, or $12.1 trillion, which puts it on a par with the U.S. economy. The region, with its 332 million population, is the U.S.’s largest export customer, and any fall-off in demand will hit order books.

While the U.S has managed to bounce back from its own savage recession in 2008-09, albeit inconsistently, and China continues to post still-strong growth, Europe’s economies have been on a downward spiral — and there is little sign of any improvement in the near-term.

The eurozone has managed to avoid returning to recession for the first time since the financial crisis following the collapse of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers, mainly thanks to the strength of its largest single economy, Germany.

But even that country is struggling now as confidence wanes and exports drain in light of the debt problems afflicting large chunks of the eurozone.

Germany’s economy grew a muted 0.2 percent in the third quarter, down from a 0.3 percent increase in the previous quarter. Over the past year, Germany’s annual growth rate has more than halved to 0.9 percent from 1.9 percent.

Perhaps the most dramatic decline among the eurozone’s members was seen in the Netherlands, whose economy shrank 1.1 percent on the previous quarter.

Five eurozone countries are in recession — Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Cyprus. Those five are also at the center of Europe’s debt crisis and are imposing austerity measures, such as cuts to pensions and increases to taxes, in an attempt to stay afloat.

As well as hitting workers’ incomes and living standards, these measures have also led to a decline in economic output and a sharp increase in unemployment.

Spain and Greece have unemployment rates of over 25 percent. Their young people are faring even worse with every other person out of work. As well as being a cost to governments who have to pay out more for benefits, it carries a huge social and human cost.

Protests across Europe on Wednesday highlighted the scale of discontent and with economic surveys pointing to the downturn getting worse, the voices of anger may well get louder still.

“The likelihood is that this anger will continue to grow unless European leaders and policymakers start to act as if they have a clue as to how to resolve the crisis starting to unravel before their eyes,” said Michael Hewson, markets analyst at CMC Markets.

The wider 27-nation EU, which includes non-euro countries, avoided the same fate. It saw output rise 0.1 percent during the quarter, largely on the back of an Olympics-related boost in Britain.

 

The EU’s output as a whole is greater than the U.S. It is also a major source of sales for the world’s leading companies. Forty percent of McDonald’s global revenue comes from Europe – more than it generates in the U.S. General Motors, meanwhile, sold 1.7 million vehicles in Europe last year, a fifth of its worldwide sales.

 

China names conservative, older leadership

By Ben Blanchard and Sui-Lee Wee | Reuters – November 15, 2012

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s ruling Communist Party unveiled an older, conservative leadership line-up on Thursday that appears unlikely to take the drastic action needed to tackle pressing issues like social unrest, environmental degradation and corruption.

New party chief Xi Jinping, premier-in-waiting Li Keqiang and vice-premier in charge of economic affairs Wang Qishan, all named as expected to the elite decision-making Politburo Standing Committee, are considered cautious reformers. The other four members have the reputation of being conservative.

The line-up belied any hopes that Xi would usher in a leadership that would take bold steps to deal with slowing growth in the world’s second-biggest economy, or begin to ease the Communist Party’s iron grip on the most populous nation.

“We’re not going to see any political reform because too many people in the system see it as a slippery slope to extinction,” said David Shambaugh, director of the China Policy Program at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs.

“They see it entirely through the prism of the Soviet Union, the Arab Spring and the Colour Revolutions in Central Asia, so they’re not going to go there.”

Vice-Premier Wang, the most reform-minded in the line-up, has been given the role of fighting widespread graft, identified by both Xi and outgoing President Hu Jintao as the biggest danger faced by the party and the state.

The run-up to the handover has been overshadowed by the party’s biggest scandal in decades, with former high-flyer Bo Xilai sacked as party boss of southwestern Chongqing city after his wife was accused of murdering a British businessman.

Bo, who has not been seen in public since early this year, faces possible charges of corruption and abuse of power.

One source said an informal poll was held by over 200 voting members in the party’s central committee to choose the seven members of the standing committee from among 10 candidates. Two of them who had strong reform credentials – Guangdong party boss Wang Yang and party organization head Li Yuanchao – failed to make it, along with the lone woman candidate Liu Yandong.

The source, who has ties to the leadership, told Reuters on condition of anonymity that Wang and Li Yuanchao, both allies of Hu, did not make it to the standing committee because party elders felt they were too liberal.

However, all three are in the 25-member Politburo, a group that ranks below the standing committee. It was earlier believed the voting was confined to the Politburo.

 

OLDER

In the end, the seven-member leadership has an average age of 63.4 years compared with 62.1 five years ago. Xi led the others out in a parade at the Great Hall of the People, with all seven dressed in identical dark blue suits, all but one set off by red or maroon ties.

The final line-up of the team and even the number was speculated on for weeks. The committee was cut to seven members from nine, which should ease consensus building and decision making.

Except for Xi and his deputy Li Keqiang, all the others in the standing committee – the innermost circle of power in China’s authoritarian government – are 64 or above and will have to retire within five years, when the next party congress is held.

That means the party may just tread water on the most vital reforms until then, although after that, Xi would probably have more independence in choosing his team. The current line-up has been finalized by Xi and Hu, and by former president Jiang Zemin, who has wielded considerable influence in the party after the tumult over the Bo Xilai scandal.

Wang and Li Yuanchao could make it to the standing committee at the next party congress in 2017, perhaps along with so-called “sixth generation” leaders like Inner Mongolia party chief Hu Chunhua.

“The leadership is divided,” said Jean-Pierre Cabestan, a Chinese politics expert at Hong Kong Baptist University, adding however that the new leadership would find it easier to make progress on economic reform rather than political change.

“It’s easier for them to move to a new growth model. I think they agree upon that and that won’t be the hardest task. But I see a lot of political paralysis.”

Tony Saich, a China politics expert at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, said: “To me it smacks of a holding pattern. I think the understanding is that Wang Yang has a good shot in five years’ time.”

 

“SEVERE CHALLENGES”

Besides party chief, Xi was also appointed head of the party’s top military body, which gives him two of the three most important posts in the country. He will take over from Hu as president in March.

Jiang, who was Hu’s predecessor, did not give up the military post until two years after giving up the party leadership.

Xi said in an address that he understood the people’s desire for a better life but warned of severe challenges going forward.

“We are not complacent, and we will never rest on our laurels,” he said after introducing the standing committee at the Great Hall of the People in a carefully choreographed ceremony carried live on state television.

“Under the new conditions, our party faces many severe challenges, and there are also many pressing problems within the party that need to be resolved, particularly corruption, being divorced from the people, going through formalities and bureaucracy caused by some party officials.”

North Korean-trained economist Zhang Dejiang is expected to head the largely rubber-stamp parliament, while Shanghai party boss Yu Zhengsheng is likely to head parliament’s advisory body, according to the order in which their names were announced.

Tianjin party chief Zhang Gaoli and Liu Yunshan, a conservative who has kept domestic media on a tight leash, make up the rest of the group. Zhang should become executive vice premier.

“Words from the new leadership will be reform-minded, but deeds would be very cautious at least in economic and financial restructuring,” said Alberto Forchielli, managing partner at Mandarin Capital Partners in Shanghai.

Advocates of reform are pressing Xi to cut back the privileges of state-owned firms, make it easier for rural migrants to settle in cities, fix a fiscal system that encourages local governments to live off land expropriations and, above all, tether the powers of a state that they say risks suffocating growth and fanning discontent.

With growing public anger and unrest over everything from corruption to environmental degradation, there may also be cautious efforts to answer calls for more political reform, though nobody seriously expects a move towards full democracy.

The party could introduce experimental measures to broaden inner-party democracy – in other words, encouraging greater debate within the party – but stability remains a top concern and one-party rule will be safeguarded.

In contrast to the mounting excitement until the announcement of the standing committee at the Great Hall of the People, the unveiling barely caused a ripple in China’s vast countryside.

“We’re not really that interested,” said Chen Yongjiang, a fruit and vegetable farmer in Chenjiapu, a snow-covered village in Hebei province.

“For those of us in the farmlands and the mountains, as long as they make life better for us, we’re happy.”

(Additional reporting by Benjamin Kang Lim, Sabrina Mao and Sally Huang; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

 

NASA scrambles to encrypt laptops after major breach

Personally identifiable information on NASA employees, contractors exposed in Oct. 31 laptop theft; workers told of incident this week

Jaikumar Vijayan

November 14, 2012 (Computerworld)

 

NASA is scrambling to implement full disk encryption on agency laptops after one containing unencrypted personal information on a “large” number of people was recently stolen.

Agency employees were told of the October 31 theft of the laptop and NASA documents from a locked car in an email message Tuesday from Richard Keegan Jr., associate deputy administrator at NASA.

Keegan told employees that the stolen laptop contained sensitive “Personally Identifiable Information” (PII) about a large number of NASA employees, contractors and others.

“Although the laptop was password protected, it did not have whole disk encryption software, which means the information on the laptop could be accessible to unauthorized individuals,” Keegan warned.

“We are thoroughly assessing and investigating the incident, and taking every possible action to mitigate the risk of harm or inconvenience to affected employees,” he added.

NASA has hired data breach specialist ID Experts to help notify all of the individuals affected by the breach, Keegan said.

Those whose personal data could be accessed by the crooks will receive free credit monitoring and identity theft monitoring services as well as an insurance reimbursement policy in case of identity theft.

NASA did not respond to a request for information on how many employees were affected, or why the agency waited nearly two weeks to disclose the breach.

The incident marks the second time this year that a NASA laptop containing unencrypted sensitive information was stolen.

In March, a laptop containing names, Social Security Numbers, phone numbers, email addresses, dates of birth, college GPAs and other personal data of NASA employees at NASA”s Kennedy Space Center was stolen from the car of a worker at the facility, according to NASA Watch.

That breach also impacted a large but unspecified number of employees.

The latest incident appears to have finally pushed NASA to mandate full disk encryption on laptops containing sensitive data.

In his alert, Keegan noted that NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and CIO Linda Cureton have issued a directive prohibiting the removal of computers from a NASA facility unless whole disk encryption is enabled or all sensitive files are individually encrypted.

The directive applies to all laptops containing PII, data on International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), Export Administration Regulations (EAR) data, procurement and human resources information, and other sensitive but unclassified (SBU) data, Keegan said.

CIOs at all NASA facilities have been instructed to complete disk encryption on the “maximum possible number of laptops” by Nov. 21, Keegan said, and to add encryption capabilities to all laptops by Dec. 21. After that date, no laptop from any NASA facility, unless whole disk encryption is enabled.

“Additionally, the CIO will identify any other changes in policy and/or procedures that are necessary to prevent a recurrence of this type of breach in the future,” Keegan added.

NASA’s new measures appear intended to blunt criticism of the latest data breach.

The agency has been criticized in the past for lacking strong measures to protect sensitive data. In February , NASA Inspector General Paul Martin criticized the agency for lagging “far behind other federal agencies” in protecting data on agency laptops.

In testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Science, Space and Technology, Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight, Martin noted that NASA had reported the loss or theft of 48 mobile computing devices between April 2009 and April 2011. Some of the incidents resulted in unauthorized release of sensitive data, Martin had noted. (The full report is available here).

 

In his testimony, Martin pointed to the March 2011 theft of an unencrypted notebook computer that resulted in the exposure of algorithms used to command and control the International Space Station. In another incident, sensitive data on NASA’s Constellation and Orion programs were similar compromised when a laptop containing the data was stolen.

“NASA cannot consistently measure the amount of sensitive data exposed when employee notebooks are lost or stolen because the Agency relies on employees to self-report regarding the lost data rather than determining what was stored on the devices by reviewing backup files,” Martin testified.

“Until NASA fully implements an Agency-wide data encryption solution, sensitive data on its mobile computing and portable data storage devices will remain at high risk for loss or theft,” he added.

Gant Redmon, general counsel and vice president of business development at Co3 Systems, an incident management company, said the issue is why NASA didn’t take measures to encrypt all of its systems sooner. “I have two questions. Why didn’t they have it before the [March] incident? Why didn’t they have it after that first breach?”

 

Incidents like this highlight the somewhat cavalier attitude many organizations and employees continue to have towards handling PII on laptop computers, he added. It’s surprising that people continue to keep sensitive information on their laptops in unprotected fashion and then leave the laptops in relatively unprotected locations, Redmon added.

 

Obama signs secret directive to help thwart cyberattacks

Washington Post

By Ellen Nakashima, Published: November 14

President Obama has signed a secret directive that effectively enables the military to act more aggressively to thwart cyberattacks on the nation’s web of government and private computer networks.

Presidential Policy Directive 20 establishes a broad and strict set of standards to guide the operations of federal agencies in confronting threats in cyberspace, according to several U.S. officials who have seen the classified document and are not authorized to speak on the record. The president signed it in mid-October.

The new directive is the most extensive White House effort to date to wrestle with what constitutes an “offensive” and a “defensive” action in the rapidly evolving world of cyberwar and cyberterrorism, where an attack can be launched in milliseconds by unknown assailants utilizing a circuitous route. For the first time, the directive explicitly makes a distinction between network defense and cyber-operations to guide officials charged with making often-rapid decisions when confronted with threats.

The policy also lays out a process to vet any operations outside government and defense networks and ensure that U.S. citizens’ and foreign allies’ data and privacy are protected and international laws of war are followed.

“What it does, really for the first time, is it explicitly talks about how we will use cyber-
operations,” a senior administration official said. “Network defense is what you’re doing inside your own networks. . . . Cyber-operations is stuff outside that space, and recognizing that you could be doing that for what might be called defensive purposes.”

The policy, which updates a 2004 presidential directive, is part of a wider push by the Obama administration to confront the growing cyberthreat, which officials warn may overtake terrorism as the most significant danger to the country.

“It should enable people to arrive at more effective decisions,” said a second senior administration official. “In that sense, it’s an enormous step forward.”

Legislation to protect private networks from attack by setting security standards and promoting voluntary information sharing is pending on the Hill, and the White House is also is drafting an executive order along those lines.

James A. Lewis, a cybersecurity expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, welcomed the new directive as bolstering the government’s capability to defend against “destructive scenarios,” such as those that Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta recently outlined in a speech on cybersecurity.

“It’s clear we’re not going to be a bystander anymore to cyberattacks,” Lewis said.

The Pentagon is expected to finalize new rules of engagement that would guide commanders on when and how the military can go outside government networks to prevent a cyberattack that could cause significant destruction or casualties.

The presidential directive attempts to settle years of debate among government agencies about who is authorized to take what sorts of actions in cyberspace and with what level of permission.

An example of a defensive cyber-operation that once would have been considered an offensive act, for instance, might include stopping a computer attack by severing the link between an overseas server and a targeted domestic computer.

“That was seen as something that was aggressive,” said one defense official, “particularly by some at the State Department” who often are wary of actions that might infringe on other countries’ sovereignty and undermine U.S. advocacy of Internet freedom. Intelligence agencies are wary of operations that may inhibit intelligence collection. The Pentagon, meanwhile, has defined cyberspace as another military domain — joining air, land, sea and space — and wants flexibility to operate in that realm.

But cyber-operations, the officials stressed, are not an isolated tool. Rather, they are an integral part of the coordinated national security effort that includes diplomatic, economic and traditional military measures.

Offensive cyber actions, outside of war zones, would still require a higher level of scrutiny from relevant agencies and generally White House permission.

The effort to grapple with these questions dates to the 1990s but has intensified as tools and weapons in cyberspace become ever more sophisticated.

One of those tools was Stuxnet, a computer virus jointly developed by the United States and Israel that damaged nearly 1,000 centrifuges at an Iranian nuclear plant in 2010. If an adversary should turn a similar virus against U.S. computer systems, whether public or private, the government needs to be ready to preempt or respond, officials have said.

Since the creation of the military’s Cyber Command in 2010, its head, Gen. Keith Alexander, has forcefully argued that his hundreds of cyberwarriors at Fort Meade should be given greater latitude to stop or prevent attacks. One such cyber-ops tactic could be tricking malware by sending it “sleep” commands.

Alexander has put a particularly high priority on defending the nation’s private-sector computer systems that control critical functions such as making trains run, electricity flow and water pure.

But repeated efforts by officials to ensure that the Cyber Command has that flexibility have met with resistance — sometimes from within the Pentagon itself — over concerns that enabling the military to move too freely outside its own networks could pose unacceptable risks. A major concern has always been that an action may have a harmful unintended consequence, such as shutting down a hospital generator.

Officials say they expect the directive will spur more nuanced debate over how to respond to cyber-incidents. That might include a cyberattack that wipes data from tens of thousands of computers in a major industrial company, disrupting business operations, but doesn’t blow up a plant or kill people.

The new policy makes clear that the government will turn first to law enforcement or traditional network defense techniques before asking military cyberwarfare units for help or pursuing other alternatives, senior administration officials said.

“We always want to be taking the least action necessary to mitigate the threat,” said one of the senior administration officials. “We don’t want to have more consequences than we intend.”

 

Report: DoD Could Save Billions With New Military Strategy

Defense News

Nov 15 2012

By MARCUS WEISGERBER

The U.S. Defense Department could save hundreds of billions of dollars if it revamps its military strategy and makes its forces more expeditionary, according to a new think tank report.

The nonpartisan Stimson Center released the strategy on Nov. 15 at a time when lawmakers and the White House are trying to come up with a plan to lower the U.S. deficit. The study’s authors — a group that includes a handful of retired general and flag officers — have made suggestions of areas where DoD could make cuts and contribute to a debt-reduction plan.

“This strategy was developed and supported by a diverse group of very knowledgeable people and can provide a roadmap for defense’s contribution to resolving our overall fiscal situation, while protecting our national security,” said Barry Blechman, co-founder and distinguished fellow at Stimson, in a Nov. 14 interview.

Retired officers that were part of the report’s advisory committee included Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright, Adm. Bill Owens, Army Gen. B.B. Bell, Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula and Army Lt. Gen. Daniel Christman. A number of other former high-level diplomats and strategists also contributed to the report.

For the past year, senior DoD officials have said the Pentagon would need to develop a new military strategy should the Pentagon have to weather spending reductions above the $487 billion in cuts already planned over the next decade.

The Stimson strategy — which the authors call “Strategic Agility” — focuses on protecting the United States, protecting U.S. allies and assuring access to the global commons. It is structured to allow DoD to intervene in intra-state conflicts and stabilizing a nation to avoid a threat, such as the establishment of terrorist camps.

Strategic Agility calls for maintaining air, space and naval forces stronger than any potential adversary and maintaining advanced technology and special operations forces. It calls for a greater amount of defense-related research and development, which could be used in next-generation weapons.

The strategy calls for maintaining “competent ground forces as a deterrent.” It also calls for revising what it calls Cold War planning assumptions.

The study recommends the Air Force and Army structure themselves more like the Navy and Marine Corps. The panel urges a greater use of rotational deployments, much like the Navy and Marine Corps are already structured, particularly as the Pentagon focuses more on the Asia-Pacific region.

“In an evolutionary way, we should move away from the kind of static, big garrisons that characterized [our deployments] in the Cold War — and still characterize us to a degree — and move toward a more expeditionary model,” Blechman said.

Marines are already conducting rotational deployments to Australi,a and the Navy is preparing to do the same with some of its smaller ships in Singapore.

“We certainly should avoid deployments in the Middle East and only use rotational deployments there,” Blechman said. “We can make further reductions in Europe over time as well.”

The strategy could be implemented at “whatever level of resources that eventually goes to the department,” Blechman said.

Applying the Strategy to Sequestration

The group also looked at ways to make DoD more efficient without cutting end strength and major weapons programs. The panel examined a vast number of official studies and expert recommendations and concluded DoD could save about $1 trillion if it implemented these suggestions.

By instituting “better manpower utilization” measures and compensation system acquisition system reforms, DoD could save $1 trillion over the next decade, according to the report.

“No one thinks you could implement all of them, but when we looked at the implications of our strategy at alternative budget levels, we assumed either we got 20 percent of those savings or 40 percent of those savings,” Blechman said. “We used it to illustrate how much less difficult the choices would be if you’re forced to reduce defense spending if you were able to implement these efficiency measures.”

Since the panel focused on achieving only 40 percent or 20 percent of the $1 trillion of potential savings, additional defense spending cuts would be needed should sequestration — about a $500 billion Pentagon budget reduction over the next decade – go into effect Jan. 2.

However, the panel looked at phasing in the mandated cuts gradually over several years and not cutting all accounts evenly at 10 percent. The group calls this plan a “smooth sequester.”

If DoD achieved $400 billion — or 40 percent of the $1 trillion in efficiencies — it would still need to cut about $150 billion.

To reach that goal, the panel looked at cutting the Army budget by 2 percent per year, reducing brigade combat teams from 45 to between 35 and 40. The Navy could accelerate its retirements of Ticonderoga-class cruisers.

It also looked at a 1 percent cut to the Air Force budget each year and retiring 13 active-duty F-16 fighter squadrons. The report recommends keeping lower-end F-16 in the Air National Guard and placing high-end aircraft, such as the F-35 joint strike fighters, in active-duty squadrons.

Lastly, DoD could choose between cutting missile defense spending or reducing nuclear forces and modernization forces.

Even with these cuts, DoD could double its funding of basic applied research, increase special operations forces, increase cyber warfare capabilities and increase funding for space systems, the report states.

Assuming the lower level of efficiency savings — $200 billion — DoD would need to make deeper cuts to its force.

It could include cutting the Army budget 5 percent and the number of brigade combat teams to 30, according to the report.

In the Air Force, the service could choose between active-duty F-16 cuts or reducing F-35 development. For the Navy, it could mean reducing F-35 development. The Marine Corps could cut its budget by 1 percent, reduce end strength by 7 percent and reprioritize its procurement plans.

Lastly, as in the other first scenario, DoD could choose between cutting missile defense or reducing nuclear forces and modernization forces.

Report at : http://www.stimson.org/images/uploads/research-pdfs/A_New_US_Defense_Strategy_for_a_New_Era.pdf


 

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