Skip to content

January 26 2013

January 28, 2013

26Jan2013

Newswire

 

Stealth Wear hoodie is an invisibility cloak to drones

Slashgear.com

Brittany Hillen, Jan 18, 2013

http://www.slashgear.com/stealth-wear-hoodie-is-an-invisibility-cloak-to-drones-18265942/

In light of the drones used to prowl the skies while snooping on the everyday person, Adam Harvey has designed a Stealth Wear hoodie that serves as a type of invisibility cloak against the spying equipment. Harvey hails from New York, and is no stranger in the world of surveillance-thwarting apparel. Some of the artist’s other items in this category include CVDazzle, makeup that foils face-recognition applications.

The Stealth Wear hoodie functions in a simple manner — by blocking thermal radiation, which is how the drones “see.” Without being able to sense the body heat, the drone will only see the parts of the body not concealed by the hoodie: face, hands, and legs, for example. The Steal Wear is expensive to produce, and cannot be purchased from an ordinary store, although it is reported that the item will be available for purchase.

In addition to the hoodie, Harvey has also created a scarf that works in a similar manner, making one’s neck and face seem black to a drone. For those concerned about the health effects of the x-ray machines in airports, he has also created a t-shirt with a design said to safeguard the wearer’s heart from radiation. Finally, he has also produced a cell phone pouch to block radio signals and prevent tracking.

Starting today, Harvey is showing off his Stealth Wear items at an exhibition with Primitive London, which is set to run until the 31st. The items showcased were made with the help of designer Johanna Bloomfield, and are demonstrated during the exhibit with real-world tests used to reveal the “process behind each technology and counter technology.” Says Harvey, these items are a way to explore the realm of privacy and surveillance.

 

Report: California Plastic Bag Ban Endangers Health

Newsmax.com

Jan 20, 2013

 

The ban on plastic grocery bags enacted in San Francisco and several other California communities has an unexpected side effect — an increase in food-borne illnesses, emergency room visits, and even deaths.

The culprit: the reusable grocery bags that shoppers use instead, which are breeding grounds for E. coli and other harmful bacteria, according to a new report by university researchers.

San Francisco County enacted a ban on non-compostable plastic bags at large grocery stores and drug stores in 2007, and extended it to all retail establishments in early 2012. Los Angeles followed suit in 2012, as did several other California communities including Malibu and Palo Alto.

The bans were designed to reduce litter and threats to marine life posed by discarded bags, and encourage the use of reusable grocery bags.

But studies “suggest that reusable grocery bags harbor harmful bacteria, the most important of which is E. coli,” say Jonathan Klick, a professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania, and Joshua D. Wright, a professor at the George Mason University School of Law and Department of Economics.

“If individuals fail to clean their reusable bags, these bacteria may lead to contamination of the food transported in the bags. Such contamination has the potential to lead to health problems and even death.”

Tests of randomly selected reusable grocery bags found coliform bacteria in 51 percent of them, and E. coli in 8 percent.

According to the researchers’ report, which was released by the Social Science Research Network, most users did not use separate bags for meats and vegetables, 97 percent said they never washed their bags, and bacteria appeared to grow at a faster rate when the bags were stored in car trunks.

When the researchers analyzed data related to E. coli infections, the results were troubling: “The San Francisco County ban is associated with a statistically significant and particularly large increase in ER visits for E. coli infections,” they said — a rise of at least 25 percent.

In addition, “the San Francisco County ban is associated with a 46 percent increase in deaths from food-borne illnesses.”

Their conclusion: “We find that both deaths and ER visits spiked as soon as the ban went into effect.

“Conservative estimates of the costs and benefits of the San Francisco plastic bag ban suggest the health risks they impose are not likely offset by environmental benefits.”

 

US Slips Out of Top 10 ‘Happiest Countries’

Newsmax.com

Jan 20, 2013

For the first time, the United States does not rank in the top 10 of the Legatum Institute’s annual ranking of the World’s Happiest Countries.

The country ranked No. 10 last year in Legatum’s Prosperity Index, which has been computed for the past six years, but this year the United States ranks No. 12.

The Prosperity Index is based on a study of 142 countries. Nations are ranked on 89 indicators in eight categories including Economy, Governance, Education, Health, Personal Freedom, and Entrepreneurship & Opportunity.

“In general, the most prosperous (thus ‘happiest’ in my book) countries enjoy stable political institutions, a strong civil society with freedom of expression, good education and healthcare, personal freedom, and a feeling of being safe and secure,” observes Christopher Helman on Forbes.com.

The United States slipped to No. 12 in the Entrepreneurship & Opportunity category “due to a decline in citizens’ perception that working hard gets you ahead,” the Legatum’s report states.

America ranks only 27th in Safety & Security and 20th in Economy, but No. 2 in Health and No. 5 in Education. Its rank for Personal Freedom is 14th.

Luxembourg is the healthiest nation, Iceland the safest, and Switzerland is tops in the Economy and Governance categories. But the No. 1 spot overall goes to Norway, which ranks among the top six in seven categories and is No. 1 or No. 2 in three of them.

Norway has a per capita GDP of $57,000 a year; 95 percent of Norwegians say they are satisfied with the freedom to choose the direction of their lives; and 74 percent say other people can be trusted.

The No. 2 spot goes to Denmark, which is tops for Entrepreneurship & Opportunity, followed by Sweden, Australia, New Zealand (which has the No. 1 spot in the Education category), Canada (No. 1 in Personal Freedom), Finland, Netherlands, Switzerland, Ireland, Luxembourg, and the United States.

At the bottom of the rankings at No. 142, the “saddest” country is the Central African Republic, where the per capita GDP is $790 a year and life expectancy is 48 years. The country ranks dead last in Education and next to last in Entrepreneurship & Opportunity.

The next lowest ranking goes to Republic of Congo — last in Health and Entrepreneurship & Opportunity — followed by Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, and Haiti.

Among other countries, Iran is No. 102, Mexico is No. 61, Iraq is No. 131, Israel is No. 40, and China is No. 55.

The most dangerous country on earth? Chad, which ranks No. 142 in the Safety & Security category.

Yemen ranks last in Personal Freedom, although several countries including North Korea were not included in the rankings.

   

Quick fix for Dreamliner looks less likely, experts say

CNN

By Melissa Gray and Thom Patterson

January 21, 2013

(CNN) — As the mystery deepened surrounding the new 787 Dreamliner battery system, U.S. federal investigators were set to conduct more tests aimed at eventually returning Boeing’s grounded aircraft to the sky.

Tuesday’s NTSB tests will be conducted at a special facility Arizona.

Tests conducted in Washington show that a lithium-ion battery that caught fire aboard an empty JAL Boeing 787 Dreamliner in Boston this month was not overcharged, the National Transportation Safety Board said Sunday.

Suspicions about the batteries and a possible fire risk prompted the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and other nations to ground all 50 Dreamliners worldwide last week, pending an investigation of the Boston fire and other reports of mechanical problems.

The aircraft, which costs about $200 million and debuted 15 months ago, is the first major airliner to be rolled out in years. Among U.S. carriers, only United Airlines currently operates the Dreamliners. It has six. The airline began the nation’s first domestic 787 routes in November.

Sunday’s NTSB announcement “doesn’t bode as well for a quick fix as Boeing would have liked,” said John Goglia, a former member of the NTSB, the nation’s top aviation investigation agency. “It’s one step in the process. It’s not great news, but it’s not bad news either.”

The probe is focusing on the 787’s cutting-edge lithium ion battery system, which is the most extensive airliner battery system of its kind. Other airliner battery systems are mostly powered by more traditional and heavier nickel cadmium cells.

On Tuesday in Arizona, the NTSB team plans to test the battery charger and download computer memory components from the auxiliary power unit, or APU, controller, the agency said. The APU powers non-propulsion systems aboard an airliner.

The examination of the Boston plane’s flight recorder data indicated the APU battery did not exceed its designed voltage of 32 volts, according to Sunday’s NTSB statement. It didn’t appear to be overcharged, which might overheat the unit and cause a fire. But experts pointed out to CNN that there was no mention in the statement about how quickly the JAL 787 battery was discharging.

Discharging the battery too quickly, or with too low voltage, can also cause it to overheat, said University of Dayton professor Raul Ordonez, an aircraft electrical and computer engineer who spent time observing Dreamliner development at Boeing’s Seattle headquarters.

Investigators in Washington have taken X-rays and CT scans of the lithium-ion battery that caught fire in Boston, the NTSB said, and they have taken the battery apart and examined some of its individual cells.

The agency said it has also examined several other components from the plane, including wire bundles and battery management circuit boards.

“The fact that the NTSB is basically looking at every component around the battery, including the computer hardware and the (memory) software, means that they have no idea yet about a culprit and (they) suspect everything,” Ordonez said.

The batteries in question are manufactured by Japan’s GS Yuasa, under a subcontract to France-based Thales, Boeing said. Kyoto-based GS Yuasa says it has dispatched a team to Washington to help in the investigation.

Boeing is using the lithium-ion batteries to electronically assist some of the functions that were previously performed using hydraulics. A lighter plane is more fuel efficient, which is one of the 787’s main selling points.

There is no need to drain lithium-ion batteries fully before recharging, meaning less maintenance, though they can catch fire if overcharged.

The grounding resulted from recent mechanical and other glitches culminating with the fire in Boston and an emergency landing in Japan last week prompted by a battery alarm. Some of the 129 people aboard reported a burning smell in the cabin, and an alarm indicated smoke in an electrical compartment.

The FAA issued a directive last week ordering all U.S. 787s not to fly until the problems are resolved. Other nations quickly followed suit, including the Polish carrier LOT, which told CNN in a statement it is considering seeking compensation from Boeing for costs associated with the grounding.

“We are preparing for such a solution. At this moment it’s too early to reveal any news.” the statement said.

Airbus uses lithium-ion batteries to power some systems aboard its A350 airliners. A spokeswoman said in a statement to CNN that Airbus “will carefully study any recommendations that come out of the 787 investigation and evaluate whether they apply to the A350 XWB.”

Boeing said Friday it will not deliver any Dreamliners to its customers as it works with the FAA over the battery concerns.

“We need to get the bottom of this,” said Goglia. “We need to get comfortable with flying these airplanes again.”

 

 

 

 

Ohio’s labor pool continues to shrink

Dayton Daily News

Posted: 12:00 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013

By Cornelius Frolik

After trending upward for decades, labor force participation in Ohio has declined for four straight years and has plummeted to a 26-year low, according to a Dayton Daily News analysis.

Some of the causes are long-term and structural. Fewer teenagers are seeking and obtaining employment. More people are enrolling in post-secondary schools. Some older workers are calling it quits. And the share of woman entering the workforce has leveled off.

But millions of Americans, including a few hundred thousand Ohioans, would likely be in the workforce if the job market and economy were in better shape, according to some labor economists.

Many of these workers are expected to return to the job market when economic conditions improve, which will impact unemployment and increase competition for open positions.

Ohioans sidelined from the labor market for long periods of time are more likely to struggle with job instability and reduced earnings when they decide to rejoin, experts said.

“Being displaced from a job has serious and long-lasting effects,” said Heidi Shierholz, a labor market economist with the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C.

In 2011, about 64.1 percent of Ohioans 16 and older were in the labor force, which was the lowest participation rate since 1985, according to an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute of data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Members of the labor force are either employed or unemployed and actively looking for work.

 

In Ohio, labor force participation bounced around in the last three decades, but it trended upward, rising from 63.9 percent in 1979 to a peak of 67.8 percent in 2007, according to the data analysis.

Nationwide, labor force participation has steadily risen since the late 1940s, as women increasingly decided they wanted to work. Participation rates for men began falling around the same time, but the losses were more than offset by women breaking into the labor market. In 1948, about 33 percent of U.S. women were in the workforce. In 2000, that peaked to about 60 percent, and currently it’s about 57.7 percent as of December 2012, according to labor data.

But overall U.S. labor force participation rose in the late 1990s, and it crept downward through the mid-2000s. Then the recession hit, and the labor force quickly contracted. Between 1948 and 2012, men’s participation has dropped from more than 86 percent to about 70 percent.

Experts said the shrinking labor force is partly caused by demographic changes and structural shifts that were going to happen even if the economy had not crashed. Participation among women, for instance, plateaued, and began to edge downward.

“The rise in the overall participation rate that we saw for so many years, up until about 2000, was driven primarily by rising women’s participation, but that’s no longer the dominant force,” said William Even, Raymond E. Glos professor of economics with the Farmer School of Business at Miami University. “The other thing that’s happening is very young adults have seen marked declines in their participation rate.”

 

A degree to succeed

Beginning in the 1990s, more young people between the ages of 16 and 24 started choosing to stay in school and opting not to work, experts said. Labor force participation among Ohioans 16 to 19 years old fell to 44.2 percent in 2011 from 59.3 percent in 1999, labor data show. Between 1999 and 2011, participation for Ohioans 20 to 24 years old slipped to 74.7 from 79.7 percent.

One reason for these declines is that it has become harder to find work without a degree or special training. It is projected by 2018 that 57 percent of the new jobs planned for Ohio will require working adults with a college degree. So far, only 36 percent of working age adults have a degree. Employers want skilled workers and enrollment in higher education has soared. Also, fewer young people are expected to work while in school.

“Families are more concerned about schooling, so during the school year they don’t want their children working — they want them focusing on their studies,” Even said.

And then there’s the baby boomers, who began turning 65 years old on Jan. 1, 2011.

More than 10,000 boomers will turn 65 every day through 2030, according to the Pew Research Center.

More older workers are reaching their disability-prone years, and they are choosing to retire or go on disability, experts said. A record 8.8 million Americans received disability in 2012, up 24 percent from 7.1 million in 2007. Workforce participation for Ohioans 55 and older dipped to 38.9 percent in 2011 from 39.4 percent in 2007.

 

“As more and more baby boomers retire, we are going to have a smaller share of the adult population who are actively involved in the labor force,” Even said.

But the long-run trends were accelerated by the economic downturn, leading to sharp drops in the participation rate.

Many people are marginally attached to the workforce, and they typically stop looking for work when the economy struggles and they are forced to compete for lower-skilled positions with higher-skilled workers, said Lewis Horner, section chief of workforce research with the Ohio Bureau of Labor Market Information.

“In some cases, you have people with college educations taking jobs that don’t require a college education, because that’s what they can get right now,” he said. “What that might mean is they will push out the marginally attached people.”

Declining labor force participation indicates that the economy is not producing the types of jobs that make it attractive for more people to seek work, said David Blau, economics professor with The Ohio State University.

And a shrinking workforce can have negative economic consequences.

“It’s not so straightforward,” Blau said. “But you need people working in the labor force to contribute to economic growth, and also it means they are sustaining themselves as opposed to living off either their parents and relatives or the state.”

If there were better job opportunities, about 3.9 million Americans who are not in the labor market would be, said Shierholz, with the Economic Policy Institute.

If Ohio’s labor force participation rate in 2011 was the same as it was in 2007 — 67.8 percent — there would have been about 336,000 more Ohioans in the workforce, according to a Dayton Daily News analysis of labor data.

“Two-thirds of the decline in labor force participation (since the start of the recession) is made up of people who would be in the labor force if job opportunities were strong,” she said. “I call them ‘missing workers.'”

Many missing workers, who dropped out of the labor market, will return when the economy begins to grow robustly again, Shierholz said. But she said that could take years, and the longer workers sit out, the harder it will be for them to find and keep good-paying work.

“Long periods of job loss (and lack of employment) can have lasting effects on people’s earnings,” she said. “They will feel the scars from that for a long time.”

Workers who go long stretches without a job typically earn less after becoming reemployed than they did at their previous jobs, she said. Typically, they also have less job security.

 

If the job market shows strong improvement, it could also result in the declining unemployment rate to slow or stall, because more people would enter the job market. In December, Ohio’s unemployment rate fell by 0.1 percent to 6.7 percent, even though the state lost 9,400 jobs. State officials said the rate decreased because more workers dropped out of the labor force.

 

 

Why Americans Still Don’t Drive Electric Cars

The Fiscal Times

By JULIE HALPERT, The Fiscal Times January 22, 2013

Six months ago, Bradley Kerstetter of Cleveland, Ohio, traded in his 2011 Chrysler 200 for a lease on a 2012 all-electric Nissan LEAF. Kerstetter thought the LEAF would be ideal for his 12-mile round-trip commute to work. “It was almost like owning a piece of history,” he said. The car prompted stares and questions from strangers.

But last month, he paid $5,000 to terminate his $356-a-month lease well before the expiration date. The car was “nearly useless in the winter,” lasting as little as 43 miles on a charge instead of the promised 73 miles. A 220 volt home charger in Kerstetter’s detached garage was prohibitively expensive ($1,500, plus the cost to have his electric service rewired in the garage), so he was forced to use a 120 volt charger provided with the car, which could take 20 hours.

He says he’s an example of why sales of electric vehicles (EVs) are so low. “They’re just not practical for most of the market,” he says.

The Obama administration has set a goal of a million plug-in electric vehicles on the road by 2015. The administration was also behind aggressive fuel efficiency standards that require carmakers to achieve an average of 35 miles per gallon in their fleet by 2025, a situation that encourages development of the zero emissions vehicles. And California requires that a portion of the fleet be zero-emitting. But even if carmakers build EVs, a key question remains: Will the public buy them in sufficient numbers to make a difference?

To date, the answer has been no, with purchases limited to a small segment of the population: typically affluent, environmentally-minded consumers and early adopters of technology. According to LMC Automotive, U.S. Inc., a market research company, only 9,819 LEAFs were sold in 2012. Chevrolet’s plug-in electric Volt, which has a gas engine that kicks in after a 30-to-40 mile electric range, fared better; 23,461 were sold in 2012, compared to 7,671 the previous year. All told, electric and plug-in electric vehicles accounted for a mere 0.1 percent in 2012 of the 15-million-vehicle-per-year car market, barely up from the 0.09 percent the previous year.

 

MARKDOWNS AS AN INDUCEMENT

In an effort to jump-start the market, Nissan announced this month that it’s reducing the price of its Nissan LEAF S Trim levels to $28,800, a $6,000 price reduction. It hopes to further trim costs by localizing production, moving manufacturing to its Smyrna, Tennessee, plant.

Late last year, Chevrolet cut the Volt’s original $349-a-month lease rate to the current rate, $299 a month, a likely factor in the sales surge this year, said Mike Omotoso, senior manager for global powertrain at LMC Automotive. “Even though we talk about environment, at the end of the day, it’s still a financial decision for most people,” he said. His firm predicts that in 10 years, only 1.5 percent to 2 percent of the market will be all electric vehicles, while plug-in hybrids like the Volt will represent 2.6 percent of the market.

Steve Plotkin, a transportation and energy analyst for Argonne National Labs, says LEAF sales, in particular, have been disappointing. But he’s not entirely surprised. “You’re asking people to take a big leap of faith in the beginning,” he said. He believes the government’s $7,500 tax credit for electric vehicles is a good way to spur a transition, but he says the electric car’s future is dependent on so many factors: the price of oil; whether there’s a breakthrough in now-costly battery technology; how quickly a charging infrastructure develops; and how much the public will accept this new technology. If more people begin to buy these vehicles and they start to be produced on a mass scale, that will drive down costs, luring more buyers, he said.

A report out this month by the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs indicates the public has significant reservations about purchasing EVs. A survey of more than 2,300 adult drivers in 21 large U.S. cities found that the perceived drawbacks of electric vehicles outweigh the advantages for most consumers. The main perceived drawbacks were the price of the vehicles and a limited driving range that requires frequent battery recharging.

The report also found that some cities, like San Jose, Chicago and Boston, had more drivers willing to purchase EVs, while others, like Nashville and Detroit, had the fewest number of interested drivers. The problem with cities is, although they have more public charging stations, anyone living in an apartment complex or housing without a private garage will be unable to install a home charging station – an inconvenience for many potential EV drivers.

Though these findings don’t bode well for EVs in the near-term, Sanya Carley, one of the report’s authors, doesn’t think they’re cause for concern. She points out that consumers held the same reservations about gas electric hybrids – now far more accepted – when they first hit the market. But she says EVs represent a far greater shift, especially because of the lingering fear that consumers could find themselves stranded if their battery dies.

To help alleviate range anxiety issues, AAA has employed roadside charging assistance in certain cities. A charger built into a truck has a plug that fits into an EV and can provide 10 to 12 miles of range in 10 to 12 minutes. AAA started deploying the chargers last year in Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay area and Portland; in the next few months it will add Seattle, Washington, Knoxville, Tennessee and Orlando, Florida, to that list. More will be added as the EV market develops. (A triptick travel planner lists all the charging stations in the country.)

Despite the concerns, car manufacturers are betting on the growth of EVs. Last year, six new EVs were unveiled, while four more are due this year. Bradley Berman, a research analyst at Pike Research and an editor at PluginCars.com, is particularly excited about Tesla’s Model S, which is due out this year and recently won Motor Trend’s “Car of the Year” award. It’s one of the largest EVs to date, , and can go over 200 miles on one charge. “It’s an amazing car,” Berman said. “I think the more familiar people get with these cars” and see their neighbors driving them, “the more traction there will be.”

Though plagued by reports of financial problems, Tesla hopes to sell 20,000 of this year’s Model S globally in 2013. Tesla spokeswoman Christina Ra is optimistic Tesla can achieve that, given that over 13,000 reservations have already been made. Though it carries a price tag of $52,400 (after the $7,500 tax credit), Ra says it’s in line with the price of other luxury sedans.

Dave Hirschkop, who lives in San Francisco and drives less than 25 miles per day, was drawn to Tesla after seeing his neighbor’s car. He put a deposit down on a Model S a year ago and will get it in two months – drawn to an EV that can fit his family of five, is “lightening fast” and has “amazing innovative features.”

While the Cleveland weather was not kind to Kerstetter’s LEAF battery, Vijay Lal, who lives in San Jose, California, is in love with his electric car. He’s has had “zero problems over the 16 months he’s owned the LEAF. “My personal belief is that EVs are the wave of the future,” he said. Car makers, deeply invested in the technology, certainly hope other consumers feel the same way.

 

IRS will start processing tax returns late this year

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

January 22, 2013 12:34 am

By Len Boselovic

Congressional procrastination has caused problems for the diligent — and those looking forward to a refund — who want to dispatch their 2012 federal income tax returns as soon as possible.

The IRS said it will begin processing individual tax returns Jan. 30, eight days later than it had anticipated.

That delay was caused by Congress and President Barack Obama dragging their feet in coming to terms on what to do about the long list of tax cuts that expired at the end of 2012.

The delay will cause even bigger problems for a smaller set of taxpayers, including those who claim depreciation and amortization for rental or business property, home energy credits, adoption expenses and a host of other items.

The IRS must update forms for claiming those and other, less common credits, then test its computer system to make sure it can process the forms correctly. As a result, the agency said it will be late February or early March before it will start processing tax returns that include those forms.

Downtown accountant Paul Rudoy said the eight-day delay could cause some problems for taxpayers eager to complete their returns so they can fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. Colleges use the standard form to make decisions on need-based financial aid.

Mr. Rudoy said uncertainty about what Congress would do about the alternative minimum tax, or AMT, was the biggest reason the IRS had to push back the start of tax season.

Congress enacted the alternative minimum tax in 1969 in an effort to make sure the affluent, who can reduce their tax bills by taking advantage of large deductions and exemptions, pay a minimum amount of taxes. The AMT limits the amount of deductions and exemptions that can be claimed based on the taxpayer’s income.

However, because the AMT was not indexed for inflation, Congress has had to make adjustments so that middle-class taxpayers are not subjected to a tax intended to target the more affluent.

The tax law that Congress and the president agreed to a few weeks ago provided a permanent fix for the AMT, making inflation adjustments automatic without lawmaker action.

That and other provisions should mean the tax season will get off to a normal start next year.

“We don’t have as many unknowns for the end of 2013 as we did for the end of 2012,” Mr. Rudoy said.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/business/news/irs-will-start-processing-tax-returns-late-this-year-671457/#ixzz2IiwCnSrp

 

Bracing for furloughs: DoD, others begin detailed sequester planning

Federal Times

Jan. 21, 2013 – 07:03AM |

By SEAN REILLY and STEPHEN LOSEY

Federal agencies are girding for mass furloughs and other cutbacks as across-the-board budget reductions loom in barely a month.

 

“Hundreds of thousands” of employees face unpaid time off if those cuts take effect, Jeff Zients, acting chief of the Office of Management and Budget, wrote in a Jan. 14 memo.

Hiring freezes, laying off temporary workers and offering buyouts and early retirements are also on the table, Zients wrote. At the Defense Department, with a civilian workforce of almost 800,000, the Army, Navy and Air Force all announced hiring freezes and warned that furloughs were possible. Navy commanders, for example, should assume that one-day-per-week furloughs will begin the week of April 16 and continue through the end of the fiscal year in September, Rear Admiral J.P. Mulloy, deputy assistant secretary for budget, said in a memo.

If furloughs occur, Mulloy added, they “will be a governmentwide effort with limited exceptions.” Further guidance will come from the White House, he said. OMB officials did not respond to requests for comment late last week.

The Defense Logistics Agency, with a workforce of more than 25,000, notified its union last week that furloughs of up to 22 days for virtually all civilian staff may be needed between April and the end of the fiscal year. The Army and Air Force also aren’t ruling out the possibility of large furloughs.

The Army “must act now to reduce our expenditure rate and mitigate budget execution in order to avoid even more serious future fiscal shortfalls,” Army Secretary John McHugh and Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno wrote in a joint memo to Army commanders dated Jan. 16. Besides the civilian hiring freeze, commanders should terminate temporary employees “consistent with mission requirements” and review contracts and studies for possible savings.

Participation in conferences will be “significantly” curtailed and all restoration and modernization projects halted, although exceptions are possible, subject to specifications.

The burst of activity came less than a week after Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told DoD leaders Jan. 10 to plan for the possibility of a yearlong continuing resolution that would generally leave 2013 spending frozen at last year’s levels, as well as for across-the-board budget cuts set to take effect at the beginning of March assuming that Congress and the Obama administration don’t strike a deal to head them off. The cuts, formally known as sequestration, would take about 9 percent out of most Defense Department accounts by the end of the fiscal year in September.

Part of the looming fiscal crisis appears likely to be put off, at least until late May.

Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., said Jan. 18 that the House this week will pass a three-month debt ceiling extension, so Congress can have more time to negotiate budget cuts.

Civilian agencies would also would be hard-hit by budget cuts, although planning outside of the Defense Department appeared to be less advanced.

 

Furloughs will vary

Agencies whose budgets are primarily personnel costs — such as the National Park Service — will probably have to furlough most of their staffs for up to a month this year, said Henry Romero, a former Office of Personnel Management executive.

But other agencies with more diversified budgets — for example, components of the Department of Homeland Security — may be able to shield their workforces a little more, said Romero, now a consultant at Federal Management Partners. They may be able to cut back or defer spending on contracts, equipment, maintenance or other expenses besides personnel and avoid lengthy or widespread furloughs, he said.

Federal chief financial officers are likely looking for places where they can delay payments or stop buying certain services for a few months, he said.

“Some agencies may have difficulty finding other places to cut,” Romero said. “But some agencies have more flexibility than others.”

Romero said agencies are more likely to offer early retirements than buyouts in response to sequestration, which will require them to cut their budgets quickly. Buyouts are a good tool for agencies looking to reduce their spending in the long term, he said. But because buyouts include one-time payments of up to $25,000, incurring those expenses wouldn’t be a good strategy for an agency under pressure to cut millions of dollars in a few months.

Early retirements, on the other hand, contain no such payments and may be a better option, Romero said.

But agencies should keep their long-term staffing needs in mind when offering early outs or buyouts, Romero said. Managers shouldn’t offer buyouts or early outs to key employees in mission-critical occupations.

“The risk is, by letting someone retire early, you’re admitting that you could afford to do the work without your current level of staffing,” Romero said. “Two years from now, you can’t go back and say, ‘I need to hire three more of the people I just let go.’ ”

But even if Congress and President Obama strike a deal to avert sequestration, steep budget cuts are certain to hit agencies anyway. That means furloughs and hiring freezes are virtually certain to take place, no matter what happens.

“If and when there’s a settlement, it’s not going to be all of a sudden, the spigots open and money flows again,” Romero said. “It’s going to be tight for the government for the next several years.”

Sequestration is mandated by the 2011 Budget Control Act unless Congress and the Obama administration agree on another route. The cuts had originally been set to start at the beginning of this month, but a last-minute deal postponed them for two months. At the Partnership for Public Service, John Palguta was optimistic that policymakers will find a way to spare agencies from severe cuts.

But while federal employees shouldn’t be overly worried about large-scale furloughs, they should set aside some rainy-day money and think twice about major purchases, suggested Palguta, the partnership’s vice president for policy.

 

Dire news for temps

The outlook could be more dire for temporary workers. As of October, there were more than 156,000 temps across government, according to OPM. They lack the civil service job protections afforded career employees.

The administration’s cost-cutting strategy also triggered accusations of favoritism from the largest federal employee union.

In comparison with the potential impact on the federal workforce, services contractors “emerge relatively unscathed,” J. David Cox, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, said in a letter last week to Danny Werfel, OMB’s controller and acting deputy director for management.

“On what grounds can such disparate treatment be justified?” Cox wrote. “To balance the hiring freeze, why isn’t OMB endorsing freezes on new service contracts, exercises of contract options and approvals of contract modifications?”

An OMB spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment. In an interview, the head of a service contractor trade group said federal contract spending has fallen by billions of dollars in the last year, with a resulting loss of thousands of jobs.

“The key point is what skills does the government most need to best achieve its mission,” said Stan Soloway, president of the Professional Services Council. Arbitrarily targeting federal workers or contractors, he said, is “counterproductive.”

 

 

Feds turn to agile development as budget cuts loom

Computerworld

By Patrick Thibodeau

January 22, 2013 06:00 AM ET

Computerworld – WASHINGTON — Federal agencies, including the Defense Department, are facing unprecedented budget problems that are creating a new reality for government IT.

IT managers are turning to agile development to speed up projects and to quickly show their value. The days of the big, lumbering, multi-year government IT project may be slowly ending.

Government agencies, which spend about $80 billion a year on IT, are preparing for a possible shutdown as early as next month, as well as spending cuts from 8% to 10% if Congress doesn’t end the default and sequestration threats. On top of this, agencies continue to operate on short-term budgets because lawmakers have yet to approve the yearly budget.

 

“This lack of budgetary stability makes it very hard to plan, and I think extremely hard to plan well,” said Robert Hale, the comptroller and chief financial officer at the Defense Department, in a talk this month at the Brookings Institution.

In this turbulent environment, Kris van Riper, who heads the consulting firm CEB’s (formerly known as Corporate Executive Board) government practice, said she is seeing increasing interest in agile development at agencies.

“Planning out multiyear projects where you don’t see the deliverables for extended time periods in a traditional waterfall method really isn’t going to work,” said van Riper.

Agile methodology emphasizes collaboration with developers, managers and customers — anyone with a stake in a project outcome — as well as iterative development cycles that produce deliverables in short increments.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs was a relatively early adopter of agile development. The VA’s CIO, Roger Baker, said, “we are huge fans of agile, and are using it in our most critical programs.”

 

Baker, in an email, said that the agile development process has been successful because of customer involvement.

“Most critically, we get the customer deeply involved in the program, defining what the system must do, how it should do it, what the workflow must be, and how the UI (user interface) should look,” Baker said.

As a result of this participation, “the end users are always happy with the end product, and they feel like it’s their system, not ours,” said Baker. “And the code is less buggy, frankly.”

The VA has about 200 ongoing development programs, but it is not using agile in all of them. “I’d insist on agile in all programs, but I don’t think we yet have the breadth of expertise to draw on to do so,” Baker said.

Sanjiv Augustine, president of LitheSpeed, a Washington area agile consulting firm, said the budget problems with Congress are pushing adoption of agile.

Just as the recession helped drive the private sector toward greater agile adoption “in search of faster delivery and better results,” said Augustine, “it appears that looming budget problems are beginning to have the same catalytic effect in the public sector.”

Agile has gotten traction in some defense and intelligence areas, said Bob Payne, vice president at LitheSpeed. Those areas typically have shorter deadlines, are more mission focused “and need to rapidly adapt to new situations,” he said.

 

The budget problems “have added fertilizer” to the push to adopt agile, said Lawrence Fitzpatrick, president of Computech Inc., a software services firm, who is on the Agile Development Committee for the American Council for Technology and Industry Advisory Council.

“If you can show results sooner and more effectively, the chance that you won’t be defunded goes up,” Fitzpatrick said.

 

 

A growing number of experts say the arts should be included in STEM education initiatives

eSchoolnews.com

January 21st, 2013

By Laura Devaney, Managing Editor

For years, educators have been told about the importance of STEM education—for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—in ensuring the nation’s competitiveness in a global economy.

But now, a new movement seeks to amend that acronym to “STEAM”—with an “A” for the arts.

Leading the charge is the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), which maintains the website STEMtoSTEAM.org.

 

According to the website, the movement aims to include art and design in STEM policy decisions; encourage the integration of art and design in K-20 education; and influence employers to hire artists and designers to drive innovation.

“Design is increasingly becoming a key differentiator for technology startups and products,” the website states, and art and design “provide real solutions for our everyday lives, distinguish American products in a global marketplace, and create opportunity for economic growth.”

Integrating the arts into STEM education encourages students to develop critical thinking skills and innovative approaches to problem-solving, advocates say—while enhancing creative thinking and student engagement.

 

DARPA researches new life for dead satellites

AF Times

By Alicia Chang – The Associated Press

Posted : Tuesday Jan 22, 2013 14:46:13 EST

LOS ANGELES — Call it space grave robbery for a cause: Imagine scavenging defunct communication satellites for their valuable parts and recycling them to build brand new ones for cheap.

It’s the latest pet project from the Pentagon’s research wing known for its quirky and sometimes out-there ideas. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is spending $180 million to test technologies that could make this possible.

When satellites retire, certain parts — such as antennas and solar panels — often still work. There’s currently no routine effort to salvage and reuse satellite parts once they’re launched into space.

DARPA thinks it can save money by repurposing in orbit.

“We’re attempting to essentially increase the return on investment … and try to find a way to really change the economics so that we can lower the cost” of military space missions, said DARPA program manager David Barnhart.

Work on DARPA’s Phoenix program — named after the mythical bird that rose from its own ashes — is already under way. The agency awarded contracts to several companies to develop new technologies, and it is seeking fresh proposals from interested parties next month.

A key test will come in 2016 when it launches a demonstration mission that seeks to breathe new life to an antenna from a yet-to-be-determined decommissioned satellite. DARPA has identified about 140 retired satellites that it can choose from for its first test.

Here’s the vision: Launch a robotic mechanic outfitted with a toolkit that can rendezvous with defunct satellites and mine them for parts. The plan also calls for the separate launch of mini-satellites. The robotic mechanic would then string together the mini-satellites and old satellite parts to create a new communication system.

It’s like doing robotic surgery in zero gravity.

DARPA officials said one way to keep costs down is for the mini-satellites to hitch a ride aboard available space on commercial rockets.

Harvard astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell, who tracks the world’s space launches and satellites, called it “an interesting idea” that may reduce costs in the long-term.

“The first few times you do this, it’ll definitely be more expensive than just building the new antenna on your satellite from scratch. But in the long run, it might work out,” he said in an email.

McDowell said the biggest challenge in the upcoming demo test is separating the antenna from the retired satellite without breaking it and then successfully integrating it with the mini-satellites.

 

DARPA is used to funding blue-sky research and a few projects are slowly becoming reality.

In 2011, it dangled seed money to jumpstart a way to rocket people to a star within a century in what’s known as the 100-year Starship program.

Long before Google tested self-driving cars, DARPA sponsored a robotic road race in which university-designed autonomous vehicles eyed for the finish line without human help.

 

Congressional commission to look closer at China cloud computing

NextGov

By Dawn Lim

January 22, 2013

 

The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, an advisory group to Congress, is putting more scrutiny on national security threats posed to American businesses by Chinese cloud computing companies.

The group, tasked by Congress to monitor the risks of trade with China, is commissioning a report on the ties of state enterprises to the Chinese cloud computing industry and potential espionage risks from cloud infrastructure situated in the country, according to government officials.

Cloud computing generally refers to the delivery of a variety of computing resources – from Web-based services to storage space — over the Internet. The commission is interested in “how information stored by Chinese cloud computing services might be susceptible to theft or exploitation, or how cloud computing infrastructure might be used to launch or enable cyberattacks,” according to a solicitation for proposals that closed earlier this month. The group is looking into how many people in the U.S. are using cloud infrastructure owned or operated by Chinese entities, as well as “Chinese-developed, owned, or operated cloud infrastructure outside of China.” The report is likely to be available to Congress by the middle of the year, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss it.

Any findings could potentially direct further congressional scrutiny over manufacturers such as Huawei and ZTE that sell technology and infrastructure that support cloud computing. The advisory commission has previously enlisted defense contractor Northrop Grumman for a report on the impact of the rise of offensive computer abilities by Chinese entities. The commission, in its 2012 report to Congress, suggested that the rise of cloud computing in China could facilitate government surveillance and censorship.

Chinese cloud computing is still in infancy but is a fast-growing industry that has been slated for government venture capital. The size of China’s public cloud services market – which generally targets individual consumers — is expected to reach over $2 billion in 2015 from roughly $1.25 billion in 2013; while private cloud-related spending – which generally caters to enterprises — is expected to hit over $1.2 billion in 2015 from just south of $800 million in 2013, according to research analyst group IDC.

U.S. companies have begun to jump to capture a slice of this growth. IBM has partnered with Chinese tech firm Range Technology Development Co. to build by 2016 what is slated to be Asia’s largest cloud computing data center. Microsoft planned in 2011 to develop cloud enterprise products in China alongside local partner China Standard Software Co.

 

http://www.nextgov.com/cloud-computing/2013/01/congressional-commission-look-closer-china-cloud-computing/60798/

 

AFMC Issues 2013 Strategic Plan

AF Magazine

Jan 23, 2013

 

Air Force Materiel Command’s newly issued 2013 strategic plan, intended to guide the command’s priorities over the next three to five years, highlights a new vision and mission statement.

“AFMC exists to provide our airmen and allies with the best warfighting systems and equipment—bar none,” said AFMC Commander Gen. Janet Wolfenbarger in a Jan. 22 release. Accordingly, the command’s new vision is: “One team, delivering capabilities to fly, fight, and win … today and tomorrow.” And, the command’s mission is “straightforward,” wrote Wolfenbarger in the plan’s introduction: “Equip the Air Force for world-dominant airpower.”

AFMC released the 24-page document on Tuesday. “Our strategic plan, with its vision and mission statements, better defines what the nearly 82,000 people of AFMC deliver to the fight,” stated Wolfenbarger in the release.

The plan comes on the heels of the command’s reorganization into a five-center construct. The document will serve as “a roadmap” to help guide that new construct and “achieve an even higher level of warfighter support at a point in history where money and resources are extremely constrained,” said Wolfenbarger.

URL (AFMC Strategic Plan 2013; caution, large file 21MB.)

 

Encrypt (almost) anything

Adding a layer of protection to your data is easier than you think.

Alex Castle

January 18, 2013 (PC World)

 

It’s all too easy to neglect data security, especially for a small business. While bigger organizations have IT departments, service contracts, and enterprise hardware, smaller companies frequently rely on consumer software, which lacks the same sort of always-on security functionality.

 

But that doesnt mean that your data is unimportant, or that it has to be at risk.

 

Encryption is a great way to keep valuable data safewhether youre transmitting it over the Internet, backing it up on a server, or just carrying it through airport security on your laptop. Encrypting your data makes it completely unreadable to anyone but you or its intended recipient. Best of all, much of the software used in offices and on personal computers already has encryption functionality built in. You just need to know where to find it. In this article, Ill show you where and how.

 

But first, a word about passwords

Any discussion about encryption needs to start with a different topic: password strength. Most forms of encryption require you to set a password, which allows you to encrypt the file and to decrypt it later on when you want to view it again. If you use a weak password, a hacker can break the encryption and access the filedefeating the purpose of encryption.

A strong password should be at least 10 characters, though 12 is better. It should include a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, as well as numbers and symbols. If you find letters-only easier to remember, such a password can still be secure if its significantly longer; think 20 characters or more.

If youre unsure aboutA whether your password is good enough, run it through Microsofts free password checker. Never use a password rated less than Strong.

 

Encrypt your entire hard drive

You probably already have a login password for Windows on your PC, but that wont actually protect your data if somebody steals your computer or hard drivethe thief can simply plug your drive into another PC and access the data directly. If you have lots of sensitive information on your computer, you want to employ full-disk encryption, which protects all your data even if your hardware falls into the wrong hands.

 

Microsofts BitLocker software makes setting up full-disk encryption in Windows incredibly easyas long as your computer meets the following two criteria:

1. You have the Ultimate or Enterprise version of Windows 7 or Vista, or the Pro or Enterprise version of Windows 8.

2. Your computer has a TPM (Trusted Platform Module) chip.

The easiest way to see if your computer has a TPM chip is simply to attempt to enable BitLocker. Windows will let you know if you dont have one.

To enable BitLocker, go to Control Panel > System and Security > BitLocker Drive Encryption, or do a search for BitLocker in Windows 8. In the BitLocker menu, click Turn on BitLocker next to the drive(s) you wish to encrypt. Its as easy as that.

If your PC doesnt meet the requirements for BitLocker, you can still useA TrueCrypt or DiskCryptor for free full-disk encryption.

 

Encrypt your external and USB thumb drives

For full-disk encryption of thumb drives and USB hard drives, you can use BitLocker To Go, which is designed for removable media. You still need a professional or enterprise version of Windows, but you dont need a TPM to use BitLocker To Go.

 

All you have to do is plug in the device you want to encrypt, and then once again go to the BitLocker menu. At the bottom of the menu, youll see the BitLocker To Go section, where you can click Turn on BitLockerA next to the device.

 

Encrypt your Internet traffic

Sometimes you want to encrypt your outgoing and incoming Internet traffic. If youre on an unsecured Wi-Fi network (at an airport, for instance), a hacker can intercept the data traveling to and from your laptop, which might contain sensitive information. To make that data useless to eavesdroppers, you can encrypt it, using a VPN.

A virtual private network creates a secure tunnel to a trusted third-party server. Data sent through this tunnel (either to or from your computer) is encrypted, so its safe even if intercepted. You can find Web-based VPNs that charge a small monthly fee but provide very easy access, or you can set up your own personal or business VPN.

The process of selecting or setting up a VPN is a little too long to describe here, so see ourA article on VPN for beginners and experts alike.

 

Encrypt your Dropbox (or other cloud storage)

If you or other people in your organization use Dropbox or SugarSync, youll be glad to know that those popular cloud storage services already encrypt your data, protecting it in transit and while it sits on their servers. Unfortunately, those same services also hold the decryption keys, which means that they can decrypt your files if, for instance, law enforcement directs them to do so.

If you have any really sensitive files in your cloud storage, use a second layer of encryption to keep them safe from prying eyes. The most straightforward way to do this is to use TrueCrypt to create an encrypted volume inside of your Dropbox. (For a complete guide to encrypting anything with TrueCrypt, see the end of this article.)

If you want to be able to access the data from other computers, consider putting a portable version of TrueCrypt in your Dropbox, as well. To do so, run the TrueCrypt installer; during the installation, choose the Extract option, and choose to put the extracted files in your Dropbox or other cloud storage.

 

Encrypt your email

Your email messages can contain some very sensitive information, which makes them a prime candidate for encryption. If you use Outlook, keeping your correspondence secure is easy.

Outlook encryption is not password-based. Instead, everyone who wishes to use cryptographic security features in Outlook receives a digital certificate, which serves to automatically encrypt and decrypt messages. Before two users can send each other encrypted messages, they must share their certificates by sending each other digitally signed messages. It sounds sort of complicated, but the process is actually straightforward, and takes only a few moments. To set up Outlook for encrypted messaging, follow the steps in the official Microsoft guide.

Once youve received and exchanged digital IDs, you can send an encrypted message by opening the new message window, clicking Options > More Options > Security Settings, and checking the box for Encrypt message contents and attachments.

 

Encrypt your Gmail messages

Email security is a little different when you’re using Gmail, as the messages are stored on Googles servers rather than on your local machine. When you compose or view email messages, they transfer over an encrypted HTTPS connection, so you dont have to worry about their being intercepted. Really, your primary security risk with Gmail is that somebody else will gain access to your accounta risk you can minimize with good password practices and two-step authentication.

If you want to send a text email that absolutely nobody but its intended recipient can read, you can always use a browser-based encryption application to encrypt your message manually. Email the cyphertext (encrypted text) to the recipient, and then use some other channel to send the recipient the passwordthey can then use the same Web app to decipher the message.

 

Encrypt your Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents

In Office 2010 and 2013, you can encrypt any Word, Excel, or PowerPoint document the same way: Click File, make sure that the Info tab is selected, and then click the Protect Document button. Finally, click Encrypt with Password, and choose a strong password for your file. Anyone who wants to access this file will need the password. As always, its not safe to send the password through the same channel that you use to send the file.

 

Encrypt your PDFs

Like the Microsoft Office products, Adobe Acrobat X Pro makes encrypting a file easy. The option is in the Tools tab at the upper right, in the Protection section. Click the Encrypt button, and then click the option labeled Encrypt With Password.

 

Encrypt Evernote notes

The cloud note-taking app Evernote is a great way to remember and organize important information, including account details, medical and financial records, and other sensitive data. If you feel uncomfortable leaving all that personal info out in the open, you should be relieved to know that Evernote has a built-in encryption feature. Simply open a note, highlight the text you want to hide, and right-click it. In the menu that pops up, select Encrypt Selected Text, and then create a password. Evernote hides the selected text, replacing it with a small lock icon. Whenever you want to view the text again, just double-click the icon and enter your password.

 

Encrypt anything else

Finally, I’m going to talk about a way to encrypt pretty much anything at all on your PC: TrueCrypt. A free, open-source application, TrueCrypt lets you encrypt any file or collection of files on your PC. If your personal or business PC has a variety of sensitive documents that you want to protect, this is probably the best option for you.

To use TrueCrypt, first download the program, and then run the installer. The default installation options are fine, so just click through to the end.

Next, run TrueCrypt and click the Create Volume button. A window will pop up to walk you through the volume-creation process. On the first two screens, leave the default options checked and click Next. On the third screen, youll be asked to specify a volume location. This is where the encrypted data is going to be stored on your hard disk, so choose a location and a name that will be easy for you to remember. To specify the location, click Select File, which will open a file-browser window. Unlike with most file-browser windows, however, here you type a name into the Name field, and then a file of that name will be created for TrueCrypt to use.

 

The next screen asks for encryption settings; the defaults are acceptable, so click Next. After that, youll be asked to specify a volume size. All the files that you want to encrypt will have to fit into the volume, so make sure to allocate enough space. If youre storing just text documents, 500MB might be enough, but if youre storing lots of media, youll want several gigabytes at least.

Now youll be asked for a passwordso pick a good one! Finally, after selecting a password, you will be able to finish the process. Follow the instructions on the final screen, and click Format.

Now that your volume is created, you can use it to store files. In TrueCrypt, click Select File, and choose the volume file you just created. Then, click a drive letter and click Mount. After you enter your password, TrueCrypt creates a virtual drive, and the rest of your computer treats it as if you had just plugged in a real hard drive. You can access it as you do any other drive: by opening the file explorer and clicking its drive letter at the left.

 

Drag whatever files you want to encrypt onto the virtual hard drive; when youre done, click Dismount in TrueCrypt. The files you stored in the virtual hard drive are encrypted and stored inside your volume file. When you want to access them again, simply run TrueCrypt and mount the volume file just as you did earlier.

 

Air Force announces Wright-Patterson cuts

Dayton Daily News

January 23, 2013

By Barrie Barber

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE —

Air Force Materiel Command has ordered Wright-Patterson Air Force Base to impose a civilian hiring freeze, the firing of temporary employees and curbs on travel and maintenance, among other actions, in response to budget austerity measures.

The actions “take effect immediately,” Susan Murphy, an AFMC headquarters spokeswoman at Wright-Patterson, said Wednesday.

“These actions are necessary to support our (Department of Defense) and our nation,” Gen. Janet Wolfenbarger, AFMC commander, said in a statement. “However, we still have a requirement to continue the critical missions that we execute on behalf of the Air Force. Therefore, mission critical exceptions to these actions can be approved with discretion.”

AFMC added it has “no current near term plans to furlough civilians.”

Other immediate actions include:

• Canceling all travel that is not critical, such as conference attendance.

• Review overseas contingency operations for possible reductions that do not impact wartime operations.

• Curtail air show flyovers.

• Curtail or cancel studies that aren’t congressionally mandated.

• Curb supply purchases.

• Defer maintenance and modernization projects.

• “Where practical” cancel or incrementally fund service contracts that last until Oct. 31, and defer the rest of the contract.

The actions were expected with more serious, deeper budget cuts looming if Congress and President Barack Obama fail to avert automatic cuts known as sequestration by March 1. That would trigger the start of $492 billion in spending reductions through the next decade. The Pentagon has already agreed to $487 billion in cuts prior to sequestration.

 

Government researchers looking for new path to defend massive networks

By: Mark Rockwell

http://www.gsnmagazine.com/node/28312?c=cyber_security

Wed, 2013-01-23 08:56 AM

Defense department researchers are looking for new ways to defend sprawling communications and data networks from targeted assault.

The Department of Defense’s (DoD) network, said Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) follows DoD personnel across the globe collecting, transferring and processing information in forms as diverse as data warehouses, in-the-field mobile devices and mission computers on board F-18’s. The network, said DARPA, is also constantly changing in size and shape as new missions are undertaken and new technology is deployed. In military terms, that means the cyber terrain of the DoD network is constantly shifting, it said.

The research group wants help looking beyond the more traditional network security approaches, like static cyber firewalls around the network perimeter and patching any discovered holes. It said its researchers seek a new approach that relies on knowing the cyber terrain within the network and understanding how information across the enterprise is connected to find actions associated with an attack buried under or within all the normal data.

DARPA said its new Cyber Targeted-Attack Analyzer program will attempt to automatically correlate all of a network’s disparate data sources—even those that are as large and complex as those within the DoD — to understand how information is connected as the network grows, shifts and changes.

The agency said it anticipates posting a solicitation for the program to http://www.fbo.gov within the next month.

The concept is that once all of the data sources are correlated, DARPA said, the program will attempt to integrate them on a network to allow the defenders to understand the connections—like injecting a contrasting smoke into the air to see how it flows. The third phase of the program also seeks to build tools that use this information for cyber defense of the network, it said.

 

“The Cyber Targeted-Attack Analyzer program relies on a new approach to security, seeking to quickly understand the interconnections of the systems within a network without a human having to direct it,” said Richard Guidorizzi, DARPA program manager. “Cyber defenders should then be capable of more quickly discovering attacks hidden in normal activities.”

Performers for the program will address three challenges, said DARPA, including:

Automatically indexing data sources on a network without human intervention

Integrate all data structures through a common language for security-related data

Develop tools to allow reasoning over the federated database

 

 

White House Drums Up Support for National Hacking Event

January 23, 2013

By Noelle Knell

http://www.govtech.com/e-government/White-House-Drums-Up-Support-for-National-Hacking-Event.html

Civic-minded technologists from Alexandria, Va., to Honolulu, Hawaii, are gearing up for a large-scale hackathon event that will take place the first weekend in June.

According to a White House Office of Science and Technology Policy blog post by Brian Forde and Nicholas Skytland, several federal agencies including the Census Bureau, the Department of Labor and NASA will present specific technology challenges for participants to tackle during the hackathon.

Dubbed the National Day of Civic Hacking, organizers invite entrepreneurs, software developers and other technologists to use publicly available data sets to develop solutions for the benefit of everyday citizens. Those new to hacking are also encouraged to get involved. Partners for the event include Random Hacks of Kindness and Code for America.

“This is an opportunity for citizens in every town and city across the nation to roll up their sleeves, get involved, and work together to improve our society by cultivating an ecosystem for innovation and change,” the White House blog post reads.

Among the large cities involved is Chicago, led by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, whose open data efforts have received considerable media attention.

“Part of this commitment to open data and government transparency is staying deeply engaged with the civic developer community,” said Chicago Chief Information and Data Officer Brett Goldstein, “and joining this national day of civic hacking is an exciting and natural extension of this relationship.”

The nationally-coordinated event aims to advance entrepreneurship, transparency, participation and collaboration through the use of open data, open source and code development, according to the website.

To date, 30 cities have signed on to host some kind of event related to the National Day of Civic Hacking. Organizers, who specify that individual events can be as unique as their host cities, are hopeful that a minimum of one city per state will participate.

Current participants in the National Day of Civic Hacking, according to the event website:
Alexandria, Va.; Ann Arbor, Mich.; Asheville, N.C.; Atlanta, Ga.; Augusta, Ga; Austin, Texas; Bend, Ore.; Boston, Mass.; Chicago, Ill.; Columbus, Ga.; Denver, Colo.; Detroit, Mich.; Grand Rapids, Mich.; Honolulu, Hawaii; Lexington, Ky.; Macon, Ga.; Miami, Fla.; Milwaukee, Wis.; New York City, N.Y.; Oakland, Calif.; Palo Alto, Calif.; Philadelphia, Pa.; Portland, Ore.; Sacramento, Calif.; San Diego, Calif.; San Francisco; Savannah, Ga.; Seattle, Wash.; Syracuse, N.Y.; and Tucson, Ariz.

Asheville, N.C., IT Services Director Jonathan Feldman told Government Technology via email that based on the success of his city’s Open Data Day last October, he’s confident that the Asheville community will rally to make the city’s participation in the National Day of Civic Hacking a success.

“That’s the beauty of it,” Feldman said of the groundswell of community enthusiasm surrounding local open data efforts. “We’ve really transitioned from priming the pump from the city government level into watching some really engaged citizens call the shots.”

Palo Alto, Calif., about 30 miles southeast of San Francisco, is one of five California cities to join the effort thus far. CIO Jonathan Reichental explained that Palo Alto was already planning hackathons for 2013, building on the success of the city’s ongoing open data efforts. When they found out about the White House-led National Day of Civic Hacking, they chose to hold their next event during that time.

Reichental went on to emphasize that while the focus of these events is often on the end product, like an application that might result from a civic gathering of developers, there is much more to be gained. “The fact that you bring community together and people together and they connect in all new ways, that’s great for the community and that’s great for the partnership between government and the community,” he said. “We’re breaking new ground, which is why we’re so excited by it and why we’re so supportive.”

M&S: Lawmakers Play SimCrisis

CQ WEEKLY – VANTAGE POINT

Jan. 19, 2013 – 4:05 p.m.By Shawn Zeller, CQ Staff

 

There’s a fascination with war games as a military exercise, since they seem both fun and consequential. George Washington University’s Face the Facts USA project is hoping Americans and lawmakers will find a simulation about America’s finances equally good entertainment and education.

Next week, C-SPAN will broadcast the simulation, during which a group of Washington personalities, including two current representatives, Republican Scott Rigell of Virginia and Democrat Donna Edwards of Maryland, along with two former Republican senators, Fred Thompson of Tennessee and Robert F. Bennett of Utah, will work through a fiscal crisis presented to them Jan. 29 at George Washington University’s Jack Morton Auditorium.

Frank Sesno, a former CNN Washington bureau chief who directs GW’s School of Media and Public Affairs, will moderate, asking the participants to play different roles and respond to new developments as the scenario unfolds.

The goal, he says, is to find out if “America is still capable of doing big things, or if our system with all the special interests is so gummed up we can’t govern ourselves?”

He expects the simulation to underscore how there are no easy fixes with financial decisions on government spending, entitlements and the deficit. But he also hopes that the simulation will demonstrate that solutions can more easily be reached on the basis of facts, rather than “ideology, supposition or allegation.”

Sesno launched Face the Facts USA in July with a broad mandate to dig into issues of import in Washington and help policymakers consider the facts undergirding key policy decisions.

“I think members of Congress will always benefit if they have a broader perspective on what’s at stake and what people are saying,” he says.

Advertisements

From → Uncategorized

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: