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November 16 2013

November 18, 2013

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US Postal Service Wins Amazon Sunday Deliveries

NEW YORK November 11, 2013 (AP)

By BARBARA ORTUTAY AP Technology Writer

http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/amazon-us-postal-service-deliver-sundays-20850173

 

Amazon is rolling out Sunday package delivery as part of a new deal with the U.S. Postal Service.

Delivery started on Sunday to customers in the New York and Los Angeles metropolitan areas, but Amazon and the Postal Service plan to extend service to “a large portion of the U.S. population” next year, the company said. This includes the cities of Dallas, Houston, New Orleans, and Phoenix.

Sunday delivery will be available to all Amazon customers for no extra charge but Amazon expects it will be particularly popular with members of its Prime service, which costs $79 a year and comes with free two-day shipping on many items on the site as well as access to Amazon’s TV and movie streaming service.

“For Prime members, it’s free, for non-Prime members, it’s like any other delivery day of the week,” said Dave Clark, vice president of worldwide operations and customer service at Amazon.

Sunday delivery has been on Amazon’s wish list for a long time. The company does not disclose the percentage of its packages that are delivered on weekends, but Clark expects customers “to be delighted that they will get their products on a weekend.”

Financial terms of the arrangement were not disclosed, but the deal is likely to give the financially ailing Postal Service a boost. The agency, which lost $16 billion last year and expects to lose $6 billion this year, had tried but failed to end Saturday mail delivery as a cost-saving measure. The Postal Service’s financial quandary stems largely from the fact that fewer people send mail, instead using the Internet to pay bills, send letters or birthday greetings. Adding to its troubles is a 2006 congressional requirement that it make advance payments to cover expected health care costs for future retirees.

The agency has been building up a “flexible workforce” for the past 18 months, so right now it doesn’t need to hire additional carriers to work on Sunday,” said Sue Brennan, a spokeswoman for the Postal Service. If and when this service expands, “we’ll make (the) decision if necessary,” she added in an email.

Sunday delivery isn’t an entirely new territory for the USPS. Priority Mail Express, its fastest service, offers Sunday and holiday delivery for a small fee. And during the holiday shipping rush in December it delivers packages on Sundays in major metropolitan areas.

Shares of Seattle-based Amazon.com Inc. closed up $4.07 at $354.38.

 

 

Few bright spots in sad survey of federal employees

BY JENA MCGREGOR

November 11 at 1:20 pm

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/on-leadership/wp/2013/11/11/few-bright-spots-in-sad-survey-of-federal-employees/

 

Federal workers have spoken, and they are not happy.

The Office of Personnel Management’s Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey was released on Friday, and the results are discouraging. The agency’s overall measure for employee satisfaction—what it terms federal workers’ “global satisfaction index”—dropped to 59 percent, down 4 percentage points since 2012. Meanwhile, little more than half of government employees (54 percent) responded positively about their compensation, compared to 59 percent in 2012 and 66 percent in 2010.

Yet, as new OPM director Katherine Archuleta writes in the report, one of the biggest drops in the survey had to do with whether employees felt they had the resources they need to get their jobs done. Just 44 percent said they did, compared with 48 percent last year. “Any employer seeing this meaningful level of decline would be very concerned,” she wrote in the report. All in all, OPM surveyed views on 77 different items, and it turned out that attitudes on 53 of them had declined since 2012. Just two increased.

Both, it’s worth noting, had to do with workers’ individual supervisors. A slightly higher percentage–65 percent in 2013, up from 64 percent last year–agreed that “my supervisor is committed to a workforce representative of all segments of society.” And a few more folks–80 percent, up from 79 percent last year–agreed “my supervisor treats me with respect.”

In the section about team leaders, the trend line was mostly flat. Still, that’s far better than the sections on job satisfaction, agency satisfaction and work experience, where the recent “significant trend” lines were almost universally negative.

Unfortunately, included in those poor results was the section on agency leadership. Just 52 percent of federal workers said they have a high degree of respect for senior leaders, down from previous years. And just 41 percent said leaders generate high levels of motivation and commitment at work. Keep in mind these numbers were tallied before the recent government shutdown, meaning they could very well be worse now. In fact, it’s hard to imagine how they couldn’t be worse in the aftermath of being victimized by some members of Congress, not knowing when they’d be back on the job, and handling the stress of digging out after the shutdown.

While the report is unsettling, it’s at least a little reassuring that federal workers feel respected by their individual managers and have some faith in the people who lead them on a day-to-day basis. If research (and conventional wisdom) says people don’t quit their jobs, they quit their bosses, then maybe the reverse will hold true as well. Federal employees may not be very satisfied with their jobs right now, but a good individual manager might help them stay put.

 

 

Insurers Press for Way Around Healthcare.gov

By REED ABELSON, SHARON LaFRANIERE and SUSANNE CRAIG

November 11, 2013

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/12/business/insurers-press-for-way-around-healthcaregov.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

 

Some major health insurers are so worried about the Obama administration’s ability to fix its troubled health care website that they are pushing the government to create a shortcut that would allow them to enroll people entitled to subsidies directly rather than through the federal system.

 

The idea is only one of several being discussed in a frantic effort to find a way around the technological problems that teams of experts are urgently trying to resolve.

So far, the administration has resisted the idea, partly because of concerns about giving insurance companies access to personal data. People familiar with the matter said no such modifications are planned, and even some insurers are not holding out much hope.

But senior White House officials said the administration was open to ways in which insurers could handle more enrollments and had stepped up efforts to make that possible because of the technical problems with the site.

“It was something we were always doing,” one official said, but it is “of additional value now.”

In a statement, Chris Jennings, a senior health care adviser to President Obama, said the administration was “continuing to pursue additional avenues by which people can enroll, such as direct enrollment through insurance companies, that will help meet pent-up demand.”

In proposing the idea, the insurers said a bypass giving them direct access to the federal platform that determines a consumer’s eligibility for a subsidy would alleviate the traffic on the website, healthcare.gov, and provide more breathing room to fix complicated technical problems that threaten to persist beyond a crucial, self-imposed Dec. 1 deadline.

But even if such a shortcut could be designed, federal officials are concerned about protecting personal data, such as confidential financial and tax information and immigration status. The security and privacy issues are likely to overshadow any possible compromise, according to people briefed on the discussions.

A more likely solution is for consumers to be able to work directly with an insurer to estimate their qualifications for a subsidy, leaving federal verification to a later date, some insurers said. Insurance executives declined to speak on the record because of company policies and concerns about alienating political officials.

Time is running out. Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of Health and Human Services, has promised to have the website’s technical problems largely solved by the end of the month. But inside the White House, there is increasing anxiety that the troubled rollout of the health care site could imperil the remainder of Mr. Obama’s presidency.

Aside from the direct enrollment option, insurers and federal officials are examining other ways in the coming weeks to sign up the millions of Americans looking for health insurance. However, none of the options represent a quick fix. One idea being considered would allow people to enroll before the paperwork is completed. At the extreme, despite strong resistance from the insurance industry, there is even talk of extending the deadline for obtaining insurance on the exchanges by months.

Consumers must now enroll by Dec. 15 for insurance coverage that would begin Jan. 1. The open enrollment period is to end on March 31. The main stumbling block for some consumers is the need to determine their eligibility for subsidies, and the amount. Insurance companies can now only estimate the amount for them. It is up the government to verify eligibility, using personal financial information from tax returns and the like.

“The question is, can they create a separate direct pathway so consumers can get that information on their subsidies?” asked one industry official. “If they don’t have Healthcare?.gov up and running by the end of the month, direct enrollment is critical.”

The other option, allowing consumers to obtain their own estimates, seems more palatable. It is unclear whether that proposal is possible. Insurers are worried that they will have offered coverage to individuals whose actual subsidies are less than they have estimated, potentially leaving the insurers or the people themselves financially exposed.

“I think there are potential work-arounds,” said an executive of a major insurer. “I think we have some leeway here so long as people are not in a situation where individuals have to pay significantly more than expected or plans end up in a position with cash-flow issues.”

Insurers are opposed to the idea of extending the enrollment period. They say it encourages people to wait to sign up, particularly the young and the healthy, an age group that insurers need to balance the cost of insuring people with expensive health conditions. They are also worried about the effect of the delay on their ability to price plans for 2015.

By all accounts, the administration is making an enormous effort to rescue the website. The appointment of Quality Software Services late last month as the project’s general contractor has established a sense of order amid chaos. Henry Chao, the technology official from the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services, who had managed the project since its infancy, has been sidelined, people involved in the effort said.

Specialists say software engineers now have a clear set of priorities and are steadily crossing items off a three-tier list for repairs. On Friday, Jeffrey D. Zients, the administration’s point man on fixing Healthcare.gov, said “a couple dozen” high-priority fixes would be made over the weekend. He repeatedly declined to say how many critical fixes had been identified, saying the list continually changes.

“We are making progress across those priority items, and the site is getting better each week, and will be at the standard that we set for the end of the month,” Mr. Zients said.

Specialists said that most of the effort so far had been focused on eliminating the delays and timeouts that have so frustrated consumers trying to shop for and enroll in plans. More challenging, one person said, are the repairs to the more complex, invisible part of the system that draws information from various federal and state databases into a central base to determine eligibility and subsidies and confirms enrollment data.

The technological effort cited by the White House, that person said, is actually a swell of software engineers. Red Hat, which makes Linux operating systems, and the database giant Oracle, already had sent specialists to help out.

Quality Software has assigned one senior engineer, from Google, to edit website software fixes, he said.

Some software engineers on the job have been replaced simply because they were too burned out to continue the late-night schedule. “A lot of the stuff people are doing now is going through the checklists they should have gone through before Oct. 1,” one specialist said.

On the two floors at an office building in suburban Virginia, visible evidence of President Obama’s promised new “tech surge” is slight. About 350 employees are hunkered over their computers — roughly 70 more than last month — trying to repair Healthcare.gov.

Several White House technology fellows, young enough to be mistaken by some as students, have taken over one office. Another change, said one person closely involved in the repair effort: “A lot of suits are walking around.”

The scene at the office building, for one of the two main contractors that built the troubled website, illustrates the bind in which the Obama administration now finds itself. Despite the White House’s suggestions that a cavalry from the Silicon Valley has arrived to save the day, specialists say that the online system cannot be fixed by adding manpower. Some experts argue that an influx of software engineers at this stage would slow down, not speed up, the repair effort.

“If you have got nine women that doesn’t mean you can have a baby in a month,” said Frederick P. Brooks, a computer science professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and one of the world’s leading authorities on software development. Rather, he and others said, fixing the system involves a painstaking slog through line after line of software code.

No one at this point can be certain how many fixes need to be made, specialists said, because some fixes expose new problems.

 

 

With BlackBerry’s Future Uncertain, Pentagon Readies a Contingency Plan

By Aliya Sternstein

November 11, 2013

http://www.nextgov.com/mobile/2013/11/blackberrys-future-uncertain-pentagon-readies-contingency-plan/73556/

 

The Defense Department, owner of 470,000 BlackBerrys, is distancing itself from the struggling vendor while moving ahead with construction of a departmentwide app store and a system for securing all mobile devices, including the latest iPhones, iPads, and Samsung smartphones and tablets.

Just two months ago, when BlackBerry announced the company would radically curtail commercial sales, Pentagon officials said their business partnership remained unaffected. At the time, Defense’s technology support agency was readying networks with software to handle tens of thousands of BlackBerry Z10 and Q10 smartphones.

Last week, BlackBerry called off a tentative buyout and fired Chief Executive Officer Thorsten Heins, heightening uncertainty about the future of the company, which has seen its market share plummet in recent years as consumers embraced more user-friendly devices that run on operating systems built by Apple and Google.

For now, Defense’s mobile security strategy primarily depends on BlackBerry. The Pentagon has granted only BlackBerry 10 phones and Playbook tablets an “authority to operate,” or ATO — not Android, Apple or any other device lines. Consumer smartphones and tablets must have an ATO to hook up to Defense networks.

But there is a contingency plan at the Pentagon, should BlackBerry phones go the way of Betamax VCRs.

A 2012 strategy to transition personnel from PCs to smartphones and tablets did not favor any one device maker, Defense officials noted on Thursday. “This multi-vendor, device-agnostic approach minimizes the impact of [a] single vendor to our current operations,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Damien Pickart said.

Implementation of the strategy centers on a “mobile device management” system to track handhelds that touch military networks so that they do not compromise military information or corrupt Defense systems.

“DoD’s mobility strategy and commercial mobile device implementation plan includes reliance on multiple vendors to support its mobile communications needs,” Pickart said.

The mobile security management system is in the early stages of development. It will undergo a limited pilot, or reach “initial operating capacity,” by Dec. 31, Pickart said.

The Pentagon anticipates connecting 300,000 approved government-issued consumer devices by 2016.

 

Air Force cuts may mean grounding fleets

No furloughs planned for now, Acting Air Force Secretary tells Dayton Daily News.

By Barrie Barber

Staff Writer

Posted: 4:54 p.m. Monday, Nov. 11, 2013

Dayton Daily News

http://www.daytondailynews.com/news/news/local-military/air-force-cuts-may-mean-grounding-fleets/nbpjN/?ref=cbTopWidget

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE —

The Air Force will have fewer airmen and civilian employees and entire fleets of aircraft may be pulled out of the air because of sequestration reductions, the service’s top civilian leader said.

“If the sequestered numbers are the new normal, we’re too big of an Air Force,” said Acting Secretary of the Air Force Eric Fanning. “The military is too big for the budget so we’ll have to reshape, resize.”

In an exclusive interview with the Dayton Daily News, Fanning said sequestration has impacted “everything” in the service branch. The Air Force may buy fewer fifth generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, and pilots may be grounded periodically two to three months in rolling rotations of a tiered-readiness model if the sequester persists, he said. The automatic cuts amount to roughly 10 percent reductions a year for a decade.

Fanning said the “real pernicious effect of sequestration” remains “the lack of flexibility. It’s all across your accounts. And even more so it’s the immediacy. There’s no ramp. It takes a while to get money out of an organization this size unless you’re just lopping off limbs and doing really long-term damage.”

Pentagon leaders haven’t seriously considered a new round of furloughs, Fanning said.

“I think furloughs were the hardest and worst decision that we made last (fiscal) year, and I’ve seen the worst-case planning for all three of the military departments,” he said. “And nobody is talking about furloughs as an option. The word is hardly even mentioned in planning.”

Most of the Defense Department’s civil service workers, including 10,000 Wright-Patterson employees, were forced off the job for six days last summer without pay. A partial federal government shutdown in October sent more than 350,000 Defense Department workers, including 8,700 at Wright-Patterson, home for four days. They were given back pay for time off during the shutdown.

Fanning, a 1986 Centerville High School graduate, said political and military leadership have a “tremendous recognition” furloughs have damaged morale.

“We have some repairing to do,” he said. “We don’t want to do any more damage to it.”

Voluntary departures

Fanning did not offer specific numbers on how deep the personnel cuts will go, but a “broad range of numbers” are under consideration while the Air Force waits to find out how much money Congress will allocate this fiscal year. The military continues to operate under the last fiscal year’s spending caps. The new budget year began Oct. 1.

The Air Force, he said, would use “every voluntary incentive available” to reduce the size of the workforce.

“I don’t suspect that will get us all the way there, but I think it will get us close enough, especially on the civilian side, that anything that’s involuntary will be very targeted and relatively small,” he said.

The Air Force aims to protect as much as possible the top three acquisition priorities: the KC-46 aerial tanker, the F-35 and a new long-range strike bomber, he said. While he declined to talk about specific aircraft or platforms, Fanning said fleets that may be retired operate in the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and mobility and refueling tanker communities.”That’s the only way we can achieve those (sequestration) numbers because you have to get the whole tail that goes with it,” he said. “We’re going to have to take out entire fleets.”

The Air Force is in talks with the other services to determine what to cut because they rely on air power in their warfighting plans, he said.

Congress has balked at a Pentagon and Air Force push for a round of base closures in 2015 and 2017 to cut costs. Fanning said the best chance may be 2017.

In the last base realignment and closure round in 2005, the Air Force determined it had 20 percent more bases than it needed “and we’re smaller than that now than we were then,” he said. “It starts based on Congress’ direction with a look at our European footprint, which we’re doing right now. I think we’d start there, but that would just be a small portion of what we need to do (in the) Air Force globally, including the United States.”

Wright-Patterson, home of the Air Force Material Command and the Air Force Research Laboratory, would be well-poised in a base closure process, he said.

“Wright-Patt, I think, is such a critical base to the Air Force and there are so many different, diverse activities that take place on this base, it’d be very hard to… recreate that someplace else,” he said. “I can’t think but of a handful of bases that are as important to the Air Force as Wright-Patt.”

Combating sexual assault

In an annual report released last week, the Department of Defense reported a 46 percent increase in sexual assaults last year. Fanning said combating sexual assault remains a top priority.

“I think what you’re seeing is an increase in reports which is different than an increase in incidents,” he said. “I actually take the increase in reports as a good sign that the changes we’re putting in place are making some people more comfortable coming forward if something happened that shouldn’t. … It doesn’t mean that we don’t have a lot of work to do to get the incidents down, but the number of reports is not in my view a direct correlation to an increase in incidents.” He said some of those reports include assaults prior to airmen joining the military.

An Air Force special victims counseling program has raised the number of victims who seek unrestricted prosecution by about 50 percent, he said.

Fanning, who is reportedly the highest ranking openly gay official at the Pentagon, said the elimination of the military‘s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy to allow gay service members to openly serve has gone much smoother than he expected, but the military needs to recognize and extend benefits to same sex partners faster.

“The military is incredibly professional and when told this is the new rule, this is the new norm, they adapt pretty quickly,” he said.

 

6,000 Wright-Patt jobs at stake, Turner says

Over a decade, $8.6B could be lost to local economy if sequestration continues.

By Barrie Barber

Posted: 5:31 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013

Dayton Daily News

Staff Writer

DAYTON —

Sequestration could cost Wright-Patterson Air Force Base up to 6,000 military and civilian jobs by next year, U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, said Tuesday.

Moreover, said Turner, the region could lose a total of about 13,000 jobs both in and outside the base in the years ahead, and $8.6 billion to the economy is at risk over the decade sequestration would be in effect.

“This is not the result of a policy shift. This is not a result of a BRAC (base realignment and closure),” Turner said. “This is really the result of the negligence of the work not getting done in Washington. With 6,000 jobs at risk, it is absolutely imperative that our community join together with one voice to ensure these job losses don’t happen.”

Turner, R-Dayton, had a forum Tuesday at Sinclair Community College on the sequestration impact to the Miami Valley. Military and private sector leaders told state and local political leaders of the economic and national security fallout they said would happen because of the automatic federal budget cuts.

The estimate of up to 6,000 job losses was based on a House Armed Services Committee extrapolation of the number of jobs and dollars the Air Force has said it will cut in the years ahead because of the sequester, Turner said. The Republican congressman is the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Tactical Air and Land Forces subcommittee.

The Dayton Development Coalition and the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce are working to get the state’s congressional delegation and Gov. John Kasich behind a drive to bring more attention to the looming threat of job losses and to prevent the cuts, officials said.

When asked about the potential for job losses at the base, Air Force officials referred to Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh’s remarks to the House Armed Services Committee in September that up to 25,000 airmen and 550 aircraft would need to be cut in the next five years if the sequester continues.

 

“How that translates for all the different commands across the Air Force is yet to be seen, so I haven’t seen a number yet,” said Col. Cassie B. Barlow, 88th Air Base Wing commander, told the Dayton Daily News at a press briefing afterwards.

“At this point, it’s too soon to determine exactly where those cuts would take place,” Lt. Col. Laurel P. Tingley, an Air Force spokeswoman at the Pentagon, said in an email.

Jeff Hoagland, Dayton Development Coalition president and chief executive officer, estimated sequestration may have already meant a loss of 2,000 base-connected jobs.

The base had around 29,000 employees at last count.

If the cuts happen, the trickle-down effect would mean less tax revenue for local governments and fewer services to taxpayers, officials said.

“I’ve always said if Wright-Patterson gets a cold, Greene County gets pneumonia,” said Greene County Commissioner Bob Glaser. “Well, Wright-Patterson is getting more than a cold.”

 

Brain drain

The budget sequester has led to “record numbers” of senior and junior employees leaving and a “brain drain” at Wright-Patterson, Barlow said.

“When we have people leave earlier than expected it’s alarming because that means we haven’t had time to pass on that knowledge to the next generation,” she said.

In the first nine months of sequestration, the base temporarily sent home thousands of employees on an unpaid six-day furlough and later an unplanned four-day emergency furlough during the partial government shutdown, she noted. Wright-Patterson faces a growing maintenance backlog without enough money to fix decaying and damaged infrastructure for everything from an underground pipeline to a runway and reduced “quality of life” programs, she said.

Spending caps could dry up money for utilities by June, and logistics readiness contracts by May, she said.

Carl Francis, a Dayton Area Defense Contractors Association vice president, said a Dayton Defense survey of defense contractors in the region showed as much as a 75 percent drop in sales and a loss of $300 million through late August “with billions in revenue at risk.”

Between 20 to 35 percent in staff reductions have hit some companies, he said.

“We’ll feel these effects for years to come,” he said. “This is just the beginning.”

 

‘Doesn’t bode well’

With all the uncertainty, some contractors have gravitated away from doing business with the government and are focusing instead on commercial sales, according to Francis.

“This doesn’t bode well for the Air Force, it doesn’t bode well for national security, nor does it bode well for our competitive advantage here in this economy,” he said.

A number of area companies have slowed growth because of sequestration and consumers have pared back spending, said Chris Kershner, Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce vice president of public policy and economic development.

“The unknown and eleventh hour federal government budget decisions do impact businesses and their investment confidence,” he said.

 

 

New York’s One World Trade Center deemed tallest U.S. skyscraper

NEW YORK Tue Nov 12, 2013 4:51pm EST

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/11/12/us-usa-skyscrapers-idUSBRE9AB15C20131112

(Reuters) – The skyscraper at New York’s World Trade Center has been designated the tallest building in the United States by virtue of its spire, surpassing Chicago’s Willis Tower, an international body said on Tuesday.

The Chicago-based Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat said its Height Committee ruled the mast atop the building, built on the site of the attacks of September 11, 2001 and formerly called the Freedom Tower, was a spire and therefore a permanent feature.

If the mast were considered an antenna instead, it would be considered functional equipment and subject to change.

With the spire, One World Trade Center reaches 1,776 feet compared with 1,451 feet for the Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower. Counting its antenna, the Willis Tower reaches 1,729 feet.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the public entity that owns the building, changed the name in 2009, saying it would make the office tower more marketable for tenants.

The council’s Height Committee convened a group of 25 architects, engineers and facade consultants from around the world on November 8 to consider the issue, and ultimately decided the mast is a spire, the council said.

Because One World Trade Center is still incomplete, its designation will become official once the building is occupied in 2014, the council said. It is one of four skyscrapers planned at the site alongside a memorial, a museum, a transit center and a performing arts center.

It would then become the third-highest building in the world after Dubai’s Burj Khalifa at 2,717 feet and the Makkah Royal Clock Tower in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, at 1,972 feet.

However, four other buildings under construction in China and one in South Korea would be taller than One World Trade Center, according to Emporis, a database for building information.

 

DISA considers scrapping $450 million commercial cloud contract

Nov. 12, 2013 – 03:40PM | By NICOLE BLAKE JOHNSON | Comments

http://www.federaltimes.com/article/20131112/ACQUISITION/311120008/DISA-considers-scrapping-450-million-commercial-cloud-contract

The Defense Information Systems Agency is considering canceling its planned $450 million commercial cloud contract, following lower than expected demand for those services.

“Initial indications are the demand will not require a contract with the ceiling estimated in this draft solicitation,” according to a Nov. 8 notice on fbo.gov. “We are currently revising our acquisition strategy for satisfying requirements for hosting public non-sensitive data in commercial cloud environments,” DISA said in the notice.

DISA went on to say that its strategy “may result in a solicitation for a new contract at a significantly lowered ceiling,” or the use of existing contracts capable of meeting user demands.

At an industry event in July, a DISA official said the agency expected up to 10 awards under the $450 million contract. A final request for proposal was supposed to be released in August.

Meanwhile, some DoD components have already struck deals with commercial vendors to host public data in the cloud. For example, several websites under the secretary of the Navy are now being hosted in the cloud.

Public websites for the Department of the Navy chief information officer, and the assistant secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations and Environment, are among those being hosted by Amazon Web Services. “The initiative standardizes technology used for public website development while reducing costs to the government,” according to an announcement on the CIO website.

The 2012 Defense Authorization Act required DoD to develop a strategy to move its data and services from department-owned and -operated data centers to cloud computing solutions. Cloud solutions “provide a better capability at a lower cost with the same or greater degree of security” and are generally available in the private sector, the law says.

This has prompted DISA to expand cloud offerings beyond its current private clouds, where services are provided exclusively to DoD and hosted in DISA data centers. But some vendors question whether cloud services provided though DISA will be cheaper than customers dealing directly with cloud service providers. DISA customers would be charged a 2 percent fee for using the contract, in addition to the cost of the service.

 

 

Local defense contractor plans national layoffs, closures

 

http://www.daytondailynews.com/news/business/local-defense-contractor-plans-national-layoffs-cl/nbr3k/

Updated: 10:41 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013 | Posted: 9:20 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013

By Thomas Gnau

Staff Writer

 

A defense contractor with a local presence is announcing cuts of 4,000 jobs and the closure of five facilities or clusters of facilities, including its mission systems and training center in Akron.

“At this time there are no changes to our Dayton facility,” Suzanne Smith, a Lockheed Martin spokeswoman, told the Dayton Daily News. She did not immediately respond to a question about whether changes are planned for a later date.

Lockheed Martin said in a release Thursday that it will reduce its workforce by 4,000 positions “to increase the efficiency of its operations and improve the affordability of its products and services. These actions are in response to continued declines in U.S. government spending.”

By mid-2015, the company plans to close operations in Akron, Newtown, Pa.; Goodyear, Ariz.; and Horizon City, Texas; and four buildings on its Sunnyvale, Calif., campus.

“The facility closures will result in the elimination of 2,000 positions and ongoing operational efficiency initiatives will result in the elimination of an additional 2,000 positions in the corporation’s Information Systems & Global Solutions (IS&GS), Mission System and Training (MST), and Space Systems business areas by the end of 2014,” the company said.

As part of the consolidation, program work and some employees will transition to other Lockheed Martin facilities, the company said. Space Systems and IS&GS will move work to its Denver, Colo. and Valley Forge, Pa. facilities. The company also said it is reviewing potential sites to transition the MST work, including its facilities in Owego, N.Y. and Orlando, Fla., and expects to finalize plans in early 2014.

The company’s Dayton-area offices are not mentioned in a corporate fact sheet or press release on the actions.

The actions come on the heels of recent local warnings about the impact of sequestration on defense spending. In a recent exclusive interview with the Dayton Daily News, Acting Secretary of the Air Force Eric Fanning said recently the federal budgetary sequestration may mean a smaller Air Force. “The military is too big for the budget so we’ll have to reshape, resize,” he said.

And U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Centerville, in recent days has also warned that sequestration could cost up to 6,000 military and civilian jobs by next year.

Last year, the Air Force awarded Lockheed Martin a $156 million contract to provide new training devices to C-130J aircrews and maintainers, airplanes supported by Wright-Patterson. Another contract, also awarded in 2012 by the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson, supports development of a green hybrid small unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that runs on renewable energy.

“Reducing our workforce of dedicated employees and closing facilities are among the most difficult decisions we make,” Marillyn Hewson, Lockheed Martin chief executive and president, said in the company’s statement. “In the face of government budget cuts and an increasingly complex global security landscape, these actions are necessary for the future of our business and will position Lockheed Martin to better serve our customers.”

Based in Bethesda, Md., Lockheed Martin is a global security and aerospace company that employs about 116,000 people worldwide.

 

Fanning: Air Force Having Trouble Keeping Pilots, and Pay Isn’t the Problem

http://www.defenseone.com/ideas/2013/11/fanning-air-force-having-trouble-keeping-pilots-and-pay-isnt-problem/73811/?oref=d-mostread

 

Tom Shoop

November 14, 2013

 

The Air Force is offering big bonuses to keep its pilots in the service, but they’re not taking them because budget constraints are forcing the service to limit both current flying hours and opportunities to fly the next generation of aircraft, acting Air Force Secretary Eric Fanning said Thursday.

Over the summer, the Air Force began offering its pilots payments of $25,000 per year as an incentive to stay on, up to a maximum of $250,000. But “pilots aren’t taking them,” Fanning said at the Defense One Summit in Washington. The main reason is that “we’re going to have flying hour issues for the foreseeable future,” he said, with rolling groundings of two to three months per squadron.

Pilots “want to fly,” Fanning said. And with the airline industry facing a wave of forced retirements of pilots, opportunities for them are opening up in the private sector.

At the same time, the Budget Control Act and sequestration are putting limits not only on Air Force operations, but investments in new aircraft platforms. “That will have a worse effect on morale” than pay and benefits issues, Fanning said. “It’s not just compensation that keeps people in the military. It’s mission.”

In the current budget environment, the Air Force is contemplating fairly steep reductions in compensation costs. Such costs consume 40 percent of the service’s budget, and the numbers are growing faster than the rate of inflation.

“We’re not cutting compensation, we’re just slowing its growth,” Fanning said. In particular, the current path of spending on health care is “unsustainable,” he said. “If we don’t address it, we will have aging platforms. That will have a worse effect on morale.”

Overall, Fanning said, “morale is really as bad as I’ve seen it on the civilian side and the uniformed side. But it is better than you think it is, and better than we deserve it to be, because we’ve got an amazing mission.”

 

Top Air Force official stresses need for modernization

By Jim Garamone, American Forces Press Service

Published November 14, 2013

 

WASHINGTON (AFNS) — The Air Force must modernize to confront the threats of the future, acting Air Force Secretary Eric Fanning said at the Defense One Summit here Nov. 14.

Fanning echoed previous testimony and comments in saying the service will fight to maintain modernization programs. He specifically cited the joint strike fighter, long-range strike bomber and next-generation air-to-air tanker programs. These programs go to the root of Air Force capabilities, he said.

“We need to be able to move quickly (and) strike quickly anywhere in the world, and we need to be able to monitor things anywhere in the world,” Fanning said.

The service has to invest in these next-generation platforms, he said.

“We cannot over the next 10 years just invest in modernizing legacy platforms,” Fanning said. “Even if you modernize … a fourth-generation fleet, when it goes against a Chinese or Russian fifth-generation aircraft, it’s dead before you even know an adversary is in the air.”

Still, Fanning said, he is not concerned about the Air Force losing its dominance, “as long as we keep focusing on the investments, as we are now.”

These capabilities are crucial as the threats are changing and growing geographically, he said, with more nations and even groups– fielding advanced weaponry.

“We need to maintain investments in next-generation platforms so we have that agility, that mobility, that ability to strike,” he added.

Aside from these programs, Fanning said, he believes the Air Force must develop its cyberwar, space, special operations and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities in the future.

The biggest threat to the service today is budget uncertainty, the acting secretary said, adding that Air Force budget planners have no idea what the service budget topline will be for fiscal 2015.

Sequestration spending cuts, as they stand, will take an extra $20 billion from the Defense Department’s budget across all accounts in January. What is even more damaging, Fanning said, is that the law mandating the cuts does not give the services the flexibility needed to make them in a smart manner. Last year, Congress did give the military this flexibility, and DOD officials expect the Congress will probably do that again, but this is not a given, he added.

The immediacy of the cuts also causes problems, Fanning said, noting that the majority of the cuts will have to be from operations and maintenance funds. Budget instability makes this enormously hard on the service to build a budget as detailed and solid as people would like, he said.

“It forces the institution into a shorter and shorter and shorter ‘do loop,'” he said. “The stability of the process is weakening. I keep thinking, … ‘It can’t get any crazier, and we will be able to fix it.’ And somehow, we manage to fix ourselves into more craziness.”

Under sequester, the Air Force will reduce by about 25,000 people and 550 aircraft, Fanning said. “Even before sequestration, Air Force readiness was not vectored in the right direction,” he said. “(Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III) and I think we were not building a sustainable Air Force for 10 years down the road.”

Personnel costs take up 40 percent of the Air Force budget, and this is an area that needs attention, Fanning said, emphasizing that the service is not looking to cut pay and benefits, but rather to slow the growth. The Air Force simply cannot afford to maintain the current growth rate, he said.

“It is unsustainable,” he added. “It will collapse. It won’t be there for people if we don’t do something about it. We just need to rationalize what we’ve done over the last 10 years.

“If we allow it to continue to grow, we’re going to have a force that has aging platforms, and that is going to have an effect on morale more than anything,” he continued. “People don’t join the Air Force to fly old planes or look at old planes on the ramp from the ready room.”

 

 

Manage Defense Spending Through ‘Better Buying Power,’ Not Sequestration

Ashton B. Carter

November 13, 2013

 

It was a little over three years ago that then-Secretary of Defense Bob Gates foresaw correctly that the days of increasing defense budgets were coming to an end. The nation confronted a looming fiscal crisis, and, as he famously put it in a speech at the Eisenhower Library, “The gusher has been turned off and will stay off for a good period of time.”

 

In acknowledgement of that fiscal reality, Secretary Gates launched a department-wide efficiency initiative to ensure that the department wasn’t forced to sacrifice one ounce more force structure than was absolutely necessary. “Better Buying Power,” introduced in September 2010, was the acquisition system’s contribution to the efficiency initiative. It was directed at the approximately $400 billion that the department spends annually on goods and services. Gates’ efforts have been followed by similar efforts from Secretaries Leon Panetta and Chuck Hagel, each of which has dealt with ever deeper budget reductions. Better Buying Power has remained a central tool for helping the Defense Department deal with an increasingly challenging budget environment.

Better Buying Power’s goal was to do more without more — that is, to get more capability for the warfighter and more value for the taxpayer by obtaining greater efficiency and productivity in defense spending, or what economists call productivity growth. It wasn’t intended to be an overnight revolution in the way we did business, but instead a steady, lasting and continuous process of improvement in our performance. It was based on emphasizing acquisition best practices that long ago were identified by predecessors at DOD such as former Deputy Secretary of Defense David Packard and former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry. And at the same time, it addressed important defense acquisition changes, most importantly the significant increase in the budget share that goes to acquisition of services, rather than goods like planes and ships.

To achieve these objectives, Better Buying Power initially directed 23 principal actions in five major areas. First, target affordability and eliminate cost-growth in our programs. Second, incentivize productivity and innovation in industry by aligning their profits with performance and reinvigorating their partnership with the Defense Department. Third, promote real competition: head-to-head competition where there was more than one supplier, and competition for profit via contract structure where there was a sole supplier. Fourth, improve DOD’s tradecraft in the acquisition of services. And fifth, reduce nonproductive processes and bureaucracy in the government as well as in industry.

In April of this year, we rededicated ourselves to the effort by initiating Better Buying Power 2.0, adding a 6th major area — improving the professionalism of the total acquisition workforce — and taking on several new actions. Over the past three years, we’ve worked hard and with some considerable success to implement these actions. The department experienced steady improvement on performance measures such as cost growth.

For example, by targeting affordability in the Ohio-class submarine replacement program and scrubbing its requirements, the Navy cut over $2 billion from the projected cost. The Air Force is taking the same approach to the long-range strike family of systems. It is prioritizing affordability targets that have eluded past bomber efforts by maximizing the utilization of existing components and subsystems. The Army this year received a Packard Award for using increased competition and participation from small business to lower costs and reduce production time for the purchase of $2.7 billion in ammunition, such as artillery and mortar shells. The Navy, by constructing a well-designed competition on the littoral combat ship program, was able to award contracts for 20 ships at dramatically lower cost, which generated big per-ship savings now but also sustained competition going forward, posturing us to save even more money in the future. More recently, a Navy team received a Packard Award for using competitive pressures to save almost $300 million in the DDG-51 Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer program. These are just a handful of hundreds examples of our acquisition executives putting the better buying principles into practice since 2010. Each of these examples show what we can achieve when we rededicate ourselves to acquisition best practices.

A key aspect of Better Buying Power has been renewing the department’s partnership with industry. From the beginning, we recognized that any acquisition initiative that tried to cut costs by simply going after industry profits would be short-sighted and doomed to fail. Industry needs profits and competitive margins, and a healthy defense industry is essential to the department’s short-term and long-term success. While incentivizing cost consciousness is centrally important to our work, our transactions with industry must be successful for both parties. Our focus in Better Buying Power is on aligning industry’s incentives with the department’s objectives. The key to success in this effort is the knowledge and professionalism of the acquisition workforce and that is why this area is further highlighted in Better Buying Power 2.0 under Frank Kendall, my successor as under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics.

Achieving Better Buying Power would of course be an important goal in any budget environment, but its importance has only grown given the strategic and budgetary challenges the Defense Department now faces. Since Better Buying Power was first unveiled, Congress passed the Budget Control Act, which required the department to cut $487 billion from our defense plans over 10 years. We developed a plan to do that in accordance with our 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance. At the same time, winding down combat operations in Afghanistan means that our budget for overseas contingency operations also has been decreasing. Taken together, these reductions compare in pace and magnitude to historical cycles in defense spending that the nation has experienced in the past, either after Vietnam or after the Cold War. Earlier this year, however, sequestration was triggered, forcing deep, essentially mindless, additional cuts in the defense budget. Secretary Hagel directed us to perform a Strategic Choices and Management Review to help the department develop options for dealing with these additional budget reductions. But its central finding was that there is no strategically and managerially sound approach to budget cuts that can close the funding gap created by sequestration in the near term.

In other words, if sequestration holds, the department will be driven to make inefficient and unsound near term funding choices that will reduce our buying power, magnifying the effects of what is already a substantial funding cut and further harming our readiness, as well as carefully laid plans to control program costs.

What does this mean for Better Buying Power? The central tenets of Better Buying Power remain not just valid, but more important than ever. However, our ability to follow these tenets will be substantially challenged. It goes without saying that we will continue to have a duty to protect taxpayers by getting the most out of every dollar we spend, and following through with Better Buying Power remains critical to this effort.

Ashton B. Carter is the deputy secretary of defense. He previously served as under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics.

 

Pentagon’s Hale Still Optimistic About a Budget ‘Micro-Deal’

Charles S. Clark

Government Executive

http://www.defenseone.com/management/2013/11/pentagons-hale-still-optimistic-about-budget-micro-deal/73859/?oref=d-channelriver

November 15, 2013

 

Chopping defense spending at a time of budget uncertainty poses risks to military readiness that might not be obvious to the general public, the Pentagon’s comptroller said on Thursday. “It’s like buying an insurance policy with a greatly raised deductible — if you have to make a claim, there will be great regrets,” Defense Undersecretary Robert Hale said at the inaugural Defense One Summit put on by Atlantic Media in Washington.

“In this crazy period of time, the enormous budget uncertainty is taking its toll,” Hale said. “Planning gets replaced by planning, and we don’t know where we’re headed. We don’t do well under any particular plan.”

The comptroller said he remains “cautiously optimistic” that negotiators in Congress will come up with a “micro-deal” that would lift some of sequestration and perhaps limit defense cuts to $20 billion-$25 billion rather than the $50 billion required under the 2011 Budget Control Act. “The specific number is less important than the certainty,” he said.

Hale described how the cuts will substantially risk force readiness, reduce procurement along with investment in research and development, and threaten recruitment and retention of mid- and junior-level talent.

“At the moment, planners are looking at budget ranges that are pretty wide,” Hale said. Budget planning and long-term strategy are being done “concurrently” and coordinated by the same senior leaders doing the coming installment of the Quadrennial Defense Review, he said. “I don’t remember ever seeing this much uncertainty.”

Last year, the Pentagon held off planning for sequestration on the assumption that the sword of Damocles might never fall. But Hale said this year the planning has to assume the possibility that across-the-board cuts could continue. He said he has no regrets about the way in which his team and the Obama White House sounded the alarm about the harm from sequestration. “Think of the situation a year ago, when sequestration was postponed two months and the amount changed. Almost all of our planning done a year ago would have been wrong.”

Hale also revealed that he lost a bet with Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey on whether the shutdown would actually occur. (Hale had to buy Dempsey a bottle of scotch.)

Executing the inevitable cuts will involve trimming procurement as well as research, development, testing and evaluation, which will risk a repeat of the 1990s “procurement holiday” that may be tough to recover from, Hale said.

He also said he worried about the “low morale” of the Pentagon’s civilian workforce due to hiring freezes, pay freezes and the recent shutdown. “People were wondering whether they have a job, and whether they want the job,” he said. He added he pictures many — particularly non-senior employees — sitting around the kitchen table with their spouses and wondering “whether we want to go through it again,” especially when the economy is “pepping up” and bringing new recruitment competition from the private sector.

Retirements are evident anecdotally, “but I don’t think there’s an avalanche yet,” he said, “though we could lose some of our best.”

Asked about charges from some in Congress that the Defense Department is “arrogant,” Hale said, “we have a good working relationship. I don’t recall we turned down any meetings. Maybe it’s that we just don’t know some of the information they’d like to have, such as where things are going and what our plans for sequestration are. But frankly,” he added, “we’re feeling our way toward” how to implement the sequester. “They may not like the answers they’re hearing.”

 

One area where many lawmakers clearly disagree with Pentagon leaders is on President Obama’s proposal for another round of the Base Closure and Realignment Commission. “Yes, we need another BRAC because there’s no practical way to close or realign bases outside of BRAC,” Hale said. “I understand it’s a tough political vote, but it’s an important one.”

 

Hale expressed frustration with the challenges of getting the Pentagon’s books ready for auditability by coming deadlines set by Congress and the Defense secretary, saying officials have good data on obligated funds but not on cost, and adding, “It is harder than I expected.”

 

 

F.C.C. Smartphone App Gauges Speed of User’s Network

NYTimes

November 14, 2013

By EDWARD WYATT

WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday released its first smartphone app, a free program that allows consumers to measure the broadband speed they are getting on their mobile devices and to determine whether it is as fast as wireless companies say.

So far, the app works only on smartphones that run the Android operating system, but the commission is working on an iPhone version, which it expects to be ready by the end of January. The app provides information on upload and download speeds and on how efficiently data is transmitted, a measure known as packet loss.

The app, F.C.C. Speed Test, also will allow the commission to aggregate data about broadband speeds from consumers across the country. It will use the data to create an interactive map, giving consumers a tool to use in comparison shopping rather than relying on wireless companies’ promises.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.samknows.fcc&hl=en

Tom Wheeler, who was presiding over his first F.C.C. meeting as chairman, said the app was a “public beta” version, meaning that the commission wanted to hear suggestions for improvement from consumers and app developers.

“We know from experience that this type of transparency about broadband speeds is not only helpful to consumers on a day-to-day basis, but also that it can drive improvements in network performance,” Mr. Wheeler said.

The app, available in the Google Play store, will run periodically in the background on a consumer’s phone, automatically performing tests when a user is not otherwise using the phone.

F.C.C. officials stressed that the software would not collect any personal or uniquely identifiable information, and that it would release information only after the data was analyzed. The app uses open-source code, and the agency details its methodologies and privacy policy on its website.

The commission also voted unanimously to consider, on a case-by-case basis, allowing foreign companies to own more than the current limit of 25 percent of a television or radio licensee.

If it approves such a request, however, the F.C.C. might ask the broadcaster to free up some of its airwaves for use in wireless broadband. The commission has been seeking broadcasters that would give up some of their airwaves or move to another part of the broadcast spectrum to free up space that can be auctioned off for more wireless broadband service.

 

 

Which of the 11 American nations do you live in?

BY REID WILSON

November 8 at 1:36 pm

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/govbeat/wp/2013/11/08/which-of-the-11-american-nations-do-you-live-in/?tid=pm_politics_pop

 

Red states and blue states? Flyover country and the coasts? How simplistic. Colin Woodard, a reporter at the Portland Press Herald and author of several books, says North America can be broken neatly into 11 separate nation-states, where dominant cultures explain our voting behaviors and attitudes toward everything from social issues to the role of government.

“The borders of my eleven American nations are reflected in many different types of maps — including maps showing the distribution of linguistic dialects, the spread of cultural artifacts, the prevalence of different religious denominations, and the county-by-county breakdown of voting in virtually every hotly contested presidential race in our history,” Woodard writes in the Fall 2013 issue of Tufts University’s alumni magazine. “Our continent’s famed mobility has been reinforcing, not dissolving, regional differences, as people increasingly sort themselves into like-minded communities.”

Take a look at his map:


Courtesy Tufts Magazine

 

Woodard lays out his map in the new book “American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America.” Here’s how he breaks down the continent:

 

Yankeedom: Founded by Puritans, residents in Northeastern states and the industrial Midwest tend to be more comfortable with government regulation. They value education and the common good more than other regions.

New Netherland: The Netherlands was the most sophisticated society in the Western world when New York was founded, Woodard writes, so it’s no wonder that the region has been a hub of global commerce. It’s also the region most accepting of historically persecuted populations.

The Midlands: Stretching from Quaker territory west through Iowa and into more populated areas of the Midwest, the Midlands are “pluralistic and organized around the middle class.” Government intrusion is unwelcome, and ethnic and ideological purity isn’t a priority.

Tidewater: The coastal regions in the English colonies of Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland and Delaware tend to respect authority and value tradition. Once the most powerful American nation, it began to decline during Westward expansion.

Greater Appalachia: Extending from West Virginia through the Great Smoky Mountains and into Northwest Texas, the descendants of Irish, English and Scottish settlers value individual liberty. Residents are “intensely suspicious of lowland aristocrats and Yankee social engineers.”

Deep South: Dixie still traces its roots to the caste system established by masters who tried to duplicate West Indies-style slave society, Woodard writes. The Old South values states’ rights and local control and fights the expansion of federal powers.

El Norte: Southwest Texas and the border region is the oldest, and most linguistically different, nation in the Americas. Hard work and self-sufficiency are prized values.

The Left Coast: A hybrid, Woodard says, of Appalachian independence and Yankee utopianism loosely defined by the Pacific Ocean on one side and coastal mountain ranges like the Cascades and the Sierra Nevadas on the other. The independence and innovation required of early explorers continues to manifest in places like Silicon Valley and the tech companies around Seattle.

The Far West: The Great Plains and the Mountain West were built by industry, made necessary by harsh, sometimes inhospitable climates. Far Westerners are intensely libertarian and deeply distrustful of big institutions, whether they are railroads and monopolies or the federal government.

New France: Former French colonies in and around New Orleans and Quebec tend toward consensus and egalitarian, “among the most liberal on the continent, with unusually tolerant attitudes toward gays and people of all races and a ready acceptance of government involvement in the economy,” Woodard writes.

First Nation: The few First Nation peoples left — Native Americans who never gave up their land to white settlers — are mainly in the harshly Arctic north of Canada and Alaska. They have sovereignty over their lands, but their population is only around 300,000.

The clashes between the 11 nations play out in every way, from politics to social values. Woodard notes that states with the highest rates of violent deaths are in the Deep South, Tidewater and Greater Appalachia, regions that value independence and self-sufficiency. States with lower rates of violent deaths are in Yankeedom, New Netherland and the Midlands, where government intervention is viewed with less skepticism.

States in the Deep South are much more likely to have stand-your-ground laws than states in the northern “nations.” And more than 95 percent of executions in the United States since 1976 happened in the Deep South, Greater Appalachia, Tidewater and the Far West. States in Yankeedom and New Netherland have executed a collective total of just one person.

That doesn’t bode well for gun control advocates, Woodard concludes: “With such sharp regional differences, the idea that the United States would ever reach consensus on any issue having to do with violence seems far-fetched. The cultural gulf between Appalachia and Yankeedom, Deep South and New Netherland is simply too large. But it’s conceivable that some new alliance could form to tip the balance.”

 

 

The Next U.S. Weapon at Sea Could Be Music

By Aliya Sternstein

November 14, 2013

http://www.nextgov.com/cybersecurity/2013/11/next-us-weapon-sea-could-be-music/73826/?oref=dropdown

 

The next Cuban missile crisis could be resolved through the power of music rather than an armed standoff between nuclear powers, military officials and researchers speculate.

It is believed that sound waves can “jump the air gap” — or hack a machine that is not on a network — to paralyze a ship’s control systems. Instead of using a blockade or firing Tomahawk missiles to prevent Russia from delivering weapons to Cuba, the United States could use malicious tones.

“This is where you talk about fleets coming to a stop. Our ships are floating SCADA systems,” retired Capt. Mark Hagerott, deputy director of cybersecurity for the U.S. Naval Academy, said at a summit in Washington organized by Government Executive Media Group. He was referring to supervisory control and data acquisition systems that control industrial operations. “That would disrupt the world balance of power if you could begin to jump the air gap,” Hagerott said.

It’s conceivable sound waves can be transformed into malicious electrical signals. An air disruption causes the diaphragm of a speaker to create an electrical signal made up of ones and zeros. Targeted ones and zeros can override a computer-driven ship.

Taking down a SCADA system “gives you a nonlethal warfare capacity at sea,” Peter Singer, a Brookings Institution national security analyst, said in an interview after speaking at the Defense One Summit. A president could say, for example: “Don’t let this enemy fleet seize these island chains but also don’t let it turn into a shooting war.” It would warn the adversary that if it crosses a certain boundary, the United States will flip the switch. “Now their ship is floating but you haven’t killed anyone,” Singer said.

Even the Stuxnet virus, an alleged U.S.-Israel creation that breached an air-gapped Iranian nuclear production system, required more proximity. Someone inserted an infected jump drive that made the nuclear centrifuges go haywire.

Onboard, “you think you are secure. You didn’t put a flash drive in. There’s no wires,” Hagerott said.

 

Rasmussen Reports

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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Obamacare hasn’t been good for the political health of President Obama and his party this past week.

Just 35% of Likely U.S. Voters now believe the new national health care law is good for America, and 55% favor repealing it.

Fifty-four percent (54%) oppose the law’s individual mandate which requires every American to have health insurance by January 1 or else face financial penalties. Just 34% support it.

And that was before the Obama administration announced Wednesday that only 106,000 Americans signed up for health insurance in October through the new national and state exchanges because of major problems with their websites. That’s well below the projected goal of 500,000 sign-ups in October, and most of the websites are still broken.

That wasn’t the worst political news, though. Despite the president’s oft-repeated promise that Americans could keep their health insurance policies if they liked them, the implementation of Obamacare appears to be forcing millions of Americans to change those policies and pay more for them.

Voters are evenly divided when asked whether the president deliberately lied about the potential impact of the health care law before it was passed by Congress. But 71% think Americans should be allowed to keep their current health insurance policies even if they do not meet the standards set by the new law.

After all, 75% or more have said in surveys all year that Americans should have the right to choose between different types of health insurance plans based on what they cover and how much they cost.

Obama responded to the political outcry on both sides of the aisle by announcing a one-year extension for those policies that don’t satisfy the new law’s requirements, but opponents questioned the legality of the president making such a change in a law passed by Congress. Meanwhile, 39 Democrats jumped ship in the House on Friday and voted for a Republican bill that gives insurers the power to extend plans through 2014 that would otherwise be canceled because of the new law. Insurers also can enroll new customers in these plans.

Fifty-five percent (55%) of voters now give the president poor marks for his handling of issues related to health care, a new high for the year. Democrats continue to be strong supporters of Obama, but even among voters in the president’s party, those giving him good or excellent marks for his handling of health care have tumbled 25 points over the past month, from 78% to 53%.

The president’s daily job approval rating remains at its lowest levels in months, and on Wednesday fell to -25, his worst rating in over two years.

Sixty-eight percent (68%) of voters now consider the president at least somewhat liberal in political terms, including 43% who believe he is Very Liberal.

Bill Clinton was one of several Democrats who urged Obama publicly to keep his promise and allow Americans to stay on their existing health insurance policies if they wanted to. Sixty-two percent (62%) of voters think Clinton was a better president than Obama. Looking ahead, a plurality (41%) believes that the former president is a plus for Hillary Clinton’s hopes for the White House. Only 20% consider Clinton a minus as far as his wife’s presidential ambitions are concerned.

Seventy percent (70%) of Likely Democratic Voters say they would vote for Hillary Clinton if the 2016 Democratic presidential primary were held in their state today. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul lead the 2016 presidential pack among Likely Republican Voters.

If the 2016 presidential election were held today, 43% of all voters would choose Clinton, while 41% would opt for Christie.

Democrats jumped out to a seven-point lead over Republicans on the Generic Congressional Ballot as the battle over the partial government shutdown escalated last month. Now they lead by just two.

Despite the shutdown, 65% of Americans believe government workers have more job security than those in the private sector.

Speaking of government workers, 56% oppose the use of standardized testing to measure school and teacher performance.

Forty-five states have adopted new national education standards known as Common Core, but just 39% of Americans these standards are likely to improve student achievement throughout the country, with 11% who say it’s Very Likely.

House Speaker John Boehner this past week said immigration reform legislation is dead in the current session of Congress. Fifty-four percent (54%) of voters feel the current policies and practices of the federal government encourage illegal immigration.

Fifty-two percent (52%) favor the current negotiations with Iran that would reduce that country’s nuclear program in exchange for lifting some economic sanctions. But 37% believe the United States should get Israel’s approval before making any nuclear deal with Iran.

While the holiday shopping season is rapidly approaching, consumer confidence remains near its lowest levels of the year.

But many Americans still will find a way to bring good cheer to the season.
Two-out-of-three Americans consider themselves regular alcohol drinkers. They’re almost evenly divided between those who drink for social reasons and those who drink because they enjoy it.

Among those who do drink, 40% say wine is their alcohol of choice. Thirty-four percent (34%) reach for a beer first, while 20% prefer hard liquor.

There are a few surprises, too, in what America thinks about drinking.

In other surveys last week:

— For the second week in a row, 24% of Likely U.S. Voters think the country is heading in the right direction.

Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, is the nation’s most influential banker; Janet Yellen, the board’s vice chairman, is about to take over Bernanke’s job. Yet both are unknowns to a sizable number of Americans.

— Following the devastating typhoon that hit the Philippines leaving thousands dead and many more displaced, 25% of Americans say they have contributed or will contribute money to the relief effort there.

— Just 28% favor the smoking of electronic cigarettes in public places.

— Forty-seven percent (47%) planned to do something special last Monday to celebrate Veterans Day and honor those who have given their lives for this country.

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