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June 8 2013

June 10, 2013

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The 3 Biggest Losers in a Slashed Defense Budget

By DAVID FRANCIS, The Fiscal Times

June 3, 2013

 

Imagine a military force that, for the first time since World War II, cannot fight and win a two-front war.

This version of the U.S. military would also fall behind on maintaining its nuclear deterrence. According to American Enterprise Institute’s Thomas Donnelly, this American military would not be able to accomplish U.S. strategic objectives in the coming years.

“All I can offer you are roads to failure, roads to defeat,” Donnelly said at a Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment event held last week . “The current program does not maintain a two-theater force.”

This event brought together leading think tanks in Washington to present competing visions of the Pentagon’s future, in light of sequestration and defense cuts that are expected to remove $500 billon from DOD’s budget over the next decade. Each think tank assumed scenarios in which the DOD is operating with $100, $300 and $500 billion less than it is now.

The analysis was meant to mirror an ongoing Pentagon process known as a Strategic Choice Exercise, in which the DOD is contemplating spending cuts that Pentagon brass have said will decimate the American military. For years, DOD officials acted as if these cuts would somehow be avoided.

The White House’s long-term spending plans released earlier this year did not account for the full impact of sequestration. But as President Obama made clear in a recent speech, the age of endless Pentagon spending is coming to an end. This realization has the massive Pentagon bureaucracy split. Last week, Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno warned that shrinking the size of the Army could leave America vulnerable.

“The thing I worry about is that in everybody’s declaration that there’s going to be no more ground wars, we need no more ground forces, that we’re going to make the Army too small,” he said before a meeting of the Atlantic Council. “I see nothing on the horizon yet that tells me that we don’t need ground forces.”

Others within the Pentagon have begun to prepare for the inevitable. Defense Chief Chuck Hagel, along with a number of undersecretaries and high-level civilians, continue to tell the military to prepare for cuts.

“We’ll have to get smaller and we’ll have to look at some areas where we can take some more risk, get rid of more overhead and make a lot of other tough decisions,” Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale said recently.

A Pentagon spokesperson said their review had not yet been completed and delivered to Hagel, and that DOD had not yet determined if it would be made public once it’s done.

But it’s clear that the drawdown won’t hit everyone equally. There are three areas where the cuts will be especially severe and will have an impact far beyond the ability for the United States to wage war.

 

THE CIVILIAN WORKFORCE

The Pentagon currently has a civilian workforce of some 800,000. Earlier this year, Hagel said that one of the most important parts of DOD budget reduction was to drastically reduce the size of this workforce.

“Despite good efforts and intentions, it is still not clear that every option has been exercised or considered to pare back the world’s largest back office,” Hagel said in April. He has argued that DOD would save as much as $34 billion per year by shrinking the civilian workforce.

The think tanks involved in the strategic review agree with Hagel’s assessment. Their cuts in the civilian workforce range from a loss of 82,000 to 263,000 workers.

 

THE ARMY

Despite Odierno’s protests, nearly everyone expects the Army to shrink. This will occur through base closures and troop reduction.

The think thanks estimated that a round of base closings, known as BRAC, could save between $5 and $30 billion in the coming years. This process is likely to impact the Army disproportionately, as it has the largest number of bases.

The think tanks’ analyses also recommend reductions of Army ground forces from between 70,000 and 163,000 troops. Army reserves would be pared down by up to 58,000 reservists.

 

THE ECONOMY

The think tank review did not address the impact of these cuts on the wider economy. And they did not address how the downsizing of the Pentagon contracting process, an inevitable result of a cut in DOD spending and one that has yet to be fully understood, would impact national GDP growth.

Because defense spending has accounted for such a large portion of government spending in recent years, including nearly 20 percent in 2012, the new changes outlined by the think tanks would be felt by not just those connected to the Pentagon, but for all Americans.

And everyone in the large defense policy community is in agreement that these cuts must occur in some way and at some level, meaning that DOD and Congress are likely to draw the same conclusions soon.

“Given the range of strategies you’ve heard here, there are some things that everyone agrees on … regardless of which strategy you end up pursuing, these are things that are likely to happen,” CSBA senior fellow Todd Harrison said last week. “It’s pretty remarkable, [that] people across the aisle, across a broad political spectrum, can agree on these things and yet Congress can’t.”

http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Articles/2013/06/03/The-3-Biggest-Losers-in-a-Slashed-Defense-Budget.aspx#UR3YDawMI0gwZGhW.99

 

 

White House Unveils First-Ever Inventory of Federal Programs

http://www.govexec.com/management/2013/05/white-house-unveils-first-ever-inventory-federal-programs/64064/

By Charles S. Clark

May 31, 2013

 

Embarking on a project long-sought by lawmakers and government efficiency experts, the Office of Management and Budget on Friday released a unique inventory of federal programs in 24 departments.

Report at http://www.goals.performance.gov/federalprograminventory

 

As called for in the 2010 Government Performance and Results Modernization Act, the inventory of some 1,600 programs was prepared by departments using a Government Accountability Office definition that deemed a program an “organized set of activities directed toward a common purpose or goal that an agency undertakes or proposes to carry out its responsibilities.” Each program listed includes a title, description and link to the strategic goals and objectives of the agency.

OMB spokeswoman Ari Isaacman Astles said “each agency further defined programs in a way that reflects how the agency delivers and discusses its activities with Congress and other stakeholders.”

In meeting Friday’s deadline for the inventory’s first phase, agencies posted their lists on their own websites and as discrete units on performance.gov. After agencies receive feedback on the program definitions, an updated release next year will add detail to the entries, supply links to further information and centralize them within performance.gov.

For years, many in Congress have expressed frustration at the inability of agencies to precisely itemize all the programs that receive funding. Such information has been scattered across the president’s budget, congressional budget justifications, USAspending.gov, and the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance. An OMB backgrounder notes that “reporting about the government’s activities is often done in a siloed and decentralized way, which inhibits coordination across agencies and cross-cutting analysis across programs.”

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., in an essay earlier this year titled “Duplication Nation,” complained that “it is nearly impossible to fully comprehend the vast expanse of federal programs that exist today. Although various sources, including USA Spending and documents released by OMB and CBO produce partial lists of various government programs, there is not an exhaustive list of federal programs. Every federal department is now administering programs that address challenges tasked to be addressed by other agencies. The government has grown so large and unmanageable, that even the experts, and the departments themselves, cannot compile a list of all federal programs within their purview.”

In releasing the first inventory, which focused on permanent programs, the White House linked it to President Obama’s ongoing efforts to eliminate duplication and waste. “In each of his five budgets, the president identified, on average, more than 170 cuts, consolidations, and savings, totaling about $25 billion each year,” it said. “The 2014 Budget proposes 215 cuts, consolidations, and savings proposals, which are projected to save more than $25 billion in 2014.”

The Obama team also cited its progress in implementing GAO recommendations for curbing duplicative programs, and referenced its pursuit — again under the GPRA law — of cross-agency priority goals to improve government efficiency.

The release was hailed “an important tool” by Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “If implemented correctly, the Federal Program Inventory can also assist agencies and Congress by aligning programs with goals and desired outcomes so that these programs can be managed more efficiently.” But more work is needed, Carper said, promising to work with colleagues and OMB to “refine the list and to fully implement the Performance Act.”

 

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., also welcomed the release, saying, “We are finally getting the data we need to make a careful review of the structure of federal programs across the government to help inform decision-making in Congress. Identifying the programs at each agency is critical to making sure we reduce the amount of duplication, improve efficiencies, and ensure that programs with similar missions work together across agency silos. We will review these lists carefully, and I look forward to the addition of more program information that will help identify areas for collaboration and taxpayer savings.”

Robert Shea, an OMB official during the George W. Bush administration and now a principal with Grant Thornton LLP, called the release “a good start — almost like a to-do list. If we have a bird’s eye view of the programs out there, we can begin to catalogue what they cost and what we’re getting in terms of results, and start diligently deciding whether these are areas ripe for consolidation or improvement or elimination,” he told Government Executive.

“There’s probably a lot of confusion as to why it takes so long for government to get a handle on what’s going on in government,” Shea added. “These recent scandals have raised the specter of a government too large to be managed. This makes the case too that if we’ve got so many different ways of achieving similar objectives, is that really manageable?”

David Walker, the former Comptroller General now chairing an advocacy coalition called the Government Transformation Initiative, praised the first effort but said more needs to be done. “The creation of a governmentwide inventory of federal programs helps facilitate the coordination of activity across the federal government,” he said in a statement. “We already have numerous compilations of government programs with the Federal Activities Inventory Reform Act, GAO Reports and inspector general reviews, but they lack actionable recommendations to ensure the government is operating as efficiently and effectively as possible.”

The inventory, Walker said, demonstrates “the need for an independent task force or commission to make specific and actionable recommendations to improve the economy, efficiency, effectiveness, and credibility of the federal government.”

DoD Inventory report at http://dcmo.defense.gov/products-and-services/program-inventory/dod-fy2013-program-inventory.pdf

 

Unemployment Compensation for Furloughed Feds?

http://www.govexec.com/pay-benefits/2013/05/unemployment-compensation-furloughed-feds/64067/print/

By Eric Katz

May 31, 2013

 

Some federal employees will take week-long furloughs in an attempt to collect unemployment insurance, according to a CNN report.

A union local in Philadelphia — an affiliate of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers — has negotiated with Navy officials to allow the bunched furloughs, rather than the one-day per week schedule outlined by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. Navy employees would not qualify for unemployment in Pennsylvania if they still worked four days of the week, as recipients must earn less than $745 per seven-day period. “We will begin furloughs on July 8 at the rate of one furlough day per week for most personnel,” Hagel wrote in furlough notices that went out this week.

He did leave the door open for some flexibility, however.

 

“Consistent with this memo and with applicable laws and rules, commanders and managers will have the authority to develop the specifics of furlough procedures in order to minimize adverse mission effects and also limit the harm to morale and productivity,” he wrote. “Further bargaining with unions may also be required.”

A Pentagon spokeswoman said the approach was unusual, but not prohibited.

“Employees may request a specific furlough schedule,” Cmdr. Leslie Hull-Ryde told Government Executive. “However, the department’s approach has generally been one day a week, two days per pay period not to exceed a total of 88 hours.”

One employee, according to CNN, hoped to recoup about one quarter of the $4,400 he will lose due to unpaid leave through unemployment.

The Labor Department has issued several pieces of guidance on which federal employees may be eligible for unemployment and how to go about collecting it.

“While on furlough, federal employees may become eligible for unemployment benefits under the Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees,” Labor wrote in one memo. “Some states may increase normal working hours in order to process the high volume of UCFE claims, if necessary.”

The department advised in another document: “In most cases, individuals on furlough status for only a couple of days during a week would not be eligible for a partial payment for that week.”

Labor bills agencies for UCFE benefits each quarter, which could in turn negate some of the savings obtained by furloughs. The Office of Management and Budget did not respond to a request for comment.

Not all employees plan to take the lumped-furlough approach to become eligible for the out-of-work benefit, however. Tim Kauffman, a spokesman for the American Federation of Government Employees — the largest federal employee union — said one unpaid day off per week has already been negotiated and finalized for Defense civilians.

“My understanding is that was what was agreed to in negotiations, which are already complete,” Kauffman said.

Hull-Ryde, the Defense spokeswoman, said unemployment compensation requirements differ by state and pointed to a Labor Department tool to help federal employees determine their eligibility.

 

 

Pentagon, Regional Staffs Growing Despite Orders to Trim Personnel

Data Show 15% Increase From 2010 to 2012

DefenseNews

Jun. 2, 2013 – 08:57PM |

By MARCUS WEISGERBER |         

 

Staffs Grow

Overall, staff sizes of major US military commands grew by 15 percent from 2010 to 2012, despite then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ call to reducestaff sizes as a way of cutting redundancy and saving money.

Organization; Size 2010; Size 2012; Change; % Change

OSD: 2,433; 2,665; +232; 9.5%

Joint Staff: 1,286; 4,244; +2958; 230%

AFRICOM: 1,661; 1,919; +285; 15.5%

CENTCOM: 2,686; 3,207; +521; 19.4%

EUCOM: 2,494; 2,286; -208; 8.3%

NORTHCOM: 1,585; 1,687; +102; 6.4%

PACOM: 3,825; 4,147; +322; 8.4%

SOUTHCOM: 1,795; 1,797; +2; 0.1%

 

WASHINGTON — The size of the Pentagon’s vast oversight organizations grew by more than 15 percent from 2010 to 2012, despite efforts to pare down the US Defense Department’s bureaucracy, a Defense News analysis has found.

On Aug. 9, 2010, then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the Pentagon needed to cut staff sizes. He made this task part of his efficiencies initiative — an effort to save hundreds of billions of dollars through better business practices. The military services’ incentive for accomplishing these tasks was that they would be able to get back some of that money to reinvest in other priorities.

“Constraining the personnel available is one way to force this painful but necessary process to take place,” Gates said then. “Therefore, I am directing a freeze on the number of OSD [Office of the Secretary of Defense], defense agency and combatant command [COCOM] positions, at the FY10 levels, for the next three years.”

But almost three years later, staff sizes within OSD, the Joint Staff and COCOMs have grown, prompting a new round of calls from senior Pentagon officials and defense observers to truncate the so-called “fourth estate.”

The Joint Staff, for example, grew from 1,286 people in 2010 to 4,244 people in 2012, a 230 percent increase.

“The problem is the bureaucracy is more resilient than even the most powerful secretary,” said Arnold Punaro, a retired Marine Corps major general, consultant and member of the Defense Business Board.

Unlike prior efforts to cut back staff positions, however, DoD officials have more of an incentive to do so now, experts say. Since DoD’s budget is capped and with more defense spending cuts on the horizon, maintaining staff size means reducing spending in other areas, such as training, research and weapon procurement.

Even though staff sizes grew over the past three years despite efforts to freeze or reduce them, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has made reducing this type of overhead a major priority.

Hagel signaled the rise in overhead costs during his first major policy speech in early April at National Defense University. He said DoD needs to “pare back the world’s largest back office.

“Prior efficiency campaigns yielded substantial savings from the services, and some from the DoD elements known as the ‘Fourth Estate,’ which consists … of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the combatant commands and the defense agencies and field activities — the Missile Defense Agency as well as those that provide health care, intelligence and contracting support,” Hagel said. “We need to relook at funding for these activities, which won’t be easy.”

 

The Growth

Between 2010 and 2012, OSD, the Joint Staff and COCOMs added about 4,500 positions, according to a Defense News analysis of multiple DoD personnel documents and interviews with experts. More than 65 percent of the staff size growth was within the Joint Staff, the organization at the Pentagon that oversees the uniformed military and global operations.

The staff sizes do not include the thousands of contractors working within each organization.

The majority of the growth within the Joint Staff stems from the closure of US Joint Forces Command (JFCOM), which promoted and organized training between the military services. Gates ordered the closure of JFCOM in 2010.

That year, the Joint Staff had just shy of 1,300 military and civilian positions. In 2012, that number rose to more than 4,200.

About 2,500 of these positions were directly attributed to absorbing Joint Forces Command’s duties and responsibilities, Joint Staff spokesman Lt. Col. Larry Porter said.

“They say they closed JFCOM,” Punaro said. “They did not close … they added them to the Joint Staff.”

This year, the Joint Staff has cut more than 1,000 positions and has about 3,100 military and civilian billets, Porter said. And more cuts are on the way as another 100 positions — possibly more — are marked for elimination in 2014.

Collectively, the Joint Staff and COCOMs are planning to cut 400 headquarters staff positions over the next five years, which the Pentagon says is part of a nearly $900 million overhead savings plan, according to DoD data within a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.

OSD is authorized to have 2,540 positions, said a Pentagon spokesman, Lt. Col. Tom Crosson, slightly down from 2,665 in 2012.

But when contractors are included, that number is much higher. When Punaro looked into Pentagon staff sizes for Gates, he found about 5,000 people — civilian, military and contractors — working at OSD.

“They need to bite the bullet in their own backyard if you are the secretary of defense and you want the rest of the Pentagon to tighten their belt,” Punaro said.

 

Trimming the Fat

DoD operates six COCOMs that oversee military operations in different parts of the world. Each of those commands is supported by a subordinate, service-specific command. For example, Army Pacific, Marine Forces Pacific, Pacific Fleet and Pacific Air Forces are the service components of US Pacific Command.

Experts say DoD can trim more fat there by eliminating redundant positions across the COCOMs and the subordinate service commands.

In a May report, GAO — the nonpartisan, investigative arm of Congress — found significant overlap between the service-supporting commands and the COCOMs. Overlap is common in a variety of positions, such as collecting intelli­gence, coordinating operations, performing strategic planning and policy and supporting communications.

“Even though the combatant commands rely on the service component commands’ personnel to support their missions and operational requirements, they do not have oversight or visibility into the service component commands’ authorized manpower or how the components determine the size and structure of their staff to support the combatant commands’ missions,” GAO said. “Based on our analysis of data that we gathered, in fiscal year 2012, there were 7,795 authorized positions at the headquarters of the service component commands, which was more than double the 3,817 authorized positions at the headquarters of the combatant commands.”

 

Moreover, the COCOMs do not have clear information regarding personnel assigned to the supporting service commands.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, civilian positions at the COCOMs — not including US Central Command — almost doubled from 2,370 in 2004 to 4,450 in 2012, according to GAO. However, the number of authorized military positions decreased about 9 percent from 6,250 to 5,670 across that same period.

The headquarters support costs, including civilian pay, contract services, travel and equipment reviewed by GAO at the COCOMs, more than doubled from $500 million in 2007 to $1.1 billion in 2012. Contract services and civilian pay were the primary drivers of the increase, GAO said.

During a budget-cutting drill conducted by four Washington think tanks — the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), Center for Strategic and International Studies, Center for New American Security and American Enterprise Institute — teams from each cut DoD’s nearly 800,000 civilian workforce by between 82,000 and 263,000 people.

“I think that that’s remarkable, given the range in strategies, the range of view of people [participating] that they had so much agreement in this area in particular,” said Todd Harrison, a CSBA analyst who helped organize the drill.

The Pentagon also estimates it has more than 700,000 contractors working alongside its civilian and military workforce, but the exact number is unknown.

“They cannot really tell you, [and] Congress is frustrated,” Punaro said.

Estimates peg the number of contractors as high as 700,000, around the same size as the Pentagon’s entire civilian workforce.

“In business, if you cannot control your headcount, you are doomed,” Punaro said. “So, they do not control their headcount, and they do not have mechanisms to control the headcount. There ought to be someone that owns headcount, and you cannot increase it without higher authority.”

 

3-D printing goes from sci-fi fantasy to reality

Associated PressBy MARTHA MENDOZA | Associated Press – Sun, Jun 2, 2013..

 

SAN MATEO, Calif. (AP) — Invisalign, a San Jose company, uses 3-D printing to make each mouthful of customized, transparent braces. Mackenzies Chocolates, a confectioner in Santa Cruz, uses a 3-D printer to pump out chocolate molds. And earlier this year, Cornell University researchers used a 3-D printer, along with injections of a special collagen gel, to create a human-shaped ear.

Once a science-fiction fantasy, three-dimensional printers are popping up everywhere from the desks of home hobbyists to Air Force drone research centers. The machines, generally the size of a microwave oven and costing $400 to more than $500,000, extrude layer upon layer of plastics or other materials, including metal, to create 3-D objects with moving parts.

Users are able to make just about anything they like: iPad stands, guitars, jewelry, even guns. But experts warn this cool innovation could soon turn controversial — because of safety concerns but also the potential for the technology to alter economies that rely on manufacturing.

 

“We believe that 3-D printing is fundamentally changing the manufacturing ecosystem in its entirety — how and where products are made and by whom,” said Peter Weijmarshausen, CEO of New York-based Shapeways, an online company that makes and sells 3-D printed products designed by individuals. Products include a delicate, twig-like egg cup (cost: $8.10) and a lamp that looks like a nuclear mushroom cloud (cost: $1,388.66).

“We’re on the verge of the next industrial revolution, no doubt about it,” added Dartmouth College business professor Richard D’Aveni. “In 25 years, entire industries are going to disappear. Countries relying on mass manufacturing are going to find themselves with no revenues and no jobs.”

On ground, sea or air, when parts break, new ones can be made on the spot, and even the tools to install them can be made, eliminating the need for staging parts in warehouses around the world, said Jeff DeGrange, vice president of Direct Digital Manufacturing at Stratasys Inc., currently the industry leader in a field of about 50 3-D printer companies.

“We’re going to see innovation happening at a much higher rate, introduction of products at a much higher rate,” said DeGrange. “We live in an on-demand world now, and we’ll see production schedules are going to be greatly compressed.”

Airplane mechanics could print a replacement part on the runway. A dishwasher repairman could make a new gasket in his service truck. A surgeon could print a knee implant custom-designed to fit a patient’s body.

But the military, D’Aveni said, is likely to be among the first major users of 3-D printers, because of the urgency of warfare.

“Imagine a soldier on a firebase in the mountains of Afghanistan. A squad is attacked by insurgents. The ammunition starts to run out. Is it worth waiting hours and risking the lives of helicopter pilots to drop it near you, or is it worth a more expensive system that can manufacture weapons and ammunition on the spot?” he said.

In the past two years, the U.S. Defense Department has spent more than $2 million on 3-D printers, supplies and upkeep, according to federal contract records. Their uses range from medical research to weapons development. In addition, the Obama administration has launched a $30 million pilot program that includes researching how to use 3-D printing to build weapons parts.

NASA is also wading into this arena, spending $500,000 in the past two years on 3-D printing. Its Lunar Science Institute has published descriptions of how it is exploring the possibility of using the printers to build everything from spacecraft parts while in orbit to a lunar base.

While the U.S. is pursuing the military advantages of 3-D printing, it’s also dealing with the potential dangers of the technology. On May 9, the State Department ordered a group to take down online blueprints for a 3-D printable handgun, and federal lawmakers and some state legislatures are contemplating proposals to restrict posting weapons plans in the future.

Since 2007, when these printers first entered the mainstream marketplace, sales have grown by 7.2 percent each year, according to IBIS World, a company that tracks the industry. Sales are projected to jump from about $1.7 billion in 2011 to $3.7 billion in 2015.

Cliff Waldman, a senior economist at the Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation, a group that promotes the role of manufacturing in global economies, said it’s still too soon to know exactly what impact this 3-D technology could have on more traditional manufacturing. However, he doesn’t envision it changing the “fundamental shape” of manufacturing, as others suggest.

“I think 3-D has the capacity to impact both products and processes,” he said. “I am not ready to say that it is completely disruptive, however. It might be in a few narrow industries.”

Starting in June, office supply chain Staples plans to be the first major retailer to supply 3-D printers with “the Cube,” a plug-in device that uses 16 colors and costs $1,299. And in September the smallest and cheapest 3-D printer on the market — a printing pen priced from $50 — is due to start shipping. Similar to a glue gun, the 3Doodler plugs into the wall and is filled with cylinders of plastic that come out of a 518-degree Fahrenheit tip. Once the plastic leaves the pen it cools and hardens.

Makers Peter Dilworth, an inventor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Maxwell Bogue, a toy maker, first pitched their pens earlier this year on a website for startup projects. They sought $30,000 and wound up collecting $2.3 million from more than 26,000 investors, who each got one of the 3-D pens. Four artists who teamed up with the men have used the pens to make a mini Eiffel Tower, earrings and butterfly pendants.

 

 

 

House panel passes $638B defense authorizations bill

The Hill

By Jeremy Herb – 06/06/13 02:31 AM ET

 

The House Armed Services Committee passed its sweeping Defense authorization early Thursday morning, authorizing $638 billion in defense spending.

The Pentagon policy bill includes stripping commanders’ ability to overturn guilty verdicts to deal with a rise in military sexual assaults, a prohibition on transferring Guantánamo detainees to the United States and a rejection of new base closures.

The committee passed its authorization bill on a 59-2 vote after a 16-hour mark-up, which began Wednesday morning and lasted until 2:14 a.m. Thursday. The bill will be debated on the House floor next week.

Reps. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) and John Garamendi (D-Calif.) were the only committee members to vote against the final legislation.

The bill provides an increase of $5.1 billion for the war in Afghanistan from the Pentagon request, and it sets base Pentagon spending
at $526.6 billion, the same amount that was requested in President Obama’s budget.

That funding level is $52.2 billion over the budget caps set by sequestration, however, a topic that was debated only sparingly on Wednesday.

Because the panel’s bill was over the budget caps — as are the Senate and Obama administration budgets — the Pentagon could be facing another across-the-board cut in 2014 if sequester is not averted.

“I think in this committee there’s a growing awareness that sequestration is a fact of life, so whatever we do here today will wind up being reduced by a significant amount,” said Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the top Democrat on the committee.

After 1 a.m. Thursday, the committee debated a measure from Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) to give the Pentagon $20 billion in flexibility to transfer funds between accounts, up from $3.5 billion granted in the authorization bill.

Pentagon officials have warned that the military is facing shortfalls in its operations and maintenance accounts and they’ve said flexibility could help alleviate the problem to some degree.

“This is insanity, and so far this committee has not done anything about it,” Cooper said. “I’m not saying this is a perfect solution, but it is a start… I am sorry it is one in the morning before we face the elephant in the room.”

The amendment failed, however, on a 16-45 vote, and was opposed by both Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) and Smith.

“What you’re asking is to give full discretion for $20 billion. That really doesn’t solve the problem,” McKeon said. “What we really need to do is get rid of the sequestration.”

As the Pentagon faces tightened budgets, Smith criticized the committee for rejecting several cost-cutting measures that the Pentagon had requested, including a new round of base closures and new healthcare fees.

“I don’t think this committee has the luxury to be so parochial,” Smith said.

He was clearly in the minority, however, as the committee rejected his amendment 44 to 18 to reverse a restriction on Pentagon planning for future base closures.

Smith also fought a losing battle to lift a restriction on transferring detainees from Guantánamo onto U.S. soil, which has been included in the past several Defense authorization bills. The prohibition is a key roadblock to President Obama’s new push to close the detention facility.

Just as the full House passed a restriction on building U.S. facilities in the military construction appropriations bill, the committee rejected Smith’s amendment on a 23-38 vote.

The panel did not get into a major debate on military sexual assault Wednesday, but the bill included significant changes to the military’s judicial code in order to deal with sexual assault.

The panel included legislation from Reps. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) and Niki Tonsgas (D-Mass.) that stripped military commanders’ authority to overturn guilty verdicts in a post-trial review.

The adopted measure also established a mandatory sentence of dismissal or dishonorable discharge for service members who were convicted of sexual assault.

There has been a major push in Congress to tackle sexual assault in the military on the heels of a Pentagon report estimating 26,000 assaults last year, up from 19,000 in 2010.

The committee’s markup did not address proposals to make larger changes to the military’s judicial code, including one from Rep. Speier to take sexual assault cases outside the chain of command.

Speier told The Hill on Wednesday that she was working with Republicans to get a vote on her amendment when the authorization bill goes to the floor next week.

Top military leaders expressed uniform opposition to taking cases outside the chain of command during a Senate hearing on Tuesday.

The most partisan debate in the committee Wednesday focused on missile defense issues, in particular Republican plans to build a new East Coast missile site by 2018.

The committee passed an amendment from Turner to direct $140 million for construction on the site by a 33-27 vote.

“It is imperative that we move quickly to ensure that our missile-defense system is expanded and it is completed,” Turner said.

Democrats argued that the technology is not yet ready and it would be premature to begin building a new site.

“This is too much money, too early to be helpful to the security of the American people,” said Cooper, the ranking member of the Strategic Forces subcommittee.

The Republicans on the panel also tangled with Democrats over the Pentagon’s biofuels program, a frequent target of GOP lawmakers for cuts.

The committee pushed back on a number of weapons programs that the Pentagon wanted to retire, including the Global Hawk Block 30 drone and seven cruisers and two amphibious warships.

Democrats also expressed concerns about the potential for discrimination against gay service members after the committee expanded a “conscience clause” for military chaplains in last year’s bill. The amendment from Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) stated that the military had to accommodate service members’ actions and speech, in addition to beliefs, which was the current language.

The Senate Armed Services Committee will be marking up its version of the Defense authorization bill in closed session next week.

— Carlo Muñoz contributed.

http://thehill.com/blogs/defcon-hill/budget-appropriations/303811-house-panel-passes-sweeping-638b-defense-bill

 

Pentagon officials ask Congress to shift $9.6B

The Hill

By Zack Colman – 05/18/13 10:53 AM ET

 

The Pentagon wants Congress to shift $9.6 billion of this year’s FY13 Defense Department budget toward expenses for the Afghanistan war, transportation and other items.

Moving $1.3 billion to the Army “to support funding shortfalls” in Afghanistan is the largest request, Bloomberg reports, citing budget documents. The Pentagon also wants to funnel $1 billion into the transportation budget to pay for higher-than-expected fuel costs.

The money would mostly come from smaller research programs and weapons-buying accounts, according to Bloomberg.

The Pentagon sent the request to Congress along with its $79.4 billion war-fighting budget proposal. The House Armed Services Committee will begin consideration of the defense bill next week.

The Defense Department is in the process of scaling back spending, as sequestration will shave $500 billion from its budget over the next 10 years.

The Pentagon said failing to honor its request “runs the risk of an interruption on the flow of supplies, subsistence and mail to deployed warfighters” in Afghanistan.

The Army also needs $770 million to pay for 8,400 more offices, the Pentagon said in its request.

http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/300575-pentagon-asks-congress-to-shift-funds-to-afghanistan-war-transportation

 

Sixty Percent of Adults Can’t Digest Milk

 

By Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY

June 6, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO

Got milk? If you do, take a moment to ponder the true oddness of being able to drink milk after you’re a baby.

No other species but humans can. And most humans can’t either.

The long lists of food allergies some people claim to have can make it seem as if they’re just finicky eaters trying to rationalize likes and dislikes. Not so. Eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish soy and gluten all can wreak havoc on the immune system of allergic individuals, even causing a deadly reaction called anaphylaxis.

But those allergic reactions are relatively rare, affecting an estimated 4% of adults.

Milk’s different.

First off, most people who have bad reactions to milk aren’t actually allergic to it, in that it’s not their immune system that’s responding to the milk.

Instead, people who are lactose intolerant can’t digest the main sugar —lactose— found in milk. In normal humans, the enzyme that does so —lactase— stops being produced when the person is between two and five years old. The undigested sugars end up in the colon, where they begin to ferment, producing gas that can cause cramping, bloating, nausea, flatulence and diarrhea.

If you’re American or European it’s hard to realize this, but being able to digest milk as an adult is one weird genetic adaptation.

It’s not normal. Somewhat less than 40% of people in the world retain the ability to digest lactose after childhood. The numbers are often given as close to 0% of Native Americans, 5% of Asians, 25% of African and Caribbean peoples, 50% of Mediterranean peoples and 90% of northern Europeans. Sweden has one of the world’s highest percentages of lactase tolerant people.

Being able to digest milk is so strange that scientists say we shouldn’t really call lactose intolerance a disease, because that presumes it’s abnormal. Instead, they call it lactase persistence, indicating what’s really weird is the ability to continue to drink milk.

There’s been a lot of research over the past decade looking at the genetic mutation that allows this subset of humanity to stay milk drinkers into adulthood.

A long-held theory was that the mutation showed up first in Northern Europe, where people got less vitamin D from the sun and therefore did better if they could also get the crucial hormone (it’s not really a vitamin at all) from milk.

But now a group at University College London has shown that the mutation actually appeared about 7,500 years ago in dairy farmers who lived in a region between the central Balkans and central Europe, in what was known as the Funnel Beaker culture.

The paper was published this week in PLoS Computational Biology.

The researchers used a computer to model the spread of lactase persistence, dairy farming, other food gathering practices and genes in Europe.

Today, the highest proportion of people with lactase persistence live in Northwest Europe, especially the Netherlands, Ireland and Scandinavia. But the computer model suggests that dairy farmers carrying this gene variant probably originated in central Europe and then spread more widely and rapidly than non-dairying groups.

Author Mark Thomas of University College London’s dept of Genetics, Evolution and Environment says: “In Europe, a single genetic change…is strongly associated with lactase persistence and appears to have given people with it a big survival advantage.”

The European mutation is different from several lactase persistence genes associated with small populations of African peoples who historically have been cattle herders.

Researchers at the University of Maryland identified one such mutation among Nilo-Saharan-speaking peoples in Kenya and Tanzania. That mutation seems to have arisen between 2,700 to 6,800 years ago. Two other mutations have been found among the Beja people of northeastern Sudan and tribes of the same language family in northern Kenya.

 

How Gov’t Student Loans Ruined College Education


By LIZ PEEK, The Fiscal Times

June 5, 2013

President Obama and Congress are squabbling again – this time over the rates charged on federal college loans.

 

Surrounded by students nicely turned out in suits and dresses, looking more like the Mormon Youth Chorus than today’s undergraduates, Mr. Obama recently chastised Congress for not yet blocking a doubling of rates for new Stafford loans set to occur on July 1.

As the president well knows, the House has already passed a bill preventing the hike and tying new loan terms to market levels. The president’s solution is similar, but would lock in rates for the duration of the loan. The spat is like bickering over menu choices on the Titanic.

Between 2000 and 2010, the number of students enrolling in degree-conferring institutions increased 34 percent. The portion receiving federal aid skyrocketed from 31.6 percent to 47.8 percent, and the average award nearly doubled. In addition, the percentage taking out student loans climbed from 40.1 percent to 50.1 percent, and the average borrowing rose 76 percent.

The ramp-up in loans to students has not only driven up costs but has undermined the value of a college degree. Some 30 percent of people ages 25 to 29 are college graduates today, up from 12 percent in the 1970s. That is a notable achievement, unless the degrees awarded do not satisfy the needs of the job market. Richard Vedder, economics professor at Ohio University, has written that we have one million retail sales clerks and 115,000 janitors with college diplomas. At the same time, one fifth of the country’s managers say they can’t find skilled workers to fill job openings. Something is not right.

Rising student debt is a menace–not just to the families involved but also to the economic recovery. As with housing, the government’s well-intentioned effort to make advanced education available to all has led to crippling borrowing by millions of Americans. As with housing policy, it is time for a clear-headed review of how we can promote sensible spending on advanced education. That might start with challenging why Congress – or the president – should be responsible for fixing student loan rates in the first place.

Many of the problems challenging our higher education system could be resolved, or might have been prevented, by allowing greater input from the marketplace. The government’s 2010 take-over of student lending and prior 45 years of subsidizing student borrowings threw rational credit analysis out the window. A family’s earnings and debt profile were reviewed, but the applicant’s potential earning power was not part of the equation.

Lenders with skin in the game might have analyzed the income prospects of young people in different fields of study, and channeled more money to pre-med or software design than to philosophy or journalism majors, for instance. President Obama has long bemoaned our shortage of STEM grads. In a more rational world, higher income in engineering and tech would have attracted more students (and lenders) to those fields.

Many will argue that seeking a college degree is not just about financial returns. Lawmakers, however, have long used economics to persuade taxpayers to underwrite our colleges and universities. We are told we cannot compete in a global economy without a highly educated workforce. That is true, but it has become clear that not all training is the same.

To date, lawmakers concerned about rising student debt have focused scrutiny on for-profit schools, which have been plagued by high costs and failure rates. They should be looking at the whole system.

 

While household debt has been declining gradually during the recession, student borrowings have increased – rising another $20 billion in the latest quarter. Some 43 percent of twenty-five-year-olds owe student debt today, up from 25 percent in 2003. Between 2003 and 2012, the average student loan balance increased 91 percent, from $10,649 to $20,326.

The rise in student debt– now at $986 billion, triple the level outstanding in 2004 – has held back the recovery, and especially the housing and auto markets. Though student loans make up only 9 percent of total household borrowings, they are mainly held by young people – who are essential to new household formations. The average age of the first-time home buyer is 30, and most borrow to finance their purchase.

A study by the New York Fed shows that historically, most first-time home buyers have student debt – they are typically higher up the income scale and better able to finance a home. However, during the recovery, home buying by people holding student debt took a nosedive. Similarly, people saddled with student debt were less likely to borrow to buy a car. In short, rising student debt pushed out other consumer loans.

Partly, this trend is explained by a tightening of credit standards. The Fed study shows that while in the past scores were not much impacted by student borrowings, during the recession that changed. By 2012, the average credit score for a 25-year old without student debt was 15 points higher than the counterpart who took out college loans; for those aged thirty, the gap was 24 points. The Fed study concludes that while “highly skilled young workers” have always been a boon to the economy, “unprecedented student debt may dampen their influence in today’s marketplace.”

Families are wising up to the “value proposition” of a college degree, checking out websites like CollegeRealityCheck.com to compare future earnings and real costs. The Obama administration has also acknowledged the need for more discriminating choices, while still pushing broader college enrollment.

The biggest reform of all, and the only one that might restore sanity and discipline to our higher education system, is to return student lending to the private sector – this time without the carte blanche of federal guarantees. To give low-income families a shot at attending college, direct grants awarded by scholastic merit would be, in the end, a less distorting approach.

Most likely, Congress will extend today’s Stafford loan rate for another year, and that pile of cans down the road will continue to build.

President Obama and Congress are squabbling again – this time over the rates charged on federal college loans.

Surrounded by students nicely turned out in suits and dresses, looking more like the Mormon Youth Chorus than today’s undergraduates, Mr. Obama recently chastised Congress for not yet blocking a doubling of rates for new Stafford loans set to occur on July 1.

As the president well knows, the House has already passed a bill preventing the hike and tying new loan terms to market levels. The president’s solution is similar, but would lock in rates for the duration of the loan. The spat is like bickering over menu choices on the Titanic.

Between 2000 and 2010, the number of students enrolling in degree-conferring institutions increased 34 percent. The portion receiving federal aid skyrocketed from 31.6 percent to 47.8 percent, and the average award nearly doubled. In addition, the percentage taking out student loans climbed from 40.1 percent to 50.1 percent, and the average borrowing rose 76 percent.

The ramp-up in loans to students has not only driven up costs but has undermined the value of a college degree. Some 30 percent of people ages 25 to 29 are college graduates today, up from 12 percent in the 1970s. That is a notable achievement, unless the degrees awarded do not satisfy the needs of the job market. Richard Vedder, economics professor at Ohio University, has written that we have one million retail sales clerks and 115,000 janitors with college diplomas. At the same time, one fifth of the country’s managers say they can’t find skilled workers to fill job openings. Something is not right.

Rising student debt is a menace–not just to the families involved but also to the economic recovery. As with housing, the government’s well-intentioned effort to make advanced education available to all has led to crippling borrowing by millions of Americans. As with housing policy, it is time for a clear-headed review of how we can promote sensible spending on advanced education. That might start with challenging why Congress – or the president – should be responsible for fixing student loan rates in the first place.

Many of the problems challenging our higher education system could be resolved, or might have been prevented, by allowing greater input from the marketplace. The government’s 2010 take-over of student lending and prior 45 years of subsidizing student borrowings threw rational credit analysis out the window. A family’s earnings and debt profile were reviewed, but the applicant’s potential earning power was not part of the equation.

Lenders with skin in the game might have analyzed the income prospects of young people in different fields of study, and channeled more money to pre-med or software design than to philosophy or journalism majors, for instance. President Obama has long bemoaned our shortage of STEM grads. In a more rational world, higher income in engineering and tech would have attracted more students (and lenders) to those fields.

Many will argue that seeking a college degree is not just about financial returns. Lawmakers, however, have long used economics to persuade taxpayers to underwrite our colleges and universities. We are told we cannot compete in a global economy without a highly educated workforce. That is true, but it has become clear that not all training is the same.

To date, lawmakers concerned about rising student debt have focused scrutiny on for-profit schools, which have been plagued by high costs and failure rates. They should be looking at the whole system.

While household debt has been declining gradually during the recession, student borrowings have increased – rising another $20 billion in the latest quarter. Some 43 percent of twenty-five-year-olds owe student debt today, up from 25 percent in 2003. Between 2003 and 2012, the average student loan balance increased 91 percent, from $10,649 to $20,326.

The rise in student debt– now at $986 billion, triple the level outstanding in 2004 – has held back the recovery, and especially the housing and auto markets. Though student loans make up only 9 percent of total household borrowings, they are mainly held by young people – who are essential to new household formations. The average age of the first-time home buyer is 30, and most borrow to finance their purchase.

A study by the New York Fed shows that historically, most first-time home buyers have student debt – they are typically higher up the income scale and better able to finance a home. However, during the recovery, home buying by people holding student debt took a nosedive. Similarly, people saddled with student debt were less likely to borrow to buy a car. In short, rising student debt pushed out other consumer loans.

Partly, this trend is explained by a tightening of credit standards. The Fed study shows that while in the past scores were not much impacted by student borrowings, during the recession that changed. By 2012, the average credit score for a 25-year old without student debt was 15 points higher than the counterpart who took out college loans; for those aged thirty, the gap was 24 points. The Fed study concludes that while “highly skilled young workers” have always been a boon to the economy, “unprecedented student debt may dampen their influence in today’s marketplace.”

Families are wising up to the “value proposition” of a college degree, checking out websites like CollegeRealityCheck.com to compare future earnings and real costs. The Obama administration has also acknowledged the need for more discriminating choices, while still pushing broader college enrollment.

 

The biggest reform of all, and the only one that might restore sanity and discipline to our higher education system, is to return student lending to the private sector – this time without the carte blanche of federal guarantees. To give low-income families a shot at attending college, direct grants awarded by scholastic merit would be, in the end, a less distorting approach.

Most likely, Congress will extend today’s Stafford loan rate for another year, and that pile of cans down the road will continue to build.

Read more at http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Columns/2013/06/05/How-Govt-Student-Loans-Ruined-College-Education.aspx#PeJZADSIRGxvQzpC.99

 

Top 10 College Majors

http://www.princetonreview.com/college/top-ten-majors.aspx

Princeton Review

 

  

 

College offers you many academic freedoms. You can cultivate existing passions and explore new interests–all the while figuring out which major will eventually help you earn a living.

Whatever major you choose, don’t pick what’s easiest–or what your best friend is studying–because you’ll only be cheating yourself out of some great opportunities!

And college is, after all, about opportunities.

The Princeton Review’s Top 10 Majors follow. Be warned, however, that these are not necessarily the degrees that garner the most demand in the job market. More importantly, they don’t lock you into a set career path. Each major offers unique intellectual challenges and develops skill sets that will be applicable to various careers.

 

1. Business Administration and Management/Commerce

Think you’re a born leader? You’ll need stellar people skills–no room for wallflowers here–and talents in problem solving, number crunching, and decision making. And don’t forget great communication skills! While studying business, you’ll get a thorough grounding in the theories and principles of accounting, finance, marketing, economics, statistics, and human resources functions. You will be a whiz on how to budget, organize, plan, hire, direct, control, and manage various kinds of organizations –from entrepreneurial–type start–ups to multi–million–dollar corporations. This major will also get you thinking about issues such as diversity, ethics, politics, and other dynamics that play a role in every work environment. Make sure those competitive juices are flowing; the business world is all, well, business.

2. Psychology

If you find yourself delving into why certain people react to certain aspects of their environments in a certain way, then studying psychology will help you learn about the biology of our brains. Psychology majors focus on such features of the human mind as learning, cognition, intelligence, motivation, emotion, perception, personality, mental disorders, and the ways in which our individual preferences are inherited from our parents or shaped by our environment. Within the field, psychologists seek to educate, communicate, and resolve many of the problems surrounding human behavior.

3. Nursing

Compassionate individuals with a great mind for the intricate–and sometimes heartbreaking–world of medicine will be well–suited for a nursing career. In the course of evaluating, diagnosing, and treating health problems there is also the chance to work with ever–evolving and ultra–sophisticated technology. Nursing majors take the traditional science and liberal arts courses as a first–year student and begin clinical rotations at hospitals and other health care facilities during the second semester of their sophomore year. Certification exams are required after graduation from an accredited nursing program before you can be officially registered. And the job prospects for nurses are not only plentiful but also varied, available in fields such as geriatrics, neurology, oncology, obstetrics, and pediatrics.

4. Biology/Biological Sciences

From microscopic organisms to cloning procedures, biology encompasses pretty much the whole world. Biology majors can study human, plants, animals, and the environments in which they live, and studies are conducted at the cellular level, the ecosystem level, or anywhere in between. You might find yourself looking to uncover secrets and for ways to solve problems, such as finding a cure for a disease. Biology majors might find themselves in med school or in one of many growing fields such as genetics and biotechnology or working as a veterinarian, optometrist, ecologist, or environmentalist.

5. Education

Patience. Creativity. Dedication. Enthusiasm. Compassion. Education majors tend to have an abundance of all of these traits. In this major, you’ll learn the skills necessary to become an effective and inspirational teacher with the ability to influence young children and teenagers when they are most impressionable. Although much of the coursework will be general education material, most states require you to choose a specific grade level you’d like to teach. When you are done with coursework, you’ll find yourself in the classroom as a student teacher. This practicum lasts from one semester to a full academic year.

6. English Language and Literature

If you find yourself generally immersed in some book–anything from Shakespeare to Hemingway to Jack Kerouac–you will likely find others just like you in the English department studying the trochaic octameter of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven,” the stunning word choices of narrative nonfiction author Annie Dillard, or the experimental elements of the writings of Walter Abish. English programs focus on literature, language, and writing, and an English major will encounter a wide array of absorbing works of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction from around the world and throughout history. Analyzing the works of the greatest minds and imaginations that human civilization has produced will surely sharpen your critical, emotional, creative, and moral faculties. The study of literature also helps to shed some light on the answers to the enduring questions of the human condition. This degree is tremendous preparation for a future in law, journalism, publishing, graduate studies, and just about anything else.

7. Economics

Economics is the study of choices–those of individuals, businesses, governments, and societies and how they choose to spend their time and money and otherwise allocate their resources. And you guessed it: Economics involves heavy doses of critical thinking and math. This study of the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services is an indispensable tool for making sense of the intricacies of the modern world. It is also an excellent preparation for a future in business, as well as for graduate studies in law, public policy, and international studies.

8. Communications Studies/Speech Communication and Rhetoric

Communications majors tend to be great storytellers with quick wits and fiery personalities. You’ll spend a significant amount of time scrutinizing different kinds of presentations–such as speeches and scripts–and the strategies behind the messages that speakers and writers use to make their points. You’ll learn about verbal and nonverbal messages, audience reaction, and the varied effects of different communication environments. It will prepare you for a wealth of careers in business, advertising, human resources, public relations, government, education, media, and social services.

9. Political Science and Government

Because it often deals with current events and sophisticated statistical analysis, political science is timely, fascinating, and perpetually changing. In a nutshell, it’s the study of politics of government, and some of the common concentrations are American government, public policy, foreign affairs, political philosophy, and comparative government. Political science majors develop excellent critical thinking and communication skills, and more broadly, an understanding of history and culture. There will be lots of reading, writing, and math. Possible career paths are diverse–from lawyer to politician to journalist.

10. Computer and Information Sciences

Not only will you learn more about computers–hardware and software–but you’ll also learn about the applications of such knowledge, such as how technology fits into a business scenario. You’ll be exposed to areas such as robotics, natural language recognition programs, artificial intelligence, programming languages, numerical analysis, and gaming technology. Problem solving is a major component of CIS, no matter which segment of the industry you want to pursue.

 

 

10 Best College Majors for a Lucrative Career

http://www.kiplinger.com/slideshow/business/T012-S001-10-best-college-majors-for-a-lucrative-career/index.html#SZAjYdJ60a1XTKEK.99

By Caitlin Dewey

Thinkstock

Many Millennials grew up hearing that they should study what they love. While that’s a nice sentiment, it’s also landed countless recent grads in quagmires of student debt and unemployment. In today’s tough economic climate, some college majors simply offer better prospects than others—and savvy students should want to know the difference.

That’s why we came up with our list of the ten best college majors for your career. We analyzed the unemployment rates and salaries for graduates of the 100 most popular college majors, using data from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce and Payscale.com.

What did we look for? Fields of study with grads—both recent grads within the past five years and those well into their careers—who enjoy an attractive combination of big paychecks and abundant employment opportunities. The undergraduate programs that we ranked can take from two to five years to complete.

1. Pharmacy and Pharmacology

Unemployment rate: 3.2%
Unemployment rate for recent grads: 5.4%
Median salary: $105,000
Median salary for recent grads: $51,200
Projected job growth for this field, 2010–2020: 25%
A pharmacy major can be a bit of an investment, since most states require students to earn a post-grad degree to work as a pharmacist. However, pharmacologists, who don’t necessarily require graduate training, can land jobs right out of college. Public and private labs hire recent grads to research drugs and drug interactions. But whether pharmacy undergrads go on to med school, research or some related field, they can expect to earn big salaries fast. Pharmacists stand to make six figures working in hospitals and stores. Both programs involve pharmacology, toxicology and ethics classes—and promise plenty of jobs when class lets out. Even among recent grads, unemployment is a low 5.4%.


2. Nursing

Unemployment rate: 2.2%
Unemployment rate for recent grads: 4.0%
Median salary: $60,000
Median salary for recent grads: $48,000
Projected job growth for this field, 2010–2020: 26%
Nursing has always made for a steady, well-paid career, but it’s looking especially good as baby-boomers age. Demand for nurses is way up, so unemployment, even among new grads, is down. Nursing majors study a predictable list of health care subjects including anatomy, physiology and biology. While you can score an R.N. certification after two years, nurses with bachelor’s degrees generally enjoy better salaries, earning potential and advancement opportunities than their less-educated peers.


3. Transportation Sciences and Technology

Unemployment rate: 4.4%
Unemployment rate for recent grads: N/A
Median salary: $68,000
Median salary for recent grads: $53,100
Projected job growth for this field, 2010–2020: 5%
Head in the clouds? Hardly a bad thing. Aeronautics and aviation technology majors can expect to earn more than $50,000 right out of school—and as much as $90,000 midway through their careers. Most study engineering, mechanics and aerodynamics and work for airplane manufacturers. Depending on the program, transportation sciences can also include fields such as materials engineering and automotive-technology management.

 

4. Treatment Therapy Professions

Unemployment rate: 2.6%
Unemployment rate for recent grads: 5.4%
Median salary: $62,000
Median salary for recent grads: $60,400
Projected job growth for this field, 2010–2020: 33%
While physical therapists typically need a doctorate degree, respiratory, radiation and recreational therapists make the big bucks on a B.A. alone. Recent grads start off at $60,400, one of the highest salaries on our list. Radiation therapists, for example, stand to make $75,000, the national median for that particular therapy field, after a few years. Treatment therapy programs generally include anatomy and physiology courses, as well as chemistry, physics and pharmacology. Regardless of specialty, most therapists work in hospitals or nursing homes.


5. Chemical Engineering

inkstock

Unemployment rate: 3.8%
Unemployment rate for recent grads: 7.5%
Median salary: $86,000
Median salary for recent grads: $64,500
Projected job growth for this field, 2010–2020: 6%
Chemical engineering majors make more money out of school than any other major on our list. If that’s not enough to send you running for the chem lab, consider the fact that, a few years in, the average chemical engineer will make over $30,000 more than his friends in other fields. The work isn’t easy. Chemical engineers study chemistry, physics and biology in school. But after graduation, these engineers stand to enjoy high five-figure salaries in labs and offices and a very low unemployment rate.


6. Electrical Engineering

hinkstock

Unemployment rate: 5.0%
Unemployment rate for recent grads: 7.3%
Median salary: $86,000
Median salary for recent grads: $57,000
Projected job growth for this field, 2010–2020: 6%
Electrical engineering isn’t for the faint of heart or the mathematically challenged. But if you can survive four years of differential equations and circuit theory, you’re on track to make $57,000 a year at your first job. That’s $20,000 more than the median salary for new grads in the top 100 majors. Long-term job growth is modest, with a 10-year projection below the 14% average for all occupations. Still, consistent demand for qualified electrical engineers keeps unemployment in check. Nearly 300,000 electrical engineers design and test components for manufacturers, engineering firms and power plants across the country.

 

7. Medical Technologies

Unemployment rate: 1.4%
Unemployment rate for recent grads: 5.4%
Median salary: $58,000
Median salary for recent grads: $45,100
Projected job growth for this field, 2010–2020: 13%
Medical technologists are in serious demand—so serious, in fact, that some hospitals try to tempt recent grads with perks such as sign-on bonuses. In addition to the abundance of employment opportunities, medical-technologies majors can look forward to above-average starting salaries. In school, majors study chemistry, biology and clinical laboratory skills; after graduation, they work in hospitals, doctors’ offices and diagnostic labs analyzing patient samples.

 

8. Construction Services

Unemployment rate: 5.4%
Unemployment rate for recent grads: N/A
Median salary: $65,000
Median salary for recent grads: $50,200
Projected job growth for this field, 2010–2020: 17%
Construction services may seem an odd choice in a down economy, when building projects can grind to a halt. Still, there’s enough demand for general contractors and construction managers to keep unemployment at a tidy 5.4%. Construction-services majors study project scheduling and construction law and go on to oversee projects ranging from office buildings to power plants. The workplace isn’t as glamorous as a swanky office, but new construction services grads make more money than new grads in finance, general engineering and pre-law.


9. Management Information Systems

Unemployment rate: 4.2%
Unemployment rate for recent grads: 7.4%
Median salary: $71,000
Median salary for recent grads: $51,000
Projected job growth for this field, 2010–2020: 18%
Not all computer majors are created equal, contrary to rumor and admissions-office hype. Computer-networking majors, for instance, see 8.2% unemployment and a $37,300 salary upon graduation. But management information systems majors can expect high starting salaries right out of school, and strong job and salary growth after that. The major prepares students to work in IT for big organizations—helping clueless technophobes fix their e-mail, sure, but also building, securing and maintaining a network for an entire company.

 

10. Medical Assisting Services

Unemployment rate: 2.9% (Average for all grads with a bachelor’s degree: 4.9%)
Unemployment rate for recent grads: 5.4% (Average for top 100 majors: 7.7%)
Median salary: $51,000 (Median for all grads with bachelor’s: $54,756)
Median salary for recent grads: $43,000 (Median for top 100 majors: $37,000)
Projected job growth for this field, 2010–2020: 31% (Average: 14%)
If you don’t mind following doctors’ orders, medical assisting is a pretty sweet deal. The average medical assistant with a two-year associate’s degree will enjoy far better job prospects than most grads and earn nearly as much money as a young B.A.-holder. Medical-assisting majors study office administration and basic clinical skills, such as transcription, coding and lab procedures. They generally work in doctors’ offices, taking patient history, performing basic tests, and tracking insurance and other paperwork as needed.

 

Is Big Data turning government into ‘Big Brother?’

San Francisco Chronicle     

By MICHAEL LIEDTKE, AP Technology Writer

Updated 3:46 am, Friday, June 7, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — With every phone call they make and every Web excursion they take, people are leaving a digital trail of revealing data that can be tracked by profit-seeking companies and terrorist-hunting government officials.

The revelations that the National Security Agency is perusing millions of U.S. customer phone records at Verizon Communications and snooping on the digital communications stored by nine major Internet services illustrate how aggressively personal data is being collected and analyzed.

Verizon is handing over so-called metadata, excerpts from millions of U.S. customer records, to the NSA under an order issued by the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, according to a report in the British newspaper The Guardian. The report was confirmed Thursday by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Former NSA employee William Binney told the Associated Press that he estimates the agency collects records on 3 billion phone calls each day.

The NSA and FBI appear to be casting an even wider net under a clandestine program code-named “PRISM” that came to light in a story posted late Thursday by The Washington Post. PRISM gives the U.S. government access to email, documents, audio, video, photographs and other data that people entrust to some of the world’s best known companies, according to The Washington Post. The newspaper said it reviewed a confidential roster of companies and services participating in PRISM. The companies included AOL Inc., Apple Inc., Facebook Inc., Google Inc., Microsoft Corp., Yahoo Inc., Skype, YouTube and Paltalk.

In statements, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo said they only provide the government with user data required under the law. (Google runs YouTube and Microsoft owns Skype.) AOL and Paltalk didn’t immediately respond to inquiries from The Associated Press.

The NSA isn’t getting customer names or the content of phone conversations under the Verizon court order, but that doesn’t mean the information can’t be tied to other data coming in through the PRISM program to look into people’s lives, according to experts.

Like pieces of a puzzle, the bits and bytes left behind from citizens’ electronic interactions can be cobbled together to draw conclusions about their habits, friendships and preferences using data-mining formulas and increasingly powerful computers.

It’s all part of a phenomenon known as a “Big Data,” a catchphrase increasingly used to describe the science of analyzing the vast amount of information collected through mobile devices, Web browsers and check-out stands. Analysts use powerful computers to detect trends and create digital dossiers about people.

The Obama administration and lawmakers privy to the NSA’s surveillance aren’t saying anything about the collection of the Verizon customers’ records beyond that it’s in the interest of national security. The sweeping court order covers the Verizon records of every mobile and landline phone call from April 25 through July 19, according to The Guardian.

It’s likely the Verizon phone records are being matched with an even broader set of data, said Forrester Research analyst Fatemeh Khatibloo.

“My sense is they are looking for network patterns,” she said. “They are looking for who is connected to whom and whether they can put any timelines together. They are also probably trying to identify locations where people are calling from.”

Under the court order, the Verizon records include the duration of every call and the locations of mobile calls, according to The Guardian.


http://www.sfgate.com/business/technology/article/Is-Big-Data-turning-government-into-Big-Brother-4585514.php#ixzz2VXEFiDil

 

DoD close to approving cyber attack rules

http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20130528/IT01/305280001/DoD-close-approving-cyber-attack-rules?odyssey=mod_sectionstories

May. 28, 2013 – 06:00AM |

By ZACHARY FRYER-BIGGS |         

WASHINGTON — After three years of grueling internal debate, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs is poised to approve new rules empowering commanders to counter direct cyberattacks with offensive efforts of their own — without White House approval.

Once signed, the new cyber rules contained in the US military’s new standing rules of engagement (SROE) — the classified legal document that outlines when, how and with what tools America will respond to an attack — will mark a far more aggressive tack than envisioned when the process started in 2010, or even much more recently. To date, any cyber action requires the approval of the National Security Council (NSC).

A defense spokesman said that much of the focus on cyber has revolved around defensive action, and that pre-emptive offensive action would still require presidential approval.

Sources said the new rules are vital to address a rapidly developing domain that should be integrated into normal military rules, but still remains largely closed to outside observers by heavy layers of classification. Because the SROE is classified, conversations about its composition and details of deliberations are all considered very sensitive, and sources who participated declined to be named.

The new rules were supposed to have been implemented in late 2010, but were delayed as top government lawyers debated how aggressively the US should respond to cyberattacks, and what tools commanders could use, according to current and former White House, defense and intelligence officials.

Now complete, the rules are undergoing a final “internal bureaucratic process,” a defense official said.

Lawyers from the Joint Staff and US Cyber Command (CYBERCOM) gathered in Washington to try to update the Defense Department’s standing rules of engagement in late 2010, with two major policy areas remaining as subjects of debate: rules regarding deployed ships and rules about cyberwarfare.

The cyber discussion resulted in a draft cyber policy that was gerrymandered, larded with legalese, and had become almost unintelligible because of the many hands from multiple agencies involved in its writing. An interagency process had been started because cyber concerns confront a variety of agencies, the intelligence community and DoD as well as State, Homeland Security and other departments, with each expressing views on how the domain would be treated.

That effort aimed to update rules crafted in 2005 that did not address broader questions regarding cyber, but were in need of updates as cyber threats escalated. Recent reports from the security company Mandiant and from DoD indicate the Chinese cyberattacks began to increase in 2006.

With the SROE process having stalled, three lawyers attending the conference decided to start over, redrafting the language on cyber over a lunch break during the conference. Huddled around a table they created what they thought was a simple, clean approach that could gain broad support. They presented it to the other attendees, and the new version was passed up the chain of command for review by senior officers.

Not long afterward, that draft was rejected by a deputy of Gen. Keith Alexander, head of CYBERCOM and director of the National Security Agency, because it fell short of where “the SecDef wanted it to go,” said a former defense official.

The problem was that the document didn’t allow for a sufficiently assertive response, the official added. In its efforts to achieve balance, the draft didn’t accommodate the strong stance the administration, and specifically CYBERCOM, wanted to take.

So the rules were drafted again, designed to be “forward leaning,” permitting a stronger response. Once again they were rejected.

Nearly three years later the rules still haven’t been signed. Defense officials said they expect the newest version to be formalized shortly, but there is always the possibility that further policy concerns will stall the process.

While several sources pointed to the desire by some, especially Alexander, to take a more assertive stance, not everyone agrees that the delay was caused by internal dissent. A senior defense official said the process was slowed by the administration’s need to develop larger cyber policies to make sure the military rules fit the larger whole.

“As we were developing our standing rules of engagement and going through that interagency process we were recognizing that there’s a natural progression, a natural sequencing of making sure that the presidential policy was finalized and signed out, then making sure that the doctrine and other procedures are in place, and finally the next logical step is the standing rules of engagement,” the senior defense official said.

According to the former defense official with knowledge of earlier drafts, the version on the verge of completion is “way far” from previous versions, authorizing far more assertive action than had been previously considered.

Use of cyber weapons will still be the domain of US Cyber Command, with geographic combatant commanders requesting action through locally stationed cyber support elements. But the debate about the rules of engagement, what authorities they should permit and who should have them, stems from a larger issue about normalizing cyberwarfare that was complicated by the concentration of cyber authority within the NSC, a concentration that is the byproduct of an inter-agency dispute dating to the Iraq war.

What the US does as it begins to normalize cyber will have a big effect on how cyber is treated globally, said Jason Healey, director of the Cyber Statecraft Initiative of the Atlantic Council.

“Without a doubt what we do gets copied,” he said. “The fact that we’re including this in rules of engagement and pushing this down to lower levels, [means that] then the military of another country will try to convince its leaders to do the same thing.”

 

Concentration of Power

In 2003, with the launch of the war in Iraq, cyber capabilities weren’t very advanced compared to some of the elegant tools at the military’s disposal today. But that doesn’t mean that various intelligence and defense agencies weren’t interested in using them.

When the squabbling over who would be in charge of cyber began, President George W. Bush signed a classified presidential directive in 2004 requiring that all cyber decisions be funneled through the NSC.

That prevented any single agency from laying claim. But it didn’t end the disagreements.

“It became an issue with cabinet and deputy cabinet level officials in there hacking it out,” said a former senior intelligence official, describing debates in the White House Situation Room.

In every instance where cyber was involved, the NSC had to be involved. That helped settle some of the disputes between agencies by limiting any independent application of cyber capabilities, but was useful neither for expediting any cyber action nor for integrating cyber into larger military capabilities. Several sources said that this has slowed the integration of cyber into broader military tactics, possibly giving rivals without the same hesitation, like China, a chance to become more adept at military cyber.

Some decisions by the NSC on the use of cyber were easier than others. In an individual theater of combat, such as Afghanistan, their use was more easily authorized if the effects were limited to the region. If anything resembling a cyberattack or intrusion came from the area, a response was also likely authorized.

But when it came to more complicated issues, like international intrusions, the standards got hazy.

Because every decision had to be run through the West Wing, potential political blowback limited the use of cyber tools, the former senior intelligence official said. “If they can’t be used without a discussion in the West Wing, the president’s got no place to run if something goes wrong when he uses them,” he said. Those decisions included what to do if the US confronted a cyberattack.

The rules of engagement review proceeded in 2005 with limited cyber concerns integrated into the final version. Not until 2010 did the larger debate pick up steam.

The rejection of the drafts developed at the end of 2010 by CYBERCOM officials was part of a larger push to increase the authority vested in Alexander, the former senior intelligence official said. “When we had these dialogues with the Fort Meade population, it was often the rest of the intelligence community cautioning the Fort Meade guys not to be so aggressive,” he said. NSA and CYBERCOM are at Fort Meade in Maryland.

Several sources cited these interests as slowing the process, and causing several compromises to be rejected.

Not everyone agrees that the process has been slowed by dissent or efforts to increase authority by any one group. The senior defense official who described the delays as being the result of larger policy development pointed to the difficulty in crafting a new policy in a new area of warfare.

“It was much less about a turf war than it was about us wanting to make sure that the department’s role was right in defending it, and that the level to which the authority was delegated was appropriate and something with which the secretary and the chairman and the White House was comfortable,” he said. “If this is the first time ever that we’re talking about SROEs that are outside of DoD networks, it should be expected that it’s a very complicated thing. There’s no precedent, there’s no clear understanding on some of the issues.”

A defense spokesman who was asked about Alexander’s role in eliminating earlier versions of the cyber language noted that there were multiple officials involved in the development process.

“The standing rules of engagement are a product of many minds, of which Gen. Alexander is one,” a statement from the spokesman read. “He has worked tirelessly with senior department leadership to develop appropriate SROEs that for the first time will define the legal framework for how the United States would respond if attacked by, through or with the cyber domain.”

To be sure, even when an SROE document is signed, it will not grant the authority to wage cyberwar to low level military personnel. Even the cyber capabilities that might be employed to respond to an attack will require orders from senior officials.

But the document is a move that begins to standardize cyber, folding some areas into more typical military rules and hashing out concerns about how cyber should be treated.

The use of cyber is more a question of political influence in the West Wing, a process that favors those like Alexander who have access to decision-makers. If cyber capabilities become more readily accepted, their implementation could become more democratic, based more on need than on politics.

More importantly, by authorizing immediate action against cyberattacks, the SROE will greatly cut down on the reaction time. By eliminating the often laborious process of NSC deliberations, an attack will likely be countered sooner and potentially result in less damage.

“If you have time to run it through the NSC you don’t really need a standing requirement,” a former defense official said.

With troops and techies, U.S. prepares for cyber warfare

By Warren Strobel and Deborah Charles

WASHINGTON | Fri Jun 7, 2013 3:11am EDT

(Reuters) – On the site of a former military golf course where President Dwight Eisenhower once played, the future of U.S. warfare is rising in the shape of the new $358 million headquarters for the military’s Cyber Command.

The command, based at Fort Meade, Maryland, about 25 miles north of Washington, is rushing to add between 3,000 and 4,000 new cyber warriors under its wing by late 2015, more than quadrupling its size.

Most of Cyber Command’s new troops will focus on defense, detecting and stopping computer penetrations of military and other critical networks by America’s adversaries like China, Iran or North Korea.

But there is an increasing focus on offense as military commanders beef up plans to execute cyber strikes or switch to attack mode if the nation comes under electronic assault.

“We’re going to train them to the highest standard we can,” Army General Keith Alexander, head of Cyber Command, told the Reuters Cybersecurity Summit last month. “And not just on defense, but on both sides. You’ve got to have that.”

Officials and experts have warned for years that U.S. computer networks are falling prey to espionage, intellectual property theft and disruption from nations such as China and Russia, as well as hackers and criminal groups. President Barack Obama will bring up allegations of Chinese hacking when he meets President Xi Jinping at a summit in California beginning on Friday – charges that Beijing has denied.

The Pentagon has accused China of using cyber espionage to modernize its military and a recent report said Chinese hackers had gained access to the designs of more than two dozen major U.S. weapons systems in recent years. Earlier this year, U.S. computer security company Mandiant said a secretive Chinese military unit was probably behind a series of hacking attacks that had stolen data from 100 U.S. companies.

There is a growing fear that cyber threats will escalate from mainly espionage and disruptive activities to far more catastrophic attacks that destroy or severely degrade military systems, power grids, financial networks and air travel.

Now, the United States is redoubling its preparations to strike back if attacked, and is making cyber warfare an integral part of future military campaigns.

Experts and former officials say the United States is among the best – if not the best – in the world at penetrating adversaries’ computer networks and, if necessary, inserting viruses or other digital weapon.

Washington might say it will only strike back if attacked, but other countries disagree, pointing to the “Stuxnet” virus. Developed jointly by the U.S. government and Israel, current and former U.S. officials told Reuters last year, Stuxnet was highly sophisticated and damaged nuclear enrichment centrifuges at Iran’s Natanz facility.

 

NEW RULES OF ENGAGEMENT

U.S. government officials frequently discuss America’s cyber vulnerabilities in public. By contrast, details about U.S. offensive cyberwarfare capabilities and operations are almost all classified.

Possible U.S. offensive cyber attacks could range from invading other nations’ command and control networks to disrupting military communications or air defenses – or even putting up decoy radar screens on an enemy’s computers to prevent U.S. aircraft from being detected in its airspace.

The shift toward a greater reliance on offense is an important one for a nation which has mostly been cautious about wading into the uncertain arena of cyberwar – in part because gaps in U.S. cybersecurity make it vulnerable to retaliation.

But former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said the United States must be ready and should articulate – soon – what level of cyber aggression would be seen as an act of war, bringing a U.S. response.

“One of the things the military learned, going back to 9/11, is whether you have a doctrine or not, if something really bad happens you’re going to be ordered to do something,” he told the Reuters summit. “So you better have the capability and the plan to execute.”

Reuters has learned that new Pentagon rules of engagement, detailing what actions military commanders can take to defend against cyber attacks, have been finalized after a year of “hard core” debate. The classified rules await Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s signature, a senior defense official said.

The official would not give details of the rules but said, “they will cover who has the authority to do specific actions if the nation is attacked.”

 

‘A FRAGILE CAPABILITY’

At Cyber Command, military officers in crisp uniforms mix with technical experts in T-shirts as the armed forces takes up the challenge of how to fend off cyber penetrations from individuals or rival countries.

Even as overall U.S. defense spending gets chopped in President Barack Obama’s proposed 2014 budget, cyber spending would grow by $800 million, to $4.7 billion while overall Pentagon spending is cut by $3.9 billion.

Until its new headquarters is ready, Cyber Command shares a home with the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), which for 60 years has used technological wizardry to crack foreign codes and eavesdrop on adversaries while blocking others from doing the same to the United States. Alexander heads both agencies.

“The greatest concentration of cyber power in this planet is at the intersection of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and Maryland Route 32,” said retired General Michael Hayden, a former CIA and NSA director, referring to NSA’s Fort Meade location.

But NSA’s role in helping protect civilian, government and private networks has been controversial – and is likely to come under greater scrutiny with this week’s revelation that it has been collecting telephone records of millions of Verizon Communications customers under a secret court order.

A January report by the Pentagon’s Defense Science Board gave a general picture of how the United States might exploit and then attack an adversary’s computer systems.

In some cases, U.S. intelligence might already have gained access for spying, the report said. From there, Cyber Command “may desire to develop an order of battle plan against that target” and would require deeper access, “down to the terminal or device level in order to support attack plans,” it said.

Because gaining access to an enemy’s computers for sustained periods without detection is not easy, “offensive cyber will always be a fragile capability,” it said.

In cyberspace, reconnaissance of foreign networks is “almost always harder than the attack” itself because the challenging part is finding a way into a network and staying undetected, said Hayden, now with the Chertoff Group consulting firm.

 

PURPLE HAIR AND JEANS

Cyber Command’s new Joint Operations Center, due to be complete in 2018, will pull disparate units together and house 650 personnel, officials said. Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps components will be nearby and, a former U.S. intelligence official said, the complex will have power and cooling to handle its massive computing needs.

Those who have worked at Cyber Command say the atmosphere is a mixture of intensity and geek-style creativity. Military precision is present, but it is not unusual to see young civilian computer whiz kids with purple hair, a tie-dyed shirt and blue jeans.

“It’s made to be a fun environment for them. These are people who are invested and want to serve their nation. But there is some military rigor and structure around all that – like a wrapper,” said Doug Steelman, who was director of Network Defense at Cyber Command until 2011 and is now Chief Information Security Officer at Dell SecureWorks.

Cyber Command’s growth and expanding mission come with serious challenges and questions.

For example, how to prevent U.S. military action in cyberspace from also damaging civilian facilities in the target country, such as a hospital that shares an electric grid or computer network with a military base?

And some doubt that the military can train many cyber warriors quickly enough. Alexander has identified that as his biggest challenge.

The former intelligence official said Cyber Command’s new teams won’t be fully ready until at least 2016 due to military bureaucracy and because it takes time to pull together people with the special skills needed.

“To be a good cyber warrior, you have to be thinking, ‘How is the attacker discovering what I’m doing? How are they working around it?’ … Cyber security really is a cat and mouse game,” said Raphael Mudge, a private cybersecurity expert and Air Force reservist. “That kind of thinking can’t be taught. It has to be nurtured. There are too few who can do that.”

Would-be cyber warriors go through extensive training, which can take years. A recruit with proven aptitude will be sent to courses such as the Navy-led Joint Cyber Analysis Course in Pensacola, Florida, a 6-month intensive training program.

The top 10 percent of JCAC’s students will be selected for advanced cyber operations training, said Greg Dixon, a vice president at private KEYW Corp, which conducts intensive training classes.

The company can train a JCAC graduate to become an analyst in five weeks, but it takes 20 weeks to become a cyber operator. Dixon would not divulge what an operator would be capable of doing after graduation, but said it would be “a lot.”

“They’re going to pick the cream of the crop for the ‘full spectrum cyber missions’,” the former U.S. intelligence official said, using a euphemism for cyber offense.

Before a future cyber warrior can begin advanced training, he or she has to pass through the arduous security clearance process, which can take six to nine months for personnel who are not already cleared.

Troops earmarked for cyber warfare have found themselves washing floors, mowing lawns and painting at military installations as they bide time waiting for a clearance.

There is the concern about retaliation for a U.S. cyber attack. Some analysts say Iran increased its cyber capabilities after being infected with Stuxnet, which was revealed in 2010.

“The old saying, he who lives in a glass house should be careful of throwing stones … but if the stone that you threw at someone, when you live in a glass house, is a stone that in some way they could pick back up and throw back at you, that’s an even dumber idea,” the defense official said. “We definitely think about that as one aspect of considering action.”

(Reporting by Warren Strobel and Deborah Charles; Additional reporting by Andrea Shalal-Esa and Phil Stewart; Editing by Alistair Bell and Tim Dobbyn)

 

Expectations Set Low on Obama-Xi Summit

Presidents of U.S., China Set to Discuss Cybersecurity

By Eric Chabrow, June 6, 2013. Follow Eric @GovInfoSecurity

 

Only a cockeyed optimist would expect the outcome of this weekend’s summit between President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping to be a halt to Chinese cyber-attacks on U.S. computers.

“Expectations on outcome should be low, but even a joint announcement decrying state-sponsored hacking would be a symbolic step in the right direction,” says Michael DuBose, a managing director at risk-mitigation adviser Kroll Advisory Solutions.

Cybersecurity is at the top of the agenda for the June 7-8 summit. What will emerge from two days of meetings isn’t likely to be an acknowledgment from Xi that, indeed, hackers from China have attacked American computer systems to pilfer military and corporate trade secrets. Instead, Obama and Xi will seek to draft an agenda for a newly formed U.S.-Chinese cybersecurity working group that will convene next month.

In addition to cybersecurity, Obama and Xi will address North Korea’s nuclear threat, territorial and maritime disputes in the western Pacific, human rights and bilateral and global economic challenges, all in formal and informal sessions at a 200-acre retreat called Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

A desired outcome of the summit would be the development of an amiable rapport between Obama and Xi, who assumed the presidency just months ago. [The two leaders met in the Oval Office last year when Xi was Chinese vice president.]

 

Less Scripted, Less Formal, Less Rigid

“Getting to a venue like Sunnylands allows for a more informal set of discussions than we’ve had with China to date in the sense that it’s a less scripted, less formal, less rigid agenda, but rather there is some space for the two leaders to interact and have more open-ended discussions about the issues that underlie the U.S.-China relationship,” a senior administration official said at a briefing on the summit earlier this week.

Some of the administration’s top officials – National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, who announced his resignation this week, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry – have raised concerns about cyber-attacks originating in China directly with senior Chinese leaders, who have denied such attacks have occurred. In fact, published reports this past week from the leader of the Chinese equivalent of computer emergency response teams said China can document attacks originating from the United States against its computers.

Still, the evidence is strong that the Chinese government is behind the attacks that have stolen military secrets and intellectual property from American computers [see 6 Types of Data Chinese Hackers Pilfer, DoD Outlines China’s Spying on U.S. IT and Chinese Hack Targets Weapons’ Designs].

 

Constructive, Not Confrontational Tone

Because of those digital invasions, Obama will not hesitate to express his displeasure about these cyber-attacks to Xi, but the tone will likely be constructive, not confrontational.

“We will make clear that, frankly, it’s not in anybody’s interest for there to be a situation in which businesses don’t have the confidence that they have certain protections in place such that their intellectual property can’t be compromised, and sensitive data can’t be compromised,” said one of the administration officials, whose identities remain anonymous as a condition of the briefing.

Administration officials declined to say whether Obama would threaten XI with some type of punishment if the Chinese hacking continues. But one of the officials at the briefing pointed out that the United States has successfully won economic cases against China before the World Trade Organization. “We have demonstrated that when we believe that we’re not making progress simply through dialogue, we’re willing to use the measures available to us within the international system to elevate those concerns,” the official said.

 

Strong Incentive for Dialogue

With the Internet being a crucial component of the global economy, much is at stake if the U.S. and China can’t reach agreement on how to secure it. “The two largest economies in the world have a lot to lose from state-sponsored and profit-motivated hacking, whether it involves trade secrets, key market intelligence or victimization of their citizenry,” Kroll’s DuBose says. “With so much at risk, both sides have strong incentive to come to the table, but trust and accountability will continue to be huge challenges. This summit is a step in the right direction, but expectations should be measured.”

Yet, even if the cybersecurity talks between Obama and Xi are deemed a success, challenges to secure the Internet will remain. “Cyber-conflicts are a global governance issue and is not an issue that can be resolved with bilateral talks between two countries,” says Ashar Aziz, founder of FireEye, a provider of IT security wares. “The number of countries and non-state groups with sophisticated offensive capabilities in cyber-space is growing at an alarming rate. So even if one or two countries decide to show restraint, it is difficult to see how that will result in fewer attacks on the U.S. and other countries given the global and highly distributed nature of the problem.”

 

 

Bits – Business, Innovation, Technology, Society

Robbing a Gas Station: The Hacker Way

NYTimes

By NICOLE PERLROTH

June 6, 2013, 3:07 pm

Thieves of the future will look back on today’s stick-up artists and have a good old belly laugh. Why would anyone ever rob a cashier with a gun, when all that is needed is a smartphone?

Matt Bergin, a security consultant at Core Security, discovered he could hack a cash register remotely, popping it open, by sending two digits from his smartphone to the service running on the cash register’s point-of-sale system. No gun or holdup note was required. He was able to do so through a vulnerability in Xpient, which makes point-of-sale software that runs on cash drawers.

“It was extremely trivial,” Mr. Bergin said in an interview Wednesday. He reverse-engineered Xpient’s point-of-sale system, expecting that to interact with it he would have to crack a password or break through a layer of encryption. To his surprise, he encountered neither. By simply sending a two-digit code from his phone to the point-of-sale system, he discovered he could pop open the cash register remotely.

Christopher Sebes, the chief executive of Xpient, said in an interview Thursday that the company had issued a patch for the vulnerability, which Xpient customers can download to their systems. Mr. Sebes noted that customers who had a Windows firewall switched on would be protected from the hack, regardless of whether they had downloaded the patch. He also noted that someone could just as easily pop open a cash register by physically hitting the “No Sale” button on the register itself.

Increasingly, criminals are finding ways to use digital tactics for physical theft. In February, thieves stole $45 million from thousands of New York City A.T.M.’s in a few hours using a few keystrokes. It was one of the largest heists in New York City history, the authorities said, on par with the 1978 Lufthansa robbery at Kennedy Airport that inspired a scene in the 1990 film “Goodfellas.”

 

Iowa City could be among first in nation to ban drones

Jun. 6, 2013 |

Written by Adam B Sullivan

Iowa City Press-Citizen

Iowa City will be among the first municipalities in the country to adopt a ban on drones and other surveillance devices, but city leaders are making clear that they hope the ordinance isn’t permanent.

The Iowa City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved the first reading of an ordinance to ban drones, automated traffic cameras and license-plate readers. That comes after thousands of local residents signed a petition calling for such a ban.

All seven council members supported the ordinance Tuesday night and indicated they’ll do the same June 18 when the measure comes up for final approval in two weeks. However, council members said they still want to install some of those devices, red-light cameras in particular. They said they’ll wait until state policymakers finish reviewing possible restrictions on cameras.

Because the ordinance comes by way of public petition, city rules require the ordinance to be kept in place for two years, city clerk Marian Karr said. After that, the council is free to repeal it and move forward with surveillance technology.

“I’m going to have to support it — ‘have to’ is the key word there — because our state has chosen not to move forward with the technology. … I’ll be the first one to bring back red-light cameras as soon as we can,” council member Terry Dickens said.

A growing number of municipalities in Iowa have begun using cameras to bust speeders and other traffic violators. Supporters say it boosts traffic safety and provides extra revenue for municipalities. Opponents, however, say it constitutes an invasion of privacy and a slippery slope toward more surveillance.

The Iowa Department of Transportation is delaying new cameras on state roadways while officials study possible restrictions. Some state lawmakers have unsuccessfully pushed to ban the devices outright.

One constituent spoke against the camera ban at Tuesday night’s meeting.

“You could get millions of dollars just by enforcing the traffic laws on our streets — it costs you nothing. There are companies that will come in and do it for you,” said Jim Walters, who yelled during his time at the podium and interrupted the meeting after he took his seat.

Drones, meanwhile, have earned growing notoriety in light of the federal government’s drone strikes overseas, but military-style unmanned aircraft aren’t known to be in use in Iowa. That could change eventually as state and local governments elsewhere have started to use unmanned aircraft for domestic operations such as monitoring weather or, in a few cases, helping to locate suspects.

A small group of Iowa Republican legislators this year pushed for a statewide ban on weaponized drones and restrictions for peaceful drones, but that bill failed to gain wide support and Democrat leaders opted not to move the bill forward.

Ben Stone, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, which has worked with Iowa City organizers on the ban, said he doesn’t know of any other municipalities with drone bans. Iowa City’s drone ban will be among the first in the nation, he said.

“There are a lot of laws and ordinances against traffic cameras, but in terms of drones, it’s just so early in the proliferation of that technology,” Stone said.

Aleksey Gurtovoy and Martha Hampel — the two organizers who led the petition drive for the ban — were at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting. They said afterward that they weren’t surprised by the council’s plans to move forward with cameras at a later time.

They said the council’s decision to adopt the proposed ban was a political one.

“We had no illusions as far as their intentions,” Gurtovoy said. “It’s definitely in the city’s interest do this, especially with three of them up for re-election this year.”

 

 


As Wars End, a Rush to Grab Dollars Spent on the Border

NYTimes

By ERIC LIPTON

June 6, 2013

 

TUCSON — The nation’s largest military contractors, facing federal budget cuts and the withdrawals from two wars, are turning their sights to the Mexican border in the hopes of collecting some of the billions of dollars expected to be spent on tighter security if immigration legislation becomes law.

Half a dozen major military contractors, including Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics, are preparing for an unusual desert showdown here this summer, demonstrating their military-grade radar and long-range camera systems in an effort to secure a Homeland Security Department contract worth as much as $1 billion.

Northrop Grumman, meanwhile, is pitching to Homeland Security officials an automated tracking device — first built for the Pentagon to find roadside bombs in Afghanistan — that could be mounted on aerial drones to find illegal border crossers. And General Atomics, which manufactures the reconnaissance drones, wants to double the size of the fleet under a recently awarded contract worth up to $443 million.

The military-style buildup at the border zone, which started in the Tucson area late in the Bush administration, would become all but mandatory under the bill pending before the Senate. It requires that within six months of enactment, Homeland Security submit a plan to achieve “effective control” and “persistent surveillance” of the entire 1,969-mile land border with Mexico, something never before accomplished.

For military contractors, that could be a real boon. “There are only so many missile systems and Apache attack helicopters you can sell,” said Dennis L. Hoffman, an Arizona State University economics professor who has studied future potential markets for the defense industry. “This push toward border security fits very well with the need to create an ongoing stream of revenue.”

Since 2005, the number of Border Patrol agents has doubled to 21,000, and the stretches protected by pedestrian or vehicle fencing have grown to 651 miles as of last year from 135. But there are still large swaths where people trying to enter the United States illegally have good odds of success, particularly in rural Texas. And with budget cutting in the past two years, money for surveillance equipment along the border has been pared back.

“The main gap in our ability to provide a more secure border at this point is technology,” Mark S. Borkowski, the head of acquisitions for Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection, told participants at a border security industry conference in March.

Military contractors have not played a significant role in lobbying for the passage of the immigration legislation, which includes $4.5 billion to bolster border security over the next five years.

But teams of lobbyists, including former Senator Alfonse M. D’Amato, a New York Republican, and Benjamin Abrams, a former top aide to Representative Steny H. Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat and House minority whip, have already been pressing Homeland Security officials and lawmakers on behalf of their clients, efforts that have been backed up with millions of dollars of industry campaign contributions.

Homeland Security would have to decide, in consultation with Congress, how to divide the money — on long-range cameras, radar systems, mobile surveillance equipment, aircraft or lower-tech solutions like more border agents or physical fences — decisions that would determine how various contractors might fare.

“It has been a tough time for the industry: people have been laid off or furloughed,” said James P. Creaghan, a lobbyist who represents a small Texas company, Personal Defense, which is trying to sell more night-vision goggles to Homeland Security. “This could help out.”

Northrop has won some important allies on Capitol Hill, including Senator Thomas R. Carper, Democrat of Delaware, the chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, who is urging the department to invest more in Northrop’s drone-mounted surveillance system, called Vader. General Atomics, which Mr. D’Amato represents, has so much support in Congress that it has pressed Homeland Security in recent years to buy more Predator drones than the department has the personnel to operate, so they often sit unused, according to an agency audit.

The specific requirement in the legislation now before the Senate is that Homeland Security must install surveillance equipment or other measures that would allow it to apprehend or turn back 9 out of 10 people trying to illegally enter across all sectors of the southern land border. The department would be prohibited from moving ahead with the “pathway to citizenship” for immigrants already in the United States until this new security strategy is “substantially operational.”

The bill is scheduled to be taken up for debate on the Senate floor next week, and certain Republicans have already drafted amendments that would make the requirement even more demanding, explicitly mandating that the 90 percent standard be achieved before the pathway to citizenship can proceed.

The Tucson area, for years the busiest crossing point for illegal immigrants, has served as the testing ground for the federal government’s high-technology border effort, although even senior Homeland Security officials acknowledge it got off to a poor start.

Boeing was selected back in 2006, when the last major push by Congress to rewrite the nation’s immigration laws was under way, to create a “virtual fence” that would use radar and video systems to identify and track incursions, information that would then be beamed to regional command centers and border agents in the field.

But the ground radar system at first kept shutting down because of faulty circuit breakers, audits found, while the towers installed for the mounting of radar and advanced long-range cameras swayed too much in the desert winds. Even rainstorms snarled things, creating countless false alerts.

“It should have been pretty simple,” Mr. Borkowski said in a recent speech of the troubled $850 million project. “We weren’t frankly smart enough.”

Critics say the government often is too fixated on high-technology solutions. C. Stewart Verdery Jr., a former Homeland Security official who now runs a lobbying firm, said federal officials should instead focus their limited resources on making it harder for illegal immigrants to work in the United States, an approach that would serve as an effective deterrent.

“Where are you going to get the biggest bang for the buck?” Mr. Verdery said. “Enforcement of the workplace is probably the best area to invest more dollars.”

But the technological solutions still have many advocates in Arizona, where Border Patrol officials contend that the equipment Boeing installed, despite its flaws, has fundamentally changed the cat-and-mouse game that plays out every day.

One recent afternoon, as the temperature in the Arizona desert hovered near 100 degrees, Border Patrol agents stationed inside a command center in Tucson were notified that a ground sensor had gone off. The command center, built under the Boeing contract, resembles the set from the Hollywood movie “Minority Report,” with Border Patrol agents sitting in front of banks of computer terminals and oversize screens that allow them to virtually fly over huge expanses of open desert 70 miles away.

Using his computer, one agent pointed the long-range, heat-seeking camera at the location where the sensor had gone off. Within seconds, black-and-white images of a group of men and women walking rapidly through the desert heat appeared on his screen. “One, two, three, four, five,” the agent called out, counting until he reached 15 people in the group. He also carefully scanned the images to see if any of the people were carrying large sacks, a sign of a possible drug delivery, or had any rifles or other weapons.

The Border Patrol radios lit up as he directed nearby agents on the ground to respond and called for backup from one of Customs and Border Protection’s helicopters based in Tucson.

“What you see today is like night and day compared to what we had,” said Cmdr. Jeffrey Self of the Border Patrol, who oversees the Tucson region. The Boeing system, along with the surge in Border Patrol agents, has resulted in a major drop in attempted illegal crossings, he said, with apprehensions dropping 80 percent since their peak in 2000, considered a sign of a drop in overall traffic.

But the system’s weaknesses are still apparent. The computer terminal crashed while the search was under way, cutting off one agent’s video feed. And on that recent afternoon, no air support was immediately available. The one helicopter nearby that was on duty was running low on fuel, so it did not arrive on the scene until 90 minutes later. Meanwhile, the Border Patrol agents at the Tucson command center lost the border crossers as they dropped into a ditch, taking them out of the line of sight of the camera and radar.

Apparently seeing Border Patrol trucks and the helicopter, the group realized it had been spotted and retreated back south, an agency spokesman said. The 15 were marked down as “turn backs.”

Homeland Security has been preparing for more than a year to expand this system, under a new contract that would rely on proven surveillance technology. That is why the military contractors vying for the job will be asked in coming weeks to demonstrate their gear. The department also wants to identify a mix of equipment — some on fixed towers, others on trucks for mobility — so that officials can tailor uses to the different needs along the border.

Department officials said their choices would be driven by a determination of what the best available tools were for securing the border, not what the defense contractors or their lobbyists were pitching. Customs and Border Protection officials, said Michael J. Friel, a department spokesman in a statement, are “dedicated to continuing this progress towards a safer, stronger and more secure border.”

 

   

 

Face of Defense: Woman Becomes Air Force’s Chief Scientist

By Senior Airman Carlin Leslie

Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

WASHINGTON, June 6, 2013 – The Air Force has appointed the service’s first female chief scientist to lead the way in the technology and science fields.

The Air Force appointed Dr. Mica Endsley as its first woman chief scientist to lead the way in the technology and science fields. U.S. Air Force photo

Dr. Mica Endsley assumed her new duties and responsibilities as the Air Force’s 34th chief scientist June 3 in support of Air Force senior leaders and airmen across the service.

“Having served on the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board for many years, I’ve had the pleasure of working closely with the current and several former Air Force chief scientists,” Endsley said. “I know this is a tremendous opportunity to help the Air Force excel in its goal of maintaining the critical technological edge that gives our airmen a strategic advantage.”

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III emphasized the important role Endsley will play in continuing the Air Force’s legacy of innovation.

“I’m pleased to have Dr. Endsley as a part of the Air Force team,” Welsh said. “She follows in the footsteps of many superb minds that have advanced our technological edge and provided much-needed capabilities to our airmen. Although she arrives at a very challenging time, I’m confident she’ll continue a proud legacy of chief scientists who use innovation and strong leadership to keep our Air Force the world’s finest.”

Successfully maintaining that technological edge Welsh mentioned is a key job, Endsley said, and she plans to use every available resource to effectively and cost efficiently get the job done in support of airmen.

“This involves working with the top scientists and engineers within the Air Force as well as in academia, industry and the other armed services,” she said, noting this will “ensure that the Air Force’s research and development efforts are being directed at the right problems.”

Endsley said she plans to ensure the Air Force continues to develop technologies and systems that will truly support airmen and their missions.

“I know that in many cases, we can dramatically improve our mission effectiveness by using the science of human performance to design technology,” she said.

This, she added, will “better support the way people work.”

As Endsley takes the helm of an office that has made large strides over recent years, she’s motivated to push the envelope even further.

“My goal will be to continue with these efforts, making sure that we are implementing their recommendations and achieving the needed milestones in our science and technology portfolio,” she said. “To stay competitive in the future, we need to make sure that Air Force systems keep up with this rapid pace of change, particularly in computers, cyber and all across the information spectrum.”

Endsley feels that along with the growth of the organization, she has a duty as the first female chief scientist to reach out to the younger generation, speaking on the advantages of a career in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields.

“I want to share with the young women I speak to, the many advantages of a science, technology, engineering and math career,” she said, and that it will “make many more interested if they knew how very creative and team-oriented engineering work is and how satisfying it is to be able to solve real problems that affect people’s lives.”

Endsley said she is excited to begin looking across the Air Force, ensuring the needs of airmen are understood and met. At that point she can help bring technology to bear in the right ways to solve the problems they face.

“I deeply respect the challenges and sacrifices that all of our airmen, at every level, make daily in service to our nation,” she said. “To be asked to join them and do what I can to support them was simply an opportunity I could not pass up.”

   

 

Shutdown Talk Underlines Spending Bill Split

By Niels Lesniewski    

Roll Call Staff

June 6, 2013, 6:21 p.m.

The White House and Boehner exchanged barbs Thursday over the potential for a shutdown showdown this fall.    

The White House and Speaker John A. Boehner exchanged barbs Thursday over the potential for a shutdown showdown this fall, underscoring the yawning budget gap between the parties that threatens to torpedo this year’s appropriations bills.

 

The House passed the first fiscal 2014 spending bills this week despite two veto threats, and the Senate is set to mark up funding measures in the coming weeks. But the two chambers are operating off vastly different numbers — given that the House and Senate haven’t come close to reaching a budget deal — setting the stage for another stopgap spending bill this fall and, theoretically, a shutdown fight if the two sides can’t agree.

The House is following a $967 billion spending level that assumes the budget sequester remains in effect. Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., has said she is moving forward at a $1.058 trillion level that operates on the idea Congress will find a fix for the sequester.

Her GOP counterpart, Sen. Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, said Appropriations Republicans in the Senate want to work off the House number.

“We’ve got a few problems,” an understated Shelby told CQ Roll Call in a brief interview, noting that the committee’s Republicans hadn’t yet decided on a strategy for the markups. “The bottom line is we’re going to stay with the figure, which is the lower figure, the House has agreed with.”

It was just that sort of dispute that seems to have prompted the administration’s unusually broad veto threat on Republican spending bills until there’s a budget agreement.

“In veto threats of two House spending bills — both of which passed with overwhelming support — the White House said the president would not sign any — any — spending bills unless we agree to his demands on a broader budget deal. In short, the president said give him higher taxes and higher spending or we’ll shut down the government,” Boehner said Thursday. “That’s reckless.”

Republican appropriators dismissed the veto threat earlier in the week, but Boehner said it violated his March 1 deal with the president to keep the appropriations bills separate from deficit talks. White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage responded to the Ohio Republican with some snark of her own.

“We were pleased to see Speaker Boehner hold a press conference today to announce the end of the Republican strategy of governing by crisis,” she said. “We look forward to seeing Republicans in Congress act responsibly to pay the bills they have already racked up, along with funding the government to avoid a government shutdown.” But she reiterated that the White House isn’t going to just go along with the Republican budget.

Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., also responded pointedly to Boehner, renewing her call for a House-Senate conference committee.

“Republicans are refusing to allow us to go to conference for one reason, and that’s because they want to force a manufactured crisis over the debt limit this fall, because they think it will give them leverage,” Murray said. “So let’s be clear about which side is reckless today. Democrats want to get to work right now.”

A number of Senate conservatives have called on Murray to disavow any attempt to raise the debt limit through reconciliation, which has contributed to a regular series of standoffs on the floor.

 

“That’s always a concern. You’ve got to stay within the numbers, and that’s our concern. We have a difference of about $90 billion between what we think and what the Democrats [think],” Shelby said.

There is a related concern among some lawmakers that the House is moving first on easier-to-pass bills (funding veterans, homeland security and the military), potentially increasing pressure in the months ahead to blow through the caps to pass more contentious domestic spending bills.

“My concern is that we don’t stick to … the budget control agreement that we agreed to. That’s the concern of the House, and there’s some concern that the sequence of bills will ensure — that time-honored practice in the House — the way you sequence them means you bust the budget in the end,” Sen. Jeff Flake said on Wednesday. The Arizona Republican is a frequent critic of the appropriations process.

“That’s always been a concern in marking up appropriation bills. I mean, whichever ones go first tend to get into the money early and then … the later bills get harder and harder to do,” said Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, a member of the Republican leadership.

Still, some appropriators maintained their optimism.

“I am hopeful that we’ll get a significant number of bills passed in the right way. I’m eager to see us get to the point where we’re passing all the bills in the right way,” Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said. “I hope we make real progress toward that goal this year, and I’m sure that Sen. Mikulski and Sen. Shelby share that.”

Iowa Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin, the longtime chairman of the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Subcommittee who is responsible for what’s among the most difficult bills to pass, said he does not want to get stuck near the end of the line, which has happened in the past. Those departments have frequently operated on stopgap funding in lieu of a full appropriations measure.

“I hope we’re going to do Labor-H sooner rather than later,” Harkin said. “We’re not going to do it last this time.”

 

New ‘time cloak’ conceals data so well, even its recipients can’t read it

Scientists have discovered how to cloak information so that it appears to have never been sent at all, offering hopes of eventual ultra-secret communications schemes.

http://www.csmonitor.com/Science/2013/0607/New-time-cloak-conceals-data-so-well-even-its-recipients-can-t-read-it

The Christian Science Monitor

By Elizabeth Barber, Contributor / June 7, 2013

It sounds like a spectacular failure: this new technology works less than half the time and only for half the parties involved.

But a paper published in Nature today announces that scientists have found a way to unreliably send out communications hidden so well that even their intended recipients can’t detect that they’ve been sent. It is a stunning development in a previously mostly theoretical effort to develop Star Trek-like ultra-secure communication systems.

“The once fanciful invisibility cloak has now assumed a prominent place in scientific research,” according to the paper, authored by researchers at Purdue University.

The possibility that communications could be folded into a ‘time cloak’ was first proposed in a 2010 paper. In that paper, lead author Martin W. McCall proposed a theoretical “space-time cloak” that “conceals events rather than objects,” borrowing light manipulating technology from prototype invisibility clocks to hide the event of sending the message.

That differs from current encryption technology, which conceals the information from unwanted readers but not the actual event of sending the information. Ill-intentioned spies, though unable to read the message, can then tell that a deliberately encrypted message was sent out, a telltale sign that the parties have something to hide.

Or as Joseph Lukens, lead author of the latest research paper, told Nature: “It doesn’t just prevent eavesdroppers from reading your data — they wouldn’t even know there was any data there to hack.”

Previous efforts to put McCall’s theory into practice have made some headway: In 2011, a team headed by Alexander Gaeta, an optical physicist at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York constructed a working time cloak that manipulated laser pulses to hide slow-moving data for extremely brief periods of time.

Now, Purdue scientists have built on that research, discovering a way to cloak data 46 percent of the time at the full speed of common fiber optic networks.

The new technology works by manipulating light behavior so that the waves of light cancel each other each out, creating a temporal gap in a light beam that is subsequently closed up. Anything that occurs during that hole in time cannot be detected – unfortunately, not even by the intended recipients.

For now, this may be a reasonable method of communication for those of us prone to sending messages we later regret. With the ‘time cloak,’ non-receipt is currently guaranteed.

 

Rasmussen Reports

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


June 08, 2013

President Obama may have more than his share of problems these days, but things aren’t getting any better for Congress either.

Only six percent (6%) of Likely U.S. Voters give Congress good or excellent marks for the job it is doing. Just 24% believe their own representative in Congress is the best possible person for the job.

Thirty percent (30%) believe their own representative cares what they think. But only 16% think most members of Congress in general care what their constituents think.

Scott Rasmussen says in his latest weekly newspaper column that Congress’ listening problems are making the odds grow longer for immigration reform. “The so-called Gang of Eight proposal in the Senate legalizes the status of immigrants first and promises to secure the border later,” he explains. “By a 4-1 margin, voters want that order reversed.”

Voters haven’t changed their opinions about the motives behind the Justice Department’s actions. Forty-three percent (43%) still believe it was primarily an attempt to intimidate the media. Thirty-four percent (34%) think the department’s actions were primarily out of concern for national security.

The United States was founded on a belief that governments are created to protect certain unalienable rights. Today, however, more voters than ever (56%) view the federal government as a threat to those rights. That’s up 10 points from 46% in December.

Despite the controversies surrounding the White House, the president’s job approval ratings continue to hold fairly steady. Forty-nine percent (49%) of Likely Voters still consider the president a good or excellent leader. That shows little change from the past couple months but is down from a recent high of 55% measured in late December.

For the month of May, the president’s Total Job Approval Rating fell another point to 49% from 50% in April. That’s a continuing decline from a post-election high of 56% in December and puts his job approval rating back to where it was last September. However, it still remains a bit higher than it was for most of his first term in office.

 

The president put immigration reform and gun control at the top of his agenda this year, but fewer voters than ever (37%) now give him positive marks for his handling of both issues.

Voters continue to trust Republicans more than Democrats when it comes to handling the economy, the issue they consider most important to their vote. But for the first time since Election Day, the GOP has regained the trust advantage on the majority of major issues regularly tracked by Rasmussen Reports, including immigration and gun control.

When it comes to voter trust, Republicans are far and away the leaders on handling government spending, while Democrats lead by a similar margin on environmental issues.

Republicans and Democrats are now tied on the Generic Congressional Ballot. For the last seven weeks, the gap between the two parties has been two points or less.

As projected by the Rasmussen Employment Index, the latest report on unemployment and job creation represented a modest improvement over earlier months. Twenty-three percent (23%) of workers report their firms are hiring, while 19% report their employer is laying people off. That’s little changed from the previous month, but marks the sixth straight month that reported hirings have outnumbered reported layoffs. Overall, worker confidence in the labor market inched up in May to the highest level measured since October 2007. However, it is still well below the confidence measured during periods of solid economic growth.

But 80% think it will be at least somewhat difficult for young people to find summer jobs in the current economy. That includes 41% who say it will be Very Difficult.

The Rasmussen Consumer and Investor Indexes which measure daily confidence among those groups continue to run at or near their highest levels since before the Wall Street collapse in 2008.

However, just 45% of voters now view the U.S. economy as even somewhat fair. Fifty-one percent (51%) consider the economy to be unfair.

Similarly, 45% think the U.S. economy is at least somewhat fair to people who are willing to work hard. Forty-nine percent (49%) think it’s unfair to these people.

Sixty-eight percent (68%) of voters think an economic system that rewards hard work even if it leads to big differences between rich and poor is fairer than one that guarantees everyone equal income and equal wealth. Just 19% believe it’s fairer to insure equality of income and wealth.

After all, 90% believe it is important that people who are physically able to work are required to support themselves. Ninety percent (90%) also think it’s important to insure that everyone who is willing to work hard has a chance to earn a middle class lifestyle, while 89% believe it is important that people who work hard earn more than those who don’t.

Most working Americans (66%) still consider themselves part of the middle class. Those who feel they are among the working poor remain at an all-time low of eight percent (8%).

A plurality (37%) of workers plan on staying with their current company for at least five years, but when they do leave, 79% say it will be their decision.

Most voters believe the WikiLeaks release of classified documents is likely to have hurt U.S. national security, and 52% view Bradley Manning, the U.S. soldier accused of stealing the classified information for posting on the Internet, as a traitor who endangered lives and national security. Only 17% view Manning whose court-martial began this week as a heroic whistle-blower and political prisoner.

In other surveys last week:

— Most voters still view the president’s national health care law unfavorably and believe that free-market competition will do more than government regulation to bring health care prices down.

— Thirty-two percent (32%) of voters now say the country is heading in the right direction. That’s nearly identical to a year ago.

— Sixty percent (60%) think it’s at least somewhat likely that the United States could end its dependence on foreign oil by developing shale oil reserves. Fifty-one percent (51%) believe the United States has enough shale oil to become the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas.

— Facebook has outlined new steps to identify and remove hate speech. But while 22% of Americans think hate speech is a Very Serious problem in the United States today, just 12% of Facebook users regard it as a Very Serious problem on the social networking site.

— Thirty-one percent (31%) favor a ban on hate speech. But 83% believe giving people the right to free speech is more important than making sure no one is offended by what others say.

— Forty-one percent (41%) of Americans are planning a summer vacation this year. Forty percent (40%) say economic conditions have caused them to cut back on the amount they will spend on this year’s vacation, but that’s down from 53% last year and the lowest finding in five years of surveying.

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