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August 3 2013

August 12, 2013

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White House Employees’ Personal Email Hacked

By Aliya Sternstein

http://www.nextgov.com/cybersecurity/2013/07/white-house-employees-personal-email-hacked/67556/

July 29, 2013 7:38 AM ET

 

Three White House staffers have had their personal Gmail accounts breached in what appears to be a malicious operation directed at the team responsible for the Obama administration’s social media outreach, according to individuals familiar with the incident. 

The penetrated accounts have been sending other White House digital media employees bogus emails containing fraudulent links that can extract their personal email logins and Twitter credentials. More than a dozen current and former staffers were targeted, the individuals said. The scheme was ongoing as of Sunday night. 

The goal of the intruders might be to glean sensitive government information, some cyber researchers said. White House personnel are prohibited by law from using personal Webmail accounts for business communications, but not all employees comply with the rules. The Twitter scam could be aimed at spreading misinformation through seemingly-official channels to citizens.

The “phishing” links — labeled to look like legitimate BBC or CNN articles — direct users to an authentic-looking Gmail or Twitter login screen to access the news content. At this point, the users have unwittingly been rerouted to fake login forms that enable hackers to capture their sign-on information. 

White House social media employees might be relatively easy game within the administration, since their role is to make the executive branch more open to the public. “I imagine that the names and email addresses of people at the White House in digital media or anything related to media are easy to find since their job involves public access. A list of targets would be created from open sources and that’s who the phishing email would be delivered to,” said Jeffrey Carr, a cybersecurity analyst with consultancy Taia Global.

The objective for harvesting Gmail account information might be to capture administration-related email messages and contacts, he speculated.

The Presidential Records Act bars work communication outside of official email accounts. However, a 2012 House committee report showed that former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina used his personal email account to conduct official business involving a deal between the pharmaceutical industry and the Senate Finance Committee. And in 2010, the Washington Post reported that administration officials reprimanded then White House Deputy Chief Technology Officer Andrew McLaughlin, a former Google official, after document requests revealed technology policy-related emails from Google employees in his personal Gmail account.

The purpose of assembling Twitter sign-on information might be to disseminate disruptive messages, Carr postulated. This spring, a hacked Associated Press Twitter account informed the public that explosions at the White House had harmed the president. The Dow tumbled in response. 

Sources familiar with the Gmail hack say the ploy is unique in the White House. In the past, one or two staffers who used two-step authentication to protect their Gmail accounts would receive text messages, indicating someone had entered the correct password to trigger the text authentication code. 

 

 

Air Force Asks Students to Solve Real-World Problems

NY Times

By JANE L. LEVERE

Published: July 28, 2013

 

THE Air Force, as part of its recruitment efforts, is approaching young people for help in solving real-world technological problems using a collaborative online platform.

The initiative, which will be introduced on Thursday, will create a digital program called the Air Force Collaboratory, in which young people will be challenged to develop technologies for search-and-rescue operations in collapsed structures; to create software code for a quadrotor, a type of unmanned, aerial vehicle; and to determine where to place the newest GPS satellite.

The Air Force hopes the program will attract students in so-called STEM subjects — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — to work with its airmen on developing solutions for the three challenges, and, ideally, consider enlisting.

The initiative — which the Air Force will promote through digital advertising, social media and partnerships with groups like Discovery Education — is the latest recruiting effort created for the Air Force by GSD&M, an agency based in Austin, Tex., that is part of the Omnicom Group.

GSD&M has been the Air Force’s agency since 2001, developing campaigns to help it attract the over 28,000 recruits it needs annually; the agency said its work had helped the Air Force meet its recruiting goals each year.

GSD&M’s recruiting strategy for the Air Force — which has always sought tech-savvy candidates — previously featured an “Airman Challenge” online video game. A separate campaign included television spots whose theme was, “It’s not science fiction.”

Col. Marcus Johnson, chief of the strategic marketing division of the Air Force Recruiting Service, said the Air Force focused on “going after the best and brightest young men and women, with an emphasis on the STEM subjects. Whether they’re in high school or college, those topics translate into what we do in the Air Force.”

He said the collaboratory program was meant to appeal to men and women ages 16 to 24, including high school students still determining their future plans.

Ryan Carroll, a creative director at GSD&M, said the Air Force was “very much like the Apples and Googles of the world in recognizing the huge need for scientists and engineers. They reach out to kids at an early age and show them the amazing things they can do with science and technology.” He pointed to initiatives like the Google Science Fair, an online, annual, global science competition for teenagers, as an example.

Similarly, the collaboratory program aims to “inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers, technologists and mathematicians, and to show them all the amazing, science-related things the Air Force does,” Mr. Carroll said. The program will also allow students to “participate and solve real problems the Air Force solves every day,” he added.

Young people will be able to learn more about the initiative’s challenges at the Web site airforce.com/collaboratory, which will act as a forum. Challenge participants will be able to use custom-built tools to share ideas and work with airmen and other experts to develop solutions.

Not surprisingly, digital media will primarily be used to promote the program. Custom editorial content is being developed for the STEM hub of Good.com, a global community of “pragmatic idealists,” while custom videos are being filmed for DNews, an online video series from Discovery Communications; the videos will feature the DNews hosts Trace Dominguez and Anthony Carboni. The technology network Technorati is asking bloggers to create custom posts on the collaboratory and related subjects, while the Air Force will pay to place videos on Web sites like YouTube, Blip and Machinima. In addition, the Air Force will promote the initiative on Facebook and Twitter.

Digital banner advertising will run on the Web sites of Scientific American, Popular Science and The Verge. One set of ads depicts an Air Force helicopter approaching a scene of destruction after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake that has trapped dozens of survivors. The copy reads, “Your idea could save them. The Air Force Collaboratory. Search and rescue 2.0 is now open. Start collaborating.”

The Air Force also is working with Discovery Education, a division of Discovery Communications, on an outreach program for high school science and math teachers.

Colonel Johnson said that although the collaboratory would run through November, new challenges could be created after that. In addition, he said the Web site would carry no overt recruiting messages, nor would the Air Force actively recruit challenge participants, since the initiative was meant to raise interest in the Air Force and possibly encourage participants to seek out more information about opportunities there.

The budget for the campaign is $3.7 million.

Diane H. Mazur, a former Air Force officer, professor emeritus of law at the University of Florida and author of “A More Perfect Military: How the Constitution Can Make Our Military Stronger,” said that although the collaboratory concept was “good, it’s not sophisticated to the degree it needs to be to attract the people they think they want to get.” She added, “This is a good direction if you do it well.”

David R. Segal, a professor of sociology at the University of Maryland who specializes in military sociology, said that while recruiting high school students to “work in military laboratories on military problems” was not new, “what seems new is having interns work online with Air Force scientists.”

“I think they will certainly recruit a good number of high school students interested in science, engineering, technology and math to work on the problems identified. That part is easy,” he said. “Recruiting the same people then to come into the Air Force as enlisted men and women might be more difficult. They are likely to want to go to college.”

As a result, he said, the collaboratory would probably be more successful recruiting Air Force Reserve Officers Training Corps students than airmen.

 

Small business contracting numbers inflated by errors and exclusions, data show

Washington Post

By J.D. Harrison, Published: July 28 | Updated: Monday, July 29, 5:00 AM

 

The federal government is required by law to try to direct nearly a quarter of all contracting dollars to small businesses, and every year since 2005, officials have reported missing the goal by the slimmest of margins.

Then again, it depends on who is counting.

A number of contractors and advocacy groups say the government has repeatedly inflated the share of contracting dollars awarded annually to small firms, masking serious problems in the procurement process that prevent small businesses from securing more government work.

In 1958, when Congress created the Small Business Administration, it tasked the agency with establishing an annual small-business contracting goal of “not less than 23 percent of the total value of all prime contract awards.”

This month, for the seventh year in a row, SBA officials reported that the government narrowly missed the goal, reporting that small firms received 22.25 percent (or $89.9 billion) of contracting dollars in fiscal year 2012 — better than 21.65 percent last year, but down from 22.7 percent in 2010.

In a blog post announcing the report, John Shoraka the agency’s associate administrator for government contracting, called the achievement “real progress” toward the goal.

However, the SBA’s calculations come with several caveats, in large part because the agency excludes certain contracts and entire agencies from its measure.

Officials do not take into consideration, for instance, any contract work for the Federal Aviation Administration, the Transportation Security Administration or the Central Intelligence Agency, nor do they account for any contracts for goods sold overseas or any work performed outside the United States.

In all, SBA officials have determined that about one-fifth of all federal contract spending is not “small-business eligible,” and so it excludes that portion from its calculations.

The portion includes spending by agencies that are not subject to certain federal acquisition regulations, and those that do not report into the Federal Procurement Data System, from which the SBA pulls its data, Skoraka said. Other exclusions have been made on the basis that those contracts do not lend themselves to competition by small firms.

Shoraka noted that the current list of exclusions was finalized during the second term of former president George W. Bush. The Obama administration elected to leave them in place in order to “compare apples to apples,” he said.

Critics argue that is not what Congress mandated.

“They are simply not following the letter of the law,” said Charles Tiefer, a professor of government contracting at the University of Baltimore Law School. “It states 23 percent of all contracts, and there is no reason to think Congress wanted some of these exclusions.”

Contracts out of reach for small businesses, he said, should be considered as part of the 77 percent of government spending available to large and international companies, rather than removed from the equation altogether. He pointed out that some of the excluded contracts, including intelligence gathering and work overseas, are areas in which government spending has surged in recent years.

The SBA’s Office of Inspector General has also urged the agency to discontinue some of its exclusions, particularly for contracts performed overseas. In an advisory memorandum from December 2011, the office cited a 2008 legal opinion issued by the SBA Office of General Counsel, which states it would be “a reasonable interpretation” of the law to assume the targets include contracts performed outside the country.

Congress has recently taken issue with the exclusions, too. In the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, lawmakers ordered the SBA administrator to review the goal guidelines to ensure that the process “does not exclude categories of contracts” based on the types of goods or services solicited or, in some cases, whether the agency is subject to federal acquisition regulations.

 

The nuances of the government’s measurements can sometimes get lost in public discussions about contracting.

In Shoraka’s blog post announcing the government’s performance, he wrote that 22.25 percent represented the small business share of “all” federal contracting dollars last year.

After On Small Business asked about the language, given the exclusions to the calculations, officials updated the blog to read 22.25 percent “of all small business eligible contracts.”

Two studies show small-biz getting 19% of contracts

To get a sense of what effect the exclusions have on the numbers reported, On Small Business asked Fedmine, the data analysis firm that conducts the contracting calculations for the SBA, to crunch the numbers based on total federal contract spending reported into the FPDS, without any exclusions.

The revised calculations show that small businesses received less than 19 percent of all prime contracting dollars in 2012. In contrast to the progress cited by the SBA, that was actually down from the year before (20 percent).

The House Small Business Committee conducted its own analysis of last year’s federal data, eliminating many of the SBA’s exclusions. The committee also found that the small-business share of total federal contracting was around 19 percent.

“The administration shouldn’t be allowed to cook the books,” Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-Mo.) said in a statement earlier this month.

Small-business advocates say the agency’s exclusions are not the only source of padding in the small-business contracting numbers. Of greater concern, they say, is the number of contracts labeled by the government as “small business” awards that actually go to large companies — a problem that has long plagued the federal government.

During his run for the presidency in 2008, then-Sen. Barack Obama emphasized small business, at one point saying that “it is time to end the diversion of federal small-business contracts to corporate giants.”

Nearly five years later, in her most recent management report, SBA Inspector General Peggy Gustafson said the agency’s top challenge is still that “procurement flaws allow large firms to obtain small-business awards and agencies to count contracts performed by large firms towards their small-business goals.”

Inspector general “audits and other governmental studies have shown widespread misreporting by procuring agencies since many contract awards that were reported as having gone to small firms have actually been performed by larger companies,” Gustafson wrote. “Most of the incorrect reporting results from errors made by government contracting personnel, including misapplication of small-business contracting rules.”

Shoraka says the agency has taken steps to stop the errant reporting. A few years ago, for example, officials began running a computerized “anomaly” process to identify red flags in the federal data system.

The program searches for conflicting reports, missing fields of information, and the names of Fortune 100 firms that were awarded small-business contracts. When potential errors are flagged, contracting agencies are asked to take a second look at their reports and fix any mistakes.

Some say the process does not appear to be working.

The American Small Business League, an advocacy group, combed through the Fedmine data following the SBA’s report earlier this month. In its analysis, the group found that more than half (57) of Fortune 100 companies or their subsidiaries won awards that were labeled in the federal data system as small-business contracts, including industry giants such as General Electric, Apple and Citigroup (the latter two declined to comment).

In one instance, General Dynamics, a defense contractor with roughly 80,000 employees based in Falls Church, received more than $230 million in small-business contracts in 2012 and roughly $2 billion in the five years prior, according to data from Fedmine.

In total, the largest 100 corporations in the country received nearly half a billion dollars in small-business contracts last year, according to ASBL.

General Dynamics spokesman Rob Doolittle directed attention to the SBA OIG report, which suggested most size-classification errors are the result of mistakes by federal contracting officials. He also noted that small firms acquired by a large company during the life of a contract are permitted to keep those contracts. However, the business is not required to ensure that the contract categorization is updated in the federal data system.

Sebastien Duchamp, a spokesman for General Electric, said the federal database sometimes erroneously shows the company as a small business, adding that the firm regularly reviews the data for errors and alerts contracting officers when necessary.

While Inspector General Gustafson suggests most of the problem stems from those types of reporting errors, some of it boils down to fraud.

In March, the chief executive of Arlington-based security contractor PSI pleaded guilty to major government fraud for allegedly operating a shell company, SAC, that shuffled more than $31 million in small-business set-asides to his much-larger company. Keith Hedman, the executive, was sentenced to six years in prison, and last month, the employee he tapped to run the front company was sentenced to four years.

One of the small-business set-aside contracts Hedman’s shell company won was for security services at Walter Reed Medical Center, edging out a competing bid by Davis-Paige Management Systems, a small service-disabled veteran-owned business in Annandale. Micheal Davis, the company’s chief executive, said his company spent around $100,000 chasing the contract and stood to gain around $11 million in revenue by winning.

When his firm lost to SAC, Davis said he was forced to let several employees go and move several others to part time.

“It takes work away from companies like ours that took the time to get the proper certifications to compete for these contracts,” Davis said in an interview, adding that the SAC case makes him wonder how many other “small” contractors are actually small.

An SBA OIG report to Congress last year documented several other examples of large firms that have been prosecuted for masquerading as small businesses to win contracts.

“It isn’t miscoding, it isn’t computer errors, it isn’t anomalies,” American Small Business League President Lloyd Chapman said. “These numbers are being inflated and misrepresented.”

 

Rules aren’t being followed

The elevated small-business contracting numbers help conceal a number of systemic problems in the federal procurement process, according to a former head of small-business contracting at the Defense Department.

“The real problems meeting these goals are tactical ones, down at the operations level, where contracts are being written and awarded,” said Daniel Gill, who headed the agency’s Office of Small Business Development under President Bill Clinton.

 

Gill, who now consults with government services firms and recently taught courses at the Defense Department’s acquisition training school for contracting officers, argued that the government does not need new regulations to meet its small-business contracting mandate. Instead, he said the goal would be “a piece of cake” if contracting officials in each agency simply adhered to existing procurement protocols.

“A lot of contracts are going to large business that should be going to small businesses, and it’s not just a matter of large businesses miscategorizing themselves,” Gill said. “It’s often that the proper set-aside determinations are not being made to reserve small contracts for small businesses.”

The most common example, he said, concerns long-standing regulations that require agencies to reserve all contracts worth between $3,000 and $150,000 for certified small businesses, unless the agency cannot identify two small businesses that can provide the product or service at a fair market price.

In the past few years, the Government Accountability Office has identified numerous instances in which federal officials either never did the market research to determine if small businesses were available to meet a contract’s requirements, or conducted the research, but failed to set aside those contracts for small businesses.

Phoenix Environmental Design, a small service-disabled veteran-owned firm in Plankinton, S.D., that provides pesticides and herbicides to the federal government, has filed more than 30 protests to the GAO in the past two years against agencies for faulty contracting practices. About half of them concerned contracts intended for small businesses that went to large corporations.

In every instance, the government has pulled back the award and solicited bids from small firms, according to the company’s owner, Chad Gill. What’s more, government documents show that the small firms that won the contacts the second time around routinely did so with a lower bid than the initial award to the large company.

“When we got them to do it right, and there is competition and accountability, it ends up costing the federal agency less money,” Gill said.

The problem, he said, is that many of the contracting officers he works with in various agencies do not understand the small-business set-aside process. He is not the only one who has made that observation.

In one of the GAO’s rulings last fall, General Counsel Lynn H. Gibson noted that the Veterans Administration, for instance, has repeatedly failed to set aside contracts reserved for small firms, later suggesting that contracting officers have demonstrated “a fundamental misunderstanding of the agency’s obligations” under contracting laws.

Charles Baker, who owns an electrical company that services the Defense Department, said his firm has suffered from similar contract classification errors. In many cases, he said, contracts that fall into the $3,000-to-$150,000 range are offered for general solicitation rather than reserved for small firms.

“The system is fundamentally broken, and it can destroy a small company like mine,” Baker, who owns MCB Lighting & Electric in Owings, Md., said. “There is no compliance with the laws, no enforcement.”

Maureen Schumann, a spokeswoman for the Defense Department, said Baker’s comment “clearly illustrates some of the frustrations felt by our industrial base” and that the agency is taking measures to “ensure that the right policies, procedures and programs are in place to increase contracting opportunities for small businesses.”

“We are constantly analyzing data and the [department] is using every available regulation to identify specific contracts that can be set aside for small businesses” Schumann said.

 

She noted that the department contracted with small businesses on 68 percent of contracts in the $3,000-to-$150,000 range last year, an increase from 2011.

 

Funding schemes in Congress could ground drones; FAA pressured over privacy

Washington Times

Ben Wolfgang

July 28, 2013

The lagging federal effort to fully integrate drones into U.S. airspace is in danger of falling even further behind schedule.

A funding bill now before the Senate essentially would stop the process in its tracks by prohibiting the Federal Aviation Administration from moving forward until it completes a detailed report on drones’ potential privacy impact.

The report, called for in the Senate’s fiscal 2014 transportation appropriations measure, would be yet another hurdle in the FAA’s already complex, time-consuming drone integration initiative.

The agency has been charged by Congress to write rules and regulations allowing drones — now used primarily by the military, law enforcement and researchers — to operate commercially in U.S. skies by September 2015, but the industry fears that deadline is likely to be missed.

Requiring the FAA, which traditionally deals only with airspace safety and has little experience in writing Fourth Amendment protections, to craft a comprehensive privacy report would all but guarantee the date will be pushed back.

Leaders in the unmanned aerial systems sector warn that such setbacks will hamper American technological innovation and carry economic consequences.

“Privacy is an important issue, and one that deserves to be considered carefully. But further restrictions on FAA integration will only set back important progress,” said Ben Gielow, government relations manager with the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), the drone sector’s leading trade group.

“If we are not able to keep the integration on track, the U.S. could lose out on creating tens of thousands of jobs and undermine the growth of a new industry at a time when we need it most,” he said.

The Senate bill doesn’t explicitly call for the FAA to stop drone integration efforts, but it would establish a de facto moratorium by cutting off funding for the process.

A section of the legislation, put forward by Sen. Patty Murray, Washington Democrat, states that “none of the funds in this act may be used to issue regulations on the integration of unmanned aerial systems into the national airspace” until the privacy report is completed and presented to the House and Senate appropriations committees.

The Senate Appropriations Committee directed questions on the bill to Ms. Murray, who is chairwoman of the panel’s subcommittee on transportation. Her office did not return emails or calls seeking comment.

The House’s transportation funding bill does not include such language, and the Senate provision could be changed or dropped entirely in the coming months.

For now, however, the bill underscores the deep fear in Congress and among the American public that widespread drone use will be a serious blow to personal privacy.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, said last month that she considers drones to be “the greatest threat to the privacy of Americans.”

Coming from Ms. Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, those words carry extra weight. She is intimately familiar with classified details of the National Security Agency’s data-collection programs and other efforts that, critics say, erode Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights.

Many other members of Congress, civil liberties groups, privacy advocates and others have said drones — increasingly small, undetectable and able to be equipped with state-of-the-art cameras and other monitoring equipment — pose real privacy threats.

AUVSI and other drone industry leaders agree that the issue must be addressed, and it’s already being tackled across the nation.

More than 30 states and a growing number of local governments have drafted regulations to govern what drones can do and what types of data they can collect.

At the federal level, however, many analysts question why Congress is placing the job in the lap of the FAA.

“The FAA should focus on ensuring the safety of our skies. Safety has always been the FAA’s mission, and we believe the agency should stick to what it does best,” Mr. Gielow said.

The FAA’s experience in writing drone privacy regulations has been limited. The agency has drafted privacy guidelines to be used at drone “test sites,” congressionally mandated locations where the craft will be put through a battery of tests in preparation for airspace integration by 2015.

While widespread, private-sector drone use still is years away, the FAA has begun to make exceptions.

On Friday, the agency issued two “restricted category type certificated” to a pair of unmanned aerial systems, the first step in allowing them to operate in U.S. airspace later this summer.

A “major energy company,” the FAA said, will be allowed to use a drone to survey ocean ice floes and migrating whales in Arctic oil exploration areas off the coast of Alaska. Unmanned systems also will be permitted to support emergency response crews for oil spill monitoring and wildlife surveillance over the Beaufort Sea.

Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/jul/28/funding-schemes-in-congress-could-ground-drones/#ixzz2aRoFzGH8

 

Two Drone Airframes Approved for Commercial Flights

http://www.nextgov.com/defense/2013/07/drones-approved-commercial-flights/67619/

By Bob Brewin

July 29, 2013

The Federal Aviation Administration has certified two small drones for commercial use, heralding the move as “one giant leap for unmanned-kind” that will lead to the first approved commercial flight of an unmanned air system off the Alaska coast later this summer.

The 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act defined Arctic operational areas and included mandates for Arctic UAS commercial operations. Until now obtaining an experimental airworthiness certificate – which specifically excludes commercial operations – was the only way the private sector could operate UAS in the nation’s airspace, the FAA said.

In an announcement Friday, the agency said it type-certified the Scan Eagle X200, manufactured by Boeing subsidiary Insitu, and the AeroVironment PUMA under a restricted category that allows aerial surveillance. The catapult-launched Scan Eagle, has a maximum weight of 44 pounds, a wingspan of just more than 10 feet and a length of 4.5 feet; it can stay in the air for 28 hours without refueling. The AeroVironment PUMA, a hand-launched drone that weighs 13 pounds, has a wingspan of just over nine feet and a fuselage of four feet.

The agency said previous military acceptance of the Scan Eagle and PUMA UAS designs allowed it to issue the restricted category type certificates. The Navy operates the Scan Eagle and the Air Force, Army, Marines and the Special Operations Command fly the PUMA.

A major energy company plans to fly the Scan Eagle off the Alaskan coast in international waters starting in August, the FAA said, without identifying the company. Plans for the initial ship-launched flights include surveys of ocean ice floes and migrating whales in Arctic oil exploration areas.

The PUMA is expected to support emergency response crews for oil spill monitoring and wildlife surveillance over the Beaufort Sea, but the agency again did not identify the operator.

The certification of the Scan Eagle and the PUMA could be the start of unbridled use of drones in the United States, according to Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, who in February predicted that by 2030, “30,000 drones will be cruising American skies – looking, observing, filming, and hovering over America.”

On Feb 4 the FAA kicked off a process to set up six test sites to conduct drone research and development toward a goal of widespread use of UAS by law enforcement agencies, universities and other organizations in domestic airspace by 2015.

 

Government Conferences Pay for Themselves, Industry Says

By Charles S. Clark

http://www.govexec.com/management/2013/07/government-conferences-pay-themselves-industry-says/67589/

July 29, 2013

Agency spending on travel to conferences is “vital to making government more efficient and effective,” says a study released this month by the U.S. Travel Association. It argues that current Obama administration guidelines and legislation to curb conference spending is counterproductive.

Government travel for meetings and events had a total economic impact of $24.4 billion in 2011, supported 343,800 U.S. jobs and $14.5 billion in U.S. wages, and contributed $5.5 billion in tax revenue, according to the data compiled by Rockport Analytics LLC.

The report put a number on the economic effect of canceling the 2013 Military Health System Conference, an annual training event for several thousand military medical personnel. Replacement expenses and lost revenue, it said, cost the government more than $800,000.

As a result of NASA’s decision to pull out of the April 2013 National Space Symposium, a gathering for representatives of 30 nations, “important international partnerships are jeopardized, important international programs are placed at risk, and the U.S. government places serious strain on relationships with countries around the world,” according to Elliot Pulham, CEO of the private National Space Foundation.

 

The study also found that government meetings are more efficient than private-sector meetings in terms of expenses, and that private-sector conferences are more productive when government employees participate. A survey found that 89 percent of government supervisors believe that government meetings and events benefit citizens, and 85 percent of government respondents agreed that meetings and events added value to employee development and training.

“We hope these new findings will encourage congressional leaders to reevaluate proposals to drastically cut government travel budgets across the country,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the travel association. “When conducted responsibly, federal workers who travel for conferences and meetings deliver important services and real value to our nation.”

 

 

Drones Approved for Commercial Flights

By Bob Brewin

http://www.nextgov.com/defense/2013/07/drones-approved-commercial-flights/67619/

July 29, 2013

The Federal Aviation Administration has certified two small drones for commercial use, heralding the move as “one giant leap for unmanned-kind” that will lead to the first approved commercial flight of an unmanned air system off the Alaska coast later this summer.

The 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act defined Arctic operational areas and included mandates for Arctic UAS commercial operations. Until now obtaining an experimental airworthiness certificate – which specifically excludes commercial operations – was the only way the private sector could operate UAS in the nation’s airspace, the FAA said.

In an announcement Friday, the agency said it type-certified the Scan Eagle X200, manufactured by Boeing subsidiary Insitu, and the AeroVironment PUMA under a restricted category that allows aerial surveillance. The catapult-launched Scan Eagle, has a maximum weight of 44 pounds, a wingspan of just more than 10 feet and a length of 4.5 feet; it can stay in the air for 28 hours without refueling. The AeroVironment PUMA, a hand-launched drone that weighs 13 pounds, has a wingspan of just over nine feet and a fuselage of four feet.

The agency said previous military acceptance of the Scan Eagle and PUMA UAS designs allowed it to issue the restricted category type certificates. The Navy operates the Scan Eagle and the Air Force, Army, Marines and the Special Operations Command fly the PUMA.

A major energy company plans to fly the Scan Eagle off the Alaskan coast in international waters starting in August, the FAA said, without identifying the company. Plans for the initial ship-launched flights include surveys of ocean ice floes and migrating whales in Arctic oil exploration areas.

The PUMA is expected to support emergency response crews for oil spill monitoring and wildlife surveillance over the Beaufort Sea, but the agency again did not identify the operator.

The certification of the Scan Eagle and the PUMA could be the start of unbridled use of drones in the United States, according to Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, who in February predicted that by 2030, “30,000 drones will be cruising American skies – looking, observing, filming, and hovering over America.”

On Feb 4 the FAA kicked off a process to set up six test sites to conduct drone research and development toward a goal of widespread use of UAS by law enforcement agencies, universities and other organizations in domestic airspace by 2015.

 

 

 

The Data Economy Is Much, Much Bigger Than You (and the Government) Think

The Atlantic

July 25, 2013

By Michael Mandel


http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/07/the-data-economy-is-much-much-bigger-than-you-and-the-government-think/278113/\

 

It’s become conventional wisdom among pundits that the tech and data boom is generating lots of wealth, but not much in the way of jobs or economic growth. The skeptics point to lack of job gains in the “information” sector, as defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and to the country’s sub-2 percent GDP growth figures.

But as the U.S. shifts to a data-driven economy, the benefits of fixed and mobile broadband are showing up in ways that are not counted by traditional statistics. For just one example, take the number of jobs generated by the development and deployment of mobile apps. According to a new calculation by the Progressive Policy Institute, employment in the App Economy now comes to 752,000 jobs, up roughly 40% over the past year. This is a conservative estimate, based on tracking online help-wanted ads.

Auto companies are hiring software developers and testers to turn their vehicles into highly connected data platforms. Drugstores are going online to let their customers know when prescriptions are ready. Hospitals are ramping up their employment of clinical data managers to help handle the shift to electronic health records. Bed and breakfasts have shifted their entire booking operations online, driven by digital ads.

More broadly, demand for tech workers in the New York City region outstrips every other metro area, including San Francisco and San Jose, according to figures from The Conference Board. That reflects demand in finance, advertising, and media.

The data-driven economy is built on several pillars: Broadband providers, mobile phone operators, and other communications companies are investing almost $100 billion annually to vastly improve their networks. Makers of smartphones, routers, sensors, wireless medical gear, and the like are upgrading and extending the capabilities of their equipment. Meanwhile new applications and uses are coming out of app developers, online game and entertainment companies, web companies like Facebook and Google, content providers, electronic health record providers, and “Internet of Everything” companies that connect the physical world with the data world. Tableau Software, a Seattle-based data visualization company that just went public, increased its full-time employees from 188 to 749 from the end of 2010 to the end of 2012.

What’s more, data is also the fastest-growing component of trade. Consider the United States and Europe: telecom providers have doubled transatlantic cable capacity over the past five years, according to figures from Telegeography. Meanwhile imports and exports of goods and services between the U.S. and Europe are barely above pre-recession peaks.

These flows of data do not show up in the monthly trade report released by the Census Bureau and the BEA. Indeed, most of the growth of data domestically is not counted in the economic statistics either. For example, fixed broadband traffic in North America rose by 39% in the first half of 2013 over a year earlier, according to Sandvine, a Canadian-based network management company. This number does not show up in any official measures.

 

Will all this growth continue? People still remember the tech bust of the early 2000s, when the unemployment rate in Silicon Valley surged to over 9 percent. This time, though, the surge in data-related jobs is not likely to stop soon. A 2010 policy brief from the Progressive Policy Institute showed that the jobs and industries that grow during a recession are the ones that lead the expansion, and that’s exactly what is happening here.

Before the financial crisis, the housing and debt boom made the U.S. economy look better than it really was, especially housing construction is very visible and easy to measure. By contrast, we may be in the opposite situation now. Data is intangible and difficult to count, so the benefits of the tech and data boom may be underestimated.

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/07/the-data-economy-is-much-much-bigger-than-you-and-the-government-think/278113/\

 

 

Is Sugar Really Toxic? Sifting through the Evidence

Scientific American

By Ferris Jabr | July 15, 2013

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/brainwaves/2013/07/15/is-sugar-really-toxic-sifting-through-the-evidence/

 

Our very first experience of exceptional sweetness—a dollop of buttercream frosting on a parent’s finger; a spoonful of strawberry ice cream instead of the usual puréed carrots—is a gustatory revelation that generally slips into the lacuna of early childhood. Sometimes, however, the moment of original sweetness is preserved. A YouTube video from February 2011 begins with baby Olivia staring at the camera, her face fixed in rapture and a trickle of vanilla ice cream on her cheek. When her brother Daniel brings the ice cream cone near her once more, she flaps her arms and arches her whole body to reach it.

Considering that our cells depend on sugar for energy, it makes sense that we evolved an innate love for sweetness. How much sugar we consume, however—as well as how it enters the body and where we get it from in the first place—has changed dramatically over time. Before agriculture, our ancestors presumably did not have much control over the sugars in their diet, which must have come from whatever plants and animals were available in a given place and season. Around 6,000 BC, people in New Guinea began to grow sugarcane, chewing and sucking on the stalks to drink the sweet juice within. Sugarcane cultivation spread to India, where by 500 BC people had learned to turn bowls of the tropical grass’s juice into crude crystals. From there sugar traveled with migrants and monks to China, Persia, northern Africa and eventually to Europe in the 11th century.

For more than 400 years, sugar remained a luxury in Europe—an exotic spice—until manufacturing became efficient enough to make “white gold” much more affordable. Christopher Columbus brought sugarcane to the New World in 1493 and in the 16th and 17th centuries European powers established sugarcane plantations in the West Indies and South America. Sugar consumption in England increased by 1,500 percent between the 18th and 19th centuries. By the mid 19th century, Europeans and Americans had come to regard refined sugar as a necessity. Today, we add sugar in one form or another to the majority of processed foods we eat—everything from bread, cereals, crunchy snacks and desserts to soft drinks, juices, salad dressings and sauces—and we are not too stingy about using it to sweeten many raw and whole foods as well.

 

By consuming so much sugar we are not just demonstrating weak willpower and indulging our sweet tooth—we are in fact poisoning ourselves according to a group of doctors, nutritionists and biologists, one of the most prominent members of which is Robert Lustig of the University of California, San Francisco, famous for his viral YouTube video “Sugar: The Bitter Truth.” A few journalists, such as Gary Taubes and Mark Bittman, have reached similar conclusions. Sugar, they argue, poses far greater dangers than cavities and love handles; it is a toxin that harms our organs and disrupts the body’s usual hormonal cycles. Excessive consumption of sugar, they say, is one of the primary causes of the obesity epidemic and metabolic disorders like diabetes, as well as a culprit of cardiovascular disease. More than one-third of American adults and approximately 12.5 million children and adolescents in the U.S. are obese. In 1980, 5.6 million Americans were diagnosed with diabetes; in 2011 more than 20 million Americans had the illness.

The argument that sugar is a toxin depends on some technical details about the different ways the human body gets energy from different types of sugar. Today, Americans eat most of their sugar in two main forms: table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. A molecule of table sugar, or sucrose, is a bond between one glucose molecule and one fructose molecule—two simple sugars with the same chemical formula, but slightly different atomic structures. In the 1960s, new technology allowed the U.S. corn industry to cheaply convert corn-derived glucose intro fructose and produce high fructose corn syrup, which—despite its name—is almost equal parts free-floating fructose and glucose: 55 percent fructose, 42 percent glucose and three percent other sugars. Because fructose is about twice as sweet as glucose, an inexpensive syrup mixing the two was an appealing alternative to sucrose from sugarcane and beets.

Regardless of where the sugar we eat comes from, our cells are interested in dealing with fructose and glucose, not the bulkier sucrose. Enzymes in the intestine split sucrose into fructose and glucose within seconds, so as far as the human body is concerned sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup are equivalent. The same is not true for their constituent molecules. Glucose travels through the bloodstream to all of our tissues, because every cell readily converts glucose into energy. In contrast, liver cells are one of the few types of cells that can convert fructose to energy, which puts the onus of metabolizing fructose almost entirely on one organ. The liver accomplishes this primarily by turning fructose into glucose and lactate. Eating exceptionally large amounts of fructose taxes the liver: it spends so much energy turning fructose into other molecules that it may not have much energy left for all its other functions. A consequence of this energy depletion is production of uric acid, which research has linked to gout, kidney stones and high blood pressure.

The human body strictly regulates the amount of glucose in the blood. Glucose stimulates the pancreas to secrete the hormone insulin, which helps remove excess glucose from blood, and bolsters production of the hormone leptin, which suppresses hunger. Fructose does not trigger insulin production and appears to raise levels of the hormone grehlin, which keeps us hungry. Some researchers have suggested that large amounts of fructose encourage people to eat more than they need. In studies with animals and people by Kimber Stanhope of the University of California Davis and other researchers, excess fructose consumption has increased fat production, especially in the liver, and raised levels of circulating triglycerides, which are a risk factor for clogged arteries and cardiovascular disease. Some research has linked a fatty liver to insulin resistance—a condition in which cells become far less responsive to insulin than usual, exhausting the pancreas until it loses the ability to properly regulate blood glucose levels. Richard Johnson of the University of Colorado Denver has proposed that uric acid produced by fructose metabolism also promotes insulin resistance. In turn insulin resistance is thought to be a major contributor to obesity and Type 2 diabetes; the three disorders often occur together.

Because fructose metabolism seems to kick off a chain reaction of potentially harmful chemical changes inside the body, Lustig, Taubes and others have singled out fructose as the rotten apple of the sugar family. When they talk about sugar as a toxin, they mean fructose specifically. In the last few years, however, prominent biochemists and nutrition experts have challenged the idea that fructose is a threat to our health and have argued that replacing fructose with glucose or other sugars would solve nothing. First, as fructose expert John White points out, fructose consumption has been declining for more than a decade, but rates of obesity continued to rise during the same period. Of course, coinciding trends alone do not definitively demonstrate anything. A more compelling criticism is that concern about fructose is based primarily on studies in which rodents and people consumed huge amounts of the molecule—up to 300 grams of fructose each day, which is nearly equivalent to the total sugar in eight cans of Coke—or a diet in which the vast majority of sugars were pure fructose. The reality is that most people consume far less fructose than used in such studies and rarely eat fructose without glucose.

On average, people in America and Europe eat between 100 and 150 grams of sugar each day, about half of which is fructose. It’s difficult to find a regional diet or individual food that contains only glucose or only fructose. Virtually all plants have glucose, fructose and sucrose—not just one or another of these sugars. Although some fruits, such as apples and pears, have three times as much fructose as glucose, most of the fruits and veggies we eat are more balanced. Pineapples, blueberries, peaches, carrots, corn and cabbage, for example, all have about a 1:1 ratio of the two sugars. In his New York Times Magazine article, Taubes claims that “fructose…is what distinguishes sugar from other carbohydrate-rich foods like bread or potatoes that break down upon digestion to glucose alone.” This is not really true. Although potatoes and white bread are full of starch—long chains of glucose molecules—they also have fructose and sucrose. Similarly, Lustig has claimed that the Japanese diet promotes weight loss because it is fructose-free, but the Japanese consume plenty of sugar—about 83 grams a day on average—including fructose in fruit, sweetened beverages and the country’s many meticulously crafted confectioneries. High-fructose corn syrup was developed and patented in part by Japanese researcher Yoshiyuki Takasaki in the 1960s and ’70s.

Not only do many worrying fructose studies use unrealistic doses of the sugar unaccompanied by glucose, it also turns out that the rodents researchers have studied metabolize fructose in a very different way than people do—far more different than originally anticipated. Studies that have traced fructose’s fantastic voyage through the human body suggest that the liver converts as much as 50 percent of fructose into glucose, around 30 percent of fructose into lactate and less than one percent into fats. In contrast, mice and rats turn more than 50 percent of fructose into fats, so experiments with these animals would exaggerate the significance of fructose’s proposed detriments for humans, especially clogged arteries, fatty livers and insulin resistance.

In a series of meta-analyses examining dozens of human studies, John Sievenpiper of St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto and his colleagues found no harmful effects of typical fructose consumption on body weight, blood pressure or uric acid production. In a 2011 study, Sam Sun—a nutrition scientist at Archer Daniels Midland, a major food processing corporation—and his colleagues analyzed data about sugar consumption collected from more than 25,000 Americans between 1999 and 2006. Their analysis confirmed that people almost never eat fructose by itself and that for more than 97 percent of people fructose contributes less daily energy than other sugars. They did not find any positive associations between fructose consumption and levels of trigylcerides, cholesterol or uric acid, nor any significant link to waist circumference or body mass index (BMI). And in a recent BMC Biology Q&A, renowned sugar expert Luc Tappy of the University of Lausanne writes: “Given the substantial consumption of fructose in our diet, mainly from sweetened beverages, sweet snacks, and cereal products with added sugar, and the fact that fructose is an entirely dispensable nutrient, it appears sound to limit consumption of sugar as part of any weight loss program and in individuals at high risk of developing metabolic diseases. There is no evidence, however, that fructose is the sole, or even the main factor in the development of these diseases, nor that it is deleterious to everybody.”

To properly understand fructose metabolism, we must also consider in what form we consume the sugar, as explained in a recent paper by David Ludwig, Director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center of Boston Children’s Hospital and a professor at Harvard. Drinking a soda or binging on ice cream floods our intestines and liver with large amounts of loose fructose. In contrast, the fructose in an apple does not reach the liver all at once. All the fiber in the fruit—such as cellulose that only our gut bacteria can break down—considerably slows digestion. Our enzymes must first tear apart the apple’s cells to reach the sugars sequestered within. “It’s not just about the fiber in food, but also its very structure,” Ludwig says. “You could add Metamucil to Coca Cola and not get any benefit.” In a small but intriguing study, 17 adults in South Africa ate primarily fruit—about 20 servings with approximately 200 grams of total fructose each day—for 24 weeks and did not gain weight, develop high blood pressure or imbalance their insulin and lipid levels.

To strengthen his argument, Ludwig turns to the glycemic index, a measure of how quickly food raises levels of glucose in the blood. Pure glucose and starchy foods such as Taubes’s example of the potato have a high glycemix index; fructose has a very low one. If fructose is uniquely responsible for obesity and diabetes and glucose is benign, then high glycemic index diets should not be associated with metabolic disorders—yet they are. A small percentage of the world population may in fact consume so much fructose that they endanger their health because of the difficulties the body encounters in converting the molecule to energy. But the available evidence to date suggests that, for most people, typical amounts of dietary fructose are not toxic.

Even if Lustig is wrong to call fructose poisonous and saddle it with all the blame for obesity and diabetes, his most fundamental directive is sound: eat less sugar. Why? Because super sugary, energy-dense foods with little nutritional value are one of the main ways we consume more calories than we need, albeit not the only way. It might be hard to swallow, but the fact is that many of our favorite desserts, snacks, cereals and especially our beloved sweet beverages inundate the body with far more sugar than it can efficiently metabolize. Milkshakes, smoothies, sodas, energy drinks and even unsweetened fruit juices all contain large amounts of free-floating sugars instantly absorbed by our digestive system.

Avoiding sugar is not a panacea, though. A healthy diet is about so much more than refusing that second sugar cube and keeping the cookies out of reach or hidden in the cupboard. What about all the excess fat in our diet, so much of which is paired with sugar and contributes to heart disease? What about bad cholesterol and salt? “If someone is gaining weight, they should look to sugars as a place to cut back,” says Sievenpiper, “but there’s a misguided belief that if we just go after sugars we will fix obesity—obesity is more complex than that. Clinically, there are some people who come in drinking way too much soda and sweet beverages, but most people are just overconsuming in general.” Then there’s all the stuff we really should eat more of: whole grains; fruits and veggies; fish; lean protein. But wait, we can’t stop there: a balanced diet is only one component of a healthy lifestyle. We need to exercise too—to get our hearts pumping, strengthen our muscles and bones and maintain flexibility. Exercising, favoring whole foods over processed ones and eating less overall sounds too obvious, too simplistic, but it is actually a far more nuanced approach to good health than vilifying a single molecule in our diet—an approach that fits the data. Americans have continued to consume more and more total calories each year—average daily intake increased by 530 calories between 1970 and 2000—while simultaneously becoming less and less physically active. Here’s the true bitter truth: Yes, most of us should make an effort to eat less sugar—but if we are really committed to staying healthy, we’ll have to do a lot more than that.

 

 

US Appeals Court Upholds Warrantless Collection of Phone Location Data

The court has ruled that cell site information is business data collected by the service provider

http://www.cio.com/article/737301/US_Appeals_Court_Upholds_Warrantless_Collection_of_Phone_Location_Data

By John Ribeiro

Wed, July 31, 2013

IDG News Service (Bangalore Bureau) — Warrants are not required by the U.S. government to access historical cell site information, an appeals court ruled in an order.

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects only reasonable expectations of privacy, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit wrote in a 2-1 ruling on Tuesday. The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures.

“Because a cell phone user makes a choice to get a phone, to select a particular service provider, and to make a call, and because he knows that the call conveys cell site information, the provider retains this information, and the provider will turn it over to the police if they have a court order, he voluntarily conveys his cell site data each time he makes a call,” the court added.

Cell site information is clearly a business record, collected by the service provider for its own business purposes, and without being asked to so by the government, the court said in the order.

The dispute hinged around whether law enforcement agents can access cell site data with a relatively easy-to-obtain order under section 2703 (d) of the Stored Communications Act, which is based on a showing of “specific and articulable facts,” instead of using a search warrant after showing probable cause.

Rights groups American Civil Liberties Union and Electronic Frontier Foundation and others have argued that the government should be required to seek a warrant to access the location information, because it is sensitive and can reveal a great deal about a person. The groups argued in court that SCA grants courts the discretion to require the government to obtain a warrant based upon probable cause before accessing historical cell phone location data.

Ruling that compelled warrantless disclosure of cell site data violates the Fourth Amendment, a magistrate judge earlier denied a government request for the historical cell site data in three applications filed in October, 2010 under the SCA for seeking evidence relevant to three separate criminal investigations. The judge, however, allowed for providing subscriber information.

Following an appeal by the government, a district court held that data “disclosing the location of the telephone at the time of particular calls may be acquired only by a warrant issued on probable cause,” as the records would show the date, time called, number, and location of the telephone when the call was made, which is constitutionally protected.

The Fifth Circuit court clarified that its ruling only covered section 2703(d) orders to obtain historical cell site information, and did not address, for example, orders requesting data from all phones that use a tower during a particular interval or “situations where the Government surreptitiously installs spyware on a target’s phone or otherwise hijacks the phone’s GPS, with or without the service provider’s help.”

The Supreme Court of New Jersey ruled earlier this month that cellphone users have a reasonable expectation of privacy of their cellphone location information, and police are required to get a search warrant before accessing the information. People are not promoting the release of personal information to others when making disclosures to phone companies, the court said in an unanimous ruling.

 

 

Bradley Manning-WikiLeaks case turns to sentencing

San Francisco Chronicle

By DAVID DISHNEAU, Associated Press

Updated 6:40 am, Wednesday, July 31, 2013

FORT MEADE, Md. (AP) — Acquitted of the most serious charge against him, Army Pfc. Bradley Manning still faces up to 136 years in prison for leaking government secrets to the website WikiLeaks, and his fate rests with a judge who will begin hearing arguments Wednesday in the sentencing phase of the soldier’s court-martial.

The former intelligence analyst was convicted of 20 of 22 charges for sending hundreds of thousands of government and diplomatic secrets to WikiLeaks, but he was found not guilty of aiding the enemy, which alone could have meant life in prison without parole.

“We’re not celebrating,” defense attorney David Coombs said. “Ultimately, his sentence is all that really matters.”

Military prosecutors said they would call as many as 20 witnesses for the sentencing phase. The government said as many as half of the prosecution witnesses would testify about classified matters in closed court. They include experts on counterintelligence, strategic planning and terrorism.

The judge prohibited both sides from presenting evidence during trial about any actual damage the leaks caused to national security and troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, but lawyers will be allowed to bring that up at sentencing.

The release of diplomatic cables, warzone logs and videos embarrassed the U.S. and its allies. U.S. officials warned of dire consequences in the days immediately after the first disclosures in July 2010, but a Pentagon review later suggested those fears might have been overblown.

The judge also restricted evidence about Manning’s motives. Manning testified during a pre-trial hearing he leaked the material to expose U.S military “bloodlust” and diplomatic deceitfulness, but did not believe his actions would harm the country. He didn’t testify during the trial, but he could take the stand during the sentencing phase.

Lisa Windsor, a retired Army colonel and former judge advocate, said the punishment phase would focus on Manning’s motive and the harm that was done by the leak.

“You’re balancing that to determine what would be an appropriate sentence. I think it’s likely that he’s going to be in jail for a very long time,” said Windsor, now in private practice in Washington.

The judge, Army Col. Denise Lind, deliberated three days before reaching her verdict in a case involving the largest leak of documents in U.S. history. The case drew worldwide attention as supporters hailed Manning as a whistleblower and the U.S. government called him an anarchist computer hacker and attention-seeking traitor.

The verdict denied the government a precedent that freedom of press advocates had warned could have broad implications for leak cases and investigative journalism about national security issues.

Whistleblower advocates and legal experts had mixed opinions on the implications for the future of leak cases in the Internet age.

The advocacy group Reporters Without Borders said the verdict was a chilling warning to whistleblowers, “against whom the Obama administration has been waging an unprecedented offensive,” and threatens the future of investigative journalism because intimidated sources might fall quiet.

However, another advocate of less government secrecy, Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists, questioned whether the implications will be so dire, given the extraordinary nature of the Manning case.

“This was a massive hemorrhage of government records, and it’s not too surprising that it elicited a strong reaction from the government,” Aftergood said.

“Most journalists are not in the business of publishing classified documents, they’re in the business of reporting the news, which is not the same thing,” he said. “This is not good news for journalism, but it’s not the end of the world, either.”

Glenn Greenwald, the journalist, commentator and former civil rights lawyer who first reported Edward Snowden’s leaks of National Security Agency surveillance programs, said Manning’s acquittal on the charge of aiding the enemy represented a “tiny sliver of justice.”

But WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, whose website exposed Manning’s spilled U.S. secrets to the world, saw nothing to cheer in the mixed verdict.

“It is a dangerous precedent and an example of national security extremism,” he told reporters at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, which is sheltering him. “This has never been a fair trial.”

Federal authorities are looking into whether Assange can be prosecuted. He has been holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden on sex-crimes allegations.

The material WikiLeaks began publishing in 2010 documented complaints of abuses against Iraqi detainees, a U.S. tally of civilian deaths in Iraq, and America’s weak support for the government of Tunisia — a disclosure Manning supporters said helped trigger the Middle Eastern pro-democracy uprisings known as the Arab Spring.

To prove aiding the enemy, prosecutors had to show Manning had “actual knowledge” the material he leaked would be seen by al-Qaida and that he had “general evil intent.” They presented evidence the material fell into the hands of the terrorist group and its former leader, Osama bin Laden, but struggled to prove their assertion that Manning was an anarchist computer hacker and attention-seeking traitor.

 

 

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel

Statement on Strategic Choices and Management Review

WEDNESDAY, JULY 31, 2013

Good afternoon.

Earlier today, I briefed key congressional committee leaders on the findings of DoD’s Strategic Choices and Management Review. This afternoon, I want to discuss these findings and clarify the major options and difficult choices ahead.

I directed the Strategic Choices and Management Review four months ago to help ensure the Department of Defense is prepared in the face of unprecedented budget uncertainty. Although DoD strongly supports the President’s fiscal year 2014 request and long-term budget plan for the entire federal government, the deep and abrupt spending cuts under sequestration that began on March 1st this year are the law of the land. Sequestration will continue in the absence of an agreement that replaces the Budget Control Act.

The purpose of the Strategic Choices and Management Review – which was led by Deputy Secretary Ash Carter with the full participation of General Dempsey, Admiral Winnefeld, the Service Secretaries and Service Chiefs – was to understand the impact of further budget reductions on the Department, and develop options to deal with these additional cuts. It had three specific objectives:

• Help DoD prepare for how to deal with sequestration if it continues in FY 2014;

• Inform the fiscal guidance given to the military services for their FY 2015

through 2019 budget plans;

• Anchor the upcoming Quadrennial Defense Review,

which will assess our defense strategy in light of new fiscal realities and the many threats, complexities and uncertainties of this new century.

 

The Strategic Choices and Management Review did not produce a detailed budget blueprint. That was not the purpose of this review. It generated a menu of options, not a set of decisions, built around three potential budget scenarios:

• The President’s FY 2014 budget, which incorporates a carefully calibrated and largely back-loaded $150 billion reduction in defense spending over the next ten years;

• The Budget Control Act’s sequester-level caps, which would cut another $52 billion from defense in fiscal year 2014, with $500 billion in reductions for the DoD over the next ten years;

• An “in-between” scenario that would reduce defense spending by about $250 billion over the next ten years, but would be largely back-loaded.

It is important to remember that all these cuts are in addition to the $487 billion reduction in defense spending over the next decade required by the initial caps in the Budget Control Act of 2011 which DoD has been implementing. If sequester-level cuts persist, DoD would experience nearly a trillion dollars in defense spending reductions over the next ten years.

To help DoD balance strategic ends, ways and means under these budget scenarios, the Strategic Choices and Management Review scrutinized every aspect of DoD’s budget, including: contingency planning, business practices, force structure, pay and benefits, acquisition practices, and modernization portfolios. Everything was on the table.

As I discussed last week at the VFW Convention in Louisville, four principles helped guide this review:

• Prioritizing DoD’s missions and capabilities around our core responsibility of defending our country;

• Maximizing the military’s combat power by looking to reduce every other category of spending first;

• Preserving and strengthening military readiness, and;

• Honoring the service and sacrifice of DoD’s people.

Those principles, and a rigorous review process, resulted in packages of options that included management efficiencies and overhead reductions, compensation reforms, and changes to force structure and modernization plans.

Allow me to share with you some of the options the review identified in each area I just mentioned.

 

MANAGEMENT EFFICIENCIES AND OVERHEAD REDUCTIONS

A tenet of the review was that we need to maximize savings from reducing DoD’s overhead, administrative costs, and other institutional expenses.

For several years, DoD has been paring back overhead. About $150 billion in five-year efficiency reductions were proposed by Secretary Gates, an additional $60 billion in savings were identified by Secretary Panetta, and I submitted a $34 billion savings package in our latest budget. DoD is continuing to implement these efficiency campaigns. Despite much progress, as well as good efforts and intentions, not every proposal has generated the savings we expected, or gained the support of Congress – most notably, our request for a base realignment and closure

round. The review showed that DoD will have to do more in this area, even though it is getting more difficult to find these cuts and it can take years for significant savings to be realized. After considering the results of the review, I determined that it is possible and prudent to begin implementing a new package of efficiency reforms now – ones that should be pursued regardless of fiscal circumstances.

Some of these management efficiencies and overhead reductions include:

• Reducing the department’s major headquarters budgets by 20 percent, beginning with the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, Service Headquarters and Secretariats,

Combatant Commands, and defense agencies and field activities. Although the 20 percent cut applies to budget dollars, organizations will strive for a goal of 20 percent reductions in government civilians and military personnel billets on headquarters staffs;

• Reducing the number of direct reports to the Secretary of Defense by further consolidating functions within OSD, as well as eliminating positions, and;

• Reducing intelligence analysis and production at Combatant Command intelligence and operations centers, which will also foster closer integration and reduce duplication across the defense enterprise.

These management reforms, consolidations, personnel cuts, and spending reductions will reduce the department’s overheard and operating costs by some $10 billion over the next five years and almost $40 billion over the next decade. They will make the Department more agile and versatile.

Past efficiency campaigns have shown that implementation can be very challenging, so effective follow-through is critical if savings targets are to be realized. This is especially true of OSD reductions. I have asked Deputy Secretary Carter to identify someone from outside DoD who is deeply knowledgeable about the defense enterprise and eminently qualified to direct implementation of the OSD reductions and report to the Deputy Secretary.

In addition to the measures I’ve described, the review identified additional consolidations and mission reductions that could be required if sequester-level caps are imposed over the long- term. These measures include consolidations of regional combatant commands, defense agency mission cuts, and further IT consolidation.

These changes would be far-reaching and require further analysis and consideration. Though defense bureaucracies are often derided, the fact is that these offices perform functions needed to manage, administer, and support a military of our size, complexity and global reach.

Even over the course of a decade, the cumulative savings of the most aggressive efficiency options identified by the review are $60 billion. That is a very small fraction of what is needed under sequester-level cuts. We will have to look elsewhere for savings.

 

COMPENSATION

The review confirmed that no serious attempt to achieve significant savings can avoid compensation costs, which consume roughly half of the DoD budget. If left unchecked, pay and benefits will continue to eat into readiness and modernization. That could result in a far less capable force that is well-compensated but poorly trained and poorly equipped.

Any discussion of compensation should acknowledge the following:

• No one in uniform is “overpaid” for what they do for this country;

• People are DoD’s most important asset – and we must sustain compensation

packages that recruit and retain the finest military in the world;

• The significant military pay and benefit increases over the last decade reflected

the need to sustain a force under considerable stress – especially the Army and

Marines – during the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns;

• One post-9/11 war is over, and the second – our nation’s longest war– is coming

to an end;

• Overall personnel costs have risen dramatically – some 40 percent above inflation

since 2001.

 

The Department cannot afford to sustain this growth. Reflecting these realities, the President’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget included a package of modest compensation-related reforms that have the strong support of our uniformed leadership. Congress has signaled its opposition to some of these proposals, including modest increases in TRICARE fees for working age retirees. But given our current fiscal situation, DoD has no choice but to consider compensation changes of greater magnitude for military and civilian personnel.

The review developed compensation savings options that we believe would continue to allow the military to recruit and retain the high quality personnel we need. If we were to pursue these options, we would need Congress’ partnership to implement many of them. Examples include:

• Changing military health care for retirees to increase use of private-sector insurance when available;

• Changing how the basic allowance for housing is calculated so that individuals are asked to pay a little more of their housing costs;

• Reducing the overseas cost of living adjustment;

• Continuing to limit military and civilian pay raises.

Many will object to these ideas – and I want to be clear that we are not announcing any compensation changes today. Instead, I’ve asked Chairman Dempsey to lead an effort with the Service Chiefs and Senior Enlisted Advisors to develop a package of compensation proposals that meets savings targets identified in the review – almost $50 billion over the next decade – and still enable us to recruit and retain a high-quality force. We would begin implementing this package in the FY 2015 budget. Senior OSD staff will lead a similar review for civilian pay and benefits.

The review also identified more sweeping changes to meet sequester-level targets – such as eliminating civilian pensions for retired military personnel serving in civilian government service, ending subsidies for defense commissaries, and restricting the availability of unemployment benefits. This package would yield savings of almost $100 billion over the next decade, but would have a significant impact on our service members and our workforce. But a sequester-level scenario would compel us to consider these changes because there would be no realistic alternative that did not pose unacceptable risk to national security.

 

STRATEGIC CHOICES – FORCE STRUCTURE AND MODERNIZATION

The efficiencies and compensation reforms identified in the review – even the most aggressive changes – still leave DoD some $350 to $400 billion short of the $500 billion in cuts required by sequestration over the next ten years. The review had to take a hard look at changes to our force structure and modernization plans.

The President’s Defense Strategic Guidance anchored this effort. The goal was to find savings that best preserved the tenets of the President’s strategy, such as strategic deterrence, homeland defense, and the rebalance to the Asia-Pacific. The review concluded we should not take reductions proportionally across the military services. Instead, the options we examined were informed by strategy, and they will guide the services as they build two sets of budgets for FY 2015 through 2019 – one at the President’s budget level and one at sequester-level caps.

While we want to preserve flexibility for each military service to develop the best force possible given reduced resources, the review identified areas where we have excess capacity to meet current and anticipated future needs. In particular, the analysis concluded that we can strategically reduce the size of our ground and tactical air forces – even beyond the current draw down.

I have not made any program or force structure decisions, and more analysis will be required before these decisions are made. But with the end of the war in Iraq, the drawdown in Afghanistan, and a changing requirement to conduct protracted, large-scale counterinsurgency operations, it makes sense to take another look at the Army’s force structure – which is currently planned to reach 490,000 in the active component and 555,000 in the reserves.

One option the review examined found that we could still execute the priority missions determined by our defense strategy while reducing Army end-strength to between 420,000 and 450,000 in the active component and between 490,000 and 530,000 in the Army reserves. Similarly, the Air Force could reduce tactical aircraft squadrons – potentially as many as five – and cut the size of the C-130 fleet with minimal risk.

In the months ahead I will work closely with Chairman Dempsey and each of the Service Chiefs to reach agreement on the proper size of our armed forces, taking into account real-world needs and requirements.

A modest reduction in force structure, when combined with management efficiencies and compensation reforms, would enable us to meet the $150 billion in savings required by the

President’s budget proposal while still defending the country and fulfilling our global responsibilities. We can sustain our current defense strategy under the President’s budget request.

Significant reductions beyond the President’s plan would require many more dramatic cuts to force structure. The review showed that the “in-between” budget scenario we evaluated would “bend” our defense strategy in important ways, and sequester-level cuts would “break” some parts of the strategy no matter how the cuts were made. Under sequester-level cuts, our military options and flexibility will be severely constrained.

Given that reality, the review examined two strategic approaches to reducing force structure and modernization that will inform planning for sequester-level cuts. The basic trade- off is between capacity – measured in the number of Army brigades, Navy ships, Air Force squadrons and Marine battalions – and capability – our ability to modernize weapons systems to maintain our military’s technological edge.

In the first approach, we would trade away size for high-end capability. This would further shrink the active Army to between 380,000 and 450,000 troops, reduce the number of carrier strike groups from 11 to eight or nine, draw down the Marine Corps from 182,000 to between 150,000 and 175,000, and retire older Air Force bombers. We would protect investments to counter anti-access and area-denial threats, such as the long range strike family of systems, submarine cruise-missile upgrades, and the Joint Strike Fighter. And we would continue to make cyber capabilities and special operations forces a high priority.

This strategic choice would result in a force that would be technologically dominant, but would be much smaller and able to go fewer places and do fewer things, especially if crises occurred at the same time in different regions of the world.

The second approach would trade away high-end capability for size. We would look to sustain our capacity for regional power projection and presence by making more limited cuts to ground forces, ships and aircraft. But we would cancel or curtail many modernization programs, slow the growth of cyber enhancements, and reduce special operations forces.

Cuts on this scale would, in effect, be a decade-long modernization holiday. The military could find its equipment and weapons systems – many of which are already near the end of their service lives – less effective against more technologically advanced adversaries. We also have to consider how massive cuts to procurement, and research and development funding would impact the viability of America’s private sector industrial base.

These two approaches illustrate the difficult trade-offs and strategic choices that would face the department in a scenario where sequester-level cuts continue. Going forward, in the months ahead, DoD – and ultimately the President – will decide on a strategic course that best preserves our ability to defend our national security interests under this very daunting budget scenario.

The balance we strike between capability, capacity and readiness will determine the composition and size of the force for years to come. We could, in the end, make decisions that result in a very different force from the options I’ve described today. Our goal is to be able to give the President informed recommendations, not to pre-judge outcomes. Regardless, the decision-making process will benefit from the insights this review provided.

In closing, one of the most striking conclusions of the Strategic Choices and Management Review is that if DoD combines all the reduction options I’ve described – including significant cuts to the military’s size and capability – the savings fall well short of meeting sequester-level cuts, particularly during the first five years of these steep, decade-long reductions.

The reality is that cuts to overhead, compensation, and forces generate savings slowly. With dramatic reductions in each area, we do reach sequester-level savings – but only towards the end of a 10-year timeframe. Every scenario the review examined showed shortfalls in the early years of $30-35 billion.

These shortfalls will be even larger if Congress is unwilling to enact changes to compensation or adopt other management reforms and infrastructure cuts we proposed in our fiscal year 2014 budget. Opposition to these proposals must be engaged and overcome, or we will be forced to take even more draconian steps in the future.

A lot has been said about the impact of sequestration. Before this review, like many Americans, I wondered why a 10 percent budget cut was in fact so destructive. Families and businesses trim their costs by similar proportions. But this analysis showed in the starkest terms how a 10 percent defense spending reduction causes in reality a much higher reduction in military readiness and capability. Unlike the private sector, the federal government – and the Defense Department in particular – simply does not have the option of quickly shutting down excess facilities, eliminating entire organizations and operations, or shedding massive numbers of employees – at least not in a responsible, moral and legal way.

The fact is that half of our budget – including areas like compensation where we need to achieve savings – are essentially off limits for quick reductions. Given that reality, the only way to implement an additional, abrupt 10 percent reduction in the defense budget is to make senseless, non-strategic cuts that damage military readiness, disrupt operations, and erode our technological edge. We have already seen some of the significant effects of the $37 billion reduction occurring in this fiscal year – including halting all flying for some Air Force squadrons, cancelling ship deployments, ending Army Combat Training Center rotations for brigades not deploying to Afghanistan, and imposing furloughs for 650,000 DoD civilians.

In Fiscal Year 2014, this damage will continue if sequestration persists. DoD is now developing a contingency plan to accommodate the $52 billion sequester-level reduction in fiscal year 2014, which I outlined in a letter this month to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Levin and Ranking Member Inhofe. Congress will need to help us manage these deep and abrupt reductions responsibly and efficiently.

The bold management reforms, compensation changes and force structure reductions identified by the Strategic Choices and Management Review can help reduce the damage that would be caused by the persistence of sequestration in Fiscal Year 2014, but they won’t come close to avoiding it altogether.

The review demonstrated that making cuts strategically is only possible if they are “backloaded.” While no agency welcomes additional budget cuts, a scenario where we have additional time to implement reductions – such as in the President’s budget – would be far preferable to the deep cuts of sequestration. If these abrupt cuts remain, we risk fielding a force that over the next few years is unprepared due to a lack of training, maintenance, and the latest equipment.

As I mentioned last week at the VFW Convention, a top priority in future year budget plans is to build a ready force, even if that requires further reductions in force structure. No matter the size of our budget, we have a responsibility to defend the country and America’s vital interests around the world. That means crafting the strongest military possible under whatever level of resources we are provided.

DoD has a responsibility to give America’s elected leaders, and the American people, a clear-eyed assessment of what our military can and cannot do in the event of a major confrontation or crisis after several years of sequester-level cuts. In the months ahead, we will continue to provide our most honest and best assessment. And the inescapable conclusion is that letting sequester-level cuts persist would be a huge strategic miscalculation that would not be in our country’s best interests. While I’ve focused today on the impact to DoD, sequester-level cuts would equally harm other missions across government that support a strong economy and a strong national defense by providing support to our service members, veterans, and their families. DoD depends on a strong education system to maintain a pool of qualified recruits, we rely on domestic infrastructure that surrounds our bases and installations, and we count on scientific breakthroughs funded by research and development grants and a strong manufacturing base to maintain our decisive technological edge. All of these areas are threatened by sequestration.

It is the responsibility of our nation’s leadership to work together to replace the mindless and irresponsible policy of sequestration. It is unworthy of the service and sacrifice of our nation’s men and women in uniform and their families. And even as we confront tough fiscal realities, our decisions must always be worthy of the sacrifices we ask America’s sons and daughters to make for our country.

 

DOD strategy review paints bleak outlook

By Amber Corrin

Jul 31, 2013

http://fcw.com/Articles/2013/07/31/hagel-budget-review-briefing.aspx?p=1

 

In a July 31 press briefing discussing findings of a recent comprehensive strategy review, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel underscored the tough choices Pentagon decision-makers face amid cuts that could reach nearly $1 trillion.

Hagel, accompanied by Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman Adm. James Winnefeld, said that the sweeping strategic choices and management review he directed earlier this year examined three central scenarios, and that all of them fell short of savings targets.

“To help DOD balance strategic ends, ways and means under these budget scenarios, the Strategic Choices and Management Review scrutinized every aspect of DOD’s budget, including: contingency planning, business practices, force structure, pay and benefits, acquisition practices, and modernization portfolios,” Hagel said. “Everything was on the table.”

The three different scenarios include President Barack Obama’s fiscal 2014 budget, which “backloads” $150 billion in defense cuts over a 10-year period; Budget Control Act sequester cap figures, which cuts $52 billion in fiscal 2014 and $500 billion over the next 10 years; and an “in-between” scenario, in which defense spending is reduced by $250 billion over 10 years.

 

The review was designed to help Pentagon leadership prepare for the possibility of continued sequestration cuts into 2014, as well as to inform out-year budget planning for the services and set the stage for the upcoming Quadrennial Defense Review. Hagel stressed that the review is not a blueprint but an evaluation that produced the three different options.

One area of focus is reducing DOD’s overhead costs, which take up as much as half the Pentagon budget. Hagel said some options should be implemented immediately, regardless of the fate of sequestration.

The focus on overhead and management efficiencies includes measures such as reducing personnel at major military headquarters by 20 percent, starting with the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, combatant commands and defense agencies. The measures would also consolidate functions in OSD and in intelligence analysis and production, saving up to $40 billion over the next decade.

To help overcome hurdles in executing the cuts, Hagel said he has directed Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter to find an expert from outside DOD to help direct implementation.

Force structure and modernization stand to take significant hits in all three scenarios; the cuts would “bend” and could possibly “break” national security strategy, the officials noted.

“Given that reality, the review examined two strategic approaches to reducing force structure and modernization that will inform planning for sequester-level cuts,” Hagel said. “The basic trade-off is between capacity – measured in the number of Army brigades, Navy ships, Air Force squadrons and Marine battalions – and capability – our ability to modernize weapons systems to maintain our military’s technological edge.”

Trading capacity for capability would result in a more technologically dominant military, but one that is smaller and able to perform fewer missions. Opting for size over capability would sustain power projection and presence, but would seriously slow or curtail modernization programs and cripple cyber development, Hagel said.

“Cuts on this scale would, in effect, be a decade-long modernization holiday,” he said. “The military could find its equipment and weapons systems – many of which are already near the end of their service lives – less effective against more technologically advanced adversaries. We also have to consider how massive cuts to procurement and research and development funding would impact the viability of America’s private sector industrial base.”

And even if DOD combined all the different options, it leaves the Pentagon well short of the targeted reduction levels under sequestration, Hagel and Winnefeld noted. They also warned that it will be even worse if Congress does not cooperate with proposed cuts – any proposal to freeze military pay, for example, could be expected to meet stiff resistance on the Hill.

“The reality is that cuts to overhead, compensation and forces generate savings slowly. With dramatic reductions in each area, we do reach sequester-level savings – but only towards the end of a 10-year timeframe. Every scenario the review examined showed shortfalls in the early years of $30-35 billion,” Hagel said. “These shortfalls will be even larger if Congress is unwilling to enact changes to compensation or adopt other management reforms and infrastructure cuts we proposed in our fiscal year 2014 budget. Opposition to these proposals must be engaged and overcome, or we will be forced to take even more draconian steps in the future.”

 

Army’s Problems go Deeper Than SCMR

Defense News

Aug. 1, 2013 – 05:29PM | By PAUL McLEARY

http://www.defensenews.com/article/20130801/DEFREG02/308010021/Army-s-Problems-go-Deeper-Than-SCMR

 

WASHINGTON — Few in the Pentagon or the defense industry liked what they heard Wednesday at Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s press conference announcing the findings of his four-month Strategic Choices and Management Review (SCMR).

But the Army probably didn’t like what it didn’t hear, as well.

The secretary laid out two paths if Congress and White House remain unable to reach a budgetary “grand bargain” that would reverse the $500 billion in budget cuts that the Pentagon will face over the next decade, beginning with a $52 billion hit in 2014.

One plan would prioritize high-end capabilities over end-strength numbers, while the other would keep end-strength while sacrificing modernization and research and development on next-generation platforms.

While Hagel was short on specifics when it came to platforms that would or wouldn’t be modernized, the secretary provided a hint when he said “we would protect investments to counter anti-access and area-denial threats, such as the long range strike family of systems, submarine cruise-missile upgrades and the Joint Strike Fighter. And we would continue to make cyber capabilities and special operations forces a high priority.”

Notice anything there? No Army platforms were mentioned, save those few presumably used by special operators.

That doesn’t mean that key Army modernization priorities like the ground combat vehicle or joint light tactical vehicle are doomed under Hagel’s scenario. But being left out of a roll call of the Pentagon’s highest priorities may make some people nervous.
Not only was the Army left out of the list of critical programs, but under either plan it would also take by far the largest hit in terms of end strength.

With the end of US involvement in Iraq and the ongoing drawdown in Afghanistan, the Pentagon has concluded that the service could drop as low as 450,000 to 380,000 soldiers, numbers which haven’t been seen since before World War II.

The wartime high of 570,000 grunts was always seen as a temporary spike — save for some in the Army who wanted to keep what they had gained — but the service is working on culling 80,000 troops to reach 490,000 by the end of 2017.

When it comes to prioritizing modernization vs. end-strength cuts, “I would suspect the first impulse would be to protect as much combat power as you could,” said Maren Leed, a former adviser to the US Army chief of staff who is now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Doing so would mean deeply reducing headquarters elements, combining major commands, and the “further pooling of enablers at higher echelons to get those as lean as they can before they start going after combat power.”

That said, “the Army’s going to have a difficult time holding on to as much [combat power] as they might like to” if the cuts are not reversed, she said.

The dirty little secret in the rush to gain some cost savings, however, is that even letting go of 80,000 soldiers won’t actually save the Army a dime.

All of the funds earmarked for paying those soldiers over the 490,000 threshold come from supplemental war accounts, and don’t count toward any sequestration savings — which means barring deeper and faster cuts, the service won’t save any money on force reductions until the fiscal 2018 budget.

 

And the service desperately needs those savings. The Army already spends 46 percent of its budget on compensation, a number that service chief Gen. Ray Odierno has warned will rise to 80 percent in a decade if compensation trends continue.

What’s more, even forcibly separating soldiers won’t reduce the strain on budgets all that much. Service contracts include provisions for unemployment and other benefits for about a year after a soldier leaves the force, so the service still has to pay for former soldiers months after they separate.

Taking soldiers out of the ranks is one thing. Resizing units to reflect those reductions while still retaining combat punch is another. The Army announced in June that it was reducing the number of brigade combat teams from 45 to 33 — while protecting its overall combat wallop by keeping 95 out of its 98 combat battalions.

The plan is to take the cuts in headquarters positions across the brigades while increasing the number of maneuver battalions in each brigade from two to three, while adding engineering and fires capabilities to each unit.

Odierno called the moves “one of the largest organizational changes probably since World War II” for the service.

“If we go though full sequestration there’s going to be another reduction in brigades, there’s no way around it,” Odierno warned, adding that there will likely be more cuts coming in the heavy armor brigades, sequestration or not.

Fewer brigades, fewer soldiers, less money, and an uncertain modernization profile. With all of this in flux, what missions will the Army prioritize in the future?

“The most important thing that they’ve got to be concerned about is the Korean war plan since it doesn’t necessarily align that well with all the other things the Army believes it also needs to be doing,” Leed said. Those missions include things that Army leadership has spent a lot of time talking about in recent months, such as partner engagement in Asia and Africa, humanitarian response and training for contingencies spanning counterinsurgency to peer combat.

But the continuing instability on the Korean peninsula will mean that “they will be highly reluctant to take risk [in Korea] because of the criticality of it.”

The Army National Guard and reserve — much used in the past decade of conflict but largely spared from the current round of drawdowns in ground force end strength — would also be due for a haircut absent any grand bargain. They would fall from 555,000 soldiers to between 490,000 and 530,000 under the two scenarios.

One of the key questions to be considered when taking combat power out of the active force, but trying to maintain capability in the Guard and reserve, is to what degree can the Guard mitigate various kinds of risk? “Much of the Guard is not particularly well suited to meet the short term-risk in Korea,” for example, Leed said. But “when you’re talking about missions that align well with their competencies they can step in almost immediately.” Missions such as small unit training and advising, medical support, engineering and partnership missions are things that the Guard has traditionally performed well.

When it comes down to it, under any sequestration scenario “the whole Army would be the bill payer,” said Thomas Donnelly, a defense policy analyst at the American Enterprise Institute. Any cut to end strength or modernization would affect the other in serious ways, and would also impact the way the service could respond to contingencies.

The Pentagon has now laid out its thinking — absent any major change in national defense strategy — and now Congress and the White House will have their say.

 

Senate Panel Approves $594.2B DoD Bill Despite Worries About Spending Caps

Defense News

Aug. 1, 2013 – 12:35PM | By JOHN T. BENNETT

The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday approved a $594.2 billion Pentagon spending bill, with some Republicans mounting a symbolic resistance because it surpasses federal spending caps.

The panel’s bill, approved 22-8, would give the Pentagon a $516.4 billion base budget and a $77.8 billion war-funding section. The base section’s topline aligns with the Obama administration’s request, while the Overseas Contingency Operations portion would be $8 billion smaller than the White House’s request.

The opening minutes of a full committee mark up of the legislation focused on a back-and-forth about the Democratic-controlled panel’s decision to push a bill that’s nearly $20 billion larger than national defense spending caps etched into law by the 2011 Budget Control Act.

“The defense bill alone would exceed the Budget Control Act caps for defense-related spending by nearly $19 billion,” committee ranking member Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said. “That’s not even counting the defense-related-spending in the committee’s other bills, which comes to an additional $35.6 billion.” All told, the panel’s 2014 spending bills are $91 billion over defense and domestic spending limits, Shelby says.

Without a major fiscal deal that addresses the spending caps, another sequestration round of across-the-board cuts would be triggered. Instead, Shelby called for “deliberate [cuts] that reflect decisions by Congress about strategic priorities.”

Shelby and seven other Republicans voted against the defense bill, with several echoing the ranking member’s comments.

Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., said the reason her defense and other appropriations bills peak those caps lies with the House and Senate Budget committees — particularly the lower chamber’s panel.

 

“We need a topline so we can get to the bottom line,” Mikulski said. “We have marked up our bills to a topline of $1.058 trillion, the level in the American Taxpayer Relief Act, which was approved by the Senate by a vote of 89-8.”

She noted the defense bill and others “assume that sequester will be replaced with a balanced solution of revenues and smart cuts.”

Mikulski criticized the House for, in legislation it has passed, building in “a moat around defense so that all $91 billion in cuts come out of domestic funding bills.”

President Obama on Wednesday, during a meeting with Senate Democrats, indicated he will not support placing such a “moat” around Pentagon spending when fiscal negotiations kick into full steam this fall, according to lawmakers who attended.

In a sign that rank-and-file lawmakers have moved little from ideological stances taken since 2010, Shelby called for “meaningful spending cuts in mandatory accounts,” meaning “entitlement reform.” Democrats largely have opposed deep cuts to such programs; Republicans oppose more new revenues that Democrats want.

 

Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., acknowledged the differences between the House and Senate budgets is a problem.

“Everyone knows there’s going to have to be a compromise at some point,” Murray said during the mark up. “We’re not going to solve this by kicking the can to someone else — it’s up to us.”

Sparks also flew during the session over a provision offered by Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., then amended by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

Udall’s measure would cut off funding for any US operation in Syria that violates the War Power Act. After several senators raised concerns, Feinstein inserted language specifically pointing to the US armed services and a military operation.

The measure passed via voice vote, with several, including Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., audibly voting no.

Graham argued against both the initial and the revised amendment, arguing it would trample on the president’s constitutional powers as commander in chief.

“To my Republican colleagues who suddenly support the War Powers Act, where were you during the Bush years?” Graham said.

The 1973 law requires presidents to secure congressional approval for military operations within 60 days, or withdraw forces within the next 30. Since it was passed in the wake of the Vietnam War, Congress largely has looked the other way when presidents from both political parties have launched military operations that stretched into a 61st day and beyond.

 

Furlough appeals keep coming

Washington Post

By Lisa Rein, Published: August 2 at 6:00 am

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/federal-eye/wp/2013/08/02/furlough-appeals-keep-coming/

The small agency receiving thousands of appeals from furloughed federal employees has delayed docketing and hearing most of them them until the volume slows down, officials said Thursday.

The surge of challenges arriving at the Merit Systems Protection Board hit 13,090 on Thursday, with 1,900 of those arriving by fax, snail mail and electronically on Wednesday alone. That’s double the appeals that had come in a week ago.

With its support staff and administrative judges overwhelmed, the merit board has put a hold on all the cases from Defense Department civilians, the largest group of federal workers taking unpaid days to meet the budget cuts known as sequestration.

The board posted a message on its Web site this week that said: “Due to the unprecedented large volume of furlough appeals being received from employees of the military services and Department of Defense activities —and after much consideration —MSPB has decided to delay the processing and adjudication of these appeals.”

General Counsel Bryan Polisuk said that once the Defense appeals slow down after Aug. 8 — the 30-day filing deadline from the start of furloughs on July 8 — the staff will resume sorting through them.

“We’ll be in a better position [then] to see what we have, and start making decisions on how to adjudicate these cases,” he said. “Given the volume of furlough appeals, it’s going to be difficult for our regions to be as responsive in the near future as they normally are.” The merit board has eight offices across the country.

Appeals from employees furloughed from other agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, are moving forward.

Administrative judges have ruled on 11 appeals so far, one from an EPA employee and 10 from the Federal Aviation Administration, which took one furlough day in April before Congress gave the agency authority to redirect money from other areas of its budget to shore up staffing and operations.

The ruling upheld the furloughs, meaning that the employees will not get back pay.

The high volume of appeals temporarily knocked out the merit board’s electronic “e-Appeal” service several times this week. Polisuk said it was quickly restored.

The appeals represent a new attack by federal employee unions on the Obama administration’s decision to furlough about 775,000 employees this fiscal year to help meet $85 billion in budget cuts.

The unions say federal agencies had other options than forcing employees to lose multiple days of pay. They are holding seminars with their locals across the country to instruct their members how to file appeals, which seek to cancel the furloughs and recover back pay.

Several unions have asked the merit board to consider the appeals as class-action cases, a request that is under consideration.

It’s unclear whether the merit board will meet its average turnaround time of 120 days to decide the cases, Polisuk said.

“It’s a very fluid situation.”

 

 

Do We Need A U.S. Department Of Technology?

A cabinet-level Dept. of Tech will help U.S. retain leadership position in the global high-technology sector, argues former Department of Transportation CIO Nitin Pradhan.

By Nitin Pradhan, InformationWeek

August 01, 2013

URL: http://www.informationweek.com/government/leadership/do-we-need-a-us-department-of-technology/240159300

 

I came to the U.S. in the early 1990’s, on a fellowship from an American university. I was exploring several countries, including Australia, Canada and New Zealand, but I decided on the U.S. because of its leadership in technology. I have been fortunate to have a great career here, including being appointed by President Obama as the CIO of the Department of Transportation and the FAA in his first term.

Now my “iKids” are growing up and I want them to thrive in the U.S. technology industry. But will this industry continue to flourish in U.S.? What can we do today to ensure our continued technology leadership in the future?

 

Why Tech Industries Grow

Tech industries grow because of the availability of research and development dollars, a high-quality education system, a tech-savvy workforce, a large local technology marketplace and government incentives. The U.S. has no intrinsic advantage in the technology industry. Past wins have been a function of dollars invested, bipartisan leadership and lack of global competition.

 

However, now the global competition is heating up — just ask Apple, HP, Ericsson and Boeing, and they’ll tell you Samsung, Lenovo, Huawei and Airbus are tough global competitors. South Korea, China and the European Union governments are investing heavily in the growth of the tech industry. The U.S. government is investing in technology industry too, but its focus is mainly on defense, and with sequestration these investments are being reduced. I believe a more direct, consolidated, coordinated and planned approach toward technology investments is needed to keep our leadership strong.

 

Tech Remains the U.S.’s Future

According to TechAmerica Foundation’s 2013 Cyberstats report, U.S. high-tech employment totaled 5.95 million in 2012, with average wages of $93,800 — 98% more than the average private sector wages of $47,000. According to some additional recent data, U.S. high-tech jobs are growing at three times the rate of other private sectors, and each tech job creates more than four jobs in the wider economy, thanks to wages that are 17-27% higher than other sectors. If we want to create more of these jobs for our kids, we need a mechanism to support that future.

We need to create a new cabinet-level Department of Technology (USDoTech) now, while we are still leading in the technology world. The goal of the department should be to drive collaborative public-private technology innovations that maximize public value through private growth.

The notion of a cabinet-level technology department is not new. James Harold Wilson, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, established MinTech, the first Ministry of Technology, in 1964. China today has Ministry of Science and Technology; India has a Ministry of Communications and Information Technology; and South Korea has MSIP (the Ministry of Science), ICT and Future Planning to “build a creative economy for the happiness of all people.”

 

How to Create USDoTech?

President Obama, to his credit, established the first chief information officer and chief technology officer positions in the federal government. However, neither has cabinet-level authority, and with few resources available, the impact on the growth of this important sector has been limited.

One way create a cabinet-level department is by consolidating a number of technology-centric offices spread across various federal agencies that often work in an uncoordinated and sometimes even counterproductive way. Some examples include the technology-focused sections of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and many others.

Centralizing the technology leadership functions in these departments will give government a clearer, more holistic picture of the needs, challenges, opportunities, and threats for this fast-growing sector, allowing it to more effectively craft policies, legislation, and regulations and promote appropriate public-private investment strategies to keep U.S. leadership dynamic. We don’t need a humongous new department like Homeland Security – just a right-sized, efficient, tech-savvy group that will deliver results.

 

Congress: Technology Oversight Needs Change Too

As mentioned in my recent article in the Fast Government Report published by The IBM Center for the Business of Government, the Congressional governance of federal government investments in the technology portfolio is fragmented and is therefore not conducive to seeing the benefits of integrated approaches to technology.

Congress has 21 Senate committees, 22 House committees and many more subcommittees, which directly or indirectly have oversight over technology initiatives and investments in federal agencies. However, technology today is highly connected infrastructure, and a holistic view and investment strategy is key to future success. It is therefore essential that Congress establish a technology committee focused on maximizing transformative use of technology and effective involvement of private industry for the benefit of the country.

 

Next Steps: Get Involved

How do we create the “USDoTech” with this polarized Congress? Crowdsourcing, of course!

If you support the concept of a cabinet-level technology department, forward this article and talk to your friends and family today. “Like” the initiative on Facebook, and suggest the roles and responsibilities for this new department now. Call your Congressional representatives and senators and ask them to enlist Congressional Research Services (CRS), the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to study the matter and work with the private sector to build a definitive bipartisan plan.

Finally, if your company has a government affairs department, ask it to lobby the federal government to support this worthy cause. Together, we can create this necessary department with no increased cost to taxpayers and keep the U.S. a leader in high-tech for years to come.

 

 

Rasmussen Reports

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

Saturday, August 03, 2013

 

In this 50-50 nation, Americans remain closely divided over whether government is the problem or the solution.

Just over half of voters still view the federal bailouts of the financial industry negatively, and 56% believe more competition and less government regulation are better for the U.S. financial system than more regulation and less competition.

Fifty-three percent (53%) don’t like President Obama’s national health care law, but 42% do.

The president in budget negotiations with congressional Republicans has proposed cuts in corporate tax rates in exchange for a new federal jobs program. Thirty-eight percent (38%) view Obama’s combination approach as the better way to create new jobs, but nearly as many (36%) think cutting corporate tax rates alone would be more effective. After all, 66% think decisions made by U.S. business leaders to help their own businesses grow will do more to create jobs than decisions made by government officials.

Voters are almost evenly divided these days when asked which party they trust more to handle the 15 important issues regularly tracked by Rasmussen Reports. They continue to trust Republicans most on the number one issue, the economy, and other money issues like taxes, job creation and government spending. They trust Democrats more in areas such as energy policy, the environment, health care and education.

This ambivalence is also reflected in the Generic Congressional Ballot where the two parties have been separated by two points or less every week since mid-April.

Obama’s total job approval held steady at 47% in July, tying the president’s lowest approval rating since December 2011. Fifty-one percent (51%) disapproved of the president’s performance last month.

The president’s daily job approval ratings now are more in line with findings during most of his first term in office.

Still, just 10% of voters now rate Congress’s performance as good or excellent, although this is the first time Congress’ positives have reached double digits this year. Sixty-three percent (63%) believe most members of Congress are willing to sell their vote for cash or campaign contributions, and 55% think it’s at least somewhat likely that their own representative in Congress has sold his or her vote for cash or a campaign contribution.

“To see where the country is heading, ignore Washington,” Scott Rasmussen says in his latest weekly newspaper column, “because most of what the [political] parties talk about is yesterday’s news and is largely irrelevant to the realities of the 21st century.”

 

And what are those realities?

For the second week in a row, 26% of voters say the country is heading in the right direction. This is the lowest level of confidence since mid-January 2012.

The Rasmussen Employment Index which measures worker confidence dropped 10 points in July to its lowest level since last November. As the Index projected, the government released another tepid jobs report on Friday.

Most consumers and investors believe the U.S. economy is currently in a recession.

Thirty-three percent (33%) of Americans believe the U.S. economy will be stronger in a year, but slightly more (39%) feel the economy will be weaker one year from now.

Following news of Detroit’s bankruptcy filing, 55% believe some states may soon be filing for bankruptcy, too.

Thirty-seven percent (37%) think now is a good time for someone in their area to sell a home.

Despite big gains made in the stock market in July, only 22% think the stock market will be higher than it is today a year from now.

Twenty-nine percent (29%) of Working Americans are now looking for work outside of their current company, the highest finding measured since March 2011. But they remain closely divided as to whether staying or leaving offers them the best career opportunities.

Seventy-seven percent (77%) of all Americans think the current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is not a wage someone can live on, and 61% favor raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2015, a proposal that is currently being considered by Congress.

But while Americans recognize that more minimum-wage fast-food jobs are now being held by workers who are over 20, 74% oppose making the minimum wage different for those in different age groups.

 

In other surveys last week:

— Even before a military judge handed down his guilty verdict against Bradley Manning on Tuesday, 46% of voters said the former Army intelligence analyst was a traitor for leaking government secrets. But just 33% now want Manning to spend the rest of his life in prison. That’s down from 41% two months ago.

 

— Thirty-two percent (32%) think Edward Snowden, the private contractor who exposed the National Security Agency’s spying on domestic phone calls, is a traitor, unchanged from last month.

— Forty-six percent (46%) favor putting greater restrictions on the NSA’s tracking of Americans’ telephone calls.

— A recent major study suggests that an increasing number of American women are now the primary breadwinners in married couples, but for most men and women, the man remains the chief earner.


 

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