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December 14 2013

December 16, 2013




DARPA makes games of finding software vulnerabilities

DARPA creates a set of games that covertly search for software vulnerabilities

Joab Jackson

 December 8, 2013 (IDG News Service)


The U.S. Department of Defense may have found a new way to scan millions of lines of software code for vulnerabilities, by turning the practice into a set of video games and puzzles and having volunteers do the work.

Having gamers identify potentially problematic chunks of code could help lower the work load of trained vulnerability analysts by “an order of magnitude or more,” said John Murray, a program director in SRI International’s computer science laboratory who helped create one of the games, called Xylem.

DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) has set up a site, called Verigames, that offers five free games that can be played online or, in Xylem’s case, on an Apple iPad.

Verigames is set up in a manner similar to other online crowd-sourcing projects, such as SETI@homel, which has users’ computers scan for extraterrestrial signals, and, which invites participants to play online puzzles for protein folding.

The games are designed in such a way that when users solve puzzles in order to advance to the next level of game play, they are actually generating program annotations and mathematical proofs that can identify or prove the absence of flaws in software written in either C or Java. DARPA funded the games and the portal through its Crowd Sourced Formal Verification (CSFV) program.

Formal software verification typically relies on engineers reviewing code for possible errors and omissions that could be used by an attacker to compromise a system.

This approach is slow and costly, though. DARPA is hoping the work can be reconfigured into a game format that would be enjoyable enough to interact with so that large numbers of people would do at least some of this work voluntarily. The idea is to map what in essence are really hard math problems onto puzzle games that would be fun to play, according to DARPA materials.

The vast bulk of analysis on a software program is conducted by automated testing programs, which flag sections that look questionable, Murray explained.

“We are able to take those small snippets of code that need further analysis and turn them into the parameters to generate a puzzle,” he said. Certain types of vulnerabilities, such as buffer overflows or flaws that result in privilege escalation, fit particularly well to the puzzle format, Murray said.

DARPA has awarded grants to a number of companies to build games around the resulting puzzles.

In Xylem, for instance, the user explores a never seen-before tropical island and catalogues unusual plants — which are actually representations of sections of code — by writing short descriptions about them.

In another game, called CircuitBot, the user links up a team of robots to carry out a mission. Flow Jam requires the user to analyze and adjust a cable network to maximize its throughput.

Despite the relative benign nature of all the games, only persons 18 and over are allowed to play, due to government regulations regarding volunteer participants. Over time, however, DARPA hopes to build up a game playing community that would reduce the number of software errors in commercial and open source software.

The games are now reviewing open source programs that are being used by the Defense Department and other governmental and commercial organizations. If an error is found through game play, the agency will notify the managers of the software.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab’s e-mail address



Impact of budgetary hit to federal retirement weighed


December 9 at 1:53 pm

Requiring federal employees to pay more toward their retirement benefits would have an uncertain effect on recruitment of new workers but likely would spur some current employees to leave earlier than they would have otherwise, according to a recent analysis done for Congress.

Increasing the required contributions, and the potential impact of doing so, has been under consideration in negotiations over budget levels for the remainder of the current government fiscal year and for fiscal 2015.

One potential approach would be to require employees to contribute 1.2 percent of salary more toward their toward their benefits. The Obama White House has raised that idea several times, with a proposed three-year phase-in. Other proposals, by House Republicans, would require a still larger increase, potentially of about 5.5 percentage points; some of those have specified a multi-year phase-in as well. The White House has estimated that a 1.2 point increase would produce $20 billion for the government over 10 years. The Congressional Budget Office puts the figure slightly lower, at $19.3 billion, while specifying that it assumes the increase would not apply to certain employees already paying at a higher rate.

Those hired into federal jobs in 2013 and later generally pay 3.1 percent of their salaries toward their Federal Employees Retirement System benefits, compared with 0.8 percent for FERS employees hired previously. FERS employees also pay the standard Social Security payroll tax of 6.2 percent.

Those first hired before 1984 generally are under a separate system, the Civil Service Retirement System, that does not include Social Security. They pay 7 percent of salary toward their federal retirement benefits. Both FERS and CSRS employees in addition pay 1.45 percent of salary toward Medicare.

Federal employee organizations and some Democratic members of Congress continue to speak out against raising retirement contributions, arguing that federal employees already have done more than their share for deficit reduction, with three years of salary rate freezes and sequestration-triggered unpaid furloughs. They also argue that the increase would affect the quality of the federal workforce and the services it provides to the public.

“To continue targeting one group to carry the burden of fixing our deficits is absolutely unacceptable,” said a statement last week from House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland. “This denigration of our nation’s federal employees doesn’t just harm our ability to recruit and retain the top-notch workforce needed to serve the American people – it harms the American people who access the services of our government.”

In an analysis released in November, CBO said that because an increase in required contributions “would not change the compensation of federal employees hired after 2012, it would probably not affect the quality of new recruits.” However, it added that “some new recruits could be particularly susceptible to competition from private-sector employers.”

CBO said the impact on the retention end could be more clear: “An argument against this option is that it would reduce the number of highly qualified federal employees by motivating some of them to leave for the private sector and by encouraging some of them to retire earlier . . . some highly qualified federal employees have more lucrative job opportunities in the private sector than in the federal government. More of those employees would leave for the private sector under this option.”

CBO’s analysis was based partly on its conclusions regarding how federal pay stacks up against that of the private sector. In a 2012 report using data from before salary rates were frozen starting in 2011, CBO said that federal employees were 2 percent ahead overall, with those having lower levels of education farther ahead but those with higher levels of education behind.

Studies done by others using differing methods and differing data sets have reached widely varying conclusions regarding pay comparability. The Government Accountability Office concluded last year that none of them is definitive.



UAS application class created online by Sinclair

by Press • 10 December 2013


Sinclair Community College, Dayton, Ohio for the first time will offer a course online to teach students how to apply for approval to fly unmanned aerial systems from the Federal Aviation Administration, the school announced.

The online class — which Sinclair said is believed to be the first of its kind in the nation — is adapted from the college’s traditional classroom model instructing students on how to draft their request for a “Certificate of Authorization” that is required to fly drones in unrestricted airspace, according to Sinclair.

“In the current regulatory environment, public entities are eligible to apply for COAs,” according to Sinclair. “However, the tools and analysis techniques used in the COA development process and taught in this course will be invaluable for private operators as UAS integration and commercialization progresses.”

The new online course comes as Sinclair invests $1.4 million in an effort to lead the nation in education programs around unmanned aerial systems.

The COASmart program cost is $650.


The college also plans to bring other courses related to drones to the online format, including Introduction to UAS, Precision Agriculture for UAS, UAS and the Law, UAS Standards and Regulations, and Geospatial Information for UAS, according to the college. The college offers a certificate in UAS and has six certifications to fly drones at the Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airpark and at the Wilmington AirPark.


The Verge: Amazon filmed Prime Air demos outside the US to avoid legal trouble with the FAA

by Press • 10 December 2013

By Ben Popper


Amazon and the FAA have confirmed to the Washington Post that the company chose an international location to shoot its concept video for Prime Air, the drone delivery service CEO Jeff Bezos says Amazon plans to debut in the near future. That’s because the commercial use of drones is currently illegal in the United States, pending new regulations set to be issued by the FAA in 2015.

The laws concerning drones are far more relaxed in neighboring countries like Canada, which is a relatively short trip from Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle, Washington. And while commercial use of drones is illegal, numerous photographers and cinematographers working on projects in the United States have confirmed to The Verge that the use of drones to achieve aerial shots is common.

American advocates of commercial drone use point to situations like this as proof that the United States, which has been a leader in developing small unmanned aircraft, risks falling behind the rest of the world in terms of developing drones for business, due in large part to the lack of a complete regulatory framework.


U.S. Considers Russian Request To Install Satellite Monitoring Stations

By Bob Brewin

December 10, 2013


The Obama administration continues to review Russian proposals to install up to six monitoring stations on U.S. territory for its satellite navigation system, despite strong opposition in Congress.

In May 2012, Russia made a formal request to install base stations in the United States to monitor its Global Navigation Satellite System, or GLONASS.  Kenneth D. Hodgkins, director of the State Department’s  Office of Space and Advanced Technology, told a space navigation and timing advisory board meeting last Thursday that “U.S. officials have requested more information through discussions led by State in coordination with executive branch departments and agencies.”

Hodgkins added, “Based on the ongoing discussions, the original Russian proposal has evolved and is currently under review within the U.S. government.” He did not provide additional details on changes in the Russian proposal. The Federal Aviation Administration and NASA “initially expressed interest in acting as hosts” for the Russian monitor stations.

On Nov. 16, The New York Times reported that the CIA and the Pentagon “have been quietly waging a campaign to stop the State Department” from approving installation of the GLONASS monitoring stations on U.S. soil.

The Pentagon and CIA fear the monitor stations would help Russia spy on the U.S. and improve the accuracy of GLONASS, a system designed to rival the U.S. GPS satellite navigation system.

Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., on Nov. 19 introduced an amendment to the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act that prohibits the construction of foreign ground stations in the U.S. unless the Defense secretary and the director of national intelligence certify that the construction of the stations would not be used to gather intelligence or improve the accuracy of any foreign weapons systems.

“I am deeply concerned about the Russian proposal to use U.S. soil to strengthen its GPS capabilities,” Wicker said. “These ground monitor stations could be used to gather intelligence. Even more troubling, these stations could actually improve the accuracy of foreign missiles targeted at the United States,” he added.

Wicker, in remarks on the Senate floor, said he viewed the administration’s embrace of the GLONASS monitor stations as a way to improve its “failed” relations with Russia. “We have every  reason to be skeptical of Russia’s intentions to utilize GPS monitoring stations on U.S. soil. Let me repeat this: GPS monitoring stations controlled by Russia on U.S. soil,” Wicker said.

Representative Mike D. Rogers, R-Ala., told the Times he had sent letters to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Secretary of State John Kerry and the director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr., asking for an assessment of the impact on national security of the GLONASS monitoring stations. “I would like to understand why the United States would be interested in enabling a GPS competitor, like Russian GLONASS, when the world’s reliance on GPS is a clear advantage to the United States on multiple levels,” Rogers told the Times.

Monitoring stations, which include GPS receivers and an electronics package, are essential to operation of satellite navigation system, feeding information back to central control stations to help calculate precise orbits. The U.S. operates 16 GPS monitor stations wordwide, including sites in the lower 48 states, U.S. territories such as Guam, and in foreign countries such as Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Ecuador, South Africa, South Korea and the United Kingdom.

Russia plans to install 40 GLONASS monitor stations within its own borders, as well as ten abroad. It installed its first overseas station in Brazil in February.


Snoozers Are, In Fact, Losers

December 10, 2013

Posted By Maria Konnikova

On a typical workday morning, if you’re like most people, you don’t wake up naturally. Instead, the ring of an alarm clock probably jerks you out of sleep. Depending on when you went to bed, what day of the week it is, and how deeply you were sleeping, you may not understand where you are, or why there’s an infernal chiming sound. Then you throw out your arm and hit the snooze button, silencing the noise for at least a few moments. Just another couple of minutes, you think. Then maybe a few minutes more.

It may seem like you’re giving yourself a few extra minutes to collect your thoughts. But what you’re actually doing is making the wake-up process more difficult and drawn out. If you manage to drift off again, you are likely plunging your brain back into the beginning of the sleep cycle, which is the worst point to be woken up—and the harder we feel it is for us to wake up, the worse we think we’ve slept.

One of the consequences of waking up suddenly, and too early, is a phenomenon called sleep inertia. First given a name in 1976, sleep inertia refers to that period between waking and being fully awake when you feel groggy. The more abruptly you are awakened, the more severe the sleep inertia. While we may feel that we wake up quickly enough, transitioning easily between sleep mode and awake mode, the process is in reality far more gradual. Our brain-stem arousal systems (the parts of the brain responsible for basic physiological functioning) are activated almost instantly. But our cortical regions, especially the prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain involved in decision-making and self-control), take longer to come on board.

In those early waking minutes, our memory, reaction time, ability to perform basic mathematical tasks, and alertness and attention all suffer. Even simple tasks, like finding and turning on the light switch, become far more complicated. As a result, our decisions are neither rational nor optimal. In fact, according to Kenneth Wright, a neuroscientist and chronobiology expert, “Cognition is best several hours prior to habitual sleep time, and worst near habitual wake time.” In the grip of sleep inertia, we may well do something we know we shouldn’t. Whether or not to hit the snooze button is just about the first decision we make. Little wonder that it’s not always the optimal one.

Other research has found that sleep inertia can last two hours or longer. In one study that monitored people for three days in a row, the sleep researchers Charles Czeisler and Megan Jewett and their colleagues at Harvard Medical School found that sleep inertia took anywhere from two to four hours to disappear completely. While the participants said they felt awake after two-thirds of an hour, their cognitive faculties didn’t entirely catch up for several hours. Eating breakfast, showering, or turning on all the lights for maximum morning brightness didn’t mitigate the results. No matter what, our brains take far longer than we might expect to get up to speed.

When we do wake up naturally, as on a relaxed weekend morning, we do so based mainly on two factors: the amount of external light and the setting of our internal alarm clock—our circadian rhythm. The internal clock isn’t perfectly correlated with the external one, and so every day, we use outside time cues, called zeitgebers, to make fine adjustments that mimic the changes in light and dark that take place throughout the year.

The difference between one’s actual, socially mandated wake-up time and one’s natural, biologically optimal wake-up time is something that Till Roenneberg, a professor of chronobiology at Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich, calls “social jetlag.” It’s a measurement not of sleep duration but of sleep timing: Are we sleeping in the windows of time that are best for our bodies? According to Roenneberg’s most recent estimates, based on a database of more than sixty-five thousand people, approximately a third of the population suffers from extreme social jetlag—an average difference of over two hours between their natural waking time and their socially obligated one. Sixty-nine per cent suffer from a milder form, of at least one hour.

Roenneberg and the psychologist Marc Wittmann have found that the chronic mismatch between biological and social sleep time comes at a high cost: alcohol, cigarette, and caffeine use increase—and each hour of social jetlag correlates with a roughly thirty-three per cent greater chance of obesity. “The practice of going to sleep and waking up at ‘unnatural’ times,” Roenneberg says, “could be the most prevalent high-risk behaviour in modern society.” According to Roenneberg, poor sleep timing stresses our system so much that it is one of the reasons that night-shift workers often suffer higher-than-normal rates of cancer, potentially fatal heart conditions, and other chronic disease, like metabolic syndrome and diabetes. Another study, published earlier this year and focussing on medical-school performance, found that sleep timing, more than length or quality, affected how well students performed in class and on their preclinical board exams. It didn’t really matter how long they had slept or whether they saw themselves as morning people or not; what made a difference was when they actually went to bed—and when they woke up. It’s bad to sleep too little; it’s also bad, and maybe even worse, to wake up when it’s dark.


Fortunately, the effects of sleep inertia and social jetlag seem to be reversible. When Wright asked a group of young adults to embark on a weeklong camping trip, he discovered a striking pattern: before the week was out, the negative sleep patterns that he’d previously observed disappeared. In the days leading up to the trip, he had noted that the subjects’ bodies would begin releasing the sleep hormone melatonin about two hours prior to sleep, around 10:30 P.M. A decrease in the hormone, on the other hand, took place after wake-up, around 8 A.M. After the camping trip, those patterns had changed significantly. Now the melatonin levels increased around sunset—and decreased just after sunrise, an average of fifty minutes before wake-up time. In other words, not only did the time outside, in the absence of artificial light and alarm clocks, make it easier for people to fall asleep, it made it easier for them to wake up: the subjects’ sleep rhythms would start preparing for wake-up just after sunrise, so that by the time they got up, they were far more awake than they would have otherwise been. The sleep inertia was largely gone.

Wright concluded that much of our early morning grogginess is a result of displaced melatonin—of the fact that, under current social-jetlag conditions, the hormone typically dissipates two hours after waking, as opposed to while we’re still asleep. If we could just synchronize our sleep more closely with natural light patterns, it would become far easier to wake up. It wouldn’t be unprecedented. In the early nineteenth century, the United States had a hundred and forty-four separate time zones. Cities set their own local time, typically so that noon would correspond to the moment the sun reached its apex in the sky; when it was noon in Manhattan, it was five till in Philadelphia. But on November 18, 1883, the country settled on four standard time zones; railroads and interstate commerce had made the prior arrangement impractical. By 1884, the entire globe would be divided into twenty-four time zones. Reverting to hyperlocal time zones might seem like it could lead to a terrible loss of productivity. But who knows what could happen if people started work without a two-hour lag, during which their cognitive abilities are only shadows of their full selves?

Theodore Roethke had the right idea when he wrote his famous line “I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.” We do wake to a sleep of sorts: a state of not-quite-alertness, more akin to a sleepwalker’s unconscious autopilot than the vigilance and care we’d most like to associate with our own thinking. And taking our waking slow, without the jar of an alarm and with the rhythms of light and biology, may be our best defense against the thoughtlessness of a sleep-addled brain, a way to insure that, when we do wake fully, we are making the most of what our minds have to offer.

Maria Konnikova is the author of “Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes.”



Air Force to reduce civilian workforce

Impact on Wright-Patterson is not yet known.

Posted: 5:16 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013

By Barrie Barber

Staff Writer


The Air Force will slash 900 civilian jobs in 2014 because of budget pressures, the service announced Wednesday afternoon.

Of those cuts, 217 jobs will be eliminated at Air Force Materiel Command bases across the United States, including Wright-Patterson, said AFMC spokesman Ron Fry.

The number of positions that will be cut at Wright-Patterson was not immediately available.

Fry said AFMC also expects to cut uniform service members positions, but those numbers have not yet been settled. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh has predicted the jobs of 25,000 airmen will be cut during the next five years.

The Air Force will also maintain approximately 7,000 vacancies across the force, according to the Air Force News Service.

“The Defense Department used administrative furloughs to meet civilian pay budget demands in the compressed time frame between sequestration and the end of the FY13. We will meet a similar budgetary challenge in FY14 through a reduced workforce,” said Brig. Gen. Gina Grosso, the director of force management policy for the Air Force. The general added that the Air Force’s strategy to meet civilian pay budget targets does not include a furlough.


It’s Time to Write the Rules of Cyberwar

The world needs a Geneva Convention for cybercombat

By Karl Rauscher

Posted 27 Nov 2013


In the 21st century, just about everything is vulnerable to cyberattack. A hit on a bank or a stock exchange would cause uproar in the financial sector; a strike on an electrical grid could shut down a city. And the consequences of an attack could be far more dire than mere inconvenience. If hackers disrupted operations at a nuclear power facility, they could trigger a meltdown. An attack on a hospital could leave doctors scrambling in the dark, machines failing, and patients dying in their beds.

Such scenarios are becoming ever more plausible. In 2007 the cyberwar era began in earnest, when Estonia’s government networks were hacked during a political dispute with Russia. In recent years, the United States and China have accused each other of sponsoring major cyberintrusions, and Iran has accused the United States and Israel of unleashing a worm against its nuclear installations. Before such activities escalate into cyberattacks that destroy innocent lives, we should apply the lessons of the bitter past and establish the norms of cyberconflict. We should define acceptable targets, and we could even place limits on cyber weapons, just as we did on chemical ones nearly a century ago.


Espionage, Sabotage, and More

In the past decade, cyberattacks have changed from theoretical concerns to urgent national priorities. While the bulk of attacks target private companies for economic gain, here’s a roundup of attacks that may have been launched with political intent.

I propose bringing the principles of the Geneva and Hague conventions to bear on cyberconflicts. These conventions, which reached mature form after the First World War, establish rules for the treatment of civilians, prisoners of war, and the wounded, and they also ban the use of certain weapons, such as poisonous gas. Preserving these principles is of solemn relevance to billions of people, yet there is still no clear way to apply them to cyberattacks. While it’s unlikely that nations could be convinced to sign on to a legally binding treaty, international norms could have the same effect.

To find the way forward, the EastWest Institute has created the Cyber 40, with delegates from 40 digitally advanced countries. Our think tank specializes in back-channel negotiations between countries that don’t normally cooperate, and I head the institute’s Worldwide Cybersecurity Initiative. We have issued practical recommendations on spam and hacking, many of which have already been implemented. Since we presented our first proposal for “rules of the road” for cyberconflicts in a Russia-U.S. bilateral report at the 2011 Munich Security Conference, the ideas have gained traction. Other groups are also working on the legal issues surrounding cyberattacks—most notably a NATO-related collaboration based in Tallinn, Estonia, which published its findings this March as the Tallinn Manual.

In cooperation with industry groups and think tanks in China, Russia, and other countries, we are now trying to define practical humanitarian agreements for cyberconflicts. Such agreements could, for example, designate critical civilian infrastructures like hospitals and electronic medical records as off-limits for cyber attacks. And we hope to at least begin a conversation on whether some cyberweapons are analogous to weapons banned by the Hague and Geneva conventions as offensive to “the principles of humanity and the dictates of the public conscience.”

Our international team has reviewed all 750 articles in the Geneva and Hague conventions, in each case asking whether the rule can be transferred directly from the physical world to the cyberworld. Often the situation is simpler in the material world: For example, the difference between routine intelligence gathering and warfare is relatively clear. In cyberoperations, the infiltration of a computer network could be espionage or the prelude to an offensive action—but the mechanism is the same in both cases.

Seemingly straightforward prohibitions, such as the one on attacking hospitals, become complicated when ported to cyberspace. In the physical world, military officials can easily distinguish between a hospital and an army base and can plan their campaigns accordingly. In the cyberworld, everything is intermingled. Hospital records may be stored on a server in a data center that may also store data from a military contractor. In fact, it is the ease with which data and data-searching functions can be distributed across networks that makes cyberspace valuable in the first place.

When we built the Internet, we weren’t thinking about how to implement the Geneva Conventions online. To adapt these rules to our era, we must therefore model cyberconflicts, define legitimate targets, and suggest ways of determining compliance with such guidelines.

We will have to mark nontargets in some way. The Geneva and Hague conventions direct that protected entities (such as hospitals and ambulances) and protected personnel (such as medics) be marked in a clearly visible and distinctive way, for instance, with a red cross or red crescent. Marking a hospital’s presence on readily available maps constitutes another such warning.

We’ve been conducting an assessment of special ways to designate protected humanitarian interests in cyberspace. We’re currently working with our international partners to evaluate a number of technical solutions to this challenge. For instance, one early idea was to use “.+++” to mark the Internet addresses of hospitals and health databases.

Of course, merely marking protected zones in cyberspace would not stop miscreants from barging into them; then again, neither does the presence of a Red Cross symbol cause a bomb to bounce off a medical clinic. The point is that such markers would allow a state that wanted to comply with the norm to write virus code or arrange attacks so as to avoid designated institutions.

Assuming we can devise a system to create safe havens on the Internet, another concern is how to get all the necessary parties involved. In the past, the rules of war could gain force if the major nation-states agreed to them. That’s not enough to ensure the usefulness of cyberconflict rules, however, because cyberwarriors may be nonstate actors, sometimes even individuals. In order to get those people to respect the rules, we’ll need all the world governments to come together to condemn certain acts. Such a consensus would carry enough moral force to isolate any cyberwarriors who cross the line.

I first thought about this question while serving on the National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee for President George W. Bush. In 2002, when our group met with Vice President Dick Cheney at the White House, one member of the committee asked Cheney which countries the United States should engage with on questions of cybersecurity. His first answer was obvious: the anglophone countries that were eager to partner with us. “But the second answer will really surprise you,” he said. We never heard it. At that moment, the Secret Service descended on him and whisked him, and us, away to safety. It was all because of a false alarm that sounded when a small Cessna plane accidentally breached restricted airspace over the White House.

Ever since, I have wondered what Cheney’s second suggestion would have been—and my life’s work has come down to an attempt to find my own answer. I’ve come to the conclusion that we have to work with the difficult countries because those are the countries that matter. “Difficult countries” will mean different things to different countries; for the United States, though, the list would surely include Russia and China, both of which are formidable for their technological prowess.

The EastWest Institute’s Worldwide Cyber security Initiative has therefore begun bilateral processes with experts from the United States and Russia to define the terms used in discussions of cyber conflicts, so that future negotiators will have a clear dictionary to help them differentiate between, for example, cybercrime and cyberterrorism.

We have also brought U.S. and Chinese experts together to produce joint recommendations for fighting spam and botnets—the networks of hijacked computers that are used in some attacks. These recommendations were adopted by the Messaging, Malware, and Mobile Anti-Abuse Working Group, which brings the world’s biggest Internet companies together to swap strategies and collaborate on projects. Most recently, we’ve worked with our Chinese counterparts to issue recommendations on how to resolve conflicts over hacking. With these efforts, we’ve prepared the way for extending the humanitarian principles of the Geneva and Hague conventions into cyberspace.

It has sometimes been argued that international norms are toothless—that countries resort to chemical and biological attacks rarely only because they fear facing retalia tion in kind. However, recent events in Syria’s civil war show that norms do matter. The Syrian government, which is not party to the Chemical Weapons Convention, nevertheless felt the world’s wrath when it allegedly used poison gas against rebel forces and civilians. The United States first threatened to intervene in the war to protest the action. However, that threat was revoked when the regime’s allies— notably Russia, which was on record as opposing chemical warfare—devised a plan to take away Syria’s chemical weapons.

This case illustrates some of the problems that would face any attempt to enforce the norms of cyberwarfare, most obviously the problem of tracing an attack to its perpetrator. The Syrian government maintained that it had not broken international laws against chemical warfare, and some observers agreed that it wasn’t completely clear who had done the deed. It could even have been a provocation or, perhaps, a blunder on the part of the rebel commanders. Happily, the international community was able to agree on a practical remedy despite the lack of hard proof.

If we can set the parameters of basic human decency in time of cyberwar, then maybe we can ban aspects of such warfare altogether. At the least, we can discuss taking some cyberweapons off the table. Some of them do, after all, carry the potential for viral behavior, with a lack of discrimination regarding targets, and they all travel at computer speeds. These attributes, combined with a belligerent cause, are an understandable reason for concern.

We can bring the principles of the Geneva Conventions into the 21st century if we agree that these rules are worth preserving and agree that war need not be the infliction of maximum suffering on the enemy. Some may call me naive, but I believe mankind can be civilized even as we engage in a new era of cyberconflicts.




In Estonia, the websites of some government agencies, financial institutions, and newspapers are shut down by denial-of-service attacks during a political spat with Russia.



During the run-up to the U.S. presidential election, e-mails containing malware are sent to top aides in the campaigns of both Barack Obama and John McCain, and internal position papers and e-mails are accessed. The U.S. government blames foreign hackers.



In the weeks before the Russia-Georgia war, Georgia’s Internet infrastructure and some government websites are hit with a denial-of-service attack.



In a vast spy campaign known as GhostNet, e-mails containing malware are used to take control of computers in dozens of embassies, foreign ministries, and Tibetan exile centers around the world. The researchers who discover GhostNet believe it’s controlled by Chinese networks.



Iran’s nuclear facilities are sabotaged by the Stuxnet worm in one of the first uses of offensive cyberweapons. During an investigation by The New York Times, many unnamed officials say that the United States and Israel created the worm.



One month after the websites of many Pakistani government ministries are shut down and vandalized, with Indian hacker groups claiming credit, the websites of Indian security agencies are similarly attacked by Pakistani hackers.



The Canadian government has to disconnect its two main economic agencies from the Internet when a computer virus sweeps through government networks, seeking out classified documents and sending them back to hackers. The attacks are traced as far back as computer servers in China.



A malware program known as Flame is discovered in computers across the Middle East, with the majority of targets in Iran. The sophisticated cyberespionage program shares some source code with Stuxnet but is described by experts as being far more complicated.



Operations at several South Korean television stations and major banks are disrupted when a malware program known as DarkSeoul renders computers unusable. Many experts speculate that North Korea is responsible.

This article originally appeared in print as “Writing the Rules of Cyberwar.”


About the Author

Karl Rauscher recently completed his work as director of the Worldwide Cybersecurity Initiative at the EastWest Institute, a think tank that enables back-channel diplomacy between institutions and governments that may not normally cooperate. Rauscher, an electrical engineer by training, hopes that nations can be brought together to discuss placing limits on cyberattacks, and he wants to be sure engineers are involved in the conversation. “The world can’t solve this problem without EEs,” he says.



Ohio Study to Guide Air Force UAS Flights over U.S.

by Press • 12 December 2013

A study set to be completed early next year will lead to developing a unique national capability in Ohio for flying unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to meet Air Force research needs and to boostOhio’s leadership in developing technologies to integrate unmanned systems. The study will leverage and expand the state’s capabilities, particularly in improving the ability of unmanned systems to sense and avoid other aircraft in the same airspace.

The Ohio Airspace Strategic Integration Study (OASIS), which kicked off in February 2012, is intended to serve as a national model for the Air Force that coordinates federal, state, and local governments, aviation groups, academic institutions, private industry, and other stakeholders. The study is funded through the State of Ohio Development Services Agency.

“Ohio has complex airspace needs because of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, headquarters of the Air Force Research Laboratory, which is involved in research and development of unmanned aircraft systems,” said Maurice McDonald, Executive Vice President for Aerospace and Defense of the Dayton Development Coalition, which is administering the study.

“The idea behind the study is to solve military airspace requirements in a way that meets the needs of other airspace users. That includes the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and NASA, which are working with the Air Force in developing ways to integrate unmanned aircraft systems in the national airspace system.” McDonald said.

OASIS will also evaluate methods to promote business and industry growth in Ohio based on the development of available airspace to fly unmanned systems.

The process has involved a review of the test plans of the Air Force Research Laboratory, interviews with laboratory program leaders on upcoming unmanned systems development, and examination of the Defense Department Science and Technology Strategic Plans.

The resulting recommendations are intended to guide the Air Force and the FAA in structuring new rules that will govern flying unmanned systems in the vicinity of Wright-Patterson, which is located outside Dayton, Ohio. Bringing together user groups at the beginning of the process and consulting them along the way is intended to achieve a consensus on the final recommendations.

“The State of Ohio brings unique research, development, training, education, and infrastructure resources, as well as operations and airfield management experience,” McDonald said.

Last year, Ohio partnered with its neighboring state to create the Ohio/Indiana UAS Center and Test Complex to fly unmanned systems. The OASIS study will help determine the ultimate capabilities of the Center, including support of Air Force research and development flight test requirements. The Center has applied to the FAA to become one of the six national sites to test the integration of unmanned systems in the national airspace system.

The Dayton Development Coalition (DDC) is the leading economic development organization for the 14-county Dayton Region. Working closely with public and private regional partners, its mission is to retain, expand and recruit jobs in the Dayton Region.


Trappy’s lawyer responds to the FAA

by Press • 12 December 2013


Our moving brief established that there is no regulation concerning the operation of a model airplane, that the FAA’s 2007 Policy Statement purporting both to regulate and ban the “business” use of a model aircraft was unenforceable for lack of notice-and-comment rule making, and therefore no civil penalty can be imposed for an alleged federal aviation regulation (“FAR”) violation. In response to these dispositive arguments, the FAA disavows that this proceeding has anything to do with its 2007 Policy Statement concerning commercial model aircraft operation, a transparent argument that is intended to evade scrutiny of that policy and that contradicts the FAA’s public statements about its enforcement approach.

As a substitute for the unenforceable policy statement, the FAA retreats to last-resort arguments granting itself the extraordinary power to regulate and penalize the operation of any device found in the air, at any location, and without prior notice to the public. This overextension is based on two seemingly simple but completely flawed premises: first, that the definition of “aircraft” in 14 C.F.R. § 1.1 is so broad that it has always included model aircraft, and, second, that the FAA’s jurisdiction extends to activity conducted even an inch above the ground and inside tunnels — locations outside the navigable airspace.

Both of these propositions fail as a matter of law. The definition of “aircraft” is expressly stated in section 1.1 to rely upon context, and that context is unquestionably manned operations. Part 91 itself confirms that only persons “on board” aircraft are subject to any of its provisions. The alternative proposition suggested by the FAA leads to fundamental contradictions and unintended consequences, including placing the NTSB in the awkward position of having failed to abide by its own regulations for decades. Moreover, this new theory contradicts the plain language of the definition as well as the conclusions of the FAA’s own researchers as reported in 2009.

The jurisdictional proposition is equally erroneous. The FAA’s attempt to capture all activity in airspace everywhere elides the historic record concerning the creation of the public navigable airspace as it was carved out from the property rights of land owners decades ago. In the delicate balancing act between the common-law ownership of airspace by land owners and the exigencies of a nascent aviation industry, the Supreme Court of the United States declared that only the airspace above the minimum safe altitude would be considered public and subject to federal control. In the FAA’s organic statute, Congress correspondingly empowered the FAA only to regulate activity in that same “navigable airspace,” generally defined as the airspace at and above 500 feet.

The Administrator, having first run afoul of the APA with an unenforceable Policy Statement, now overreaches both on statutory text and regulatory jurisdiction, all in an attempt to penalize conduct that indisputably has never been subject to regulation before. These litigation arguments should be rejected, and the Complaint dismissed.



The Administrator’s opposition brief is remarkable for the lack of response on many points that confirm that model aircraft are not subject to current FAA regulation. The Administrator does not deny that his agency has never before sought enforcement of any FAR against the operator of a model aircraft. He is unable to cite a single example of any civil penalty assessed against a model aircraft operator. Nor does he deny that the FAA never investigates model aircraft accidents (even fatal ones), and that pilots of manned aircraft have been informed by the FAA’s own FSDO representatives that “the FARS do not address” model aircraft operation. Br. at 9. 1 These admissions, and the public record, confirm that the FAA has never issued a regulation applicable to the operation of a model aircraft. Only the 2007 Policy Statement contemplates the application of any FAR to model aircraft operation by claiming that “business” operation requires exemption from Part 21 or Part 91 via a COA or experimental certificate.

Rather than explain how the 2007 Policy Statement could possibly be enforceable, the
Administrator admits that it is “not mandatory,” Opp. at 3. He then makes the disingenuous argument that the “the FAA’s 2007 UAS Policy Notice . . . . has nothing to do with the issue that is pending before the Board in this case.” Opp. at 3. On the contrary, there is an obvious explanation for why Mr. Pirker’s model aircraft flight, which caused no damage or injury, is the only instance in the history of U.S. model aviation of attempted FAA enforcement, and that reason is spelled out in the allegation in paragraphs 2, 5 and 6 of the Complaint: Mr. Pirker “operated the flight referenced above for compensation,” he was “paid . . . . to supply aerial photographs and video of the UVA campus and medical center” and, by policy, “[t]he aircraft referenced above is an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS)”. The FAA would have this Board believe that these allegations in its Complaint are superfluous or coincidental. But they match precisely the FAA’s current policy framework for commercial UAS operations.

The term “unmanned aircraft system” found in paragraph 2 of the Complaint is contained only in the 2007 Policy Statement, not in any of the FARs. And that statement includes “remotely controlled model aircraft” in its definition. Yet the policy reiterates that “for model aircraft the [operational] authority is AC 91-57” which was published “for the purpose of providing guidance to persons interested in flying model aircraft.” Thus, the voluntary guidelines in AC 91-57 still apply three decades later even though the Administrator argues in his Opposition that the growth in the uses of these devices and in their technical sophistication demands a different safety regime. Opp. at 6 (“the assertion that the aircraft piloted by the Respondent in this case is akin to any type of line-of-sight model airplane that was publicly available in 1981, the year the Advisory Circular was published, strains credulity.”) There is no mention in the 2007 Policy Statement that model aircraft flown for recreational purposes are subject to any of the FARs or, specifically, to 91.13. Nor is there any distinction made among model airplanes based on their technical capabilities. In contrast, operation of the same device, in the same manner, in the same location, but for “business” purposes turns the model aircraft into an “unmanned aircraft system” that is purportedly subject to some or all of the FARs, including the requirement that a COA or experimental certificate be obtained prior to operation. It is the 2007 Policy Statement that attempts to apply regulations to a model aircraft only if it is operated for “business” purposes. The policy plays a central role in this proceeding.

Additionally, FAA officials have repeatedly announced to the public that the intended mechanism of enforcement of the commercial ban is the 91.13 recklessness standard. Earlier this year, Jim Williams, Manager of the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Office, participated at the AMA Expo in Ontario, California. During a panel on UAS integration, he was asked to advise model aircraft operators who wanted to pursue commercial use of their model aircraft. Mr. Williams responded that “the bottom line is that until we get that [sUAS] rule out, it’s going to be very difficult to conduct commercial operations in the United States legally. If you are selling your services to take photographs of real estate, that’s not allowed under the current set of regulations that we have. It’s unfortunate, because I think that done safely there’s nothing wrong with doing that, but until we can catch the rules up to the technology it remains against the rules, against the law.” See AMA/FAA Forum AMA Expo 2013 (Feb. 10, 2013) at 37:00-38:45,


When asked about the possibility of enforcement against an operator who is paid by a company to fly a model aircraft, Mr. Williams responded that the FAA’s own lawyers have told him that “if you are getting paid to operate the [model] aircraft . . . then it’s a commercial operation,” but with respect to enforcement, “the bottom line is that unless you cross that line into hazardous or reckless behavior or come to the attention of the FAA because you’re operating a business illegally, the key is operating safely. And if you’re operating safely and there’s no obvious commerce going on, we’re not going to get involved.” Id. 53:35-55:19 (emphasis added). Notably, Mr. Williams does not suggest that the FAA would ever pursue safety enforcement against reckless recreational modelers even though the question posed to him contemplated the same operations using the same devices, with the only difference being a payment.

This enforcement approach to commercial model aircraft operations was reiterated in an August 8, 2013 Chicago Tribune article quoting FAA spokesperson Les Dorr:

The FAA says it will try to stop unauthorized commercial activity if it becomes known but adds that it will resort to civil penalties only in extreme cases. “We really would only pursue a civil penalty if someone was operating an unmanned aircraft in a reckless manner,” said FAA spokesman Les Dorr.

Read the full reply here PirkerReply


AF officials announce FY14 civilian workforce shaping

Published December 11, 2013


The Air Force will reduce the size of its civilian workforce by about 900 positions in addition to maintaining approximately 7,000 vacancies across the force to meet the demands of a constrained fiscal 2014 budget, officials announced.

Specific reductions by location have not been determined.

The Air Force will implement civilian workforce shaping initiatives, along with continued targeted hiring to comply with mandatory funding targets and to rebalance the civilian workforce to meet skill demands for fiscal 2014 and beyond.

“The Defense Department used administrative furloughs to meet civilian pay budget demands in the compressed time frame between sequestration and the end of the FY13. We will meet a similar budgetary challenge in FY14 through a reduced workforce,” said Brig. Gen. Gina Grosso, the director of force management policy for the Air Force. The general added that the Air Force’s strategy to meet civilian pay budget targets does not include a furlough.

To reduce the number of employees assigned against previously and newly abolished positions, the Air Force plans to maximize the use of Voluntary Early Retirement Authority and Voluntary Separation Incentive Pay to entice employees who are eligible to leave federal service to do so voluntarily. These programs offer early retirement for employees who are considering life outside of federal service and up to $25,000 for employees whose voluntary separation would save another employee from being involuntarily separated.

“Over the last couple of years the Air Force has gone through significant civilian pay budget challenges,”Grosso said. “By implementing voluntary programs now we hope to mitigate future involuntary losses to the civilian workforce.”

For information about civilian employment, reduction in force and other personnel issues, visit the myPers website at


NSA Moves to Prevent Snowden-Like Leaks

Agency Implementing 2-Person Rule, Increasing Encryption Use

By Eric Chabrow, December 11, 2013


The National Security Agency has taken 41 actions to prevent leaks by insiders in the wake of disclosures of highly classified documents about the agency’s surveillance programs by former agency contractor Edward Snowden, NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander says.

Appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Dec. 11, Alexander was unapologetic about the mass data collection programs that some critics contend violate Americans’ privacy and civil liberties, saying he’s willing to work with Congress and industry to develop better surveillance methods as long as they don’t compromise the nation’s security.

To prevent future Snowden-like leaks, Alexander says the NSA is implementing the so-called two-person rule, which requires that two systems administrators approve jointly any access to systems and files containing highly classified materials (see NSA Pilots 2-Person Rule to Thwart Leaks).

The NSA also will increase the use of encryption to keep sensitive data secret from unauthorized individuals, Alexandar says. The 4-star Army general, who also heads the military’s cyber command, didn’t provide the committee with any more information about the 41 actions, but promised to furnish the panel with details on all those steps by Dec. 18.


Snowden Leak Details

In his testimony, Alexander also furnished more insight about how Snowden leaked the documents.

“His job was to move data,” the NSA director says. “He was the person to move the books from point A to point B; he was the SharePoint webserver administrator. His job was to do what he did. Therein lies part of the problem. We had one individual who had responsibility to move that data, who betrayed that trust. We believed [he] would execute that duty and in a manner that everybody agreed to be done.”

Citing a letter to President Obama and Congress from eight information technology companies calling for reforms of government surveillance programs, Alexander says he’s willing to meet with them to hear their ideas.

“They ought to be players here,” he says. “They have been hurt by this, unfairly hurt. … Industry has some technical capabilities that may be better than we have. If they have ideas about what we can do better to protect the nation and protect our civil liberties and privacy, we should put them on the table. I think that we should have a way to bring government and industry together for the good of the nation and we ought to take those steps.”


Patriot Act Provisions

The NSA’s data collection programs are authorized under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which permits the government to apply to the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act courts to compel businesses to hand over metadata of non-U.S. citizens. Another provision of the act, Section 702, allows the collection of communications data on foreigners located overseas. Some critics, though, contend information about Americans has been collected as well.

Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., asked Alexander how many Americans had communications information collected under Section 215. Alexander responded the NSA has identified fewer than 200 telephone numbers searched under that provision.

Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., sought a ballpark figure for the number of Americans whose communications information was collected under Section 702. But Alexander didn’t provide a figure, responding: “I don’t mean to hedge. Let me tell you the difficulties. If a terrorist we’re going after is talking to another person, in that communication, there is nothing that says, ‘I’m an American and here’s my Social Security number.’ The fact is that when we are tracking a terrorist, if they’re talking to five people and one of those is an American, the chances of us knowing that [he is an American] is very small. If we find out they are an American, then there are procedures the attorney general and courts have given us that we have to do to minimize that data [collection] on that American.”

Franken has introduced a bill that would require the NSA to estimate the number of Americans whose information had been searched by the government.

“The American people are skeptical of executive power. When there’s a lack of transparency they tend to suspect abuse,” Franken says. “Part of the reason to have transparency is for people to make their decisions based on some real information about whether or not this power is being abused.”

Alexander says he agrees with Franken and wants to work with Congress to create more transparency. “I think this is the right thing to do,” he says. “The number isn’t that big, and I think that if we can bring it to the American people and … when the American people understand that, they’ll know what we’re doing is right.”



Drone experts see booming ag market

by Press • 13 December 2013

MCMINNVILLE — Young Kim is a former U.S. Air Force pilot and familiar with the “outcome oriented” use of drone aircraft by the military. Get them over a target, conduct the surveillance or fire the missile – that’s how success is gauged.

Putting drone technology to work in agriculture, as he does now as general manager of Bosh Precision Agriculture in Virginia, requires an entrepreneurial mind-set.

“Do not waste growers’ time,” he said at drone technology forum in the heart of Oregon’s wine country this week. “You’ve got to deliver value very, very quickly. Show them how it will increase yield and lower inputs costs.”

Kim believes unmanned planes, equipped with sensors and cameras, will rapidly transform agriculture by providing quick, detailed information on plant health, soil and water conditions, disease or pest outbreaks and more. He said it’s a change similar to moving from analog to digital technology.


Agriculture is in the midst of a significant transformation, he said. The “biggest ag boom since the 1980s” is accompanied by a trend in which the number of farmers is declining but the acreage farmed by each is increasing, Kim said. At the same time, those farmers working large plots of land want the intimate knowledge they used to have of smaller acreage. Drones can provide that, but Kim said people shouldn’t get hung up on the “sexiness” of the technology.

“The real value is the data,” he said. “Focus on the problem of the grower and work backward from there.”

Kim was among a series of experts speaking at a day-long precision agriculture forum held in McMinnville, at the Yamhill County Fairgrounds. The county’s part-time economic developer, Jeff Lorton, believes the area’s renowned vineyards will benefit from the technology and hopes the county can attract drone makers and the legions of engineers and programmers who will follow the industry.

The forum included a brief outdoor demonstration of a small, four-bladed helicopter equipped with a video camera, which zipped about 50 feet in the air and hovered above the crowd. Images captured by the video camera were displayed on screens mounted on a control truck. About 100 people attended the forum, including vineyard owners, researchers and students.

John Parmigiani, an OSU mechanical engineering professor, displayed a fixed-wing drone painted to resemble a predatory hawk and programmed to mimic its flight patterns.

A student team under his direction built it as a project in 2012. The team wanted to find out if the “Mock Hawk” would scare damaging robins, starlings and cedar waxwings from vineyards, but the birds didn’t show in numbers enough to make the tests conclusive, Parmigiani said. The university is eager to test the drone again, he said.

“You can tell this thing what to do and it will go out and do it,” he said. “This really looks promising, the technology is there.”

Researchers with the University of California-Davis have test-sprayed vineyards and nut orchards with a 200-pound, unmanned helicopter made by Yamaha Motor Co. About 2,000 of the devices are in use in Japan, said Ken Giles, a UC-Davis agricultural engineering professor. Regulations have limited the researchers to spraying only water so far, not actual pesticides, but application coverage, speed and cost considerations appear favorable, Giles said. The ability to spot spray crops could be a significant advantage, he said.

To reassure potential critics, university researchers opened flight demonstrations to the public.

“You want to talk about a couple things people get jumpy about, it’s pesticides and drones,” Giles said.

Eric Folkestad, president of the Cascade chapter of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International said groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union are worried police agencies will use drones to peek into people’s backyards without a search warrant. Agriculture has no such interest, he said.

“We don’t use these systems to spy on people,” he said. “We’re the good guy drones.”

In farming, the technology can mitigate risks, Folkestad said. He predicted drone use will become like other specialized crop services offered by companies or co-ops, rather than taken up by individual farmers.

Ryan Jenson, chief executive of the Portland-based HoneyComb Corp., said his company will begin selling its fixed-wing Ag Drone in January 2014. The drone, “ready to go out of the box,” costs $14,995, can be launched by hand and comes in a case that can be thrown into the back of pickup for transport to fields. “It’s a flying robot,” he said.


The drone’s cameras, including infrared sensors, will provide early detection of disease or pest outbreaks, irrigation problems, plant stress or other issues, Jenson said. His company will process the data at a per acre charge to be determined later, with the first month free.

A key point in the forum discussion came when an audience member asked Jenson if his “drone in a suitcase” is legal for farmers or service companies to fly. The short answer is “not yet,” but the Federal Aviation Administration is working to establish drone guidelines by 2015. For now, unmanned aerial systems may be flown for pleasure or in conjunction with university research, but advocates are optimistic the FAA will recognize the value of agricultural applications.

When the FAA integrates commercial drone use into the national airspace, backers expect an industrial boom. The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International projects the idustry will produce an $82 billion economic impact and create more than 100,000 jobs by 2025.

Agriculture is likely to be an early adapter of the technology, speakers at the McMinnville forum said.

Michael Wing, an OSU forestry professor who will test drones over three Yamhill County vineyards in the coming year, said the industry is just getting started.

“It’s a revolution in the application of remote sensing, and it’s happening right in front of us,” he said.

– See more at:


Senate confirms James as next secretary of the Air Force

Published December 13, 2013


Deborah Lee James will be the next secretary of the Air Force, according to a Senate confirmation vote Dec 13.

James provided testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee Sept. 19, before the full Senate voted on her confirmation. Now the president must appoint her before she can assume her new position.

“I view this opportunity as the privilege and an honor of a lifetime. I will work very hard to insure that I live up to what is an enormous amount of trust that may be placed in me,” said James during her confirmation hearing. “My goal would be to leave our Air Force some years from now on a path toward greater capability and better affordability for our taxpayers, and with the people who underpin everything who are second to none.”

Undersecretary of the Air Force Eric Fanning assumed the role of acting when then-Secretary of the Air Force Michael B. Donley stepped down in June.

President Obama nominated James Aug. 1, 2013. At that time, she was serving as president of the technology and engineering sector at Science Applications International Corporation.

Pending the president’s appointment, James will be sworn into the position this month.




Air Force looks to boost combat readiness

By Barrie Barber – Staff Writer

The Air Force will spend more money to boost declining combat readiness if Congress passes a budget to reduce the impact of sequestration, but the military branch is still sorting through how the additional dollars might impact spending, the service branch’s top leaders said Friday.

In a press conference live streamed Friday, Acting Secretary of the Air Force Eric Fanning and Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh briefed reporters on the state of the military service in an annual address.

Welsh said the potential of partial relief from the budget sequester, or automatic spending reductions, won’t eliminate the need to reduce the size of the Air Force. “We can’t afford to operate and maintain the size of the Air Force we have today,” he said.

On Wednesday, the Air Force announced it will cut 900 civilian positions and an undetermined number of military jobs service wide in 2014 because of budgetary woes. Wright-Patterson Air Force Base has not yet been able to determine how many of those reductions will hit the Miami Valley base, spokesman Daryl Mayer said in an email Friday.

Welsh said he didn’t think the recently released force management guidelines would change, but didn’t rule out it might change within months. The House passed a two-year budget plan that would restore about $22 billion in sequester reductions to the military if the Senate passes the measure.

A new Air Force civilian leader will face budget and other questions soon. Deborah Lee James, a former defense firm executive, will take over as Secretary of the Air Force on Tuesday, replacing Fanning. The Senate confirmed her nomination Friday.

Fanning, a Centerville High School graduate, has temporarily served in the lead role since June, when the secretary, Michael B. Donley stepped down.

Fanning said the nation rightly expects defense spending to shrink as the nation winds down a wartime footing in Afghanistan and ended fighting in Iraq, but the immediacy of sequestration cuts have been destructive and forced the service to make choices it otherwise wouldn’t.

While Congress has resisted cutting military bases and opposed cuts to personnel, readiness and modernization programs faced the biggest threats, the two leaders said. This summer, the Air Force temporarily grounded some aircraft squadrons and halted or reduced training and furloughed most of the civilian workforce, including 10,000 at Wright-Patterson, because of sequestration. A second civilian furlough happened in October because of a 16-day federal government shutdown due to a budgetary stalemate in Washington.

“This has resulted in a profound impact on our readiness,” Fanning said, adding the Air Force has faced an ongoing decline in readiness for 20 years. “Tiered readiness models simply don’t work for the Air Force.” The military must be able to respond to a crisis around the globe rapidly, he said.

Welsh said sequestration has forced the dilemma of choosing between near term readiness and the long-term modernization of the fleet, and the Air Force has attempted to strike a balance between the two.

Even so, he reiterated the service’s commitment to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the KC-46 aerial refueling tanker and a new long-range strike bomber.

“Our legacy fighters against the new generation fighter will not survive,” he said. “Operationally, it’s just a fact.”

Welsh said he does not back cutting purchases of new F-35s coming off the production line over modernizing existing combat aircraft. Reducing purchases would increase the per unit cost, he said, which has declined with the addition of allied nations buying the controversial plane.

“This is not a good time to walk away from the F-35 program in any way, shape or form,” the four-star general said.

Neither Welsh nor Fanning ruled out a new combat search and rescue helicopter despite budget constraints. “We’ll just have to see what the budget holds,” Welsh said.

“The mission is part of the fabric of our Air Force,” he added. “The mission is not going anywhere.”

The Air Force reportedly has considered pulling the A-10 Thunderbolt II attack plane, a 1970s-era tank busting subsonic jet flown extensively in Iraq and Afghanistan, out of the fleet to cut costs, but the two leaders did not indicate that would happen soon.

Welsh said the F-35 would eventually replace the A-10 in the close air support mission to defend troops on the ground. “It’s like the B-52,” he told reporters. “We can’t rely on the B-52 for the next hundred years.”

The military will look for redundancies to eliminate among the services’ missions, such as in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, to reduce duplication and pare Defense Department costs, Welsh said.


Rasmussen Reports

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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, December 14, 2013

For voters, it seems, you can’t always get what you want.

Only 12% of Likely U.S. Voters favor a federal budget that increases government spending, but that’s just what the bipartisan budget deal passed by the House late this week does. It restores billions cut by the sequester on March 30 and puts off potential savings for several years.

Fifty-six percent (56%) want a long-term budget deal that cuts spending instead, but then only 29% expected Congress to reach such a deal to avoid another government shutdown. 

No wonder just seven percent (7%) think Congress is doing a good or excellent job. A plurality (47%) now believes their representative in Congress is not the best person for the job, and 43% don’t think he or she deserves reelection. Both are highs for the year.

Sixty-one percent (61%) of voters expect spending to go up under President Obama, the highest finding in three years, even though 53% think cuts in government spending are the best way to help the economy.

Just 19% agree with the president and many congressional Democrats that those who are already in this country illegally should be put on the path to citizenship before the borders are fully secured against future illegal immigration. But pressure is growing in Congress for that approach. Most voters already believe that the government’s practices and policies encourage illegal immigration, and 60% believe the feds are not aggressive enough in deporting those who are here illegally.

Negative opinions of the new health care law also continue to grow. Voters feel as strongly as ever that Americans should have choices when it comes to how much health insurance coverage they want and how much they want to pay for it. Belief that the government should require every health insurance plan to cover the exact same set of procedures has fallen to its lowest level ever.

The president, however, may be moving past the nightmare that has marked the rollout of Obamacare since October 1. After several weeks of the lowest job approval ratings of his entire presidency, those ratings improved slightly at week’s end to levels not seen since September.

Positive views of Obama’s economic leadership are also up a bit since hitting their lowest level in a year and a half earlier this month. Still, only 36% of voters give the president good or excellent marks for his handling of economic issues, while 46% rate his performance in this area as poor. 

Just 28% think the country is heading in the right direction, but that’s the highest level of confidence since late September.

Republicans still hold a five-point lead over Democrats – 43% to 38% – on the Generic Congressional Ballot.

One year after the elementary school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, only 31% of Americans think it is even somewhat likely that Congress and the president will create tougher gun control laws. Fifty-nine percent (59%) say stricter gun control is unlikely. This is almost a complete reversal from just after the school shootings when 59% expected tougher gun control laws and 33% disagreed.

But more Americans than ever (54%) believe tackling mental health issues is the best way to prevent future incidents like the one in Newtown.

While mental health issues and gun control have gotten much of the attention over the past year, there is also support for limiting access to violent video games and movies like those many recent mass killers have been watching.

Many voters are wondering if the president’s handshake with Cuban leader Raul Castro at this week’s memorial service for Nelson Mandela signals a thaw in the relations between the two countries, but only 17% believe America’s relationship with Cuba will be better a year from now.

Many Americans are out shopping now with Christmas less than two weeks away, but consumer confidence at week’s end remained near its lowest levels of the year

Only 31% of Employed Americans now work 40 hours a week. Forty percent (40%) work more. Nearly one-out-of-four (23%) say they work more hours during the holiday season to earn extra money. 

Fifty-seven percent (57%) are in favor of raising the minimum wage from its current level of $7.25, but Americans are evenly divided over whether this will be good or bad for the economy.

In other surveys last week: 

— Sixty-seven percent (67%) of Americans think Christmas should be more about Jesus Christ than about Santa Claus

— Despite school policies to the contrary nationwide, 75% think Christmas should be celebrated in the public schools

Seventy-six percent (76%) are at least somewhat likely to make a charitable donation of some kind this year, including 57% who are Very Likely. This is the highest level of charitable giving measured in surveys since 2009. 

— Time magazine this week named Pope Francis the person of the year. Sixty-one percent (61%) of Americans view the new pope favorably, and 56% think he has had a positive impact when it comes to the public’s impression of the Catholic Church. 

Arne Duncan is the president’s point man for the controversial Common Core national education standards being imposed on schools all over the country, but he remains largely unknown to voters after nearly five years of serving as the U.S. Secretary of Education. 

— Americans remain very positive about the water they drink and the air they breathe, but 41% believe the overall environment in this country is getting worse


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