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September 14 2013

September 16, 2013

14Sep2013

Newswire

Outlook bleak for fiscal 2014 defense funding

By Amber Corrin, Mark Rockwell

Sep 06, 2013

 

Top military officials and federal budget experts are predicting more cuts and greater uncertainty as the fiscal 2014 budget and appropriations process looms.

The Defense Department and defense contractors particularly are poised to take hits in fiscal 2014, sources indicated.

“The picture isn’t pretty…we are headed into a very difficult time,” Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, said at an industry event in Washington on Sept. 4, National Defense reported. “It is very hard for us to manage these abrupt cuts.”

The next day, Chief Naval Officer Adm. Jonathan Greenert painted an equally grim picture for the Navy, saying the service faces a $14 billion reduction that could more than halve its ship availability.

“Usually, we have three carrier strike groups and three amphibious ready groups able to respond within a week,” Greenert said at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. “We have one now, and that’s going to be the story in fiscal 2014.”

Greenert also predicted reduced training, cuts to shipbuilding, continued hiring freezes, the loss of about 25 aircraft and a possible reduction in force. He said the Navy will start voluntary civilian retirement programs as soon as Oct. 1, the first day of fiscal 2014, in hopes of heading off involuntary force reductions.

The bleak outlook extends far beyond the uniformed services. A new study from the Center for Strategic and International Studies shows that contractors also face a bearish business environment, including a likely decline in contracts over the next two years attributable to sequestration.

“Overall, this report shows the beginning of a decline in federal services contracting that is largely commensurate with the declining overall federal budget and expenditure levels,” the report’s authors wrote. “It remains to be seen whether the 2013 levels, with the impact of sequestration under the Budget Control Act of 2011, will maintain that relationship or not.”

Federal information and communications technology contracts are in decline from a 2011 high-water mark, according to the study, with information technology efficiencies such as cloud computing and virtualization a possible contributing factor.

Information and communications technology, or ICT, contracts are in line with an overall decline in federal services contracts in the same period, CSIS said. Between 2011 and 2012, the study said, overall contract spending on services fell from $331.5 billion in 2011 to $307.8 billion in 2012, a seven percent decline. That trend is likely to continue.

The report drew data from the government’s Federal Procurement Data System (FPDS) from fiscal 2000 through fiscal 2012.


Projected declines in spending, with and without sequestration. (CSIS graphic)

Although it found the biggest decline was for professional, administrative and management support (PAMS) contracts, the study said government ICT contracts fell by more than $2 billion, or six percent, from 2011 to 2012.

GSA ICT contract obligations also declined 5.2 percent between 2010 and 2012, while contract obligations for PAMS increased 21.2 percent comparatively among the five areas measured by the study. Equipment related services, research and development, and medical services all saw increases in the period, but none of the three exceeded $300 million in any given year, according to the study.

Along with the government budget cutbacks, a small part of the decline in ICT contracts could be due to increased IT efficiencies derived from virtualization and cloud applications. “ICT has traditionally been slower” than the other sectors the group studied, said Greg Sanders, CSIS fellow and one of the study’s lead authors. “It has dropped off 1 percent since 2009. While that indicates the overall government environment, we could be beginning to see some benefits from virtualization.”

The government’s use of blanket purchase agreements, like those the GSA rolled out for wireless services this past summer, are gaining steady traction, said Sanders. BPAs grew from .25 percent of ICT prime contracts in 2000 to 3.9 percent in 2009 to 4.5 percent in 2013. Government-wide acquisition contracts, like NASA’s SEWP, now make up 10 percent of ICT prime contracts, he said, while the use of Federal Supply Schedule contracts for ICT primes continues to drop, from 25 percent of ICT prime contracts in 2000 to 12 percent in 2012.

The Pentagon, which accounts for half of ICT contract obligations, accounted for most of the decline. The Big Six vendors: Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, Raytheon, and BAE, saw a faster decline than overall ICT, it said.

Overall, DOD contracts declined at a rate of roughly 5 percent per year from 2009 to 2012, according to the report, with equipment-related services being a rare bright spot seeing some increase over the past few years. But the report noted that DOD service contract obligations declined by nearly $33 billion in that time, including $15 billion from 2011 to 2012.

Research and development is an area particularly hard-hit by budget cuts. The CSIS report pegged the decline at roughly $4 billion between fiscal 2011 and fiscal 2012, from $39 billion to $35 billion. IT in general peaked in 20911 and has been declining slightly, the report noted.

Kendall highlighted the R&D and technology reductions as particularly worrisome. He said that in the push to quickly slash spending, these investment-type accounts are especially vulnerable and could face up to 20 percent reductions.

“This is a bizarre situation for the United States,” Kendall said. “We are seeing growing national security threats but we are unilaterally disarming because of concerns about the deficit and the national debt. This is a very unusual situation for us.”

Kendall also expressed specific concern for industry, which he indicated will suffer ripple effects of cuts if there is no congressional intervention – a prospect for which he was not optimistic. The end result of that could mean “tens of thousands” of job losses, he said.

“I am increasingly concerned about our technological superiority,” Kendall said. “I don’t think people understand as much as they should that our technological superiority is not assured at all,” with prospective enemies “designing systems to be better than ours and to defeat ours.”

 

 

 

By Sandra I. Erwin 

Sept 4, 2013

http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/blog/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?ID=1250
In his most pessimistic forecast yet of the military’s fiscal future, Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall did not mince words: “The picture isn’t pretty. … We are headed into a very difficult time. … Continuing sequestration is a serious problem for the department. … We don’t know where we are going.”

The sound bites sum up Kendall’s latest assessment of how the Pentagon is coping with the automatic budget cuts that began in March: Not well.

“It is very hard for us to manage these abrupt cuts,” Kendall said Sept. 4 in a speech to the ComDef defense industry conference at the National Press Club, in Washington, D.C.

Any deficit reduction plan should allow the military more time to absorb cuts, he said. The $1 trillion across-the-board spending reductions that Congress mandated for the entire federal government — half of which fall on the Defense Department — are causing untold damage to the military in ways that have not yet manifested, Kendall said.

The Obama administration’s budget proposal seeks cuts of $150 billion later in the decade. A Senate-backed bill would impose cuts of $250 billion, compared to $500 billion reductions from 2013 to 2021 under sequestration. “We already cut 10 percent when the Budget Control Act was passed [in 2011]. Now we are asked to do that again in an abrupt and indiscriminate way,” he said.

The scramble to slash spending is taking a disproportionate toll on so-called “investment” accounts that pay for research, development and procurement of new weapons and equipment for troops, said Kendall. Personnel cutbacks take several years to implement, so the Pentagon has little choice but to target investments, he said. He estimates these accounts could see a 20 percent reduction.

These draconian cuts to technology programs are ill timed, said Kendall, as they coincide with a growing need for the military to invest in new systems to combat unknown enemies. “This is a bizarre situation for the United States,” he said. “We are seeing growing national security threats but we are unilaterally disarming because of concerns about the deficit and the national debt. This is a very unusual situation for us.”

Like some defense hawks on Capitol Hill who oppose sequester, Kendall noted that the federal deficit is shrinking, and that the primary drivers of the deficit are health costs and social security. “Cutting defense is not the solution to the problem,” he said.

A year ago, Kendall said, he was confident that Congress would reverse sequestration. He harbors no such hopes now. The best-case scenario for the Pentagon, said Kendall, will be to contain the damage. “We don’t want furloughs. [Furloughs in fiscal year 2013] had a devastating effect on the workforce.”

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel already has been working to prepare the Pentagon for budgetary chaos in fiscal year 2014, similar to what it endured in 2013. Hagel said he wants to protect troop training, equipment and combat readiness programs, even if that means laying off workers and taking other politically unpopular measures. Hagel directed a 20 percent reduction in the budgets of his office, the Joint Staff and military headquarters. 

Kendall’s office alone employs at least 450 full-time civil servants and an equivalent number of contractors.

The Pentagon is building two sets of budgets for the 2015-2019 defense plan. One at the level proposed by President Obama, and another that lops off $52 billion per year in accordance to the Budget Control Act.

The exercise is one of the outcomes of the Strategic Choices and Management Review, or SCMR, that Hagel kicked off in March to help guide spending decisions. 

Hagel unveiled the results of the study July 31. The SCMR did not produce a detailed budget blueprint but rather a menu of options. One would be to slash the size of U.S. forces. The current plan is for the Army to downsize from 580,000 to 490,000 active-duty troops. The SCMR concluded that, under sequestration, the Army might have to slim down further, to between 380,000 and 450,000 soldiers. The Air Force might have to reduce as many as five tactical aircraft squadrons, retire bombers and cut the size of the C-130 cargo aircraft fleet. The Navy could see its carrier strike groups drop from 11 to eight or nine, and the Marine Corps could shrink from 182,000 to between 150,000 and 175,000.

Hagel warned that sequestration would result in a decade-long “modernization holiday.” The military could find its equipment and weapons systems “less effective against more technologically advanced adversaries,” he said. “We also have to consider how massive cuts to procurement, and research and development funding would impact America’s private sector industrial base.”

To help shore up U.S. military technology during the downturn, Kendall said he is seeking to launch several studies in areas such as air superiority and rotorcraft, “for the purpose of moving technology forward and position ourselves should threats change.” Such projects so far are wishful thinking, he warned. “They will be hard to squeeze into the budget right now,” he told reporters at the National Press Club following his speech.

Kendall sees a grim future for U.S. defense industry under sequestration, and projected companies might have to lay off “tens of thousands” of engineers.

“I am increasingly concerned about [preserving] our technological superiority,” he said. “I don’t think people understand as much as they should that our technological superiority is not assured at all.” Potential adversaries are “designing systems to be better than ours and to defeat ours.”

The conventional wisdom that has set in — that sequestration cuts can be absorbed without noticeable degradation of military capability — is wrong, said Kendall. “It is going to get much worse,” he said. And lamented that he does not see a way out. “I don’t see people negotiating a deal on the Hill,” said Kendall. “What it will take is enough visibility of the damage that has been done. … There is not enough visibility yet. … The Congress needs to act on this.”

The chances of a budget deal are slim to none, analysts predict, as the parties stand far apart on fiscal issues.

“The president has threatened to veto any bill that supports the House budget resolution because it protects the Defense Department from cuts by more than doubling cuts in domestic spending, a clear violation of the Budget Control Act,” said David J. Berteau, senior vice president and director of the international security program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The Senate’s budget resolution, he noted, also violates the law by not cutting to the lower BCA cap level.

“Given these differences, the Defense Department will likely start FY14 under a continuing resolution, or CR. By definition, a CR would be at the 2013 level, which means funding would start the year at a level that is $37 billion below its proposed FY14 budget,” Berteau wrote in a CSIS report. “This matches the cuts made last March under sequestration and will cause new readiness problems and further delays or terminations of contracts and weapons procurement.”

It could get worse as the administration and Congress gear up for a showdown over the debt ceiling, when the government will reach the limit of its borrowing authority and Congress will be asked to increase it. The Defense Department, said Berteau, “may be held hostage to the larger political dynamics.”

A Map of America’s Future: Where Growth Will Be Over the Next Decade

Forbes.com

Sept 9, 2013

By
Joel Kotkin and Mark

 

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The world’s biggest and most dynamic economy derives its strength and resilience from its geographic diversity. Economically, at least, America is not a single country. It is a collection of seven nations and three quasi-independent city-states, each with its own tastes, proclivities, resources and problems. These nations compete with one another–the Great Lakes loses factories to the Southeast, and talent flees the brutal winters and high taxes of the city-state New York for gentler climes–but, more important, they develop synergies, albeit unintentionally. Wealth generated in the humid South or icy northern plains benefits the rest of the country; energy flows from the Dakotas and the Third Coast of Texas and Louisiana; and even as people leave the Northeast, the brightest American children continue to migrate to this great education mecca, as well as those of other nations.

The idea isn’t a new one–the author Joel Garreau first proposed a North America of “nine nations” 32 years ago–but it’s never been more relevant than it is today, as America’s semi-autonomous economic states continue to compete, cooperate … and thrive. Click on the thumbnail of our map to see our predictions for the job, population and GDP growth of these 10 regional blocks over the next decade, and read on below for more context.

Map at http://www.forbes.com/special-report/2013/america-next-decade.html

INLAND WEST

The Inland West extends from the foothills of the Rockies to the coastal ranges that shelter the Pacific Coast. This is the West as we understand it historically, a land of spectacular scenery: icecaps and dry lands, sagebrush, high deserts and Alpine forests. From 2003 to 2013, it enjoyed the most rapid population growth in the nation: 21%. It is expected to continue to outgrow the rest of the country over the next decade, as the area boasts the highest percentage of young people under 20 in the U.S.

Much of this growth was driven by a combination of quality of life factors — access to the outdoors and relatively low housing prices — as well as strong economic fundamentals. Over the past decade the area has enjoyed nearly 8% job growth, the strongest in the country, with the highest rate of STEM growth in the nation over the past decade.  Boise, Denver and Salt Lake City have posted stellar employment growth due to the energy boom and growth in technology. The western reaches of the region — the inland parts of Washington, Oregon and California — have not done as well. These areas suffer from being “red” resource- and manufacturing-oriented economies within highly regulated, high-tax “blue states.”

THE LEFT COAST

The Northeast may still see itself as the nation’s intellectual and cultural center, but it is steadily losing that title to the Left Coast. This region sports a unique coastal terroir, with moderate temperatures, though it may be a bit rainy in the north. The climate requires less power than elsewhere in the country for heating and air-conditioning, making its residents’ predilection for green energy more feasible.

Over the past 20 years, the Left Coast — the least populous nation with some 18 million people — has rocketed ahead of the Northeast as a high-tech center. It has by far the highest percentage of workers in STEM professions — more than 50% above the national average — and the largest share of engineers in its workforce as well. No place on the planet can boast so many top-line tech firms: Amazon and Microsoft in the Seattle area, and in the Bay Area, Intel, Apple, Facebook and Google, among others.

Over the next decade, the Left Coast should maintain its momentum, but ultimately it faces a Northeast-like future, with a slowing rate of population growth. High housing prices, particularly in the Bay Area, are transforming it into something of a gated community, largely out of reach to new middle-class families. The density-centric land use policies that have helped drive up Bay Area prices are also increasingly evident in places like Portland and Seattle. The Left Coast has the smallest percentage of residents under 5 outside the Great Lakes and the Northeast, suggesting that a “demographic winter” may arrive there sooner than some might suspect.

CITY-STATE LOS ANGELES

Once called “an island on the land,” southern California remains distinct from everywhere else in the country. Long a lure for migrants, it has slipped in recent decades, losing not only population to other areas but whole industries and major corporations. The once-youthful area is also experiencing among the most rapid declines in its under-15 population in the nation. Yet it retains America’s top port, the lion’s share of the entertainment business, the largest garment district–and the best climate in North America.

THE GREAT PLAINS

The vast region from Texas to Montana has often been written off as “flyover country.” But in the past decade, no nation in America has displayed greater economic dynamism. Since the recession, it has posted the second-fastest job growth rate in the U.S., after the Inland West, and last year it led the country in employment growth. The Dakotas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Kansas all regularly register among the lowest unemployment rates in the country.

The good times on the Plains are largely due to the new energy boom, which has been driven by a series of major shale finds: the Bakken formation in North Dakota, as well as the Barnett and Permian in Texas. The region’s agricultural sector has also benefited from soaring demand in developing countries.

Most remarkable of all has been the Plains’ demographic revival. The region enjoyed a 14% increase in population over the past 10 years, a rate 40% above the national average, and is expected to expand a further 6% by 2023, more than twice the projected growth rate in the Northeast. This is partly due to its attractiveness to families — the low-cost region has a higher percentage of residents under 5 than any other beside the Inland West.

But outside of the oil boom towns, don’t expect a revival of the small communities that dot much of the region. The new Great Plains is increasingly urbanized, with an archipelago of vibrant, growing cities from Dallas and Oklahoma City to Omaha, Sioux Falls and Fargo.

Its major challenges: accommodating an increasingly diverse population and maintaining adequate water supplies, particularly for the Southern Plains. The strong pro-growth spirit in the region, its wealth in natural resources and a high level of education, particularly in the northern tier, suggest that the Plains will play a far more important role in the future than anyone might have thought a decade ago.

THE THIRD COAST

Once a sleepy, semitropical backwater, the Third Coast, which stretches along the Gulf of Mexico from south Texas to western Florida, has come out of the recession stronger than virtually any other region. Since 2001, its job base has expanded 7%, and it is projected to grow another 18% the coming decade.

The energy industry and burgeoning trade with Latin America are powering the Third Coast, combined with a relatively low cost, business-friendly climate. By 2023 its capital–Houston–will be widely acknowledged as America’s next great global city. Many other cities across the Gulf, including New Orleans and Corpus Christi, are also major energy hubs. The Third Coast has a concentration of energy jobs five times the national rate, and those jobs have an average annual salary of $100,000, according to EMSI.

As the area gets wealthier, The Third Coast’s economy will continue to diversify. Houston, which is now the country’s most racially and ethnically diverse metro area, according to a recent Rice study, is home to the world’s largest medical center and has dethroned New York City as the nation’s leading exporter. Mobile, Ala., seems poised to become an industrial center and locus for trade with Latin America, and New Orleans has made a dramatic comeback as a cultural and business destination since Katrina.

THE GREAT LAKES

The nation’s industrial heartland hemorrhaged roughly a million manufacturing jobs over the past 10 years, making it the only one of our seven nations to lose jobs overall during that period. But the prognosis is not as bleak as some believe.

Employment is growing again thanks to a mild renaissance in manufacturing, paced by an improving auto industry and a shale boom in parts of Ohio. The region has many underappreciated assets, such as the largest number of engineers in the nation, ample supplies of fresh water and some of the nation’s best public universities. With fifty-eight million people, it boasts an economy on a par with that of France.

Yet we cannot expect much future population growth in the Great Lakes, the second most populous American nation. Its population is aging rapidly, and the percentage under 5 is almost as low as the Northeast.

THE GREAT NORTHEAST

The Northeast–which excludes the city-state of New York–has been the country’s brain center since before the American Revolution. This region is home to some 41 million people, and leads the nation in the percentage of workers engaged in business services, as well as in jobs that require a college education. With average wages of $76,000, $19,000 above the national average, the area boasts a GDP of $2.2 trillion, about equal to that of Brazil.

[More from Forbes: The Fastest-Growing Cities In The U.S.]

The Northeast is one of the country’s whitest regions — Anglos account for over 70% of the population — and one of the wealthiest. In many ways, it resembles aging Western Europe in its demographic profile. The Northeast is the most child-free region outside the retirement hub of south Florida. Coupled with sustained domestic out-migration, its population growth is likely to be among the slowest in the nation in the decade ahead.

Good thing its residents are highly educated — diminishing numbers and the consequent decline in political power suggest that the Northeast may need to depend more on its wits in decade ahead.

CITY-STATE NEW YORK

The Big Apple’s much heralded comeback has assured its place as one of the world’s great global cities. But the city faces challenges in terms of soaring indebtedness, rapid aging, a weak technical workforce, expensive housing and high taxes. It also will struggle with competition from rising cities of the other nations such as San Francisco, Seattle, Washington, D.C., and Houston, each of which threatens New York’s traditional role in key sectors of the economy.

THE SOUTHEAST MANUFACTURING BELT

At the time of the Civil War the southeastern United States was both outpeopled and outmanufactured. Today the Southeast, is the largest region in terms of population (60 million) and is establishing itself as the country’s second industrial hub, after the Great Lakes.

It is attracting large-scale investment from manufacturers from Germany, Japan, and South Korea. Although most of the region still lags in educational attainment, the education gap with the Northeast and Great Lakes is slowly shrinking. The population holding college degrees has been expanding strongly in Nashville, Raleigh, Birmingham, Richmond and Charlotte.

More babies and the migration of families, including immigrants, to this low-cost region suggest an even larger political footprint for the Southeast in the decades ahead. Population growth has been more than twice as fast since 2001 as in the Northeast, a trend that is projected continue in the next decade. The region looks set to become smarter, more urban and cosmopolitan, and perhaps a bit less conservative.

CITY-STATE MIAMI

Greater Miami often seems more the capital of Latin America than it does an American region population is heavily Hispanic, and trade, finance, construction and tourism tend to focus southward. But Miami faces the constraints of an aging, and largely childless, population–which means it will continue to rely on newcomers both from abroad and from the colder regions of the U.S.

 

R&D – It’s not what you spend, it’s the way that you spend it

Published : 10 Sep 2013 9:28 am

by Jane Gray

Keith Nichols at industry technology analyst Cambashi dives into the whys and wherefores of extracting value from investments in innovation.

 

Conventional wisdom has it that innovation fuels business success and it is true that companies actively investing in R&D often generate bigger profits than those that don’t.

However, simply pouring more money into new ideas does not necessarily guarantee bigger profits.

Annual reports yield a crop of cases where companies have spent significantly on R&D but show only limited gains in profitability. Other companies in the same industries manage to produce greater profits from much smaller investments, turning on its head the idea that the more you invest, the more profitable you will become.

So how do these companies do more with less?

Let’s go back to 2010 and consider Apple and Microsoft, similar in size at that time and serving substantially overlapping industries. The striking difference was that Apple invested around 2% of its revenues in R&D compared to Microsoft’s 12 to 13%.

One might expect that Microsoft would have leveraged this spend to achieve increased revenue and profitability over the following couple of years. This did not happen. Instead, Apple revenues grew by 55% between 2010 and 2012, while over the same period Microsoft grew by a modest 7% per annum. In so doing, they ended up on the receiving end of a flood of complaints from angry shareholders who were concerned about the extent of R&D investment with little new to show for it.

 

Further investigation showed that Microsoft had been directing much of its R&D at simply defending its existing PC business. At the same time, the technology marketplace was rapidly shifting to new platforms that opened up lucrative opportunities like mobile devices (smart phones and tablets), cloud-based applications and data access and gaming consoles.

Microsoft was so heavily occupied in propping up its existing products that it missed out on these new opportunities.

There are further clues.

Typically, 70% of R&D projects consume investment but never make it into product development. Of those that do, only 50% are profitable. The other 50% don’t press that many customer buying buttons and end up consuming high sales effort for little return.

Many companies believe that they can slap a new coat of paint on an ageing product to give it a face lift and re-generate sales.

They do this to avoid high investment that is normally associated with new product development. Unfortunately a product is unlikely to sell if it is not sufficiently innovative, no matter how many times it is superficially updated.

All of these factors can result in around 85% of R&D spend being unprofitable. In many business circles, a proposed project with this level of return on investment would not get off the ground.

Companies are often compared to one another in terms of how well they fare with regards to effective R&D spend. Given that this measure includes varying amounts of wasted investment, it is not possible to draw any meaningful conclusions without understanding the effectiveness of the spend.

There are several ways of measuring R&D effectiveness.

One approach favoured by industries is to use the measure RORC (return on research capital) which is calculated by dividing the current year gross profit by the previous year R&D expenditure. If measured in successive years, RORC can provide a reasonable representation of a company’s progress even though some assumptions have to be made.

Alternatively, it can be used to compare one company against others in the same industry sector in order to rate its own performance and understand where improvements need to be made. Such a comparison can form the basis for a continuous improvement process for its R&D operation.

By regularly reviewing product life-cycle performance, companies can learn from analysing problems, improve processes, continually inject refinements and create steady commercial progress.

Ultimately, the reason companies innovate is to make significantly more money from launching products than the investment it takes to develop them. Only if they manage to achieve this often elusive goal can they congratulate themselves on having used their R&D spend to the best commercial effect.

– See more at: http://www.themanufacturer.com/articles/rd-its-not-what-you-spend-its-the-way-that-you-spend-it/#sthash.SPc80U7F.dpuf

 

And now it’s global COOLING! Record return of Arctic ice cap as it grows by 60% in a year

Almost a million more square miles of ocean covered with ice than in 2012

BBC reported in 2007 global warming would leave Arctic ice-free in summer by 2013

By David Rose

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2415191/Global-cooling-Arctic-ice-caps-grows-60-global-warming-predictions.html#ixzz2eWansD4G

 

PUBLISHED: 18:37 EST, 7 September 2013 | UPDATED: 07:01 EST, 8 September 2013

A chilly Arctic summer has left nearly a million more square miles of ocean covered with ice than at the same time last year – an increase of 60 per cent.

The rebound from 2012’s record low comes six years after the BBC reported that global warming would leave the Arctic ice-free in summer by 2013.

Instead, days before the annual autumn re-freeze is due to begin, an unbroken ice sheet more than half the size of Europe already stretches from the Canadian islands to Russia’s northern shores.

The Northwest Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific has remained blocked by pack-ice all year. More than 20 yachts that had planned to sail it have been left ice-bound and a cruise ship attempting the route was forced to turn back.

Some eminent scientists now believe the world is heading for a period of cooling that will not end until the middle of this century – a process that would expose computer forecasts of imminent catastrophic warming as dangerously misleading.

The disclosure comes 11 months after The Mail on Sunday triggered intense political and scientific debate by revealing that global warming has ‘paused’ since the beginning of 1997 – an event that the computer models used by climate experts failed to predict.

In March, this newspaper further revealed that temperatures are about to drop below the level that the models forecast with ’90 per cent certainty’.

The pause – which has now been accepted as real by every major climate research centre – is important, because the models’ predictions of ever-increasing global temperatures have made many of the world’s economies divert billions of pounds into ‘green’ measures to counter climate change.

Those predictions now appear gravely flawed.

Only six years ago, the BBC reported that the Arctic would be ice-free in summer by 2013, citing a scientist in the US who claimed this was a ‘conservative’ forecast. Perhaps it was their confidence that led more than 20 yachts to try to sail the Northwest Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific this summer. As of last week, all these vessels were stuck in the ice, some at the eastern end of the passage in Prince Regent Inlet, others further west at Cape Bathurst.

Shipping experts said the only way these vessels were likely to be freed was by the icebreakers of the Canadian coastguard. According to the official Canadian government website, the Northwest Passage has remained ice-bound and impassable all summer.

The BBC’s 2007 report quoted scientist Professor Wieslaw Maslowski, who based his views on super-computer models and the fact that ‘we use a high-resolution regional model for the Arctic Ocean and sea ice’.

He was confident his results were ‘much more realistic’ than other projections, which ‘underestimate the amount of heat delivered to the sea ice’. Also quoted was Cambridge University expert

Professor Peter Wadhams. He backed Professor Maslowski, saying his model was ‘more efficient’ than others because it ‘takes account of processes that happen internally in the ice’.

He added: ‘This is not a cycle; not just a fluctuation. In the end, it will all just melt away quite suddenly.’

The continuing furore caused by The Mail on Sunday’s revelations – which will now be amplified by the return of the Arctic ice sheet – has forced the UN’s climate change body to hold a crisis meeting.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was due in October to start publishing its Fifth Assessment Report – a huge three-volume study issued every six or seven years. It will now hold a pre-summit in Stockholm later this month.

Leaked documents show that governments which support and finance the IPCC are demanding more than 1,500 changes to the report’s ‘summary for policymakers’. They say its current draft does not properly explain the pause.

At the heart of the row lie two questions: the extent to which temperatures will rise with carbon dioxide levels, as well as how much of the warming over the past 150 years – so far, just 0.8C – is down to human greenhouse gas emissions and how much is due to natural variability.

In its draft report, the IPCC says it is ’95 per cent confident’ that global warming has been caused by humans – up from 90 per cent in 2007.

This claim is already hotly disputed. US climate expert Professor Judith Curry said last night: ‘In fact, the uncertainty is getting bigger. It’s now clear the models are way too sensitive to carbon dioxide. I cannot see any basis for the IPCC increasing its confidence level.’

She pointed to long-term cycles in ocean temperature, which have a huge influence on climate and suggest the world may be approaching a period similar to that from 1965 to 1975, when there was a clear cooling trend. This led some scientists at the time to forecast an imminent ice age.

Professor Anastasios Tsonis, of the University of Wisconsin, was one of the first to investigate the ocean cycles. He said: ‘We are already in a cooling trend, which I think will continue for the next 15 years at least. There is no doubt the warming of the 1980s and 1990s has stopped.

‘The IPCC claims its models show a pause of 15 years can be expected. But that means that after only a very few years more, they will have to admit they are wrong.’

Others are more cautious. Dr Ed Hawkins, of Reading University, drew the graph published by The Mail on Sunday in March showing how far world temperatures have diverged from computer predictions. He admitted the cycles may have caused some of the recorded warming, but insisted that natural variability alone could not explain all of the temperature rise over the past 150 years.

Nonetheless, the belief that summer Arctic ice is about to disappear remains an IPCC tenet, frequently flung in the face of critics who point to the pause.

Yet there is mounting evidence that Arctic ice levels are cyclical. Data uncovered by climate historians show that there was a massive melt in the 1920s and 1930s, followed by intense re-freezes that ended only in 1979 – the year the IPCC says that shrinking began.

Professor Curry said the ice’s behaviour over the next five years would be crucial, both for understanding the climate and for future policy. ‘Arctic sea ice is the indicator to watch,’ she said.

 

Federal Employees Have Lost All Furlough Appeals So Far

By Kellie Lunney

September 12, 2013

The Merit Systems Protection Board sided with the agency in all the furlough appeals it had adjudicated as of Tuesday, a board official said.

 

The quasi-judicial agency had decided 40 fiscal 2013 furlough appeals as of Sept. 10, said William Spencer, clerk of the board. Thirty-five were filed by employees of the Federal Aviation Administration; three were from Environmental Protection Agency workers, and the remaining two appeals were from employees at the Internal Revenue Service and Social Security Administration.

MSPB judges decide each case on its individual facts, but so far it seems that winning back pay could be a long shot for the thousands of employees who have filed furlough appeals. Typically, an agency must demonstrate that the adverse actions taken — in these cases, furloughs — were reasonable under the circumstances and promoted “efficiency of service.”

The 40 completed cases are only a fraction of the more than 30,000 furlough appeals Defense Department employees have filed to date. Defense civilians were forced to take six days of unpaid leave this fiscal year because of sequestration.

MSPB, which only has about 200 employees in Washington and in eight regional offices nationwide, has docketed nearly all of the 32,000 furlough challenges that employees have filed to date this fiscal year. Defense employees filed 99 percent of the appeals.

The agency plans to consolidate similar appeals to expedite the process.

http://www.govexec.com/pay-benefits/2013/09/feds-have-lost-all-furlough-appeals-so-far/70236/

 

Attendance Triples at Archives Event That Was Forced Online by Sequestration

By Joseph Marks

5:07 PM ET

It’s become a platitude of sequestration that scaling back doesn’t have to mean limiting services and that austerity can sometimes breed innovation.

That platitude is sometimes proven true in simple ways, though, such as an annual genealogy fair hosted by the National Archives and Records Administration that made the move this year from onsite to online.

The nine-year old fair drew about 850 in-person one-day attendants to tents outside the National Archives building in Washington in 2012. This year the online fair, held Sept. 3 and 4, topped off at about 5,500 total daily views and more than 3,000 unique viewers. That’s more than three times the attendance at its onsite predecessor.

The online fair was a money saver too, said Bill Mayer, the Archives’ executive for research services. The entire online conference cost about $3,000, Mayer said. That’s compared with about $60,000 simply to rent the tents for the onsite version, he said.

“I’ve been telling my staff this is the best damn glass of lemonade we’ve made all year,” he said, referring to the move that maintained services despite sequestration.

“A lot of genealogists are very interested in our records and finding new ways to reach them is probably the most gratifying part of this event,” he continued. “I’m not happy about sequestration, but I’d agree that oftentimes in order to be creative in providing new solutions you need to be pushed.”

The onsite fair was paid for with donated funds from the National Archives’ Foundation rather than taxpayer dollars, he said. Funding for the online fair came out of the Archives’ appropriated funds.

Federal agencies have canceled numerous conferences, fairs and training events in the past few years, in response both to financial constraints from sequestration and because of increased congressional and public scrutiny following high-price conference scandals at the General Services Administration and Veterans Affairs Department.

Several agencies have replaced those canceled conferences with webcasts and online trainings, but few have seen an attendance hike as significant as the genealogy fair.

During the fair, attendees were able to submit questions for presenters through a chat function and Archives staffers also took questions by phone and on Twitter, Mayer said.

The Archives is considering expanding the online fair into a larger genealogy training program similar to a Massive Open Online Course or MOOC, he said.

http://www.nextgov.com/cio-briefing/2013/09/attendance-triples-archives-event-was-forced-online-sequestration/70334/

 

Sites For Potential East Coast Missile Defense Plan Selected

Sep. 12, 2013 – 03:45AM | By PAUL McLEARY | Comments

http://www.defensenews.com/article/20130912/DEFREG02/309120013/

 

WASHINGTON — The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) is looking at five potential locations to house a controversial third domestic ground-based interceptor (GBI) site, which would guard the continental United States against ballistic missile attack.

While a site hasn’t been chosen, whittling the potential locations down to a few sites will allow to Pentagon to begin environmental and other assessments if Congress provides the money to go ahead with the build.

In a statement on Sept. 12, MDA director Navy Vice Adm. James Syring said that “while the administration has not made a decision to build another missile defense facility in the U.S. for homeland defense, if a decision were to be made in the future to construct a new site, completing the required site study and environmental impact statement would shorten the timeline required to build such a site.”

All of the sites are already on federal land:

■ Fort Drum, N. Y.

■ Camp Ethan Allen Training Site, Vt.

■ Naval Air Station Portsmouth SERE Training Area, Maine

■ Camp Ravenna Joint Training Center, Ohio

■ Fort Custer Training Center, Mich.

 

Despite the fact that his state is being considered for the site, Sen. Patrick Leahy has said that he considers the program to be a waste of money, and he opposes placing it in his state.

John Isaacs, director of the Council for a Livable World, said in a statement that “the United States should not rush to deploy a missile defense site on the East Coast until a need for such a site is identified and the interceptors to be deployed at the site prove effective and suitable in operationally realistic tests.” The group is a non-partisan organization focused on nuclear weapons proliferation.

The US already operates GBI sites at Fort Greely, Alaska, and Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., with 30 GBIs on line, and another 14 to be added by 2017.

The issue of an additional GBI site on the East Cost sparked controversy on Capitol Hill this summer, as Senate Democrats pushed back against congressional Republicans, who included money in their 2013 defense budget markup for the site.

It was further complicated by the MDA launching yet another failed test of its existing interceptors, marking a third failed intercept test in the past five years.

In a written reply to Sen. Carl Levin this past June, Syring, along with Lt. Gen. Richard Formica, commander of the Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense, admitted that there is “no validated military requirement” for a proposed East Coast missile defense site.

The letter came in response to one Levin sent to the two officers asking if there was an urgent need to begin work on a third site. In its 2013 budget markup, the Republican-controlled House Armed Services Committee voted to set aside $250 million for the construction of a missile defense system on the East Coast, making its second attempt to get the site into the budget after having a similar proposal shot down by the Senate Armed Services Committee last year.

The proposal from the House comes at a time of increased worry about North Korean, Chinese, and Iranian ballistic missile threats against the mainland United States and its allies, even though many analysts say that neither the North Koreans nor the Iranians are close to having the ability to hit the United States.

Nevertheless, in March Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced that he was earmarking about $1 billion to fund the emplacement of 14 additional missile interceptors in Alaska to guard against a missile attack from North Korea. The additional interceptors would bolster the 26 already deployed in Alaska and four in California, and give the United States 44 interceptor sites in all.

But in July, Syring said that the government wants even more. “The 44 [is for] what we see with North Korea today,” he said, adding that there is the real potential “to go beyond 44 as we start to evaluate the threat from Iran and from other nations.”

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that expanding the ground-based midcourse defense system to the East Coast would cost about approximately $3.5 billion over the next five years.

 

Putin gets his revenge on Obama

The Hill

By Julian Pecquet and Jeremy Herb     – 09/13/13 05:50 AM ET

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s criticism of the United States in the op-ed pages of Thursday’s New York Times was a revenge of sorts on President Obama.

Putin blasted notions of American “exceptionalism” and directly criticized Obama’s proposed military strikes on Syria, arguing they risked widening that country’s civil war.

“It is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States,” Putin wrote. “Is it in America’s long-term interest? I doubt it.”

The op-ed was the latest salvo in an open feud between Obama and Putin — one in which the Russian appeared this week to take an upper hand when a last-second diplomatic proposal from Russia led Obama to ask Congress to call off votes authorizing strikes against Syria.

The op-ed in the Times signaled Putin’s confidence, with the pre-eminent U.S. newspaper giving Putin a global stage to offer his views on the United States and the world.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) complained in a CNN interview Thursday that the Obama administration this week had put Putin “in a position of almost unprecedented influence in these affairs.”

“I suspect he’s enjoying himself right now,” Ian Bremmer, the president of political risk consultancy the Eurasia Group, said in a conference call Wednesday reported by the Times.

Obama and Putin have openly feuded for months, with Putin giving safe harbor to National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden and Obama canceling a Moscow summit in return.

In another shot at Putin, Obama visited gay rights activists during a trip to Russia for the G-20 summit earlier this month to call attention to a new Putin-backed law in Russia banning gay “propaganda.” The law has sparked calls for a boycott of the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Obama also cast Putin as a slouching schoolboy to the media, even as he insisted that their relationship is better than the optics suggest. The Kremlin was reportedly furious with the public remark, though Putin later downplayed it.

Putin and Obama have tangled for more than a year on Syria, but Russia offered the American leader a political lifeline of sorts when it urged Syria to give up its chemical weapons to international control.

Syria’s rapid agreement led Obama to ask Congress to put off votes on a military strike against Syria — a strike is exceedingly unpopular in the United States.

In fact, whip counts by The Hill and other media organizations suggested Obama would lose Senate and House votes on authorizing force against Syria. By making those votes unnecessary, Putin helped Obama avoid a defeat that would have cut into his clout in Washington.

But the move may have benefitted Putin more, allowing him to ride to the rescue and be seen as a powerful player in the Middle East who prevented a wider war.

Lawmakers have misgivings about Putin’s influence going forward with Syria.

“To put us in the loving hands of Vladimir Putin doesn’t make me terribly comfortable,” Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), a high-ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs panel, told The Hill. “And I think that’s where we are right now.”

Some saw the op-ed as further proof of Obama’s mishandling of the Syrian crisis.

“It’s a sorry state when he have to take our leadership from Mr. Putin,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) told The Hill. “I’m not ready to concede our exceptionalism to him.”

The White House fired back Thursday at Putin, though perhaps its criticism was muted given the fact the U.S. must depend on Russia to push Syria to meet its commitments on chemical weapons.

“I think it’s worth also pointing out that there’s a great irony that in the placement of an op-ed like this because it reflects the truly exceptional tradition in this country of freedom of expression,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney. “And that is not a tradition shared in Russia, by Russia. And it is a fact freedom of expression has been on the decrease over the past dozen or so years in Russia.”

Lawmakers reacted much more strongly to the Russian president’s aggressive criticism.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said the piece made him want to “vomit,” while Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters he was “insulted.”

“All I can say is, getting a lecture from Putin means nothing to me,” Senate Foreign Relations panel member Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) told The Hill. “This is a man who treats his people terribly; he wants to make gay lifestyle a crime; he has no regard human rights and civil rights. So I didn’t read it, and I don’t intend to.”

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the House Oversight panel, said the op-ed was aimed squarely at the American public and lawmakers squeamish about using military force in Syria. He urged Obama not to get “distracted.”

“What [Putin] is trying to say is, don’t put the pressure on us by saying you’re going to use force,” Cummings told The Hill. “And the problem with that is that it is the threat of force … that has brought us to the point where we are now.

 

 

Read more: http://thehill.com/blogs/global-affairs/middle-east-north-africa/322047-putin-gets-his-revenge#ixzz2eoYbNhm4

Follow us: @thehill on Twitter | TheHill on Facebook

 

Employers warned about using payroll cards

By Julian Hattem     – 09/12/13 02:18 PM ET

 

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is warning employers not to force their workers to use a card to get their wages.

The agency published a bulletin on Thursday reminding businesses that requiring their employees to use the “payroll cards” instead of receiving a paycheck is against the law.

“Employees must have options when it comes to how they receive their wages,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray in a statement. “Today’s release warns employers that they cannot mandate that their employees receive wages on a payroll card.”

Workplaces have the option of issuing wages directly to the cards instead of giving workers a check or using direct deposit to put money in their accounts. The cards can be easier for workers without bank accounts, but users can be hit with unexpected fees when they bring their cards to an ATM or check their balance.

The CFPB said that it “has heard reports” of employers only using the cards, especially in the retail and food service sectors.

The consumer watchdog’s guidance comes two months after the CFPB received a letter from 16 Senate Democrats expressing concerns that employers might be taking advantage of their workers and pressuring them to use the cards. According to a report in The New York Times, businesses can sometimes receive commissions for getting their employees to use the payroll cards.

“As the CFPB has now made clear, employers who provide payroll cards must allow their employees to opt out and must clearly disclose all fees in advance,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who signed the original letter, said in a statement.

“When employees face hidden fees or are inappropriately pressured into using a high-cost payroll card, household income and families suffer. Now, employers who issue payroll cards in good faith can keep their payroll systems on the right side of the law, and workers who receive them will know their rights if they are nickeled and dimed or illegally deprived of the ability to opt out.”

 

 

http://thehill.com/blogs/regwatch/finance/321951-employers-warned-about-using-payroll-cards#ixzz2eoZ5EjRN

 

Rasmussen Reports

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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, September 14, 2013

As President Obama moved his plans for a military strike on Syria back from a full boil to a simmer this past week, a nervous nation observed the 12th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Most Americans (69%) continue to believe a similar terrorist attack is at least somewhat likely in the next 10 years, with 30% who say it’s Very Likely.

Just 31% now think al Qaeda is weaker than it was before 9/11. That’s down from 50% shortly after the death of Osama bin Laden in May 2011. Most (53%) continue to believe a domestic attack is a bigger threat to America than an attack from terrorists outside the country.

Only 27% of Likely U.S. Voters favor U.S. military action against Syria in retaliation for that government’s use of chemical weapons against its own people.
Support for military action rises to 47%, however, if other UN member countries are involved. But just 12% think further U.S. military involvement in Syria will make Americans safer.

The president Tuesday night put his plans for a Syria attack on hold, opting to try Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plan for putting Syria’s chemical weapons under international control. Fifty-three percent (53%) of U.S. voters think United Nations control of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal is likely to prevent future U.S. military action against Syria, although that includes only 19% who say it’s Very Likely.

Just 22% now consider the UN a U.S. ally, down from 30% in the spring and the lowest finding ever. Only 23% think the United States should continue to give more money to the UN than any other country in the world.

Forty-seven percent (47%) of voters now trust Republicans more when it comes to dealing with national security and the War on Terror. Thirty-two percent (32%) trust Democrats more, the lowest level of confidence in the president’s party since October 2009.

The president’s job approval ratings, however, haven’t changed despite his increasingly bellicose position on Syria and his speech to the nation Tuesday night pulling back from military action at least temporarily.

Seventy percent (70%) now consider Obama at least somewhat liberal in political terms, the highest since the beginning of the year. This includes 44% who believe he is Very Liberal.

Under the president’s national health care law, government health care exchanges nationwide are scheduled to begin accepting applicants for health insurance on October 1. But most voters still don’t know if their state has created a health care exchange or not.

Roughly half of voters still think the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups, the Obama administration’s handling of the Benghazi matter and the Justice Department’s secret probe of reporters’ records are serious scandals. The National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance program is viewed less seriously but seen as the most likely to be a lingering story.

Democrats and Republicans are tied at 39% apiece on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot. For much of the summer, neither has hit the 40% mark, suggesting a high level of voter unhappiness with both parties.

The odds are still high for New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie to keep his job. Among the Garden State’s likely voters, Christie posts a 58% to 32% lead over Democratic State Senator Barbara Buono.

Nationally, consumer and investor confidence continue to run at higher levels than have been measured in several years.

But 38% of Americans say crime has increased in their community over the past year. Seventy-six percent (76%) think it’s likely that current economic conditions will lead to even more crime, with 45% who say it’s Very Likely.

Forty-eight percent (48%) don’t believe there are enough police officers in the United States, but 46% think America would be less safe if only government officials such as the police and military personnel were allowed to have guns.

Sixty-eight percent (68%) say hunger is at least a somewhat serious problem in the United States today, including 30% who see it as a Very Serious one. Forty-seven percent (47%) believe the problem is getting worse.

Yet while most Americans are concerned about the level of hunger, they also agree it might be better if a few more of their fellow citizens super-sized a little less often. Sixty-five percent (65%) think a bigger problem in the country today is that Americans eat too much rather than they don’t eat enough.

Sixty-seven percent (67%) believe there are too many in this country who are dependent on the government for financial aid.

In other surveys last week:

— For the second week in a row, 30% of likely voters say the country is heading in the right direction.

— Sixty-five percent (65%) think the United States does not do enough to develop its own gas and oil resources.

— Sixty-seven percent (67%) of Americans say teaching is one of the most important jobs in the United States today, but just 24% think most Americans consider teaching a desirable profession to go into.

— Football fans predict the San Francisco 49ers will win Super Bowl XLVIII.

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell is at the center of an ongoing federal probe of gifts and financial help his family received from a wealthy Richmond area businessman, and now just 49% of Likely Virginia Voters approve of the job McDonnell is doing as governor. That’s his lowest level of approval to date.


 

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