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March 16 2013

March 18, 2013



Top general at Wright-Patt says cuts will be ‘far-reaching’

In an exclusive interview, Gen. Wolfenbarger says ‘impact on my people, especially my civilians will be significant.”

Dayton Daily News

Posted: 5:00 p.m. Sunday, March 10, 2013

By Barrie Barber

Staff Writer


Air Force spending cuts will slow plans to modernize an aging fleet, delay or cancel acquisition programs, ground flight testing to a halt except for a new stealth fighter, and could create up to a five-year backlog at maintenance depots, the leader of the Air Force Materiel Command told the Dayton Daily News in an exclusive interview.

Gen. Janet C. Wolfenbarger, AFMC commander based at Wright-Patterson, said automatic cuts known as sequestration will have a major impact on missions, installations and hit hard 60,000 civilian employees who face potential furloughs at nine bases in nine states.

The civilians in her command, including 13,000 at Wright-Patterson, could face 22-day furloughs between April and September, a 20 percent pay cut during that time. Seventy-seven percent of the 80,000-member AFMC workforce are civilian employees.

“The impact on my people, especially my civilians will be significant,” she said. “I don’t know anyone who can take a 20 percent cut to their income, with minimal notice, and not feel it. Many of my employees live paycheck to paycheck.”

Many have talked about finding part-time work or withdrawing money from retirement accounts “to make ends meet,” she said.

“This is devastating,” Wolfenbarger said. “We have broken faith with our civilian airmen.”

Furloughs would begin in April once employees receive a 30-day notice.

An exact estimate of the size of the cuts isn’t yet known until Congress approves a final appropriation. But the command has planned for a $1.4 billion reduction, or 40 percent of what’s left in a readiness account and an additional $300 million, or 29 percent less for operations, according to AFMC. It’s all part of the $43 billion the Department of Defense must eliminate from spending between now and September under sequestration. The Air Force faces a more than $14 billion share of that cut between sequestration and a shortfall in wartime spending.

Sequestration will be far-reaching across AFMC,” the general said in response to Dayton Daily News questions. “Sequestration impacts every piece of the AFMC mission and, as a result, the entire Air Force.”

Spending cuts at Wright-Patterson will also slow research and technology development at Air Force Research Laboratory directorates and force the cancellation of most evening and weekend special events at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, Wolfenbarger said.

In other impacts, she said:

  • The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, headquartered at Wright-Patterson, will slow replacing and modernizing aging Air Force aircraft. “Acquisition programs will be delayed or canceled, some costs will rise, and much needed capabilities will take longer to get into the hands of our warfighters,” the four-star general said.
  • The Air Force Test Center will be “significantly impacted” at test ranges. All flight testing will be grounded and test support suspended by the end of June, with the exception of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, and a summer test pilot school will be canceled at Edwards Air Force Base in southern California.
  • The Air Force Sustainment Center, headquartered at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma, will cut operations at three depots that could mean the deferment of maintenance and modification work on roughly 297 aircraft and 197 engines, a 40 percent drop in operations. “Depot operations will slow down, aircraft availability and mission capable rates will drop, and some aircraft will simply be grounded,” Wolfenbarger said. “It could take up to five years for depot operations to ‘catch up’ once fully funded.”

Communities surrounding AFMC bases — such as Fairborn, Riverside, Huber Heights and Dayton — will also feel the pinch of less money in the economy, the general said.

“Less money in the pockets of our civilians means less money to spend at the local grocery store, restaurant or movie theater,” she said. “Less money will go to local taxes that pay for roads, schools and infrastructure.”

The spending cuts could mean contract modifications with defense contractors, Wolfenbarger added.

“Small contractors, who provide everything from office supplies to bomb fuses, will be hit especially hard since they do not have the financial depth of larger financial contractors,” she said.

A suspension of spending on base maintenance for all but the most critical needs will be felt, too, she said.

“My people will come to work at bases where streets, buildings and housing will see all but emergency upkeep delayed,” she said.

She held out hope Congress could lessen the impact with House approved legislation sent to the Senate. The bill adds $10 billion to the military’s operation and maintenance accounts, boosting spending to $173.4 billion, but takes money from personnel, procurement, research and development to account for the difference, according to The Associated Press. The legislation would eliminate the threat of a government shutdown when a continuing funding resolution ends March 27.

“While not all that we requested, we hope the bill, when eventually reconciled with a Senate version, will give the Department of Defense more clarity and more flexibility as it carries out sequestration reductions,” she said.


How Many Cyberattacks Hit the United States Last Year?


By Brian Fung

March 8, 2013

Thanks to the warnings of senior lawmakers and Obama administration officials, Americans are growing more aware of online vulnerabilities that could lead to a “cyber Pearl Harbor” attack. By definition, such a catastrophe would be extraordinarily rare, its chances perhaps no more than one in a … what, exactly?

It’s hard to talk about odds when the pool of minor cyberincidents is growing larger every day. Depending on when it arrives, the first major cybervent against the United States could be a one-in-2 million incident or a one-in-10-trillion incident. But noise from garden-variety hacks shouldn’t just be ignored in a broader search for the next 9/11. Understanding those day-to-day online skirmishes can help reveal the scale of the broader problem.

The Homeland Security Department runs a national clearinghouse of cyberthreat information known as the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team, or US-CERT. Part of its job is to track cyberincidents, which DHS defines as violations of an organization’s security policy. That could include unauthorized attempts to access a network, DDoS attacks, or other nasty behavior.

In 2007 — the year that Twitter was founded — US-CERT received almost 12,000 cyberincident reports. That number had more than doubled by 2009, according to new statistics from the Government Accountability Office , and it had quadrupled by 2012. We’re learning of more attacks, more often. From a certain point of view, this is a good thing: Growing awareness means improved detection.

More than two-fifths of the cyberincidents reported by federal agencies last year were attempts to access U.S. networks or propagate malicious code. And here’s something else: The incidence of denial-of-service attacks that disable a website with bogus traffic was hardly worth mentioning. Remember when hackers from Anonymous managed to take down the CIA’s website last February? Despite the breathless news coverage of that event, it was dwarfed by the number of other incidents the government recorded. And these are just the ones the government knows about.

All of which is to say that the universe of cyberincidents is gigantic, and that by focusing so closely on The Next Big Attack, the United States risks failing to connect the dots — again.

I’ll leave you with some additional recent numbers on cyberintrusions, as reported by various actors:


The energy company BP says it suffers 50,000 attempts cyberintrusion a day.

The Pentagon reports getting 10 million attempts a day.

The National Nuclear Security Administration, an arm of the Energy Department, also records 10 million hacks a day.

The United Kingdom reports 120,000 cyberincidents a day.

That’s almost as many as the state of Michigan deals with.

Utah says it faces 20 million attempts a day — up from 1 million a day two years ago.

How these groups define and count their cyberincidents could be fairly diverse; it stretches credibility to think that Utah would be a bigger target than the Defense Department, for example. But, altogether, the numbers provide a necessary sense of scale.



Pyongyang scraps armistice amid heightened saber rattling

By Tom Watkins and Ed Payne , CNN

updated 12:31 PM EDT, Mon March 11, 2013

(CNN) — Saber-rattling rose Monday to new levels on the Korean peninsula, as Pyongyang officials “scrapped” the armistice credited for nearly 60 years of uneasy peace and then failed to answer a hotline phone.

“The Korean Armistice Agreement is to be scrapped completely just from today,” said a spokesman for the North Korean military — the Korean People’s Army Supreme Command — according to Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party.

North Korea cited the U.N. Security Council’s unanimous passage last Thursday of tougher sanctions against Pyongyang for carrying out missile and nuclear tests.

“The collective sanction is precisely a declaration of war and an act of war against the DPRK,” said the newspaper, using the initials of North Korea’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

U.S.-South Korean drills

North Korea’s announcement came as military drills involving South Korea and the United States were taking place. The exercises, called Key Resolve, are in conjunction with the Foal Eagle joint exercises that began March 1 and are scheduled to last two months. More than 3,000 U.S. forces are taking part in Key Resolve, according to United States Forces Korea.

North Korea also has called the annual training exercises “an open declaration of a war.”

“Under the cloak of the UNSC, the U.S. seeks to realize its aggressive purpose against the DPRK by threatening its right to existence as well as its sovereignty,” the newspaper continued. “What is graver is the fact that the U.S. cooked up the resolution on sanction timing to coincide with the ‘Key Resolve’ and ‘Foal Eagle’ joint military exercises.”

The United Nations Command notified the North Korean military on February 21 of the exercise dates, noting that they are annual joint exercises that are defensive in nature and not related to current events on the Korean Peninsula.

Also Monday, North Korea did not answer its hotline with Seoul, South Korea’s unification ministry said, according to the Yonhap news agency.

The ministry said the North did not answer two attempts to communicate by telephone at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. local time.

The military hotline was set up in 2004 with the goal of easing tensions along the heavily fortified border between South and North, the world’s last Cold War frontier.

Last week, Pyongyang said it planned to terminate its military telephone line with the United States.

But Andre Kok, deputy public affairs officer for U.S. Forces in Korea, said reports that the North’s Korean People’s Army, known as the KPA, cut off communication often arise when military training exercises are taking place.

“When we place a call on the direct phone line and the KPA does not answer, we have no way of knowing if the KPA has actually disconnected the phone lines or are just not answering the phone,” he said.

North Korea’s nuclear warning

North Korea had previously warned it could carry out strikes against the United States and South Korea.

But analysts say North Korea is years away from having the technology needed to mount a nuclear warhead on a missile and aim it accurately at a target.

And, analysts say, North Korea is unlikely to seek a direct military conflict with the United States, preferring instead to try to gain traction through threats and the buildup of its military deterrent.

The Koreas are still technically at war because the 1950-53 war ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.

In 2002, then-U.S. President George W. Bush labeled Pyongyang part of an “axis of evil” with Iraq and Iran.

Cuts Give Obama Path to Create Leaner Military

NY Times

March 10, 2013



WASHINGTON — At a time when $46 billion in mandatory budget cuts are causing anxiety at the Pentagon, administration officials see one potential benefit: there may be an opening to argue for deep reductions in programs long in President Obama’s sights, and long resisted by Congress.

On the list are not only base closings but also an additional reduction in deployed nuclear weapons and stockpiles and a restructuring of the military medical insurance program that costs more than America spends on all of its diplomacy and foreign aid around the world. Also being considered is yet another scaling back in next-generation warplanes, starting with the F-35, the most expensive weapons program in United States history.

None of those programs would go away. But inside the Pentagon, even some senior officers are saying that the reductions, if done smartly, could easily exceed those mandated by sequestration, as the cuts are called, and leave room for the areas where the administration believes more money will be required.

These include building drones, developing offensive and defensive cyberweapons and focusing on Special Operations forces.

Publicly, at least, Mr. Obama has not backed any of those cuts, even though he has deplored the “dumb” approach of simply cutting every program in the military equally.

Mr. Obama will visit Capitol Hill on Tuesday in another attempt to persuade lawmakers to reach a long-term deficit-reduction deal and replace the indiscriminate cuts with more targeted ones.

Still, Pentagon officials are starting to examine targeted ways to cut their budget. “What we’ve learned in the past year is that the politics of dumb cuts is easy, because no one has to think through the implications of slicing everything by 8 percent,” said one senior defense official who has been deeply involved in the planning process. “The politics of cutting individual programs is as hard as it’s always been.”

When Mr. Obama took office four years ago, with the Iraq and Afghanistan wars raging, deep cuts in the defense budget seemed unthinkable. He forced the Pentagon to cut nearly $50 billion a year, which was regarded by many as huge.

But today, deficit hawks outnumber defense hawks on Capitol Hill, and the possibility of $100 billion or more in additional annual cuts does not seem outrageous — if only agreement were possible on which programs should shrink fastest.

Last week, a group of five former deputy defense secretaries — essentially the Pentagon’s chief operating officers — called for a “bottom up” review that reassesses the need for each major program and weapons system, saying this was an opportunity to accomplish cuts that have long been delayed, after a decade in which the American national security budget has nearly doubled.

In their more candid moments — almost always when speaking with a guarantee of anonymity — the Pentagon’s top civilian and military leaders acknowledge that the painful sequestration process may ultimately prove beneficial if it forces the Defense Department and Congress to reconsider the cost of cold-war-era systems that are still in inventory despite the many changes made to the military in the last 10 years.

“Sequester is an ugly experience, but it could grow up to be a budget discipline swan,” said Gordon Adams, a former senior budget official in the Clinton administration who is now at the Stimson Center, which studies defense issues. “It could provide the planning discipline the services and the building have been missing since 2001.”

The central challenge facing the Pentagon and the White House, Mr. Adams and several current senior officials said, is this: All the big, immediate budget benefits come from reducing the size of active-duty forces. By contrast, cutting new weapons systems and bases and reducing health care costs can save large amounts 5 to 10 years out, but it does little in the short term.

Mr. Obama took a step in that direction in 2011, when he rejected a Pentagon request for a permanent standing force of 100,000 or so troops for future “contingency operations” like those in Iraq and Afghanistan. “That’s not the way we are going to go,” he told his staff after the request was received.

The message quickly got back to the Pentagon that Mr. Obama had no interest in repeating the kind of lengthy interventions that have consumed more than $3 trillion since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

But the Pentagon’s subsequent agreement to cut $500 billion in planned spending over a decade turns out to have been just a start, and military officials are now abandoning the phrase that they will have to “do more with less” and starting to assess what it would mean to just do less.

Toward that end, officials say that Ashton B. Carter, the deputy defense secretary, plans to convene a panel of experts to conduct a crash review of the current national military strategy with an eye to reshaping it to fit the new budget constraints.

Mr. Carter, whom the White House asked to remain under the new defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, has already cut the budget for information technology, to force the Pentagon to find cheaper ways to provide it, officials say.

But the next set of cuts will be much harder, because they involve huge constituencies — in Congressional districts, inside the military services and among veterans’ groups.

“The problem is that the biggest, most-needed cuts are in programs that also have the broadest set of defenders,” said Maren Leed, the director of the defense policy studies group at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington and a former top aide to Gen. Ray Odierno, now the Army’s chief of staff.

The most obvious examples of those problems come in base closings and higher co-payments or premiums for the beneficiaries of Tricare, the military’s sprawling health care program, which costs upward of $51 billion a year. To take the politics out of base closings, Congress in the past has established a commission to identify underused facilities, creating a list that it could either vote up or down on but could not amend.

But with many of the targeted bases now fairly obvious to members of Congress, they are reluctant even to establish a new commission. Similarly, Congress turned back a modest administration effort to revamp Tricare. “There’s not a single district without a lot of beneficiaries of the system,” Ms. Leed said.

Cuts in the nuclear arsenal face a different political imperative. Mr. Obama has been sitting for months on a proposal, agreed to by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that could trim the number of active nuclear weapons in America’s arsenal by nearly a third and make big cuts in the stockpile of backup weapons. But he has not signed off on it.

Rather than act unilaterally, the administration is hoping it can negotiate similar cuts with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia — and do it without a treaty that would surely set off another battle with defense hawks in the Senate. But that prospect is doubtful, senior officials say.

Even if Mr. Obama wins his strategic argument that the arsenal is far too large for America’s future defense needs, it is not clear how big the savings would be. The easiest weapons to cut — those based in silos in the middle of the country — are also the cheapest to keep in the field.

The most expensive nuclear weapons to operate are carried aboard submarines; they are also the most invulnerable to attack, and thus Pentagon and White House strategists want to preserve them the longest.

Moreover, operating a production base for nuclear weapons, the Defense Department’s insurance policy in case the country ever needed to produce more, is very costly — though the administration is looking for ways to cut an $80 billion commitment to remake America’s nuclear laboratories.

The biggest target of all is the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a new jet for the Navy, the Air Force and the Marines, and the largest single line item in the Pentagon’s budget. Between $55 billion and $84 billion has already been spent, but the estimates of final production costs run close to $400 billion.

The Marine Corps says it has no choice but to go forward with its version of the plane, because its current aircraft are obsolete, and the Air Force wants to replace aging F-16s with the new, stealthy plane.

But the program was wildly mismanaged during the Bush administration — “The Joint Strike Fighter program has been both a scandal and a tragedy,” Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, said in December 2011 — and now that the number of planes scheduled for production has already been slashed, the per-plane cost has risen to well over $1 billion.

The handling of the production by Lockheed Martin, and the huge changes demanded by each of the services, has made the plane an easy target for critics.

But Lockheed has spread production over nearly every state in the union, in order to keep Congressional support high: as soon as the discussion veers toward strategic needs, Lockheed begins to stress the jobs at risk if the program were cut or canceled.



Sequestration’s Stew of Furloughs and Expense Cuts


The Fiscal Times

March 11, 2013

One week into sequestration and agencies across the federal government are busy reallocating spending to accommodate the across-the-board budget cuts. While many agencies like the Department of Homeland Security and Defense Department are planning to furlough thousands of employees, others like the Small Business Administration and the Government Accountability Office have planned ahead and are managing the sequester furlough-free.

Here is a rundown of the most up-to-date information of sequestration’s effects on federal government agencies. Point of information: A government furlough is a temporary layoff that does not interrupt health care coverage, pensions, or other employee benefits. No one is fired.

Compiled from Congressional Testimony, the White House Factsheet, Government Executive, Office of Management and Budget and Office of Personnel and Management.


Agriculture Department

More than 2,100 Food Safety and Inspection Service employees will be furloughed for two weeks.
2013 Budget: $155 billion
Workforce: 100,574

Defense Department
DOD will
begin furloughing “many” of its 800,000 civilian workers in late April, one day a week for up to 22 workdays, according to congressional testimony from former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who did not specify the total number of employees being furloughed.
2013 Budget: $525.5 billion
Total workforce: 2,086,701

Economic Development Administration

Will furlough all of its employees for six days.
2013 Budget $220 million
Workforce: 206

Environmental Protection Agency

The agency expects to furlough many of its 18,000 employees for 13 days, but nothing has been finalized and further details have yet to be released.
2013 Budget: $8.3 billion
Workforce: 18,655

Federal Aviation Administration

Nearly all of the 43,000 employees will be furloughed for one-to-two days each pay period through the rest of the fiscal year. FAA will also close 100 air traffic control towers and eliminate midnight shifts at smaller airports to absorb cuts.
2013 Budget $12.7 billion
Workforce: 43,000

Federal Courts

The Judicial Conference of the United States expects to furlough 20,000 employees for 16 days, as well as cut spending on information systems, and other areas.
2013 Budget: $5.2 billion

Internal Revenue Service

Employees will be furloughed for five to seven days beginning in the summer after the filing season ends, extending through the end of the fiscal year – September 31st.
2013 Budget: 12.2 billion
Workforce: 100,000

Justice Department

The DOJ has already sent out furlough notices to its employees. Every FBI employee will be furloughed for 14 workdays, or nearly three full weeks through the rest of the fiscal year.
2013 Budget: 27.1 billion
Workforce: 117,285


Broadcasting Board Of Governors

The agency will avoid furloughs by implementing a hiring freeze, eliminating bonuses and reducing broadcasts to absorb the 5 percent or $37.6 million in spending cuts.
2013 Budget $720 million
Workforce: 1,922

Government Accountability Office

The GAO is planning to avoid furloughing its employees by reducing costs in other areas like travel and IT spending.
2013 Budget $526.2 million
Workforce: 2,975

Government Printing Office
No furloughs. The agency will save money by delaying spending in technology and other investments.
2013 Budget $83.6 million
Workforce: 2,378


Housing And Urban Development

Secretary Shaun Donovan told the Senate Appropriations Committee furloughs would likely be required to absorb the cuts, but did not specify how many employees would be affected.
2013 Budget: $44.8 billion
Workforce: 9,594

Health and Human Services
HHS does not plan to furlough its employees.
2013 Budget $707 billion
Workforce: 64,750

National Institutes Of Health

NIH does not expect to furlough employees, since the bulk of the budget goes toward grants and funding for research. Aside from reductions in research grants, spending on travel and conferences will likely face the chopping block.
2013 Budget: $30.7 billion
Workforce: 18,000

National Labor Relations Board
NLRB has already issued formal furlough notices.
2013 Budget: $292.8 million

National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration
NOAA is issuing furloughs to 2,600 employees.
2013 Budget $5.1 billion
Workforce: 12,222

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Nothing has been finalized, but NASA expects to furlough an unspecified number of its employees, and cut 20,500 contractor jobs.
2013 Budget: $17.7 billion
Workforce: 18,201

Nuclear Regulatory Commission
NRC isn’t planning on furloughing employees or cutting their salaries.
2013 Budget: $1.053 billion
Workforce: 3,951

Small Business Administration

SBA is avoiding furloughs and will instead rely on staff cuts made through early retirements in 2012.
2013 Budget $949 million
Workforce: 3,200

Smithsonian Institute No furloughs
2013 Budget? $856 million
Workforce: 4,233

State Department

Is not expecting to furlough its 40,613 employees.
2013 Budget: 51.6 billion
Workforce: 40,613

Treasury Department No furloughs for now. Treasury plans to institute hiring freezes, and reduce spending on support, travel, training and supplies.
2013 Budget $14 billion
Workforce: 107,612


Education Department
Furloughs are expected but nothing has been finalized.
2013 Budget $69.8 billion
Workforce: 4,200

Homeland Security Department
DHS already notified 60,000 custom and border patrol agents to expect furloughs in April. More than 1,000 Secret Service agents are also expected to be furloughed.
2013 Budget $39.5 billion
Workforce: 208,000

Interior Department

Secretary Ken Salazar also said furloughs\are likely for thousands of employees, though nothing has been finalized.
2013 Budget: $11.4 billion
Workforce: 68,894

Labor Department

Acting Labor Secretary Seth Harris told employees that some agencies within the department will be forced to furlough employees, though nothing has been finalized yet.
2013 Budget: 49 billion
Workforce: 16,848

Social Security Administration

The SSA has not made any decisions on whether it will furlough its employees. For now, it is trying to survive on the reduced budget level through attrition.
2013 Budget: $11.9 billion
Workforce 65,904


Two UAS workshops offered

Dayton Daily News

Updated: 12:14 p.m. Monday, March 11, 2013 | Posted: 11:32 a.m. Monday, March 11, 2013


Sinclair Community College will hold two workshops before the second annual Ohio Unmanned Aerial Systems Conference April 23-25, the school announced Monday.

Sinclair and Riverside Research will present two, one-day courses, Introduction to Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) and Current State of UAS Standards and Regulations, through its UAS Training & Certification Center on Sinclair’s downtown Dayton campus.

Introduction to UAS on March 25 introduces specialized technologies including newly developed sensors, aviation platforms, products and applications. Participants will explore ways to integrate their areas of interest with UAS capabilities through scenarios covering a variety of uses.

Current State of UAS Standards and Regulations on March 26 reviews today’s UAS regulations and best practices and provides an outlook for anticipated federal guidance in the future. Operating UAS in the National Airspace System (NAS) is a major concern and is an area of research emphasis.

Both classes will be held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Sinclair Conference Center, Building 12, located at West Fourth and South Perry streets downtown. The special package fee for both classes is $500, and include materials, continental breakfast, lunch, and parking in the Sinclair Conference Center’s underground parking garage.

For more information and registration details, go online to or call Sinclair Workforce Development at (937) 252-9787.


DSB task force urges security mandates for DoD cloud computing


March 11, 2013 | By David Perera

Cloud computing adoption within the Defense Department will require establishment of clear security mandates, says a report from a Defense Science Board task force.

The report ( , dated January 2013, says among the mandates the DoD chief information officer and the Defense Information Systems Agency could establish include aspects of trusted computing such as hypervisor attestation to assure that it hasn’t been corrupted, cryptographic sealing and “strong virtual machine isolation.”

Data at rest should be stored in encrypted form with keys protected using a hardware attestation “such as a trusted platform module” and data in transit should likewise be encrypted with hardware-attested keys, the report says.

The task force also recommends that the DoD CIO and DISA establish standard service level agreements for both private- and public- cloud computing, and that the DoD CIO establish a central repository to document the cloud computing transition. The repository should contain enough data to improve understanding of systems costs before, during and after a switch to cloud computing as well as best practices and metrics.

The task force also calls on the under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology & logistics and the DoD CIO to establish a lean, rapid acquisition approach for cloud computing hardware and software and other information technology.

The two co-chairs of the task force were Eric Evans, director of the MIT Lincoln Laboratory, and Robert Grossman, a University of Chicago professor and partner of the Open Data Group.

Read more: DSB task force urges security mandates for DoD cloud computing –

Is The U.S. Government Too Big To Fail?

Mike Patton, Contributor

3/11/2013 @ 8:30PM |478 views 1 comments, 0 called-out

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This is the first in a series on the topic of our governments debt and the possibility of default. The United States has existed as a republic for nearly 237 years, during which time there have been five defaults. Could it happen again? Most would summarily dismiss the very notion as ridiculous. However, although no country “plans” to default, sometimes circumstances and a lack of forethought combine to create this unfortunate outcome. In this series, we’ll examine this question and discuss how it would affect us, the citizens of this great nation. To begin, let’s journey back to the late 1700′s, right after the U.S. gained independence from the British Empire.

Default #1: The Continental Currency Default of 1779

After the U.S. became a sovereign nation, there were debts to pay. To facilitate payment, the Continental Congress printed money. In fact, by the time they were finished, they had printed 241 million “Continental Dollars.” At a 3.0% inflation rate, this is roughly equivalent to $243 billion today. At the time, the federal government did not possess taxation powers and, in essence, this debt fell upon each of the 13 states according to their population. Within a few years, it became clear to an increasingly suspicious public that Congress and the states had neither the will nor the capacity to meet its obligations. As a result, the dollars began to depreciate until Congress announced in November 1779, they would devalue the “Continentals” by 38.5 to 1. This was an admission of default and holders of the Continental Dollars realized significant losses.

Back to the Future

The chart below illustrates how the government has been spending more than it’s received each year with the exception of 1998 to 2001. Notice how the gap widens dramatically at the right end of the graph. When the Great Recession hit in 2008, government receipts fell sharply, but expenditures rose just as sharply, creating record deficits. These deficits were added to the national debt and today we are staring at a $16.6 trillion debt and it’s rising fast. In fact, in just a few short years, it is projected to hit $22 trillion!

Move up tMove down

When you separate facts from sound bites, you find that revenue is not the issue. Spending is the problem! Is the government trying to spend our way out of this economic malaise or is there something deeper at work? I believe there’s something deeper but we’ll discuss that in a subsequent article. What would happen if the economy were to accelerate?

Retirees Rejoice?

With the massive expansion of the monetary supply, thanks to the Federal Reserve’s easy money policy, if economic growth is indeed beginning to accelerate, interest rates will continue to rise. That’s good news for “income starved” retirees, however, it’s bad news for the federal government. Actually, it’s very bad news. For starters, the cost of servicing our debt would rise and place a heavy burden on the government’s budget. Currently, the interest payments on our debt is the fourth largest item in the federal budget. Moreover, it could force government to cut in places they may not want to cut or raise taxes instead. After all, everyone should pay their “fair share,” right? But who’s to say what’s fair? Also, an accelerating economy would reduce the need for higher taxes and may take some of the air out of that argument. Hence, if the “higher tax crowd” is going to be successful, I expect the rhetoric will increase.

Remember, the government is a large and powerful force and a robust economy may not be to their liking, at least not quite yet. Because of the negative ramifications to the federal government, we could hear a great deal of negativity. Things like pushing grandma over the cliff and other ridiculous banter. Constant negativity has a tendency to create fear in the minds of consumers and cold cause them to restrain spending. Then, the Fed could continue its acceleration of the money supply and interest rates would remain low for a while longer, the very thing government desires. If you doubt this, just Google “Financial Repression.”


Agree or disagree, in reality government does not want interest rates to rise. And the best way to keep rates low is to instill fear. When fear rises, investors move money from risky assets to “safe” U.S. government securities which would boost the price and keep yields down. Of course, if that doesn’t work, we could just ask the Fed to print more money and purchase even more treasuries. How about QE IV, V, or higher? Actually, the lines are beginning to blur.

In my next article, we’ll discuss another U.S. default and other possible ramifications.


White House Supports DOD Spectrum Research

InformationWeek Government

J. Nicholas Hoover | March 11, 2013 04:18 PM

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Shared Spectrum Access for Radar and Communications (SSPARC) program, announced last month, seeks research proposals to develop “revolutionary” advances in spectrum sharing.

High-speed wireless Internet access and other wireless technologies are widely available around the United States, and mobile services contribute billions to the American economy, but airwaves are increasingly crowded by services offered by an array of private sector stakeholders and by government, from transportation systems to law enforcement.

“Building on U.S. leadership and promoting even greater economic growth requires that the Nation make ever more efficient use of spectrum,” White House deputy CTO for telecommunications Tom Power and assistant secretary of commerce for communications and information Lawrence Strickling wrote in a blog post. “Ensuring adequate spectrum to support the expected growth in commercial and non-commercial uses poses technical challenges.”

To that end, SSPARC seeks to support spectrum sharing between military radars and military and commercial communications systems. To share spectrum with commercial systems, SSPARC is focusing on low-power wireless access points, known as “small cells,” that can extend cellular coverage.

SSSPARC looks to “improve performance or reduce interference when sharing spectrum” at an “acceptable cost” by, for example, identifying devices causing interference and changing how they are transmitting information to help prevent that interference or by developing hardware and methodology to improve separation of the radar and other data.

The Obama White House has been a vocal supporter of freeing up spectrum for use and has said that American leadership in developing wireless services is “an important part” of the Obama administration’s job creation and growth strategy.

The government under the Obama administration has taken a number of steps to free up wireless spectrum. President Obama in 2010 issued a memorandum instructing the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to identify federal and commercial spectrum that could be reused for wireless broadband, and the NTIA uncovered a number of bands that could be made available.

The FCC under Obama has catalogued and freed up so-called “white space” spectrum between TV channels for unlicensed use, has begun to reform the Universal Service Fund to help extend broadband Internet connections, and has removed barriers to the use of certain other spectrum.

However, the efforts of the last few years have not come without criticism. The 2012 Republican Party platform criticized President Obama for making “no progress” toward universal broadband coverage since the end of the Bush Administration, for example. SSPARC and the White House support for it and similar programs might not end Republican criticism, but it could help spark better ways to use and free up spectrum.


Bjorn Lomborg: Green Cars Have a Dirty Little Secret

Producing and charging electric cars means heavy carbon-dioxide emissions…

Updated March 11, 2013, 10:14 a.m. ET

By Bjorn Lomborg


Electric cars are promoted as the chic harbinger of an environmentally benign future. Ads assure us of “zero emissions,” and President Obama has promised a million on the road by 2015. With sales for 2012 coming in at about 50,000, that million-car figure is a pipe dream. Consumers remain wary of the cars’ limited range, higher price and the logistics of battery-charging. But for those who do own an electric car, at least there is the consolation that it’s truly green, right? Not really.

For proponents such as the actor and activist Leonardo DiCaprio, the main argument is that their electric cars—whether it’s a $100,000 Fisker Karma (Mr. DiCaprio’s ride) or a $28,000 Nissan Leaf—don’t contribute to global warming. And, sure, electric cars don’t emit carbon-dioxide on the road. But the energy used for their manufacture and continual battery charges certainly does—far more than most people realize.

A 2012 comprehensive life-cycle analysis in Journal of Industrial Ecology shows that almost half the lifetime carbon-dioxide emissions from an electric car come from the energy used to produce the car, especially the battery. The mining of lithium, for instance, is a less than green activity. By contrast, the manufacture of a gas-powered car accounts for 17% of its lifetime carbon-dioxide emissions. When an electric car rolls off the production line, it has already been responsible for 30,000 pounds of carbon-dioxide emission. The amount for making a conventional car: 14,000 pounds.

While electric-car owners may cruise around feeling virtuous, they still recharge using electricity overwhelmingly produced with fossil fuels. Thus, the life-cycle analysis shows that for every mile driven, the average electric car indirectly emits about six ounces of carbon-dioxide. This is still a lot better than a similar-size conventional car, which emits about 12 ounces per mile. But remember, the production of the electric car has already resulted in sizeable emissions—the equivalent of 80,000 miles of travel in the vehicle.

So unless the electric car is driven a lot, it will never get ahead environmentally. And that turns out to be a challenge. Consider the Nissan Leaf. It has only a 73-mile range per charge. Drivers attempting long road trips, as in one BBC test drive, have reported that recharging takes so long that the average speed is close to six miles per hour—a bit faster than your average jogger.

To make matters worse, the batteries in electric cars fade with time, just as they do in a cellphone. Nissan estimates that after five years, the less effective batteries in a typical Leaf bring the range down to 55 miles. As the MIT Technology Review cautioned last year: “Don’t Drive Your Nissan Leaf Too Much.”

If a typical electric car is driven 50,000 miles over its lifetime, the huge initial emissions from its manufacture means the car will actually have put more carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere than a similar-size gasoline-powered car driven the same number of miles. Similarly, if the energy used to recharge the electric car comes mostly from coal-fired power plants, it will be responsible for the emission of almost 15 ounces of carbon-dioxide for every one of the 50,000 miles it is driven—three ounces more than a similar gas-powered car.

Even if the electric car is driven for 90,000 miles and the owner stays away from coal-powered electricity, the car will cause just 24% less carbon-dioxide emission than its gas-powered cousin. This is a far cry from “zero emissions.” Over its entire lifetime, the electric car will be responsible for 8.7 tons of carbon dioxide less than the average conventional car.

Those 8.7 tons may sound like a considerable amount, but it’s not. The current best estimate of the global warming damage of an extra ton of carbon-dioxide is about $5. This means an optimistic assessment of the avoided carbon-dioxide associated with an electric car will allow the owner to spare the world about $44 in climate damage. On the European emissions market, credit for 8.7 tons of carbon-dioxide costs $48.


Yet the U.S. federal government essentially subsidizes electric-car buyers with up to $7,500. In addition, more than $5.5 billion in federal grants and loans go directly to battery and electric-car manufacturers like California-based Fisker Automotive and Tesla Motors . This is a very poor deal for taxpayers.

The electric car might be great in a couple of decades but as a way to tackle global warming now it does virtually nothing. The real challenge is to get green energy that is cheaper than fossil fuels. That requires heavy investment in green research and development. Spending instead on subsidizing electric cars is putting the cart before the horse, and an inconvenient and expensive cart at that.

Mr. Lomborg, director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center in Washington, D.C., is the author of “The Skeptical Environmentalist” (Cambridge Press, 2001) and “Cool It” (Knopf, 2007).

A version of this article appeared March 11, 2013, on page A15 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Green Cars Have a Dirty Little Secret.


Dayton Daily News

Updated: 6:44 p.m. Tuesday, March 12, 2013 | Posted: 12:05 p.m. Tuesday, March 12, 2013

UAV testing could bring 2,700 jobs, $2.1B to Ohio, study says

Dayton Daily News

By Barrie Barber

Staff Writer


The potential growth of the unmanned aerial systems industry will have an “enormous economic and job creation” impact in the United States, creating at least 2,700 jobs and a $2.1 billion impact in Ohio by 2025, according to an industry group study released Tuesday.

But one Dayton Development Coalition official said the projections underestimated the number of jobs that could be created in the Dayton-Springfield area and across the state.

“There’s many other areas that unmanned systems will have, future developments that we think Ohio will be a large player in,” said Maurice “Mo” McDonald, vice president of military affairs who has worked on UAV issues.

The study looked at employment, sales and taxes, but didn’t explore areas such as maintenance, training and the potential sale of U.S. drones overseas.

The report arrives in the midst of the Federal Aviation Administration calling for proposals to select six sites nationwide to test the integration of unmanned aerial vehicles into the national air space by 2015. The Dayton Development Coalition will submit Ohio’s pitch to the FAA which is expected to choose the winners by the end of the year. The state has teamed with Indiana to make its case. The proposal would have the UAVs flown out of the Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport and the Wilmington Air Park.

The Arlington, Va.-based Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International report projected that if UAVs are integrated into civilian airspace by 2015 the industry will create 70,000 jobs and have a $13.6 billion impact nationwide within the first three years. By 2025, the industry would create more than 100,000 jobs and pump $82 billion into the U.S. economy. Each year of delay costs the economy $10 billion, the study author said. Ohio would gain $14.6 million in taxes and the nation as a whole $482 million by the middle of next decade.

AUVSI is the “largest non-profit organization devoted exclusively to advancing the unmanned systems and robotics community,” according to its website.

Two hot spots will make up 90 percent of the market: The use of UAVs in agriculture and in public safety, the AUVSI report said. The UAV market in “precision agriculture,” where farmers use UAVs to monitor crops, or spray pesticides, or other uses, was expected to reach $75 billion by 2025, or more than 10 times larger than public safety agencies, the report said.

Ohio didn’t rank in the top 10 states for expected economic gains, but study author Daryl Jenkins, an aviation industry economist, said in a conference call Tuesday UAV test site selection along with business climate and regulations could have a significant role on where jobs and industry grow.

The Dayton Development Coalition has not estimated how many jobs might be created in the Dayton region, McDonald said. But growth has already happened or is expected. Defense Research Associates in Beavercreek expects to double in size to more than 100 workers by 2016 under a military contract to develop UAV sense and avoidance technology, said company president and CEO Roy Anderson.

Phillip Finnegan, director of corporate analysis at the aerospace consultant firm Teal Group in Fairfax, Va., said the AUVSI report was “quite modest” in its market forecast, but he said it’s difficult to predict how quickly UAVs will be allowed to fly in civilian airspace and under what conditions.

“It’s likely to be a slow process obviously because of concerns about safety and there’s a lot of extraneous factors entering into it beyond safety,” he said. “The whole privacy debate may affect how UAVs are integrated into the airspace and under what conditions.

The FAA had suspended indefinitely selection of UAV test sites until privacy concerns were addressed, but backtracked when members of Congress said the agency’s role was to safely integrate unmanned aircraft into civilian airspace while other agencies addressed privacy issues.

For now, Finnegan said military sales will continue to outpace the civilian market.

“The military is the dominant segment of the market now and it’s going to be the dominant market for years,” he said.

The Dayton-Springfield region has strong points to build a UAV industry, officials say. Wright-Patterson Air Force Base has a major UAV research and development program, for example, and Sinclair Community College offers training on the use of UAVs.

“There’s a lot that we need to fill out, but we have the basic infrastructure to start,” said Kerry D. Taylor, director of the Ohio Aerospace Hub in Dayton.

In Springfield, SelectTech GeoSpatial produces the airframe for a commercial unmanned aircraft called Vireo.

Designed and sold by UTC Aerospace Systems, a unit of the corporation that manufactures Sikorsky helicopters and Pratt & Whitney jet engines, Vireo is being pitched to law enforcement agencies, first responders and agriculture producers. Weighing about three pounds, it can be launched by hand and can stay airborne for an hour with a payload of electro-optical and infra-red sensors.

SelectTech GeoSpatial, whose Advanced Manufacturing Facility is located within a renovated, 17,000-square-foot hangar at the Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport, has so far made 10 Vireo prototypes, Executive Director Frank Beafore said.

“I do believe we’re going to see the benefits of having robotic aircraft performing jobs we can’t do,” Beafore said.


Defense leaders: Region ready for future BRAC round

Dayton Daily News

Posted: 1:15 p.m. Tuesday, March 12, 2013

By Thomas Gnau


Beavercreek —

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base has the capacity to welcome new organizations and jobs should a new round of military base closures happen in the next few years, the base commander said Tuesday.

In fact, the base regularly takes calls from military units looking for space, said Col. Cassie Barlow, commander of the 88th Air Base Wing, an organization which acts as landlord of the base, which with more than 29,000 employees is Ohio’s largest single-site employer.

“They say, ‘Hey, do you have space?’ Our answer is ‘Yes,'” Barlow said.

In a panel discussion hosted by the the NAIOP (National Association for Industrial and Office Parks) Dayton Area Chapter at Pentagon Centre, Barlow said two flying units will move to Wright-Patterson this summer while runway repairs are performed at other bases.

But later in the day, a base spokesman said federal budget cuts have altered those plans. Today, it’s not known if the units — the 434th Air Refueling Wing from Grissom Air Reserve Base, Indiana, and the 180th Fighter Wing, Toledo Express Airport in Swanton, Ohio — will move to Wright-Patterson.

“It’s real fluid right now,” said Ted Theopolos, a base spokesman.

Barlow also reminded listeners that the base benefited in the 2005 BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) round with the relocation of six missions and about 1,200 jobs from five U.S. locations.

Joe Zeis, chief strategic officer and executive vice president with the Dayton Development Coalition, expects a new BRAC round, perhaps in 2015-2017. Wright-Patterson did well in the 2005 BRAC, which helps position it for future moves, he said.

“I think the region is teed up extremely well as a receptor base, rather than as a giver base,” Zeis said. “Take a look at Wright-Patterson. Follow the trail of consolidations that have occurred since BRAC 2005.”

The coalition has hired three contractors to help take advantage of future BRAC rounds, said Jeff Hoagland, coalition chief executive.

“In 2005, we were more in a reactive mode,” Hoagland said. “The BRAC announcements came out, and then we reacted.”

This time, he said: “We’re in a proactive mode.”

Dennis Andersh, SAIC Dayton region executive, said the company moved offices to the Dayton area because of the 2005 BRAC. He said much also depends on a Federal Aviation Administration decision on possibly locating a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) test site in the region.

“There are a lot of new companies interested in moving to Dayton and opening offices here,” Andersh said.

Speakers also addressed the impact of automatic federal budget cuts. Called “sequestration,” the cuts amount to a 20 percent cut — and far higher in some cases, up to 75 percent — for the base and affected employees, Barlow said.

“‘Devastating’ is the word,” she said.

Andersh said SAIC “saw this coming” for some time. The company has pulled back on overhead spending, travel and local hiring, he said. “It’s a pretty significant impact,” he said.

In his own remarks, U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, said defense represents less than 18 percent of overall federal spending, yet is bearing 50 percent of the sequestration burden.

“It is going to be devastating,” Turner said. “And the mechanism by which it was put together in its indiscriminate effect will have a devastating effect on our national security and our spending.”


Defense Dept.: Furloughs could begin in late April


13,000 at Wright-Patt facing 22-day unpaid leave.

Dayton Daily News

By Barrie Barber

Staff Writer



Unless Congress takes action to avoid Department of Defense furloughs, most civilian employees — likely including thousands at Wright-Patterson — will begin to take mandatory unpaid time off work beginning April 26, according to Pentagon officials.

At Wright-Patterson, 13,000 Air Force civilian employees face the prospect of 22-day furloughs, expected to be one day a week through September. Fewer than 100 civilian base employees are expected to be exempt from the mandatory time off.

“We’re really going to feel it, and it’s just really regrettable,” said Army Lt. Col. Elizabeth Robbins, a Pentagon spokeswoman.

The Air Force Materiel Command, which is headquartered at Wright-Patt, anticipates furlough notices could go out around March 21 once an agreement is reached with the American Federation of Government Employees union, said AFMC spokesman Ron Fry.The furloughs would begin 30 days after the notices are sent.

“We have had positive, productive meetings with AFGE over the past several days,” Fry said in an email Tuesday. “Negotiations continue and we are confident an agreement is near.”

Troy Tingey, AFGE Council 214 president, said in a phone interview from Hill Air Force Base in Utah the union hopes to have a memorandum of agreement by the end of this week on how the furloughs will be handled. He said AFGE has asked the materiel command to send the notices no later than March 22 to give workers time to deal with the expected 20 percent loss in income during the time the furloughs are in place.

The Pentagon has estimated the furlough of 26,000 Department of Defense employees in Ohio will mean about $167 million in lost wages.

Once employees receive a furlough notice, they will have a week to appeal under the Merit Systems Protection Board.

Some in the Pentagon have expressed hope that furloughs can be avoided if Congress stops the sequestration and gives the defense department more flexibility on what to cut.

Tingey said employees have asked about the chances for avoiding time off the job. “We just tell them, look, you keep the pressure on your congressional (representative),” he said. “We believe it’s working.”


Washington Post

F-35’s ability to evade budget cuts illustrates challenge of paring defense spending

Washington Post

By Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Published: March 9

At EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. — With an ear-ringing roar, the matte-gray fighter jet streaked down Runway 12 and sliced into a cloudless afternoon sky over the Florida Panhandle. To those watching on the ground, the sleek, bat-winged fuselage soon shrank into a speck, and then nothing at all, as Marine Capt. Brendan Walsh arced northward in America’s newest warplane, the F-35 Lightning II.

The F-35 has features that make pilots drool. It is shaped to avoid detection by enemy radar. It can accelerate to supersonic speeds. One model can take off and land vertically. Onboard electronic sensors and computers provide a 360-degree view of the battlefield on flat-panel screens, allowing pilots to quickly identify targets and threats.

But its greatest strength has nothing to do with those attributes. The Defense Department and Lockheed Martin, the giant contractor hired to design and build the plane, also known as the Joint Strike Fighter, have constructed what amounts to a budgetary force field around the nearly $400 billion program.

Although it is the costliest weapons system in U.S. history and the single most expensive item in the 2013 Pentagon budget, it will face only a glancing blow from the sequester this year. And as the White House and Congress contemplate future budgets, those pushing for additional cuts may find it difficult to trim more than a fraction of the Pentagon’s proposed fleet, even though the program is years behind schedule and 70 percent over its initial price tag.

The reasons for the F-35’s relative immunity are a stark illustration of why it is so difficult to cut the country’s defense spending. Lockheed Martin has spread the work across 45 states — critics call it “political engineering” — which in turn has generated broad bipartisan support on Capitol Hill. Any reduction in the planned U.S. purchase risks antagonizing the eight other nations that have committed to buying the aircraft by increasing their per-plane costs. And senior military leaders warn that the stealthy, technologically sophisticated F-35 is essential to confront Iran, China and other potential adversaries that may employ advanced anti-aircraft defenses.

The biggest barrier to cutting the F-35 program, however, is rooted in the way in which it was developed: The fighter jet is being mass-produced and placed in the hands of military aviators such as Walsh, who are not test pilots, while the aircraft remains a work in progress. Millions more lines of software code have to be written, vital parts need to be redesigned, and the plane has yet to complete 80 percent of its required flight tests. By the time all that is finished — in 2017, by the Pentagon’s estimates — it will be too late to pull the plug. The military will own 365 of them.

By then, “we’re already pregnant,” said Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, who oversees F-35 development for the Pentagon.

When the F-35 finishes testing, “there will be no yes-or-no, up-or-down decision point,” said Pierre Sprey, who was a chief architect of the Air Force’s F-16 Fighting Falcon. “That’s totally deliberate. It was all in the name of ensuring it couldn’t be canceled.”

The Pentagon has long permitted equipment to be produced while it is still being tested, with the intent of getting cutting-edge gear to warriors more quickly, but senior military officials said the F-35 takes the approach to new extremes. Doing so has served as more than a hedge against cuts — it has also driven up the overall price. The 65 aircraft that already have been built, and those that will be assembled over the next few years, will require substantial retrofits that could cost as much as $4 billion as problems are uncovered during testing, the officials said.

Initial tests already have yielded serious problems that are forcing significant engineering modifications. The entire fleet was grounded earlier this year because of a crack in the fan blade in one jet’s engine. The Marine Corps’ version has been prohibited from its signature maneuver — taking off and landing vertically — because of a design flaw. And the Navy model has not been able to land on an aircraft carrier because its tailhook, an essential feature to alight aboard a ship, needs to be redesigned. The Pentagon’s top weapons tester issued a scathing report on the F-35 this year that questioned the plane’s reliability and warned of a “lack of maturity” in performance.

When the F-35 program was first approved by the Pentagon, Lockheed Martin said it could develop and manufacture 2,852 planes for $233 billion. The Pentagon now estimates the total price tag at $397.1 billion. And that is for 409 fewer planes.

The overall program is almost four times more costly than any other weapons system under development. Taxpayers have already spent $84 billion on the plane’s design and initial production. By contrast, the production of 18,000 B-24 bombers during World War II cost less than $60 billion, in inflation-adjusted dollars.

To the plane’s backers, including senior leaders of the Air Force and Marine Corps, the benefit is worth the cost. Unlike the infantry, which still accepts battlefield casualties as part of war, military aviators have grown accustomed to a different risk calculus since the 1991 Persian Gulf War, when U.S. warplanes quickly established air superiority over Iraq with minimal losses: They want to ensure that, whatever the future conflict, their planes are packed with enough offensive and defensive measures to accomplish the mission and avoid getting shot down.

“This aircraft reinforces the way Americans go to war. . . .We don’t want to win 51-49. We want to win 99 to nothing,” said Lt. Gen. Frank Gornec, the assistant vice chief of staff of the Air Force. He said he is convinced the F-35 “will become a superstar in the arsenal of the United States.”

Many independent defense analysts do not share that conviction. To them, the plane’s political engineering and buy-before-you-fly procurement mask deep problems with performance and affordability.

“It was a bait-and-switch operation; we were overpromised benefits and under-promised costs,” said Chuck Spinney, a former Pentagon analyst who gained widespread attention in the 1980s for issuing pointed warnings about the military’s pursuit of unaffordable weapons. “But by the time you realize the numbers don’t add up, you can’t get out of the program.”

A turbulent takeoff

The F-35 program, which commenced 12 years ago, was intended to be a model of how to build a modern fighter. The same airframe would be used to produce planes for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, with only modest modifications to address service-specific needs, hence the name Joint Strike Fighter. The commonality, proponents argued, would allow the three services to mount more coordinated wartime missions, and, perhaps more important, it would drive down development, assembly and maintenance costs.

That was essential because the Pentagon needs a lot of F-35s. It is supposed to replace thousands of legacy aircraft including the F-16, a workhorse of the Air Force fleet, and every fighter jet owned by the Marine Corps. The F-35 was pitched as the answer because it was supposed to be affordable — in the relative terms of fighter jets — and could be acquired in larger quantities than the F-22 Raptor, the Air Force’s new high-performance fighter.

Pentagon officials accepted Lockheed’s claim that computer simulations would be able to identify design problems, minimizing the need to make changes once the plane actually took to the sky. That, in turn, led to an aggressive plan to build and test the aircraft simultaneously.

Cautioning that all of those assumptions were flawed, Spinney and other defense analysts urged the Pentagon to see the plane in flight before committing to buy it. But senior Defense Department officials in the George W. Bush administration did not heed the warnings.

Within months, the program began veering off course.

The Air Force, Marines and Navy all sought additional modifications to meet their needs, reducing commonality among the three models. A bigger problem was the fundamental concept of building one plane, with stealth technology, that could fly as far and fast as the Air Force wanted while also being able to land on the Navy’s carriers and take off vertically from Marine amphibious assault ships.

Instead of meeting the original plan of being about 70 percent similar, the three versions now are 70 percent distinct, which has increased costs by tens of billions and led to years-long delays. “We have three airplane programs running in parallel,” Bogdan said. “They are very, very different airplanes.”

Even with three variants, the plane’s design has forced serious compromises. To remain stealthy, bombs and missiles must be placed inside a weapons bay, which limits the volume of munitions that can be carried. The use of a single engine, required for the Marine version, restricts speed.

With an even more complex engineering challenge than initially envisioned, Lockheed and the Pentagon took a hands-off approach to managing the program, according to several people involved in the process.

An electrical engineer who worked as a manager at Lockheed’s F-35 program headquarters in Fort Worth beginning in 2001 said the development effort was beset with “tremendous organizational inadequacies” and “schedule and cost expectations that never were achievable.” In his unit, he said, there were no firm development timetables and no budgets. “It was all on autopilot,” he said. “It was doomed from the beginning.”

In 2005, the engineer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of concerns he will risk job opportunities in the close-knit aviation industry, participated in a two-week-long assessment of the program.”There were reds and yellows across the board,” he recalled. But when he briefed his superiors, “nobody was interested,” he said. And when he gave a copy of the assessment to those at the Pentagon office responsible for the plane, he said, “they didn’t want to hear it.”

A senior Defense Department official acknowledged the office “didn’t have the capacity or the understanding to manage such a complicated program” at the time. Lockheed executives also make little excuse for those years. “It was a very different program from what we are executing today,” said Steve O’Bryan, Lockheed’s vice president of F-35 business development.

With wars raging in Iraq and Afghanistan, and military budgets growing year over year, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld paid little attention to the program. His successor, Robert M. Gates, took the same approach during his first few years on the job. In 2007, the Defense Department permitted Lockheed to begin producing the fighter — before the first flight tests had even begun. Frank Kendall, who is now the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer, has called that decision “acquisition malpractice.”

Early tests uncovered flaws unnoticed by the computer simulations. Key engineering tasks, including the vertical takeoff and landing system, were taking much longer to complete. All the while, costs were rising at supersonic speeds.

In 2009, Gates grasped the dysfunction. The following year, he withheld $614 million in fees from Lockheed, fired the two-star Marine general in charge of the program and brought in a Navy vice admiral, David Venlet, to clean house. In 2011, Gates placed the Marine plane on probation, warning that it would be killed if problems with its propulsion system were not fixed quickly.

Bogdan, who served as Venlet’s deputy until December, when he took charge of the development effort, was astounded by what he found when he delved into the program.

“It was an unimaginable mess,” he said.

Taking countermeasures

An imposing former test pilot who wears an olive flight suit to his office in Crystal City, Bogdan spent his first two years on the job analyzing virtually every aspect of how the plane is designed and built. He and Venlet adjusted schedules and assumptions, and they implemented changes that brought the Marine version off probation. New goals call for aggressive testing and modifications over the next five years, and the start of full-rate production by 2018.

Bogdan thinks the program cannot afford another do-over. “There is no more money and there is no more time,” he said.

To stay on track, he has adopted a get-tough approach with Lockheed and Pratt & Whitney, the contractor building the plane’s engine. Instead of allowing Lockheed to manage the development of millions of lines of software code for the plane — one of the most vexing technical challenges — his office, which has now grown to 2,000 people, is taking charge. “We have forced discipline on them,” he said of Lockheed.

Until recently, he said, Lockheed’s software developers worked at computers that were not connected to each other. “I couldn’t believe it,” he said. Changes imposed by his office have reduced software revision cycles from 27 days to three.

Although enormous technical hurdles remain — designing the tailhook on the Navy’s model, for instance, and writing software to instantaneously fuse reams of data from the plane’s electronic sensors — Bogdan said none of that keeps him up at night. His nightmares are all about the cost: what it costs to design and build the plane, but also what it will cost to operate it over the next 50 years.

He has pushed Lockheed to pay for all cost overruns — in the past, the government picked up the tab — and he has insisted that the company share in the expense of modifications to planes that are being built during the testing phase.

“What I see Lockheed Martin and Pratt & Whitney doing today is behaving as if they are getting ready to sell me the very last F-35 and the very last engine and are trying to squeeze every nickel of that last F-35 and that last engine,” Bogdan said earlier this month during a visit to Australia, which plans to buy 100 F-35s. “I want them both to start behaving like they want to be around for 40 years. I want them to take on some of the risk of this program. I want them to invest in cost reductions. I want them to do the things that will build a better relationship. I’m not getting all that love yet.”

Lockheed and Pratt executives insist they are trying to drive down expenses and increase reliability. “We’ve made enormous progress over the past few years,” said Lockheed’s O’Bryan. “When the professionals look at the facts and they talk to the pilots, they see a program that is accelerating with costs that are rapidly decreasing.”

O’Bryan said Lockheed and its suppliers are “committed to working in close partnership” with Bogdan’s office.

For Bogdan, an even bigger challenge involves the cost of flying and maintaining the F-35. The Pentagon estimates it could reach as much as $1.1 trillion over the life of the plane. Although unknown variables such as the cost of fuel could drive that figure down, Bogdan said the jet has serious sustainability problems. Chief among them are a greater need for maintenance and replacement parts than projected. “If we don’t do things now to change the game, this airplane will be unaffordable to fly,” he said.

He is pushing suppliers to make parts more reliable, and he has put Lockheed and Pratt & Whitney on notice that they should not assume they will be selected to fill the operations and maintenance contracts, which could be worth as much as $500 billion. He wants other firms to compete for parts of the work, reasoning that it will bring down costs.

To reinforce his seriousness, he has told Lockheed and Pratt not to wait him out. Unlike other senior officers, who change assignments ever few years, he intends to stay for 10 years. “The only way I’m leaving this program,” he said in the interview, “is if I’m fired.”

A dogfight no one wants

But Bogdan’s leverage is limited. Behind his feisty language lies an inescapable reality: The services don’t want to shrink their orders, and Congress doesn’t want to clip the F-35’s wings.

For many legislators, the F-35 is as much about employment as it is about air superiority. Lockheed has repeatedly emphasized to legislators, particularly those who sit on appropriations committees, that the plane supports 133,000 jobs, many of them at 1,300 subcontractors and parts suppliers spread across 45 states. When full-rate production begins, likely in 2018, the company says the employment figure will grow to 260,000.

A Web site established by Lockheed for the plane provides a sample letter for constituents to send to lawmakers. “The F-35 program is a win-win proposition for our national security and our nation’s declining manufacturing base,” the letter states.

Despite the lobbying, a few members have spoken out. One of them was Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a former Navy pilot. In December 2011, he took to the floor of the Senate to lambaste the development effort. “In a nutshell, the JSF program has been both a scandal and a tragedy,” he said.

The following November, the Marines established their first F-35 squadron in Yuma, Ariz. They invited McCain to the inauguration ceremony.

“I am — after many years of frustration and setbacks — encouraged that the overall program is moving in the right direction,” McCain said at the event. He said the program was on track “to produce more achievable and predictable outcomes.”

For the generals who lead the Marines, the F-35 is a must-win fight. There is no alternative fighter readily available to replace the service’s current jets, which will soon become too obsolete to fly.

“It’s essential for us,” said Lt. Gen. Robert Schmidle, the Corps’ deputy commandant for aviation. “We don’t have another option.”

Thus far, there has been little discussion within the Pentagon or on Capitol Hill about whether the Marines, which are organized to travel by sea and fight small wars, require such a sophisticated aircraft. Compared with the Air Force and Navy versions, the Marine variant has the most engineering challenges and the largest price tag. But the Marines, the smallest service, have long wielded disproportionate influence on the Hill and in the Pentagon.

“Nobody wants to say no to the Marines,” a senior Army officer said on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly about the program. “Nobody around here is asking the fundamental question: Why does the Navy’s army need its own air force?”

Avoiding a death spiral

The Pentagon’s latest five-year budget plan, released last year, calls for a smaller volume of annual purchases to save money. Sequestration-related cuts this year also will defer a few more planes. But the overall purchase of 2,443 jets remains unchanged.

Though the F-35 is rarely mentioned by those seeking to rein in federal spending on Capitol Hill, sotto voce discussions are beginning within the walls of the Pentagon. Some senior officers, even those who are enamored of the plane, worry that footing the $400 billion tab in an era of declining defense budgets will require too many other sacrifices and trade-offs.

“This aircraft does everything better than anything ever flown,” a three-star general said on the condition of anonymity. “But how many can we afford? How many of them do we really need?”

Although Air Force and Marine leaders have held fast, an unofficial reexamination is occurring within the Navy, which is not as desperate for the F-35 because it possesses a relatively new fleet of F/A-18 Super Hornets. While toeing a public line of support for the F-35, some Navy experts are looking at whether it makes sense to reduce its planned order and plow some of the savings into high-speed drones that can operate off aircraft carriers, according to senior military officials.

Should that occur, or should Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel decide to shrink the overall purchase, it could prompt howls from key U.S. allies, including Britain, Italy and Norway, which all have contributed to the development of the aircraft. Their purchase price has been based on a U.S. order of about 2,500 jets. If that number drops, the per-plane cost will rise for the allies, possibly leading them to buy fewer then planned.

For some of them, cost increases and delays over the past decade have been significant enough to prompt a reexamination. Australia is deciding whether to halve its 100-plane order and Canada is reconsidering its plan to buy 65.

A smaller total purchase, of course, further increases unit costs for the United States, which likely would increase pressure to cut more. Procurement officers have a term for the phenomenon, borrowed from the world of aviation: a death spiral.

That’s what happened to the Air Force’s F-22. The original plan, set in 1991, was to buy 750 of them for $132 million apiece. Increased development costs and budget cuts in the 1990s sent that program into a tailspin. The Air Force eventually wound up with just 187 — at a cost of $422 million per plane.

That is why Bogdan is pressing Lockheed so aggressively to reduce costs. He knows the F-35 — despite the jobs it fuels, regardless of the needs of the Marines and Air Force — is a giant, unstealthy presence in the federal budget.

His best defense against cuts, he figures, involves showing that the long-troubled program can finally meet its targets — and that more reductions will just mean more-expensive aircraft.

“We have to understand there are trade-offs every time we cut spending on the F-35,” he said. “And none of them are very good.”


Cyber-attacks a bigger threat than Al Qaeda, officials say

Top intelligence officials say the foreign assaults are growing. They also sound an alarm about North Korea.

LA Times

By Ken Dilanian, Los Angeles Times

March 12, 2013, 6:31 p.m.


WASHINGTON — Cyber-attacks and cyber-espionage pose a greater potential danger to U.S. national security than Al Qaeda and other militants that have dominated America’s global focus since Sept. 11, 2001, the nation’s top intelligence officials said Tuesday.

For the first time, the growing risk of computer-launched foreign assaults on U.S. infrastructure, including the power grid, transportation hubs and financial networks, was ranked higher in the U.S. intelligence community’s annual review of worldwide threats than worries about terrorism, transnational organized crime and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

The startling reappraisal came a day after President Obama’s national security advisor, Thomas Donilon, complained of “cyber-intrusions emanating from China on an unprecedented scale” and said China-based digital attacks on U.S. businesses and institutions had become “a key point of concern” for the White House.

“The international community cannot afford to tolerate such activity from any country,” he said in a speech at the Asia Society in New York. He urged Beijing to “take serious steps to investigate and put a stop to these activities.”

Appearing Tuesday before the Senate Intelligence Committee, James R. Clapper, director of national intelligence, said Russia and China are unlikely to launch a devastating cyber-attack against the United States outside a military conflict or crisis that they believe threatens their vital interests.

But according to Clapper’s written statement, computer hackers or organized groups “could access some poorly protected U.S. networks that control core functions, such as power generation” although their ability to cause “high-impact, systemic disruptions will probably be limited.”

“It’s hard to overemphasize [cyber’s] significance,” Clapper told the committee.

Clapper testified alongside CIA Director John Brennan; FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III; Army Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, who heads the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency; Matthew Olsen, who heads the National Counterterrorism Center; and Philip Goldberg, who heads the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research.

The downgrading of the terrorist threat came with notable qualifiers. As was clear in the September lethal attack on U.S. diplomatic and intelligence compounds in Benghazi, Libya, Al Qaeda’s affiliates and sympathizers in the Middle East and North Africa still seek to harm U.S. interests.

Officials warned that despite setbacks, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the affiliate based in Yemen, aims to carry out attacks on U.S. soil and it “continues to adjust its tactics, techniques and procedures for targeting the West.”

But aggressive counter-terrorist operations, including using drone-launched missiles to kill individuals and small groups in northwestern Pakistan, “have degraded core Al Qaeda to a point that the group is probably unable to carry out complex, large-scale attacks in the West,” Clapper said.

Al Qaeda and its affiliates played little or no role in the popular uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa in 2011. But the fragile new governments in Egypt, Yemen and Libya, and continuing unrest in Syria and Mali, “have offered opportunities” for what Clapper called “unpredictable” attacks by established or aspiring terrorist groups on U.S. facilities and allies.

In response, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the committee chair, said “the terrorist threat has receded” because of a broad array of U.S. efforts. She said they include criminal prosecutions, noting that 438 people were convicted of terrorism-related charges in American courts from 2001 to 2010.

In a separate hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Gen. Keith Alexander, who heads the Pentagon’s new U.S. Cyber Command, which conducts military operations, as well as the National Security Agency, which carries out digital espionage overseas, said the number of attacks is growing.

“It’s getting worse,” he said, citing more than 140 attacks on Wall Street over the last six months. And in August, he said, a computer intrusion at Saudi Aramco, the Saudi Arabian national oil and gas company, destroyed data on more than 30,000 computers.

Outside experts blamed Iran for both sets of assaults, and Alexander was asked whether the Obama administration had considered retaliation.

“I think this gets to the heart of … when does the Defense Department step in to defend the country?” Alexander replied, saying he could not address specifics. Defense experts have struggled to define precisely when and how U.S. military or covert action should be taken to prevent a potential cyber-attack, especially when many appear all but impossible to trace.

On other fronts, Clapper warned that congressionally mandated budget cuts under the so-called sequester would create numerous problems for intelligence collection and analysis. The overall budget for the 16 U.S. intelligence agencies has grown sharply over the last decade and now is about $75 billion.

“We’ll reduce human, technical and counterintelligence operations, resulting in fewer collection opportunities while increasing a risk of strategic surprise,” he said.

The intelligence assessments of most danger zones around the globe changed little from last year.

Iran continues to enrich uranium and is moving closer to being capable of constructing a nuclear weapon, but it has not decided to build one, according to Clapper’s statement. Tehran has “the scientific, technical and industrial capacity to eventually produce nuclear weapons. This makes the central issue its political will to do so,” Clapper said.

Iran probably cannot divert weapons-grade fissile material without being discovered by United Nations inspectors, who make regular visits to Iran’s nuclear facilities, and Western intelligence agencies. Intelligence analysts believe Iran’s leaders are “guided by a cost-benefit approach” that still allows for a diplomatic solution to the standoff with the West.

Clapper stepped up his warnings on North Korea, however. In recent months, leader Kim Jong Un’s regime has successfully conducted an underground nuclear test, displayed what appeared to be a mobile intercontinental ballistic missile and placed a small satellite in orbit.

Clapper said North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile programs “pose a serious threat to the United States” as well as its East Asian neighbors. The regime’s efforts to develop long-range missile technology, he said, “could pose a direct threat” to America and its allies.


USDA suspends some ag reports due to budget cuts


Associated Press

Mar 13, 9:14 PM EDT


MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s statistical arm said it won’t issue some agricultural reports this year because of automatic federal budget cuts, alarming some in the dairy industry who fear the information void could wreak havoc with milk prices.

The National Agricultural Statistics Service keeps tabs on a wide range of agricultural industries that generate billions of dollars for the U.S. economy. Its reports influence the price and supply of many products that end up on American dinner plates. Farmers use them to decide how much to produce, and food processors and traders look to them to determine when to buy and sell.

The agency posted a notice on its website Tuesday saying it would suspend multiple reports covering at least 10 agricultural products ranging from milk and chickpeas to cattle and catfish because of $85 billion in across-the-board federal spending cuts went into effect earlier this month. The notice offered almost no details about the rationale for the decision, saying only that it “was not made lightly, but it was nevertheless necessary, given the funding situation.”

The budget cuts cost NASS’ agricultural estimates program $5.9 million, agency officials said.

Perhaps the highest profile reports on the chopping block are the agency’s milk production estimates, which are used to set prices. The agency will issue its February estimate on Tuesday and then suspend its next six monthly reports, along with the annual milk production report that had been expected in April, according to the National Milk Producers Federation.

“This is a big deal,” NMPF spokesman Chris Galen said Wednesday. “This is going to affect how decisions are made in marketing of milk and other dairy products. If you don’t have a national estimation of what your supply is, then it’s a lot harder to figure out where prices are going to go.”


Galen said he’s not aware of any other entities that produce the data dairy farmers need. His organization plans to send a letter to NASS officials seeking a better explanation and justification for eliminating those reports.

NASS spokeswoman Stephanie Chan declined comment.

NASS also canceled its July cattle report, which it has produced since 1973. Cattlemen said that would have less impact than some other cuts, such as furloughing meat inspectors. Ranchers sometimes use the July report to adjust their marketing plans, and it can be a tool for those running feedlots, where cattle go for final fattening before slaughter, said Joe Parker, president of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. But a January inventory report, which gives a state-by-state breakdown, is more helpful.

“The industry gets a better idea of the inventory location and the movement of that inventory,” he said. “We sure would like to keep (the July report) but we should be able to adjust without it.”

Other reports that won’t come out this year include those on catfish, potatoes, lentils, rice, nuts and some fruit and vegetables.

USDA officials announced in 2011 that they planned to eliminate 14 crop and livestock reports to save $10 million. Farmers complained they would be left guessing how much to produce and when to sell. The agency reversed itself two months later, saying operational improvements had helped free up money to reinstate the reports.


Initial Tests of Battery by Boeing Fell Short

NY Times


Published: March 13, 2013

In an age of sophisticated computer modeling, Boeing engineers relied on the same test used for tiny cellphone batteries to gather data about the safety of the heftier lithium-ion battery on its new 787 jets: they drove a nail into it to see what happened.

The burned Boeing 787 battery in a CT scan. Boeing grossly underestimated the amount of usage that would risk a fire.

Prof. Donald Sadoway of M.I.T. said more extensive tests of the 787 battery were needed this time.

As the nail pierced one of the eight cells, it accomplished its goal of setting off a short circuit. But only smoke, not fire, belched from the battery.

But the test and other evaluations that Boeing conducted while the plane was in development proved to be far off the mark in predicting what would happen when the plane was in use and led Boeing to severely underestimate the likelihood of a fire in the 63-pound battery.

Now, as Boeing tries to recover from a battery fire on one of the jets and a smoke incident on another that led to a worldwide grounding of the 787s in January, federal officials say it is crucial that the company collect better data this time from its laboratory and flight tests. That is particularly important, they said, since the cause of the jet’s battery problems is still unknown.

Boeing won approval on Tuesday from the Federal Aviation Administration to begin an extensive array of 20 types of tests to determine if its proposed new battery protection system works.

“It is clear from what happened in January that there are other ways for the batteries to catch fire that clearly weren’t captured by the nail test,” said Donald R. Sadoway, a materials chemistry professor at M.I.T.

He said the test — it is standard in testing lithium-ion batteries in cellphones, laptops and electric cars — measures just one kind of failure mode and represents an extreme short circuit of the battery in a very short period of time.

“It can work on a cellphone battery with a single cell, but you’re talking about a very different configuration here,” he added.

A preliminary report on the fire that occurred in a plane parked at Logan Airport in Boston on Jan. 7, released last week by the National Transportation Safety Board, provided new details of Boeing’s initial battery testing, including its reliance on the nail test for some of the basic data on the odds of incidents with smoke and fire.

The board’s report said that Boeing also gathered information from companies using the lithium-ion batteries in other industries and, based on that and the test data, it calculated that the odds of smoke being emitted from a battery was only one in 10 million flight hours.


Given that Boeing has never made its own batteries, it assigned other crucial tests to its subcontractors, including GS Yuasa, the Japanese battery maker, and Thales, a French company that oversees the battery charging system.

The F.A.A. also delegated much of the testing to Boeing, except for a safety assessment conducted once the plane’s electrical power system was certified. The F.A.A.’s decision to delegate some of its certification authority was done under a decades-old program meant to help the agency keep up with fast-changing technology but also to fill a gap in its own expertise.

In the course of the original testing, the batteries were also subjected to other kinds of destructive tests, including provoking an external short circuit, overcharging the batteries for 25 hours, subjecting them to high temperatures of 185 degrees Fahrenheit for an extended period, and discharging them completely. Boeing found that none of these tests in its computer modeling resulted in a battery fire, according to the safety board’s report, leading it to conclude that the chance of a battery fire was one in 1 billion flight hours, a negligible probability. In fact, the Boston fire occurred after the entire 787 fleet had flown with passengers for only 52,000 hours.

F.A.A. and Boeing officials said they did the best they could, given what was known about the batteries when the agency approved them for the 787 in October 2007. The innovative plane, which uses lighter-weight composite materials to cut fuel costs by 20 percent, makes more extensive use of the new batteries than any other commercial aircraft, and the F.A.A. imposed a series of special safety conditions to compensate for that risk.

But in March 2008, the R.T.C.A., an advisory group that suggests regulatory measures, released new and more rigorous guidelines for testing lithium-ion batteries — standards that Boeing says it will meet in its new round of testing.

The safety board’s report said that Boeing continued to test its original battery design in 2010. But the company, which was busy dealing with many other problems that had led to multiyear delays in the 787 program, did not change its test plans to follow the R.T.C.A. guidelines. It was not obliged to do so under the law and Boeing officials said they had not run into any problems with the battery in tests anyway.

It is not clear whether the nail test will be included in Boeing’s new testing regimen. In the test, a metallic nail is driven with blunt force by a machine into a battery to provoke a short circuit. The test is supposed to show whether the battery cells are properly insulated from each other. If they are not, this increases the risk of a thermal runaway where one cell overheats, catches fire and the fire cascades to the other battery cells.

But according to a 2011 presentation by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, a federal research lab, the nail test and other so-called abusive test methods are not representative of the kinds of failures that can happen when the batteries are used in real life. Further, the report found that many of the failures that occurred with lithium-ion batteries in laptops or cellphones originated in an internal short “that was not detectable or predictable” during manufacturing.

Boeing officials said they now have a deeper understanding of what might cause the batteries to fail and how to minimize that possibility. After weeks of engineering work, Boeing has proposed redesigning the batteries to insulate the eight cells from each other to keep a short circuit in one from cascading to the others, as investigators believe happened on the plane parked in Boston.

Boeing plans to enclose the batteries in stainless steel boxes, more resistant to higher temperatures than the earlier aluminum ones. While the original batteries could leak hazardous substances into surrounding bays, Boeing also plans to create tubes made of titanium to vent any overheated air or hazardous gases outside the planes.

Boeing is hoping it can rapidly complete the tests of the new design and get the planes refitted by mid- to late April, though government officials expect a slower timeline. While domestic regulators have approved testing of the redesigned system, Boeing must still convince Japanese regulators and is sending a delegation to Japan to present its technical fix this week.

Ray Conner, the chief executive of Boeing’s commercial plane division, said in a statement on Tuesday that this “permanent resolution” was designed to “significantly minimize the potential for battery failure while ensuring that no battery event affects the continued safe operation of the airplane.”

But safety and battery experts are still questioning whether regulators can approve a permanent fix even when the cause of the fire remains unknown. Boeing has brought in a number of outside battery experts, including some from General Electric and companies like General Motors that make electrical cars, to help it design the new system.

One of the plane’s two batteries provides power to start up the cockpit instruments. The other battery helps provide power when the plane is on the ground.

Boeing officials said the batteries never suffered any serious problem during more than 1 million hours of laboratory and flight testing before the first 787 was delivered in late 2011.

Hans Weber, an aviation consultant, said Boeing’s new effort to eliminate every possible source of a problem “is what I would call brute forcing it, which is what you do when you don’t know what went wrong.” Still, he said, “One of the challenges of new technology is that it takes time to learn the ways a technology can fail. And the only way to learn more is to start using the planes again.”


Reid Says Two-Year Budgeting Cycle Worth Considering

By Niels Lesniewski

Roll Call Staff

March 14, 2013, 3:50 p.m.


Majority Leader Harry Reid, latching on to an idea aimed at easing the yearly pain Congress goes through in setting spending plans, said Thursday that he’s open to exploring a two-year budget cycle.

“This has been something that has been looked at by a lot of people. We have had over the years many people who’ve said that this is probably a good idea,” Reid said. “And if we were ever going to do that, we should take a look at it now because we’re getting back into the appropriations process.”

Sens. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., introduced a bill this week that would move Congress to a two-year cycle and Rep. Joe Wilson, R-N.C., introduced a similar bill in the House with five GOP co-sponsors.

“Moving from a one-year to a two-year budget process will allow Congress to devote more time and attention to the wasteful programs and policies that need reform,” Wilson said in a statement.

Reid said he was appointed to a group exploring the issue by then-Majority Leader George Mitchell, D-Maine, a group that also included his longtime appropriations colleague Pete V. Domenici, R-N.M. However, Reid said the effort ran into trouble because of opposition from, among others, Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va.

“Sen. Byrd was opposed to it, and that made it very difficult and we got nothing done. But it’s something I would really like to take a look at. It’s something we should consider” Reid said.

Several states produce budgets on a two-year cycle.


U.S. National Vulnerability Database Hacked

The central database of vulnerability and related security information, maintained by NIST, remains down due to malware discovered on the site and traced, ironically, to a software vulnerability


By Larry Seltzer, , Darkreading

Mar 14, 2013 | 07:23 AM





The U.S. National Vulnerability Database (NVD) was taken down by its administrators at the National Institute of Standards and Technology last Friday, March 8.

As of this morning, the site shows this message:

Site/Page Not Available

The NIST National Vulnerability Database (NVD) has experienced an issue with its Web Services and is currently not available. We are working to restore service as quickly as possible. We will provide updates as soon as new information is available.


Kim Halavakoski, chief security officer at Crosskey Banking Solutions, broke the news on his Google+ page. After trying to retrieve some data from the site and finding it down, Halavakoski contacted the site administrators and received a note explaining the situation. The salient points:

•On Friday, March 8, a NIST firewall detected suspicious activity and took measures to block traffic related to it.

•The servers on which the activity was detected were taken down.

•Malware was discovered on two NIST Web servers.

•The malware was traced to a software vulnerability.

•There is no evidence the NVD itself spread malware.

•NIST has no further information on when the NVD will be back up.

The note was signed by Gail Porter of the NIST Public Inquiries Office.

In a subsequent post, Halavakoski noted that Netcraft data shows NIST had been running IIS 7.5 for years, but after the breach, it was listed as running Linux and Apache. Netcraft’s “risk rating” for the site is 0/10.


Pay freeze, furloughs might push employees to retire, but stats don’t show it yet

Washington Post

By Joe Davidson, Published: March 14


Take a look at the recent federal retirement figures and you can easily get the impression that feds are fleeing the pay freeze and pending furloughs like members of Congress leaving the Capitol on a Thursday night.

Citing the hardships federal employees will face because of the budgets cuts known as the sequester, Colleen M. Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), said that “many of the most talented and experienced will likely head for the exits.”

In testimony Wednesday to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, she pointed to data showing a recent “large increase in the number of federal workers leaving the workforce, primarily to retire.”

“In February 2013, 20,374 federal employees retired. That is more than three times the number who retired in February 2012. So far, in 2013, 42,561 employees have retired, about 40 percent of the entire total for 2012. A large increase in retirements is especially alarming since approximately 53 percent of the federal workforce will be eligible to retire by next year, and a significant loss of these experienced employees could leave agencies, already stretched thin, in dire circumstances.”


The Office of Personnel Management, however, where Kelley got her data, says the spike was mostly because of U.S. Postal Service personnel taking early retirement. In February, postal retirements accounted for about 73 percent of the total, according to OPM. Postal workers are not subject to the pay freeze and budget cuts affecting government generally, because thePostal Service does not use tax money for operating expenses.

“Based on historical workload trends, we generally see a spike in retirement claims in January after the end of the year, and, typically, that number drops in February,” said OPM spokesman Thomas Richards. “This year, close to 21,000 Postal Service employees accepted early-outs. Of those postal early-outs, approximately 3,000 came into OPM in January and 15,000 came into OPM in February, causing a spike in retirement claims. After working closely with the Postal Service in preparation for the early-outs, we were able to process a record 15,333 retirement claims in February. We expect the remainder of the early-outs to arrive in March and April.”

Curiously, the Postal Service had no comment Thursday. In 2011, however, Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe spoke of offering $20,000 incentive payments to encourage early retirements as a way to cut personnel costs.

Kelley is correct when she said that “actual retirements have been higher than OPM projections for nine of the last 14 months.”

And she made a good point when she told the Senate: “The federal employees I represent are frustrated, angry and scared. They have been under a pay freeze for more than two years. They are facing significant pay cuts due to sequestration. They are not sure if they will face yet another potential government shutdown on March 27. And they know the debt ceiling and the possibility of a government default is coming back this summer.

“These employees work really hard and care about their jobs. They know that budgets need to be tight, but as they see the waste that comes from the lack of timely congressional action, the contingency planning and short-term patch-up solutions that cost more in the long term, you shouldn’t be surprised that they think the wrong people are getting their pay cut.”

Kelley was testifying at a hearing about “The Costs and Impacts of Crisis Budgeting,” this herky-jerky way Congress has of going from one stopgap measure to another.

“We have definitely seen an uptick in the numbers of our members who are retiring,” she told the Federal Diary. “I believe it is related to a number of factors: constant attacks by some in Congress and the media, pay freezes, threats of unpaid furlough days, a lack of funding for agencies and resources to get the work done, and fears about potential changes to the retirement system.”

Witness Henry Powell, who retired in January after 20 years with the Internal Revenue Service. The pay freeze, the threat of furloughs and increased retirement contributions “had an awful lot to do with it,” he said. “Me and quite a lot of co-workers discussed this.”

Though Powell, a former NTEU chapter leader in Baltimore, is 70 years old, he said he probably would not have retired as a telephone customer service agent if conditions had been better for feds.

“I honestly don’t think so,” he said in an interview. “I would have continued to work. I enjoyed the job.”

But he fell victim to what Sen. Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.), chairman for the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, called “a way of doing business in Washington that makes it impossible for the federal government as a whole to give taxpayers the results they demand in an effective and affordable manner.”

One result of doing business this way, Carper said, is “degraded federal employee morale.”

Sen. Tom A. Coburn of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the panel, recalled a comment by “Will Rogers, a great Oklahoman [who] once said, ‘I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.’ Only, government dysfunction is no laughing matter. . . . We can and should do better.”

If not, expect more people to adopt the attitude about government work that Powell said many of his colleagues have:

“The hell with it.”


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