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August 24 2013

August 26, 2013



Federal News of Interest

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Are Washington’s policies causing a retirement ‘brain drain’ at federal agencies?

By Josh Hicks, Updated: August 19, 2013

A new online ticker from the National Active and Retired Federal Employees association claims to show the hours of institutional knowledge lost through federal-worker retirements this year, illustrating a supposed “brain drain” caused by increased retirements at a time when the government is cutting back on hiring and freezing salary rates.

The ticker showed nearly 920 million hours of lost experience in 2013 as of Sunday evening. NARFE claims retirements cost the government an average of 10,000 years of knowledge every day.

Data from the Office of Personnel Management shows that more than 82,000 federal workers have filed retirement claims since January, representing a jump of 30 percent. The agency has said a dramatic increase in retirements this year for the financially struggling Postal Service has contributed to the rise.

NARFE said in a statement that policy decisions to furlough workers, freeze pay rates and increase contributions toward retirement benefits may be encouraging workers to retire prematurely. It said the losses are “threatening the services they dedicated their careers to building.”

The numbers on the ticker may oversimplify matters a bit.

NARFE said in its statement that the 82,000-plus employees who retired this year have taken 2 million years of experience with them, meaning each would have worked an average of 24 years for the government. But OPM rules allow workers to retire with less service. For example, a 62-year-old employee can retire with benefits from the Federal Employee Retirement System after just five years with the government, while a 60 year-old can retire after 20 years.

It is unclear how NARFE came up with its average of 24 years of service for each retiree — was it an assumption or was it based on actual OPM data? The Federal Eye has requested an explanation from the group and will update this blog to clarify the methodology if possible.


Most of U.S. Is Wired, but Millions Aren’t Plugged In



August 18, 2013


The Obama administration has poured billions of dollars into expanding the reach of the Internet, and nearly 98 percent of American homes now have access to some form of high-speed broadband. But tens of millions of people are still on the sidelines of the digital revolution.

“The job I’m trying to get now requires me to know how to operate a computer,” said Elmer Griffin, 70, a retired truck driver from Bessemer, Ala., who was recently rejected for a job at an auto-parts store because he was unable to use the computer to check the inventory. “I wish I knew how, I really do. People don’t even want to talk to you if you don’t know how to use the Internet.”

Mr. Griffin is among the roughly 20 percent of American adults who do not use the Internet at home, work and school, or by mobile device, a figure essentially unchanged since Barack Obama took office as president in 2009 and initiated a $7 billion effort to expand access, chiefly through grants to build wired and wireless systems in neglected areas of the country.

Administration officials and policy experts say they are increasingly concerned that a significant portion of the population, around 60 million people, is shut off from jobs, government services, health care and education, and that the social and economic effects of that gap are looming larger. Persistent digital inequality — caused by the inability to afford Internet service, lack of interest or a lack of computer literacy — is also deepening racial and economic disparities in the United States, experts say.

“As more tasks move online, it hollows out the offline options,” said John B. Horrigan, a senior research fellow at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. “A lot of employers don’t accept offline job applications. It means if you don’t have the Internet, you could be really isolated.”

Seventy-six percent of white American households use the Internet, compared with 57 percent of African-American households, according to the “Exploring the Digital Nation,” a Commerce Department report released this summer and based on 2011 data.

The figures also show that Internet use over all is much higher among those with at least some college experience and household income of more than $50,000.

Low adoption rates among older people remain a major hurdle. Slightly more than half of Americans 65 and older use the Internet, compared with well over three-quarters of those under 65.

In addition, Internet use is lowest in the South, particularly in Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas.

Willa Ohnoutka, 78, who has lived in the same house in suburban Houston for 40 years, said she did not use the Internet at all. “I use my telephone,” Ms. Ohnoutka said. “I get news on the TV. I’m just not comfortable involving myself with that Internet.”

Others cite expense as the reason they do not use the Internet.

“I am cheap,” said Craig Morgan, 23, a self-employed carpenter from Oxford, Miss. So far, he has made do without the Internet at home, but while he has used a smartphone to connect, that has limitations, he said.

“When we came home from the hospital with our new baby two months ago,” the hospital “took pictures and put them online,” he said. “We had to go to my in-laws to order them.”

Gloria Bean, 41, an elementary school teaching assistant from Calhoun City, Miss., said cost was also a reason she had not had Internet access at home for three years.

“I just couldn’t afford it,” she said. Being cut off, she said, “has affected me and my children.”

“They have to have it for school to do research for a paper or something they need for class,” Ms. Bean said.

As a result, she added, she often rushes from her job at school to pick up her children and take them to the library, where there are 10 computers.

The Obama administration allocated $7 billion to broadband expansion as part of the 2009 economic stimulus package. Most of it went to build physical networks. About half of those infrastructure programs have been completed, with Internet availability growing to 98 percent of homes from fewer than 90 percent.

About $500 million from the package went toward helping people learn to use the Internet. Those programs were highly successful, though on a small scale, producing more than half a million new household subscribers to Internet service, Commerce Department statistics show.

“We recognize more work needs to be done to ensure that no Americans are left behind,” said John B. Morris Jr., director of Internet policy at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, part of the Commerce Department. “Increasing the level of broadband adoption is a complex, multifaceted challenge with no simple, one-size-fits-all solution.”

The percentage of people 18 years and older in the United States who have adopted the Internet over the past two decades has grown at a rate not seen since the popularization of the telephone, soaring nearly fivefold, from 14 percent in 1995. Although that growth slowed in more recent years, it had still moved close to 80 percent of the population by the beginning of the Obama administration in 2009, according to several academic and government studies.

Since then, however, the number has not budged, shifting between 74 percent and 79 percent through 2011, according to one study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Pew’s most recent research shows the figure fluttering this year between 81 percent and 85 percent, a slight uptick that experts attribute to the still-growing popularity of smartphones. Most smartphone users also have home connections, however, and do not face the affordability or digital literacy problems that have caused Internet adoption to remain stagnant.

Even at that level of Internet adoption, however, the United States, with the world’s largest economy by far, ranked seventh among 20 major global economies in 2012, down from fourth in 2000, according to the International Telecommunication Union, a United Nations agency. Ranking ahead of the United States were Britain, Canada, South Korea, Germany, France and Australia, as well as nearly every other smaller country in Western Europe.

Aaron Smith, a senior researcher at the Pew Project, said that when the center asked nonusers if they believed they were missing out or were disadvantaged by not using the Internet, most of the older Americans said no, it was not relevant to them. “But when you excluded the seniors,” he added, “most people said, ‘Yeah, I feel like I’m not getting the access to all the things that I need.’ ”

Researchers say the recent recession probably contributed to some of the flattening in Internet adoption, just as the Great Depression stalled the arrival of home telephone service. But a significant portion of nonusers cite their lack of digital literacy skills as a discouraging factor.

Some programs, like the federally financed Smart Communities, have shown promising results. Smart Communities, a $7 million effort in Chicago that was part of the administration’s $7 billion investment, provided basic Internet training in English and Spanish for individuals and small businesses. Between 2008 and 2011, the Smart Communities participants registered a statistically significant 15 percentage-point increase in Internet use compared with that in other Chicago community areas.

The Federal Communications Commission and some Internet providers have started programs to make Internet service more affordable for low-income households. Comcast’s two-year-old Internet Essentials program, which offers broadband service for $10 a month to low-income families, has signed up 220,000 households out of 2.6 million eligible homes in Comcast service areas.

Those types of programs hold promise, administration officials say, but they remain unsatisfied. “I’ve seen enough to know that we’re making good progress,” said Thomas C. Power, the administration’s deputy chief technology officer for telecommunications. “But I also know we need to make more progress.”

Cynthia Howle, Glenny Brock and Alan Blinder contributed reporting.


NSA broke privacy rules thousands of times per year, audit finds

Washington Post

By Barton Gellman, Published: August 15


The National Security Agency has broken privacy rules or overstepped its legal authority thousands of times each year since Congress granted the agency broad new powers in 2008, according to an internal audit and other top-secret documents.

Most of the infractions involve unauthorized surveillance of Americans or foreign intelligence targets in the United States, both of which are restricted by statute and executive order. They range from significant violations of law to typographical errors that resulted in unintended interception of U.S. e-mails and telephone calls.


The documents, provided earlier this summer to The Washington Post by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, include a level of detail and analysis that is not routinely shared with Congress or the special court that oversees surveillance. In one of the documents, agency personnel are instructed to remove details and substitute more generic language in reports to the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

In one instance, the NSA decided that it need not report the unintended surveillance of Americans. A notable example in 2008 was the interception of a “large number” of calls placed from Washington when a programming error confused the U.S. area code 202 for 20, the international dialing code for Egypt, according to a “quality assurance” review that was not distributed to the NSA’s oversight staff.

In another case, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which has authority over some NSA operations, did not learn about a new collection method until it had been in operation for many months. The court ruled it unconstitutional.

The Obama administration has provided almost no public information about the NSA’s compliance record. In June, after promising to explain the NSA’s record in “as transparent a way as we possibly can,” Deputy Attorney General James Cole described extensive safeguards and oversight that keep the agency in check. “Every now and then, there may be a mistake,” Cole said in congressional testimony.

The NSA audit obtained by The Post, dated May 2012, counted 2,776 incidents in the preceding 12 months of unauthorized collection, storage, access to or distribution of legally protected communications. Most were unintended. Many involved failures of due diligence or violations of standard operating procedure. The most serious incidents included a violation of a court order and unauthorized use of data about more than 3,000 Americans and green-card holders.

In a statement in response to questions for this article, the NSA said it attempts to identify problems “at the earliest possible moment, implement mitigation measures wherever possible, and drive the numbers down.” The government was made aware of The Post’s intention to publish the documents that accompany this article online.

“We’re a human-run agency operating in a complex environment with a number of different regulatory regimes, so at times we find ourselves on the wrong side of the line,” a senior NSA official said in an interview, speaking with White House permission on the condition of anonymity.

“You can look at it as a percentage of our total activity that occurs each day,” he said. “You look at a number in absolute terms that looks big, and when you look at it in relative terms, it looks a little different.”

There is no reliable way to calculate from the number of recorded compliance issues how many Americans have had their communications improperly collected, stored or distributed by the NSA.

The causes and severity of NSA infractions vary widely. One in 10 incidents is attributed to a typographical error in which an analyst enters an incorrect query and retrieves data about U.S phone calls or e-mails.

But the more serious lapses include unauthorized access to intercepted communications, the distribution of protected content and the use of automated systems without built-in safeguards to prevent unlawful surveillance.

The May 2012 audit, intended for the agency’s top leaders, counts only incidents at the NSA’s Fort Meade headquarters and other ­facilities in the Washington area. Three government officials, speak­ing on the condition of anonymity to discuss classified matters, said the number would be substantially higher if it included other NSA operating units and regional collection centers.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who did not receive a copy of the 2012 audit until The Post asked her staff about it, said in a statement late Thursday that the committee “can and should do more to independently verify that NSA’s operations are appropriate, and its reports of compliance incidents are accurate.”

Despite the quadrupling of the NSA’s oversight staff after a series of significant violations in 2009, the rate of infractions increased throughout 2011 and early 2012. An NSA spokesman declined to disclose whether the trend has continued since last year.

One major problem is largely unpreventable, the audit says, because current operations rely on technology that cannot quickly determine whether a foreign mobile phone has entered the United States.

In what appears to be one of the most serious violations, the NSA diverted large volumes of international data passing through fiber-optic cables in the United States into a repository where the material could be stored temporarily for processing and selection.

The operation to obtain what the agency called “multiple communications transactions” collected and commingled U.S. and foreign e-mails, according to an article in SSO News, a top-secret internal newsletter of the NSA’s Special Source Operations unit. NSA lawyers told the court that the agency could not practicably filter out the communications of Americans.

In October 2011, months after the program got underway, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court ruled that the collection effort was unconstitutional. The court said that the methods used were “deficient on statutory and constitutional grounds,” according to a top-secret summary of the opinion, and it ordered the NSA to comply with standard privacy protections or stop the program.

James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, has acknowledged that the court found the NSA in breach of the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures, but the Obama administration has fought a Freedom of Information lawsuit that seeks the opinion.


Generally, the NSA reveals nothing in public about its errors and infractions. The unclassified versions of the administration’s semiannual reports to Congress feature blacked-out pages under the headline “Statistical Data Relating to Compliance Incidents.”

Members of Congress may read the unredacted documents, but only in a special secure room, and they are not allowed to take notes. Fewer than 10 percent of lawmakers employ a staff member who has the security clearance to read the reports and provide advice about their meaning and significance.

The limited portions of the reports that can be read by the public acknowledge “a small number of compliance incidents.”

Under NSA auditing guidelines, the incident count does not usually disclose the number of Americans affected.

“What you really want to know, I would think, is how many innocent U.S. person communications are, one, collected at all, and two, subject to scrutiny,” said Julian Sanchez, a research scholar and close student of the NSA at the Cato Institute.

The documents provided by Snowden offer only glimpses of those questions. Some reports make clear that an unauthorized search produced no records. But a single “incident” in February 2012 involved the unlawful retention of 3,032 files that the surveillance court had ordered the NSA to destroy, according to the May 2012 audit. Each file contained an undisclosed number of telephone call records.

One of the documents sheds new light on a statement by NSA Director Keith B. Alexander last year that “we don’t hold data on U.S. citizens.”

Some Obama administration officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, have defended Alexander with assertions that the agency’s internal definition of “data” does not cover “metadata” such as the trillions of American call records that the NSA is now known to have collected and stored since 2006. Those records include the telephone numbers of the parties and the times and durations of conversations, among other details, but not their content or the names of callers.

The NSA’s authoritative def­inition of data includes those call records. “Signals Intelligence Management Directive 421,” which is quoted in secret oversight and auditing guidelines, states that “raw SIGINT data . . . includes, but is not limited to, unevaluated and/or unminimized transcripts, gists, facsimiles, telex, voice, and some forms of computer-generated data, such as call event records and other Digital Network Intelligence (DNI) metadata as well as DNI message text.”

In the case of the collection effort that confused calls placed from Washington with those placed from Egypt, it is unclear what the NSA meant by a “large number” of intercepted calls. A spokesman declined to discuss the matter.

The NSA has different reporting requirements for each branch of government and each of its legal authorities. The “202” collection was deemed irrelevant to any of them. “The issue pertained to Metadata ONLY so there were no defects to report,” according to the author of the secret memo from March 2013.

The large number of database query incidents, which involve previously collected communications, confirms long-standing suspicions that the NSA’s vast data banks — with code names such as MARINA, PINWALE and XKEYSCORE — house a considerable volume of information about Americans. Ordinarily the identities of people in the United States are masked, but intelligence “customers” may request unmasking, either one case at a time or in standing orders.

In dozens of cases, NSA personnel made careless use of the agency’s extraordinary powers, according to individual auditing reports. One team of analysts in Hawaii, for example, asked a system called DISHFIRE to find any communications that mentioned both the Swedish manufacturer Ericsson and “radio” or “radar” — a query that could just as easily have collected on people in the United States as on their Pakistani military target.


The NSA uses the term “incidental” when it sweeps up the records of an American while targeting a foreigner or a U.S. person who is believed to be involved in terrorism. Official guidelines for NSA personnel say that kind of incident, pervasive under current practices, “does not constitute a . . . violation” and “does not have to be reported” to the NSA inspector general for inclusion in quarterly reports to Congress. Once added to its databases, absent other restrictions, the communications of Americans may be searched freely.

In one required tutorial, NSA collectors and analysts are taught to fill out oversight forms without giving “extraneous information” to “our FAA overseers.” FAA is a reference to the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, which granted broad new authorities to the NSA in exchange for regular audits from the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and periodic reports to Congress and the surveillance court.

Using real-world examples, the “Target Analyst Rationale Instructions” explain how NSA employees should strip out details and substitute generic descriptions of the evidence and analysis behind their targeting choices.

“I realize you can read those words a certain way,” said the high-ranking NSA official who spoke with White House authority, but the instructions were not intended to withhold information from auditors. “Think of a book of individual recipes,” he said. Each target “has a short, concise description,” but that is “not a substitute for the full recipe that follows, which our overseers also have access to.”

Julie Tate and Carol D. Leonnig contributed to this report.


Is Common Core Too Hard-Core?

James Marshall Crotty, Contributor

8/16/2013 @ 3:03PM


For those long skeptical of the decade-long improvement in the standardized test scores of New York high school students, the August 7 release of the state’s Common Core test results was bittersweet redemption. New York is the second state in the country, after Kentucky, to test its students under stringent Common Core learning standards adopted across the nation to bring uniformity to student testing.

And the results are not pretty.

31% of New York students in grades three though eight met or exceeded math and English competency standards on tests given over six days this past April. In 2012, under the older, far easier, standards, 65% of New York students were proficient in Math and 55% proficient in English. Moreover, according to the Summary of Statewide 3-8 Exam Results, “only 16.1% of African-American students and 17.7% of Hispanic students met or exceeded” the English Language Arts (ELA) proficiency standard, far lower than in years past.

Though these results should come as no surprise to anyone who has worked inside your average New York public school, they are actually a sign of hope. By effectively tying Common Core adoption to a state’s receipt of Race to the Top funding grants – 45 of 50 states have adopted Common Core Standards — the Department of Education has indicated that it is no longer willing to enable states to game the achievement metrics mandated by No Child Left Behind. This is particularly refreshing news, given that the Obama administration’s earlier NCLB compliance waivers – albeit, often tied to Common Core adoption — suggested that they were not serious about demanding excellence across school districts.

Rather than viewing New York’s results as an indictment of Common Core — or the allegedly speedy, haphazard way in which the standards were adopted — we should applaud the state’s courage in demanding that all New York students empirically demonstrate the writing, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills necessary for success in a global information economy.

Moreover, we should remember that the bipartisan standards-based movement is not of recent vintage. It dates back to the 1983 publication of A Nation at Risk and subsequent teacher-lead initiatives, such as the 1989 National Council of Teachers of Mathematics’ Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics. These early documents were followed by President H.W. Bush’s standards-focused 1989 national education summit, the Clinton administration’s 1996 National Education Summit, and the stepped-up call for common standards that came with both 2001′s No Child Left Behind and the 2004 report, Ready or Not: Creating a High School Diploma That Counts. These efforts collectively made clear that the standard American high school diploma had lost its brand value, as the real world demands of colleges and employers had become more rigorous and exacting.

Today’s Common Core State Standards are simply a more evolved version of those original standards. A curriculum that is more transparent and work-relevant — with clear benchmarks for success — helps parents, teachers, and students gain clarity on what is expected for career and life success in an intensely competitive marketplace.

Opponents of uniform higher standards describe them as unfair, too rigorous, and with intrusive data tracking systems that violate privacy. Moreover, they castigate Common Core as a stalking horse for school privatization, and a paean to vested corporate “special interests,” such as Pearson, which would ostensibly benefit from an easily replicable set of common core textbooks. Weirdly, as opponents decry Common Core as a push for decentralized privatization — egged on by the likes of that evil no-good Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – they simultaneously rail about the increased centralization of standards out of Washington, DC, forgetting that DC has for decades set benchmarks for academic competency, regardless of state and local wiggle room in meeting those benchmarks.

In addition, contrary to heated claims of Common Core opponents, no set of standards emanating out of DC has ever precluded schools and teachers from making allowances for different student “learning styles, preferences, and paces.” Moreover, Common Core Standards do not preclude schools from adding back a cornucopia of important subjects — from art to music to great books shared inquiry — as required courses or electives. In addition, as noted by education consultant, and former Assistant Secretary of Education in the G.W. Bush administration, Christina Culver, “these standards are designed to raise the bar, but no one is stopping schools and teachers from exceeding the bar. In fact, the BASIS charter schools claim they complete the K-12 Common Core Standards by the 9th grade. I am sure many great schools with high bars could do this.”

While privacy concerns, in particular, should be taken seriously in light of the recent NSA and IRS scandals, a primary reason given for opposing “common core data mining” – it might, God forbid, lead to the empirically beneficial mandatory early childhood education – seems specious. The problem is that extreme privacy activists see better tracking as invariably Orwellian when, in fact, better tracking of student attendance, participation, and academic progress has been a key component in finally tackling the nation’s debilitating dropout epidemic.

Taken as a whole, these concerns strike me as the same tired, regressive apologies for failure that have kept the U.S. mired in the middle of the pack on global tests of academic excellence. All of the countries leading the U.S. in academic achievement – e.g., Singapore, South Korea, and Finland – have a common set of academic standards. Moreover, Common Core’s opponents have yet to empirically show why lowering standards based on the random criteria of state, district or locality is somehow better for students and the country. As report after report documents, if the U.S. is to continue to lead the world in economic growth – and the innovation that feeds such growth – we must start, at the very bottom, to demand more from our students, parents, and educators across all localities, regardless of race, income, or geography. With 48% of college graduates working in jobs that do not require a four-year college degree, and 75% of underemployed college graduates working in jobs that require no more than a high school diploma, clearly leaving the solution up to the sole discretion of states and localities is not working.

By providing consistent and practical guideposts — and long-term data analysis that tracks whether educational programs actually help students learn — Common Core learning standards are a long-awaited first step to closing the talent gap that bedevil college admissions officers and employers alike.


Ohio among states vying for feds’ unmanned-aircraft test centers

By Jessica Wehrman

The Columbus Dispatch

Monday August 19, 2013 3:54 AM


WASHINGTON — At a conference last week devoted to the unmanned aerial vehicle industry, states including Ohio, Oklahoma, North Dakota and Idaho set up sometimes-lavish exhibits touting their amenities.

The displays varied, but the message was the same: Pick us.

As many as 25 states are vying to be among the six sites the Federal Aviation Administration will select later this year for commercial testing of unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs. And as the U.S. unmanned aircraft industry evolves beyond military use into commercial use, it is increasingly viewed as a potential economic boon to states seeking economic development. The aircraft, they say, can be used for everything from precision agriculture to police work.

That made last week’s conference, held at a Washington, D.C., convention center, something of a beauty contest. States submitted their applications to be FAA test sites months ago, but as they laid out their free Frisbees or recyclable tote bags emblazoned with state logos, many hoped their exhibit would help “brand” them as UAV-friendly.

“Every good marketing effort requires repetition of the message,” said Michael O’Malley, director of the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development, standing in front of a giant inflatable Yeti holding up a UAV. Utah has been going to the AUVSI Unmanned Systems conference since 1996 and exhibiting there since 2006.

Ohio, meanwhile, has exhibited at the convention for the past three years, expanding its presence each time. This year, the state hosted a reception that featured giveaways including journals emblazoned with the state logo, a ringed binder advertising Ohio’s assets and cookies shaped like the state of Ohio. Staff at the exhibit wore matching red shirts one day, matching white shirts the next. Their name tags were shaped like the state of Ohio.

On Tuesday, hours after North Dakota held a reception at the convention featuring fruit, veggie and cheese platters as well as remarks by the state’s lieutenant governor, Ohio held its own reception, with light hors d’oeuvres and wine and beer. By 5 p.m., the Ohio booth was bustling. The next day, Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, toured the exhibit — another chance to draw attention to the state’s booth.

Physically, Ohio’s exhibit was one of the biggest — only Oklahoma’s took up more space — and the booth alone cost $45,000 to design and build. That figure doesn’t count the other costs, including giveaways, literature and reception costs. The Dayton Development Coalition, Ohio’s Third Frontier Program and a coalition of Ohio companies and universities split the bill, according to Michael Gessel of the Dayton Development Coalition.

“We’ve got to have a presence here,” said Scott Koorndyk, chief operating officer of the Dayton Development Coalition, who said the booth is “about getting in front of companies and selling the benefits of Ohio.”

To bolster its bid, Ohio has partnered with Indiana. They highlighted that partnership with a massive map marking all the potential sites where UAVs could be tested, including in restricted air space in southern Indiana. The two states submitted their 6,000-page application to become an FAA test site in May, two years after a group of Ohio lawmakers pushed for language in an FAA reauthorization bill calling for the establishment of FAA test sites.

They say unmanned aerial vehicles are in their blood. Dayton businessman Charles Kettering developed the first unmanned aerial vehicle, the Kettering Bug, in 1918.

And the AUVSI, the trade organization representing unmanned aircraft now headquartered in Washington, D.C., was first established in Dayton in 1972.

There’s an irony inherent in the states’ sales pitches: At a time when unmanned aerial vehicles are getting negative attention for infringing on privacy and for being used overseas as a weapon, these states are eager to demonstrate that they want a piece of the pie. They’ve bolstered their FAA applications by partnering with law professors who can advise about privacy concerns. Idaho passed a law requiring law enforcement to have a search warrant before using unmanned aerial vehicles to investigate criminal activities. Ohio has partnered with law professors at the University of Dayton, among others, for guidance on privacy issues.

But to them, unmanned aircraft are inevitable. Even as they wrestle with concerns about privacy infringement, they see benefits: farmers able to focus pesticide and water on specific areas rather than blanketing vast acreage; aircraft taking care of destructive wildfires; cheaper and more efficient monitoring of utility and gas lines.

“There’s just so much opportunity,” said Richard Honneywell, the director of Ohio’s Unmanned Aerial Systems Center and Test Complex, which is overseeing development of unmanned aircraft in Ohio.

At Oklahoma’s booth, a centrally located behemoth featuring a giant unmanned aerial vehicle atop it, economic development officials handed out Frisbees and eyeglass cloths emblazoned with pictures of the state. It was their third booth in three years, and in one corner, Oklahoma Secretary of Science and Technology Stephen McKeever took meetings. Three years ago, he wandered the convention hall, taking it all in. This year, he didn’t have time to leave the booth.


His state is also vying to be one of the six. And while they’re excited, McKeever can’t help but worry that the process is moving too slowly.

“Other nations around the world are moving ahead,” McKeever said. “Other nations are using unmanned aerial systems in a way we are only hoping to use them.”


12 Weapons That Changed Everything

By JOSH HERR, The Fiscal Times

August 15, 2013


As the battle over gun rights in America reaches more and more baroque levels it’s easy to lose track of how we got here.

Weaponry and war has been a concern for humanity from its very earliest days. Empires from Greece, Rome and Persia to Napoleonic France and Colonial England have all been built on a backbone of superior firepower. From Roman’s peasants fearing Hannibal’s elephants to Irish farmers dreading the site of Viking warships on the horizon, from Paul Revere’s “The British are coming!” to the 1950’s “Duck and Cover” drills, weaponry has haunted our nightmares for as long as it’s fueled the dreams of boys and conquerors.

The right of protection against tyranny was so important to our founding fathers that they included it as the Second Amendment to the Constitution. This debate still rages, as we weigh the costs of our gun culture against this principle. Technology, as always, drives innovation. And that is just as true with weapons as it is with the Internet.

Just as there is a through line that stretches from the Sears catalog to, there is an equally clear line from the sword to the predator drone.

History is shaped by these technological innovations. It is impossible to imagine a Roman empire without its Legionary sword, or a British one without muskets. The German blitzkrieg required fast engines and lots of gasoline. The Atomic bomb, which has shaped every political action since its first use at Hiroshima, required nuclear physics (and, obviously, flight).

With those historical realities in mind, take a look back at the technology that changed weapons and the weapons that changed everything.

1. Bone

Ok, so we don’t know exactly when and where this went down, but we all know it happened.  Two cavemen had a dispute that led to violence…and in this melee, one caveman wrapped his brand new shiny opposable thumbs around a bone, stick or sharp rock and discovered that the damage he could inflict on his fellow man increased exponentially. No longer would combat be restricted to teeth, claws, fists and feet. The age of weapons had begun.


2. The Greek Phalanx (750 BCE)

Technically the Phalanx is the formation.  The individual soldiers were armed with the “Sarissa,” a long heavy spear, and a shield, but a phalanx is most notable for being greater than the sum of its parts.  The Greek soldiers would stand in rigid formation, their shields interlocked to protect not just themselves, but perhaps most importantly the man to their left.  The phalanx conquered the Mediterranean by moving as a single unstoppable armored unit.  It was in many ways, the tank of its day, and the fact that we still use the word in modern speech is a testament to its effectiveness.


3. The Gladius (400BCE – 300AD)

Roman Legionary’s Sword – If the Greeks mastered uniformity of movement, the Roman’s mastered standardization of equipment.  The short bladed Gladius made up part of the arsenal of every Legionary, along with a shield short throwing spear and dagger.  By ensuring that every soldier had well-made equipment, usable in a variety of situations, the Romans created an empire that, at its peak, stretched from England to North Africa, from the tip of the Iberian peninsula to the Indian mainland.


4. English Longbow (600AD – 1600AD)

Though records of the longbow are found as early as the 7th century, its status as a game-changer is primarily based on its usage in several battles during the 100 Years War, most famously (as immortalized by Shakespeare) at the battle of Agincourt.  Like a giant battlefield-wide version of the famous scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark, the British simply stood to the side and said “Instead charging over there and fighting…why don’t we just shoot them?”  Ranged weaponry may have long predated the longbow, but the bows size gave it the power to punch through armor.  Slowly but surely, the age of hand-to-hand combat was drawing to a close.


5. Gunpowder Weapons (900 AD)

Prior to the invention of Gunpowder, warfare was almost entirely about upper body strength.  Whether this was swinging a sword, thrusting a spear, or drawing a bow, victory was usually decided by who was stronger.  David and Goliath is a famous story simply because Goliaths typically won.  But Gunpowder democratized warfare, making mechanical skill more important than physical strength.  The invention of gunpowder ushered in the age of the cannon.


6. Rifled Barrel (Invented 1600, not widely used until 1848)

The Chinese might have invented gunpowder, and the British might have built an empire on the musket, but it was the invention of the riffled barrel and the “Minie ball” style bullet that made gunfights truly deadly.  A pre-rifling musket was a highly inaccurate weapon, where the odds of hitting your target had about as much to do with luck as skill.  By rifling the barrel and using bullets fitted to this barrel, gun manufactures were able to produce a product that was deadly accurate.  The American Civil War was the proving ground for this invention, and the high body count of such battles as Shiloh, Antietam, and Gettysburg proved its “success”


7. Colt Revolver (1836 to Present)

Rolling out with the advertising slogan, “God made all men, but Samuel Colt made them equal,” the Colt revolver has since go on to be one of the primary symbols of the settlement of the American West.  With its revolutionary revolving chamber, it was able to fire six shots without reloading (hence “six-shooter”) where most infantry rifles required reloading after each shot.  Additionally it’s relatively small size made it usable by women, children and really anyone who could lift it.  For better or worse, the days of high capacity, rapid fire, hand-held weapons were upon us.

8. Belt Fed Machine Gun (20th Century)

Though Richard Gatling’s ‘Gatling Gun’ is probably the early machine gun that most think of, it wasn’t until WWI that the full tactical and psychological impact of the machine gun was felt.  In the brutal trench warfare that covered the European continent, weapons such as the British Vickers, German MG 08, and French Saint-Etienne put the power of an entire firing squad into one man’s trigger finger.  Entire squadrons could be wiped out with one squeeze.  It was the longbow revolution for the industrial age, and the end of soldiers marching to battle in formation.  You only need to look at any modernist poetry at all, to realize the psychological impact this technology had on an entire generation.

9. Tanks (1916 – Present)

If the machine gun was the longbow, the tank was its knight in armor.  A big metal box on treads, the tank could go anywhere and shrug off gunfire like an annoying mosquito.  Constructed on an assembly line and driven by gasoline, it was warfare via the industrial revolution.  The German Panzer rose to infamy as its ability to move fast and strike hard fueled the blitzkrieg, while the durable M4 Sherman enabled the Allied forces to march to victory across North Africa and eventually into the European theater.


10. Atomic Bomb

Upon seeing the successful test for the A-bomb, J. Robert Oppenheimer, one of the key minds behind the development of the Atomic bomb, recalled , the line from the Bhagavad Gita, “I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”  And so he had.  Though easily the least used weapon on this list, it was without a doubt the weapon that shaped all of post WWII politics in the 20th century.  Even before the bomb, WWII had made it clear that war was no longer something that happened to soldiers on a battlefield…it was something that happened to everyone.  And that was never clearer than when two Japanese cities were nearly totally destroyed, simply by dropping a hunk of metal from the sky.


11. AK-47 (1947)

Mao Zedong famously said, “Change must come through the barrel of a gun.” Without question, the gun that symbolized change for the 20th century was the AK-47.  Technically called the “Automat Kalashnikova – 47,” the AK was everything its American counterpart the M-16 was not — cheap, easy to manufacture, reliable and accurate, and it didn’t hurt that it just looked cooler.  The AK became the standard weapon of USSR, China, and all of the Warsaw Pact nations.  The ease with which it could be manufactured and its reliability in multiple weather types also made it a gun of choice for the various cold war revolutions.  Hollywood also did their part, preferring its curved clip and natural wood stock to the more boxy and matte black M-16.


12. Drones

The Romans introduced manufacturing to warfare.  The longbow brought distance and gunpowder brought power.  The machine gun removed effort from the equation, but drones take the final step in the dehumanization of warfare.  You don’t even have to be there.  And it probably takes less engagement than a spirited round of Call of Duty…


One Stat About the U.S. Military That Will Surprise You

Daniel Harrison in Politics

August 15, 2013


There is a widespread perception in the U.S. that enlisted soldiers are poor, uneducated and underprivileged, that they choose to enlist and to serve because they have few other options, and that they risk their lives because they have very little to lose. In reality, however, data shows that American soldiers are relatively wealthy, well-educated, and do not choose to serve as any kind of a last resort.


After Vietnam, the U.S. suddenly possessed a military that was unnecessarily large, expensive, and made up of many who had been drafted. The American government acted swiftly to correct this, discharging a large number of new recruits and conscripted soldiers and switching to an all-volunteer army. There were concerns that an all-volunteer army would be disproportionately comprised of minorities, poor people, and others from relatively unfortunate circumstances.

Over 40 years later, these concerns persist. They have manifested into a false perception that the military is indeed made up mostly of the less fortunate, that its recruiters prey upon the poor or the uneducated. This perception is only loosely based on reality.

Even a quick glance at data of the military’s demographics should be enough to cast doubt on this perception. According to a 2008 study by the Heritage Foundation, enlisted recruits in 2006 and 2007 were actually more likely to come from middle or upper class neighborhoods than from lower class ones. In fact, the numbers showed that Americans who came from a neighborhood where the median household income was lower than $40,000 were underrepresented among military recruits during those two years, while those from neighborhoods where the median household income was above $40,000 were overrepresented. There data showed that representation among said recruits increased as neighborhood median household income increased.

The conclusion is simple but surprising: The wealthier the average household is in your neighborhood, the more likely you are to have joined the U.S. military in 2006 and 2007. Considering the sample size, this is likely to be true today, too.

Education is a trickier matter to assess, but the idea that the majority of soldiers are completely uneducated can be easily refuted. According to a 2011 report, 93% of soldiers possess a high school degree and/or some college experience, which means that a soldier is even more likely than the average civilian to possess such a degree. Yet while 82.5% of officers in the military have a bachelor’s degree or higher, that number for enlisted members is only 5.6%. This is due in part to the fact that many young men and women serve in the military as a means of paying for college later in life. But it must be said that these young Americans (defined as 25 years old or younger) make up less than half of enlisted members.

Finally, the perception of the military as a body heavily made up of minorities is also flawed. In 2011, about 30% of active duty soldiers were minorities. Coupled with the 11% of members who identified as Hispanic — Hispanics are not labeled “minorities” by the military, for some reason — it seems that approximately 40% of the U.S. military identifies as non-white, meaning that about 60% of the military is white.

While this is certainly below the percentage of whites in the national population (the most recent census numbers put that number at 78%), it is not the case that the military is made up mostly of minorities. Furthermore, the Heritage Foundation study found that in 2006 and 2007, the percentage of white new enlisted male recruits aged 18 to 24 was actually higher than the percentage of white 18 to 24-year-old men in the population as a whole. Perhaps, then, the race problems in the military are being corrected, at least to a small degree.

The most important takeaway from these numbers is what they say about Americans in general. Many who choose to join the military do not necessarily do so because they are out of options, or because they have nothing to lose. Something more, and something bigger, is at work.

The fact that so many privileged and educated Americans choose to serve says that the importance of camaraderie and brotherhood sometimes outweighs the financial loss or the risks of war. It says that there are things out there greater than sitting in a classroom or making a lot of money. It says that for many of our men and women in uniform — poor or wealthy, black, white, or Hispanic — the greatest currency to possess in their lives is honor and respect. And it says that patriotism is alive and well in this country.


What I believe is that collectively, they are men and women who represent something greater than what we perceive.


There’s no free lunch when it comes to Google’s Gmail

Privacy hubbub sparks online, but users aren’t expected to ditch Gmail

By Sharon Gaudin

August 15, 2013 04:38 PM ET


Computerworld – There’s no such thing as a free email service, at least not when it comes to Google, according to industry analysts.

Google got slammed this week after longtime Google critic Consumer Watchdog lit up the Internet by pointing out a legal argument that Google attorneys made during a class-action lawsuit about the company’s practice of scanning Gmail messages for keywords to help target advertising.

“Just as a sender of a letter to a business colleague cannot be surprised that the recipient’s assistant opens the letter, people who use Web-based email today cannot be surprised if their communications are processed by the recipient’s ECS [electronic communications service] provider in the course of delivery,” Google’s attorneys wrote in a motion (download PDF).

And then quoting a 1979 case, Smith v. Maryland, they added, “Indeed, a person has no legitimate expectation of privacy in information he voluntarily turns over to third parties.”

When that comment became public, it unleashed an online firestorm about Google’s privacy policies and a debate about whether people should expect privacy in their personal or business emails.

“We take our users’ privacy and security very seriously; recent reports claiming otherwise are simply untrue,” wrote a Google spokesperson in an email to Computerworld. “We have built industry-leading security and privacy features into Gmail — and no matter who sends an email to a Gmail user, those protections apply.”

Google doesn’t have a roomful of employees sitting at desks reading everyone’s personal Gmail messages. What the company does have is an automated delivery process that scans incoming emails for spam, viruses and keywords that help it target advertising to users.

That filtering process is laid out in Gmail’s privacy policy.

“We also use this information to offer you tailored content — like giving you more relevant search results and ads,” the company states under the heading “How we use information we collect” in its privacy policy.

“I think the real issue here is naive users thinking that they can get something for nothing,” said Dan Olds, an analyst at Gabriel Consulting Group. “Providers don’t do anything for free. There’s always an angle they’re playing to either increase their revenue or profitability. And Google takes a back seat to no one when it comes to figuring out and exploiting all the angles. One of the best angles is using email contents to aim specific ads at users.”

He added that it’s a common practice for email service providers to scan messages for things like spam and advertising keywords.

“It’s true that these are automated filters, not human beings, reading the emails and matching up the ads,” said Olds. “I don’t think consumers see this as a huge invasion of privacy, not because they don’t have anything to hide, but mainly because they’ve never given it a thought. For most users, I think their main thought is ‘cool, free email’ rather than ‘I wonder why this is free? What are they getting out of it?'”


Rob Enderle, an analyst with the Enderle Group, said he doesn’t see this ruckus as something that will drive people to abandon their Gmail accounts.

“Free email is paid for in some way — Google mines it, others use it as a way to sell you on additional services they provide. You pick your poison,” he said. “The value of your profile is hidden from you and then you effectively exchange it for a set of services…. Google is incredibly profitable, suggesting that value is much higher than we likely realize.”

Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, said that since people actively click a link or check a box saying they accept Google’s terms of service, it’s hard to complain when the company does what it said it was going to do.

“I do not think very many users will leave Gmail over this,” he added. “As we have seen with other publicity over privacy [issues] with Facebook and other social media services, these flare-ups rarely result in lost users.”

Enderle noted that people need to be more aware of what they’re agreeing to in the first place.

“People should recognize that ‘free’ comes with a cost,” he added. “If they don’t know what the cost is, it would be wise to find out.”


Obama and Romney big data experts continue the battle as businesses

Big data is used to help Democrat Senate candidate Cory Booker in New Jersey

By Patrick Thibodeau

August 15, 2013 06:45 AM ET


Computerworld – WASHINGTON — The self-described nerds of President Obama’s presidential campaign last year were back using big data analytics, this time to help Newark Mayor Cory Booker achieve a landside primary win Tuesday in the New Jersey Democratic primary for a vacant U.S. Senate seat.

But, notably, the Obama data scientists are doing this work as consultants, through their own recently formed firm, BlueLabs.

BlueLabs built a turnout model for the Booker campaign, predicting the likelihood of each Democratic voter in New Jersey to vote in the primary.

The primary results “proved that our model was spot on,” said BlueLabs co-founder Chris Wegrzyn, one of the former senior members of the 2012 Obama campaign’s analytical department.

The proof, one supposes, is in the victory. But the Republican data scientists aren’t ceding anything.

At about the same time BlueLabs was formed, the chief data scientist for Mitt Romney’s campaign, Alex Lundry, co-founded Deep Root Analytics.

Lundry gives credit to the Obama campaign data effort, and said “that campaign, without a doubt, in 2012, had data and analytics more fully integrated into their structure.”

But since last year’s election, “what you are seeing is a flurry of activity on the right to make sure that we not only catch them, but surpass them,” Lundry said.


Indeed, while the Democrats were counting votes Tuesday, Deep Root announced a partnership with FourthWall Media, a major source of cable set-top box viewing data.

That data, which is anonymized, records what people watch. Change a channel and a new row of data is created. The idea is to take this data, combine it with insights about the voters, and then place ads on TV shows most likely to reach certain voters, such as swing voters. Lundry said this will improve the efficiency of campaign advertising spending.

Political campaigns have been using data for years to develop sophisticated understanding of voters. But the combination of relatively low-cost cloud computing, large quantities of data collected via online, in public repositories, and from sensors and so on, gave rise to big data analysis as researchers correlated these data sets in search of new insights.

“You are collecting everything you can, and essentially comparing it every way you can,” said James Hendler, a professor in the computer and cognitive science departments at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and head of its Institute for Data Exploration and Applications.

“When you do a poll and you talk to 1,000 people who represent 100,000 people, you get a margin of error plus or minus 3%,” said Hendler. That’s helpful, but it’s not nearly as helpful as having 70,000 of those 100,000 people. “You get much more precise, and start identifying sub-communities that you can’t do in a poll.”

This field is new. The first graduate program in analytics was created in 2007, and universities are rushing to establish programs.

In the 2012 campaign, big data use came of age, Lundry said. This campaign “was definitely the first cycle in which the term ‘data scientists’ was part of the org chart in any campaign.”

Wegrzyn said BlueLabs assembled a creative team of problem solvers, engineers, statisticians, data scientists and domain experts, and said they want campaigns to see analytics as “an agile, team-driven, creative process.”

Wegrzyn was surprised by the attention the analytical effort received during the Obama campaign. He led the selection and deployment of the Hewlett-Packard Vertica platform that the campaign used.

“Usually the nerds in the back room don’t warrant a great deal of attention, especially in politics,” said Wegrzyn, “but the world is changing.”

This article, Obama and Romney big data experts continue the battle as businesses, was originally published at


Small Businesses Can’t Avoid ObamaCare by Switching to Part-Time Workers

by Dr. Susan Berry 5 Aug 2013 407 post a comment


Small businesses hoping to avoid the high costs of ObamaCare by switching to part-time employees got some unwelcome news last Thursday, as Paul Bedard at the Washington Examiner reported that the Small Business Administration launched a website to explain to employers the federal government will add up the number of part-time staff employed to determine if enough hours have been worked to meet the “full-time equivalent” criterion.

Though President Obama has unilaterally suspended the employer mandate for one year, many companies that were anticipating it going into effect October 1st are moving ahead with their plans to lessen the impact on their businesses.

Some businesses believed that if they could get their number of full-time staff to under 50, they could avoid activating ObamaCare mandates by cutting full-time workers and hiring more part-timers. Confusion about the employer mandate calculation has been widespread.


Bedard wrote:

Said Matthew Haller of the International Franchise Association, “while its nice the administration has launched a new website, employers have been scrambling since the law was passed two plus years ago for answers to the laws complicated calculations for determining if they are ‘large’ employers and how many ‘full-time equivalent employees’ they have. The uncertainty created by the [health care act] continues to cause franchises and other small businesses to hit the pause button on job creation.”


Keeping in mind that, under ObamaCare, a “full-time” work week is only 30 hours, the SBA website provides an example:

Company X has 40 full-time employees working 40 hours per week, along with 20 part-time employees working 15 hours per week. The 20 part-time employees are counted as 10 full-time equivalent employees. Company X has 50 full-time employees and is subject to the employer shared responsibility provisions.


The rules are a “problem for employers at the margin” of 50 full-time workers, said Edmund F. Haisimaier of the Heritage Foundation. In addition, the mandates include seasonal employees, so even if a business with seasonal workers has the equivalent of 50 full-time workers for only 121 days, ObamaCare requirements are activated for that business.



Analysts Question Descriptions of Weakened al-Qaida

Aug. 20, 2013 – 02:00PM |



WASHINGTON — Reports of al-Qaida’s demise have been greatly exaggerated — and the organization’s strategic aims greatly misunderstood, security analysts said Tuesday.

The state of al-Qaida has been a central debate in Washington since the Obama administration recently temporarily closed US embassies across the Middle East due to intelligence suggesting an attack on one or more was coming.

Hawkish lawmakers and analysts say the alleged plot is proof that the Obama administration jumped the gun, beginning last year, when it claimed al-Qaida was on the decline.


These administration critics point to a May speech during which President Barack Obama said al-Qaida’s core group in Afghanistan and Pakistan “is on the path to defeat.”

“Their remaining operatives spend more time thinking about their own safety than plotting against us,” Obama said in a much-ballyhooed speech at National Defense University in Washington. “They did not direct the attacks in Benghazi or Boston. They’ve not carried out a successful attack on our homeland since 9/11.”

Thomas Joscelyn of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, during an event here Tuesday afternoon, said that is the wrong lens through which to judge al-Qaida.

“To say al-Qaida can’t do another 9/11-style attack, so they’re not a threat is wrong,” Joscelyn said, “and that ignores some of the threat streams we face today.”

An example of those alleged threats is the embassy plot, critics say. And, to them, that begs a question: How did the administration misread the strength of the Islamist group?

“So many got it wrong because we define [its strength] as terrorist threats against us or the West. That’s not their strategic goal,” Joscelyn said, calling al-Qaida’s work to attack US and Western targets a mere “tactic.”

“They define themselves as political revolutionaries who want power for themselves” and are pursuing “political power across the Middle East,” Joscelyn said. “That’s principally what they’re about and what they’re doing.”

The state and future strength of al-Qaida will influence a myriad US defense and national security policies and budget decisions, from force size to what combat hardware to buy to which platforms and troops must stay in the Middle East-North Africa region — making them unavailable for the Obama administration’s strategic “pivot” to Asia.

FDD President Clifford May said the Obama administration has adopted an “oversimplified narrative” about al-Qaida that, by definition, means its counterterrorism policies “will be flawed.”

May warned that when US and NATO troops mostly leave Afghanistan next year, “there will be a threat there.”

Where Obama sees a weakened al-Qaida core in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Joscelyn contends Al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri communicates regularly not only with the organization’s most potent cell in Yemen, but also with “dozens” of al-Qaida groups and individuals “across the world.”

Joscelyn ticked off a list of al-Qaida affiliates that did not exist before 9/11, saying while “it’s not the most popular brand in the Muslim world … they’re still capable of coming forward” to plan and carry out attacks.

His list includes al-Qaida cells in Mali, Iraq, Yemen, Syria and Somalia.

“We can’t just say this group isn’t al-Qaida but this group is [because] they’re supporting al-Qaida and its strategic goals,” Joscelyn said.

To that end, senior Obama aides have publicly defended their boss, pointing out that Obama’s May speech made clear he views the affiliate groups as a threat.

“What we’ve seen is the emergence of various al-Qaida affiliates. From Yemen to Iraq, from Somalia to North Africa, the threat today is more diffuse, with al-Qaida’s affiliates in the Arabian Peninsula — AQAP — the most active in plotting against our homeland,” Obama said in May.

“And while none of AQAP’s efforts approach the scale of 9/11, they have continued to plot acts of terror, like the attempt to blow up an airplane on Christmas Day in 2009,” the president said. “Beyond Afghanistan, we must define our effort not as a boundless ‘global war on terror,’ but rather as a series of persistent, targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks of violent extremists that threaten America.”

US Army Leaders Give Subordinates Just Weeks to Cut Staffs, Budgets by 25 Percent

Defense News

Aug. 19, 2013 – 03:45AM |

By PAUL McLEARY |     


The Secretary of the Army and the Army Chief of Staff have given their staffs just weeks — until Sept. 11 — to report back with “a comprehensive set of recommendations” as to where the service can make 25 percent cuts in funding and manning levels at all Army headquarters elements at the 2-star level and above.

The “2013 Army Focus Area Review Group” plan was spelled out in an August 14 Army document obtained by Defense News.

In some of the strongest language yet about how seriously Army leadership is taking the cuts, the memo bluntly says that “Let there be no mistake, aggregate reductions WILL TAKE PLACE. The money is gone; our mission now is to determine how best to allocate these cuts while maintaining readiness. We expect Army leaders, military and civilian, to seize this opportunity

to re-shape our Army. This effort will take PRIORITY OVER ALL other Headquarters, Department of the Army activities.”


The Group is being led by Deputy Undersecretary of the Army Thomas Hawley and head of Army’s Office of Business Transformation Lt. Gen. Thomas Spoehr. The memo states that the group will have seven “Focus Area” teams, each tasked with developing “bold executable recommendations which will be used to balance the already directed reductions” in the budget projections from 2015-2019. The initial focus areas are:


■ Institutional Headquarters Reductions


■ Operational Headquarters Reductions

■ Operational Force Structure and Ramps

■ Readiness

■ Acquisition Work Force

■ Installation Services and Investments

■ Army C31 and Cyber


When it comes to Institutional Headquarters reductions, service leadership warned subordinates that “movement of personnel outside of headquarters to subordinate units is not a legitimate means of achieving savings. Teams should consider consolidation, reductions, and closing organizations.”

When it comes to the Operational Force Structure, staffers are tasked with looking at “specific interest areas [such as] forces that provide support to other Services, task organization of Corps and Divisions, Logistics, Theater capabilities and other echelon above Brigade Combat Team (BCT) forces.”

Given that reductions in the defense budget outlined in the 2011 Budget Control Act now look like they’re going to remain the law of the land, the Army of the future is likely going to look very different from what recent projections assumed.

To that end, service chief Gen. Ray Odierno and Secretary John McHugh wrote that “We must focus on the Army’s core missions, sustaining the Army’s ability to provide a smaller, more capable Army able to provide ready land forces to meet combatant commanders’ global requirements; develop leaders for the 21st century, while maintaining the bonds of trust with Soldiers and Families. To ensure Army readiness at these reduced budget levels, we must make the best and maximum use of every single dollar provided to the Army.”

And all this has to be fleshed out in the next two weeks.


Obama Has Until Aug. 31 to Formally Propose a 2014 Fed Pay Raise

By Kellie Lunney

August 20, 2013

Another federal pay raise deadline is looming.

Congress is in recess and Washington is (relatively) quiet, so it’s easy to forget that Aug. 31 is the deadline by which President Obama has to announce his 2014 pay raise proposal for federal employees.

If the president doesn’t inform Congress of his alternative pay plan for feds by that date, then the increase mandated by the 1990 Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act kicks in. Under FEPCA, the raise would be determined by the change in the Employment Cost Index minus 0.5 percent. For 2014, that equals 1.3 percent, a slightly higher increase than Obama’s proposal of 1 percent in his fiscal 2014 budget.

Obama’s recommendation should come this week or next. He is expected to formally propose a 1 percent across-the-board pay hike for civilians and keep locality pay rates at their current levels.

In 2012, Obama announced his proposal for the 2013 federal pay raise to congressional leaders in an Aug. 21 letter. Congress eventually rejected Obama’s proposed 0.5 percent raise for feds in 2013 in March, as part of the continuing resolution to keep the government open.

Presidents largely have ignored the FEPCA formula in their federal pay raise proposals, preferring to offer their own figure. Congress created FEPCA, which provides an annual across-the-board salary boost and a locality pay adjustment for General Schedule employees, to close the public and private sector pay gap. The latest Federal Salary Council report concluded that federal employees are underpaid relative to private sector workers by approximately 34.6 percent.

The reality, however, is that Congress will end up determining whether federal employees receive a pay raise next year; civilian workers have been under a pay freeze since 2010.

So far, lawmakers have not shown much enthusiasm for ending the three-year freeze on federal employees, despite Obama’s repeated calls to do so. None of the House fiscal 2014 spending bills to date contain funds for a civilian pay raise. The House has passed four of the 12 spending bills for fiscal 2014: Defense; Energy and Water Development; Homeland Security; and Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies. The Homeland Security and Military Construction-VA bills did not endorse a civilian pay raise, but didn’t forbid it either.

“The committee does not include requested funding for a civilian pay increase,” lawmakers wrote in both of those spending bills. “Should the president provide a civilian pay raise for fiscal year 2014, it is assumed that the cost of such a pay raise will be absorbed within existing appropriations for fiscal year 2014.”

The House Defense spending bill also does not include money for a civilian pay raise next year. The current House and Senate Financial Services and General Government spending bills, typically the vehicle for federal pay provisions, leave the decision to Obama by omitting language related to an across-the-board raise for government workers. The Senate Defense spending bill, which the Appropriations Committee approved before the congressional recess, contains a 1 percent raise in 2014 for Defense civilian employees.

FEPCA allows the president through an executive order to set a pay raise for government employees if Congress doesn’t specify one and doesn’t pass legislation prohibiting it. But there’s still plenty of time left in 2013 for lawmakers to extend the federal pay freeze for another year, one way or another.


Draft Rules and draft Team Agreement for NASA’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Airspace Operations Challenge

by Press • 21 August 2013

The draft Rules and draft Team Agreement for NASA’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Airspace Operations Challenge (AOC) have been posted on the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Airspace Operations Challenge

Potential competitors, technical experts, interested parties, and the public are encouraged to submit comments via the website on the competition structure, requirements, and award metrics that should be added, modified, or deleted.

This Challenge is a competition among unmanned aircraft technology innovators to encourage further development of the technologies necessary for unmanned systems to begin safely using the National Airspace System along with piloted aircraft.

The flight competition will test innovative “sense and avoid” technologies created by various aerospace developers—technologies that are critical to the widespread use of unmanned systems because they help prevent incidents with other aircraft.

In the first phase of the competition, developers will demonstrate basic airmanship and air vehicle technologies through a series of ground and flight events intended to measure key performance capabilities ensuring that air vehicles are safe, sustainable, and practical.  Competitors will need to demonstrate a high level of operational robustness as well as the ability to “sense and avoid” other air traffic.

This phase of competition will be conducted in May 2014 at Camp Atterbury, Indiana, which is one of the test ranges comprising the Ohio/Indiana Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Center and Test Complex. Development Projects Inc. of Dayton, OH is managing the challenge for NASA under a Space Act Agreement.

The UAS AOC is part of NASA’s Centennial Challenges Program, in which NASA providesthe prize purse and the competitions are managed by non-profit organizations that cover the cost of operations through commercial or private sponsorships.  NASA’s Centennial Challenges seek unconventional solutions to problems of interest to NASA and the nation. Competitors have included private companies, student groups, and independent inventors working outside the traditional aerospace industry. Unlike contracts or grants, prizes are awarded only after solutions are successfully demonstrated.

There have been 24 Centennial Challenges competition events since 2005. NASA has awarded almost $6 million to 16 challenge-winning teams. For more information about the Centennial Challenges program and descriptions of each of the challenge competitions, visit:


A Gloomy Fall Forecast for Fed Pay, Benefits

By Kellie Lunney

August 21, 2013

Just a few weeks remain before fall returns, ushering in yet another season of stress and uncertainty for federal employees.

There’s the threat of a government shutdown, the impending political battle over raising the debt ceiling, the possibility of more furloughs or even layoffs because of sequestration, and the fear that Congress will freeze federal salaries for a fourth consecutive year. All of those scenarios adversely affect federal pay one way or another, not to mention morale, recruitment and retention.

So, what do federal retirees have to look forward to? In October, the government will announce the 2014 cost-of-living adjustments, and it’s looking like the percentage will be smaller than the 2013 figure.

The Congressional Budget Office recently estimated that the 2014 COLA will be around 1.5 percent. That’s slightly less than the 1.7 percent boost that federal retirees and Social Security beneficiaries received this year. It’s a lot less than the 3.6 percent increase they received in 2012. Still, it’s better than zero, which is what current federal employees are looking at if Congress decides to extend the freeze on their across-the-board annual pay adjustment.

CBO’s estimate was tucked into a cost estimate for a Senate bill that would increase the amount paid to veterans for disability compensation and to their survivors for dependency and indemnity compensation to the same COLA available to federal retirees and Social Security recipients.

Of course, the 1.5 percent COLA estimate is just that: an educated guess based on available information to date. The annual COLA is based on the percentage increase (if any) in the average Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) for the third quarter of the current year over the average for the third quarter of the last year in which a COLA became effective. The CPI-W measures price changes in food, housing, gas and other goods and services.

September’s inflation figure is the final data point needed to calculate the 2014 COLA. Stay tuned.

Salary Sleuth

Want to know how much a certain public affairs specialist at the Homeland Security Department earns? Check out, an online searchable database that provides pay information on federal jobs, agencies and specific employees nationwide. It’s the latest tool aimed at making publicly available salary data easier to find.

The average annual salary for a public affairs specialist in the federal government is $98,849, according to the website. A brief search of employees with that title working in Washington, D.C., shows many salaries over $100,000.

Benefits Survey

The Office of Personnel Management will survey a random selection of federal employees this summer on the quality of their benefits, well-being and their efforts at healthy living.

OPM will administer the Federal Employee Benefits Survey via email to the random sample of participants and employees can complete the 15-minute survey during work hours, said acting Director Elaine Kaplan in a memorandum to agencies.

The last such survey was in 2011.

The 2013 survey will be available online for a month with periodic reminders sent to respondents.



Secretly Tag 3-D-Printed Objects With InfraStructs

Microsoft Research combines terahertz scanning with 3-D printing to embed codes and shapes inside objects

IEEE Spectrum

By Davey Alba

Posted 20 Aug 2013 | 14:40 GMT


Ever wanted to send secret information just by passing along an ordinary-looking object? That’s the premise of Microsoft Research’s new project, InfraStructs, which pioneers techniques for concealing identifiers inside 3-D-printed objects. Anyone with a 3-D printer can fabricate an object with coded air pockets, or voids. And then anyone with a terahertz scanner can decode the tag hidden in the object—whether it’s a shape, a line of binary, or a gray code. It’s the modern microdot.

Microsoft presented the scheme at Siggraph 2013, the 40th International Conference and Exhibition on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques, sponsored by the Association for Computing Machinery, on 25 July. IEEE Spectrum’s Davey Alba had Andy Wilson, a principal researcher at Microsoft Research who studies human-computer interaction, explain how InfraStructs works.




Davey Alba: Welcome to the Full Spectrum. I’m Davey Alba for IEEE Spectrum. We’re here today with Andy Wilson from Microsoft Research. He’s here to tell us about InfraStructs, a research project that pioneers techniques for reading hidden information in objects. InfraStructs lets you embed binary codes, 3-D watermarks, and geometric shapes into 3-D-printed objects, and then it reads it back with terahertz scanning. Andy, welcome.


Andy Wilson: Hi, how’s it going? Thanks for having me.


Davey Alba: Thanks so much for joining us. So, what exactly is InfraStructs and how does it work?


Andy Wilson: So there’re all different kinds of imaging technology we’re interested in. This is some work where we’ve investigated terahertz imaging. So we put the 3-D printing stuff together with the terahertz-imaging techniques that are out there and combined them in an interesting way to embed patterns within 3-D-printed objects. People are studying various techniques like object recognition in the field of computer vision. InfraStructs does something rather differently, where we actually make it relatively easy to identify an object by constructing a recognizable pattern underneath the surface.


So you’ve probably also seen techniques in augmented reality, for example, where you actually put a printed code on the surface of an object. So this is a little bit related to that, where we’re looking at different kinds of binary patterns on objects, except that we don’t have to make the object look different here. We actually can hide the pattern underneath the surface and make it part of the structure itself. Another sort of related area would be RFID [radio-frequency identification]. Typically with RFID you need some kind of little circuit embedded in the object, along with an antenna, you know, which requires its own fabrication considerations and manufacturing. And here we don’t need those kinds of special circuitry and antennas. We actually just put the structure in the object, and we rely on the terahertz scanning to recover that. Another application would be embedding what’s called a gray code in the object, and that’s a particular binary pattern, which actually varies over the surface of the object. And when you recover the binary pattern, you then know exactly where you are in the binary pattern.


There are limits to what you can do. We found that the approach works best when we had material and then interfacing with a void or an air pocket within the material, since chiefly what you have is the ability to sense changes in the index of refraction in the material. So the biggest and easiest way to create a change in the index of refraction is to go from the 3-D-printed material to air. And so that gives you a big jump in the index of refraction. That’s the part that—these interfaces reflect very nicely in the terahertz domain.


Davey Alba: So is it possible to combine the different tags that you talked about into one object?


Andy Wilson: Oh, absolutely. You could certainly construct an object where part of the object has a certain tag scheme and another part has a different tag scheme. One idea is to just print some kind of identifier into the object so that the camera can actually look at some part of the structure underneath the surface of the object and identify it very quickly.


Davey Alba: So what exactly inspired you to do this work? Why 3-D printing?


Andy Wilson: So this work was pursued by Karl Willis, who was an intern. In trying to figure out what to do, what kind of projects would interest both of us, we both came to this particular combination of his interests in 3-D printing and mine in sensing.


Davey Alba: What sorts of challenges did you run into while you were developing this project? And can you expand on some of those, give us examples?


Andy Wilson: Well, so there’s a couple of interesting challenges. One is just in understanding the limits of the technology. So we, Karl and I, put together a bunch of prototypes that just tried to test the limits of what you could sense with terahertz imaging. So that involved building very specialized little objects that looked at—varied the angle for example, that the beam would hit the objects. So we performed a number of different tests like this, which weren’t especially useful but then allowed us to perform some examination later, processing of the scans to determine that yes, you could get away with—you could see a surface that was up to, I think, about 15 degrees away from the camera. So that was the first thing, sort of establishing the performance of the device. And then that led us into designing the actual patterns themselves, starting to figure out what kinds of structures you can at first fabricate with a 3-D printer, or a laser cutter, or other kinds of digital fabrication techniques. And then in concert with that, to be able to write computer programs that can efficiently and reliably recover those patterns. So that was definitely one of the more challenging aspects of the work.


Davey Alba: So this technology kind of lends itself—actually this was one of our first thoughts—to sci-fi sort of spying applications, passing secret messages, using objects where you embed these messages in these seemingly innocent-looking objects. Can you say anything to that?


Andy Wilson: Well the thing of it is, it has to—it’s a little tricky because that message has to be there at the time the object is created. You can’t just sort of tuck it into an existing object. I’m really reminded, now that I think about it, of some of the stuff that Craig Venter’s company is doing where they, you know, assembling DNA strings and then putting a copyright message in there or encoding other kinds of data into DNA. I think that’s the kind of thing you can do kind of invisibly, I guess. Is that sci-fi? It seems to me like all this stuff is like, you know, not too far off.


Davey Alba: Great. Thanks so much for your time, Andy.


Andy Wilson: Thanks! Thank you so much.


Davey Alba: We’ve been talking to Andy Wilson from Microsoft Research about the InfraStructs project. For IEEE Spectrum, I’m Davey Alba.



Against the Dollar Coin


The Atlantic

Alexander Abad-Santos

Aug 21, 2013


In the halls of Congress, a measure is being pushed by four senators that could well ruin American lives. Called the COINS Act, it allegedly aims to save the government money by replacing dollar bills with dollar coins.

The bipartisan bill is actually called the Currency Optimization, Innovation and National Savings (COINS; get it?) Act. Introduced in June, it is sponsored by Senators Tom Harkin, John McCain, Michael Enzi, and Tom Coburn, who mostly represent “states with mining and metal-processing interests,” writes Johns Hopkins professor Steve H. Hanke in an Op-Ed arguing against this foolish idea in today’s Wall Street Journal.

Aside from their states’ own interest, the senators are pushing this misguided bill because they say it will save the government money in the long run: some $13.8 billion over the next 30 years reported CNN. John McCain even says it will help strippers earn bigger tips. Granted, that’s an important consideration. However, overall, Hanke explains that the idea of a dollar coin is terrible.


We agree. Here’s why:

No One Likes Dollar Coins

“Oh man, let me trade you my dollar for that cool Sacagawea dollar coin you have,” is a sentence that has never been uttered in human history. At my local post office, I once saw a woman wince, whisper something under her breath, and her body crumple into a slouch when the stamp machine spat out a dollar coin. When similar legislature was introduced in 2011, a poll from Lincoln Park Strategies found that 76 percent of Americans “strongly opposed” the idea of the dollar coin. Hanke points out that “The Federal Reserve already holds over a billion-dollars worth of $1 coins in storage due to the fact that people simply don’t want to use them.” You hear that, Mr. McCain?


Coins Are Meant To Be Lost

Coins are hard to keep track of. Thin little disks of metal slip out of pockets with abandon. And the amount of change Americans lose in their couches alone is staggering. Time reported that in 2011, the good people of this nation forfeited some $15 billion to the cushions of their furniture. America, are you prepared to lose more? In these tough fiscal times, this is not a gamble we can afford.


More Money on the Floor

I am strict believer that there is no better feeling in this world than coming home after work, taking off real pants and putting on a pair of sweats. There is, moreover, a direct connection between happiness and the speed at which real pants come off. A pocket full of dollar coins would make this process obnoxious and, perhaps, lead to a diminishment of happiness among people who suddenly find themselves scrambling around the floor for lost dollar coins instead of kicking back in their sweats, watching Seinfeld reruns. We can’t have that, obviously.


Coin Purses and Fanny Packs Are Awful

Think coins are cool? Then just recall the device needed to carry them. You wallet is not built for coins, which is why you may have to invest into a coin purse or fanny pack. Are you ready to look like a Times Square tourist? Didn’t think so.


You Will Never Carry Cash Again

You know those people who pay for a tomato with a credit card? Well, with the advent of the dollar coin, we may all join their ranks. Mass aversion to the dollar coin may lead to a greater boycott of cash, which would lead us all to make trifling purchases with our cards. Just imagine all the waiting around, waiting for the receipt to print out so you can sign it. Horrendous.



Why the Chinese Love Bitcoins

August 22, 2013

By Lulu Yilun Chen

he Chinese have found a new investment that sidesteps the scrutiny of the country’s authorities. And for now, it’s paying off big.

Bitcoins, a virtual currency invented in 2009, is attracting investment-hungry Chinese who often struggle to find good assets that generate high returns.

The investments have paid off for people like Sun Minjie, a 28-year-old Internet worker who lives in Beijing. He paid about 28 Bitcoins, worth roughly $3,000 at the time, for more than 400 shares in virtual stock exchange 796 Xchange. He’s seen a 46 percent return on his investment since its Aug. 1 debut. Compare that with the 2 percent gain on the Shanghai Composite Index for the same period.

It’s no wonder why China has surged from seventh place in global Bitcoin collections last year to second, ranking only behind the U.S. In the past month, a flurry of local IPOs priced in Bitcoins, including 796 Xchange, Myminer and Labcoin, have also listed on virtual Bitcoin stock exchanges.

For Sun, Bitcoins have so far offered real returns. This is rare in a country where a rising middle class struggles to find valid investments to protect their assets against inflation.

“In China, the stock market, property and bond market are all not so good, so people get really excited when they hear of a new investment that generates high returns,” said Peter Pak, head of trading of BOCI Securities in Hong Kong. “What’s worrisome is that a lot of people could be just treating it as a speculative investment.”

Bitcoin isn’t controlled by any government. That’s part of why the virtual currency is so popular in China, a country where the government controls the flow of money overseas and keeps a tight rein on what it views as undesirable behavior at home. Chinese investors love having the option of buying Bitcoins in yuan and selling them in U.S. dollars or other hard currency.

“The advantage for Chinese users to use Bitcoin is freedom. People can do something without any official authority,” said Patrick Lin, system administrator of He owns about 1,500 Bitcoins. Lin said he’s sticking to the currency itself, rather than initial public offerings, in part because of weak regulation on Bitcoin.

“The Bitcoin world is just like the Wild West — no law, but opportunity and risk,” said Lin.



Drone Boom: Why Drones Aren’t Just for Dropping Bombs Anymore

Paul Detrick | August 20, 2013


When you hear the word drone you may immediately think of bombs being dropped in the Middle East or the surveillance of citizens here in the United States, but engineers and aviation geeks have wondered for decades if unmanned flight might solve a few of our world’s problems or just make our lives a little easier.

Popular Science magazine wrote about a “Superdrone” that could “sniff out pollution.Over 30 years ago, science magazines wondered if drones would “sniff out pollution,” or, “make pilots obsolete,” and engineers are saying that those ideas may be possible now.

“The technology has reached a point where it can be very inexpensive to buy [unmanned aerial system technology],” says John Villasenor, an engineer at UCLA and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Villasenor says that advances in GPS, airframe design, and flight control methods have made unmanned flight available to pretty much anyone.

As a part of the FAA’s re-authorization of funds in February 2012, Congress passed a bill that included the integration of unmanned aircraft into U.S. airspace. First for public entities like law enforcement or fire fighters and second for civilians like farmers or filmmakers with full integration by 2015. In July, the FAA approved two drones for commerical use which could fly as early as 2013.

The industry is growing so quickly worldwide that the intelligence research firm the Teal Group, said in June 2013 that unmanned aerial vehicle spending will more than double over the next ten years from current expenditures of $5.2 billion annually to $11.6 billion–totaling just over $89 billion in the next decade.

“The potential of UAVs benefiting mankind in firefighting, agriculture, pollution, stopping all sorts of loss of life because we were able to send a remote vehicle instead of a human life into that is amazing,” said Alan Tratnor of the California Space Enterprise Center at an unmanned aerial vehicle policy symposium put on by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics in March 2013.

The symposium is like a lot of public discussions going on around the world right now about drones.

Drone like this one are becoming cheaper and more available to civilians.”It’s a way to have a dialogue across the whole community to make sure we are all thinking of the right things and moving in the right direction together,” said Sandra Magnus, executive director of AIAA.

Some companies have already hit the ground running with low level aerial filmmaking. Drone Dudes is a two year old company of young filmmakers and engineers who shoot sporting events across the United States. Whether it’s biking, surfing, driving or skateboarding, Drone Dudes is able to capture aerial shots that are considerably cheaper and more dynamic that using a crane or a helicopter.

Magnus, who is also a former astronaut, says that she is aware of the concerns people have about the new technology.

“Human beings, our very nature, we’re a little scary about change because it’s the unknown, but we’re explorers too. And we are constantly balancing that tension between what’s the unknown like and part of us yearn to go into the unknown and all the debate you hear about the use of unmanned vehicles on both sides, you’re seeing that tension played out.”

Villasenor points out that in the late 1800s, when cameras became cheap enough for many Americans to buy, there was tension over that new technology too. Some of that tension grew over privacy fears, a topic the unmanned aerial system community can’t seem to escape.

Drone camera”I think civil libertarians have a right to be concerned about privacy,” says Villasenor. “To deny that unmanned aircraft […] will in some cases be used in manner that violates privacy, that would be overly naive. It will happen.”

Villasenor points out that when it comes to government drones with cameras the fourth amendment still should apply when it comes to civilians, there are invasion of privacy statues people must abide by.

“I also think it’s important for people with an interest in civil liberties and everyone else to look at it on the other side […] We have, all of us, an affirmative first amendment right to gather information so unmanned aircraft in the hands of people who are gathering information which includes people in the news media and others can be very powerful tools just like cameras are today,” says Villasenor.

“Technology is a tool and you have to be mindful how you use it,” says Magnus. “But we can’t let our fear keep us from reaping the benefits of our brains, which is where the technology comes from.”


Calamityville site cleared by EPA

Dayton Daily News

Posted: 12:05 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 17, 2013

By Steven Matthews – Staff Writer



Fairborn and Wright State University cleared a major hurdle this week when the Environmental Protection Agency provided an official document that opens the door for the city to turn Calamityville over to WSU.

The Ohio EPA issued its “covenant not to sue” letter to Fairborn for the 52-acre site, which is home to the National Center for Medical Readiness, also known as Calamityville, at 506 E. Xenia Drive.

The property — the former CEMEX plant — is a brownfield site, and the letter states that no additional cleanup is required and it releases any parties from any legal responsibility for past contamination.

“We’re really happy we’re at the end here,” Fairborn City Manager Deborah McDonnell said. “The university can take control and really build the world-class facility they’ve been envisioning.”

WSU leases the property from the city for Calamityville, a collaborative training and research facility that opened in March 2011. Its purpose is to prepare civilian and military medical communities and first-responders for disasters.

It cost $4 million to clean up the Calamityville site — $3 million in state and federal grants as well as a $1 million match from WSU.

“We have received the news from the city that the EPA submitted the letter of no further action, and university leaders will meet soon to discuss next steps,” WSU spokeswoman Stephanie Gottschlich said in a statement.

McDonnell said the city’s and WSU’s legal teams are working on the final purchase agreement, and the university’s board of trustees is expected to consider it at its next scheduled meeting Oct. 4. Potentially coinciding with that will be Fairborn city council’s vote to turn the property over to WSU.

The documentation will then be sent to the state for approval, McDonnell said.

“I’d like to believe it will be done by the end of the year,” she said. “We’re closer than ever.”

The city has made it a point to focus on economic development along the Interstate 675 corridor. The average daily traffic count around Calamityville is 11,278, according to the latest figures available from 2010.

“We’re thrilled that this phase is concluded and the university can move forward with their plans to become more aggressive with that property,” said Chris Wimsatt, the city’s economic development director. “It creates another asset in that part of the community, which has a multiplier effect with regard to development.”

In the city of Fairborn’s 2010 comprehensive annual financial report, Calamityville — when fully operational — has a projected economic impact of $374 million over a five-year period for the Miami Valley region, according to an economic analysis prepared by WSU.

Gottschlich said last month the projected impact still stands today, noting that Calamityville is a “couple years out” from being fully operational.

Calamityville has 12 full-time employees and an annual operating budget of $1.2 million.



Boehner proposes ‘short-term’ bill to avert government shutdown

Washington Post

By Lori Montgomery, Published: August 22


House Speaker John A. Boehner said Thursday that he plans to avert a government shutdown at the end of September by passing a “short-term” budget bill that maintains sharp automatic spending cuts, known as the sequester.

“When we return, our intent is to move quickly on a short-term continuing resolution that keeps the government running and maintains current sequester spending levels,” Boehner (R-Ohio) said on a conference call with GOP lawmakers, according to a person on the call.

“Our message will remain clear,” Boehner said. “Until the president agrees to better cuts and reforms that help grow the economy and put us on path to a balanced budget, his sequester — the sequester he himself proposed, insisted on and signed into law — stays in place.”

On the call, Boehner did not address perhaps the most pressing issue facing Republican leaders: Whether to use the threat of a shutdown — or even a potential government default later this year — to try to force President Obama to delay implementation of his signature health insurance initiative. Conservatives in both the House and Senate, along with influential outside groups, are demanding that GOP leaders use the coming budget battles to undercut the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.

Senior GOP aides confirmed that House leaders are considering making demands related to the health initiative as part of any agreement for raising the $16.7 trillion federal debt limit. “Obamacare is one of many things we can pursue on debt limit,” a leadership aide said Thursday, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Among the possibilities: delaying the mandate that requires individuals to purchase insurance beginning in January and codifying Obama’s own decision to delay penalties for businesses that fail to offer insurance to their workers next year.

However, the aide said, “This is all in the discussion phase right now.” And by making clear his intention to keep the government open, Boehner signaled that he is not inclined to stage a white-knuckle showdown over the fate of Obamacare right when lawmakers return to Washington on Sept. 9 after the summer break.

Instead, Boehner urged his rank and file to follow the strategy he laid out earlier this summer that calls for “holding votes that chip away at the legislative coalition the president is using to force Obamacare on the nation.” Meanwhile, he urged them to focus on the victory of the sequester, which is scheduled to slice nearly $100 billion a year from the Pentagon and other agency budgets over the next decade.

Obama and other Democrats are eager to turn off the sequester and have offered a plan to replace the savings with a mix of tax in¬creases and reforms to expensive health and retirement programs. Still, Democrats do not expect to resolve the dispute before the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1. And Boehner’s offer to continue funding the government at 2013 levels — rather than the lower levels slated to go into effect in 2014 — could form the basis for an agreement to get through the first of several deadlines facing Congress this fall.

The second deadline — the need to raise the debt limit — is more problematic, in part because no one knows exactly when it will hit.

During a speech Thursday to the Commonwealth Club of California, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew called on lawmakers to raise the debt limit as soon as they get back to town because “it is not possible for us to estimate with exact precision when Treasury will have to depend exclusively on cash on hand to meet our country’s commitments — or how long it will take before that cash runs out.”

“In just a few weeks, we will find ourselves once again perilously close to breaching the debt ceiling if Congress fails to act,” Lew said. “We cannot afford for Congress to wait until some unknowable last minute to resolve this matter on the eve of a deadline.”


FTC chair promises robust regulation of big data

By Anthony Brino, Associate Editor

Published on Government Health IT

Edith Ramirez, the Commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission laid out the case for strong consumer protections regulating the private industry’s use of big data, as the agency asks Congress for the power to level civil fines against businesses for weak consumer data security.

Speaking at the Aspen Forum, Ramirez offered “A view from the lifeguard’s chair,” as her keynote was titled, alluding to her roots in coastal southern California.

“The already intricate data-collection ecosystem is becoming even more complex,” said Ramirez, whose term as commissioner ends in 2015.  Ramirez pointed to the “Internet of Things” as a growing technology that will test the bounds of the law.

In addition to online and cell phone data, “households with smart appliances such as refrigerators, televisions, thermostats… will soon be widespread,” Ramirez said. “These devices will be connected to the Internet, collecting information that will end up in the hands of manufacturers, service providers and others. What are the privacy and security implications? These are questions we are thinking about at the FTC,” she said.

“The fact that big data may be transformative does not mean that the challenges it poses are, as some claim, novel or beyond the ability of our legal institutions to respond.”

The FTC, an independent federal agency that turns 100 years old next year, believes it has “an obligation” to protect consumer privacy, said Ramirez. Congress directed the FTC to prevent unfair commercial practices — “conduct that substantially harms consumers, or threatens to substantially harm consumers, which consumers cannot reasonably avoid, and where the harm outweighs the benefits,” said Ramirez, who prior to joining the FTC was a partner in the Los Angeles office of law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, al law firm specializing in intellectual property litigation with clients including Google, Shell Oil, Motorola, Samsung and Sony.

Many companies are using data technology “in ways that implicate individual privacy,” Ramirez said. “The FTC’s role isn’t to stand in the way of innovation; it is to ensure that these advances are accompanied by sufficiently rigorous privacy safeguards.”

Ramirez argued for a consumer data framework that limits the collection of consumer data, as opposed to “after-the-fact restriction” limiting certain uses of data that’s collected, as many tech firms would prefer. “The indiscriminate collection of data violates the First Commandment of data hygiene: Thou shall not collect and hold onto personal information unnecessary to an identified purpose. Keeping data on the off chance that it might prove useful is not consistent with privacy best practices,” Ramirez argued.  

There’s also the risk of what Ramirez called “data determinism” taking hold in institutional practices. “Individuals may be judged not because of what they’ve done, or what they will do in the future, but because inferences or correlations drawn by algorithms suggest they may behave in ways that make them poor credit or insurance risks, unsuitable candidates for employment or admission to schools or other institutions, or unlikely to carry out certain functions.”

Ramirez noted that she is a big fan of big data. “The fact that decision-by-algorithm may be less than perfect is not to condemn the enterprise. Far from it. Using data-driven analytics to improve decision-making may be an important step forward. After all, human decision-making is not error-free. People often make imperfect decisions for a variety of reasons, including incomplete information, poor decisional tools, or irrational bias. But the built-in imperfections in the decision-by-algorithm process demand transparency, meaningful oversight and procedures to remediate decisions that adversely affect individuals who have been wrongly categorized by correlation. At the very least, companies must ensure that by using big data algorithms they are not accidently classifying people based on categories that society has decided — by law or ethics — not to use, such as race, ethnic background, gender, and sexual orientation.”

Last year the FTC called on data brokers — a relatively new occupation servicing mostly corporate clients with consumer data for business intelligence or targeted advertising — to give consumers access to their information through an easy-to-find, easy-to-use common portal, and the agency argued for legislation giving consumers the ability to access, dispute or suppress data held by brokers.

Further establishing its role as cop on the consumer data beat, the FTC has issued subpoenas to nine data brokers, investigating  “the nature and sources of the consumer information the data brokers collect; how they use, maintain, and disseminate the information; and the extent to which they allow consumers to access and correct their information or opt out of having their personal information sold,” Ramirez said.

The FTC has used its “unfairness authority” against companies for failing to provide reasonable data security — suing the Wyndham hotel chain last year for data security practices that led to three data breaches.The FTC has brought over 40 data security cases under our unfairness and deception authority for failing to provide reasonable security safeguards.

Along with the landmark Fair Credit Reporting Act of 1970, the FTC enforces the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act requiring companies to obtain parental consent before collecting personal information from kids under 13, and recently updated rules to include social media and mobile applications.

The FTC is pushing Congress for the power to secure civil penalties against businesses that “fail to maintain reasonable security,” Ramirez said. The agency also is urging Congress to pass “baseline privacy legislation” that would increase transparency about companies’ collection of user information, among other goals.


Army Makes Cloud Email Migration

Richard W. Walker


After years of stumbling along in fits and starts, the Army’s migration to an enterprise-wide email system is nearly complete. Most Army users can now access their email securely from anywhere in the world at any time.

Officials said Wednesday that more than 1.4 million Army users have migrated onto the unclassified NIPRNet and 115,000 users onto the classified SIPRNet, completing “the bulk” of the Army’s move to the system, called DOD Enterprise Email (DEE).

The Army’s adoption of the system is the first phase of a Defense Department-wide move to a private cloud hosted by the Defense Information Systems Agency’s Defense Enterprise Computing Centers. Under Department of Defense (DOD) goals, the system will eventually support 4.5 million users across the department.

Officials expect DEE to improve operational effectiveness, security and efficiency, saving the Army $76 million in fiscal year 2013 and $380 million through 2017. Before migration, the Army expended considerable resources managing and securing disparate legacy email systems, officials said.

Mike Kreiger, the Army’s deputy CIO, said that the migration to DEE has been “a learning experience for all of us.”

Indeed, the program has faced a series of stumbling blocks since the first users were moved to the DISA cloud in January 2011, including a lack of uniformity in desktop configuration across the department. Technicians had to standardize desktop configurations before users could be moved to the new system. In addition, legacy networks at some military installations were not optimized to use cloud-based services, causing additional delays.

Between late December 2011 and March 2012, the rollout was suspended to address new rules under the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, which required the Army to demonstrate that its acquisition approach to the system was technically and financially viable.

A year ago, however, the migration began picking up steam and moving at a steady clip, hitting a major milestone of 500,000 users. At that point, any skepticism that a project of such immense scale could be successful was assuaged.

The move to DEE represents a big change in the user experience. “When you move from installation to installation, your mail is still there,” said Lt. Col. Patrick Lee, an Army branch chief for programs and projects at Ft. Gordon in Georgia, in an interview a year ago, after the system had been rolled out to half a million users.

“When I travel, I’m able to pull up my mail wherever I go,” he said. “I don’t have to worry about authentication on individual networks or my email sitting on someone else’s server.”


Among major features, the system gives users a single email address that follows them everywhere, an increase in mailbox capacity to 4 gigabytes from 100 MB, and the ability to share calendars and collaborate across DOD’s three commands throughout the globe.

Having reached the 1.4 million-user goal, the Army is leveraging lessons learned as it implements other enterprise services, Krieger said.

“We’ve still got plenty of work left to institutionalize DEE and enterprise services in general,” he said.


Ballmer forced out after $900M Surface RT debacle

Major miscalculation and ensuing financial blow precipitated board’s decision to push out the Microsoft CEO, argues analyst

Gregg Keizer

August 23, 2013 (Computerworld)


Steve Ballmer was forced out of his CEO chair by Microsoft’s board of directors, who hit the roof when the company took a $900 million write-off to account for an oversupply of the firm’s struggling Surface RT tablet, an analyst argued today.

“He was definitely pushed out by the board,” said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, in an interview Friday. “They either drove him out, or put him in a situation where he felt he had to leave to save face.”

The biggest clue that Ballmer was pushed and didn’t leave of his own free will was the 12-month timetable Microsoft said it would use to find a CEO successor. “Typically, a board will be working behind the scenes for a replacement, but they’ve given themselves 12 months,” said Moorhead. “I think this went down very quickly.”

Microsoft announced Ballmer’s retirement earlier Friday.

Ballmer, who has been CEO since 2000 and at Microsoft since 1980, will remain CEO until his successor is selected. In a statement, the board indicated that could take as long as 12 months. It has drafted a committee to oversee the selection process; co-founder, former CEO and current chairman Bill Gates will serve on the committee.


In his email to Microsoft workers, Ballmer seemed to hint that the retirement was not his idea, but that he was falling on his sword. “This is an emotional and difficult thing for me to do. I take this step in the best interests of the company I love,” he wrote.

Later Friday morning, Ballmer told Mary Jo Foley of ZDNet that he had been thinking of retirement for some time — true, as he’d informally named 2018 as the likely date five years ago — but that his thinking had “intensified really over the last couple, two, two and a half months.”

Moorhead had a different timeline.

“What could have precipitated the quick move?” Moorhead asked, then answered his own question. “It was the $900 million write-down. That caught the attention of the board, and based on Ballmer’s over-enthusiastic public commentary on Windows RT and Surface RT, they lost a lot of credibility. So did Ballmer. How can you be that far off what consumers want? Was it that you’re not listening to your team? Was it because the team was afraid to give him advice? Was it because the team saw a different reality? Or was it that the team lacked the skill set to anticipate the failure?”

Whatever the reason, it ultimately led to Ballmer being blamed. “The buck stopped with Ballmer,” said Moorhead.

Microsoft announced the write-off in mid-July during its second-quarter earnings call with Wall Street. But the company would have known weeks before that it would have to declare the charge-against-earnings. And the board, too, would have known about the massive hit.

Other analysts saw a longer process, where Ballmer knew he was on his way out for months, and one in which he was not exactly ousted, but saw the logic of retirement, both for himself — and as Ballmer wrote in his email — for the good of the company.

“He has been looking for the right time to retire for a long time, the right person to hand the reins to,” said David Cearley of Gartner. “I think it’s very likely that Ballmer’s decision [to retire] is part of a broader strategy within Microsoft as expressed by the reorganization in July that is geared toward shifting the corporate culture.”

The reorganization Cearley referred to was one announced by Ballmer himself July 11 that eliminated the long-standing product-centric divisions and reshuffled executives and responsibilities along more horizontal lines and with more control shifted to the CEO.

To Cearley, Ballmer’s departure was a mutual decision, one based on the realization that the reorganization and the company’s earlier pronouncement that it would become a “devices-and-services” vendor required a new CEO near the beginning of the process, not in the middle of the transition.

“They came to the decision that this overall strategy required bringing in a new CEO who can execute from the beginning to put their own imprint on that strategy,” said Cearley.

Ballmer spoke of the timing in his email. “My original thoughts on timing would have had my retirement happen in the middle of our transformation to a devices and services company,” Ballmer wrote. “[But] we need a CEO who will be here longer term for this new direction.”


AF releases nuclear enterprise’s future plan

By Staff Sgt. David Salanitri, Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

Published August 23, 2013

Flight Plan for the Air Force Nuclear Enterprise


WASHINGTON (AFNS) — The Air Force recently announced a long-term vision for the service’s nuclear enterprise.


The plan, signed by the chief of staff and secretary of the Air Force and approved by the 4-star-level Nuclear Oversight Board, provides a framework for advancing and monitoring the overall health of the Air Force nuclear enterprise, supporting infrastructure and processes.

The plan is organized into three main sections. The first explains the Air Force’s perspective on 21st century deterrence and assurance, and how that differs from the Cold-War era.

The second section outlines five strategic vectors for the nuclear enterprise, and the final segment explains how the plan will be used to monitor and advance progress across the enterprise.

“All Airmen should understand the basics of the deterrence mission and its importance to our Air Force and the nation,” said Maj. Gen. Garrett Harencak, the Air Force’s assistant chief of staff for Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration.

To promote understanding of the mission, the first part of the plan explains how Airmen across the Air Force contribute to national security by providing nuclear capabilities that deter potential adversaries, and assure our allies and partners.

The section concludes by describing the capabilities across the Air Force that contribute to effective deterrence and outlines the Air Force’s commitment to sustain and modernize capabilities to meet the changing demands of the 21st century.

Section two of the plan identifies the “five vectors designed to advance and monitor the overall health of the nuclear enterprise and further develop our Airmen, organizations, processes, capabilities and strategic thinking,” Harencak said.

By outlining a vector for each of these areas, the general said the Air Force will be able to implement a continuous improvement process to assess, develop action plans for improvements, and track the progress in each area.

Finally, the plan outlines how the Nuclear Oversight Board and Nuclear Issues Resolution and Integration Board will oversee efforts to meet plan objectives.

Though it is not intended to supplement any programming guidance, nor outline specific force structures, the plan may be used by planners, programmers and others to inform their efforts, Harencak said.

“We encourage commanders and Airmen at all levels to use the flight plan as a starting point for discussion and debate about deterrence in the changing 21st century environment, and the Air Force role in meeting those challenges,” Harencak added.


Rasmussen Reports

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

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The tragic events in the Middle East and the sentencing of a former soldier who leaked classified documents has put the spotlight on U.S. foreign policy this week.

Following deadly clashes in Egypt between the military and supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi, 54% of voters said the United States should not continue military and financial aid to the embattled nation.  Eighteen percent (18%) said U.S. aid to Egypt should continue.

Belief among U.S. voters that Egypt will become a peaceful and democratic nation in the near future has diminished since the Arab Spring protests in 2011.

The United States, France and several other countries are pushing for an investigation into allegations that the Syrian government used chemical weapons in an attack that killed hundreds of citizens. In June, 55% of voters disagreed with the president’s decision to provide weapons and military assistance to anti-government rebels. It will be interesting to see if opinions have changed when Rasmussen Reports releases new data on the Syrian crisis next week.

Chelsea Manning, formerly known as Bradley, was sentenced to 35 years in prison for releasing classified government documents to the website WikiLeaks. Forty-two percent (42%) of voters say that punishment is about right, but 33% say it doesn’t go far enough. Fifty-one percent (51%) believe Manning should have to serve the entire sentence without the possibility of parole, while 39% disagree. 

When it comes to policing at home, 52% of voters say on-duty police officers should be required to wear uniform cameras but say the practice wouldn’t have much of an impact on crime.  Voters are also more likely to view racial profiling by police as a civil rights violation.

Congress is currently on August recess, a time when many legislators hold town hall meetings to connect with their voters. Seventy-nine percent (79%) of voters believe that it’s more important for members of Congress to hear from their constituents rather than explain legislation to them. But 39% of voters now say the protests at town hall meetings are usually phony efforts drummed up by special interest groups and lobbyists. Thirty-seven percent (37%) believe the protesters are citizens reflecting the concerns of their neighbors. Another 24% are not sure. 

Congress’ top leaders have some work to do in winning back voters when they return from the recess. More than 50% of voters have an unfavorable opinion of Republican House Speaker John Boehner and his predecessor Nancy Pelosi. Pluralities of voters also view Senate leaders Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell unfavorably. 

Voters remain evenly divided on their views of Vice President Joe Biden, but most Democrats continue to see him in a favorable light

On the economic front, just 44% of Americans are confident in the stability of the U.S. banking system. 

Just half of homeowners believe their home is worth more than what they still owe on it, but confidence in the short-term housing market remains higher than it has been in several years. 
Most homeowners are also confident that they know what their home is worth in today’s market, and more now say it’s worth more than when they bought it

Eighty percent (80%) of Americans say they are paying more for groceries now compared to last year, and most expect to be paying higher grocery bills a year from now.

When it comes to grocery shopping, most Americans choose a major chain supermarket. But they still consider it at least somewhat important to find food that is locally grown and organic, even though they overwhelmingly agree it’s more expensive. Most adults say they eat dinner at home on a typical day, and most opt to cook their own meal rather than microwave a ready-made one. 

Consumer and investor confidence remain near their highest levels in several years.

Twenty-nine percent (29%) say the United States is heading in the right direction for the second straight week

In other news last week:

— Americans continue to overwhelmingly believe the so-called war on drugs is failing, but they are more divided on how much the United States should be spending on it. 

— Adults still believe kids are spending too much time in front of computers and other electronic devices, and nearly half think their quality of life is worse than it was for children a generation ago. Most adults also continue to believe their fellow Americans watch too much TV

—  Seventy-one percent (71%) of Likely U.S. Voters say the federal government helps businesses that are politically connected and hurts those that are not. 

— Most voters continue to have an unfavorable opinion of the health care law, and believe it will increase the nation’s deficit and drive up health care costs. 

— The number of voters who consider the bailouts of the auto industry a success is at an all-time low, while the fewest in a year think the bailouts were good for the country

— Republicans and Democrats run even for the second straight week on the Generic Congressional Ballot

— Most voters continue to think parents should be able to choose between schools based on such things as uniforms, prayer and how long the school year lasts.




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