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January 11 2014

January 13, 2014




$1T spending bill nears unveiling

January 01, 2014, 12:00 pm

The Hill

By Erik Wasson


Congress is set to unveil a giant spending bill next week that staff for appropriators have been preparing on a near daily basis throughout the holiday break.

Aides say progress on the $1 trillion, 12-part omnibus legislation has been better than expected at the subcommittee level, and their goal remains to pass the bill through both chambers by Jan. 16 to prevent a government shutdown.

The secretive process has members anticipating rushed votes when they return next week, as congressional leaders race the clock.

It’s unclear whether top leaders of the House and Senate spending panels will return to Washington to negotiate final details of the deal before Monday. Aides say that decision depends on how much progress staff can make.

One House aide said some obstacles remain on both funding levels for specific projects and on some of the dozens of policy riders that have been proposed during the course of 2013.

Still, the aide struck an optimistic note, saying talks are “going better at this point than many predicted.”

The bill is being developed according to the $1.012 trillion top-line spending cap in the budget agreement forged by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and signed into law by President Obama last week.

Sixty-two House Republicans voted against the budget largely because it exceeded the $967 billion spending cap already on the books for fiscal 2014.

Republican Study Committee Chairman Steve Scalise (R-La.), one of the “no” votes, told The Hill this week that he could be open to voting for the omnibus, if some policy provisions are included, such as limits on ObamaCare’s implementation.

But he acknowledged his impression from appropriators is they will not risk a new showdown over ObamaCare, which triggered a 16-day government shutdown in October.

To get his vote, Scalise argued at the very least, Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) must score wins on energy, defense and homeland security spending provisions.

The House approved Energy and Water, Defense and Homeland Security appropriations bills this summer with numerous amendments, while the full Senate did not vote on companion bills.

“We passed a few appropriations bills, and we put some policy riders that reflect conservative principles,” Scalise said.

He said a final bill at a minimum should reflect GOP policy riders that scale back funding for wasteful green energy programs favored by the Obama administration. Examples of floor amendments include ending funding for green energy advertising and limiting federal agency procurement of alternative fuels.


Energy riders could have a good shot given Rogers’s keen interest in helping the coal industry.

Scalise said conservatives would push leaders to allow floor amendments on the omnibus, something that could make completing the bill in just over a week problematic.

Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), who has made fiscal matters his signature issue, said he expected conservatives to offer an amendment to bring the top-line number down to $967 billion.

Another amendment, he said, would trim spending by 1 percent across the board. He said he would push for a House rule that would cover votes on those issues.

Mulvaney was less optimistic about getting policy riders on the omnibus.

He said GOP leaders appear ready to rely on Democrats to pass the omnibus, and as a result, wouldn’t feel the need to push policy riders.

“We were told in no uncertain terms that they would not be coming to us for votes,” he said. “Part of the deal with Democrats also included their support on appropriations.”

He said that “personally, it would be difficult to support” any omnibus at a spending level higher than $967 billion, regardless of policy riders.



5 Lessons for the Pentagon From 2013


December 31, 2013


“Do more with less” seems to be the message from lawmakers.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey asked Congress this year: “What do you want your military to do?”

The takeaway for defense leaders is that policymakers want to fund a defense budget that does less but a military that is just as engaged around the world, ready to act when needed and fully capable when ordered to fight and win.


1. Sequestration’s slow burn will continue, even with the recent budget deal

While the recent budget deal signed into law will soften the blow of sequestration’s steep cuts in fiscal year 2014, it does not do away with them altogether. As predicted, policymakers opted for defense cuts that decline in a graduated, staircase manner rather than off a cliff.

But the defense budget will still fall over the next decade. The budget simply gives Pentagon leaders more time to make judicious decisions about tradeoffs.

The “fix” to the military’s portion of sequestration’s bill in 2014 will surely cause many policymakers to pat themselves on the back for saving the Pentagon. But the additional infusion of cash as part of the deal should really highlight how steep the defense budget cuts were that the president proposed and Congress approved over the past four years, long before the ax of sequestration fell. These challenges are not going away.


2. Hagel offers only a glimpse of the grim choices ahead for the Pentagon

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel should be applauded for making public the results of his Strategic Choices and Management Review earlier this year. The effort examined in detail the impacts of sequestration on the Department of Defense.

But the review is just a start, because the Pentagon budget squeeze goes beyond sequestration to include unrealized efficiency initiative savings, a decline in war spending, using overseas contingency money to pay some readiness bills and a continuous rejection by Congress of proposals to shed excess infrastructure and modestly increase cost-sharing of some benefits.

Pentagon leaders will not only need a blueprint to enact many, if not most, of the review’s results, but even more must be done to reduce the size of the civilian workforce, close bases and reform compensation.


3. Policymakers will continue to punt on serious bureaucratic reform at the Defense Department

As the buying power of the defense dollar continues to decline, Congress has continued to resist efforts to rein in massive Pentagon overhead. This only exacerbates the defense budget squeeze as internal cost growth goes unchecked.

The Defense Department’s budget is not shrinking in the same ways as previous drawdowns. The surging costs of bureaucratic overhead, an over-burdened weapons buying process, excess bases, a growing civilian workforce and the compensation packages for DoD personnel are poised to “hollow out” the military from within as Clark Murdock at CSIS has argued.

Until Washington gets serious about reform at the Pentagon, unaddressed imbalances in the defense budget will continue to sacrifice much-needed combat power.

4. Loss of traditional defense coalition on Capitol Hill will continue to hurt

While the bipartisan pro-defense coalition has been dwindling for years in Congress, many defense leaders at the Pentagon are only just now waking up to this new and unfortunate reality. Worse, this reliable group of informed members of Congress — who took great interest in and care of national security — is not returning anytime soon.

This means more deals like the Budget Control Act that proposed sequestration fall disproportionately hardest on the U.S. military are possible going forward. These favored solutions to tap the defense budget for savings will continue to be attractive to politicians as America’s interest payments on the debt burden grow substantially in the coming years alongside unbridled growth in the major entitlement programs of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Thankfully, bipartisanship is not completely dead in Washington. Leading think tanks have all joined together to urge policymakers to move quickly on difficult but long overdue reforms at the Defense Department.


5. Mission relief is not coming for the U.S. military as budgets fall

Defense policy is subordinate to America’s foreign policy. Yet even as U.S. forces exit Afghanistan and all troops have left Iraq, the demands upon those in uniform are not letting up.

That is because the substantial daily presence and peacetime requirements of the U.S. military are not going away. Indeed, they have been growing the past year alongside rising instability in key regions of the world. Navy ships are being prepped to assist with destroying Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles. Troops have been sent to Jordan to bolster its military capacity as a check on Syrian volatility. Forces have been deployed to South Sudan, Mali and Libya in recent months for a variety of missions from evacuation to aerial refueling to capturing Joseph Kony. Fighters and bombers flew over the Korean peninsula in a show of force. Military personnel have assisted with numerous humanitarian disasters around the world, including the Philippines. Even the Coast Guard has picked up new missions in the Arctic and cyber operations.

Navy Admiral Thomas Moore said it best when highlighting the unrelenting demand on U.S. forces: “We have an eleven-carrier Navy for a world that needs fifteen.” This supply-demand disconnect applies across the armed forces. Policymakers want to cash in a “peace dividend” from a military operating in a world in which America’s “unipolar moment” is over, according to the Director of National Intelligence.

Washington’s appetite for hard power capabilities is not shrinking. “Do ever more with less” is, unfortunately, the only expectation the Joint Chiefs should harbor as they seek to manage a smaller force for the future.


Defend military pension cuts: Our view

The Editorial Board, USATODAY 6:28 p.m. EST January 1, 2014


System is not only extremely generous, it is also counterproductive.

After 20 years of service, regardless of age, a military retiree can expect a pension equal to 50% of final pay.

Proposed cuts come in the form of a reduction in cost-of-living adjustments by 1 percentage point each year until age 62.

40% of servicemembers have never seen a combat zone.


One of the best things Ronald Reagan did as president was to revamp federal pensions.

Reagan foresaw the problems that unaffordable public benefits would cause over time — the same problems now afflicting many cities and states — and was determined to act.

As a result, most federal workers hired after 1986 look forward to a very modest pension, one that is significantly reduced for people leaving before age 62.

But one big group was largely untouched by Reagan’s overhaul: members of the military. They are still on a plan so generous that it allows them to retire in their late 30s or early 40s and collect a pension, with cost-of-living increases, for the rest of their lives. This is accompanied by lifetime health coverage whose premium, $460 per year for a family policy, has not risen since 1995 even as costs for everyone else have skyrocketed.

In last month’s bipartisan budget deal, Congress made some wholely defensible trims in military pensions, prompting a howl of complaints from veterans groups.

They protest too much. Way too much. The military pension system is not only extremely generous, it is also counterproductive. It drains defense money from today’s troops and weapons. And while the system encourages some people to consider the military who otherwise might not, it also encourages them to leave early, taking their first-rate training to go double-dip by moving into a civilian government job. In any case, they can collect pensions — intended as old-age protection — in the prime of their working lives.

The deal, crafted by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., would not alter those basics. After 20 years of service, regardless of age, a military retiree can expect a pension equal to 50% of final pay, with an additional 2.5 percentage points for each year of service beyond 20.

The “cuts” come in the form of a reduction in cost-of-living adjustments, or COLAs, by 1 percentage point each year until age 62. At 62, the full COLA would come back, and pensions would shoot up to where they would have been had the full COLA been in effect from the start.

For example, a first sergeant retiring now at 40 with 20 years of service would collect a pension of $24,828. By the time he or she reached 61, it would have risen to $39,507, and now would rise to $32,464. The following year, it would be $40,496 under both formulations, and would receive the full COLA thereafter.

This approach would save taxpayer money and help reach budget targets. It also would discourage people from leaving early after the government has invested so much in them.

The change would also make military pensions less wildly out of line with most Americans’ experience. Private-sector pensions, to the extent that they exist at all, are routinely scaled back or frozen in ways much more dramatic than these changes.

Certainly, protecting veterans impaired by their service is a different sort of issue. But the current system rewards all equally, including the 40% of servicemembers who have never seen a combat zone.

If Congress doesn’t have the fortitude to stand by even this small tweak in military pensions, it doesn’t bode well for the far bigger, tougher budget decisions that loom ahead.


Budget sequester leaves US de-‘fence’-less in space

by Daniel Weiss @weissdaniel January 2, 2014 6:00AM ET

Washington closes the military’s Space Fence, which protects against catastrophic debris collisions


Mike Coletta was sitting in the basement of his home outside Pueblo, Colo., on Aug. 31 listening to echoes of space objects. Every minute or so, a ping would sound in his headphones as a satellite or piece of orbital debris passed overhead and bounced back a signal from a series of radar transmitters known as the Space Fence. The International Space Station was set to arrive in a few minutes, but time passed and there was no sound.

“Maybe they did an orbit change or something, I thought, because there’s nothing and there should be something,” Coletta recalled. “I looked at the time and saw that it was right around 0:00:00 UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) on Sept. 1, and it hit me: Those sons of guns — I bet they turned it off.”

Coletta was right. The Space Fence — which, despite its name, consisted of operational facilities on the ground, across the southern United States — had been shut down. In more than 50 years of operation, it had played a key role in the Space Surveillance Network, set up by the U.S. military to track man-made debris, and help keep valuable satellites and spaceships from smashing into it.

According to the Air Force Space Command, which ran the network, the shutdown was made necessary by the 2013 budget sequester and will save $14 million per year in operating expenses. But some argue that the shutdown has reduced the capability of an already imperfect surveillance system, potentially increasing the risk of a costly collision.

The 1,000 or so currently active satellites provide essential infrastructure for the modern world. GPS, television transmission, weather prediction, scientific exploration, search-and-rescue and international financial transactions are key functions facilitated by satellites.


Functioning satellites are vastly outnumbered by orbital debris — a smorgasbord of defunct satellites, spent rockets, exploded satellite and rocket bits, paint flecks and liquid leaked from nuclear reactors that once powered Soviet spy satellites. The Space Surveillance Network maintains a catalog of more than 23,000 orbiting objects larger than a grapefruit, and there are estimated to be tens of millions of pieces of debris too small for the network to detect. Hurtling around Earth at up to 20,000 miles per hour, even a small piece of debris can rip through a satellite or spaceship.

In Alfonso Cuaron’s blockbuster film “Gravity,” a Russian missile blows up a satellite, whose shards collide with other satellites, producing a storm of debris that disables the space shuttle. “The movie was extremely realistic in the sense that this is what collisional cascading is all about,” said Donald Kessler, who was NASA’s senior scientist for orbital debris research before retiring in 1996. In 1978 he predicted that when the mass of orbital debris reached a certain point, a “collisional cascade” would begin, in which collisions would create more debris, in turn leading to more collisions. “It’s just that normally it wouldn’t be just a few hours between the cascades; it would be tens of years.”

The trigger for the “Gravity” cascade is based on a real event. In January 2007, China fired a missile at one of its satellites as part of an anti-satellite test, creating more than 3,000 trackable pieces of debris. Six months later, NASA had to move its Terra satellite, which is responsible for collecting massive quantities of weather, environmental and Earth-imaging data, to avoid a potential collision with one of these pieces. Then, in February 2009, an Iridium communications satellite and a defunct Russian spy satellite smashed into each other, creating another 2,000 pieces of trackable debris.

The ideal solution would involve removing debris from orbit. Scientists have proposed an array of removal technologies — space sweepers and tugs, fishing nets and harpoons, tethers, laser blasters — but no practical application has been developed. Even if one were available, using it could stoke international tensions, said Dave Baiocchi, a senior engineer at the RAND Corp. who worked on a military project that aimed to “figure out what the garbage truck of space should look like.”

“If we were to develop one, how do you convince other countries that it’s not an anti-satellite weapon?” Baiocchi asked. “How do you convince Russia that your garbage truck is truly a garbage truck and not out to disarm other countries’ satellites?”

Lacking a removal solution, the U.S. military tracks orbiting objects and takes steps to prevent collisions. Data collected by the Space Surveillance Network — which includes a range of radars and telescopes in addition to the Space Fence — is used by the Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC), at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, to predict when a satellite or spaceship faces a collision risk. JSpOC then sends warnings to the satellite or spaceship operator, which decides whether to perform an evasive maneuver.

Even before the Space Fence was shut down, this system had serious shortcomings. To start with, it was blind to the vast number of pieces of debris too small for its sensors to detect. A planned new network of radar stations would greatly improve its sensitivity, but the first will not be online for several years at the earliest.

In the network, the Space Fence was the only sensor that performed “uncued” detection. The other sensors “are told, ‘OK, over the next day, we want you to go track these objects and collect observations and send them to us,'” said Brian Weeden, technical adviser for the Secure World Foundation. “That doesn’t happen to the fence, because it’s just there. Things fly through the fence; it collects observations and sends them off.”

To make up for the shutdown, the Air Force Space Command directed two other radars — in North Dakota and Florida — to pick up the slack. However, because these stations are each based in a single location rather than spread out across the country, they cover less of the sky than the Space Fence did. This reduced coverage has led to “a loss when it comes to detecting and characterizing events like breakups,” said Weeden. “You can’t predict when those kind of events are going to happen. It may be that we don’t have any major collisions over the next five years, and therefore it’s not a big deal. It may be that we have a bunch of them, and it’s going to be a really big deal.”

In just under five years, if all goes as planned, the first element in the new Space Fence will be operational. It will consist of a single radar station based in the Marshall Islands, midway between Australia and Hawaii, and use S-band radar with a much higher frequency than the old Space Fence. That would allow it to detect objects as small as a marble at altitudes up to 375 miles, where manned spaceships fly, and as small as a tennis ball up to 1,200 miles, covering the orbits most crowded with satellites and debris. This would increase the number of objects tracked by the system to more than 100,000. Like the old Space Fence, the new one will perform uncued detection, but it will also provide far more useful information on objects’ orbits.

Work on the S-band Space Fence has been delayed for a number of years, most recently by a Pentagon-wide review of potential budget cuts over the next decade. As of 2008, the plan was to build three S-band stations around the world, with at least one in operation by 2015. The current plan is to build a single station in the Marshall Islands at a cost of $1.3 billion that will be operational by late 2018.

Even if these expanded surveillance abilities become a reality, the system for preventing collisions is hobbled by data-sharing problems. JSpOC has the most accurate data on debris and military satellite orbits, but operators of other satellites have the most accurate data on their own orbits. As a result, when JSpOC warns an operator about a potential collision, an awkward two-step ensues, said Ronald Busch, vice president of network engineering for the satellite company Intelsat.

“When they provide us a warning, we go back and provide them our latest data, and they manually put that data in and rerun the analysis,” said Busch. This leads to “a cost of manpower, going back and forth and trying to find out is it a real issue or not, and then going back and forth trying to determine should we do a maneuver.”

If things don’t improve, Weeden sees a bleak future: “The worst-case scenario is that it gets a lot more risky and a lot more expensive to operate in some of the most important regions in space. Space is a critical infrastructure that can help in solving a lot of challenges we have on Earth. We need to be able to deal with the debris problem to ensure that space can continue to help us deal with those challenges.”

In the meantime, minor collisions keep piling up. Last January, a Russian satellite was knocked into a new orbit, apparently by a piece of untracked debris. Then, in May, an Ecuadorean satellite began to spin wildly and lost the ability to communicate, apparently after being struck by another piece of untracked debris. If improvements in the warning system don’t come soon, it may be just a matter of time before a catastrophic collision.


Study predicts 5 percent defense and aerospace growth

January 02, 2014, 01:54 pm

By Jeremy Herb


The aerospace and defense industry will grow 5 percent globally in 2014, despite the budget pressures to the defense sector, according to a new study from Deloitte.

Deloitte’s 2014 outlook says the defense industry will continue its downward trend over the past several years.

The report estimates that revenue will drop 2.5 percent in 2013 and will continue to decline with the end of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as cuts to the U.S. Defense budget under sequestration.

But the overall defense and aerospace industry will still grow in 2014, thanks to boosted revenue in the aerospace sector.

“It is likely that 2014 will bring high single to double-digit levels of growth in the commercial aerospace sub-sector, as experienced in 2012 and expected in 2013, given the dramatic production forecasts of the aircraft manufacturers,” Deloitte says.

The 2014 growth in the commercial aerospace industry is being driven by record-setting production levels, due to the accelerated replacement cycle of obsolete aircraft with newer fuel-efficient planes.

The report predicts that by 2023, annual production levels in the commercial aerospace industry will increase by 25 percent.

The Deloitte report also cites increases in passenger demand in places like the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region.

For the defense industry, the end of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan has driven defense budgets lower. The report says that defense spending is increasing in several areas — the Middle East, China, India, Russia, South Korea, Brazil and Japan — but that isn’t counteracting declines elsewhere.

The U.S. defense budget has a major impact on the global trends, as the United States accounts for 39 percent of global defense spending.

The Pentagon had $37 billion cut from its 2013 budget under sequestration. While the budget deal reached last month provided the Pentagon with $31 billion in sequester relief over the next two years, the new Defense budget cap is still $30 billion lower than the Pentagon’s proposed 2014 budget.

“The government customers of global defense companies continue to be challenged with affordability and competing domestic priorities,” the report says. “Thus, global defense spending is expected to continue to decline.”



How the Defense Lobby Became Irrelevant

This was once the special-interest group to outplay all special-interest groups. Then lawmakers stopped cowering before it. Is its leverage gone?

By Sara Sorcher

January 1, 2014


The defense lobby was once both behemoth and bogeyman. It was the muscle behind the military-industrial complex, the puppeteer liberals blamed for moving money from food stamps to fighter jets. Above all, it was the Beltway powerhouse that made Congress cower.

Nobody is afraid of defense lobbyists now. Congress has defied them twice in two years, first by failing to undo the first round of defense cuts under sequestration, and again this week by floating a budget deal that would only partly pare back the next round. The fact that industry accepts this deal, a far cry from the grand bargain it demanded last year, shows just how far expectations have plummeted.

What laid low the once-mighty lobby? Hyperbole, and some hubris. In the waning days of 2012, the industry promised Armageddon unless Congress spared it from the sequester’s spending cuts. The Aerospace Industries Association doled out clocks that ticked off the days, hours, minutes, and seconds—a panic-inducing “countdown to disaster,” when more than a million defense jobs would be gouged. But when the lobbying blitz failed and the sequester guillotine fell, the industry was forced into an embarrassing position: It had cried wolf. Long after AIA’s ticking clocks ran down, employers had not sent the tens of thousands of layoff notices; major defense companies remained profitable; and the U.S. military—though far from unscathed—remained a global juggernaut.

Now, with another round of sequester cuts looming, the lobby is again sounding the alarm, but its past hyperbole has defanged its warning. “When they went full bore saying the sky is falling January 2, and then later on March 1, they were betting it would never actually come to pass—so no one would be able to say they were overhyping this or exaggerating the immediacy of the impact,” says Todd Harrison, a defense-budget analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. “They miscalculated. Now the defense industry is left with its credibility damaged.”

The situation is all the more painful for defense lobbyists because this time around—perceptions aside—they would have had a much stronger case to make. If the proposed budget deal founders, the Pentagon could lose $52 billion from its 2014 request; if the deal passes, congressional appropriators must still find a way to cut $31 billion.

Last year, the Pentagon used a cushion of unobligated funds to pay down some losses, and it delayed weapons programs and testing to avoid cancellations. But this coming year, that cash has evaporated. More cuts mean the Pentagon can no longer mask the pain and must make tough decisions on weapons programs. Preserving pay and benefits for troops means further raiding funds for research and development.

Warning of disaster—while still lacking specific cuts to make a strong case—is a losing proposition. Even the lobbyists acknowledge the impotence of their message now. “All the screaming to high heavens” about how sequester would raise the unemployment rate came too soon, says one from a major company. “Whether it’s the voting public or elected officials, I think there is legitimate reason for them to question the industry’s estimations of significant job losses.” Still, lobbyists can point to some visible signs of military distress: The Army says that only two of its 43 active-duty brigades are fully ready for combat. The Navy canceled the deployment of an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf. Hundreds of thousands of civilians were furloughed, and the services say more long-term cuts will force them to downsize people and equipment.

But the signals are confusing. Despite warnings that sequestration would harm operations, the U.S. deployed warships for high-profile relief efforts in the Philippines, and President Obama floated the possibility of military action in Syria. And although some layoffs have come—Lockheed Martin cut about 4,000 jobs last month—major defense firms appear to be doing just fine: Defense giants, including Lockheed and Raytheon, reported third-quarter profit increases. “There have definitely been people who have accused us of crying wolf,” AIA spokesman Dan Stohr says. The group, he says, did not anticipate that the Pentagon could minimize the sequester’s pain. “We were taking our best shot at trying to estimate the effects, with the information we had at the time.” This year, AIA is no longer commissioning unemployment studies—”been there, done that,” Stohr says—but is focusing instead on “messages that resonate.” Perhaps in tacit acknowledgment that defense is not the center of the political universe right now, AIA this year partnered with domestic sectors, including education, to talk about the sequester’s broader effects on the nation’s workforce.

Complicating the picture is a schism in the Republican Party that had long held defense spending sacred. After the sequester, the gulf between defense hawks and deficit hawks widened. The defense industry has little influence with this latter group. One lobbyist described recent strategy sessions with major defense companies whose officials complained about failed (and acrimonious) meetings with young tea-party members, including Reps. Mick Mulvaney and Justin Amash. The lobbyist said they gave up on the meetings altogether, tired of “junior members of Congress who are lecturing us on how screwed up we are.”

Congress is clearly not listening to the defense lobby the way it would have during the Cold War or other periods of high threat, says Loren Thompson, chief operating officer of the Lexington Institute, a think tank. “This is the first time in my memory that Republicans aren’t lined up in a bloc behind robust weapons spending,” he says. “During the Reagan years, people were equating buying weapons with being safe. It’s like that connection has been broken.”

The Republican Party’s right wing has proven its willing to lose jobs at the district level and take national security risks to rein in big government. In the eyes of that faction, the Pentagon, despite lobbyists’ best efforts, is part of the problem.


Poll: Cyberwarfare Is Top Threat Facing US

Jan. 5, 2014 – 03:45AM | By ZACHARY FRYER-BIGGS | Comments


WASHINGTON — Cyberwarfare is the most serious threat facing the United States, according to almost half of US national security leaders who responded to the inaugural Defense News Leadership Poll, underwritten by United Technologies.

But while the leaders in national security policy, the military, congressional staffs and the defense industry are united in the seriousness of the cyber threat, agreement on the next greatest threat breaks down clearly along party lines. Terrorism is viewed as the next greatest threat by leaders who identified themselves as Republicans, while climate change was cited by those identifying as Democrats.

The poll sheds new insight into what is often seen as a monolithic and even nonpartisan national security community. More than 350 senior defense leaders responded to the poll in late November, answering two dozen questions across the gamut of defense issues.

Click here to read the full results


Respondents were far more likely to identify as Republicans than Democrats (38.5 percent vs. 13.5 percent). That’s radically different than the public at large, which typically tilts toward Democrats — 30 percent Democrat to 24 percent Republican in a December Gallup poll.That difference is even more dramatic among respondents who said they worked for the military, where Republicans outnumbered Democrats by seven to one (56.9 percent vs. 7.7 percent). Independents also made up a large percentage of respondents (34.2 percent).

On the cyber threat, 45.1 percent of respondents said Cyberwarfare is the greatest threat to the United States, with 42.4 percent of Democrats joining 36.3 percent of Republicans and a whopping 55 percent of independents agreeing.

That’s a sign that the stark warnings from military and civilian defense leaders have made their mark. It was little more than a year ago when then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned of the shock that might come from a concerted cyberattack.

“The collective result of these kinds of attacks could be a cyber Pearl Harbor, an attack that would cause physical destruction and the loss of life,” Panetta said in a widely publicized policy speech. “In fact, it would paralyze and shock the nation and create a new, profound sense of vulnerability.”


The threat environment beyond cyber is where party differences show up:

■Republicans saw terrorism as an equal threat to cyberwarfare, with an identical 36.3 percent citing terrorism as the greatest threat facing the country.

■Democrats were less than half as likely pick terrorism (18.2 percent) as the leading threat. Instead, climate change took the No. 2 slot among Democrats, 21.2 percent. By contrast, not a single Republican respondent cited climate change as a threat.

■Independents were in line with Republicans, listing terrorism as second (20 percent) behind cyberwarfare. China (13 percent) and climate change (7 percent) followed.

Respondents identifying with different US political parties were much more closely aligned when asked about the threats facing US allies in Asia and the Middle East. Iran was named as the top threat in the Middle East (54 percent) followed by terrorism (43.3 percent). In Asia, China got a relative majority (47.6 percent) followed by North Korea (28.8 percent).

But party lines appeared again when the question switched to threats facing US allies in Europe. A majority of Republicans (54.8 percent) picked terrorism as the top threat, followed by cyberwarfare (30.7 percent) and Iran (10.5 percent). Democrats conveyed more concern about cyber (40.6 percent) than any other threat. And just as was true when asked about the United States, the second most popular pick for Democrats was climate change (28.1 percent) followed by terrorism (21.9 percent).

Independents agreed with Democrats on the top threat to European allies, with 41.8 percent selecting cyber. But climate change was in a distant tie for third most popular (9.2 percent) with independents instead making terrorism (35.7 percent) the second most popular choice.

Even in a community that runs on defense dollars, traditional party perspectives on the need for defense spending were also apparent. While a 37.2 percent plurality of respondents said Defense Department spending is too low — including 50.8 percent of Republicans — only 22.9 percent of Democrats think defense spending is too low. Indeed, nearly half of responding Democrats said it is too high (48.6 percent).

Those numbers mesh with traditional party caricatures of hawkish Republicans and social program-boosting Democrats. That standard, however, has proved unreliable in recent years, as many younger Republicans labeled as tea party supporters have focused more on cutting spending than propping up defense, partially leading to automatic budget cuts under sequestration.

That tea party constituency also has been vocal about privacy concerns following the disclosures by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden of a variety of classified surveillance programs. The broader public has expressed increasing amounts of outrage, while most in the defense sphere have avoided speaking out against the collection of intelligence and many have been quietly supportive.

Still, when asked how the Snowden disclosures have affected the debate on surveillance, almost half — 47.2 percent — of all respondents said the disclosures have helped the debate.

Divided along party lines, the numbers become quite different. A majority of Democrats and independents, 68.8 percent and 58.2 percent respectively, said the disclosures helped debate. Yet 57.7 percent of Republicans said the disclosures hurt the debate, showing again few signs of tea party ideology.

“In a community where cyber is seen as the biggest threat, what Snowden did was helping debate? That’s fascinating,” said Gordon Adams, a fellow at the Stimson Center who ran national defense budgeting for the Clinton administration. “It reinforces my sense that I don’t think [Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich.] or [Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.] are getting traction on this issue. Right now, it’s not winning, because whatever one thinks about Edward Snowden, his media strategy is incredibly brilliant. The drip-drip-drip is working.”

Those polled also support the one initial proposal for intelligence reform that has been completely rejected by the Obama administration: the separation of leadership responsibilities for the NSA and US Cyber Command. More than half — 56.7 percent of respondents — think leadership should be split, a number that was consistent across party lines.

In questions about how the state of US strength and the strength of potential American adversaries compares to five years ago, before the Obama presidency, party lines were also clear.

By roughly two-to-one, Democrats think the US is stronger than it was five years ago (21.2 percent vs 12.1 percent). Only 4.8 percent of Republicans, on the other hand, think the US is stronger, while the vast majority, 72.6 percent, said the US is weaker.

And Republicans, by and large, think potential US adversaries are stronger, with 58.5 percent saying Russia is stronger than it was five years ago, and 45.2 saying Iran is stronger. In each case, Democrats were roughly half as likely to deem the rival stronger.


United in Pessimism

Partisan politics are set aside and respondents were united by a pessimistic view of future defense spending, a dislike of automatic budget cuts called sequestration and frustration with a ponderous defense acquisition system.

Asked when they expect the defense budget to begin rising again, 32.8 percent said it would be 2019 or later than any of the intervening five years. Less than a quarter of respondents thought it would increase by 2016.

An overwhelming 79.4 percent of respondents disagreed with the notion that sequestration cuts were necessary to reduce defense spending; 65.3 said defense spending would have been cut anyway without the sequester.

But nowhere did respondents more heartily and universally agree than on their collective criticism of the US defense acquisition system. Some 83.6 percent of respondents disagree with the statement, “US acquisition policy is effective in bringing best value to the US taxpayer,” and nearly as many — 73.4 percent — disagreethat acquisition reforms have yielded “significant savings.”

Another 70.9 percent of respondents said acquisition regulations “stifle innovation.”

A.J. Clark, president of Thermopylae Sciences, which leverages commercial software for defense applications,said the numbers tell a story of a system so complex that innovators are scared off, partly because they have a hard time finding out about opportunities.

“I have 15 people watching Fed Biz Opps and other sites, and there are many things that they still don’t see,” said Clark, referring to the Federal Business Opportunities website.

Part of the problem is that so many layers of acquisition rules have been piled on over the years that sorting them out is an enormous burden on companies, said Christian Marrone, the Aerospace Industries Association’s vice president for national security and acquisition policy.

“The rules and regulations in general have become over burdensome,” he said. “None of these findings should surprise anyone, what may surprise me is that the numbers aren’t even higher given what we’ve seen.”

Marrone said the Defense Department is aware of the problem, and taking action to correct issues.

“I think the chief critic of the system is the owner of the system himself, Frank Kendall [undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics],” he said. “I think he’s been clear that the system needs to take more risks. It needs to be more innovative, more forward thinking, more outside of the box.”

Some of theObama administration’s more important policy efforts are facing skepticism or dissent, the poll also showed.

Asked if, given the budget constraints and ongoing turmoil in the Middle East, the planned rebalance of military assets to Asia would be affordable, 62 percent of respondents said no.

Despite some headwinds, there are ways of making that shift without spending a lot of money, Adams said.

“I think that we will be able to afford it because we’ll make tradeoffs,” he said. “Most of what we’re doing is shifting spending, not adding spending.”

But whether the military services will be willing to accept changes to their role, such as a likely reduction in the emphasis on Army ground capabilities, is unclear.

“That’s the $64 billion question,” Adams said.

Obama’s efforts to strike a deal to dismantle Iran’s nuclear weapons program also face challenges in the defense community. While Secretary of State John Kerry has been careful to leave the door open to allowing Iran to enrich non-weapons-grade uranium, emphasizing to Congress that in a negotiation there has to be some compromise, most respondents did not agree. In the poll, 73 percent said Iran should not be allowed to have any capability to enrich uranium at all.

There is one thing the defense community is predicting to happen in 2014, a trend that defense executives have wanted for a long time: industry consolidation. More than half — 53.2 percent — of respondents expect significant consolidation beginning this year


Breaking Down the Data

The data contained in this report is derived from online results from 352 US-based Defense News subscribers selected by job category and seniority, representing 9 percent of those receiving invitations to participate in the survey.

Some 3,888 subscribers who identified themselves as senior military members or civilians in the US Defense Department, congressional and White House staffs, and defense industry received invitations to participate in the poll, which was open from Nov. 14-28. The results predated the announcement of a two-year budget deal on Capitol Hill brokered by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., that partially reduced the sequester announced at the end of 2013.

All questions were optional, and respondents skipped questions in varying numbers. The question asking respondents to describe their current jobs allowed for multiple selections, resulting in aggregate numbers exceeding the 352 total respondents.

Because the poll is not a sampling of a larger community, there is no calculable margin of error.

Respondents came from a wide range of jobs in the community: 125 identified themselves as working in the defense industry, 70 identified themselves as Defense Department civilians, and 65 identified themselves as in the military. Of those identifying with the military, 56.9 percent obtained the rank of brigadier general/rear admiral (lower half) or higher; 44.4 percent of those who reported working for industry listed themselves as corporate executives; and 14.3 percent of those listing themselves as Defense

Department civilians were in the Senior Executive Service, with another 51.4 percent identifying themselves as GS-13 to GS-15.


The Quiet Fury of Robert Gates

Bush and Obama’s secretary of defense had to wage war in Iraq, Afghanistan—and today’s Washington


Jan. 7, 2014 4:32 p.m. ET


All too often during my 4½ years as secretary of defense, when I found myself sitting yet again at that witness table at yet another congressional hearing, I was tempted to stand up, slam the briefing book shut and quit on the spot. The exit lines were on the tip of my tongue: I may be the secretary of defense, but I am also an American citizen, and there is no son of a bitch in the world who can talk to me like that. I quit. Find somebody else. It was, I am confident, a fantasy widely shared throughout the executive branch.

Much of my frustration came from the exceptional offense I took at the consistently adversarial, even inquisition-like treatment of executive-branch officials by too many members of Congress across the political spectrum—creating a kangaroo-court environment in hearings, especially when television cameras were present. But my frustration also came from the excruciating difficulty of serving as a wartime defense secretary in today’s Washington. Throughout my tenure at the Pentagon, under both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama, I was, in personal terms, treated better by the White House, Congress and the press for longer than almost anyone I could remember in a senior U.S. government job. So why did I feel I was constantly at war with everybody? Why was I so often so angry? Why did I so dislike being back in government and in Washington?

It was because, despite everyone being “nice” to me, getting anything consequential done was so damnably difficult—even in the midst of two wars. I did not just have to wage war in Afghanistan and Iraq and against al Qaeda; I also had to battle the bureaucratic inertia of the Pentagon, surmount internal conflicts within both administrations, avoid the partisan abyss in Congress, evade the single-minded parochial self-interest of so many members of Congress and resist the magnetic pull exercised by the White House, especially in the Obama administration, to bring everything under its control and micromanagement. Over time, the broad dysfunction of today’s Washington wore me down, especially as I tried to maintain a public posture of nonpartisan calm, reason and conciliation.

I was brought in to help salvage the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—both going badly when I replaced Donald Rumsfeld in December 2006. When I was sworn in, my goals for both wars were relatively modest, but they seemed nearly unattainable. In Iraq, I hoped we could stabilize the country so that when U.S. forces departed, the war wouldn’t be viewed as a strategic defeat for the U.S. or a failure with global consequences; in Afghanistan, I sought an Afghan government and army strong enough to prevent the Taliban from returning to power and al Qaeda from returning to use the country again as a launch pad for terror. Fortunately, I believe my minimalist goals were achieved in Iraq and remain within reach in Afghanistan.

President Bush always detested the notion, but our later challenges in Afghanistan—especially the return of the Taliban in force by the time I reported for duty—were, I believe, significantly compounded by the invasion of Iraq. Resources and senior-level attention were diverted from Afghanistan. U.S. goals in Afghanistan—a properly sized, competent Afghan national army and police, a working democracy with at least a minimally effective and less corrupt central government—were embarrassingly ambitious and historically naive compared with the meager human and financial resources committed to the task, at least before 2009.

For his part, President Obama simply wanted to end the “bad” war in Iraq and limit the U.S. role in the “good” war in Afghanistan. His fundamental problem in Afghanistan was that his political and philosophical preferences for winding down the U.S. role conflicted with his own pro-war public rhetoric (especially during the 2008 campaign), the nearly unanimous recommendations of his senior civilian and military advisers at the Departments of State and Defense, and the realities on the ground.

The continuing fight over Afghanistan strategy in the Obama administration led to a helpful, steady narrowing of our objectives and ambitions. Still, I witnessed a good deal of wishful thinking in the Obama administration about how much improvement we might see with enough dialogue with Pakistan and enough civilian assistance to the Afghan government and people. When real improvements in those areas failed to materialize, too many people—especially in the White House—concluded that the president’s entire strategy, including the military component, was a failure and became eager to reverse course.

But if I had learned one useful lesson from Iraq, it was that progress depended on security for much of the population. This was why I could not sign onto Vice President Biden’s preferred strategy of reducing our presence in Afghanistan to rely on counterterrorist strikes from afar: “Whac-A-Mole” hits on Taliban leaders weren’t a long-term strategy. That is why I continue to believe that the troop increase that Obama boldly approved in late 2009 was the right decision—providing sufficient forces to break the stalemate on the ground, rooting the Taliban out of their strongholds while training a much larger and more capable Afghan army.

It is difficult to imagine two more different men than George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Clearly, I had fewer issues with Bush. Partly that is because I worked for him in the last two years of his presidency, when, with the exception of the Iraq surge, nearly all the big national security decisions had been made. He had made his historical bed and would have to lie in it. I don’t recall Bush ever discussing domestic politics—apart from congressional opposition—as a consideration in decisions he made during my time with him (although, in fairness, his sharp-elbowed political gurus were nearly all gone by the time I arrived). By early 2007, Vice President Dick Cheney was the hawkish outlier on the team, with Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and me in broad agreement.

With Obama, however, I joined a new, inexperienced president determined to change course—and equally determined from day one to win re-election. Domestic political considerations would therefore be a factor, though I believe never a decisive one, in virtually every major national security problem we tackled. The White House staff—including Chiefs of Staff Rahm Emanuel and then Bill Daley as well as such core political advisers as Valerie Jarrett, David Axelrod and Robert Gibbs —would have a role in national security decision making that I had not previously experienced (but which, I’m sure, had precedents).

I never confronted Obama directly over what I (as well as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, then-CIA Director Leon Panetta and others) saw as his determination that the White House tightly control every aspect of national security policy and even operations. His White House was by far the most centralized and controlling in national security of any I had seen since Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger ruled the roost.

I had no problem with the White House driving policy; the bureaucracies at the State and Defense Departments rarely come up with big new ideas, so almost any meaningful change must be driven by the president and his National Security Staff (NSS), led during my tenure under Obama by Gen. James Jones, Thomas Donilon and Denis McDonough. But I believe the major reason the protracted, frustrating Afghanistan policy review held in the fall of 2009 created so much ill will was due to the fact it was forced on an otherwise controlling White House by the theater commander’s unexpected request for a large escalation of American involvement. Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s request surprised the White House (and me) and provoked a debate that the White House didn’t want, especially when it became public. I think Obama and his advisers were incensed that the Department of Defense—specifically the uniformed military—had taken control of the policy process from them and threatened to run away with it.

Most of my conflicts with the Obama administration during the first two years weren’t over policy initiatives from the White House but rather the NSS’s micromanagement and operational meddling, which I routinely resisted. For an NSS staff member to call a four-star combatant commander or field commander would have been unthinkable when I worked at the White House—and probably cause for dismissal. It became routine under Obama. I directed commanders to refer such calls to my office. The controlling nature of the Obama White House, and its determination to take credit for every good thing that happened while giving none to the career folks in the trenches who had actually done the work, offended Secretary Clinton as much as it did me.

Stylistically, Bush and Obama had much more in common than I expected. Both were most comfortable around a coterie of close aides and friends (like most presidents) and largely shunned the Washington social scene. Both, I believe, detested Congress and resented having to deal with it, including members of their own party. They both had the worst of both worlds on the Hill: They were neither particularly liked nor feared. Nor did either work much at establishing close personal relationships with other world leaders. Both presidents, in short, seemed aloof from two constituencies important to their success.

The relationship between senior military leaders and their civilian commander in chief is often tense, and that was certainly my experience under both Bush and Obama. Bush was willing to disagree with his senior military advisers, but he never (to my knowledge) questioned their motives or mistrusted them personally. Obama was respectful of senior officers and always heard them out, but he often disagreed with them and was deeply suspicious of their actions and recommendations. Bush seemed to enjoy the company of the senior military; I think Obama considered time spent with generals and admirals an obligation.

Such difficulties within the executive branch were nothing compared with the pain of dealing with Congress. Congress is best viewed from a distance—the farther the better—because up close, it is truly ugly. I saw most of Congress as uncivil, incompetent at fulfilling their basic constitutional responsibilities (such as timely appropriations), micromanagerial, parochial, hypocritical, egotistical, thin-skinned and prone to put self (and re-election) before country.

I was more or less continuously outraged by the parochial self-interest of all but a very few members of Congress. Any defense facility or contract in their district or state, no matter how superfluous or wasteful, was sacrosanct. I was constantly amazed and infuriated at the hypocrisy of those who most stridently attacked the Defense Department as inefficient and wasteful but fought tooth and nail to prevent any reduction in defense activities in their home state or district.

I also bristled at what’s become of congressional hearings, where rude, insulting, belittling, bullying and all too often highly personal attacks on witnesses by members of Congress violated nearly every norm of civil behavior. Members postured and acted as judge, jury and executioner. It was as though most members were in a permanent state of outrage or suffered from some sort of mental duress that warranted confinement or at least treatment for anger management.

I continue to worry about the incessant scorched-earth battling between Congress and the president (which I saw under both Bush and Obama) but even more about the weakening of the moderate center in Congress. Today, moderation is equated with lacking principles and compromise with “selling out.” Our political system has rarely been so polarized and unable to execute even the basic functions of government.

I found all of this dysfunction particularly troubling because of the enormity of the duties I shouldered. Until becoming secretary of defense, my exposure to war and those who fought it had come from antiseptic offices at the White House and CIA. Serving as secretary of defense made the abstract real, the antiseptic bloody and horrible. I saw up close the cost in lives ruined and lives lost.

Wars are a lot easier to get into than out of. Those who ask about exit strategies or question what will happen if assumptions prove wrong are rarely welcome at the conference table when the fire-breathers are demanding that we strike—as they did when advocating invading Iraq, intervening in Libya and Syria, or bombing Iran’s nuclear sites. But in recent decades, presidents confronted with tough problems abroad have too often been too quick to reach for a gun. Our foreign and national security policy has become too militarized, the use of force too easy for presidents.

Today, too many ideologues call for U.S. force as the first option rather than a last resort. On the left, we hear about the “responsibility to protect” civilians to justify military intervention in Libya, Syria, Sudan and elsewhere. On the right, the failure to strike Syria or Iran is deemed an abdication of U.S. leadership. And so the rest of the world sees the U.S. as a militaristic country quick to launch planes, cruise missiles and drones deep into sovereign countries or ungoverned spaces. There are limits to what even the strongest and greatest nation on Earth can do—and not every outrage, act of aggression, oppression or crisis should elicit a U.S. military response.

This is particularly worth remembering as technology changes the face of war. A button is pushed in Nevada, and seconds later a pickup truck explodes in Mosul. A bomb destroys the targeted house on the right and leaves the one on the left intact. For too many people—including defense “experts,” members of Congress, executive branch officials and ordinary citizens—war has become a kind of videogame or action movie: bloodless, painless and odorless. But my years at the Pentagon left me even more skeptical of systems analysis, computer models, game theories or doctrines that suggest that war is anything other than tragic, inefficient and uncertain.

The people who understand this best are our men and women in uniform. I will always have a special place in my heart for all who served on the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan—most in their 20s, some in their teens. While I was sitting in a hotel restaurant before my confirmation hearings, the mother of two soldiers then in Iraq came up to me and, weeping, said, “For God’s sake, bring them back alive.” I never forgot that—not for one moment.

On each visit to the war zones, as I would go to joint security stations in Baghdad or forward operating bases and combat outposts in Afghanistan, I knew I wasn’t being exposed to the true grim reality of our troops’ lives. And I could only contrast their selfless service and sacrifice with so many self-serving elected and nonelected officials back home.

I came to believe that no one who had actually been in combat could walk away without scars, without some measure of post-traumatic stress. And while those I visited in the hospitals put on a brave front, in my mind’s eye, I could see them lying awake, alone, in the hours before dawn, confronting their pain, broken dreams and shattered lives. I would wake in the night, think back to a wounded soldier or Marine I had seen at Landstuhl, Bethesda or Walter Reed, and in my imagination, I would put myself in his hospital room, and I would hold him to my chest to comfort him. At home, in the night, I silently wept for him. So when a young soldier in Afghanistan asked me once what kept me awake at night, I answered honestly: He did.

—Dr. Gates was the 22nd secretary of defense. This essay is adapted from his latest book, “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War,” to be published next Tuesday by Knopf.



Huge Solar Flare Delays Private Rocket Launch to Space Station

by Tariq Malik, Managing Editor | January 08, 2014 08:10am ET


WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. — A huge solar unleashed by the sun has delayed plans to launch a private cargo ship to the International Space Station today (Jan. 8) due to worry over space weather radiation.

The first major solar flare of 2014 erupted from a massive sunspot seven times the size of Earth on Tuesday (Jan. 7) after a series of mid-level sun storms in recent days. The event occurred as the commercial spaceflight company Orbital Sciences was preparing to launch a landmark cargo delivery flight to the space station today with its Antares rocket and robotic Cygnus spacecraft.

“We are concerned about mission failure,” Orbital’s Chief Technical Officer Antonio Elias told reporters in a teleconference today. The company is evaluating the extent of Tuesday’s flare and the potential for solar radiation to interfere with critical systems like gyroscopes and avionics, he added.

Elias said Orbital’s Cygnus spacecraft is designed to withstand space weather events like Tuesday’s flare during its weeks-long mission at the space station, so the vehicle isn’t vulnerable to the same radiation concerns as its Antares rocket.


Space weather delay

Orbital Sciences has been monitoring space weather since Sunday, when the company began tracking an uptick in solar activity. But it was Tuesday’s huge solar flare, which registered as an X1.2-class sun storm — the strongest class of solar flares the sun experiences — that led to today’s delay. It occurred just hours after an intense M7.2-class solar flare earlier in the day.


The Antares rocket was awaiting a 1:32 p.m. EST (1832 GMT) launch today from a pad here at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility when the decision to delay was made. It is the latest delay for the mission, which was initially delayed from a mid-December liftoff when astronauts on the station had to perform emergency cooling system repairs, and later postponed a day due to the sub-freezing temperatures affecting the United States this week. [Photos of Orbital’s Antares Rocket at the Launch Pad]

“Sometimes, you just don’t get off the ground when you want to,” Orbital Sciences executive vice president Frank Culbertson told reporters in a teleconference today. “This isn’t a failure in the system, it is a delay. But all we’re really delaying is the success that’s going to come when we execute this mission.”

Culbertson said Orbital Sciences officials hope to make a decision whether to attempt another launch try on Thursday by 5 p.m. EST (2200 GMT) today. A launch attempt on Thursday would occur at 1:07 p.m. EST (1807 GMT), should Orbital decide to pursue it.

The solar flare currently poses no threat to the six astronauts and cosmonauts currently living on the International Space Station. The crew will not have to any measures to shelter themselves from the solar flare’s space radiation, NASA spokesman Rob Navias, of the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, told in an email.


Giant sunspot spouts solar flare

By coincidence, the Jan. 7 solar flare occurred at 1:32 p.m. EST — exactly 24 hours before today’s launch target times— from an active sunspot region known as AR1944. The sunspot facing Earth from the middle of the sun, as viewed from Earth, and is “one of the largest sunspots seen in the last 10 years,” NASA officials said in a statement Tuesday.

“The solar flux activity that occurred late yesterday afternoon resulted in an increasing level of radiation beyond what the Antares engineering team monitored earlier in the day,” NASA officials added in a separate statement today. “Overnight, Orbital’s engineers conducted an analysis of the radiation levels, but the Antares team decided to postpone the launch to further examine the potential effects of the space radiation on the rocket’s avionics. The Cygnus spacecraft would not be affected by the solar event.”

The sun is currently in an active phase of its 11-year solar weather cycle. The current cycle, known as Solar Cycle 24, began in 2008.

Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus spacecraft had a 95-percent chance of good weather for today’s planned launch. That weather forecast deteriorates as the week progresses, with cloudy conditions dropping it to 75-percent chance of favorable weather on Thursday, and a 30-percent chance of good launch conditions on Friday. Rain is expected on Saturday, Culbertson said.


Orbital Sciences officials said they are closely monitoring the fallout from Tuesday’s solar flares.

“Orbital will continue to monitor the levels of space radiation with a goal of setting a new launch date as soon as possible,” company officials said.

Orbital has a $1.9 billion contract with NASA to launch 40,000 lbs. of supplies to the International Space Station by 2016 using its Antares rockets and disposable Cygnus spacecraft. The first Antares and Cygnus test flights launched in 2013, with today’s launch expected to mark the first official cargo delivery for Orbital.


For the delivery flight, called Orb-1, the Cygnus spacecraft is carrying 2,780 pounds (1,260 kilograms) of gear for the International Space Station. That haul includes a space ant colony, 33 small cubesat satellites and 23 other experiments designed students from across the country.

The Dulles, Va.-based Orbital Sciences is one of two companies with a NASA contract to delivery supplies to the space station. The other company is SpaceX of Hawthorne, Calif., which has launched two of 12 planned delivery missions for NASA under a $1.6 billion agreement. The third mission in SpaceX’s schedule is expected to launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Feb. 22.


Pentagon on watch for disruptive technology worldwide

Jan. 8, 2014 – 08:28PM |


WASHINGTON — Concerned about the surge of potentially disruptive technological advances in China and around the world, the Pentagon is creating a program to track and analyze patents and other signs of emerging technologies, military records and interviews show.

China has long been considered a threat to U.S. manufacturing because of its low wages and huge population, but now the nation is seeing a boom in innovation as well. Patents for new technologies in China have taken off, and a graph showing the rise in new patents looks like a “hockey stick,” said Patrick Thomas, a principal and director of analytics for 1790 Analytics.

In September 2012, China’s defense ministry reported that military-related patents there had increased by 35 percent a year over the previous decade. U.S. national security policy has shifted in recent years to a greater focus on Asia, and Pentagon policymakers have developed plans to counter China’s growing influence.

“The rapid rise of China … is focusing minds on the geopolitical power balance again and leading to a small revival of military-centered long-term strategic studies,” said a 2013 analysis of government “foresight” programs around the world by the European Union Institute for Security Studies.

The Pentagon has launched a new project called Technology Watch/Horizon Scanning, which aims to track developing technologies around the world that could either aid U.S. military efforts or seriously disrupt existing military plans. Thomas’ company — based in Haddonfield, N.J. — is one of the chief contractors for the project.

Brian Beachkofski, director of the Pentagon’s Office of Technical Intelligence, said the program is meant to keep the military ahead of technological developments 10 to 20 years ahead of time. “When you look at particular data,” he said, “it’s a long time before it becomes reality.”

That program, which follows similar efforts in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, focuses on two elements that can dictate future policies:

■ Technology Watch tracks key technology buzzwords to see where they are being used, Beachkofski said. “We look at them and find out what is being developed and whether there could be any future uses for the Department of Defense.”

■ Horizon Scanning was designed to look for ‘the emergence of new scientific concepts and technology applications with disruptive potential,” according to a 2011 Pentagon document outlining the program. A 2008 report for the U.K.’s Ministry of Defense defined horizon scanning as the ability to “identify technologies which have not previously been considered relevant, and to propose the possible value of developments that are being made for non-defense applications.”


Beachkofski said the program, which is still in development, can mine university and other research journals, as well as patent filings, to track new technologies “on the university level or in early stages of research and development at private companies.”

Analysts can then look deeper into each category to determine if there are so-called “emerging clusters” of technological development that need further examination, Thomas said. For example, researchers could find that China is developing new types of technology that could be used in missiles or other weapons that could affect U.S. policies.

New military technologies, expensive or otherwise, can force armed forces to radically shift their priorities.

The rise of the improvised explosive device in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan showed how a cheap weapon can eradicate the U.S. technological advantage on the battlefield. IEDs devastated the military’s flat-bottomed vehicles, like Humvees, forcing the Pentagon in 2007 to start what became a $50 billion program to develop the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, featuring a hull that is blast-resistant.

Pentagon budget documents released last April said the technology watch program “will develop insight into our relative position in science and technology around the world, as well as determine potential impacts on DoD capability and future threat environments.”

“One thing of interest is if you went to track technology and found the United States was absent from (that area of science), you’d want to do something about it,” Thomas said.


Electronic warfare market to hit $15B

Jan. 8, 2014

Written by



The global electronic warfare market will reach $15.6 billion by 2020, according to a new forecast by ASDReports. This reflects a compound annual growth rate of 4.5 percent from the $12.2 billion market in 2014.

Driving the increase will be the continuing exploitation of the electromagnetic spectrum, according to the study. Market growth will continue despite cuts in defense spending in the U.S. and Britain that will result in tighter budgets through at least 2016. The market will continue to see joint ventures between competitors seeking to win major contracts.

The current trend in the electronic warfare market is for faster and more efficient systems able to quickly detect frequency-hopping signals, said ASDReports.


Appropriators fight to beat clock

January 08, 2014, 05:02 pm

By Erik Wasson

Anne Wernikoff


Lawmakers scrambled Wednesday to maintain their momentum and complete writing an omnibus spending bill by Friday.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), however, acknowledged that some sort of short stopgap measure would now be likely to avoid a Jan. 16 shutdown.

“Because of the Senate procedures, we are probably going to have to do a couple of days [continuing resolution],” Rogers said. He added that such a measure could run through Jan. 17, when Congress departs for another weeklong recess.

Yet Rogers said negotiators are clearly making progress, with eight of the 12 parts of the omnibus done.

“We probably have eight or so that are absolutely done,” he said. “We’re reducing the number of items that are in disagreement.”

That represents progress from Tuesday when Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) said six out of 12 were done.

Getting the bill written by Friday would allow Congress to vote next week on the $1 trillion measure containing hundreds of pages of funding details.

Sources said the Labor, Health and Education measure which involves ObamaCare and union-related provisions remained a problem on Wednesday. ObamaCare funding issues shut down the government for 16 days in October.

In a positive sign for the omnibus, the controversial Interior and Environment portion appeared to be close to final.

Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), who chairs the subcommittee in charge of Environmental Protection Agency funding said the level of EPA funding had been finalized.

Calvert also signaled that major policy riders were not going to be in the bill.

“There is nothing in there that’s a showstopper,” he said. He added that he believes the bill will be done by Friday.


Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), the ranking member on the subcommittee, said he too thinks Calvert and Rogers will not push major EPA changes on the bill.

“I think Ken understands that an appropriations bill is not the appropriate place to be writing environmental and energy legislation,” Moran said.

The Defense portion of the bill was already in legislative language form, said Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), who chairs the Defense Appropriations subcommittee. He said he was being lobbied by other members for changes however.

“Things are never closed. I have quite a lot of things given to me in the last hour by people who think things are always open,” he said coming off the House floor during a vote.

He signaled that big program changes for contractors such as for the F-35 fighter or the Navy’s littoral combat ship would not be coming.

“We have a healthy respect for all the aforementioned items,” he said.

On cuts to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter he said, “it is important to have an aircraft that meets the needs of all of our services.”

Read more:


Cyberthreats for 2014: Not just the usual suspects

By William Jackson

Dec 11, 2013


January ushers in a new year, but the cybersecurity threats that come with it will for the most part look an awful lot like the ones agency IT managers already know. They will continue to morph, evolve and multiply to keep admins on their toes.

The research and analysis company Ovum predicts that 2014 will bring “more of the same,” just at higher volumes. The greater complexity of software, hardware and systems are putting a premium on automation — and on the need to protect data rather than systems, which are too dynamic to quickly defend. All of this puts a focus on the need for government to reform IT acquisition to enable a more flexible response to rapidly evolving threats.

The expanding need for threat intelligence and analytics to defend complex systems makes security as a service an increasingly attractive option. The recent award of a $6 billion blanket purchase agreement to 17 companies for security monitoring tools under the Homeland Security Department’s Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation program is a step in this direction. But it has been hampered by uncertainty in the federal budget. “It’s critical that the program continue to move forward in a constructive way, and without budget interference,” said FireMon president Jody Brazil.

Here are some of the trends, issues and things to consider in in the coming year, most of them familiar, but with one wild card.

One thing that most observers agree on is that the convergence of mobile and cloud computing will present a new and unintended hybrid: bring your own cloud. End users with mobile devices will knowingly or unknowingly use consumer cloud services to store and access work data, moving it outside of the enterprise’s immediate control.

Jerry Irvine, CIO of Prescient Solutions, calls the convergence, “an issue that is bringing in security risks.” As consumer cloud services move data out of the enterprise, mobile devices also provide new routes into the enterprise.

This is another example of the disappearing perimeter, says Paul Christman, Dell Software’s VP for the public sector. He calls the convergence a profound shift that will require greater attention to the security and management of mobile devices in the workplace, whether government-issued or BYOD.

“It represents another vector by which valuable government data can be lost or stolen,” said Paul Royal, associate director of the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Information Security Center.

That vector also puts an emphasis on managing devices and protecting the data itself, no matter where it is stored. “The cost of doing this is coming down,” Christman said, but the technology is not fully mature. Manoj Nair, general manager of RSA, said open and extensible security features for mobile devices are needed and called for Apple to open its iPhone 5s biometric to developers.

To make the most of information in enhancing situational awareness it should be shared, but this proves surprisingly difficult. It is not so much a technical problem as a people problem, and a lot of people have been disturbed by recent revelations about National Security Agency’s freewheeling digital information gathering.

Bit9 CSO Nick Levay says that cooperation between the public and private sectors was strong in 2013 but that reports that NSA has been tapping fiber-optic cables as well as gathering data directly from carriers could sour relationships. Major online players have been embarrassed by news that makes it seem that they either are in bed with the NSA or are not doing enough to protect their networks and data.

Customers will demand greater transparency from their technology providers, says former White House advisor Howard Schmidt, now executive director of SAFECode. “Companies, individuals and governments reeling from the surveillance disclosures will increase and expand their use of encrypted products, keys and data flows to try to get a better handle on controlling their information.”

This is good security, but protection may well take a back seat to cooperation in the coming year.


Security on the Internet of Things: An afterthought?

The Internet of Things is more than a buzzword; it is becoming a reality.

“More and more devices will be connected to the Internet,” said Georgia Tech’s Paul Royal. Increasingly, they will be communicating with each other without going through their users or administrators. “We need to have a thoughtful understanding of what the security implications might be.”

As these interacting systems become more diverse and complex, the focus of security will have to shift from the systems to the data they house and use. Royal said he is afraid that security will be a secondary consideration in the process of wiring (and unwiring) the world, and will not be taken seriously until there is a crisis. “Same old, same old, I’m afraid.”


Critical infrastructure: An increasingly visible target

Threats to the critical infrastructure are closely related to the Internet of Things. The nation’s power grids, financial systems and utilities all are becoming networked, often linking control system software that was never intended to be exposed to the Internet. Research on vulnerabilities will lead to increased exploits of this critical infrastructure, says Schmidt.


Although malicious exploits so far have been few, breaches and compromises in critical systems have been reported. The financial services sector, which is heavily regulated, has the most mature security posture, but “all areas need to awaken to the problem,” says Bit9’s Levay.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology is developing a cybersecurity framework for critical infrastructure under a presidential policy directive, but compliance will be voluntary. Control system software and device firmware need the same level of scrutiny as higher level software, Schmidt says.


The wild card: Wearable computers

The idea of wearable computers has been around for a while, but it is now moving from fiction to production. Samsung has its Galaxy Gear smart watch and Microsoft is prototyping its own smart watch, while Google is beta testing its Google Glass.

The concept is not yet fully baked, said Prescient’s Irvine. But half-baked or not, it looks as if it is here. “I am a new owner of Google Glass,” he said.

So far, attention to security in these devices appears to be minimal and the introduction of wearable technology can make the mere presence of an individual a cybersecurity risk. “This is not a risk that can be addressed by automation,” Irvine said. “It requires policy.”

RSA’s Nair predicts that “2014 looks to be the year when the wearable trend goes mainstream for government,” and other markets. “Vendors should be looking to build security into their wearable devices and applications now — and not view security as an afterthought. Otherwise, a trend for 2015 could be the stories of personal information being leaked from these devices.”


Rasmussen Reports

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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The U.S. economy’s still not a pretty picture, but Americans seem to be going with the flow. The government at week’s end reported the weakest job growth in years in December. The unemployment rate fell, but that was largely due to Americans leaving the work force.

Seventy-two percent (72%) say they know someone who is out of work and looking for a job, the highest finding in a year. Forty-one percent (41%) know someone who, out of frustration with the difficult job market, has given up the search for work.

Twenty-seven percent (27%) think unemployment will be lower in a year’s time, but just as many (27%) think it will be higher by then.

Still, the Rasmussen Employment Index which measures worker confidence rose four points in December to its highest level since June. Slightly more workers continue to say their companies are hiring rather than laying off.

Forty-six percent (46%) of American favor a proposal now before Congress that would continue combined state and federal unemployment benefits for up to 73 weeks for those unable to find a job. Thirty-nine percent (39%) oppose this proposal now being pushed by Senate Democrats and President Obama.

Fifteen percent (15%) favor extending unemployment benefits indefinitely, but more than twice as many (34%) say the federal government should do nothing at all for the long-term unemployed.

Forty-seven percent (47%) of voters continue to feel the president is too hostile toward small business, consistent with regular findings for the past year. Twenty-nine percent (29%) think he is too hostile toward big business.

Case in point: Secretary of State John Kerry is reportedly pushing hard for a new international global warming treaty, prompting speculation that this will further delay a government decision on the Keystone XL oil pipeline from western Canada to Texas. Fifty-seven percent (57%) of voters favor building the Keystone pipeline, and 56% think it will be good for the economy. These views have changed little in over two years.

Consumer and investor confidence remain higher that they were from 2008 to 2012. At the same time, only 29% of voters think the country is headed in the right direction.

Just eight percent (8%) of voters think Congress is doing a good or excellent job. Sixty-nine percent (69%) say no matter how bad things are, Congress can always find a way to make them worse, the highest level of cynicism in surveys for over three years.

Democrats have taken the lead over Republicans – 40% to 38% – on the Generic Congressional Ballot for the first time since late November.

If Democrats win control of Congress in this November’s elections, most voters (55%) believe there will be a noticeable change in the lives of most Americans. Slightly fewer voters (49%) think there will be a noticeable change in the lives of most Americans if Republicans win control of Congress.

One prominent Republican who reportedly has his eye on winning the White House ran into heavy traffic this past week. Fifty-four percent (54%) of Likely New Jersey Voters believe it’s likely Governor Chris Christie was aware that traffic lanes onto the George Washington Bridge were being closed as retaliation for the mayor of Fort Lee’s refusal to support the governor’s reelection. Fifty-six percent (56%) believe Christie should resign if it is proven that he approved of the retaliation. The lane closures caused four days of major traffic jams heading into New York City, and the incident has become a major national political story because of Christie’s potential presidential candidacy.

Al Qaeda-led terrorists have been making major gains in Iraq in recent days, recapturing places that U.S. troops liberated during the war there, but just 25% of voters favor U.S. military action against Iraq or Syria if either of those countries is taken over by al Qaeda or related terrorists.

Thirty-nine percent (39%) think the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have increased the threat of radical Islamic terrorism within the United States.

The president is counting on upcoming negotiations to bring the Syrian civil war to a peaceful conclusion despite increasing al Qaeda involvement there. Obama’s daily job approval ratings have returned to levels seen for much of his presidency after falling to unprecedented lows in the weeks following the disastrous rollout of the new health care law.

Voters continue to give their own health care high marks but remain critical of the overall health care system in this country. For the first time in nearly a year, however, fewer than 50% expect the health care system to get worse under Obamacare.

Coming off his reelection, Obama signaled that immigration reform and stricter gun control were two of his top agenda items, but none of his initiatives in these areas made it into law. Voters remain critical of the president’s handling of both issues.

In other surveys last week:

Most voters favor legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes but are a lot less enthusiastic about open recreational use.

— While most voters identify themselves as pro-choice, support for a mandatory waiting period prior to an abortion is at its highest level in over two years at 49%.

— The United States fought two major wars in the 20th Century and engaged in a lengthy Cold War for several decades. But most Americans now view U.S. relations with two of those former enemies, Germany and Japan, very positively, while they remain skeptical of Vietnam, Russia and China.

Thirty-nine percent (39%) of voters favor building more nuclear power plants in the United States. Thirty-seven (37%) are opposed.

— Just 18% of Americans believe it is the government’s job to tell people what kind of light bulb to use.

— That helps explain why 60% still oppose the ban on traditional bulbs that took effect on January 1.


Breach goes from bad to worse for Target and its customers

Company now says data on up to 110 million customers exposed — up from 40 million — and that hackers accessed more data than previously thought

Jaikumar Vijayan

January 10, 2014 (Computerworld)


Target’s acknowledgement Friday that personal data of 110 million people, not 40 million as previously thought, may have been exposed to hackers in a recent data breach raises new questions about the incident and how it could affect victims.

Target today said that an ongoing investigation of the data breach has revealed that “guest information” such as names, mailing addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses of customers may have been accessed by the same thieves who hacked into its systems last month.

Much of the exposed data is “partial in nature,” the company said in a statement this morning. In cases where a customer email address is available, Target said it would attempt to contact affected individuals.

“We know that it is frustrating for our guests to learn that this information was taken and we are sorry they are having to endure this,” said Target chairman and CEO Gregg Steinhafel in the statement.

Target in mid-December revealed that hackers had broke into its systems between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15 and accessed data on up to 40 million debit and credit cards. At the time, Target said that hackers gained access to cardholder names, credit or debit card numbers, card expiration dates and CVV security codes.

Target now says that its subsequent investigation found that data from 30 million more people was exposed. “This theft is not a new breach, but was uncovered as part of the ongoing investigation,” the company said.

The update shows that the breach exposed data on about one third of the adult population of the United States, noted James Huguelet, and independent security consultant who specializes in retail security. “It now implies that consumers who shopped at Target outside of the approximately one month the breach was active have now become potentially affected by this breach,” he said. Target’s statement suggests that in some cases, only an individual’s e-mail address might have been compromised, while in others, the mailing address might have been exposed. Huguelet said the “partial” exposure implies “that multiple systems containing different types of information were compromised [though] that’s purely speculative at this point.”

Hackers using the stolen information can now target victims with highly sophisticated spear-phishing attacks Huguelet warned.

“I can see a criminal being able to create a very effective attack with each e-mail sent having been customized to include the target’s name, address, and phone number. This could very well lead to a massive wave of identity theft across the United States,” he said.

Huguelet suggested that all Target customers accept the retailer’s offer to provide free credit monitoring, though he added, “I’m surprised that Target is not making this available immediately.” Attacks could already be underway and the credit monitoring may come too late for some victims, he said.

Steve Ward, a spokesman for security vendor Invincea, said Target customers should already be on high alert for phishing attacks. The stolen data allows attackers to craft very convincing emails in attempts to pry loose sensitive data.

“Seventy million active email addresses is a treasure trove for cyber criminal. They now have emails they know are active and linked to Target,” he said. Where possible, he suggests that individuals with email addresses linked to Target deactivate them.

If the email address is too difficult to change, individuals have to be continually on the lookout for phishing attempts, not just for days, but for months and perhaps years as well, he said.

Credit and debit card information stolen from Target is already being used in new ways. Compromised cards are being marketed online with information on the state, city and ZIP code of the Target store where they were used.

Fraud experts suggest that the location information will likely allow buyers of the stolen data to use spoofed versions of cards issued to people in their immediate vicinity.

Local use of a card makes it more likely that crooks can use it for a longer period of time because fraud detection tools used by banks and other card issuers use locations and frequency of card use to determine potential criminal activity. Banks often decline transactions or require additional authentication only for card transactions that originate from new or unexpected locations.

The breach could be very costly for Target, especially considering the findings of its investigation. TJX and Heartland were hit with similar massive attacks have so far paid well over $100 million in breach-related costs, many in relation to outside investigations.


In the statement today, Target said it expects fourth-quarter sales and earnings to be substantially lower than the results expected before the breach was discovered.

The adjusted earning per share for the fourth quarter is now $1.20 to $1.30 compared to prior guidance of $1.50 to $1.60. Sales during the quarter are now expected to be nearly 2.5% lower than previously expected.


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