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November 9 2013

November 11, 2013

9November 2013

Newswire

 

Pentagon Toils to Build a Bomber on a Budget

Financial Considerations Vital in Effort to Build Replacement for Aging B-52s and B-1s

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304384104579141982099354454

By JULIAN E. BARNES CONNECT

Nov. 3, 2013 10:33 p.m. ET

 

When a military contractor showed Col. Chad Stevenson a design for the Air Force’s top secret plane of the future, he began to worry.

“They were showing this really nice fold out bed, this nice refrigerator and microwave, a kind of lounge-provision area,” Col. Stevenson recalled of the recent design.

The plane of the future, the “Long-Range Strike Bomber,” is the first weapon system to be designed in the new age of military austerity. But flight range and fire power are no longer the only features that matter. Julian Barnes explains. Photo: Getty Images.

The contractor, Lockheed Martin, LMT +0.74% didn’t offer an estimate for such flying comforts. But Col. Stevenson imagined a publicity nightmare in the making: a $300,000 kitchenette as the latter-day symbol of Pentagon excess—the $600 toilet seat for the 21st century.

 

The kitchenette was killed.

Such financial considerations are vital to the Air Force’s most important project today: building a new long-range bomber to replace the iconic and aging B-52s and B-1s that have come to represent America’s domination of the sky.

It is the job of Col. Stevenson and a small group of Air Force colleagues to guard against improvidence and any untested technologies that could lead the grand project—expected to cost upwards of $55 billion—down the path the Pentagon often travels of cost-overruns and blown deadlines.

The plane of the future, dubbed the “Long-Range Strike Bomber,” is the first weapon system to be designed in the new age of military austerity. Flight range, firepower and technological prowess are no longer the only features that matter. The Pentagon says it now gives equal weight to a far more pedestrian point: cost.

After a decade of rapidly rising defense spending, Congress capped the Pentagon budget, forcing nearly a trillion dollars in cuts by 2023.

Defense officials worry that those cuts could threaten many modernization programs, like the bomber.

The new bomber remains largely classified, with critical elements of range, bomb payload and overall look a closely guarded secret. But over the past six months, the Air Force offered The Wall Street Journal rare access to officers behind the project.

“We are trying to stick to a plan, for once,” Col. Stevenson said. “Adding things means risk: risk of increasing costs, risk the plane won’t be built.”

Col. Stevenson has blocked everything from new cyberdefenses to advanced surveillance sensors, squaring off over upgrades against defense contractors and aides to the Defense secretary.

While his job is mostly budget cop, he also plays the role of a kind of crisis manager, on the lookout for any embellishments that might make the plane appear gold-plated.

In 2011, officials agreed to spend $550 million on each new bomber—a third of the cost of its predecessor, the B-2 bomber, which ended up with a price tag of $1.8 billion a plane.

Air Force leaders believe the new aircraft is critical to America’s ability to project force in far-flung parts of the world, particularly in Asia, where China is investing heavily in its military and long distances between U.S. bases diminish the effectiveness of its short-range fighters.

The Air Force hopes to get the new nuclear-capable bomber airborne in the middle of the next decade—a daunting task considering the history of such ambitions.

Delays, technical glitches and cost overruns have beset nearly every Air Force project in the past three decades.

An F-22 fighter plane scheduled to take flight in 2002, for instance, wasn’t finished until 2011, with fewer planes than planned and each costing hundreds of millions more than expected. None have been used in combat.

The oldest plane in the bomber fleet, the B-52, took flight in 1954, during the Cold War, followed by the B-1 and the latest, the batlike B-2, which hit the battlefield in 1998, after more than 20 years in research and development.

Most recently, the B-2 was deployed in the early days of the Libyan conflict, where it took out air defenses.

Aging and expensive to maintain now, only 16 B-2s are combat ready (at $135,000 per hour of flight), and many of the remaining 138 B-52 and B-1 bombers are heading for retirement.

The military fears being stuck with a small fleet, as many in the service believe future conflicts will require lightning quick responses, with the ability to strike newly identified targets in distant lands within hours while at the same time penetrating a bristling range of air-defenses.

For supporters of the new bomber, only a long-range stealthy aircraft offers that capability.

“In the future, what our president is going to need is options, options to project power anywhere in the world within hours,” said Major Gen. Steve Kwast, who is charged with helping shape the Air Force’s long-term strategy. “This Long-Range Strike Bomber is going to be that option the president can use when there are no other options.”

The project is still at an early design stage, putting it in an especially risky spot during the coming negotiations over government spending.

There are no flying prototypes. Last month, Boeing Co. BA +0.13% and Lockheed Martin announced a joint bid for the new bomber, setting them up against Northrop Grumman Corp. NOC +0.57% , maker of the B-2.

The three firms declined to discuss their work on the bomber.

Some defense analysts and former officials believe the Air Force should put the future bomber resources into developing advanced unmanned drones, which have been used increasingly to strike distant targets in Africa and the Middle East. Others think the Air Force needs to invest more in aircraft that better support ground troops.

“The services are all wedded to tradition,” said Mieke Eoyang, the director of the national security program at Third Way, a centrist think tank. “It is like the Army and its fondness for tanks. If you prioritize things that you don’t use, you have less money for things you do.”

 

The new bomber rises out of the ashes of an earlier program that struggled to get off the ground over the last decade. That program was canceled in 2009 by then Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who lamented that such weapons systems were “so complex that they take forever to build.”

The Long-Range Strike Bomber began life in February 2011 when Mr. Gates signed off on the plane’s new requirements, setting its range and payload (both classified) and requiring that it be able to evade radar and penetrate defended air space.

About $600 million has been spent so far to research the new plane and another $8.7 billion is set to be spent over the next five years, according to budget documents.

As Col. Stevenson dug into the new project, he also took on a larger mission: transforming the culture of the Air Force.

“If Ford or GM design a new car, they know how many they want to sell and they know much they want it cost. And they go back from there,” Col. Stevenson said. “But the Air Force has not done that.”

A 48-year old from South Dakota, Col. Stevenson arrives to work at 7 a.m. every morning in a green flight suit, putting in at least 12 hour days as he darts between meetings at the Pentagon and around Washington, D.C.

He was chosen for the job largely because, as a former B-2 pilot, he knows what pilots need—and don’t.

It was with this eye that he looked askance when Lockheed Martin showed him the proposed crew lounge last year.

“This was a very nice crew rest area which would have made a lot of pilots very happy,” he said.

There were debates over the kitchenette. Design contractors and some officers argued mishaps would decline if crews flying around the world for nearly two days could get proper rest, Air Force officials said.

In his 40-hour B-2 runs from Missouri to targets in Afghanistan, Col. Stevenson slept on a cot bought from a sporting-goods store and kept his two sandwiches, a bottle of water and a Mountain Dew in a 10-gallon cooler.

When Col. Stevenson sought approval to jettison the pilot lounge, he went to Gen. Kwast, his boss then at Air Combat Command, who backed his deputy.

“This is a plane to go to war in,” Gen. Kwast told the colonel. “Crew comfort, while important, is not a necessity.”

In an interview, Gen. Kwast said he wanted to “maintain an appetite suppressant” while encouraging smart innovation.

“If they were to bring us fusion power and could power the bomber for 100 hours on a banana peel, I would probably say ‘yes’ to that,” he said.

Air Force officials struck down more than a dozen ideas from the defense industry, including new electronic support measures, the warning systems that detect enemy radar or cyberattacks. Instead, Col. Stevenson said, the Air Force has opted to go with existing systems.

“Technology that has been fielded is the only answer,” the colonel said. “If it hasn’t already been tested, we aren’t interested.”

The bomber will likely resemble the B-2, with its famously sleek black body and sweptback wings, Defense officials said. It will also run on an existing engine design, Air Force officials said.

” Along with flight range, firepower and technological prowess, the Pentagon says it now gives equal weight to a far more pedestrian point: cost. ”

While that means its range is likely to be similar to the 7,500 miles the B-2 can travel without refueling, it will save billions of dollars in development costs.

But Air Force officials note that the new bomber will exceed the B-2 in many ways. Stealth technology has advanced, as has the coordination of real-time targeting intelligence from satellites and other airplanes.

The cost obsession however has its downside, resulting in the elimination of requirements that some officials originally considered essential.

For instance, a concept that would have allowed the plane to be converted into a unmanned drone was shelved for now—too costly for the age of austerity, according to Air Force officials.

Still, some remain doubtful the bomber will remain stripped down. Thomas Christie, the Pentagon’s former Director of Operational Test and Evaluation, predicts the defense industry will eventually convince the Air Force to include various new technologies.

“I have watched over the years as we load a system up with all the latest toys,” said Mr. Christie, a critic of the Air Force’s history of building planes. “The next thing you know, we are in trouble technically and with costs.”

One heavily debated upgrade was a new reconnaissance sensor. A contractor presented the Air Force with the design late last year. On its face, the sensor held great appeal.

One of the military’s new guiding principles is that new weapons shouldn’t be designed for only one task or one style of warfare. The added sensor would essentially create a spy plane on top of a fighting machine.

But it would come at a cost: $25 million or more.

Four months of discussions ensued, with Col. Stevenson shuttling around the Pentagon, with stacks of papers detailing design plans, meeting senior officers and four-star generals.

Some argued that the sensor would save money later and make the plane more useful as a surveillance platform, officials said.

“There was a rich debate,” said Gen. Kwast.

In the end, Col. Stevenson believed that the sensor would take the plane into unknown technological areas, ultimately the death of the last bomber.

The colonel came up with a compromise: no second sensor, but the design would leave enough space for one to be added later.

There were 15 meetings within the Pentagon alone, just to explain the decision and then another with congressional staffers.

The cost-cutting move brings its own complications, of course. To allow for later upgrades, the Air Force will adopt an “open architecture” for the plane’s internal software. That would make adding new capabilities easier and less expensive. It would also add upfront costs and increase the risk of delays.

All the current bombers are used far beyond their original imagining. The B-2, for example, was designed to hit one or two targets in bombing runs, but today can carry 80 500-pound precision-guided bombs.

Building in flexibility, said Air Force officials, will ensure the plane will evolve over its decadeslong time in service.

Col. Stevenson said the new bomber will be very powerful. Still, he said, some people will inevitably be disappointed. “This plane,” he said, “is not going to be all things to all people.”

 

RPAs then and now Part II: Maintenance makes history possible

 

Posted 11/1/2013

by Senior Airman A.K.

432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

 

11/1/2013 – LAS VEGAS, Nev. — (Editor’s note: This article is part two of a four-part series.)

 

During the morning of Oct. 22, 2013, the aircraft parking ramps at a deployed location roared to life. Checklists were run, hatches checked, and missions briefed as the crew chiefs, support units and air crew carefully prepared an MQ-1 Predator remotely piloted aircraft for flight, just as they would on any other morning. Except this was not any other morning.

On this morning, the MQ-1 and the Airmen preparing it for flight were getting ready to make history by surpassing 2 million flight hours.

During 18 years of service the Predator and its successor, the MQ-9 Reaper, have played an important support role in operations Northern Watch, Southern Watch, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, as well as in humanitarian aid missions. Yet none of the operational support would have been possible were it not for maintenance Airmen keeping the aircraft, ground control stations, satellites, and other components in pristine condition.

“This is an Air Force success story,” said Col. James Cluff, 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing commander. “This is, as the chief of staff says, ‘Air Power, get you some.’ We have flown the preponderance of the two million hours but, in no way does that diminish the team effort it takes to make this mission happen. It starts with training, continues with maintenance, and it goes into preparing to fly, then actually flying.”

The hard work and dedication of maintenance crews are essential to mission success for hundreds of active duty, Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve Airmen, as well as joint and coalition partners involved in everyday RPA operations.

“Our maintainers are vital; they’re the critical backbones to making these RPAs work,” said Maj. Joshua, 432nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron operations officer. “A lot of our maintainers come from F-16 Fighting Falcons or prior legacy platforms and now they’re part of this cutting edge of technology to bring this capability to the warfighter.”

The men and women of the 432nd AMXS are a mix of active duty Airmen, reservists and guardsmen, who provide aircraft and equipment maintenance in support of worldwide expeditionary operations, formal training, and for operational test and evaluations.

For the Predator and Reaper maintainers, keeping their aircraft operational means more than just having routine maintenance completed, they must also have a reliable communication network to ensure intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data is available.

This is where the Air Force’s one-of-a-kind 432nd Aircraft Communications Maintenance Squadron steps in. Airmen from both cyber-operations and cyber-support must be involved and work together to ensure the aircraft and ground control centers stay linked.

The 432nd ACMS provides 24/7, 365-day maintenance support to the communication infrastructure that supports the wing’s global RPA operations. In this squadron, Airmen monitor the operational readiness of the RPA command and control network infrastructure and provide maintenance for 22 GCSs and 21 satellite communication terminals.

Capt. Zalika, 432nd ACMS operations officer, said what makes the squadron truly unique is the way the two different traditional missions of maintenance and communications partner together for a unified purpose.

“When we generate a line, it’s important that we synchronize efforts because any action on our part can affect aircraft maintenance and generation or vice versa,” she said. “For example, the aircraft cannot take off if a GCS is not ready with the appropriate software to match the aircraft. Similarly, we can’t confirm command and control connectivity for a GCS without an aircraft to link to. For these reasons, we work very closely with AMXS with regard to scheduling, troubleshooting, and daily operations.”

Airman 1st Class Jenner, 432nd ACMS maintainer, and Staff Sgt. Joshua, a full-time Nevada guardsman and 432nd ACMS maintainer, were chosen to perform pre-flight inspections on the GCS that supported the 2 millionth hour flight. Both men feel humbled knowing their actions keep men and women on the ground safe and ensure continued global operations.

“It’s important that we do our job every day to the best of our ability, because if we don’t then we could lose the chance to take out a target or miss out on important information that could help save lives,” Jenner said. “It’s rewarding knowing my actions can keep people safe down range or prevent further harm to our country or our partners. I’m responsible for supporting the RPA community and its area of responsibility.”

In addition to the 432nd AMXS and 432nd ACMS, the 432nd Maintenance Squadron also provides key maintenance support. The squadron provides on- and off-equipment maintenance and maintenance operations, as well as training, analysis and inspections on aircraft, aerospace ground equipment, munitions and other equipment necessary for RPA operations.

The expansive growth of the RPA community in less than two decades would not have been possible without the active duty, Air Force Reserve, and Air National Guard Airmen who maintain not only the aircraft but also the various systems needed for the planes to function. It is the dedication and professionalism of these men and women that has garnered the attention and recognition of leaders Air Force-wide.

Lieutenant Gen. David Goldfein, Director of the Joint Staff, said of RPA operations, “Remote split operations are nothing short of magic and not easy. Thanks to the [Airmen] who not only make it look easy … they provide the unblinking eye on the enemy with the ability to deliver the goods when the Nation calls.”

 

RPAs then and now Part III: History in the making

Posted 11/7/2013

by Senior Airman A.K.

432nd Wing, 432nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

 

11/7/2013 – LAS VEGAS, Nev. — (Editor’s note: This article is part three of a four-part series.)

 

Early days:

How did the remotely piloted aircraft develop into what it is known as today?

 

The RPA actually got its start as early as 1896. Known as aerodromes at the time, early RPAs were used to test the capabilities of new flying devices and to test if it was even possible for a heavier-than-air craft to achieve sustained flight. In May 1896, Dr. Samuel Langley proved that mechanical flight was possible with his Aerodrome No. 5.

From that point on, the shape, design and technology structure of the unmanned aircraft was manipulated and evolved over the years, improving each time.

In 1918, the U.S. Army became interested in unmanned flight and ordered 25 Liberty Eagle aircraft. The intent was for the aircraft to be used as an aerial torpedo.

Just over two decades later in 1941, the OQ-2 Radioplane became the first mass-produced unmanned aerial vehicle. By 1945, only a few years later, radioplane factories had produced around 15,000 aircraft for use as target drones.

Since achieving the first sustained controlled flight, the idea of unmanned flight has grown to be one of the most useful aircraft technology systems in modern history. Today, RPAs have transformed from a basic tool into high-tech machines, providing assistance during both humanitarian and war time situations.

 

1990s – 2000:

In January 1994, more than half a century after the advent of the first mass-produced UAV, the Air Force’s modern-day remotely piloted aircraft program was born.

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. received an advanced concept technology demonstration contract to produce a medium altitude endurance “unmanned” aerial vehicle. This new system would be called the RQ-1 Predator and would be based off its precursor the GNAT 750, which initially debuted in 1989 and was used for long-endurance tactical surveillance.

A mere six months after the contract was established, the new aircraft achieved its first flight in July 1994. While the flight was a success, the Air Force then had to bring in military pilots, navigator-trained rated officers and non-rated officers to learn to use the new technology.

“I was the first person to receive a permanent change of station and the ninth person to actually enter into the program,” said Lt. Col. Eric, 432nd Wing Director of Staff. “I came in short notice in November of 1995 from Cannon Air Force Base, N.M. In May 1996 I went to ground school in San Diego at the General Atomics headquarters. Afterward, I went to flight training at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., where the Army had the only system in the states at the time.”

John Box, a retired Air Force pilot, trained to become an RPA pilot in June 1996. He said because the system wasn’t produced by the Air Force, the new equipment did not come with technical orders, making the task of learning how to use the system rather challenging.

“Much of what we learned was by word of mouth from our instructors and not delivered in a military format,” he said. “That took an adjustment and I found it frustrating and challenging but very exciting. I often had to deal with emergency situations that no one had ever before encountered. Every time I flew the system, I learned something new. We were developing books and adding new information to them daily. I wasn’t trained for this type of work. Others may have got us started off on a better foot, but I believed in the concept and was committed to making it happen as best I could. It was a ‘cowboy’ atmosphere and I really enjoyed it.”

By 1995 it was decided that the Predator’s capabilities were needed to aid U.N. and NATO efforts in Europe. The Predator and Air Force personnel were deployed to Taszar, Hungary, to provide support from 1995 until August 1998.

Eric deployed to Hungary in August 1996 after completing training. It was during this deployment that he felt the continued challenges of integrating a new form of air power into the Air Force’s inventory.

“There were two Air Force pilots and a General Atomics instructor pilot with us … only the three of us to accomplish the mission,” he said. “There were no publications, technical orders, regulations or guidance that we hadn’t created ourselves. We had to rewrite the very first technical orders that we were given and put them into Air Force terminology.”

Eric said maintainers were also dealing with some of the same issues as the pilots – learning by observation.

“The General Atomics technician was there saying ‘here’s how we do the 50-hour engine inspection,’ and our guys were watching him do it,” he said. “But there were no publications or technical orders to break down the process of actually doing it. It took almost three years before we actually started getting valid technical orders on the systems, and it was the same the guidance and everything else. Today we are used to having regulations outlining how people do their jobs and laying down boundaries–we didn’t have those.”

In October 1996 Eric found himself testing new waters for the Predator while facing the challenges of learning new technology and not having Air Force publications or technical orders to break down the processes.

“On Oct. 1, 1996, during my deployment, I got the dubious distinction of being the first person in the military to be investigated for a safety investigation board for crashing a remotely piloted airplane,” he said “At the time I was doing everything I could to save the airplane. That was my first and foremost concern, but because we didn’t have any resources to help us, we kind of made it up as we went. We actually had a General Atomics engineer in the ground control station with us. We said, ‘what if we try this?’ and he would reply, ‘well I don’t know we’ve never tested that before.’ We just didn’t have any other choices so we were doing it the best that we could.”

In the end it was determined the crash occurred because the engine had been incorrectly rebuilt. Although the incident resulted in the loss of an aircraft, Eric said it was a learning experience.

“We didn’t have any publications to follow and we lost an airplane because of it,” he said. “But, we learned a lot from it … we were pioneers on the leading edge of this system making Air Force leaders understand what kind of capabilities this thing had, what we could do with it, and how to move forward with it.”

It was during this time when Eric and John were learning to fly the Predator that James Clark, at the time an Air Force colonel assigned to the Pentagon, was chosen by Gen. Ronald Fogleman, Chief of Staff, U.S. Air Force, to examine Predator operations. Clark, who is known as “Snake” by many, was chosen because he had no experience with RPAs. Fogleman wanted someone with an outsider’s perspective.

“What I found [during my study] was remarkable,” he said. “This little drone could fly hundreds of miles away and provide color television and infrared video surveillance of enemy activity, without risking the life of a pilot. In a control van, which was a converted NASCAR transporter trailer, I watched pilots and sensor operations sitting in front of computer screens actually flying this thing – simply remarkable.”

While Snake was studying Predator operations in D.C., and pilots, mechanics and other RPA community members were providing assistance in deployed locations, Creech Air Force Base, Nev., was continuing to be built up in order to become home to the Air Force’s premier RPA wing.

The 11th Reconnaissance Squadron was the first squadron to stand up at Creech AFB. This milestone also marked the point when the Air Force RPA program’s dynamic objectives took on a new strategic focus. After the squadron stood up the 11th RS deployed members to support Detachment 3, which was under Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

“While deployed we were Detachment 3 under DARPA,” Eric said. “When the Air Force took over we became the 11th Reconnaissance Squadron deployed; then once the Air Force turned to the expeditionary concept, [the squadron] became the 11th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron. I was actually the first formal commander of the 11th ERS when it stood up.

While the 11th ERS was deployed and redefining itself as a combat asset, Indian Springs Air Force Auxiliary Field was continuing to grow back home in preparation to become the home of additional RPA squadrons.

“Indian Springs was a pretty bare base then,” John said. “Most of the existing infrastructure was dilapidated, early Cold War era construction. They converted the small Base Exchange into our Intel vault and they renovated a small building across the street for our squadron operations facility. We ate at a small chow hall that originally supported up-range and transient aircraft operations. There was a recreation center/gym converted from several other old buildings ‘kluged’ together.”

Mardi Wilcox, who was the squadron maintenance officer in 1995, took her new task head on despite having few resources available at the time.

“I was super excited to be selected as the first maintenance officer in the Air Force to be assigned to a UAV unit,” she said. “It was cutting edge technology and the UAVs we had at the time were special in that way. No one else had them, and a lot of people had never heard of them. We were excited because there was no limit to what they could do … we could only dream about what was to come. We had one double-wide trailer and one small hangar. Shelters for the UAVs were canvas structures across the ramp. It was 10 tons of stuff in a 1 ton bag.”

During the late 1990s the program was still in its beginning phases. For some this was exciting but to others it seemed less than promising. However, Wilcox said she had a much different outlook on the subject.

“There were a lot of naysayers [at the time],” she said. “Many thought it was just another ‘thing’ that would just go away … but our major command leadership made it work. I think for the most part my people loved it. It was new, it was on the leading edge and for the majority of my folks, we wanted it to work. We set the foundation for what the program is today.”

 

2000 – Present:

After Operation Allied Force wrapped up in mid-1999, the Air Force was left to figure out what to do with this still relatively new technology. By early 2000 the RQ-1 Predator, which had just proved its capabilities overseas, was armed and became known as the MQ-1 Predator.

“As part of the ‘lessons learned’ from Operation Allied Force, it was determined that if the Predator had a weapon on it, we could cut the time between identifying a target and then destroying it,” Snake said. “On Feb. 16, 2000, Predator 3034 took its first successful Hellfire shot from the air, and to all of our surprise, it worked.”

This new capability arrived just in time, as events on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, changed many lives and the helped define the future of the Predator.

“We watched the attack on the World Trade Center, until we were shocked by flight 77 as it crashed into the Pentagon,” Snake said. “Late on the evening of Sept. 12, a lone C-17 took off from an airfield on the west coast with its cargo of Predators and Hellfire missiles. Days later, one of America’s first responses to the terrorist attacks on 9/11 was in place and ready for combat.”

After 9/11 the MQ-1 Predator proved itself resilient and capable during operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. The success of RPAs during these operations resulted in an increased desire for RPA capabilities in future operations.

Lt. Col. Russell, who was the RPA assignments officer at Air Force Personnel Center in 2005, remembers trained RPA pilots were a constant need for the Air Force. At the time, there were general officers everywhere who wanted every training spot filled in order to support U.S. and partner nation troops overseas.

Pilots, maintainers and intelligence Airmen were pulled from several different platforms from across the Air Force to meet the demand RPA community’s growing demands.

In 2007, the 432nd Wing was activated at Creech AFB as the Air Force’s first wing comprised entirely of RPAs, which was a sign of the program’s rapid growth.

A year later the demand for RPAs had grown so significantly that the wing expanded and became dual-hatted as the 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing, capable of offering full-spectrum support to overseas operations while still supporting the 432nd Wing’s operate, train and equip efforts.

“In 2011 I came out to Creech and was qualified as a MQ-9 pilot,” Russell said. “Having been a part of the assignment process in the past, it’s good to see how the tribe has grown. The Air Force is very tribal; I used to be an F-15 pilot, so I used to be part of that ‘tribe’. Now it’s neat to see the growth of an RPA tribe, made up of people from all different backgrounds.”

As Russell arrived at Creech in 2011, the MQ-1 and its successor, the MQ-9 Reaper reached 1 million total flight hours – just 16 years after the program initially began.

Just over two years later, on Oct. 22, 2013, the Air Force’s MQ-1 and MQ-9 RPAs doubled that by achieving 2 million cumulative flight hours.

Today, the MQ-1 and MQ-9 continue to be flown from 8,000 miles away in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, patrolling the skies and providing critical support and protection to U.S. and coalition forces on the ground.

It is because of the dedication and diligence of the men and women past and present that the RPA community has gotten where it is today. As a testament to the vital role of the RPA community during the past 18 years, Predator 3034, the first RPA to test the Hellfire, and the first to shoot in combat on Oct. 7, 2001, is now displayed at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

 

 

 

 

Palm-Size Drones Buzz Over Battlefield

http://news.yahoo.com/palm-size-drones-buzz-over-battlefield-173334014.html

 

By By Erik Schechter, LiveScience Contributor 23 hours ago


 

Weighing only 0.56 ounces (16 grams), the Black Hornet looks like a tiny toy helicopter. But it’s really a nano-size piece of military hardware unlike anything on the battlefield today — experimental robot flies and hummingbirds not withstanding.

The PD-100 Black Hornet Personal Reconnaissance System, unveiled to the American public for the first time last week at the Association of the United States Army Expo in Washington, D.C., is a drone (actually, a pair of them) that a soldier can carry and operate as easily as he or she would a radio.

Since last year, the British infantrymen in Afghanistan have been using the new Black Hornets on a variety of missions — from scouting routes for possible enemy ambushes to peeking over the walls of a nearby compound. [9 Totally Cool Uses for Drones]

The unmanned air vehicle was designed for small units that required a quick, tactical “stealth” camera in the sky, said Ole Aguirre, vice president of sales and marketing for Prox Dynamics AS, the Norwegian company that produces the Black Hornet.

Indeed, troops working with the Black Hornet say it runs silent and is invisible at more than 30 feet (10 meters). A Brigade Reconnaissance Force sergeant quoted in a U.K. Ministry of Defense announcement said the system is “very easy to operate and offers amazing capability to the guys on the ground.”

A complete PD-100 kit comes with two Black Hornets, a docking station for battery recharging, a remote control unit and a mobile device with a 7-inch-wide (18 centimeters) screen to watch the camera feed — all of which is carried in a tough, waterproof case, for a total weight of almost 3 lbs. (1.3 kilograms).

Pulled out of the case and readied for action, the drone follows GPS waypoints to reach its target. Once there, it sends video and still images back to the operator. The Black Hornet can fly for 20 to 25 minutes before needing to recharge, so it’s limited to traveling just three-quarters of a mile (1,200 m) in one shot.

Likewise, the Black Hornet is too small to carry a mid-wave infrared (MWIR) camera, so it’s not able to do any night-spying. “The smallest MWIR sensor available on the market today is the FLIR Quark, weighing almost two times what our helicopter weighs,” Aguirre said.

Still, the U.S. Army examined two Black Hornets in February as part of its Cargo Pocket Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (CPISR) effort. The Army purchased two, but what that means program-wise, they declined to say.

According to Flightglobal, the British military has amassed 324 Black Hornets in its unmanned aerial vehicle arsenal.

Plotting its next development step, Prox Dynamics is seeking to add new sensors and overcome many of the challenges its drone currently faces. “We like keeping our engineers busy,” Aguirre said.

 

 

Hagel’s Plan for the Military in the Post-War Era

http://www.defenseone.com/ideas/2013/11/hagel-plans-for-military-in-post-war-era/73203/?oref=d-interstitial-continue

Kevin Baron 9:58 AM ET

 

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, in a major speech outlining the breadth of post-war global security responsibilities the United States faces, called for greater use of civilian “instruments of power,” saying the nation should do more to recognize the limits of military force.

 

Hagel delivered his vision in perhaps the most significant speech of his term in office so far. The former senator and Vietnam veteran came to office with a reputation as a noninterventionist who advocated against the Iraq war. But quickly Hagel has faced a myriad of security challenges from Syria imploding in the Middle East to terrorism seeping into Northern Africa and massive leaks of classified information from the National Security Agency. On Tuesday, Hagel stepped back from those duties to give a lengthy address warning that while the U.S. has yet to determine the limits of its security responsibilities the application of military force must be “used wisely, precisely and judiciously.”

It’s not a new message from a Pentagon chief. Hagel noted that former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a Republican like Hagel, made a similar call to lesser arms in 2008, right after the height of the Iraq war. But with more distance from Iraq and the end of Afghanistan near, Hagel said the world’s security challenges require renewed commitment to fulfill “the promise of that commission” from Secretary Gates.

“While these challenges are not America’s responsibility alone, they will demand America’s continued global leadership and engagement,” Hagel said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “No other nation has the will, the power, the capacity, and the network of alliances to lead the international community. However, sustaining our leadership will increasingly depend not only on the extent of our great power, but an appreciation of its limits and a wise deployment of our influence.”

“We remain the world’s only global leader. However, the insidious disease of hubris can undo America’s great strengths. We also must not fall prey to hubris.”

 

Hagel said the U.S. is perhaps too close to the war years to understand or prioritize what security challenges it faces at hand, but that the time has come to “adapt and adjust” as the nation moves from a “perpetual war footing.”

“As the United States makes this transition to what comes after the post-9/11 era, we are only beginning to see the dramatic shifts underway that will define our future and shape our interactions in the world,” Hagel said. “Not since the decade after World War II has mankind witnessed such a realignment of interests, influences, and challenges.”

One new characteristic to emerge in the post-war years, Hagel argued, was the common threat of terrorism to all nation-states, requiring greater cooperation among friends and adversaries.

“The challenge of terrorism has evolved as it has metastasized since 9/11. This has required and will continue to demand unprecedented collaboration with partners and allies on counterterrorism efforts. Many share a common threat – regardless of state-to-state differences or political ideologies.”

Hagel is a proponent of alliances and has written extensively on the need to find common threads that can connect even Iran to the United States.

“In the 21st century, the United States must continue to be a force for, and an important symbol of, humanity, freedom, and progress. We must also make a far better effort to understand how the world sees us, and why. We must listen more.”

Hagel lauded the Obama administration’s use of military force to pressure Assad into giving up Syria’s chemical stockpiles, and said a similar nonviolent path still exists for Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions.

“In both cases our military power has been an important part of the work to possibly find diplomatic resolutions to difficult and interconnected international problems,” Hagel said.

“America’s hard power will always be critical to fashioning enduring solutions to global problems. But our success ultimately depends not on any one instrument of power. It depends on all of our instruments of power.”

 

Hagel: Six Priorities Shape Future Defense Institutions

By Cheryl Pellerin

American Forces Press Service

http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=121054

 

WASHINGTON, Nov. 5, 2013 – In the months since the 2012 defense strategic guidance first reflected a new budget reality, Pentagon officials and military leaders have been working on the department’s longer-term budget and strategy, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said here this morning.

In the keynote address before the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Global Security Forum, Hagel said a needed realignment of missions and resources is being undertaken across the department that will require significant change across every aspect of the enterprise.

“I have identified six areas of focus for our budget and strategic planning efforts going forward,” the secretary said.

 

“Working closely with the service secretaries, service chiefs, combatant commanders and DOD leaders,” he added, “these six priorities will help determine the shape of our defense institutions for years to come.”

The priorities include institutional reform, force planning, preparing for a prolonged military readiness challenge, protecting investments in emerging capabilities, balancing capacity and capability across the services, and balancing personnel responsibilities with a sustainable compensation policy.

During his first weeks in office, Hagel said, he directed a Strategic Choices and Management Review that over several months identified options for reshaping the force and institutions in the face of difficult budget scenarios.

“That review pointed to the stark choices and tradeoffs in military capabilities that will be required if sequester-level cuts persist, but it also identified opportunities to make changes and reforms,” Hagel said.

“Above all,” he added, “it underscored the reality that DOD still possesses resources and options. We will need to more efficiently match our resources to our most important national security requirements. We can do things better, we must do things better, and we will.”

Addressing the six priorities that will shape future defense efforts, the secretary began with a continued a focus on institutional reform.

Coming out of more than a decade of war and budget growth, he said, there is a clear opportunity and need to reshape the defense enterprise, including paring back the world’s largest back office. This summer, Hagel announced a 20-percent reduction in headquarters budgets across the department, beginning with the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

“Our goal is not only to direct more of our resources to real military capabilities and readiness,” Hagel said, “but to make organizations flatter and more responsive to the needs of our men and women in uniform.”

The second priority is to re-evaluate the military force-planning construct — the assumptions and scenarios for which U.S. military forces organize, train and equip themselves.

“I’ve asked our military leaders to take a very close look at these assumptions [and] question these past assumptions, which will also be re-evaluated across the services as part of the [Quadrennial Defense Review],” the secretary explained.

“The goal,” he added, “is to ensure they better reflect our goals and the shifting strategic environment, the evolving capacity of our allies and partners, real-world threats, and the new military capabilities that reside in our force and in the hands of our potential adversaries.”

Hagel said the third priority will be to prepare for a prolonged military readiness challenge. In managing readiness under sequestration, he added, the services have protected the training and equipping of deploying forces to ensure that no one goes unprepared into harm’s way.

This is the department’s highest responsibility to its forces, the secretary said, and yet already, “we have seen the readiness of nondeploying units suffer as training has been curtailed, flying hours reduced, ships not steaming, and exercises canceled.”

The Strategic Choices and Management Review showed that sequester-level cuts could lead to a readiness crisis, and unless something changes, Hagel said, “we have to think urgently and creatively about how to avoid that outcome, because we are consuming our future readiness now.”

The fourth priority will be protecting investments in emerging military capabilities — especially space, cyber, special operations forces, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, the secretary said.

 

“As our potential adversaries invest in more sophisticated capabilities and seek to frustrate our military’s traditional advantages, including our freedom of action and access … around the world,” he said, “it will be important to maintain our decisive technological edge.”

The fifth priority is balance across the services in the mix between capacity and capability, between active and reserve forces, between forward-stationed and home-based forces, and between conventional and unconventional warfighting capabilities, Hagel said.

“In some cases we will make a shift, for example, by prioritizing a smaller, modern and capable military over a larger force with older equipment. We will also favor a globally active and engaged force over a garrison force,” he explained.

The services will look to better leverage the reserve components, with the understanding that part-time units in ground forces can’t expect to perform at the same levels as full-time units, at least in the early stages of a conflict. In other cases, the services will seek to preserve balance, for example, by controlling areas of runaway cost growth, the secretary said.

The sixth priority is personnel and compensation policy, which Hagel said may be the most difficult issue.

“Without serious attempts to achieve significant savings in this area, which consumes roughly now half the DOD budget and increases every year, we risk becoming an unbalanced force, one that is well-compensated but poorly trained and equipped, with limited readiness and capability,” he said.

Going forward, the department must make hard choices in this area to ensure that the defense enterprise is sustainable for the 21st century, the secretary said.

Hagel said Congress must permit meaningful reforms as it reduces the defense budget, and the department needs Congress as a willing partner in making tough choices to bend the cost curve on personnel, while meeting its responsibilities to its people.

“Even as we pursue change across the Department of Defense,” the secretary said, “the greatest responsibility of leadership will always remain the people we represent, our men and women in uniform, their families, and our dedicated civilian workforce.”

 

 

Review: Box beats Dropbox — and all the rest — for business    

http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9243833/Review_Box_beats_Dropbox_and_all_the_rest_for_business?source=CTWNLE_nlt_networking_2013-11-06

 

Box trumps Dropbox, Egnyte, Citrix ShareFile, EMC Syncplicity, and OwnCloud with rich mix of file sync, file sharing, user management, deep reporting, and enterprise integration

 

By Serdar Yegulalp

November 6, 2013 06:06 AM ET

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Infoworld – In the beginning, there was Dropbox, and enterprises far and wide were appalled. How dare corporate and business users make use of a file sync and sharing service that’s meant for consumers? But the convenience and flexibility of Dropbox were hard to ignore, and soon file repository services for businesses of all sizes began to spring up.

 

As the number of file storage services for businesses and enterprises has mushroomed, so have the options they provide and the third-party services they can leverage. (It’s an app world, after all.) Today, the problem is more of too many choices than too few.

 

[ Stay on top of the state of the cloud with InfoWorld’s “Cloud Computing Deep Dive” special report. Download it today! | Also check out our “Private Cloud Deep Dive,” our “Cloud Security Deep Dive,” our “Cloud Storage Deep Dive,” and our “Cloud Services Deep Dive.” ]

 

In this article we’ll look at five enterprise-level file sync and sharing services (Box, Dropbox, Egnyte, Citrix’s ShareFile, and EMC’s Syncplicity), as well as one system you deploy on your own hardware (OwnCloud). What we found is heartening. There really is a storage service for just about every need.

 

Business-level sync and storage services focus on delivering features that will be valuable to a connected enterprise. Single sign-on capabilities let you use your organization’s existing credentialing system (typically Active Directory) to log in. Activity logging and reporting let you see at a glance who’s doing what, while granular permissions help you make sure people aren’t doing things they shouldn’t. However, not all these solutions deliver the same features in the same ways. Reporting, for instance, varies enormously across the products.

 

It may come as no surprise that Box is the leading contender in this space. Its feature set and third-party integrations rise above the rest, and it offers some of the most granular reporting, permissions, and user management features of any competing service. Syncplicity and Egnyte aren’t far behind, with Syncplicity leveraging its close integration with EMC storage solutions, while Egnyte provides generous storage allotments and a well-wrought UI.

 

ShareFile’s biggest drawback is its astonishingly small storage allotments, compared to the other products here, although its management capabilities and app selection are excellent. Dropbox for Business isn’t a bad product — it may well be the easiest solution for those looking to convert a batch of existing users into a working team — but it’s severely hampered by poor reporting. And though OwnCloud is a novel solution, it not only lags the others in features but also requires you to do some heavy lifting. Consider it if you’re planning on hosting or building something around it.

 

Whether it’s ease, flexibility, transparency, granular control, integrations with existing systems, or rich mobile support, all of these solutions have something to recommend them. Read on for the full reviews.

 

Dropbox for BusinessBusinesses have long fretted about Dropbox being a potential security hole, but no one can deny that its convenience, utility, and familiarity make for a compelling way to share files among multiple computers and users. Small wonder Dropbox has gone on to offer a business-level tier for its services, with a slew of security, team management, and reporting functions.

 

Dropbox for Business doesn’t have the breadth or granularity of functions found in competing services, so it’s best for smaller, more intimate teams that don’t need as much top-down control. But using it is a snap to anyone who has a Dropbox account, and storage isn’t metered for a full-blown business account. Whereas Dropbox Pro is $99 per user per year with 100GB of storage, the Business tier is $795 per year for five users (plus $125 for each additional user per year) with no storage limits.

 

To use Dropbox for Business, you can either go with an existing Dropbox account or create a new one from scratch. The first account on a given team is automatically made an administrative account. Adding team members is functionally similar to the way existing Dropbox users invite each other to share resources: type a name, pick a user. Once a user has been added to the team, the only obvious change in the way Dropbox works is that some behaviors — such as sharing links to nonteam members — may be administratively restricted. A shared folder that appears in all Dropbox accounts for the team can also be automatically created.

 

Admins for a business account have access to a dashboard where they can survey their Dropbox account by user or activity. Each user’s devices, browser sessions, apps, and activity are shown, and you can download CSVs of team activity reports — who signed on from where, what members were added, and so on. Browser sessions can be closed, devices unlinked, and third-party Dropbox apps can be disabled for all users from this interface.

 

Organizations who want greater security over their Dropbox setup can elect to turn on a number of different authentication mechanisms, including two-step verification. You can also configure single sign-on via Active Directory or a third-party SSO provider, though you can’t always use two-step verification and single sign-on together. Another useful security feature is a global password reset button, which provides a handy way to lock everything down at once in a matter of seconds.

 

One of the bigger shortcomings of Dropbox for Business is the lack of auditing tools for files themselves. You can’t, for instance, inspect the contents of an individual user’s account or look up an earlier revision of a file. The only way to do those things is to log in as the user and browse his or her files. Further, the activity reports lack details about uploads and external shares, which also makes auditing difficult.

 

Another potential gotcha stems from Dropbox’s popularity with consumers. End-users with personal Dropbox accounts will want to create a separate account specifically for team access, lest they accidentally conflate files between the two. For bigger corporate setups, this isn’t likely to be an obstacle, but informal teams with only a few people will need to be cautious. Fortunately the Dropbox folks seem to be aware of this: When you’re invited to a team, you’re given the option to join with your currently logged-in account or to create a whole new one.

 

Dropbox for Business’s team management features make it easy to corral a slew of existing Dropbox users into a working team. On the downside, the member activity reports lack too much detail to be really useful.

 

OwnCloudThe big selling point for OwnCloud is doubly inviting in this post-PRISM era. It’s a file storage and sharing service that runs entirely on open source software and the hardware of your choice, which you can deploy within your own four walls. It also comes with an optional at-rest file encryption module — useful if you’re running on shared hosting and want to keep out prying eyes.

 

I looked at a previous 4.x version of OwnCloud and was impressed, but the product’s been redesigned almost completely from the inside out for its 5.x iteration. Most crucially, the at-rest encryption system used in 4.x has been scrapped entirely and replaced, so users of OwnCloud 4.x will need to take care when migrating their setup.

 

Installing OwnCloud could hardly be simpler, in theory. Unpack an archive to the desired destination folder on your Web server, navigate to said folder in your Web browser, and create a master user account. You can elect to use MySQL, MariaDB (preferred), SQLite, or PostgreSQL as the database. In practice, setting up OwnCloud can be trickier, in part because your PHP installation needs to be correctly configured for OwnCloud to work right. In my case, it was “strongly recommended” that I add the fileinfo module for proper MIME-type detection, and similar tinkering was needed to get the file-encryption plug-in running.

 

The functionality of OwnCloud is provided through a range of add-ons or “apps,” several of which are bundled with the system by default: a file manager, a music player and library manager, a CardDAV-driven contacts manager, a CalDAV-compatible calendar, a picture gallery, and add-ons for the likes of OpenID and WebDAV support and in-browser viewing of various document types (ODF, PDF, and so on). Dozens of other apps are available through OwnCloud’s app library. This makes OwnCloud more than just a file depository. It can become, in time, a nexus for many different kinds of collaboration and sharing in an organization.

 

Files can be uploaded into an OwnCloud instance either via drag-and-drop into the browser, or by using a Windows or Mac client that synchronizes the contents of a folder with an OwnCloud account, A la the desktop clients for Dropbox. The only limits on file sizes or storage are those you set yourself. Incidentally, the desktop app is free, but the mobile apps are $1 each — a smart way for the company to indirectly monetize the free community version of the product.

 

One of the major add-ons, included but not enabled by default, is the server-side encryption plug-in. Files saved to the server when the plug-in is enabled are encrypted and cannot be read even by the server administrator. Note that file names are not encrypted, just the contents, although I imagine in time this too can be addressed.

 

The biggest advantage to OwnCloud is also its biggest disadvantage: You have to run it yourself. The total control it gives you over the way files are stored and managed comes at the cost of having to set up and maintain the program. What’s more, OwnCloud requires some expertise with Web servers — Apache, PHP, and MySQL — to use effectively. An instance of OwnCloud I set up on my own local server ran very slowly — probably because it wasn’t properly optimized. When installed on a Web server maintained by a hosting company, it ran much faster. Your mileage will definitely vary.

 

The folks at Turnkey Linux have created a virtual appliance edition of OwnCloud for fast installation, albeit only the earlier 4.x version. It’s also possible to have OwnCloud hosted by an authorized service provider who can set up and manage an OwnCloud instance for you.

 

One of OwnCloud’s many built-in apps is a photo gallery. The biggest advantage with OwnCloud is the total control you get over your data; the biggest hurdle is the work involved in setting it up.

 

Citrix ShareFileCitrix ShareFile does one thing, and it does it very well: It provides an enterprise with a customizable, protected space where files can be uploaded and shared. Other services may be more expandable, but ShareFile is extremely granular and configurable right out of the box.

 

Among the first decisions you’ll need to make when setting up ShareFile is how to deal with user credentials. You can use ShareFile’s own native user database or set up federation with Active Directory or another SAML-compatible system. The native user database will suit smaller organizations that will be using ShareFile in an ad hoc way, although I would’ve liked to see a slightly better gamut of tools for bulk-uploading users.

 

ShareFile splits users of the system into three categories: clients (people outside your organization who need access to what you’re sharing), employees (rank-and-file users), and superusers/admins. People can be promoted or demoted between those ranks, and the privileges within them can be granted to users on an extremely granular basis — such as management of remote forms, access to account-wide reporting, and so on. Companies can also apply their own logos and custom branding to the ShareFile interface, and each account comes by default with up to three custom subdomains in the format subdomain.sharefile.com.

 

The most straightforward way to upload files is through the browser, via a drag-and-drop interface. You can supply descriptions for files in the upload process, too, if a file name isn’t descriptive enough. Fine-grained options for each folder allow you to configure file versioning, define the sort order for files, and set file retention policies on a folder-by-folder basis. ShareFile can also work with Citrix’s StorageZones to incorporate Microsoft SharePoint shares and other on-premises repositories, providing for greater flexibility where the files are stored.

 

In addition, ShareFile comes with a wide range of client apps. Windows and Mac users can install apps that sync folders on their desktop with a ShareFile account. iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry users can sync from their devices with apps for each of those platforms, too. An Outlook plug-in automatically substitutes a ShareFile link for an attached file, so you don’t end up mistakenly emailing someone a 10MB file. Also included is support for Secure FTP, a handy fallback, and command-line scripting tools for automating file uploads, downloads, and synchronizations.

 

ShareFile puts strong emphasis on reporting, which ought to gratify those who want or need detailed activity auditing. Reports for each account or folder can be downloaded as Excel files, and users can have their access to reports granted or revoked as a separate privilege.

 

The biggest problem with ShareFile is the minimal amount of storage. The basic $29.95-per-month tier, for up to two employees, provides a measly 5GB of storage. Even at $99.95 per month for 20 or more employees, you get a mere 20GB. This makes ShareFile most useful only if you’re using it to share a few well-trafficked files. In an age where cloud storage providers are throwing theoretically unlimited amounts of storage at their customers, Citrix seems downright stingy.

 

ShareFile doesn’t give you a lot of storage to work with, but it does give you a fine user interface, granular controls, and detailed reporting.

 

Egnyte”Do not defy data gravity” is the motto that appears on Egnyte’s home page. By this the company means it doesn’t always make sense to shove every file up into the cloud, and to that end its services are designed to allow files to live in the right place — cloud or on premise — depending on their size and sensitivity.

 

Egnyte’s services are split into three tiers: Office, Business, and Enterprise. The lowest tier, for teams of five to 24 users, costs $8 per user per month and offers a batch of basic features along with a whopping 1TB of storage and a 2.5GB maximum file size. Go up a tier to Business (25 to 100 users, $15 per user per month) and those limits are 2TB and 5GB; you also get Outlook integration and custom branding options along with the standard desktop sync and FTP. The Enterprise level requires that you call for a price quote, but it has no limit on the number of users, starts at 3TB of storage, ups max file size to 10GB, and provides auditing and reporting and integration with third-party enterprise apps.

 

Egnyte’s Web client is so good that you might not even use the local desktop app. Not only files but entire folders can be dragged, dropped, and uploaded into your Egnyte account, and entire folders can even be downloaded as zip archives. One-click sharing lets you provide a public or invite-only link to any object or folder. Shares can be set to expire after a certain period of time or a certain number of downloads.

 

 

Army Looks to Integrate Cyber and Electronic Warfare Capabilities

http://www.defensetechbriefs.com/component/content/article/17647

 

Tuesday, 05 November 2013

 

As new technologies emerge and new cyber and electronic warfare threats plague soldiers in the field, U.S. Army scientists and engineers continue to define next-generation protocols and system architectures to help develop the technology to combat these threats in an integrated and expedited fashion. As part of the Integrated Cyber and Electronic Warfare (ICE) program, the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command’s Communications- Electronics Center (CERDEC) researches the technologies, standards and architectures to support the use of common mechanisms used for the rapid development and integration of third-party cyber and electronic warfare, or EW, capabilities.

“Currently, within cyber and EW disciplines there are different supporting force structures and users equipped with disparate tools, capabilities and frameworks,” said Paul Robb Jr., chief of CERDEC Intelligence and Information Warfare Directorate’s Cyber Technology Branch. “Under the ICE program, we look to define common data contexts and software control mechanisms to allow these existing frameworks to communicate in a manner that would support the concurrent leveraging of available tactical capabilities based on which asset on the battlefield provides the best projected military outcome at a particular point in time.”

The boundaries between traditional cyber threats, such as someone hacking a laptop through the Internet, and traditional EW threats, such as radio- controlled improvised explosive devices that use the electromagnetic spectrum, have blurred, allowing EW systems to access the data stream to combat EW threats, according to Giorgio Bertoli, senior engineer of CERDEC I2WD’s Cyber/Offensive Operations Division. Additionally, significant technological advancements, including a trend towards wireless in commercial applications and military systems, have occurred over the last decade.

“This blending of networks and systems, known as convergence, will continue and with it come significant implications as to how the Army must fight in the cyber environment of today and tomorrow,” said Bertoli. “The concept of technology convergence originated as a means to describe the amalgamation of traditional wired versus wireless commercial services and applications, but has recently evolved to also include global technology trends and U.S. Army operational connotations, specifically in the context of converging cyber and EW operations.”

The Army finds itself in a unique position to help mitigate adverse outcomes due to this convergence trend.

“Post-force deployment, the Army has the vast majority of sensors and EW assets on the tactical battlefield compared to any other service or organization, posing both risks and opportunities. Our military’s reliance on COTS [commercial-of-the-shelf] systems and wireless communications presents a venue for our adversaries to attack. Conversely, the proximity and high density of receivers and transmitters that we deploy can be leveraged to enable both EW and cyber operations,” said Bertoli.

“The ability to leverage both cyber and EW capabilities as an integrated system, acting as a force multiplier increasing the commander’s situational awareness of the cyber electromagnetic environment, will improve the commander’s ability to achieve desired operational effects,” said Robb.

A paradigm shift in how the Army views system and technology development will further enhance CERDEC’s ability to rapidly adapt to new cyber and EW threats.

“The biggest hindrance we have right now is not a technological one, it’s an operational and policy one,” said Bertoli. “The Army traditionally likes to build systems for a specific purpose – build a radio to be a radio, build an EW system to be an EW system, but these hardware systems today have significantly more inherent capabilities.”

To demonstrate the concepts of multi-capability systems, CERDEC chose not to solely focus its science and technology efforts on researching solutions to address specific cyber and EW threats, but also to develop the architecture onto which scientists and engineers can rapidly develop and integrate new, more capable solutions.

“As an example, the World Wide Web has grown into an architecture that is so powerful your tech savvy 10-year-old can build a website – and a pretty powerful one at that,” said Bertoli. “The only reason this is possible is because there is a wealth of common tools, like web browsers and servers, and standards such as HTML or HTTP already in place for them to use. The ICE program is attempting to extend this model to the cyber and EW community by providing mechanisms to enable the leveraging of available tactical assets to support cyberspace operation mission sets. Early focus revolves around the development of augmented situation-awareness capabilities but will evolve to include the enabling of a multitude of cyberspace operations.”

ICE will provide the Army with common tools and standards for developing and integrating cyber and EW capabilities.

“Capabilities can be developed to combat EM (electromagnetic) and cyber threats individually, but this is neither time nor cost effective and simply will not scale in the long term. The domain is just too large and will only continue to expand,” said Bertoli. “In the end, we (CERDEC) believe this is the only way the Army will be able to keep pace with the anticipated technology advancements and rate of change related to cyberspace and the systems that comprise it.”

The Army acquisition community has also seen changes in the relationship between cyber and EW.

“Tactical EW systems and sensors provide for significant points of presence on the battlefield, and can be used for cyber situational awareness and as delivery platforms for precision cyber effects to provide a means of Electronic Counter Measures and Electronic Counter-Counter Measures, for instance,” said Col. Joseph Dupont, program manager for EW under Program Executive Office Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors. “There is no doubt in my mind that we must provide for a more integrated approach to cyber warfare, electronic warfare and electromagnetic operations to be successful in the future conduct of unified land operations.”

CERDEC, as the Army’s research and development experts in cyber and EW, works closely with the Program Executive Offices, the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command and Army Cyber Command to shape operational concepts and doctrine by providing technical expertise regarding technically achievable solutions in the context of the tactical cyberspace operations and supporting materiel capabilities for the Army. In addition to working with the Army’s strategy and policy makers, CERDEC I2WD has tapped into its facilities and pre- existing expertise to further the ICE program.

CERDEC I2WD maintains state-of-the-art laboratories that support both closed and open-air testing facilities to provide relevant environment conditions to conduct research that provides a seamless cyber-electromagnetic environment with both wired and wireless modern communication infrastructure. The fully- instrumented labs include commercial information assurance products and allow for in-depth experimentation while sustaining automated rapid network re- configuration technology and virtualization technologies to support scalable testing. Additionally, I2WD expands its potential environment by maintaining remote connections with external government sites, which also enables collaborative experiments. The combination of these assets and expertise allows CERDEC to demonstrate achievable capability improvements related to cyber and EW convergence.

                                                                 
 

Wide use of drones down the road

FAA chief says privacy, safety still huge obstacles.

 

Posted: 4:47 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013

http://www.daytondailynews.com/news/news/national-govt-politics/wide-use-of-drones-down-the-road/nbkrW/

 

By Jessica Wehrman

Washington Bureau

 

WASHINGTON — Ohio is pinning its hopes on becoming one of six test sites for unmanned aircraft, but the Federal Aviation Administration made it clear Thursday that it will be some time before commercial use of such aircraft enters the mainstream.

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said currently the FAA approves use of such aircraft — commonly referred to as drones — on a case-by-case basis. They’re used for everything from firefighting to search and rescue to border patrol, he said.

But broader commercial use remains out of reach, in part because of safety and privacy concerns.

“We have to make sure we have the appropriate safeguards in place to understand how they operate and how they interact with the aircraft that exist in the national airspace system today,” he said.

He made the comments on the same day the FAA released a road map charting out the regulatory and other requirements needed for long-term domestic use of drones. The agency expects to continue permitting grants for unmanned aircraft on a case-by-case basis for the immediate future despite a congressional directive to permit their widespread use by Sept. 30, 2015.

“Government and industry face significant challenges as unmanned aircraft move into the aviation mainstream,” acknowledged Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

The agency also announced that it would ask test site operators to determine and release privacy plans that would be made available to the public, and stopped far short of creating its own policy to address concerns that drones might collect intrusive information during their flights.

“The FAA does not have any specific authority to regulate (privacy) policy and we’re not seeking that,” Huerta said. “We do feel we have a responsibility to create a forum for the privacy question to be debated, and that is what we’re doing.

“We’re not specifically regulating what potential users would be looking at in a test site, but what we are doing is telling the public what they intend to do.”

There are safety concerns as well, including what would happen if an aircraft lost contact with its operator or whether drones would be able to effectively avoid other aircraft.

Once it overcomes its challenges, Huerta predicted that some 7,500 drones would be flying through U.S. air space within the next five years.

The safety concerns appear to make the six test sites even more vital. The FAA received 25 proposals representing 26 states and plans to announce its six sites at the end of this year. Ohio, in conjunction with Indiana, has lobbied hard for selection, exhibiting at industry conventions and making the case that Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the state’s thriving aerospace industry make them a logical choice.

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.

The state argues that Ohio is a pioneer in unmanned aircraft thanks to Dayton businessman Charles Kettering, who developed the first armed UAV, the Kettering Bug, in 1917.

If Ohio’s bid is selected, officials here will be among those helping to craft privacy policy for the widespread use of drones. Each test site will also have to follow state and federal privacy laws. Information would “feed into a larger conversation” about the privacy issues inherent in drone use, Huerta said.

“We need to make sure we use these sites to collect the best data that we possibly can,” he said.

Huerta gave few details on the site selection process, saying simply that a range of geographic, technical and climactic issues will be under consideration. But, “we expect to meet our deadline at the end of this year,” he said.

 

The Kettering “Bug”

Ohio hopes its rich aviation heritage — including the unmanned Kettering Aerial Torpedo, nicknamed the “Bug” that Charles Kettering invented in 1917 — will help propel the Federal Aviation Administration to name Ohio and Indiana as one of six test sites for unmanned aircraft.

The Dayton-Wright Airplane Co. built fewer than 50 Bugs before the war ended, though it was never put into combat use. The scarcity of funds in the 1920s halted development.

Key facts about Kettering’s “Bug”:

Armament: 180 pounds of high explosives

Engine: De Palma 4-cylinder of 40 hp

Maximum speed: 120 mph

Range: 75 miles

Span: 14 ft. 11 1/2 inches

Length: 12 ft. 6 inches

Height: 4 ft. 8 inches

Weight: 530 pounds loaded

Source: National Museum of the U.S. Air Force                   

 

FAA Releases Road Map and Comprehensive Plan For Unmanned Aircraft

 

New York (November 07, 2013) — The Federal Aviation Administration on Thursday released a much-anticipated road map for integrating unmanned aircraft systems into the national aerospace, projecting an intensive regulatory effort that will not yield a unified system for obtaining operational clearance for at least several years.

 

 

UAS Roadmap

The first annual UAS Roadmap addresses current and future policies, regulations, technologies and procedures that will be required as UAS operations increase in the nation’s airspace.

Comprehensive Plan

The Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO) has developed a comprehensive plan to safely accelerate the integration of civil UAS into the national airspace system.

Final FAA Privacy Policy

In connection with the UAS Test Site selection, the FAA is sending a final privacy policy to the Federal Register that requires test site operators to comply with federal, state, and other laws on individual privacy protection, and take other measures related to privacy.

 

FAA cautiously agrees to some use of civilian drones

While still far from giving a thumbs up to unmanned flying vehicles crowding the skies, the government agency recommends that some drones be allowed.

 

Dara Kerr by Dara Kerr November 7, 2013 7:13 PM PST

http://news.cnet.com/8301-11386_3-57611439-76/faa-cautiously-agrees-to-some-use-of-civilian-drones/

 

The Federal Aviation Administration weighed in on the increasing civilian use of autonomous drones on Thursday. The government agency released a report outlining a roadmap for certain cases in which unmanned drones could be permissible.

In the report, with the lengthy title “Integration of Civil Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) in the National Airspace System Roadmap,” the FAA said that autonomous drones are already being used in disaster response, cargo transport, aerial mapping, and commercial photography. While drones are already buzzing around, the FAA is cautious with allowing wholesale use of the flying machines.

Unmanned drones bring up the sticky issue of privacy. These self-flying vehicles can swoop over vast areas gathering information on unsuspecting people. Even Google’s executive chairman has cautioned legalizing drone use, saying they could infringe on people’s privacy and that they should be regulated.

However, drones can also be very useful for civilians. For instance, farmers can use them to monitor their crops, hunters could use them to stake out deer, and earth scientists could use them for gathering data and research.

In its report, which was created by orders of Congress, the FAA said it would accept some agricultural drones if a person monitors the flying object from the ground.

For now, all unmanned drones bigger than a small shoebox sized apparatus are still prohibited. For those smaller drones that are allowed — they must stay within a person’s view. The FAA wrote that it will prioritize research on the use of self-flying vehicles. Additionally, it will launch six drone test sites by the end of this year.

These test sites are “not intended to predetermine the long-term policy and regulatory framework under which UAS would operate,” the FAA wrote. But they will “help inform the dialogue.”

Most likely, the government won’t take action on legalizing or prohibiting drones further until 2016.

 

 

Panel: Merge DoD, VA care

Unified health system would smooth out inefficiences

Nov. 7, 2013 – 04:46PM |

http://www.marinecorpstimes.com/article/20131107/BENEFITS/311070034/Panel-Merge-DoD-VA-care

 

By Patricia Kime

Staff writer

 

In the Defense Department, a “unified medical command” means a health system combining the assets of the Army, Navy and Air Force medical branches.

But for some members of the Military Retirement and Compensation Modernization Commission, the phrase could describe a unified Veterans Health Administration-Defense Department health system, a behemoth that would erase divisions between the two and care for troops and veterans from boot camp to grave.

That idea was among several floated by commissioners as they listened Nov. 4 to veterans service organizations discuss the concerns of ill and injured troops during one of the commission’s first public hearings at Fort Belvoir, Va.

“If [VA and DoD] can’t work together, put one of them in charge. Pick your poison, I don’t care which one. Create a unified command with DoD or put VA in charge,” said former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey, a Medal of Honor recipient who served on the Senate Appropriations Committee and later the 9/11 Commission.

“If you had one chief information officer in charge of budget and line items for both, this problem and many others would not be an issue,” agreed former Indiana congressman and Army veteran Stephen Buyer, who once sat on the House Armed Services Committee.

The idea surfaced after veterans service organizations discussed the failure of VA and the Pentagon to create a single electronic health record system. The $1 billion program, launched in 2008, largely was abandoned in February in favor of a less expensive system built on existing technology.

 

The Pentagon has yet to award a contract for its portion of the information technology.

Continued problems with the VA and DoD joint disability system, the transition of care from active duty to veteran status and disconnects when veterans leave active duty are among the issues the organizations pressed commissioners to consider when drafting their recommendations.

Tom Tarantino, a policy associate with Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said there is a need to “push for uniformity.”

“We have fixed the cracks in the facade but … we have been just tweaking things. It’s time we do a single unified push all they way through the system to get it right,” Tarantino said.

A health care overhaul also should consider incorporating private-sector care for those who seek it, recommended retired Army Brig. Gen. Jack Hammond, executive director for the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital Home Base Program.

Hammond said about a quarter of veterans seeking care at Mass General do not have health insurance.

“They may have been eligible for VA coverage, but it doesn’t mean they’ve applied for it,” he said. “When it comes to mental health, they might not want a public-sector record that they’ve had mental health issues, so they come to us.”

A comprehensive health program should incorporate private-sector care and also make it easier for charities and the private sector to provide services to the government as well as troops, Hammond said.

An overhaul also may require a complete review of the disability ratings system, which Buyer pointed out includes compensation for those diagnosed with service-related conditions who would lose their monthly checks if they are cured.

“It’s almost like this is the rail no one wants to touch because it involves mental health,” Buyer said. “But something is not right within our disability system that we have a financial disincentive to get better.”

Commissioners acknowledged that much of their discussion would receive push-back from VA and the Pentagon, but said there was no room for sacred cows.

“People look at this commission as nine Scrooges who want to take something away from them. I hope this is not the case … we have a pretty broad brush and we’re trying to learn,” said Larry Pressler, a former South Dakota senator and the first Vietnam veteran elected to the Senate.

 

U.S. may split command of spy and cyber agencies

Nedra Pickler, Associated Press 11:35 a.m. EST November 7, 2013

http://www.usatoday.com/news/

 

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House is considering a proposal to split the work of the single military commander who now oversees both the National Security Agency and cybersecurity operations, presenting an opportunity to reshape the spy agency in the wake of harsh criticism of its sweeping surveillance programs.

Army Gen. Keith Alexander is top officer at both the U.S. Cyber Command and the NSA, and he’s retiring next spring.

 

White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said Thursday that no final decision has been made about how to handle the commands after Alexander leaves, but it’s a “natural point” to consider a change.

The consideration of a split, first reported Thursday in The Washington Post, comes in the wake of revelations about the agency’s widespread monitoring of telephone, email and social-media data from documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

The concentration of power over two such different missions has been controversial, and Alexander’s departure gives President Obama a chance to make changes at both agencies.

“The current arrangement was designed to ensure that both organizations complement each other effectively,” Hayden said. “That said, in consultation with appropriate agencies, we are looking to ensure we are appropriately postured to address current and future security needs.”

Alexander has led the NSA since 2005 and he added the Cyber Command to his duties when that entity was created in 2010 to defend U.S. military networks and conduct cyberwarfare. Both are headquartered at suburban Fort Meade, Md.

The NSA has been one of the most secretive of all U.S. intelligence operations. Alexander has vigorously defended its activities as lawful and necessary to detect and disrupt terrorist plots.

Alexander said secrecy about how the programs work was needed “not to hide it from you, it’s to hide it from those who walk among you and are trying to kill you.”

 

 

State Creates ‘Cyber National Guard’

Rapid Response Team Aims to Protect Government, Industry IT

 

By Eric Chabrow, November 7, 2013. Follow Eric @GovInfoSecurity

 

As Michigan deploys its Cyber Civilian Corps, the state will need to address some of the same challenges the federal government faces in sharing cyberthreat information between the government and the private sector, state CIO David Behen says.

Gov. Rick Snyder last month announced the creation of the Cyber Civilian Corps, which Behen characterizes as a cyber National Guard, a rapid response team that would assist the state and industries across Michigan during a major cybersecurity incident.

The Cyber Civilian Corps, which will include volunteers from government, education and business, will offer training on how best to respond to cyber-attacks.

Governments and the private sector collaborating to defend against cyber-attacks need to share information, some of which businesses contend could include data they want to keep secret. And, as the debate over stalled cyberthreat information sharing legislation in Washington has shown, matters involving liability and privacy protection regarding information sharing need to be resolved.

In an interview with Information Security Media Group, Behen says those issues must be addressed if the Cyber Civilian Corps is to succeed, adding that the government must be sensitive to businesses’ concerns about information sharing.

“What we can’t do, in my opinion, is just stop and wait for that conversation to happen,” Behen says. “We need to run forward on parallel paths. Let’s put together the Cyber Civilian Corps; let’s get them trained; let’s have them take the course work. So, when once something happens, we’re prepared to protect data and to respond to things here in the state of Michigan.”

As the state’s chief information officer, Behen is a member of Snyder’s cabinet. He previously served as CIO and deputy administrator of Washtenaw County, the home of Ann Arbor. Behen cofounded software maker InfoReady and served as a vice president and CIO of its parent corporation, GDI InfoTech. Eastern Michigan University awarded Behen a bachelor of science and master of science in public administration degrees.

 

CIA-backed Cloud Security Firm Buys Encryption Company to Help Spy-Wary Industry

 

By Aliya Sternstein

http://www.nextgov.com/cloud-computing/2013/11/cia-backed-cloud-security-firm-buys-encryption-company-target-spy-wary-industry/73391/

November 7, 2013

 

At least one U.S. cloud company sees an opportunity to benefit from the backlash against brethren accused of facilitating domestic surveillance.

Cloud services — think Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure — essentially rent out data storage space in big computer rooms clients can access through the Internet or a private network. At times, U.S. spies have infiltrated the networks of American cloud providers, as well as subpoenaed their customer data without their customers’ knowledge, according to the Washington Post.

This has not deterred HyTrust, which is backed by CIA venture capital funding, from marketing anti-surveillance tools to corporations.

The California-based company on Thursday announced the purchase of encryption software firm HighCloud Security, acknowledging industry concerns about storing clear text files in an off-site data center.

Not wanting to bite the hand that feeds them, HyTrust officials say the deal also should benefit intelligence agencies by preventing rogue system administrators, such as ex-federal contractor Edward Snowden, from decoding government data. The company since 2007, has built a business off technology that monitors the activities of cloud system administrators.

With Thursday’s acquisition of HighCloud encryption, “even if somehow that admin was able to get away with that virtual machine, it would be unusable. It’s like a brick. You can’t access the data inside of it. It’s meaningless,” HyTrust co-founder Eric Chiu said in an interview. “You’ve solved, end to end, that potential Snowden-level attack — of that admin and the godlike privileges that they typically have — in safeguarding against them and monitoring that as well as protecting the data itself, in case it does get stolen.”

But the company empathizes with corporations entrusting data to cloud providers that cooperate with the feds.

While some data center providers offer to encode their tenants’ data, “if you’re letting the cloud provider provide not only the encryption, but also manage and store the keys to unlock that encryption, well, you have no idea whether somebody has been granted access to that data because of subpoena,” Chiu said. “If you keep the keys to your data that means that nobody else can unencrypt and potentially access your data without your approval.”

 

With the European Union expressing outrage over alleged intercepts of its citizens’ communications, HyTrust officials might be worried about losing business from customers such as one unidentified major European development bank and many Fortune 500 companies.

The company is still in startup mode. Intel Capital, VMware and Cisco participated in a $18.5 million round of financing, HyTrust announced in August.

In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture capital wing, also contributed funding at the time.

“We don’t make any political decisions,” Chiu insisted. But, he also said: “I have to be careful what I say because one of our customers and investors is In-Q-Tel,” and the company’s services “are very much strategic to the efforts of the intelligence community.” In-Q-Tel and HyTrust made public a technology development deal in July.

Chiu said talks between HyTrust and HighCloud started before revelations about NSA domestic surveillance were made public in May through leaks by Snowden.

In an interview this week, he said the new partnership should help put corporate clients’ minds at ease about the risk of U.S. government spying. “I think that is a real, is a legitimate concern. I think being able to have your data encrypted and being able to keep the keys and be the one that determines whether or not you want to give the keys over to give access to that data is important. I think you want to make the decision on what happens to your data,” he said.

HighCloud officials have also touted their software’s ability to protect Web-based data from U.S. surveillance. “Technologies like HighCloud’s encryption, where you control encryption keys, inside your firewall if you prefer, can help ensure that the government must come to you in order to access your data,” said a July note on the company’s blog.” In a statement last month, HighCloud co-founder Steve Pate said, “As cloud service providers become a target for data access, both to thieves and the U.S. government, organizations must take further steps to secure their data in the cloud.”

HyTrust, a private company, did not disclose the terms of the deal.

 

 

Groups Fear Federal Pensions Are At Risk in Budget Talks

By Kellie Lunney

November 7, 2013

 

http://www.govexec.com/pay-benefits/2013/11/groups-fear-federal-pensions-are-risk-budget-talks/73433/?oref=dropdown

 

Lawmakers tasked with reaching a budget deal before mid-January are likely to consider increasing the amount federal workers contribute to their pensions, according to federal employee and retiree advocates.

Similar proposals have come up during previous budget and deficit discussions over the last few years, and this time won’t be any different, say representatives from the Federal-Postal Coalition and the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association. “Common knowledge would certainly put this on the table,” said Jessica Klement, NARFE legislative director. “I don’t see how something like this isn’t part of the conference unless we have some very, very vocal opponents,” she said, adding, “At this point in time we have no reason to believe that cuts to the federal community are off the table.”

The groups’ fears are well-founded because it’s an area of savings Republicans and the Democratic White House agree on. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., in his fiscal 2014 budget plan, wants feds to pay 5.5 percent more of their salaries toward their defined benefit; he would also eliminate an additional benefit — what’s known as the Federal Employees Retirement System Annuity Supplement — for those government workers who retire before the age of 62 and who are not eligible for mandatory retirement. President Obama in his fiscal 2014 budget blueprint recommended that federal employees contribute 1.2 percent more of their pay, phased in at 0.4 percent over the next three years, toward their pensions. The White House estimated that the change would save the government $20 billion during the next decade. Obama also supports eliminating the FERS Annuity Supplement.

However, the Senate budget plan opposes further tinkering with federal employees’ pay and benefits. “Federal workers play a key role in running a smart and efficient government,” said the budget resolution crafted by Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash, also a budget conferee. “These workers have borne the brunt of recent deficit reduction efforts, with years of pay freezes and many workers facing furloughs in the coming months caused by the indiscriminate and untargeted sequestration cuts.” The document noted that the Republican budget would “further harm these workers by significantly increasing their contributions to the Federal Employees Retirement System, effectively cutting their take-home pay in every paycheck.”

The House and Senate budget conferees, including Ryan, are supposed to reconcile differences in the next month between the House and Senate fiscal 2014 budget plans — currently about $91 billion apart. The lawmakers also are discussing how to deal with the next round of 10-year automatic spending cuts scheduled to take place on Jan. 15, 2014, when the current continuing resolution expires. The government will have to cut $109.3 billion from the budget under sequestration — half from defense and half from non-defense — in fiscal 2014 unless Congress agrees on an alternative. The committee must submit its recommendations by Dec. 13, 2013.

“There’s considerable concern that once again, the federal retirement account continues to be an ATM to solve the nation’s fiscal problems,” said Bruce Moyer, chairman of the Federal-Postal Coalition, a group of 31 national organizations that represents millions of federal and postal employees and retirees. Moyer’s group, along with NARFE and the National Treasury Employees Union, has sent letters to the budget conferees urging them not to include any recommendations that would reduce federal employee or retiree pay and benefits in their final report. NTEU estimates that federal employees already have contributed $114 billion in deficit reduction as a result of the three-year pay freeze and a 2012 law that requires feds hired after 2012 or those with fewer than five years of previous federal service to contribute 3.1 percent toward their pensions – 2.3 percentage points more than the 0.8 percent most feds put in per paycheck for their defined benefit plan.

“In addition to the $141 billion from a three-year pay freeze and increased pension contributions for new hires, federal employees have faced unpaid furloughs due to sequestration, expanded workloads due to little hiring because of sequestration and a 16-day government shutdown, which could be repeated if Congress again does not do its job by Jan. 15,” NTEU President Colleen Kelley said.

The conference committee, which held its first public meeting last week, hasn’t delved into budget-cutting specifics yet. But negotiators are under pressure to find common ground, so it makes sense that they will seriously consider proposals that have support on both sides of the aisle. “I think that there are significant motivations on both sides of the aisle to reach a deal that tempers, if not eliminates sequestration in 2014,” Moyer said. “For Republicans, the extra hit that defense will take in 2014 motivates them to reduce sequestration; for Democrats, the compounding problems of sequestration on domestic spending will continue to motivate them to find a solution.”

Rasmussen Reports

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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, November 09, 2013

The Founding Fathers in their wisdom set up a federal government with three equal branches – the executive, legislative and judicial – to ensure a system of checks and balances that would preserve our democracy. But what happens when most Americans doubt the integrity of all three?

Consider first the Executive BranchMost voters now disapprove of the job President Obama is doing. His daily job approval rating at week’s end ties his low for the year.

This rating is undoubtedly the result of increasingly negative opinions of the new national health care law as millions now appear likely to face major changes in their health insurance coverage – and big cost increases. Most voters opposed the law from the start. Fifty-three percent (53%) now view Obamacare unfavorably, with 42% who have a Very Unfavorable opinion of it.

Seventy-one percent (71%) believe it’s at least somewhat likely that the president or senior officials in his administration were aware long before the law began being implemented that health insurance costs would go up for some Americans, contrary to what they said publicly.

Just over a year ago, most voters didn’t know enough about Obama Cabinet member Kathleen Sebelius to have any kind of opinion of her, even though the secretary of Health and Human Services was in the powerful position of implementing the health care law. Now that Obamacare’s off to a troubled start, a plurality (44%) views Sebelius unfavorably.

Most voters also have consistently said that cutting government spending is the best boost for the economy, but 47% of voters give the president poor marks in this area.

Then there’s the National Security Agency domestic spying scandal. Fifty percent (50%) of Americans – one-out-of-two – now think it is at least somewhat likely that their own government has monitored their Internet activity or the activity of a member of their family, with 27% who believe it’s Very Likely.

Next, consider the Legislative BranchSeventy-five percent (75%) of voters now say Congress is doing a poor job. That’s Congress’ highest negative rating in more than seven years of regular tracking.

Not only that, but 61% believe most members of Congress are willing to sell their vote for cash or campaign contributions. Most (56%) even think it’s likely their own representative in Congress has sold his or her vote.

Voters also remain strongly convinced that most members of Congress get reelected because the election rules are rigged in their favor. So is it any surprise that only 35% now think American elections are fair to voters? That’s the lowest level of confidence in regular surveys since September 2004.

As for the Judicial Branch – Sixty percent (60%) of voters think most U.S. Supreme Court justices have their own political agenda.

Judges are often criticized for legislating from the bench, and just one-in-three voters (33%) now believe most judges follow the letter of the law in their rulings.

Americans are even suspicious of the supposedly independent Federal Reserve. Only 34% have a favorable opinion of the nation’s central bank, and 74% want to audit the Fed and make the results available to the public.

No wonder just 24% of voters think the country is heading in the right direction.

But then voters have consistently said for the last several years that the economy is number one in importance, and where is the economy five years after the Wall Street meltdown?

At week’s end, one-in-four consumers (24%) said their personal finances are getting better, but 43% think they’re getting worse. 

Friday’s government jobs report found that the unemployment rate has edged up to 7.3 percent in October.

No surprise there since the Rasmussen Employment Index which measures worker confidence dropped in October to its lowest level this year. October marked the first month since November of last year that reported hirings did not outnumber reported layoffs.

Only 19% of Americans now believe the job market is better than it was one year ago. Looking ahead, 36% believe the unemployment rate will be higher one year from now, the highest level of pessimism all year.

With lower government spending in mind, however, most Americans still think the federal government should avoid a long-term role in aiding those who can’t find work.

Meanwhile, with a sizable cohort of Baby Boomers reaching retirement age, just 41% of voters are at least somewhat confident that they’ll get their full Medicare benefits, with only 12% who are Very Confident.

In other surveys last week:

— Democrats maintain a six-point lead – 43% to 37% – over Republicans on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot.

— Fifty-four percent (54%) of voters favor a law just passed by the Senate that outlaws discrimination in the workplace against transgender, gay, lesbian and bisexual people. However, just 39% consider such discrimination to be even a somewhat serious problem.

— Only 26% of voters favor U.S. military action against Syria if its government fails to destroy its chemical weapons capabilities as promised.

Thirty-six percent (36%) favor a stop and frisk law like New York City’s where they live that allows police to stop and frisk anyone on the street whom they consider suspicious.

Thirty-six percent (36%) of Americans believe the federal government should bail out Detroit to make sure the pensions of the city’s retired employees are paid in full.

— Most Americans think even though someone is old enough to vote or die for their country, they’re not mature enough yet to decide whether they want to smoke. So they want to raise the legal age for buying tobacco to 21.

— As the crackdown on tobacco smoking continues, nearly nine-out-of-10 Americans say they’ve either quit the habit or have never smoked at all.  Here’s what America thinks about smoking these days

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