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July 27 2013

July 29, 2013




Pentagon chief can’t offer hope in budget cuts

Updated: 3:45 a.m. Monday, July 22, 2013 | Posted: 3:44 a.m. Monday, July 22, 2013


The Associated Press


The audience gasped in surprise and gave a few low whistles as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel
delivered the news that furloughs, which have forced a 20 percent pay cut on most of the military’s civilian workforce, probably will continue next year, and it might get worse.

“Those are the facts of life,” Hagel told about 300 Defense Department employees, most of them middle-aged civilians, last week at an Air Force reception hall on a military base in Charleston.

Future layoffs also are possible for the department’s civilian workforce of more than 800,000 employees, Hagel said, if Congress fails to stem the cuts in the next budget year, which starts Oct. 1.

On the heels of the department’s first furlough day, and in three days of visits with members of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, Hagel played the unenviable role of messenger to a frustrated and fearful workforce coping with the inevitability of a spending squeeze at the end of more than a decade of constant and costly war.

The fiscal crunch also lays bare the politically unpopular, if perhaps necessary, need to bring runaway military costs in line with most of the rest of the American public that has struggled economically for years.

“Everybody’s bracing for the impact,” Army Master Sgt. Trey Corrales said after Hagel spoke with soldiers during a quick stop at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Corrales’ wife, a military civilian employee, is among those furloughed, and they have cancelled their cable TV and started carpooling to work to save money.

“The effects of the economy have started to hit the military,” Corrales said. “It was late in coming to us.”

The furloughs have hit about 650,000 civilian employees but also have slowed health care and other services for the uniformed military, which has stopped some training missions and faces equipment shortages due to the budget shortfalls. Troops were told this month they will no longer receive extra pay for deployments to 18 former global hot spots no longer considered danger zones.

Troops already are facing force reductions, and the Army alone has announced plans to trim its ranks by 80,000 over the next five years.

Officials agree that the military has undergone cycles of expanding and shrinking of the force over generations. Hagel said this time is different, and worse, however, because of what he described as a “very dark cloud” of uncertainty hanging over the Pentagon as Congress considers whether to reverse $52 billion in spending cuts that are set to go into effect in 2014.

At the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Fla., Hagel told an estimated 100 civilians gathered in a bustling jet maintenance hangar that the military had not been prepared for the $37 billion in cuts that took effect this year, forcing the furloughs. While he said he was deeply sorry for the strain the crunch has put on families, he said he would not slash troops’ training or other readiness budgets any further to prevent huge gaps in national security.

“I’m sure you realize how disruptive the furlough is to our productivity. So I’m hoping that we’re not going to do it again next year,” Elizabeth Nealin, a research and engineering manager at the navy base’s fleet readiness center, told Hagel.

“Have you planned for a reduction in force?” Nealin asked bluntly.

Hagel said if the $52 billion cut remains in place, “there will be further cuts in personnel, make no mistake about that.”

“I don’t have any choice,” he said.

The spending cuts this year may feel more dramatic than in times past because of a vast growth in Defense Department personnel and equipment costs over the past decade, said Todd Harrison, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington. But current spending levels are close to what they were in 2007, when the war in Iraq was at its peak.

“So we’re not even back to a pre-9/11 level,” he said.

Since 2000, the number of U.S. troops has grown by about 3 percent to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Harrison said. But the number of civilian Defense employees hired to support the troops has far surpassed that, growing by 14 percent in the same time.

Hagel said he is taking a hard look at where fat can be trimmed from the Pentagon and said the military has been “guilty of wasting a lot of money on a lot of things.” But he also said he “can’t lead this institution based on hope, based on I think, or based on maybe” — and predicted more dollar cuts ahead.

In Charleston, where the hopeful crowd quickly turned worried, Sandra Walker pointedly asked Hagel what might be in store for her job security, retirement benefits and security clearances if the shortfalls continue.

“I’ve taken a second job to compensate, because I have several children at home,” said Walker, who works in education and training at a medical clinic on base. “And if we are going to have future furloughs, will those things be taken into consideration for the future of our jobs?”

Sticking to his message, and stopping short of directly answering her question, Hagel offered little hope.

“There’s no good news,” he said.


Sandy-ravaged regions will never get landlines back

By Katie Lobosco @KatieLobosco July 22, 2013: 6:06 AM ET


Last fall, Superstorm Sandy wiped out landline telephone service for thousands of people. Many of them are never getting those landlines back.

Verizon (VZ, Fortune 500) is still in the process of repairing the telephone infrastructure that was damaged by the massive storm in late October. But in many cases, the telecom giant is replacing the old copper-based systems with new technologies — including wireless.

Those changes are coming for the industry as a whole, whether or not telecom giants like Verizon and AT&T (T, Fortune 500) want them to. And they were coming long before Sandy struck. The parts needed to repair the old landline technology are hard to find, sending companies to some odd places to purchase equipment, such as eBay (EBAY, Fortune 500).

“It can’t be that our critical infrastructure is relying on eBay for replacement parts,” said Bob Quinn, head of AT&T’s regulatory affairs.

Manufacturers that once made the required components, such as Nortel and Lucent, have gone out of business or been bought out, noted Danielle Coffey, a vice president at the Telecommunications Industry Association.

“It’s not only eBay, there’s a whole secondary market for these parts,” she said.

Related story: are landlines doomed?

That’s because landlines are a dying business. Many customers have switched to cell phones or VoIP services like Microsoft’s (MSFT, Fortune 500) Skype to make calls. More than 36% of Americans use cell phones as their only telephone service, about ten times the rate from a decade ago, according to a Centers for Disease Control study.

Still, many telephone customers in Sandy-ravaged areas are displeased about the prospect of losing their landlines.

On Fire Island, N.Y., off the southern coast of Long Island, Verizon is replacing its copper landlines with a wireless telephone system called Voice Link. The new system consists of a small modem-sized device that plugs into an electrical outlet and a standard telephone jack in your wall at home. That device connects to Verizon’s wireless cellular network, which brings phone service and a dial tone to the existing cord or cordless phones in the home. Customers can use it to make calls, and it and offers services like call waiting, caller ID and voice mail.

But, at least for now, Voice Link can’t connect customers to the Internet. That means medical alert services often used by senior citizens will not work. Those kinds of systems allow a customer to press a medical alert button immediately contacting a monitoring center. Alarm services, fax machines, and DSL Internet won’t work either.

Related story: AT&T isn’t nearly as bad as you think

Hundreds of Fire Island residents have filed complaints with the New York Public Service Commission about the service.

“It’s not quite ready for prime time,” said Harold Feld, the senior vice president of Public Knowledge, an advocacy group that opposes the all-wireless Voice Link system. “If we do switch to wireless as an alternative, then we want this wireless alternative to be as good or better than what we have now.”

Verizon offers the only telephone service on the island, so the hundreds of residents of the popular vacation spot have little choice but to accept Verizon’s Voice Link plan. Verizon said it intends to improve the system as time goes on.

Fire Island is a “unique situation,” said Tom Maguire, the senior vice president for national operations at Verizon. Wireless is not the only path forward for swapping out copper lines for new technology. AT&T and Verizon in many cases are replacing copper with fiberoptic cable and upgrading their networks from a series of routers and switches to a modern digital network.

Related story: Femtocell hack reveals mobile phones’ calls, texts and photos

But Fire Island isn’t the only place where Verizon is installing Voice Link. The company began working on the Voice Link system well before the storm, testing it in places like Florida and Virginia as a way to connect customers without having to repair existing copper lines.

In areas other than Sandy-ravaged communities, Maguire said, the Voice Link system will be available as an option — and not every customer is a suitable candidate. It is for people who do not want DSL Internet service and do not have services like alarm and life support systems. And if a Verizon technician goes to a home to install Voice Link and there is weak cellular network signal, Verizon would in that case repair the copper wire instead of installing the wireless system.

Verizon has deployed Voice Link in Mantoloking, N.J., which was also heavily damaged by Hurricane Sandy, and the company has plans to deploy it in areas like the Catskills where the copper infrastructure is badly damaged.


Future Carriers Built to Carry Drone Fleets


by KRIS OSBORN on JULY 19, 2013


Navy planners have anticipated the recent historic steps forward the Navy has taken toward outfitting the decks of their carriers with fleets of unmanned drones by designing future and current carriers to support the technological advances these aircraft will present, officials said.

The U.S. Navy’s new Ford-class aircraft carriers are engineered with the ability to accommodate more carrier-launched unmanned aircraft systems similar to the X-47B that landed on the deck of the USS George H.W. Bush July 10, service officials explained.

The Ford-class carriers are built with a series of technological advances compared to their predecessors — to include a slightly larger flight deck, upgraded nuclear power plants, dual-band radar, improved landing gear and vastly increased on-board electrical capacity to include a new electromagnetic propulsion system for aircraft taking off the deck, said Rear Adm. Thomas J. Moore, Program Executive Officer, Carriers.

“The Ford Class will be around until about 2110. The flight deck has been designed to be bigger and have a higher sortie generation rate. The ship itself is built with three-times the electrical generating capacity than the Nimitz {Ford predecessor} class has – so it is not hard to envision that we are going to be flying unmanned aircraft off that ship,” said Moore.

Citing the recent historic touchdown of the X-47B demonstrator aircraft aboard the USS George H.W. Bush, Moore said the Ford-class carriers are engineered with a specific mind to next-generation aviation and ship-based technologies.

The Ford-class of carriers are being built with emerging technological trends in mind and the expected increase in unmanned systems and electrically-generated weapons systems.

Moore said that if you look at the kind of aircraft which initially flew on a Nimitz-class carrier when they first emerged in the 1970s, they are very different than what is flying on those carriers today. In fact, the Joint Strike Fighter aircraft will fly on the Nimitz-class carriers before they retire, he said.

“Unmanned aircraft will certainly be part of our portfolio moving forward – they will not replace manned aircraft but will play an important role.”

The USS Ford is slated to enter the water at a christening ceremony in November of this year and begin formal service by late 2016. It is the first-in-class in a planned series of next-generation Ford-class aircraft carriers designed to replace the current Nimitz-class carriers on a one-for-one basis over roughly the next 50 years.

The USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), now nearing completion, will be followed by the second and third Ford-class carriers, the USS John. F. Kennedy (CVN 79) to enter service by 2025 — and the USS Enterprise (CVN 80), slated to enter service by 2027.

The Ford-class carriers will have four 26 megawatt electrical turbine generators, designed in part to power key systems on the ship, including dual-band phased array radar and the Electro-Magnetic Aircraft Launch System, or EMALS – put on carriers to replace the current steam catapults for aircraft on the flight deck.

“On a Nimitz-class carrier, outside of the propulsion plant we use a lot of steam to run the catapults and heat the water. We made a conscious decision on the Ford class to better electrify the ship,” Moore explained.

Moore also emphasized that the electrical backbone and capacity of the Ford-class carriers will better equip the ships to accommodate directed energy weapons in the future, should they be added to the ship.

For example, it is conceivable that directed energy or laser weapons might compliment the defense systems currently in place to defend the ship such as the Phalanx Close-in-Weapons-System, Rolling Air Frame Missile and NATO Sea Sparrow, Moore explained.

“The Ford has huge margins of ability to generate electrical power that no other ship has,” he said.

In fact, increased automation, computer technology and electrical capacity will reduce man-power requirements on-board the ship, dramatically increasing capability and lowering life-cycle costs, said Mike Petters, President and Chief Operating Officer, Huntington Ingalls Industries.

Moore explained that the technology-inspired man-power reductions will result in as much as $4 billion in savings over the 50-year life-cycle of the ship.

Petters and Moore explained how the Ford-class carriers are designed with a slightly smaller island to allow for more deck space, thus increasing the ship’s ability to launch and recover larger numbers of aircraft.

“You have created an electrical distribution system that is going to allow for lower maintenance cost – then you have advanced arresting gear and the radars. You are really talking about a ship that has substantially more capability. The flight deck was all part of how do we get more sorties – changing the location of the footprint is all about how do you get the flight deck more efficient,” Petters said.

One analyst said that increasing the ability to project power at greater distances through the increased use of unmanned aircraft on carriers, is exactly how the Navy should be thinking about its future.

“The aircraft carrier is relevant today and it will be relevant for decades,” said Bryan McGrath, managing director at FerryBridge Group LLC, a defense consulting firm based in Easton, Md.

In particular, longer reach or operating ranges — for strike possibilities and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance missions – is likely to grow in importance in light of what Pentagon strategists refer to as Anti-Access/Area-Denial, or A2/AD, challenges, he argued.

A2/AD is a strategic approach to current and future conflict based upon the premise that potential adversaries have increased technological capability to challenge the U.S. military’s ability to operate in certain areas in an uncontested manner – such as closer to shore.

“Sortie generation rate as a virtue will decline in importance in the years to come largely because any opponent of worth will hold us a little further off shore. Sortie generation rose in importance as we came to dominate the oceans. Now we may have a near-peer competitor, so what we really need is range from the wing – the ability to operate from further away and bring strike power,” McGrath said.

The increased sortie-generation rate capability with the Ford-class carriers is designed to increase the flexibility to launch manned and unmanned systems with greater ease and frequency, a Navy official said.

“The deck has been built to provide the air wing of the future with greater flexibility,” the official said.

Nevertheless, any efforts to increasingly configure aircraft carriers to accommodate increased ability to house and launch longer-range platforms, including manned and unmanned systems, is something McGrath would like to see more of.

“The Navy should begin thinking about designing an aircraft carrier that is devoted to the launch and recovery of unmanned aviation,” McGrath said. “It will need to do its job for 50 years, so you have to think about what you get. You get a very powerful symbol and the means for the delivery of American power. There is no substitute in our arsenal.”

Moore said the Ford-class of carriers are being built with a mind to long-term service – an approach which has, by design, engineered the ship with growth potential such that it can accommodate emerging technologies as they arise.

“Big-deck carriers are by far what we need in terms of power projection and presence. For a lot of the missions we want and the presence we have around the world, there’s nothing like it. Why are the Russians, Indians and Chinese building a carrier? Countries know that carriers bring something to the table that nothing else can bring in terms of an instrument of national power. There is a reason we build these things,” Moore added.

Read more:


DOE study: Fracking chemicals didn’t taint water

Jul 19, 5:48 PM EDT


Associated Press

PITTSBURGH (AP) — A landmark federal study on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, shows no evidence that chemicals from the natural gas drilling process moved up to contaminate drinking water aquifers at a western Pennsylvania drilling site, the Department of Energy told The Associated Press.

After a year of monitoring, the researchers found that the chemical-laced fluids used to free gas trapped deep below the surface stayed thousands of feet below the shallower areas that supply drinking water, geologist Richard Hammack said.

Although the results are preliminary – the study is still ongoing – they are the first independent look at whether the potentially toxic chemicals pose a threat to people during normal drilling operations. But DOE researchers view the study as just one part of ongoing efforts to examine the impacts of a recent boom in oil and gas exploration, not a final answer about the risks.

Drilling fluids tagged with unique markers were injected more than 8,000 feet below the surface at the gas well bore but weren’t detected in a monitoring zone at a depth of 5,000 feet. The researchers also tracked the maximum extent of the man-made fractures, and all were at least 6,000 feet below the surface.

That means the potentially dangerous substances stayed about a mile away from surface drinking water supplies, which are usually at depths of less than 500 feet.

“This is good news,” said Duke University scientist Rob Jackson, who was not involved with the study. He called it a “useful and important approach” to monitoring fracking, but he cautioned that the single study doesn’t prove that fracking can’t pollute, since geology and industry practices vary widely in Pennsylvania and across the nation.

The boom in gas drilling has led to tens of thousands of new wells being drilled in recent years, many in the Marcellus Shale formation that lies under parts of Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio and West Virginia. That’s led to major economic benefits but also fears that the chemicals used in the drilling process could spread to water supplies.

The mix of chemicals varies by company and region, and while some are openly listed the industry has complained that disclosing special formulas could violate trade secrets. Some of the chemicals are toxic and could cause health problems in significant doses, so the lack of full transparency has worried landowners and public health experts.

Over the last four years the debate over fracking chemicals has attracted tremendous attention from state and federal agencies, public health experts, and opponents of fracking. Yet while many people have focused on the potential threat from the chemicals, experts have come to believe that more routine aspects of the drilling process are more likely to cause problems. Poor well construction that allows excess gas to escape, spills of chemicals or other fluids that take place at the surface, and disposal of wastewater are all issues of concern.

Jackson said most of the problems that the Duke researchers have seen have been related to well construction, not fracking chemicals.

The study done by the National Energy Technology Laboratory in Pittsburgh marked the first time that a drilling company let government scientists inject special tracers into the fracking fluid and then continue regular monitoring to see whether it spread toward drinking water sources. The research is being done at a drilling site in Greene County, which is southwest of Pittsburgh and adjacent to West Virginia.

Eight Marcellus Shale wells were monitored seismically and one was injected with four different man-made tracers at different stages of the fracking process, which involves setting off small explosions to break the rock apart. The scientists also monitored a separate series of older gas wells that are about 3,000 feet above the Marcellus to see if the fracking fluid reached up to them.

The industry and many state and federal regulators have long contended that fracking itself won’t contaminate surface drinking water because of the extreme depth of the gas wells. Most are more than a mile underground, while drinking water aquifers are usually close to the surface.

Kathryn Klaber, CEO of the industry-led Marcellus Shale Coalition, called the study “great news.”

“It’s important that we continue to seek partnerships that can study these issues and inform the public of the findings,” Klaber said.

While the lack of contamination is encouraging, Jackson said he wondered whether the unidentified drilling company might have consciously or unconsciously taken extra care with the research site, since it was being watched. He also noted that other aspects of the drilling process can cause pollution, such as poor well construction, surface spills of chemicals and wastewater.

Jackson and his colleagues at Duke have done numerous studies over the last few years that looked at whether gas drilling is contaminating nearby drinking water, with mixed results. None has found chemical contamination but they did find evidence that natural gas escaped from some wells near the surface and polluted drinking water in northeastern Pennsylvania.

Scott Anderson, a drilling expert with the Environment Defense Fund, said the results sound very interesting.

“Very few people think that fracking at significant depths routinely leads to water contamination. But the jury is still out on what the odds are that this might happen in special situations,” Anderson said.

One finding surprised the researchers: Seismic monitoring determined one hydraulic fracture traveled 1,800 feet out from the well bore; most traveled just a few hundred feet. That’s significant because some environmental groups have questioned whether the fractures could go all the way to the surface.

The researchers believe that fracture may have hit naturally occurring faults, and that’s something both industry and regulators don’t want.

“We would like to be able to predict those areas” with natural faults and avoid them, Hammack said.

Jackson said the 1,800-foot fracture was interesting but noted it is still a mile from the surface.

The DOE team will start to publish full results of the tests over the next few months, said Hammack, who called the large amount of field data from the study “the real deal.”

“People probably will be looking at the data for years to come,” he said.

On Friday, DOE spokesman David Anna added that while nothing of concern has been found thus far, “the results are far too preliminary to make any firm claims.”



Draft of a House Bill Restricting FAA Licensing of UAVs Unveiled

by Press • 25 July 2013


A House member from Vermont unveiled the draft of a bill that would require those seeking to operate an unmanned aerial vehicle over U.S.-airspace to provide detailed information about the use of the UAV before receiving a federal license to fly the drone.

Rep. Peter Welch, D, unveiled the draft document that would prohibit the Federal Aviation Administration from issuing a drone license unless the application includes a statement that lists who will operate the drone, where the drone will be flown, what kind of data will be collected, how that data will be used, whether the information will be sold to third parties and the period for which the information will be retained.

The draft would also require the police applicants, as well as their contractors and subcontractors, to provide a “data minimization statement” that says how data collected by the UAV that is unrelated to the investigation of a crime will be minimized. The draft also requires the FAA to create a website listing all approved UAV licenses, data collection and data minimization statements, any data security breaches suffered by a licensee and the times and locations of flights.

In addition, under the draft bill, even if a police agency had a license to operate a drone, the agency would still have to obtain a warrant to fly the UAV except in special circumstances such as search and rescue operations and the imminent danger of death or serious injury.

“As drones emerge in the airspace over the United States, I am deeply concerned that American’s constitutional right to privacy and their right to know are protected,” Welch said. “Drones can be a valuable tool for law enforcement, public safety and other commercial uses, but it is essential that the law be updated to cover this technology and to ensure individual privacy and transparency in its operation and use,” he said.

Welch made the draft of the bill public at Chittenden County, Vt. on June 12, but he has not yet introduced the bill in the House.


The Creepy, Long-Standing Practice of Undersea Cable Tapping

The Atlantic

July 10 2013

By Olga Khazan


In the early 1970’s, the U.S. government learned that an undersea cable ran parallel to the Kuril Islands off the eastern coast of Russia, providing a vital communications link between two major Soviet naval bases. The problem? The Soviet Navy had completely blocked foreign ships from entering the region.

Not to be deterred, the National Security Agency launched Operation Ivy Bells, deploying fast-attack submarines and combat divers to drop waterproof recording pods on the lines. Every few weeks, the divers would return to gather the tapes and deliver them to the NSA, which would then binge-listen to their juicy disclosures.

The project ended in 1981, when NSA employee Ronald Pelton sold information about the program to the KGB for $35,000. He’s still serving his life prison term.

The operation might have ended, but for the NSA, this underwater strategy clearly stuck around.

In addition to gaining access to web companies’ servers and asking for phone metadata, we’ve now learned that both the U.S. and the U.K. spy agencies are tapping directly into the Internet’s backbone — the undersea fiber optic cables that shuttle online communications between countries and servers. For some privacy activists, this process is even more worrisome than monitoring call metadata because it allows governments to make copies of everything that transverses these cables, if they wanted to.

The British surveillance programs have fittingly sinister titles: “Mastering the Internet” and “Global Telecoms Exploitation,” according to The Guardian.

A subsidiary program for these operations — Tempora — sucks up around 21 million gigabytes per day and stores the data for a month. The data is shared with NSA, and there are reportedly 550 NSA and GCHQ analysts poring over the information they’ve gathered from at least 200 fiber optic cables so far.

The scale of the resulting data harvest is tremendous. From The Guardian:


This includes recordings of phone calls, the content of email messages, entries on Facebook and the history of any internet user’s access to websites — all of which is deemed legal, even though the warrant system was supposed to limit interception to a specified range of targets.

In an interview with online security analyst Jacob Appelbaum, NSA leaker Edward Snowden called the British spy agency GCHQ “worse than” the NSA, saying it represents the first “full take” system, in which surveillance networks catch all Internet traffic regardless of its content. Appelbaum asked Snowden if “anyone could escape” Tempora:

“Well, if you had the choice, you should never send information over British lines or British servers,” Snowden said. “Even the Queen’s selfies with her lifeguards would be recorded, if they existed.”

The U.S.’s own cable-tapping program, known by the names OAKSTAR, STORMBREW, BLARNEY and FAIRVIEW, as revealed in an NSA PowerPoint slide, apparently functions similarly to Tempora, accessing “communications on fiber cables and infrastructure as data flows past,” according to The Washington Post. The slide indicates that Prism and these so-called “upstream” programs work together somehow, with an arrow saying “You Should Use Both” pointing to the two operations.


So how does one tap into an underwater cable?

The process is extremely secretive, but it seems similar to tapping an old-fashioned, pre-digital telephone line — the eavesdropper gathers up all the data that flows past, then deciphers it later.


A map of undersea cables. (TeleGeography)

More than 550,000 miles of flexible undersea cables about the size of garden watering hoses carry all the world’s emails, searches, and tweets. Together, they shoot the equivalent of several hundred Libraries of Congress worth of information back and forth every day.

In 2005, the Associated Press reported that a submarine called the USS Jimmy Carter had been repurposed to carry crews of technicians to the bottom of the sea so they could tap fiber optic lines. The easiest place to get into the cables is at the regeneration points — spots where their signals are amplified and pushed forward on their long, circuitous journeys. “At these spots, the fiber optics can be more easily tapped, because they are no longer bundled together, rather laid out individually,” Deutsche Welle reported.

But such aquatic endeavors may no longer even be necessary. The cables make landfall at coastal stations in various countries, where their data is sent on to domestic networks, and it’s easier to tap them on land than underwater. Britain is, geographically, in an ideal position to access to cables as they emerge from the Atlantic, so the cooperation between the NSA and GCHQ has been key. Beyond that partnership, there are the other members of the “Five Eyes” — the Australians, the New Zealanders, and the Canadians — that also collaborate with the U.S., Snowden said.

The tapping process apparently involves using so-called “intercept probes.” According to two analysts I spoke to, the intelligence agencies likely gain access to the landing stations, usually with the permission of the host countries or operating companies, and use these small devices to capture the light being sent across the cable. The probe bounces the light through a prism, makes a copy of it, and turns it into binary data without disrupting the flow of the original Internet traffic.

“We believe our 3D MEMS technology — as used by governments and various agencies — is involved in the collection of intelligence from … undersea fibers,” said a director of business development at Glimmerglass, a government contractor that appeared, at least according to a 2010 Aviation Week article, to conduct similar types of interceptions, though it’s unclear whether they took part in the British Tempora or the U.S. upstream programs. In a PowerPoint presentation, Glimmerglass once boasted that it provided “optical cyber solutions” to the intelligence community, offering the ability to monitor everything from Gmail to Facebook. “We are deployed in several countries that are using it for lawful interception. They’ve passed laws, publicly known, that they will monitor all international traffic for interdiction of any kind of terrorist activity.”

The British publication PC Pro presented another theory: that slightly bending the cables could allow a receiver to capture their contents.

One method is to bend the cable and extract enough light to sniff out the data. “You can get these little cylindrical devices off eBay for about $1,000. You run the cable around the cylinder, causing a slight bend in cable. It will emit a certain amount of light, one or two decibels. That goes into the receiver and all that data is stolen in one or two decibels of light. Without interrupting transfer flow, you can read everything going on on an optical network,” said Everett.

The loss is so small, said Everett, that anyone who notices it might attribute it to a loose connection somewhere along the line. “They wouldn’t even register someone’s tapping into their network,” he added.

Once it’s gathered, the data gets sifted. Most of it is discarded, but the filters pull out material that touches on one of the 40,000 search terms chosen by the NSA and GCHQ — that’s the content the two agencies inspect more closely.

The British anti-surveillance group Privacy International has filed a lawsuit against the U.K. government, arguing that such practices amount to “blanket surveillance” and saying that British courts do “not provide sufficiently specific or clear authorization for such wide-ranging and universal interception of communications.” Their argument is that the existing surveillance laws are from the phone-tapping days and can’t be applied to modern, large-scale electronic data collection.

“If their motivation is to catch terrorists, then are there less intrusive methods than spying on everyone whose traffic happens to transverse the U.K.?” said Eric King, head of research at Privacy International.

Meanwhile, the British agency, the GCHQ, has defended their practices by saying that they are merely looking for a few suspicious “needles” in a giant haystack of data, and that the techniques have allowed them to uncover terrorist plots.


If groups like Privacy International are successful, it may put an end to the capture of domestic Internet data within the U.K., but as NSA expert Matthew Aid recently told me, since 80 percent of the fiber optic data flows through the U.S., it wouldn’t stop the massive surveillance operations here or in other countries — even if the person on the sending end was British.

It’s also worth noting that this type of tapping has been going on for years — it’s just that we’re now newly getting worked up about it. In 2007, the New York Times thus described President Bush’s expansion of electronic surveillance: “the new law allows the government to eavesdrop on those conversations without warrants — latching on to those giant switches — as long as the target of the government’s surveillance is ‘reasonably believed’ to be overseas.”

Want to avoid being a “target” of this “switch-latching”? A site called “Prism-break” recently released a smorgasbord of encrypted browsing, chat, and email services that supposedly allow the user to evade government scrutiny.

The only platform for which there is no encrypted alternative is Apple’s iOS, a proprietary software, for which the site had this warning:

“You should not entrust neither your communications nor your data to a closed source device.”


Pentagon Factors Operational Energy into Acquisition


by KRIS OSBORN on JULY 25, 2013

The Pentagon has taken steps to formally integrate “energy efficiency” as a metric in the requirements process it uses for procurement and weapons development, senior officials said.

Energy performance has now become a mandatory key performance parameter in a part of the Pentagon’s developmental process known as Joint Capabilities Integration Development System, or JCIDS, said Sharon E. Burke, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy Plans and Programs.

The JCIDS process, a collaborative analytical look at acquisition and development, is used to establish and refine requirements for procurement programs, often paving the way forward to next-step milestones in the process.

“We’ve become a force that uses a lot more energy than it used to,” she said. “We’re building energy efficiency into modernization. We have a long way to go because with a lot of the platforms that are entering the acquisition process — their fuel consumption is quite a bit higher. We’re increasing our fuel demand.”

In particular, Burke mentioned increasing power demands for next-generation electronics, ships, aircraft, weaponry and developmental items such as the Navy’s prototype Laser Weapon System that depends upon large “pulses” of energy to operate.

There are more than 300 operational energy initiatives across the Department of Defense, Burke explained. About $1.6 billion was spent on these programs in fiscal year 2013 and, depending upon budget developments, as much as $2 billion is expected for fiscal year 2014.

The Pentagon office for Operational Energy Plans and Programs was stood up by the National Defense Authorization Act of 2009 in response to requests from fielded forces, members of Congress and Pentagon leaders.

One analyst described this effort as a bit of a double-edge sword, indicating that this effort may bring both great rewards and also run the risk of adding too many requirements to an already taxed procurement process.

“On one hand, you are looking across the entire force and doing an in-depth analysis. This effort can bring lower costs, better performance, improved operational flexibility and a reduced logistics tail — which can save lives,” said Daniel Goure, vice president of the Lexington Institute, a Va.-based think tank.

“At the same time, are we now adding more requirements, more oversight and more reviews to a process that many believe is already too long and too cumbersome. Will this add complexity to getting stuff out the door?”

Also, some members of Congress have at times criticized the military’s operational energy platform, pushing back on various “green” efforts on the grounds that some of them may raise costs. Also, many members have raised questions about costs with regard to specific programs such as the Navy’s use of biofuels, an effort to power the fleet using alternative fuels.

Overall, the drawdown in Afghanistan means forces and Forward Operating Bases are more distributed or dispersed and the “re-balance” to the Asia-Pacific underscore the unyielding appetite for greater energy efficiency in combat circumstances and across increasingly greater distances, Burke explained.

While saving money by increasing energy efficiency remains a huge part of the calculus in today’s budget environment, the tactical and logistical advantages provide an edge on the battlefield, Burke explained.

“Anti-access/Area denial means that the supply chain is fully in play in the battlefield. That is going to be true going forward,” she said. “How do you build energy performance into the future force, which will have much bigger fuel requirements and much more sophisticated anti-access challenges? What are your options for making energy an advantage rather than a limiting factor?”

Considering these dynamics and the need for longer-dwell intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and longer-range strike capability necessitated by A2/AD, energy considerations are a key part of the equation when it comes to Pacific re-balance and the stepped up development of unmanned systems across the services.

“Unmanned systems give you a totally different way of looking at energy security. Not only is there much lower fuel costs but you can be a little more experimental with the way you power them,” Burke said.

Meanwhile, supply lines, fuel and energy efficiency have proven to be of paramount importance during the land wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Burke added.

For example, fewer convoys needed to deliver fuel to remote outposts in Afghanistan due to increased efficiency results in both decreased expenditures and logistical footprints.

At the same time, greater fuel efficiency for ships, UAS and aircraft will help offset what many refer to as the “tyranny of distance” – the vast geographical expanse known to the Pacific theater.

Building energy efficiency parameters more formally into the process will help weapons and program developers perform the needed integration earlier in the developmental process, thus reducing costs and risks typically associated with the acquisition process.

As a result, Burke and other senior Pentagon officials have been working with combatant commanders and service acquisition personnel to work on the integration for this effort.

“You want to be able to put a value on better energy performance, so you need to know the value of a technology in operation. What does it cost you do support that technology? What is the unit cost? The only way you can know this is if you have the right analysis to bring to the process,” Burke said.

The Pentagon has already had some successes with the development and implementation of energy-efficient emerging technologies across the services. The effort spans a wide range of technologies from small, portable solar-powered blankets and lightweight batteries for the Army to hybrid-electric Navy amphibious assault ships and much more in between, Burke explained.

In addition, one key example of the approach to build energy efficiency more formally into the acquisition process is found in the ongoing procurement of the Air Force’s Combat Rescue Helicopter, a new helicopter program designed to replace the service’s currently serving HH-60.

“In the RFP [Request for Proposal] we were looking for better energy performance. It will be a criteria in the contract,” Burke explained.

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B-52 CONECT: A reboot for the Digital Age

Posted 7/26/2013 Updated 7/25/2013 Email story Print story

by Airman 1st Class Joseph Raatz

Air Force Global Strike Command Public Affairs


7/26/2013 – BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. (AFNS) — One thing is certain: it’s not your father’s B-52.

The B-52 Stratofortress has been the Air Force’s star long-range strategic heavy bomber and premier standoff weapon for more than 50 years. For generations, the B-52 has successfully executed missions all over the globe.

But in the 21st century, the pace of things has accelerated beyond the wildest dreams of the original designers who first put plans for the aircraft on the drawing board more than 60 years ago.

“Things change so quickly now, that you simply can’t take 20- to 30-hour-old data into the fight with you any longer,” said Alan Williams, the deputy program element monitor at Air Force Global Strike Command.

With digital display screens, computer network servers and real-time communication uplinks, the B-52 of the future will be far removed from the final batch that was delivered to Minot Air Force Base, N.D., in 1962.

The Combat Network Communications Technology, or CONECT, program will help thrust the B-52 into the modern era.

“Now the crews will be able to do final mission planning enroute,” Williams said. “They will be able to get targeting updates; they will be able to get intelligence updates, all while they are en route so that they can get the most current data.”

The beyond line of sight, or BLOS, communications ability introduced in the CONECT upgrades will allow for a central air operations center to pass along updated threat and targeting data to the aircraft for rapid machine-to-machine retargeting, rather than having the crew and mission be dependent solely upon information that was available at take-off.

“The aircraft will be much more effective and safer for the crew because of being able to receive those threat and target updates,” Williams said, adding that CONECT will also allow the aircrew to receive last-minute updates so that they are able to strike the most current or necessary targets and do it rapidly because of the new machine-to-machine targeting capability.

CONECT also brings an unprecedented networking ability to the B-52.

“It provides us with a digital backbone so that we can pass data all the way around the aircraft,” Williams said, explaining that with the upgrades, any data available to one crew member will now be available to every other member instantaneously via the new digital displays at each workstation.

These new upgrades will provide a foundation that may help guarantee the aircraft’s viability through the remainder of its life span, which is currently projected to extend beyond 2040.

“Now when we add additional systems to the aircraft at some future date, we will be going from a digital component, across our new digital backbone, to another digital component elsewhere in the aircraft,” Williams said. “In the future, it will make upgrades easier to do because we’ll already have that digital infrastructure in the aircraft.”

Williams summed up the CONECT upgrades by saying they would help convert the B-52 from an analog aircraft to a digital platform for today’s warfighter.

“It is taking the B-52 from a rotary-dial phone to a smartphone,” Williams said.

With the CONECT upgrades in place, the B-52 will be well-equipped to enter the Digital Age. In doing so, “the aircraft” will continue to be an adaptable powerhouse for decades to come.


Carter, Winnefeld to Brief House Panel on SCMR Findings


Jul 26, 2013

By Marcus Weisgerberin


Two top Pentagon officials are set to appear before House lawmakers next week to discuss the findings of the Strategic Choices and Management Review, an effort that will help determine how the US Defense Department operates amid budget cuts.

Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Adm. Sandy Winnefeld, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are scheduled to appear before the House Armed Services Committee on Aug. 1. Pentagon officials have yet to give a detailed look inside SCMR, which defense insiders have nicknamed the “skimmer” or “scammer.”

Lawmakers have been pressing DoD for several months to give them insight into the review, which began in March. The project is supposed to tee up decisions for programs, missions and troop level changes depending on the level of spending cut levied on the Pentagon.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in July told senators that the SCMR “seeks to adhere … to the tenets” of DoD’s Pacific-focused Defense Strategic Guidance.


S&T Community Evaluating Funding Gaps For FY-15 POM Planning

The office of the Air Force’s chief scientist has been working through a budget exercise focused on identifying gaps between funding and priority science and technology investment areas.

The Air Force’s former chief scientist, Mark Maybury, released a forward-looking report earlier this summer titled “Global Horizons” that looks at opportunities, threats and emerging capabilities that the service’s science and technology community needs to address now and over the next two decades. Mica Endsley, the service’s new chief scientist who assumed her role in June, told Inside the Air Force after an Air Force Association event in Arlington, VA, on July 11, that her office has been using the work compiled in Global Horizons to identify which priorities are funded and where the service may need to shift its focus to invest in these capabilities.

“One thing we’ve just gone through and done is an analysis of where the gaps are for the [fiscal year 2015 program objective memorandum] to identify where we need to make some strategic changes to try and address these high-priority items,” Endsley said. “It’s really trying to direct our current efforts to make sure that we’re making these trade-offs.”

Endsley would not discuss where some of the shortfalls lie but said that some of the service’s plans laid out in the “Global Horizons” report and identified as near-term priorities — to be accomplished between FY-13 and FY-17 — are not currently budgeted for.

“Some of these things were already slated and in the budget, so they’re already marching ahead,” Endsley said. “There are other areas where we may want to redirect funds.”

One priority investment area involves the service rethinking its approach to and design of autonomous systems. Endsley said during the event that today’s automated systems lack human-machine teaming — an approach to automation that plays on the strengths of the machine to process and deliver data and the ability of the human operator to take that data and use it to make decisions.

“One of the things we’ve found in the past is that you can’t just throw automation at a problem and solve it,” Endsley said. “In fact, you can make a problem worse if you’re not very careful about how you do that. So what we really need to focus on are effective, synergistic teamings of people and automated agents in order to make this more successful.”

Endsley said that traditional automated systems have left humans out of the loop with very little understanding of the processes a machine is performing, which makes the operator less likely to recognize when a problem arises and respond to it in a timely manner. In many cases, she said, the reason for inaction is that the operator lacks full awareness of the situation because the processes aren’t transparent or are hard to understand — even for people who are actively trying.

“We’ve found that this type of automation puts people at a disadvantage because it makes you a passive processor of information as opposed to actively processing,” Endsley said. “And when you’re a passive processor, you don’t really understand what’s going on.”

The solution to this, she said, is an automated system that is trustworthy and serves as an aid to a process. Endsley told ITAF that one area where the service needs to improve its automation is data exploitation. The service’s command-and-control systems collect large amounts of very detailed information, she said, but its processes for integrating and distributing that data needs to be improved.

“We have to be able to integrate it. We have to be able to process video data, for example, and recognize what key information is happening,” she said. “That’s rapidly going to increase the ability to have detailed manual analysis.”

This new approach to automation will require both modernizing existing systems and creating new autonomous systems. She told ITAF that, even in the near term, the service is going to need to take a dual-minded approach to the issue.

She added that one problem the science and technology community faces in this and other research areas is that the Air Force invests so much of its budget in operations and maintenance. It will take an initial investment to reshape and expand the service’s use of automated systems, she said, but these systems will save the service money and time in the long term.

“If we can improve the efficiency of some of these systems, then we can do a lot to reduce these costs,” Endsley told ITAF. “We can do it with two airmen instead of 10 airmen to get a particular job done. I think that’s something we have to take a good look at.” — Courtney Albon



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

Rasmussen Reports

Bottom of Form

Saturday, July 27, 2013


President Obama attempted this week to shift the nation’s attention away from what he calls “phony” scandals and back to the economy.

He is again pushing Congress to prime the pump with more spending, but most voters (62%) continue to think the government should cut spending in reaction to the nation’s economic problems. Not that there’s much optimism: During budget negotiations in the spring, just 15% thought any plan agreed to by the president and Congress would really cut federal spending.

The economy continues to send off mixed signals. The Rasmussen Consumer and Investor Indexes which measure daily confidence are both down from recent highs but still are well ahead of where they’ve been in previous years since the Wall Street meltdown. 

Homeowners continue to express optimism about the housing market. Only 12% now think the value of their home will go down over the next year. That’s the lowest finding since Rasmussen Reports began regular tracking on this question in April 2009.  Just over half of U.S. homeowners still say their home is worth more than what they owe on it.

Yet while 55% of Americans think the institution of marriage is Very Important to U.S. society, they see that institution at risk in the current economy. Only 29% believe that in a family with children, it is good for both parents to work full-time.

A federal judge on Wednesday cleared the way for Detroit’s bankruptcy to move ahead, and 74% of Americans think other major cities may soon be following the same path to bankruptcy. Twenty-five percent (25) think the federal government should provide bailout funding for cities with serious financial problems.

Just 26% of Likely U.S. Voters now say the country is heading in the right direction. That’s down from a high of 43% the week just before Election Day and the lowest level of confidence since mid-January 2012.

Only 17% think U.S. public schools now provide “a world-class education,” down from 26% in August 2011 when the president first set this as the goal to achieve. But then just 25% think most high school graduates have the skills needed for college. Only 22% believe most of these graduates have the necessary skills to go into the workforce.

The president’s daily job approval ratings have tumbled from the euphoric highs surrounding his reelection to the levels found for most of his first term.

As roll out of the president’s national health care law stumbles along, voters continue to give high marks to the health care they now receive but are more pessimistic than ever about the short-term future of the health care system in this country. Just 24% now expect the U.S. health care system to get better over the next couple of years.

Obama and his supporters may characterize the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of Tea Party and conservative groups as a “phony” scandal,” but 59% of voters still think it’s likely the president or his top aides were aware of what the IRS was up to.   Sixty-six percent (66%) believe the decision to target the groups came out of Washington, DC, with 26% who think it was made by someone at IRS headquarters and 40% who think it was decided by someone at the White House. Belief in the Washington connection is unchanged from a month ago.

In an era when there is increasing skepticism about crony capitalism, voters are more critical of the president’s policies toward small business and continue to believe he favors big business instead

Like responses to the George Zimmerman verdict itself, voters give the Obama administration mixed reviews for its reaction to the outcome of the Trayvon Martin case. But voters share the president’s concern about racial profiling. 

Still, only 24% of Americans believe Zimmerman’s actions which led to the shooting death of Martin were motivated primarily by racism. Just 21% believe he should now be charged with a hate crime by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Voters overall continue to believe the U.S. justice system is fairer to blacks and Hispanics than it is to Americans in general.  Forty-six percent (46%) of all voters think the U.S. justice system is generally fair to black and Hispanic Americans, but 87% of black voters disagree. Voters are almost evenly divided when asked if the U.S. justice system is fair to most Americans: 43% say yes, 41% no, and 16% are not sure. Just 36% say the system of justice in this country is fair to poor Americans

Forty-four percent (44%) of Americans agree with the jury’s verdict that Zimmerman was not guilty in the shooting death of Martin. Thirty-five percent (35%) disagree, including 80% of black Americans.

But 52% of all voters think if all of the other facts were the same as those in the Zimmerman/Martin case, the jury would have found a black shooter not guilty of murder if the victim was white.  Thirty-one percent (31%) disagree and believe the jury would have found the black shooter guilty of murder. Among blacks, however, 79% think the jury would have found the black shooter guilty. Sixty percent (60%) of whites believe the jury would have reached the same not guilty verdict. 

Just 19% of all voters believe it’s a good idea for states, cities, organizations and individuals to boycott Florida over the Zimmerman verdict

Most voters (51%) do not know if their state is one of the many that has a stand your ground self-defense law. Voters favor such a law by a 45% to 32% margin, but given the lack of awareness on the subject, opinion is unlikely to be settled at this time.

In other surveys last week:

— Democrats have regained their lead over Republicans on the Generic Congressional Ballot.

— Eighty-one percent (81%) of voters consider a candidate’s personal life at least somewhat important to how they will vote. Fifty-seven percent (57%) say they are less likely to vote for a candidate who has been involved in a sexual scandal.

Even before the latest news of sexual “texting” by New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner broke this week, half of the city’s registered voters had an unfavorable opinion of him. Fifty-one percent (51%) have an unfavorable view of Eliot Spitzer who resigned as governor of New York in 2008 following exposure of his regular use of prostitutes. Spitzer is now running for city comptroller, New York’s chief financial officer.

— Forty-eight percent (48%) of Likely U.S. Voters believe research by private businesses seeking a profit will do more to meet the U.S. need for affordable energy sources than research by the government. Thirty-eight percent (38%) believe government research is the better way to go.

— Following outrage over Rolling Stone magazine’s decision to put a sympathetic picture of the Boston Marathon bomber on its cover, 62% of Americans think the media pay too much attention to the personal lives of violent criminals.

Most Americans see Rolling Stone’s decision to put the Boston suspect on its cover as a publicity stunt, but they recognize that the magazine has a right to publish what it chooses.


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