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April 20 2013

April 22, 2013

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Shifting to the Pacific: $527B Request Includes Less For Army, More for Air Force

Defense News

April 13, 2013

By MARCUS WEISGERBER

 

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon’s $527 billion fiscal 2014 budget request further deepens the Obama administration’s focus on the Asia-Pacific, better aligning funds with the military services expecting to play major roles in that region.

It continues investments in advanced stealth aircraft, such as F -35 joint strike fighters and new bombers. These planes play a key role in the Defense Department’s ability to operate in denied airspace. Another aircraft crucial to the expansive Pacific region is a new aerial refueling tanker, the Boeing KC-46A.

“It looks like 2014 was the first year that they really had incorporated that new strategic guidance from the beginning of their budget build,” said Todd Harrison, an analyst with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments think tank. “I would expect to see more movement like this in 2015.”

The Pentagon’s 2014 budget request seeks $99.3 billion for procurement of new weapons and $67.5 billion for research-and-development projects.

While budgets are often measured against previous years to illustrate changes and show trends, comparisons with the current budget are difficult for several reasons.

Last year, DoD submitted a $525 billion fiscal 2013 budget request to Congress. After more than a year of unprecedented budget negotiations, lawmakers last month passed a $529 billion 2013 defense spending bill through a continuing resolution.

However, after federal spending caps due to sequestration are applied, DoD received only $493 billion.

The 2014 request increases funding for the Air Force, decreasing funds for the Army, and keeps Navy funding relatively flat, which experts say is a sign of increased focus on the Pacific.

“It’s what you would expect with a focus on the Pacific and a greater emphasis on air power and sea power and less of an emphasis on conducting two simultaneous major ground wars,” Harrison said.

 

The Army slice of DoD’s 2014 request is $129.7 billion. Congress appropriated $131.9 billion for the Army in 2013. However, after sequestration is applied, the service received $125.1 billion.

DoD proposed $155.8 billion for the Navy in 2014. Congress appropriated $158.9 billion for the Navy in 2013, but sequestration limits the service’s top line to $148.9 billion.

The Air Force’s proposed 2014 budget is $144.4 billion. Congress appropriated $139.8 billion in 2013, but sequestration caps service spending at $130.1 billion.

Complicating matters, DoD is preparing a major reprogramming action, which will shift billions of dollars around budget accounts for the remainder of fiscal 2013.

Robert Hale, the Pentagon’s comptroller, said April 10 that the reprogramming will address war funding shortfalls.

 

No War Budget Yet

DoD did not include a spending request for the war in Afghanistan. However, it included an $88.5 billion “placeholder.” DoD requested, and Congress appropriated, $88.5 billion for war-related operations in 2013. However, after sequestration, funding was reduced to about $81 billion.

Hale said the Pentagon plans to send a war request to lawmakers “within a month.”

But despite the drawdown in Afghanistan, Hale said the war funding request is not expected to drastically decline.

The Pentagon’s 2013 war request assumed 68,000 troops in Afghanistan. Hale said the 2014 request will assume 34,000 troops through September 2014.

“I think [the request will] be lower [than 2013], although not dramatically lower, because there are so many other things going on,” Hale said.

In Afghanistan, DoD spends an average of $1.2 million per year for each service member on the ground, Harrison said. The figure has remained throughout the conflict, even throughout troop and fighting surges. Harrison said that makes him suspicious of DoD’s higher spending projections.

“It makes me wonder if they’re padding it with stuff, if they’re loading in peacetime readiness costs, if they’re loading in personnel costs,” he said.

DoD officials say they are burning through war funding at a higher-than-expected rate this year due to increased operational tempo and costs associated with removing equipment from Afghanistan.

In addition to actual operations, the Pentagon has used war funding to reset equipment, once it returns stateside.

 

How North Korea Tipped Its Hand

By Eli Lake | The Daily Beast

When North Korean engineers launched a satellite into space on December 12, it seemed like business as usual, with the familiar cycle of condemnations from the west and statements of defiance from the Hermit Kingdom. But that launch also led many U.S. intelligence analysts to assess that Pyongyang possessed the ability to miniaturize the components necessary to yield a nuclear explosion for a crude warhead that would sit atop a ballistic missile.

After the North Korean launch, U.S. Navy ships managed to recover the front section of the rocket used in it, according to three U.S. officials who work closely on North Korean proliferation. That part of the rocket in turn provided useful clues about North Korean warhead design, should the next payload be a warhead rather than a satellite.

The same basic engineering and science needed to launch a satellite into space is also used in the multi-stage rockets known as inter-continental ballistic missiles. The front of the satellite rocket, according to three U.S. officials who work closely on North Korean proliferation, gave tangible proof that North Korea was building the missile’s cone at dimensions for a nuclear warhead, durable enough to be placed on a long-range missile that could re-enter the earth’s atmosphere from space.

“Having access to the missile front was a critical insight we had not had before,” one U.S. non-proliferation official told The Daily Beast. “I have seen a lot of drawings, but we had not seen the piece of that missile at that time.” This official continued: “we looked at the wreckage from the launch and we put it together with other kinds of intelligence and came to this judgment that they had figured out the warhead piece.”

The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) released a classified assessment last month saying that it now has “moderate confidence” that the “North currently has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles however the reliability will be low,” South Korea has provided additional intelligence bolstering this conclusion, according to U.S. officials.

That assessment, in line with but more assertive than earlier comments from the agency., was made public three days ago, in a question from Rep. Doug Lamborn, a Republican from Colorado, to the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey. The Pentagon spokesman, George Little and the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, soon after the disclosure issued statements trying to play down the news. Clapper said, “it would be inaccurate to suggest that the North Korean regime has fully developed and tested the kinds of nuclear weapons referenced in the passage.” He added “North Korea has not yet demonstrated the full range of capabilities necessary for a nuclear armed missile.”

But neither Little or Clapper disputed the basic judgment that North Korea could likely build a nuclear warhead of low reliability. While the DIA assessment does not represent the view of all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, the recovered satellite rocket helped move CIA analysts away from their skepticism about North Korea’s ability to build a nuclear warhead as well. “The DIA was always more forward leaning on this,” one U.S. official said. “The CIA was always extremely cautious on this. The doubters in the CIA finally found some common ground with DIA when we did the recovery.” (The CIA declined to comment.)

Intelligence suggesting North Korea could design a nuclear warhead has been building for many years. A.Q. Khan, the man considered to be the father of the Pakistani nuclear program, for example has said in interviews and correspondence that in 1999 on a visit to North Korea he was shown boxes of components for three finished nuclear warheads that could be assembled within an hour.

One U.S. official who works on North Korean proliferation said there was reason to believe that Khan could have been lying when he said this. “Khan was like a used car salesman,” he said. “He wanted future customers to think he could get them the full package even though many times the equipment would not work as well as he said.” This official said there may have been components for warheads in a box, but “we never knew if those components could actually work.”

More recently though, other kinds of intelligence have also come to the attention of the U.S. intelligence community that suggest North Korea has mastered the miniaturization and warhead design work as well. Another U.S. official who works on North Korea work told the Beast that South Korea has recently shared more traditional kinds of intelligence with the United States about North Korea’s warhead design work, but did not get into the details of that intelligence.

 

Private drones pose privacy threat, says Google’s Eric Schmidt

NBC News

Nidhi Subbaraman, NBC News April 15, 2013

According to the Guardian, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt said domestic drones pose a threat to personal privacy.

In a recent interview, Schmidt explained that peeping neighbors are one example of the privacy infringements that the flying cameras could allow.

“You’re having a dispute with your neighbor,” Schmidt told the news outlet. “How would you feel if your neighbor went over and bought a commercial observation drone that they can launch from their back yard. It just flies over your house all day. How would you feel about it?”

Privacy rights activists and early users of civilian drones are divided over the extent of regulation that is still needed before drones become an everyday sighting in U.S. cities. But the consensus seems to be that some regulation is necessary.

Today, small drones can be purchased and flown by people in the U.S. for private, non-commercial activities without special approval from the FAA. That’s as long as fliers keep the FAA’s guidelines for model aircraft operation in mind. Among those, private drones can’t be flown out of range of sight, must be flown below 400 feet, and should avoid places like hospitals or schools where the noise could cause a disturbance.

Schmidt also had a perspective on weaponized drones, though it was unclear if he was referring to military drones or the possibility that domestic drone users could add those to their flying machines. Schmidt also said: “I’m not going to pass judgment on whether armies should exist, but I would prefer to not spread and democratize the ability to fight war to every single human being,” he told the Guardian.

Schmidt is also worried about drones falling into the nefarious hands of terrorists. “Terrorists and criminals could use drones to carry IEDs [improvised explosive devices] — that could result in conflict between civil and military drones,” he said at January talk at Cambridge University in the U.K.

Today’s FAA guidelines ban weapon-carrying drones in the U.S. But some privacy advocates include the no-weapon clause in petitions for future regulation, just in case: Existing regulations are due to be updated as the FAA prepares to meet its federal mandate to include drones in the U.S. national airspace by 2015, and as the ACLU’s Allie Bohm told NBC News: “We’re not sure what those regulations will look like in 2015.”

Schmidt’s comments are curious considering that Google has funded the WWF’s anti-poaching drone program in the past. Also, the company recently settled privacy lawsuits over collecting personal data from private Wi-Fi networks during construction of its Street View service, and for placing cookies in Safari browsers without telling its users it was doing so.

Adi Robertson at The Verge points out that Schmidt seems less opposed to the collection of private data by drones, and more concerned that the data could be misused. Which seems reasonable enough, given this 2009 interview with CNBC in which Schmidt touched on the subject of privacy: “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place,” he said.

 

Homeland Security’s New $3.9 Billion Headquarters

BusinessWeek

By Devin Leonard on April 12, 2013

http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-04-12/the-department-of-homeland-securitys-new-3-dot-9b-headquarters

 

President Barack Obama is trying to solve big problems in his proposed 2014 budget. His efforts to curtail entitlement spending have gotten most of the headlines. But he also seems determined to complete the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s new headquarters, the largest federal construction project since the Pentagon rose in the 1940s. The cost: $3.9 billion.

The project would unite at a single location nearly all DHS’s 22 divisions devoted to thwarting terrorists and safeguarding the populace from natural and manmade disasters. The site is the campus of St. Elizabeth Hospital, a former federal asylum that was once the home of poet Ezra Pound and John Hinckley, Ronald Reagan’s would-be assassin. There would be 4.5 million square feet of workspace in the new facility and ample employee parking.

The project’s supporters say the price tag is justified. They say it’s not easy to get the various DHS divisions to operate in concert with each other if they are scattered throughout the capital area. At the 2009 groundbreaking, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano herself made the case for the agency’s costly new digs: “It will help us have meetings. It will help us create a culture of ‘one DHS.'”

It didn’t take long for the project to become mired in politics. House Republicans, a number of whom see the DHS as an inefficient and fiscally profligate bureaucracy, were loath to fund the new headquarters fully. A new headquarters for the U.S. Coast Guard, which involved more excavation than any real estate development in the District of Columbia’s history, moved forward. The rest of the endeavor languished, becoming a symbol of Washington dysfunction. The tighter integration that Napolitano promised also remained a work in progress. The DHS is on the U.S. Government Accountability Office’s “high risk” list, a distinction it shares with such troubled federal agencies as the U.S. Postal Service.

Now Obama is trying to ensure that the DHS headquarters eventually rises. On Wednesday, the president included $367 million in his budget to continue construction.

Getting the money won’t be easy. In February, one of the DHS’s more persistent naysayers, U.S. Representative John Mica, a Florida Republican, boasted about how he and his fellow party members had curtailed the project. He said he would also like to dismantle much of the DHS.

He’d better act swiftly. If the White House ever gets all the DHS’s divisions on one campus, nobody will want to move them again.

 

Lawmakers Say IRS Still Silent on Reading Citizen Emails Without a Warrant


US News & World Report

By Elizabeth Flock

April 15, 2013

 

The IRS can also reportedly monitor social media accounts to look for people who may have lied on their tax returns.

The IRS issued a short statement last week after internal agency documents were leaked suggesting the IRS read taxpayers’ emails without a warrant.

“The IRS does not use emails to target taxpayers. Any suggestion to the contrary is wrong,” the statement read.

But lawmakers aren’t satisfied with the agency’s response.

In one leaked memo, the IRS told its special investigations team that “non-consensual monitoring of electronic communications … can be used to investigate any federal felony.” The Wall Street Journal reports the IRS can also monitor Facebook and Twitter accounts outside of an investigation, such as to look for people who may have lied on their tax returns.

In a letter sent to the IRS April 11, the chairman of the House Committee On Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight, Rep. Boustany, R-La., demanded answers from the agency about its policy on searching emails and other electronic communications, how many emails have been searched in the last several years, and what specifically the agency is looking for.

“They made some statement about targeted search, but they have not specifically addressed what was in our letter,” GOP Ways and Means Committee press secretary Sarah Swinehart tells Whispers.

On Monday, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., joined the chorus of concern over the IRS searches.

“I have long believed that our government should obtain a search warrant issued by a court before gaining access to our email and other private communications,” Leahy, who is chair of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, said in a statement.

That committee will soon consider legislation to reform the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which allows government agencies to obtain personal emails without a warrant so long as they have already been opened or are older than 180 days.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which originally released the internal IRS documents, is also unsatisfied with the revenue agency’s response.

“Those four sentences don’t answer the question in any way. We’d still call on them to clarify whether in fact they are reading peoples emails,” ACLU staff attorney Nathan Freed Wessler told Whispers. Wessler believes a reform to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act is desperately needed to prevent government agencies from reading private emails in the future.

Aside from its initial statement, the IRS has stayed mum on the issue, though Boustany’s letter requests the agency answer his questions within the next two weeks. Dean Patterson, spokesman for the IRS, tells Whisper he believes the agency “will say more” on the issue, though he declines to say what or when.

 

 

U.S. Air Force says Space Fence program safe for now

Mon, Apr 15 2013

By Andrea Shalal-Esa

 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Air Force on Monday said it took steps to fully fund the first increment of a new ground-based radar to track satellites and other objects in space in its fiscal 2104 budget proposal, but there was no funding for a second site for now.

Jamie Morin, acting undersecretary of the Air Force, told reporters the Space Fence program was a priority given growing threats in space and the need to monitor activities in space.

“Space Fence is as solid as any program can be in the fiscal environment we’re in right now,” Morin, who also serves as the Air Force’s top budget official, told reporters.

The new program will allow the Air Force to sharply increase its ability to track “space junk” and other smaller objects in space. Currently the Air Force tracks about 23,000 of an estimated 500,000 objects in space, but the new program would allow it to track hundreds of thousands of additional objects.

The Pentagon’s unclassified budget proposes spending a total of $8 billion on space operations in fiscal 2014, about the same level as in fiscal 2013, including $400.3 million in research and development funding for Space Fence and a joint program with Australia to base a C-Band radar in the Southern Hemisphere.

Lockheed Martin Corp and Raytheon Co are competing for a contract to develop and build the Space Fence radar. Officials had hoped to fund a second Space Fence site in Australia, but there was no funding earmarked for that effort at this point, Morin said.
Last week, the head of Air Force Space Command said a contract award had been expected in the next month or two, but the program could be vulnerable to cuts in fiscal 2015, given competing demands for other Air Force programs.

On Monday, Morin said Space Fence was safe for now, although he said “everything’s vulnerable” in the current budget climate.

He said space programs were showing improvement after years of cost overruns and schedule delays. Acquisition reforms, including plans to buy several satellites at a time, had allowed officials to cut costs on programs as they entered production.

He said the Air Force believed it could cut $1 billion from projected costs for Lockheed’s Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite program over the next five years, with another $500 million to be trimmed from Lockheed’s missile warning program, the Space-Based Infrared Satellite (SBIRS), in the same period.

But across-the-board budget cuts in fiscal 2013 – and the threat of additional cuts in coming years – threatened to undermine the stability the big-ticket programs needed to allow cost-reduction efforts to continue, Morin said.

 

BUDGET CONCERNS

He said the Air Force was doing all it could to avoid breaking multiyear contracts for new missile-warning, secure communications and other satellites.

But damage to space programs would be “unavoidable” if Congress fails to avert further across-the-board reductions in planned Pentagon spending in fiscal 2014 and beyond, Morin said.

“We’re not anticipating breaking contracts in 2013, but we’ve consumed essentially all the flex within the system,” he said, adding that additional sequestration cuts in fiscal 2014 or later would do “serious damage” to space programs.

Air Force officials said they expected decisions in coming years about new acquisition approaches for next-generation weather, secure communications and missile-warning satellites, including pay-for-service plans, loading sensors onto other satellites, and buying more smaller, less complex satellites.

U.S. satellite and rocket builders are jockeying to benefit from shifting Air Force procurement plans.

Morin said the studies on procurement were largely classified, but in general, they endorsed moving beyond the purchase of a handful of “extremely expensive assets,” and pursuing “a variety of different additional concepts for getting at mission areas.”

Brigadier General Robert McCurry, director of space programs for the Air Force, said military officials were also closely examining their requirements for new satellites.

Richard McKinney, Air Force deputy undersecretary for space, cautioned that new approaches could in some cases turn out to be more expensive than the current use of fewer large satellites.

“One does need to have a reasonable level of skepticism about the new ideas that come in,” Morin added, when asked about a proposed venture to sell weather data as a service from a dozen commercially launched small satellites.

A new start up, PlanetIQ, backed by Moog Inc, plans to launch 12 75-kilogram satellites that it says would provide more accurate real-time weather data than current satellites.

(Reporting By Andrea Shalal-Esa; Editing by Eric Beech)

 

Part 1

Can Moving Data to Cloud Reduce Risk?

Security Gurus Ron Ross, Gene Spafford Offer Differing Views

By Eric Chabrow, April 9, 2013. Follow Eric @GovInfoSecurity

 

NIST’s Ron Ross sees complexity as the biggest risk enterprises face. To ease risk, Ross favors moving data to the cloud. Purdue’s Eugene Spafford doesn’t fully subscribe to Ross’ plan. The two square off in this interview.

At a panel moderated by Information Security Media Group at the RSA security conference earlier this year, Ross – who leads the team that develops information risk guidance at the National Institute of Standards and Technology – mentioned complexity as being the biggest risk organizations face, adding that moving selected data to the cloud would help mitigate that risk.

When Spafford heard of Ross’ plan, he initially didn’t like the idea, mostly because of the risks and complexity that cloud computing contains. A few moments later, the two IT security experts engaged in a spirited yet amiable discussion over Ross’ proposal. Asked if they’d be willing to record their “friendly debate” for an ISMG interview, Ross and Spafford agreed.

In the interview:

  • Ross explicates why complexity is the biggest information risk to organizations and how moving data to the cloud can mitigate it.
  • Spafford explains why moving data into the cloud could add, not reduce, risk organizations face.
  • Both men strive to identify areas of agreement between them.

In the second part of this interview, to be posted in the coming week, Ross and Spafford discuss how virtualization could help minimize or prevent damage from attackers who hack into computer systems.

 

Part 2

Will New Hires Impede Future Security?

Gene Spafford, Ron Ross on Hiring Today’s IT Security Personnel

By Eric Chabrow, April 16, 2013. Follow Eric @GovInfoSecurity

 

The rush to find qualified IT security professionals to meet current cyber-threats could jeopardize IT systems’ security in the not-too-distant future, say two leading IT security experts, Eugene Spafford and Ron Ross.

Spafford, a Purdue University computer science professor, and Ross, a leading IT security and information risk management expert at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, presented differing views, at times, on the role cloud computing performs in helping mitigate information risk in the first of a two-part interview [see Can Moving Data to Cloud Reduce Risk?].

Here, in part two, both experts generally agree about the threat posed to organizations in recruiting IT security personnel for existing challenges – including securing the cloud – because the new hires might not be prepared to address future cyber-threats.

Are the U.S. federal government and others being too short sighted in the way they recruit IT security personnel today? Perhaps, Spafford suggests in the discussion with Ross, moderated by Information Security Media Group. By attempting to “shorten the pipeline” to find qualified IT security personnel, the types of people being hired might not have the wherewithal to meet future cybersecurity needs.

“We’re going to have a whole lot of people out there in 10 years who got their jobs and were really, really good at finding and exploiting problems in Windows and Linux, but have no idea how to build a new system that is a successor to the cloud systems or operate the security in these because they never had the background,” Spafford says. “And, I think that’s probably the longer-term danger that we have. We’re going to be moving all of this stuff into the cloud or moving it off to an environment that is going to change because of technology and laws, and we’re not doing enough to build up a cadre of people with deep experience and basic principles.”

Ross adds, “Redefining security to some of the things we’re doing today without regard to the fundamentals could be problematic long-term because just going to the cloud isn’t going to solve the fundamental problems that we’re talking about here today.”

 

In the interview:

•Spafford foresees a day when cheaper hardware and software will mean organizations won’t need to migrate to the cloud in many instances, resulting in a more secure computing environment;

•Ross questions how the evolving definition of information security over the past two decades might change the way organizations address their security needs.

 

Besides being a computer science professor, Spafford serves as executive director at Purdue University’s Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security. Widely considered a leading expert in information security, Spafford has served on the Purdue computer science faculty since 1987. His research focuses on information security, computer crime investigation and information ethics.

Ross, a NIST fellow, serves as the architect of the risk-management framework that integrates the suite of NIST security standards and guidelines into a comprehensive enterprise security program. He leads NIST’s Federal Information Security Management Act Implementation Project as well as the Joint Task Force Transformation Initiative Working Group, a joint partnership with NIST, Defense Department, the intelligence community and the Committee on National Security Systems, to develop a unified information security framework for the federal government.

 

NOAA plans to shut down agency for 4 days

 

Federal Times

April 16, 2013

By SEAN REILLY

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration plans to shut down most agency operations for four mandatory furlough days in July and August in response to sequester-related budget cuts, according to the agency’s acting chief.

“In the constrained budget environment in which we find ourselves, there are no easy or painless options available,” Kathryn Sullivan told employees in a Monday email. “We are working to ensure that mission-critical or life-saving products and services are still provided.”

NOAA, part of the Commerce Department, has about 12,600 civilian employees, according to the Obama’s administration fiscal 2014 budget request. For workers at National Weather Service forecasting offices and other around-the-clock operations, the scheduling of unpaid time off “will be carefully determined to ensure continuity of mission,” Sullivan said.

NOAA imposed a hiring freeze late last month.

The planned furloughs would fall on July 5, July 19, Aug. 5 and Aug. 30. The first and last of those days are intended to piggyback on the July 4 and Labor Day federal holidays, “which provides additional utilities and other facility cost savings,” Sullivan said.

NOAA expects to lose about $270 million of its $5.1 billion fiscal 2013 budget because of the across-the-board sequester cuts that began taking effect March 1.

But Richard Hirn, the top lawyer for the union representing weather service employees said the furloughs would save only about $15 million, or a “rounding error” in comparison to NOAA’s total budget.

“The impact to the employees and harm to agency operations so outweigh that,” Hirn, general counsel for the National Weather Service Employees Organization, said in a Tuesday interview.

The planned furloughs will be far more widespread than predicted two months ago by Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank. In a Feb. 8 letter to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., on the possible impact of the sequester, Blank said that up to 2,600 NOAA employees would have to be furloughed, and the contractor workforce cut by about 1,400.

Blank also foresaw damage to NOAA operations, including delays in launching next-generation weather satellites, cutbacks in fisheries management and fewer flight hours for aircraft that provide hurricane reconnaissance and costal surveying.

“It is unclear that future years of investment will be able to undo some of the damage,” Blank added, “especially to the economies of America’s fisheries and to our weather preparedness.”

 

Fiscal Times

The Real Reason Obama Lowered His GDP Estimate

By JOSH BOAK and ERIC PIANIN, The Fiscal Times

April 17, 2013

 

Here’s a troubling fact tucked away in President Obama’s latest budget proposal: For all of the president’s calls for major stimulus spending and job creation for the middle class, the economy may never return to its top speed.

Over the course of five years, the White House has steadily ratcheted down its estimates of just how fast the economy can grow. As the recovery from the 2008 financial crisis grinds along, the new estimates released last week hint at an economic engine that is steadily losing power.

The fiscal 2014 budget plan estimates GDP growth of 2.3 percent this year and 3.2 percent in 2014. It anticipates a slower growth rate between 2013 and 2017 than the previous budget. And with baby boomers starting to retire, the “Analytical Perspectives” addendum to the budget explains, “Real GDP growth in the United States is likely to be permanently slower than it was in earlier eras because of a slowdown in labor force growth initially due to the retirement of the post-World War II baby boom generation, and later due to a decline in the growth of the working age population.”

The decline creates something of a Catch-22 for stabilizing the federal debt—as deficits that exceeded or approached $1 trillion for the past five years have enabled a clear but modest recovery – despite complaints from conservatives that the administration has dangerously saddled the government with excessive debt.

And with Gross Domestic Product growth puttering along around two percent, it may become harder for political leaders to agree on how to pay down the national debt, since they cannot depend on previous growth levels to straighten out the federal balance sheet.

The problem of low growth—largely borne out of changing demographics—complicates any effort by Obama to achieve a compromise with House Republicans, who have insisted on a swift and austere deficit reduction. At the same time, progressive lawmakers see the economic fragility as proof that any deficit reduction should not occur through cuts to entitlement or job creation programs.

Obama’s new budget attempts a balancing act by simultaneously proposing major long term deficit reduction while advocating many billions of dollars in infrastructure construction and educational initiatives to create new jobs. But he is finding it difficult to placate both the right and the left.

“The President clearly is in a difficult position because you have a Republican House that believes the way out of this recession is to simply cut, cut, cut and more austerity for low and moderate-income people,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, told The Fiscal Times Tuesday. “I think that’s a disastrous idea both morally and economically.”

Other lawmakers have latched onto an idea that simplifying the tax code will somehow achieve what the past several years have not, even though total tax revenues are within historical norms.

“Reform itself is going to stimulate growth,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., told The Fiscal Times. “It would be a much more efficient code that would make our economy more competitive and help reduce complexity. That in and of itself is going to provide stimulus.”

Team Obama still sees brighter times ahead, even though in a major change it no longer predicts that GDP growth will climb above 4 percent at least once in the next decade.

“I am optimistic that we will continue to recover from this traumatic experience—and I’m also optimistic that we will rebuild a stronger economy in the future,” Alan Krueger, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers said in a speech Tuesday.

That’s entirely possible. Krueger noted that housing and the stock market have rebounded, earning back almost all of the wealth that was erased in the recession.

But in his address on Tuesday to the American Bankers Association, he also explained that risks abound—the European banking crisis, long-term unemployment, the possible breach of the debt ceiling in May, and the persistence of income inequality.

“From 1979 to 2011, an astonishing 84 percent of all income growth in America went to the top 1 percent of families,” Krueger said. That’s not a sound model to build an economy.”

Given those possible risks, the economist—on leave from Princeton University—expressed a reasonable degree of confidence in the projections behind Obama’s 2014 budget proposal.

They were made last November to give agencies time to prepare their budget and do not factor in the impact of the $85 billion of sequestration cuts, yet Krueger said, “Fortunately, I think we did a pretty good job with our forecast because we were close to the consensus.”

Way back in 2010, Obama proposed a fiscal 2011 budget that anticipated a solid recovery. GDP would increase by 4.3 percent in 2012, 4.2 percent in 2013, and 4 percent in 2014. When that comeback never materialized, the estimates became less ambitious and stretched further into the future. The White House forecasted last year in its budget that GDP growth would peak at 4.1 percent in 2015.

For the new 2014 budget, economic growth would peak at 3.6 percent in 2016. What this means is that during four years, the White House has slashed its GDP projections for 2020 by an astounding $1.1 trillion.

The challenge is whether the economy will ever again return to full throttle. It last moved at a steady clip of more than 4 percent during the tech bubble and the Clinton administration from 1997 to 2000.

Multiple theories abound over what has choked off growth. House Republicans have argued that the $16.5 trillion national debt has hobbled growth, along with the usual suspects of government regulation and taxes.

On Monday—Tax Day—House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, appeared on a YouTube clip with the seven-foot tall stack of regulations from the Obamacare health insurance law and noted that the tax code is four times longer. “Closing tax loopholes and lowering rates will mean more jobs, higher wages, and a stronger economy,” Boehner assured viewers.

Much of the GOP solution relied on a study by economists Ken Rogoff and Carmen Reinhart that a debt-to-GDP ratio of more than 90 percent crippled economic growth, a claim that was thrown into doubt Tuesday as claims of spreadsheet errors in their research became public.

Progressives counter that income inequality explains much of the slowdown, since consumption accounts for 70 percent of GDP and flat incomes translate either into more personal debt or less spending.

“We’re now witnessing what happens when all of the economic gains go to the top, and the rest of the population doesn’t have enough purchasing power to keep the economy going,” Robert Reich, a University of California at Berkley professor who served as Clinton’s Labor secretary, wrote Tuesday. “The underlying problem is the vast middle class is running out of money. They can’t borrow more –and shouldn’t, given what happened after the last borrowing binge.”

Another explanation emerged Tuesday in an analysis of employment by Michael Feroli, an economist for JP Morgan Chase.

Feroli wrote that the unemployment rate usually falls at a fixed rate relative to economic growth, a principle known as Okun’s Law. But the job gains in 2012 occurred with a GDP that climbed by just 1.7 percent. Under Okun’s Law, it would have taken GDP surging at 4.9 percent to justify the unemployment rate dropping from 8.5 percent to 7.8 percent.

The unemployment rate has risen as growth has been sluggish for two reasons, Feroli said. Half of the story involves workers exiting the labor force, so they’re no longer included in calculations of the unemployment rate.

But Feroli suggests another major factor—the productivity boom no longer seems to be that strong. If accurate this would suggest that hiring will be stronger, but actual growth—and all the other benefits that come with it—could still be abysmal.

“The other half is due to productivity being unusually weak over the last few years,” Feroli wrote. “Slow productivity growth means that each added dollar of GDP requires more labor input than would be the case if productivity grew more normally.”

Here’s a troubling fact tucked away in President Obama’s latest budget proposal: For all of the president’s calls for major stimulus spending and job creation for the middle class, the economy may never return to its top speed.

Over the course of five years, the White House has steadily ratcheted down its estimates of just how fast the economy can grow. As the recovery from the 2008 financial crisis grinds along, the new estimates released last week hint at an economic engine that is steadily losing power.

The fiscal 2014 budget plan estimates GDP growth of 2.3 percent this year and 3.2 percent in 2014. It anticipates a slower growth rate between 2013 and 2017 than the previous budget. And with baby boomers starting to retire, the “Analytical Perspectives” addendum to the budget explains, “Real GDP growth in the United States is likely to be permanently slower than it was in earlier eras because of a slowdown in labor force growth initially due to the retirement of the post-World War II baby boom generation, and later due to a decline in the growth of the working age population.”

The decline creates something of a Catch-22 for stabilizing the federal debt—as deficits that exceeded or approached $1 trillion for the past five years have enabled a clear but modest recovery – despite complaints from conservatives that the administration has dangerously saddled the government with excessive debt.

 

And with Gross Domestic Product growth puttering along around two percent, it may become harder for political leaders to agree on how to pay down the national debt, since they cannot depend on previous growth levels to straighten out the federal balance sheet.

The problem of low growth—largely borne out of changing demographics—complicates any effort by Obama to achieve a compromise with House Republicans, who have insisted on a swift and austere deficit reduction. At the same time, progressive lawmakers see the economic fragility as proof that any deficit reduction should not occur through cuts to entitlement or job creation programs.

Obama’s new budget attempts a balancing act by simultaneously proposing major long term deficit reduction while advocating many billions of dollars in infrastructure construction and educational initiatives to create new jobs. But he is finding it difficult to placate both the right and the left.

“The President clearly is in a difficult position because you have a Republican House that believes the way out of this recession is to simply cut, cut, cut and more austerity for low and moderate-income people,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, told The Fiscal Times Tuesday. “I think that’s a disastrous idea both morally and economically.”

Other lawmakers have latched onto an idea that simplifying the tax code will somehow achieve what the past several years have not, even though total tax revenues are within historical norms.

“Reform itself is going to stimulate growth,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., told The Fiscal Times. “It would be a much more efficient code that would make our economy more competitive and help reduce complexity. That in and of itself is going to provide stimulus.”

Team Obama still sees brighter times ahead, even though in a major change it no longer predicts that GDP growth will climb above 4 percent at least once in the next decade.

“I am optimistic that we will continue to recover from this traumatic experience—and I’m also optimistic that we will rebuild a stronger economy in the future,” Alan Krueger, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers said in a speech Tuesday.

That’s entirely possible. Krueger noted that housing and the stock market have rebounded, earning back almost all of the wealth that was erased in the recession.

But in his address on Tuesday to the American Bankers Association, he also explained that risks abound—the European banking crisis, long-term unemployment, the possible breach of the debt ceiling in May, and the persistence of income inequality.

“From 1979 to 2011, an astonishing 84 percent of all income growth in America went to the top 1 percent of families,” Krueger said. That’s not a sound model to build an economy.”

Given those possible risks, the economist—on leave from Princeton University—expressed a reasonable degree of confidence in the projections behind Obama’s 2014 budget proposal.

They were made last November to give agencies time to prepare their budget and do not factor in the impact of the $85 billion of sequestration cuts, yet Krueger said, “Fortunately, I think we did a pretty good job with our forecast because we were close to the consensus.”

Way back in 2010, Obama proposed a fiscal 2011 budget that anticipated a solid recovery. GDP would increase by 4.3 percent in 2012, 4.2 percent in 2013, and 4 percent in 2014. When that comeback never materialized, the estimates became less ambitious and stretched further into the future. The White House forecasted last year in its budget that GDP growth would peak at 4.1 percent in 2015.

 

For the new 2014 budget, economic growth would peak at 3.6 percent in 2016. What this means is that during four years, the White House has slashed its GDP projections for 2020 by an astounding $1.1 trillion.

The challenge is whether the economy will ever again return to full throttle. It last moved at a steady clip of more than 4 percent during the tech bubble and the Clinton administration from 1997 to 2000.

Multiple theories abound over what has choked off growth. House Republicans have argued that the $16.5 trillion national debt has hobbled growth, along with the usual suspects of government regulation and taxes.

On Monday—Tax Day—House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, appeared on a YouTube clip with the seven-foot tall stack of regulations from the Obamacare health insurance law and noted that the tax code is four times longer. “Closing tax loopholes and lowering rates will mean more jobs, higher wages, and a stronger economy,” Boehner assured viewers.

Much of the GOP solution relied on a study by economists Ken Rogoff and Carmen Reinhart that a debt-to-GDP ratio of more than 90 percent crippled economic growth, a claim that was thrown into doubt Tuesday as claims of spreadsheet errors in their research became public.

Progressives counter that income inequality explains much of the slowdown, since consumption accounts for 70 percent of GDP and flat incomes translate either into more personal debt or less spending.

“We’re now witnessing what happens when all of the economic gains go to the top, and the rest of the population doesn’t have enough purchasing power to keep the economy going,” Robert Reich, a University of California at Berkley professor who served as Clinton’s Labor secretary, wrote Tuesday. “The underlying problem is the vast middle class is running out of money. They can’t borrow more –and shouldn’t, given what happened after the last borrowing binge.”

Another explanation emerged Tuesday in an analysis of employment by Michael Feroli, an economist for JP Morgan Chase.

Feroli wrote that the unemployment rate usually falls at a fixed rate relative to economic growth, a principle known as Okun’s Law. But the job gains in 2012 occurred with a GDP that climbed by just 1.7 percent. Under Okun’s Law, it would have taken GDP surging at 4.9 percent to justify the unemployment rate dropping from 8.5 percent to 7.8 percent.

The unemployment rate has risen as growth has been sluggish for two reasons, Feroli said. Half of the story involves workers exiting the labor force, so they’re no longer included in calculations of the unemployment rate.

But Feroli suggests another major factor—the productivity boom no longer seems to be that strong. If accurate this would suggest that hiring will be stronger, but actual growth—and all the other benefits that come with it—could still be abysmal.

“The other half is due to productivity being unusually weak over the last few years,” Feroli wrote. “Slow productivity growth means that each added dollar of GDP requires more labor input than would be the case if productivity grew more normally.”

 

http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Articles/2013/04/17/The-Real-Reason-Obama-Lowered-His-GDP-Estimate.aspx#vxwITy7WtGPVA0wg.99

 

2013 AFCEA Cyberspace Symposium Remarks

General William L. Shelton, Commander, Air Force Space Command

Colorado Springs, Colo., Feb. 6, 2013

 

Thanks Keith for the kind introduction. I’ve been looking forward to speaking with this group again this year, thank you, by the way; and if any of you have some influence in Washington, can you please get this budget thing fixed?…You can applaud that (applause).

I think, as you know, there are a lot of pressures on all of us to try to make some really tough decisions without a whole lot of good information. I have no idea what this fiscal year is going to look like for the rest of this year, much less what FY14, ’15 and beyond are going to look like. How in the world do we execute modernization and sustainment of our national security assets in an environment like this? I know it’s just as irritating to all of you as it is to me.

Lewis Carroll wrote in Alice in Wonderland: “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.” These days I feel like we’re in Wonderland. We’re on a lot of different roads right now, frankly, we’re trying to prudently cover all our bets because we don’t know what the environment’s going to be. But you didn’t invite me here to talk about the sorry state of affairs in our budget situation. Rather, I’d rather talk about Air Force Space Command and our role in the cyberspace business.

Let’s first, cover a few ‘givens.’ I think most people today understand that cyber clearly underpins the full spectrum of military operations, including planning, employment, monitoring, and assessment capabilities. I can’t think of a single military operation that is not enabled by cyber. Every major military weapon system, command and control system, communications path, intelligence sensor, processing and dissemination functions–they all have critical cyber components.

Now, as immature as we are in our work in cyber, already it’s clear that it’s a critical enabler for all military operations. It is deeply embedded in the other Air Force domains of air and space, and it provides an integrating connection between domains and missions. And, as such, the Air Force recognizes we had better get our arms around this domain–and soon.

To that end, the Secretary and the Chief have charged me with being the single commander responsible not only for operation, maintenance, sustainment and defense of the Air Force Networks, but also with developing, fielding, and employing operationally relevant cyber capabilities and effects. Bottom line: the buck starts and stops with me and my Command.

Now, you might remember, last year at this time, I gave myself an “F” as the lead for cyber in the Air Force. Since then, we’ve made what I consider to be some impressive progress–that’s the good news, which I’ll describe soon. The real challenge is, though, there’s so much more work to be done.

Back in 2009 when we began the concentrated cyber effort within the Air Force we didn’t get it right the first time. That’s why we are aggressively re-evaluating our roles, and authorities as we speak. We’re taking a microscopic view on exactly how and why we’re doing ‘all things cyber.’

We’re reviewing every piece and part of cyber to assess its proper home; what piece is operational versus what part is considered infrastructure, and where do those responsibilities properly fit in the current Air Force organizational structure. We’re reviewing the operational impacts and costs of merging with DoD programs like the Joint Information Environment and DISA’s Defense Enterprise Email. And we’re thinking about whether we should outsource entire capabilities to industry where exceptional, secure capabilities already exist.

 

Our overarching priority, of course, and therefore our guiding principle, must be on providing the best support to the warfighter – cognizant of operational effect, cyber security, and costs. We’re taking these challenges head on and as a Command, we’re moving out.

But full disclosure here, not everything is moving as fast as I’d like. For example, we thought we’d be done at the end of this fiscal year with our AFNet migration project, driving toward a single, centrally-managed, homogeneous and defensible enterprise. Hiccups occurred, we needed more money, and the schedule lengthened; certainly not the path we’d projected. We now anticipate completing the migration midway through FY14.

We’ve learned from the mistakes that led to the fits and starts, and we’ve begun to change a cultural mindset from one of, “it must be invented here,” to one of innovation based on partnerships.

We understand our AF networks like never before; we’re better able to implement new capabilities across the entire spectrum of operational cyber. And it’s our considerable task to take those lessons and implement new cyber capabilities on operationally relevant timelines. Those must be, in fact, “lessons learned” and not just lessons observed–it’s doubtful we’ll have the luxury of making the same mistakes twice in the future.

So, even though the AFNet project is late, there are some things to brag about. But, before I cover those successes, I’d like to provide an overview of some key next steps that I’ve recently discussed with the Air Force senior leadership. We’ll focus on some technologies, organizations, structure and policy, financial, and related keys to formulating the next wave of successes.

We’re working hard to translate our vision for Air Force cyber operations into reality. Our first responsibility has been to develop an Air Force vision that is based in realism in the cyber domain–a domain that is incredibly dynamic, evolving at speeds and in ways that we couldn’t imagine just a few short years ago. For a technology-based Service like the Air Force, which is so dependent on cyber, it’s only logical that we commit ourselves to maintaining the edge over potential adversaries. And we should be comfortable with speedy evolution, and technological innovation; after all, that has been our birthright in the Air Force since our beginnings in air and space and it has to be the way we act in cyberspace as well.

But that’s the easy part–the commitment. The “how” is the hard part.

Machiavelli wrote: “There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of new things.”

From that quote, we can assume he was an observer of the real world, and we have been working diligently to introduce this new order of things within the Air Force very deliberately and very methodically. Now, don’t confuse being deliberate and methodical with being slow. We have several initiatives underway that leverage new technologies and challenge the traditional ways we acquire and operate in this domain.

Now, as I look at this new order, we face some additional challenges in a clearly decreasing budget environment:

The availability and retention of qualified and proficient cyber professionals;

Organizing staff functions to provide adequate oversight, and

Management of roles and responsibilities; mundane, yes, but critical to an Enterprise, game-changing approach to a game-changing domain,

Establishing responsive acquisition activities which produce capabilities on much shorter timelines; and finally,

Overcoming cultural challenges accompanying the faulty assumption by many that all data and information is trustworthy and actionable.

 

And, these needs and challenges come together in an age where precision engagement and battlefield success in all Air Force core functions requires larger amounts of higher quality information in shorter periods of time. We must assure access to required information and freedom of action to create desired cyber effects at a time and place of our choosing to meet the Combatant Commander’s requirements anywhere, anytime, while denying the same abilities to our adversaries.

The Air Force currently operates 21 Air Force networks; we have 840,000 users. There are 1.9 million computing devices and we spend about $40 million annually to clean up cyber-related attacks on our information infrastructure. This may not make us the most complex enterprise in the world, but it’s got to be up there among the most.

Therefore, we’ve embraced the idea that “Enterprise” means providing a consistent template upon which to maximize effectiveness while inherently providing efficiencies of scale, cost, and use.

We certainly don’t have all the answers yet, but we’re clearly leading the effort to make these overarching concepts military realities. To ensure progress toward our objectives, we are aggressively managing our oversight roles and responsibilities to provide focus to Air Force cyber efforts.

So, in that vein, let me talk about standardization a bit. It’s imperative that we not continue “one off” implementations. How many times over the years have individual units used what we would call “county options” to purchase technology, then not optimize what is installed, or even worse, not use it at all?

You all know what I’m talking about…and this practice has just got to stop.

We’ll work on standard architectures and standard operational processes, but we’ll all need to be vigilant against that “I’ve got a great idea” implementation mentality at Base X or Command Y…and that’s the least we can do for our Air Force and our taxpayers to maximize available economies of scale. To that end, all of our efforts are based on that “Enterprise” approach… that’s the way we view our AFNet and that’s the way we will present our capabilities as a Service to the Joint arena.

Since the Air Force and the DoD started down the path of establishing cyberspace, we’ve been challenged to clearly articulate what’s cyber, what’s IT, and what’s communications and information. Definitions in DoD, Joint and even Air Force policy can be interpreted in multiple ways leading to confusion, duplication, and unnecessary work. With the pace of change, the ops tempo, the threats associated with cyber, and our constrained resources, we must have clear definitions which will then allow us to define who’s doing what in cyber and IT to make sure we are all pulling together and working toward the same end-state.

I have my staff doing a thorough review starting with what does law, like Clinger Cohen, say about IT and cyber? From there we are going to come up with definitions that clearly articulate….well, this is cyber because it falls within the realm of warfighting weapon systems…this is IT because it is a business system application…this is communications because it is a telephone or postal service.

This also will help us better define what’s in my role as the Cyberspace Superiority Core Function Lead Integrator for the Air Force vs. what belongs in my role as the Lead Major Command within the Air Force for cyberspace.

Closely coupled with this effort is a lanes-in-the-road dialog, both internal to my staff and with external organizations like the Air Force A3/5 and A8 staffs, as well as Lieutenant General Mike Basla’s SAF A6/CIO organization. And, we’re not forgetting that a significant part of the role of Core Function Lead Integrator will be to facilitate partnering with industry, academia, other services, allies and friends to ensure a robust, defensible network enterprise.

Very recently, I published an AFNET Commander’s Intent. While normally commander’s intents are focused on purpose, desired end state, and key activities required to achieve that end state, I went further to also define the AFNET. I have to admit there is not unanimous consent to this definition, but for the sake of progress, this is how we’re going to refer to the AFNET from this point forward. The definition is also the foundational building block that will drive decisions across all communities, systems, and functional areas. Our next steps will be to provide an additional level of detail to inform our architecture work from the “As-is” to the “To-be” to the “Should-be.”

My A5 is leading the AFNET “As-is” Architecture work and we will have that complete by the end of this month. In concert with our programming efforts, we’ll be developing the “To-be” Architecture, which will be done by the end of the month also. Together, these architectures will help us understand where the gaps in capabilities and resources lie. We’re also developing standard, expected levels of service. We owe it to the Common Computing Environments, missions, and business systems what levels of service they should expect.

In parallel, we’re going to identify what we expect of these programs and systems. To connect to the AFNET, users will comply with these standards and waivers will be the exception, not the rule. While there are many more activities outlined in the Commander’s Intent, in the interest of time, I’ll ask you to read the document for yourselves and partner with us toward that desired end state. Over the next few months, we will be releasing more foundational guidance documents to ensure all of us are on the same page and these will range across the spectrum of capabilities, networks and classifications.

I’ve set up a Cyber Working Group to identify, monitor, and execute these key steps. While I’m normally not a fan of management by committee, the breadth and depth of our work demands a broad approach, and they are updating me weekly with their progress.

Let me now shift to some outstanding work going on in cyber acquisitions. We’ve set up a Cyber Solutions Cell with the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center and the 688th Information Operations Wing folks at Lackland. These are our 9-1-1 agencies to rapidly acquire cyber capabilities in response to warfighter needs. We have a really good mix of operators and engineers working together to identify and close gaps in the cyber domain – sometimes within hours.

These operations and acquisition teams are dedicated to making sure the operational needs generated by the move-countermove nature of the contested cyber environment are developed, tested, and fielded in a timely fashion.

Across the Air Force we’re seeing increased awareness of the need for new cyber-related capabilities and operational concepts which will materially improve the ability to employ forces across the range of military options. And, as Lead MAJCOM for cyber, we’re chartered to make those tough decisions as to which great idea or solution is the best for the mission. Developing an enterprise architecture with adaptable, controllable, and defensible attributes requires an achievable and enforced set of standards, clarity in organization, and well-defined authority, roles, responsibilities, and accountability.

Within the Air Force, and within the DoD as a whole, we will require that the capabilities and effects are developed, tested, fielded, and employed by proficient acquirers, developers, and operators. We will make sure they are proficient in those skills. Functional systems and Program Management Offices will conform to the standards as outlined in law and in our guidance documents. Wondering how to get a waiver to avoid conforming shouldn’t be a manager’s first impulse. Some may consider this a bit “draconian,” but it’s how we will ensure security and efficiency of AFNET for its operations.

We’ll develop a requirements framework in which cyber capabilities and effects can be integrated into other core functions, services, and agencies. To that end, we’re developing roadmaps for Offensive Cyber Operations, Defensive Cyber Operations, and Defense Information Network Operations mission areas. These roadmaps will provide a template from which to examine the various cyber capabilities as they are associated with mission area requirements, the related programmatics and corresponding sustainment or modernization of those capabilities.

 

We’re doing this with an eye toward making investment and divestment recommendations while providing transparency to major stakeholders such as the other Major Commands across the Air Force. Over time, as policies and procedures evolve, we foresee cyber-related capabilities and effects integrated wholly with kinetic capabilities to maximize success during employment.

Until very recently some of our 24th Air Force Airmen were a little bit confused about what was expected of them because we had not provided them with the operational guidance needed to accomplish their missions. We’ve moved aggressively to address that shortfall by publishing four guidance memorandums within the last year – for Combat Comm Employment, one for Operations and Training, and one for Standardization/Evaluation. And now our IG is inspecting our units against those standards.

Another measure we’ve taken to address standardization is the establishment of cyber weapon system teams. This will operationalize and normalize our capabilities similar to Air Force weapon systems in the other domains. These weapon system teams are addressing equipment baselines, sustainment, training, follow-on development, funding, and fielding. All of these initiatives provide the structure and discipline we must have to enhance our combat capability and integrate cyber effects across all warfighting domains.

As we consider current technology, I think we can do a better job of making our Airmen more productive by furthering the use of Commercial Mobile Technologies. The DoD has explored using expanded mobile technology for a number of years. It’s time to move out on this, and we have–in a coordinated effort throughout the federal government, with the Defense Information Systems Agency, and with the National Security Agency. We’re taking advantage of the fast-moving commercial market, in concert with the added security and functionality needed for Air Force users.

In fact, we are going operational with AF capabilities to extend mobile solutions, to Air Mobility Command, Global Strike Command, Air Education and Training Command, Air Combat Command, Air Force Special Operations Command, and of course, Air Force Space Command. A great example of this is our direct support to the Mobility Air Forces and their Electronic Flight Bag – true innovation to decrease operating costs while providing much more up-to-date information in the cockpit.

Hand-in-hand with mobility is getting away from our traditional way of presenting IT by being connected to jacks and wall outlets and being bound to desks. Our Group at Tinker is piloting a wireless-only capability that we expect to roll out in the future, aimed at extending the network reach of our Airmen to edges of the flight line or to the inside of a security police patrol car. So as you can see, we’ll become more efficient and more connected across the board.

While I won’t belabor my previous comments on our economic situation, I would like to address a related topic on financing the costs of DoD IT Enterprise Services. A particular focus of mine over the next few months will be the utilization of commercial constructs and reduction of costs in areas such as long-haul communications. As we move to more enterprise services, we must address the speed, agility, and pricing that the scale of commercial services brings. The DoD is making progress with commercial cloud services, as an example, but it’s simply not fast enough.

We need to do more and leverage the billions in R&D and security that the banks and credit card companies have made, especially for unclassified services. Also, the commercial IP capabilities across all communications is driving capability up and costs down. Meanwhile, our AF bills continue to rise. We’ve got to address these trends, but we won’t have the ability to spend to save–instead, we’ll have to innovate.

No cyber-related speech these days would be complete without some reference to JIE, the Joint Information Environment. I’ll be the first to admit, I have some reservations on JIE. While I understand and agree with the overall objectives, the devil’s clearly in the details and we have significant work ahead to truly realize the JIE vision at affordable costs.

 

We are committed to providing the expertise of the Air Force’s AFNet experts, our network defense operators, and our acquisition professionals. We’ve already invested thousands of engineering man-hours to the effort – the best and brightest in our Air Force. They are deeply involved in the potential changes to how we will protect and defend our networks. We must do this right the first time and we must continue to emphasize mission assurance in our cyber defense posture.

I mentioned earlier that I’d end on some successes… successes that make me particularly proud.

By reducing the number of internet gateways over the past two years, we’ve reduced the attack surface – the number of potential adversary entry points – from 144 entry points to just 16, along with gaining better focus, generating fewer holes, and achieving greater visibility into network operations. The Command has leveraged expertise at three different squadrons in Major General Suzanne Vautrinot’s 24th Air Force to change and improve network defense tradecraft. Our operators are now using a more focused model of examining known threats instead of a scattergun “defend against everything” type of approach.

There is much improved integration between 24th Air Force defensive units and the Air Force ISR Agency cyber support which we’ve accomplished by collocating crews to achieve maximum communication and mutual support. Network operators can now “deny by default,” closing ports and potential entry points into the network to IP addresses and locations that traditionally have either shown mischief or have shown no value to Air Force users.

We’ve added interactive sensors and automated processing, so our analysts are freed up to work problems vice spending time finding problems, and this has led to a much greater increase in high-confidence forensics and heuristics analysis. That said, not every malicious actor is caught at the gateways. In fact, many are caught by defensive capabilities within the network, with rule sets that are created by proficient Airmen who now have greater freedom to do the analysis required.

As always, it’s our professional Airmen who rise to the occasion, and I’m proud to say that some 60% of all rule sets created for DoD defensive tools are generated by innovative Airmen within the 24th Air Force. Those same Airmen, by the way, are leading efforts to create defensive schemes for the Joint Information Environment; truly, when it comes to defense of cyber networks in the military, when 24th AF Airmen speak, people are listening to them.

These improvements in our cyber defensive posture aren’t trivial, even though they don’t have the cachet of offensive cyber capabilities, but they represent some of the best ways that automation, innovation, and partnership have led to a much more effective enterprise approach to protecting our information.

But we’re not done…there are some other things we must continue to get after such as providing cyber overwatch of our Air Force’s global air, space, and cyber missions. Just as an example, in 2012, our 24th Air Force operators provided support for more than 4,000 Remotely Piloted Aircraft sorties worldwide, executed 4,000+ computer network exploitation missions against 10,000+ national priority targets and supported 100 IED neutralization missions in Afghanistan. That’s truly direct support to the Joint team.

The challenges presented by the cyber domain are new and in many cases unique. However, much like nuclear deterrence, air superiority, and other airpower “centers of gravity,” the Air Force will be successful in developing, fielding, operating, and maintaining operational capabilities representing the cyber “center of gravity.” Success requires clarity in organization, authority and accountability, and while we’re still ironing out some of the details, make no mistake that the center of gravity for this effort is Air Force Space Command in its role as lead Major Command for cyber.

We’re adopting a building-block approach in which we will make some strategic decisions about which lines of business have priority. We’ll decide what our Airmen need to operate and manage, and what functions or capabilities would be better performed by industry in the private sector. So, as I’ve highlighted today, we’ve made considerable progress over the last year. And, I also discussed areas where we clearly recognize we must improve this year.

So, what’s my assessment for our grade this year? I’d give us a “C,” and I’m much more confident we’re moving smartly toward achieving excellence in this domain. But I’m impatient–we need to move faster, and our foundational work will enable a faster pace. I thank you for your attention, and thanks again to AFCEA for providing this forum for us.

I’d be happy to take your questions.

 

Furloughs Begin Across Executive Branch

GovExec

By Kellie Lunney

April 17, 2013

 

Employee furloughs at the Labor Department officially started this week, a union official confirmed.

The number of furlough days for affected employees range across the department’s agencies, with some workers taking unpaid leave for up to two days while others are missing up to eight days of pay. The furloughs officially began April 15, but some employees signed waivers to use their furlough days before that date, said Alex Bastani, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 12.

The Labor Department did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Furloughs are scheduled to begin next week for many other agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency and the Office of Management and Budget. OMB issued furlough notices on March 7 to 480 employees. Affected employees must take one furlough day per pay beginning April 21 and ending Sept. 7, for a total of 10 days.

The Defense Department has said it will begin furloughs in mid-to late-June; the number of furlough days is now at 14 for most civilian employees but the department has said it might reduce that to seven days. Federal public defenders, who are paid out of the judiciary’s budget, started their furloughs earlier this month.

Labor sent 4,700 furlough notices on March 5 and said unpaid leave would begin April 15, unless employees waived the 30-day notice period to begin their furloughs earlier. The furloughs will continue through Sept. 21. Fiscal 2013 ends on Sept. 30.

A memorandum of understanding between AFGE and Labor states that affected employees will serve no more than half of their furlough days before July 13, and no more than half after that date.

Labor employees at the following agencies currently are scheduled for furloughs:

• Administrative Law Judge Programs: up to 8 days

• Business Operations Center: up to 2 days

•Employment and Training Administration: up to 5 days

• Office of Federal Contract Compliance Program: up to 5 days

• Office of Labor Management Standards: up to 5 days

• Office of the Solicitor: up to 2 days

•Workers Compensation Program: up to 6 days

 

Right now there are no furloughs planned for employees at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Mine Safety and Health Administration, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Veterans’ Employment and Training Service, and Wage and Hour Division.

Bastani, however, said the fiscal 2013 continuing resolution could change some employees’ furlough status. “Our largest group of furlough days was in the VETS section of DoL – which was looking at 10 days — but the continuing resolution by Congress zeroed that out. However, due to that same continuing resolution, we are looking at an additional 1 percent across-the-board reduction in budgets,” Bastani said. “So, we are concerned that additional furlough days may be announced by the end of this month [April].”


http://www.govexec.com/management/2013/04/furloughs-begin-across-executive-branch/62599/

 

 

DOD Moves Forward With Cloud Broker Plans

DISA gets “initial operating capability” to act as Defense Department’s cloud services broker, as DOD strives to simplify military groups’ acquisition of cloud services.

By Elena Malykhina, InformationWeek
April 17, 2013
URL: http://www.informationweek.com/government/cloud-saas/dod-moves-forward-with-cloud-broker-plan/240153122

The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) got the green light Tuesday to act as a cloud services broker to the Department of Defense’s various branches.

DISA is the primary agency that provides IT services and data center facilities to the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines. By being granted “initial operating capability,” DISA now has the framework in place to function as the key point of contact for all of the DOD’s cloud computing needs. The goal is to make it faster and easier for the military to get cloud services without going through a long acquisition process, and to switch from one service to another as needed.

The agency also announced that it has performed cybersecurity assessments of two commercial cloud services providers and has given them “imminent” approval for use by the DOD. According to the FedRAMP website, Autonomic Resources and CGI Federal will be the first providers authorized by the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP), and available to the DOD under the cloud broker model.

DISA said it will continue conducting security assessments to expand its future offerings. Additionally, it plans to “evolve and further automate the cloud service request process” and “enhance the security model” in the coming months to accommodate partner requirements.

The Defense Department’s CIO Teri Takai designated DISA as the agency’s cloud broker last June, stating in a memo that it would “perform functions to achieve IT efficiencies, reliability, interoperability, and improve security and end-to-end performance by using cloud service offerings.”

The initial operating capability designation announced Tuesday enables DISA to begin functioning as a cloud service broker to the various branches of the U.S. military. Dubbed as the “next-generation cloud acquisition model” by the GSA, the cloud broker — part process, part technology — is new in government. DISA and the General Services Administration have both expressed interest in using it.

Last September, DISA released a five-year strategic plan, which included a greater emphasis on enterprise and cloud services. The plan envisions the DOD sharing IT resources across numerous services and relying heavily on cloud computing and mobile technologies, while continuing to meet the military’s cybersecurity needs.

DISA’s latest announcement comes a week after the agency unveiled plans to award a $45 million cloud computing contract for an intelligence and surveillance information storage cloud. The contract will go to systems integrator Alliance Technology Group, which said it’s done business with NASA and the Navy, among other federal agencies. The partnership would enable the agency to securely store “hundreds of billions of objects” that users could access across multiple networks.

 

DOD Reaches 1 Million Users On Cloud Email

 

Military expects another 500,000 users on the Defense Information Systems Agency’s DOD Enterprise Email by summer 2013.

 

By J. Nicholas Hoover, InformationWeek

March 13, 2013

URL: http://www.informationweek.com/government/cloud-saas/dod-reaches-1-million-users-on-cloud-ema/240150737

The Department of Defense now has one million users on a consolidated private cloud email platform, making it one of — if not the — largest of all independent email systems worldwide.

Two years after beginning the push toward enterprise email for the Department of Defense, the military has almost fully migrated one service, the Army, to enterprise email; has begun moving a series of other DOD agencies and military commands to the system; and is engaging in deep discussions about the move with the Air Force and Navy.

 

DOD expects that the next half-million users will be much faster to come by than the first million. In a press release, the Defense Information Systems Agency, which hosts DOD Enterprise Email (as the system is known), said that it expects to reach 1.5 million users by summer 2013. DOD is increasingly using DISA, which has long provided networking and other services for the military, as an IT service provider.

 

The Army has been at the forefront of the move to DOD Enterprise Email, and has now migrated 967,000 users to the platform, including 28,000 users on the classified SIPRNet network, according to a recent blog post by Army deputy CIO Mike Krieger. The Army is migrating Army Medical Command and Army Reserve users to DOD Enterprise Email, and will soon begin moving Army National Guard users.

Other services and DOD agencies have also begun the move to DOD Enterprise Email, including the Joint Staff, U.S. European Command, U.S. Africa Command, U.S. Forces Korea and DISA itself.

 

There are also pilot users within Air Force Reserve. Alfred Rivera, director of enterprise services for DISA, said in a press conference Wednesday that the Air Force is now “working on migration strategies,” and that he is “optimistic” about further developments with Air Force. DOD CIO Teri Takai said last year that the Air Force had signed on for a future move to DOD Enterprise Email.

 

The Navy is likely further from moving to the system due in part to unique concerns with shipboard email. However, the Navy Recruiting Command moved its mobile recruiters to DOD Enterprise Email in October because it is both cost effective and accessible anywhere. Rivera mentioned in the press conference that DISA is also in discussions with the Defense Logistics Agency and Defense Finance and Accounting Services about possible moves.

 

Overall, DOD has touted enterprise email for its cost savings and ability to connect users across multiple services and military agencies. The military has said that enterprise email saves the DOD millions of dollars via economies of scale alone. Rivera estimated that the Army saves $70 million annually with DOD Enterprise Email as compared to the Army’s previous set of highly siloed systems.

 

Enterprise email lowers costs thanks to DOD’s massive buying power, consolidated hardware and more efficient maintenance and administration, DISA said in a press release. Enterprise email also gives users access to the DOD Global Access list, rather than merely a list of users within an individual service or agency.

 

DOD Enterprise Email is powered by Microsoft software. It runs a standardized version of Outlook and Outlook Web Access on Exchange 2010, and provides users with 4 Gbytes of storage. While DISA currently manages the implementation itself on DISA servers, Rivera hinted that DISA stayed with a standard, relatively uncustomized email suite to leave room for flexibility and changes to that model in the future.

 

“We see a day when we could transition this to a commercial provider for the Department, and staying away from customization allows that to happen more easily,” Rivera said.

 

 

The Hill

House approves cybersecurity overhaul in bipartisan vote

By Pete Kasperowicz and Jennifer Martinez – 04/18/13 01:00 PM ET

The House on Thursday approved cybersecurity legislation that sets up a framework for companies and the federal government to share information about threats.

The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), H.R. 624, was approved in a 288-127 vote despite ongoing fears from some lawmakers and privacy advocates that the measure could give the government access to private information about consumers.

Ninety-two Democrats voted with Republicans in favor of the bill, defying the White House’s veto threat, and just 29 Republicans opposed it.

That’s greater support than last year, when a similar bill passed 248-168 with the support of 42 Democrats. Twenty-eight Republicans opposed that bill.

 

Cybersecurity legislation went no further in the last Congress than House passage, as differences among senators prevented the Senate from approving a bill.

Some hope this year will be different, but President Obama has threatened to veto the House bill, and Senate Democrats have not said whether they would consider the bill at all.

Supporters argue the bill is needed to overcome current limitations in the 1947 National Security Act, which prevents intelligence officials from giving certain information to entities that do not have a security clearance. They say allowing information sharing will help companies thwart cyberattacks against their computer systems more quickly.

“So, basically what our bill does is to allow the sharing of information, which we can’t do now, to the private sector,” House Intelligence Committee ranking member Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) said during Wednesday debate.

Ruppersberger added Wednesday that less than a dozen companies are responsible for 80 percent of U.S. information networks, which means the government and these companies need to be able to talk to each other about emerging cyber threats.

But privacy groups and several members of the House fear the bill might still give the government, including the National Security Agency, access to private consumer information. The White House threatened to veto the bill because it argues the measure does not require companies to remove personal data to the extent possible before passing it on to the government and other businesses.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she was “disappointed” that this issue was not resolved in the bill, and said she would vote against CISPA.

“They can just ship the whole kit and caboodle over,” Pelosi said of companies’ obligations on data sharing. “We are saying, minimize what is relevant to our national security. The rest is none of the government’s business.” Pelosi also argued that the bill provides broad liability protection for companies that send information to the government, and said that liability should be narrowed.

In an effort to address fears about the sharing of information with the government, members agreed to a last-minute amendment that would make it more likely that companies would share threat data with the Homeland Security and Justice departments. It would establish that a center within the DHS has the federal hub for cyber threat information-sharing efforts, and designate the Justice Department as the hub for all cyber crime information.

That amendment passed in a 409-5 vote; the “no” votes came from Republicans. Supporters stressed that this change would help ensure this data is run through civilian government agencies before going right to the military.

“This is an important amendment,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Calif.) said Thursday. “This is that civilian face that so many talked about for so long on this bill.”

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mike McCaul (R-Texas), who offered the amendment, said the change should help ensure civil liberties are protected.

“This is an important improvement, and provides an additional layer of review of information-sharing procedures by a robust civilian privacy office in order to ensure American civil liberties are protected,” McCaul said. Ranking committee member Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said he supports the change, which he said would let people “take comfort knowing that their information will be more likely shared with an appropriate civilian agency.”

The fear about increasing the government’s access to personal information was a key issue during Wednesday’s debate on the bill, during which Rogers repeated several times that nothing in the bill allows government monitoring of networks.

“This is not a surveillance bill,” Rogers said. “It does not allow the national security agencies, or the Department of Defense, any of our military organizations, to monitor our domestic networks. It does not allow that to happen, we would not allow that to happen.”

But with President Obama’s veto threat looming, it’s not clear whether the House’s efforts to improve the bill this year will give it any life in the Senate. Senate Democrats have not said whether they would consider the bill at all.

In addition to passing amendments on Wednesday, the House disposed of several other amendments on Thursday, from:

— Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), to require the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security to report to Congress on cyber information. Other departments are already required to report to Congress. Passed 411-0.

— Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.), to require the privacy officer and the officer for civil rights and civil liberties of the Department of Homeland Security to issue an annual report on data privacy and civil liberties. Passed voice vote.

— Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.), to clarify that nothing in the bill authorizes the government to target U.S. citizens for surveillance. Passed 413-0.

— Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.), including a sense of Congress that international cooperation should be encouraged on cybersecurity issues. Passed voice vote.

— Joe Barton (R-Texas), to clarify that companies sharing cyber threat information with other companies cannot treat this sharing relationship as a loophole to sell a consumer’s personal information for a marketing purpose. Passed voice vote.

— Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), to clarify that cybersecurity service providers are not required provide information about cybersecurity incidents that don’t involve attacks against government information systems. Passed voice vote.

Read more: http://thehill.com/blogs/hillicon-valley/technology/294771-house-votes-to-let-companies-government-share-info-on-cyber-threats#ixzz2Qq9Nzy13
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Pushing the QDR Envelope

Air Force Magazine

Marc V. Schanz

April 4, 2013—There’s an opportunity for the upcoming Quadrennial Defense Review to be a real forum for debate and discussion about the roles, missions, and capabilities that the armed services provide to the defense of the nation, the Air Force’s representative to the study is saying.

The question is, will the Pentagon embrace the moment or allow the QDR—which is due to Congress next February—to devolve into just another budget drill driven by service interests.

In recent weeks, Maj. Gen. Steven Kwast, Air Force QDR representative, has made a series of public appearances arguing the need for both a full-throated articulation of “air-minded” solutions in the upcoming review and a rethink of some long-held assumptions about goals, roles, and missions for the US military.

“This is not about us protecting the Air Force. This is about us protecting the nation,” said Kwast during a March 20 address sponsored by AFA’s Mitchell Institute for Airpower Studies in Arlington, Va.

He added that the Pentagon’s leaders need to have the “flexibility” to have a conversation that is not bound by dogma or past assumptions about roles and missions.

The QDR has been a staple of Pentagon policy planning since the 1990s when Congress mandated its creation. The 2014 iteration comes along at a unique time for the country and the Pentagon, said Kwast.

Today, the United States is drawing down from Afghanistan, shifting many of its strategic assets to the Asia-Pacific region, and grappling with some very harsh fiscal realities. All of these shifts are combining to present an “opportunity to have a significant conversation” about the defense of the United States and its interests, said Kwast on March 15 to a gathering of reporters in Washington, D.C.

 

The 2014 QDR will be the first review to follow the January 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance, said Kwast. As such, it serves as an “inflection point” for political leadership and military leaders to match up strategy with programmatic detail, he said.

For example, the QDR could define in more detail the way forward on ideas such as AirSea Battle and the Joint Staff’s Joint Operational Access Concept, as well as other initiatives for dealing with anti-access challenges, said Kwast.

These concepts represent the Defense Department’s “effort to codify the fact that we are still on this journey from a Cold War structure of military capability, and shaping it into a structure that has more agility, resilience, and flexibility,” he said.

The old Cold War force structure is on its way out, as the nation’s strategy has shifted and its fiscal resources become more constrained, said Kwast.

The force sizing construct for the QDR has also shifted in the last decade from one built around building a force capable of defeating adversaries in two simultaneous wars, to one where the military is expected to defeat one foe and “deny” the objectives of others,” he said.

“That statement is an acknowledgement of something we’ve always done . . . to try and influence other participants in this global community,” said Kwast on March 15.

“The fact that that conversation is in [the strategic guidance] is a reflection of budgets and changes in strategy,” he said. “The ability to be able to use different approaches to deny a potential adversary their objectives can give you more flexibility.”

While there has been some pushback against ideas such as AirSea Battle, Kwast said the QDR is an opportunity to show these are new approaches to old problems, and to take the idea of “joint” approaches to a new level of thinking.

AirSea Battle, and other ideas for overcoming anti-access challenges are attempts to arrive at cross-domain solutions that don’t break down between the land, sea, and air components neatly, he said.

“This is where we need to go,” said Kwast. “Our enemies operate in these spaces that are not linear. . . . Our ability to adjust to that reality is the essence to what you are seeing, and the QDR will put more programmatic steps into this process,” he added.

At AFA’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Fla., in late February, Kwast said the Air Force is not exempt from hard thinking about its missions and roles. There are some creative approaches to old problems the service “has not yet embraced,” which could come out of the QDR, he said.

The “tapestry of capability” currently fielded is “unsustainable” in the current long-term strategic and fiscal environment, he said.

 

Service officials, for example, should divorce the idea of global vigilance from the assumption that a new platform or aircraft solution is needed, said Kwast. New technology could enable better ways of prosecuting this mission, and there may be new concepts for global reach to get materiel and personnel where they need to go faster, he said.

Kwast said he is hopeful about the prospects of a fruitful QDR, but realizes that the review could become a budget fight.

“You hope it won’t come down to that,” he told the Daily Report after his March 20 Mitchell talk.

The idea is to address these issues “with an open mind,” but the reality is the national strategy is being reassessed in a tight budget environment—and the Air Force should be prepared to make its case, he said.

 

“I have a knife in my back pocket,” said Kwast. “But I hope I won’t have to use it. We’re not so naïve to think that’s not a possibility. But what’s the point of this exercise unless you’re willing to take an innovative approach?”

A budget battle won’t get us “where we need to go,” he said.

 

 

Flight delays ahead: FAA chief says furloughs kick in Sunday for air traffic controllers

Washington Post

By Associated Press,

Updated: Thursday, April 18, 2:47 PM

 

WASHINGTON — The public should expect flight delays as furloughs kick in Sunday for air traffic controllers, although the effects may be felt unevenly from airport to airport, the head of the Federal Aviation Administration said Thursday.

Without the controller furloughs, FAA officials could find no way to cut $637 million from the agency’s budget as required by automatic, across-the-board spending cuts approved by Congress, said Michael Huerta, the agency’s administrator. The FAA has estimated there could be flight delays of about 90 minutes during peak periods.

Likewise, the agency sees no way around closing 149 air traffic control towers at small airports that are currently operated under contract for the FAA, Huerta told the Senate Appropriations Committee’s transportation subcommittee. The tower closings have been delayed until June 15.

The furloughs and tower closings were designed “to minimize impacts on the maximum number of travelers,” he said. But he acknowledged, “We’re forced to choose between very unattractive options.”

A key Republican lawmaker accused the White House of deliberately trying to upset the public.

“They want to cause the most pain to the American people out there so they will put pressure on Congress to back away from sequestration (spending cuts),” Rep. Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania told a transportation gathering hosted by the National Journal news magazine. Shuster chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

“I believe he (President Barack Obama) is instructing his agencies to do things that inflict the most pain on the most people. This should be laid right at the president’s feet,” Shuster said.

The FAA’s 47,000 employees — including nearly 15,000 controllers — are scheduled for one furlough day every other week through Sept. 30. That will reduce the number of controller hours on duty and pay by 10 percent, Huerta said.

In order to maintain safety with fewer controllers, takeoffs and landings will have to be less frequent, and planes will have to be spaced farther apart when they are in the air, he said. That reduces the efficiency of the air traffic system, creating delays, he said.

The impacts may differ depending upon the airport, Huerta said. At Chicago’s busy O’Hare International Airport, for example, it’s possible there won’t be a full complement of controllers to staff the airport’s two control towers, requiring one tower to be shutdown. Without a second tower, one of the airport’s runways will have to shut down, reducing takeoffs and landings, he said. Most airports only operate one control tower.

The employee furloughs will save an estimated $200 million, and the tower closings will save $25 million, Huerta said.

 

A spokesman for the union that represents air traffic controllers said the ramifications of the furloughs are still unclear.

 

“We don’t know with any specificity what’s going to happen until this goes down,” Doug Church of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association said. “It is not a good thing for aviation to take away staffing at any level.”

But air travelers may get a break on the ground. A senior Transportation Security Administration official said Thursday he doesn’t expect furloughs for his agency, which staffs airport security across the nation. And, he said, longer wait times at checkpoints have not yet materialized as a result of so-called sequestration, as Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano warned last month.

Congress included additional money for security officers in a budget bill for the remainder of the 2013 fiscal year, and long wait times have been averted for now, TSA Deputy Administrator John Halinski told a congressional panel. Obama signed the budget bill last month.

Halinski cautioned that even with the extra funding, travelers may see lines and wait times increase during busy travel periods.

 

Senators to Pentagon: Let Services Avoid Furloughs If They Can

GovExec

By Kellie Lunney

April 18, 2013

 

Lawmakers are urging the Pentagon not to impose across-the-board furloughs if some agencies and offices within the department can come up with the savings to avoid them.

Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King are questioning the department’s approach to spread furloughs evenly among affected employees to maintain fairness and possibly to avoid legal action. “While we appreciate these concerns, we strongly believe there will be equal or greater morale issues and potential legal actions if DoD components are forced to implement automatic, across-the-board furloughs that can be avoided in part upon plans developed and recommended by each entity’s leadership to your office,” stated the April 17 letter from the Republican and Independent.

Some parts of the department, including the Navy, have expressed confidence that they can find cost savings in the budget to avoid civilian furloughs. They’ve also said furloughs might end up costing more in terms of readiness than they would save in dollars.

The Pentagon for several months has warned that it will have to furlough most of its 800,000-person civilian workforce under sequestration. Active-duty military personnel are exempt from furloughs. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced last month that the number of civilian furlough days would be reduced from 22 to 14. Officials have said they are trying to reduce unpaid leave to 7 days.

The continuing resolution funding the government through the end of fiscal 2013 gave Defense more flexibility to deal with the sequester. Hagel said earlier this week in congressional testimony that the stopgap spending measure had fixed some, but not all of the department’s “urgent problems,” and he is seeking additional authority from Congress to shift money in its budget to help navigate sequestration.

Hagel and Defense Comptroller Robert Hale both have said they want to be fair in applying furloughs throughout the civilian workforce. There also are concerns that employees could take legal action over unpaid leave if they believe it is not being doled out equitably.

“It is our position that the most consistent and fair approach to furloughs would be to allow each DoD component to maximize its state of readiness,” the Collins-King letter said. “If the Department of the Navy or any other DoD component has determined that the costs of furloughs to its readiness and budgets are greater than the savings they would produce, they should be able to avoid them. If you were to require them to implement furloughs anyway, readiness will be hurt and costs will undoubtedly increase.”

Collins and King also said that furloughs might not be necessary at all at Defense if the department asked for additional funds for the conflict in Afghanistan. “If the conflict in Afghanistan is costing more than expected for fiscal year 2013, we stand ready to consider such a supplemental request so that you do not have to borrow from the resources provided in DoD’s base budget,” the letter said. Hagel told lawmakers this week that the department is facing a $22 billion shortfall in its operation and maintenance budget, in part because of increased transportation costs associated with the military’s presence in Afghanistan.


http://www.govexec.com/pay-benefits/2013/04/senators-pentagon-let-services-avoid-furloughs-if-they-can/62628/

 

House passes cybersecurity bill as privacy concerns linger

Thu, Apr 18 2013

By Alina Selyukh

 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The House of Representatives passed legislation on Thursday designed to help companies and the government share information on cyber threats, though concerns linger about the amount of protection the bill offers for private information.

This is the second go-around for the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act after it passed the House last year but stalled in the Senate after President Barack Obama threatened to veto it over privacy concerns.

The bill drew support from House Democrats, passing on a bipartisan vote of 288-127, although the White House repeated its veto threat on Tuesday if further civil liberties protections are not added.

Some lawmakers and privacy activists worry that the legislation would allow the government to monitor citizens’ private information and companies to misuse it.

U.S. authorities have recently elevated the exposure to Internet hacks and theft of digital data to the list of top threats to national security and the economy.

Though thousands of companies have long been losing data to hackers in China and elsewhere, the number of parties publicly admitting such loss has been growing. The bill’s supporters say a new law is needed to let the government share threat information with entities that don’t have security clearances.

 

“If you want to take a shot across China’s bow, this is the answer,” said the House bill’s Republican co-author and Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers.

While groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union are displeased, House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer called the new version of the bill “a significant improvement from what was passed last year.”

Senator Jay Rockefeller, the West Virginia Democrat who chairs the Senate Commerce Committee, said he will work with Republican Senator John Thune of South Dakota and leaders of other committees to bring cyber legislation to a vote in the Senate as soon as possible.

“Today’s action in the House is important, even if CISPA’s privacy protections are insufficient,” Rockefeller said in a statement. “There is too much at stake – our economic and national security – for Congress to fail to act.”

 

SECURITY AND PRIVACY

House Intelligence Committee leaders have made refinements and endorsed several amendments to the bill to try to put to rest some of the privacy concerns. In particular, these specify that the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice rather than any military agencies would be the clearinghouses of the digital data to be exchanged – to “give it a civilian face,” as Rogers put it.

“We felt very strongly that it had to be civil,” said the bill’s Democratic co-author Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland. “If you don’t have security, you don’t have privacy.”

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi reflected concerns shared by the White House and many civil liberties groups, that the bill did not do enough to ensure that companies, in sharing cyber threat data with the government and each other, strip out any personal data of private citizens.

“They can just ship the whole kit and caboodle and we’re saying minimize what is relevant to our national security,” Pelosi said. “The rest is none of the government’s business.”

Still, the future of cybersecurity legislation in the Senate remains unclear, given Obama’s veto threat and the lingering concerns of many privacy-focused lawmakers and groups.

Late Thursday, the Obama administration reiterated that cybersecurity is a top priority and said it would work with both parties to build on the House legislation and get a bill through the Senate.

“While CISPA has been improved in each of the administration’s priority areas since its introduction this year, the bill does not yet adequately address our fundamental concerns,” said Laura Lucas, a spokeswoman for the White House’s National Security Council. “We are hopeful that continued bipartisan, bicameral collaboration to incorporate our core priorities will produce cybersecurity legislation that addresses these critical issues and that the president can sign into law.”

Industry groups that supported the measure welcomed the House’s action.

Backers included the wireless group CTIA, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and TechNet, which represents big technology companies such as Google Inc, Apple Inc, Yahoo! Inc and Cisco Systems Inc.

 

(Editing by Ros Krasny, Philip Barbara and Christopher Wilson)

 

 

NASA Books Reveal Wisdom Gained from UAS Failures

UASVision

Posted on April 19, 2013 by The Editor

Preventing future aviation accidents is the motive behind two books published by NASA, one brand new and one that is a year old and has been so popular a second printing was ordered.

Both of the aviation safety-related books are available online at no cost as e-books, while printed versions of the book may be purchased from NASA’s Information Center.

The new book is “Crash Course: Lessons Learned from Accidents Involving Remotely Piloted and Autonomous Aircraft.”

The 183-page book reveals details of past accidents involving NASA and Air Force Remotely Piloted Research Vehicles such as the X-43A hypersonic test bed, Highly Maneuverable Aircraft Technology aircraft, Perseus and Theseus science platforms, Helios solar-powered flying wing and four others.

“Learning from past experience is fundamental to the development of safe and efficient new systems and to improving existing systems as well,” said Peter Merlin, the book’s author. “It’s important to pass on this knowledge to future generations.”

According to Merlin, while some factors affecting aircraft safety detailed in the book are unique to remotely piloted vehicles, most are common to all aircraft operations, especially where human factors are more to blame than the technology itself.

“Use of the term ‘unmanned’ to describe any sort of autonomous or remotely piloted aircraft is often misunderstood to mean that there is little or no human-systems integration involved. In fact, remotely piloted aircraft operations involve numerous people in every aspect of control, operation, and maintenance regardless of the vehicles level of autonomy,” Merlin said.

“Crash Course” is a companion to the highly popular NASA book “Breaking the Mishap Chain,” which Merlin co-authored with Dr. Gregg Bendrick, NASA’s chief medical officer at the Dryden Flight Research Center in California; and Dr. Dwight Holland, a principal partner in Human Factors Associates who has served as president of the International Association of Military Flight Surgeon Pilots and the Space Medicine Association.

Published in June 2012, “Breaking the Mishap Chain” offers nine examples from aviation and space history in which accidents were primarily caused by non-technical, human-related events. For example, in 1967 an X-15 rocketplane crashed, killing the pilot, Mike Adams. In detailing the events surrounding the mishap, the authors explain how the pilot’s history with spatial disorientation – what was generally called vertigo back then – and confusion about what one of his instruments was telling him contributed to the accident.

“Anybody involved in flying needs to learn the lessons of the past,” Bendrick said.

“This book is unique because it integrates aerospace history, medicine, human factors, and system design issues in a compelling multi-level examination of some truly fascinating stories of aerospace exploration,” Holland added.

“Breaking the Mishap Chain” has been so well received that NASA ordered an additional print run to help meet the demand for the book.

“We have had lots of nice comments, good reviews, and an overwhelmingly positive response to the book,” Merlin said.

Publication of “Crash Course” and “Breaking the Mishap Chain” was sponsored and funded by the communications and education department of NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate.

Source: SpaceDaily

http://www.uasvision.com/2013/04/19/nasa-books-reveal-wisdom-gained-from-uas-failures/?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=a0d51d3b44-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN

 

Bowles, Simpson release new debt plan

The Hill

By Erik Wasson and Sam Baker – 04/18/13 10:00 PM ET

The former chairmen of President Obama’s 2010 fiscal commission, Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, on Friday will release a new deficit reduction plan in the hopes of reviving a debt grand bargain this year.

The two-step plan has about $700 billion more spending cuts than President Obama is seeking and $1.1 trillion more than Senate Democrats have proposed, while adopting roughly the same amount of new taxes called for in Obama’s 2014 budget.

The new Bowles-Simpson plan calls for $585 billion in tax revenue from a reform process that starts by eliminating all deductions— then adds back in only those most needed–adopts a territorial tax system and maintains progressive tax rates. This is less than the $975 billion in tax increases in the Senate budget.

“By picking up on where budget negotiations left off last December, we have crafted a plan that we believe could be enacted into law over the course of this year, and would represent a tremendous step forward in putting our nation on a fiscally sustainable course,” Bowles and Simpson write in the plan.

In 2010, Bowles and Simpson’s formal Fiscal Commission plan was able to garner support from 11 Democrats and Republicans on the commission, shy of the amount needed to guarantee House and Senate floor votes.

By their measure, the newest Bowles-Simpson plan will achieve $5.2 trillion in deficit reduction including laws enacted since 2010, compared to $4.3 trillion in reductions in the Senate-passed budget and Obama budget. Both of these calculations assume that $1.2 trillion in automatic sequester cuts are going to be turned off.

Bowles and Simpson say that their plan will bring the national debt down from 78 percent of the economy to 69 percent of gross domestic product. This compares to 70 percent for Senate Budget, 73 percent for Obama and 55 percent for the House-passed budget authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

The Ryan plan balances without raising taxes by cutting $4.6 trillion in spending, while keeping the $1.2 trillion sequester in place.

To achieve the deficit savings, Bowles and Simpson look for deeper healthcare cuts than Democrats have backed, including raising the eligibility age for Medicare—something Obama has flatly rejected.

As in the original Bowles-Simpson report and the Obama budget, the new plan embraces changing the way inflation is calculated—including to Social Security payments—to raise $280 billion.

It gets $265 billion from other mandatory programs, including $40 billion from farm programs, $585 billion from healthcare including the Medicare age change, $220 billion from defense after first turning off the sequester, and $165 billion from non-defense discretionary funding after turning off the sequester.

 

The Senate budget got $275 billion from healthcare programs and the Obama budget found $400 billion in savings.

The plan includes an innovative solution to the upcoming fight over raising the debt ceiling. The $16 trillion debt ceiling will have to be raised after May 19.

Bowles and Simpson suggest indexing the debt ceiling so that it only needs to be raised if the size of the debt relative to the economy is not declining—a trajectory that is achieved under their plan.

The second part of the plan calls for Social Security to be made solvent on a different track.

Possibly its most radical step is to put a cap on Medicare spending after 2018. While the design of the cap is vague, the plan calls for it to be met by limitations on the employee health exclusion, provider payment cuts, and premium increases. Ryan’s plan includes a similar cap, although his growth target is slightly higher.

Obama’s healthcare law also caps federal spending on Medicare. Its Independent Payment Advisory Board is tasked with cutting provider payments if spending grows faster than a prescribed rate.

In the long-term second step, the plan calls for the troubled highway trust fund to be put on a sound footing. In the past Bowles and Simpson have called for an increase in the gas tax to do so.

For the first part of the proposal, Bowles and Simpson call for a series of healthcare cuts derived from both Democratic and Republican ideas.

The plan borrows President Obama’s proposal to cut Medicare spending on prescription drugs, but would also raise the eligibility age for Medicare — an idea Obama has taken off the table in his most recent budget negotiations.

While Simpson and Bowles would gradually raise the Medicare eligibility age to 67, they would also let low-income seniors buy into the program earlier.

Seniors who are poor enough to receive subsidies for private insurance under ObamaCare could buy into Medicare early. They would pay a premium based on their income until they become eligible for the traditional single-payer system.

All told, the plan includes $585 billion in healthcare savings, compared with $400 billion in Obama’s budget. It does not call for the dramatic entitlement overhauls Ryan has proposed, but rather proposes a combination of cuts to benefits and payments to providers.

The vast majority of the cuts would come from Medicare. Medicaid is largely insulated, except for a plan to eliminate a tax that some states use to drive up the federal government’s share of Medicaid payments.

The new plan would expand Medicare’s means testing — charging wealthier seniors a higher premium — an area where Republicans and the White House agree.

 

Pentagon Now a `Sideshow’ in Sequester Debate, Defense Official Says

GovExec

By Charles S. Clark

April 18, 2013

During the runup to sequestration, Pentagon leaders thought everyone would be paying attention to them, “but now the issue of revenue is the big game in Congress, and we’re a sideshow,” Mike McCord, principle deputy Defense comptroller, said Thursday.

“It took a little time to filter through, but we’re a little underwhelmed,” he told a group of contractors. “And Wall Street clearly knows that the world didn’t end.”

Still, across-the-board budget cuts will harm readiness, and furloughs “are a morale as well as a performance and productivity problem,” McCord told the panel sponsored by Bloomberg Government, the Public Contracting Institute and the Professional Services Council. “We have a real problem but also a messaging problem in that we must communicate our sequester issues but we don’t want the North Koreas of the world to think we would have trouble responding” to a provocation.

McCord also told contractors that maintaining the industrial base during the defense drawdown “is a concern, but to be frank, not our main concern.” The consensus among several panelists was that contractors need to plan for heightened competition for reduced federal spending. They should collaborate with agency contracting officers on a case-by-case basis to identify ways to deliver more product for less in outlays, he said.

The current fiscal situation is “about as confused as I’ve seen, and I’m my 29th year,” said McCord, a former Senate staffer. That take was echoed by the moderator and his former Capitol Hill colleague, Jon Etherton, the principal at Etherton & Associates who said in his 30 years in Washington he’d “never seen this level of uncertainty.”

No one can tell whether sequestration will endure, even though budgets by the House, Senate and the president — submitted out of the usual order — all assume it will not, the panelists said.

“That’s the right place to be based on our defense strategy,” McCord said, adding that this month’s release of the fiscal 2014 budget “did not make a lot of news” because key decisions were made during a strategic review just after passage of the 2011 Budget Control Act. The department felt obligated to resubmit some “unpopular proposals” such as a new round of base closures and hikes in premiums for the military’s Tricare health plan “because the fiscal situation hasn’t changed.” he said.

McCord predicted that the fight over raising the debt ceiling anticipated for this summer, seen as logical time for Congress and the White House to again seek a “grand bargain” on long-term taxes and spending. It “will come too late” to head off damage to such Pentagon activities as training events and ship maintenance, he continued, damage that “will spill over into fiscal 2014.” The way ahead on furloughs should be clear by June, officials say.

Decisions affecting contractors will “be made through case-by-case discussions between program managers and vendors — no one size fits all,” McCord said. Termination of contracts will be a last resort, but there will be reductions in quantities of products ordered and shortened time frames even though “that’s not good for unit costs,” he said. “There’s only so much flexibility given the across-the-board nature of the beast.”

Sequestration, several panelists noted, remains a long-term threat despite the impression among many that its effects have thus far been modest. “Many thought the sequester would be swift with immediate moves by the government for contract terminations and plant closures, but government has taken a more reasoned approach,” said Beth Ferrell, a partner with the contract consulting firm McKenna Long & Aldridge. “The industry did a good job of curbing hiring, but there are still potential losses.”

Stan Soloway, president and CEO of the Professional Services Council, said the figure of two million contractor job losses frequently mentioned by the aerospace industry is “a long-term forecast but sequestration’s impact is already visible. He cited a company that was told that its contracting agency could no longer pay them, so the company drafted a sample claim, and the contracting officer then found some money. Though he has some sympathy for employee unions that argue contractors are getting off “scot-free” when it comes to staff furloughs, “you don’t need a statute to affect contractors” because the reductions happens on the spending front, Soloway said.

“In the 1990s drawdown, we had to winnow down overhead and get lean, but now we’re doing it to the point of anorexia,” Soloway said. “Sequestration is just a legal term for what we’ll see anyway. It’s just a question of how much flexibility there is in what pots the money goes.”

Contractors will have to collaborate with agencies, said Robert Toth, senior vice president for contracts and administration at the private ICF International. “The sequester headcount makes news but for contractors the risks are more than just revenue.” In making adjustments, companies could violate key personnel clauses that allow work across contracts, he said, while disruptions in longtime collaboration with small businesses could harm past performance records. “The indirect costs can affect other contracts,” Toth said, citing damage to specialized training and security clearances that could lead to a brain drain or defection from the government to the commercial marketplace. “Long lead-time projects such as conferences involving planning for hotel contracts” could also be thrown into confusion by the continued fiscal uncertainty.

Contractors will be told they have to “deliver at a lower price to be effective, but this should be a two-way street, with companies pushing back on doing new things at no cost,” Ferrell said. She noted that some agencies are already unable to receive contractor product delivery because they lack the staff for inspections.

Companies should review their own “vulnerabilities — are you behind schedule, over budget, not meeting specifications?” she said. They should “develop a claims mentality” and then model their future bids differently from usual — keeping track of available funds, monitoring suppliers that “may not weather the economic storm” and taking a long-term view that factors in more changes in contract scope along the way.

Soloway said ultimately the defense community “has to winnow down, and this is probably a good thing in that it will lead to tighter competition and the most agile can win.” But he warned that contractors’ talent management could be degraded by demands for salary cuts and lowered minimal experience and education requirements specified in proposals for the winning bidder’s workforce. “The interests of industry can’t be the Defense Department’s top concern,” he said, “but it should still look five years out at its supplier base.”

 

Florida to be among first states to regulate drones

UASNews.com

18 April 2013

By Jennifer Curington

A bill to limit law enforcement’s use of drone aircraft is headed to Gov. Rick Scott, who has said he will sign it. When he does, Florida will be among the first states to regulate the unmanned aircraft.

On Wednesday, the House unanimously passed SB 92, which would allow law-enforcement to launch camera-carrying surveillance drones only if they first obtain a warrant from a judge or if a person’s life or property is believed to be in imminent danger, or if the Department of Homeland Security has declared a terrorist threat.

An unmanned drone could also be used by police to stop a suspect from escaping, prevent evidence from being destroyed or search for a missing person. Evidence collected by a drone that does not follow the regulations in the bill would not be admissible in court and citizens who feel they have been wrongfully spied upon could file a civil action lawsuit.

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/politics/os-legislature-passes-drone-regulations-20130417,0,6459372.story

What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls

Rasmusen Reports

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Boston.

The terrorist bombing at the Boston Marathon and the resulting manhunt for the perpetrators have held the attention of the nation for the past week, but Americans seem to be taking the events in stride.

Seventy-one percent (71%) of Likely U.S. Voters believe it is at least somewhat likely that there will be another terrorist attack in the United States in the next year. But that’s down from the 85% who felt that way in May 2010 following the unsuccessful bombing attempt in Times Square. Seventy-nine percent (79%) felt that way after the so-called “underwear bomber” failed to bring down an airline landing in Detroit in December 2009.

However, only 11% think the United States can ever be made completely safe against terrorist incidents like the one in Boston. At the same time, 54% consider economic threats to be a bigger danger to the United States than terrorist attacks or military attacks from other nations.

Fifty-one percent (51%) of voters favor continuing the current U.S. policy of imprisoning suspected terrorists who are considered a danger even if there is insufficient evidence to convict them.

Most voters (59%) also oppose closing the Guantanamo prison camp for terrorists in Cuba, and 79% remain concerned that closing the camp may lead to dangerous terrorists being set free.

Scott Rasmussen talks about the public response to the events in Boston on this weekend’s edition of What America Thinks before he is joined by the AFL-CIO’s Ana Avendaño and Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, to discuss the immigration debate. Then Maine Democratic Congresswoman Chellie Pingree is Scott’s guest for a discussion of the issue of same-sex marriage. What America Thinks is a weekly television show that airs on 62 stations nationwide. Find a station near you.

New immigration reform legislation and continued haggling over the federal budget were lost this past week in the focus on terrorism, but voter skepticism hasn’t changed. Only 15% think any budget deal agreed to by President Obama and Congress will really cut federal spending. Sixty-five percent (65%) believe it will merely reduce the growth of future spending instead.

But then just 19% believe the era of big government is over. Fifty-five percent (55%), however, think it should be over. Scott Rasmussen’s latest weekly newspaper column argues that the GOP “needs to get over the makers vs. takers mindset.” He adds that Republicans “would be well advised to shift their focus from attacking the poor to going after those who are really dependent upon government-the Political Class, the crony capitalists, the megabanks and other recipients of corporate welfare.”

A plurality (46%) of all voters continues to give the president poor marks for his handling of issues related to deficit reduction.

Voter confidence in Obama’s handling of the economy has fallen back to pre-election levels. Just 37% of voters now give the president good or excellent marks for his economic performance. Forty-five percent (45%) rate his performance in this area as poor.

Still, Obama’s overall approval ratings as measured in the daily Presidential Tracking Poll remain slightly ahead of where they were for the three years prior to Election Day.

Voters remain closely divided in their opinions of the president’s new health care law but also are still very clear that individuals, not the government, should decide how much health insurance they need.

Sixty-seven percent (67%) believe, in political terms, that Obama is at least somewhat liberal, including 38% who think he is Very Liberal.

Democrats lead Republicans again this week on the Generic Congressional Ballot.

Fifty-four percent (54%) of voters are Very Angry at Congress, and 47% say the same about the bailed-out banks. Thirty-eight percent (38%) are also Very Angry at the current policies of the federal government. Thirty-seven percent (37%) feel that way about the media, while just 29% are now Very Angry at large corporations.

At week’s end, investor and consumer confidence were both up from three months ago.

 

But Americans remain quite concerned about inflation. Eightyone percent (81%) say they are paying more for groceries than they were a year ago, and 70% expect to be paying even more for them in a year’s time.

Confidence in the U.S. banking industry has once again slipped below 50%. Though most Americans say the interest rates they’re paying are little changed from a year ago, nearly half (47%) expect interest rates to be higher a year from now.

Even before the bombing attack in Boston, many Americans had reason to be unhappy on Monday: It was the deadline for filing their federal incomes taxes. But 86% planned to have their taxes filed in time.

Voters are narrowly divided in their opinions of the Internal Revenue Service, but 41% think the IRS is not aggressive enough in going after tax cheats.

How did you do in The Rasmussen Challenge? Final results are in – check the leaderboard.

In other surveys last week:

— Thirty-one percent (31%) of Likely U.S. Voters say the country is heading in the right direction.

— Most Americans (53%) believe professional sports have helped improve race relations in the United States.

— Jackie Robinson made his Major League Baseball debut 66 years ago this week and by doing so shattered the league’s color barrier, but he impacted race relations far beyond the sports culture. Fifty-nine percent (59%) of Americans have at least a somewhat favorable impression of Robinson. Hardly anybody has a negative view, but 36% don’t know who he is. Seventy-nine percent (79%) have a favorable opinion of another major civil rights figure, Rosa Parks.

— Only 17% think it is fair for a school to accept a skilled athlete over a more qualified student. Sixty percent (60%) don’t believe these student athletes should be paid even if their efforts contribute to the millions of dollars in revenue that many of the nation’s big-time college football and basketball programs bring in to their schools. — Fifty-seven percent (57%) of Americans oppose over-thecounter sale of morning after birth control pills to those 16 and under despite a federal judge’s ruling to the contrary.

— Seventy-one percent (71%) think movies, TV and other parts of popular culture encourage sexual activity among young people.

— Thirty-seven percent (37%) think most working Americans do something dishonest to get ahead at some point in their careers, but that’s down from 52% last July.

 

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