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February 22 2014

February 24, 2014




Commentary: AFLCMC commander outlines new focus areas

Posted 2/18/2014   


by Lt. Gen. C.D. Moore II
Air Force Life Cycle Management Center commander

2/18/2014 – WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio — Last fall the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center leadership team from across the country assembled at a strategic offsite with the purpose of assessing progress in delivering on what we call “the revolution in acquisition and product support.”

Building on our tremendous progress since the organization’s inception in 2012, we have set six new focus areas for the coming year. These areas are central to our organization’s purpose and our support for the Air Force mission: To fly, fight, and win … in air, space and cyberspace”. In short, it is our center’s responsibility to deliver the most cost-effective capabilities to meet our national security needs, and the 2014 focus areas will ensure AFLCMC continues building momentum in delivering to our motto: “providing the warfighter’s edge!” 

As the trend in defense spending continues downward for the foreseeable future, it is essential to plan and execute an aggressive cost reduction strategy across the AFLCMC enterprise. In the near term, this means application of rigorous “should cost” methodologies affecting nearly every weapon system, many with life cycles spanning decades. By doing this, we have already extracted $2 billion in savings and expect that number to grow appreciably over the year. In direct correlation to ongoing efforts to reduce life cycle costs, we have also established a Product Support Enterprise governance process to help shape new product support strategies and subsequently to drive down weapon system support costs. Here, too, we are having tremendous success. 

The next focus area deals with cyber security and mission assurance. Improving the way we support and manage these critical life cycle management responsibilities has far-reaching implications as we work to ensure weapon system connectivity and effectiveness in any environment. Our focus on cyber system security and mission assurance in our design, production, fielding and product support processes is leading to a more resilient and effective system of system capability. The criticality of this mission area cannot be overstated.

The next focus area deals with the AFLCMC workforce! Our professional team of civil servants, active duty, guard and reserve personnel, and contractors make it all happen. Recognizing that our center is not growing in numbers, we are focusing on strategic resource management and agile human capital processes. We are establishing a new way of operating that is more responsive to growing program demands as we prioritize and align our skilled workforce to deliver capabilities on literally thousands of efforts under our stewardship. In that light, we are developing a more flexible way to apply resources for supporting new acquisition efforts and product support responsibilities. We are taking our objective — right person at the right time — to a new level of flexibility, risk management, and resource optimization.

The next focus area deals with process standardization and continuous process improvement across the enterprise. In the near term, we are focusing on cycle time reductions as we drive “speed with discipline” in our program execution responsibilities. In a rapidly changing and dynamic threat environment, achieving reduced cycle times — from requirement generation to fielded capability — becomes all the more important in our delivery of leading edge combat capabilities.

The final focus area involves “building stronger partnerships“. This is particularly important in a resource constrained environment. Deliberate cooperation with industry, academia, and other government agencies help us find valuable “win-win” arrangements benefiting those organizations as well as the center’s mission execution. We have had valuable successes to date and plan to find other opportunities over the next year. These partnerships allow us to capitalize on the strengths of external organizations as we deliver to our commitments.

It’s no secret that the nation is facing growing budgetary pressures, and we must subsequently adjust how we manage our resources and processes. In addition to the center’s new focus areas, two previous tenets — unity of purpose and speed with discipline — will continue serving as guiding principles in our mission execution. However, in the end our most important element of success remains our talented workforce! These are the innovative, dedicated Airmen who work tirelessly each day to ensure our Air Force remains second to none … providing the warfighter’s edge!


Final version of NIST cybersecurity framework draws mixed reviews

Brandan Blevins, News Writer

Published: 17 Feb 2014


The final version of the NIST cybersecurity framework, released last week, is intended to provide a baseline of IT security best practices for U.S.-based critical infrastructure organizations. Experts, however, questioned whether the document provides the sort of easily understandable and actionable advice those organizations require.

The challenge was that they had to simplify it, but the question is have they oversimplified it?

The development of the framework was originally set in motion a year ago by President Barack H. Obama when he signed Executive Order 13636, which tasked the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) with delivering security guidance to the critical infrastructure community.

Obama deemed the touchstone document necessary based on the increasing number of cybersecurity threats targeting critical infrastructure assets, potentially affecting nation and economic security.

“While I believe today’s framework marks a turning point, it’s clear that much more work needs to be done to enhance our cybersecurity,” said Obama in a statement. “Our critical infrastructure continues to be at risk from threats in cyberspace, and our economy is harmed by the theft of our intellectual property.”

A preliminary version of the framework was released in October 2013 and subsequently went through a 45-day review period, during which key stakeholders were able to provide feedback for the final version. Seemingly little changed between the two documents though, apart from cutting much of the detail originally provided on protecting privacy and personally identifiable information.



Breaking down the NIST cybersecurity framework

As for what the document actually contains, the NIST cybersecurity framework is essentially broken down into three sections.

The first, referred to as the framework core, is meant to guide organizations to other accepted standards, such as NIST 800-53, when determining how to manage certain cybersecurity risks. If, for example, an organization decides it needs to protect user credentials, the framework points to specific sections of COBIT 5, ISO 27001, and other standards.

For organizations to assess the maturity of their IT security programs, the framework provides four self-ranking “tiers.” At the bottom of the scale are tier-1 organizations, which are characterized as not having “formalized” risk management practices and processes, as well as having little awareness of cybersecurity threats. Tier-4 firms, on the other hand, are known to adapt “cybersecurity practices based on lessons learned and predictive indicators derived from previous and current cybersecurity activities,” are generally aware of cyberthreats, and have put the process in place to mitigate them.

The framework also encourages critical infrastructure organizations to create what it refers to as “profiles” — essentially a summary of its information security program — meant to help establish a “roadmap for reducing cybersecurity risk” based on an organization’s specific business requirements, risk tolerance and security resources. A company’s profile would provide a general idea of the current state of its cybersecurity program as well as a target goal that the organization will work toward. The framework encourages businesses to compare profiles in order to identify potential gaps in mitigation strategies. The framework, though, doesn’t provide a template for creating these profiles in the vein of the core section.

How to implement, measure the framework

Michael Assante, ICS and SCADA project lead for the SANS Institute, said the time was right to release an all-encompassing cybersecurity framework as critical infrastructure assets across the country are increasingly facing highly targeted attacks. Unfortunately, he added, the framework fails to consider the focused nature of such attacks.

Assante described the guidance in the NIST document as too “loose,” noting that he wouldn’t even know how to begin implementing it. In particular, the core section of the framework provides organizations with a “big blanket of controls” based on general situations, he said, but never takes into account threats that may be specific to an organization or industry.

For example, Assante said many of the attackers targeting industrial control systems (ICS) rely on establishing connections with command-and-control infrastructures to retrieve sensitive information. To mitigate that risk, organizations should rely on outbound filtering and monitoring to stop that data exfiltration, but he noted that ICS security professionals will not see such prescriptive advice in the NIST framework.

Though he said the wide-ranging approach taken by NIST may be good for promoting discussion, Assante worried that the organizations adopting the framework will simply pursue too many security controls.

“In any kind of standard, language matters, and there’s uncertainty in the language,” Assante said. “This is where the implementation of things gets hard. You leave a lot of stuff up to interpretation, which means you said for people to do these things, and you don’t really know how it’s being done or if it’s being done in a way that makes a difference.”

Chris Coleman, CEO of Baltimore-based Lookingglass Cyber Solutions Inc., agreed that the cybersecurity framework as it stands has perhaps been “watered down.” In an effort to achieve consensus, he said NIST may have broadened the framework due to its experience issuing the 800-53 document, which outlines cybersecurity guidance and policies for the federal government.

In his past role as director of cybersecurity for Cisco Systems Inc., Coleman said he was part of a team that attempted to map the NIST 800-53 guidance to the company’s technology portfolio for government customers. While he uncovered some good aspects about the document, Coleman found the number of controls in 800-53 — spanning more than 130 pages — to be overwhelming, greatly limiting its applicability outside the government.

NIST’s efforts at simplifying the cybersecurity framework may have resulted in the opposite effect though, Coleman noted, as the document’s guidance will be considered “fairly basic” by any organization with a mature IT security program. Organizations choosing to adopt the framework will either find they have no way to measure themselves against it, he said, or, if they choose to dig into the many existing standards referenced in the document, will instead be buried in the same deluge of controls and information they were perhaps already avoiding.

“The challenge was that they had to simplify it, but the question is, have they oversimplified it? There’s still a lot of work for anybody wanting to embrace this framework; they have to do homework on their own to figure out what all these references mean,” Coleman said. “Maybe I’m not familiar with all these references, maybe I’m a less-mature organization and I’m not familiar with the ISO, the COBIT or the 800-53, so now I have to go dig through this information and figure out how it applies to me and figure out how to monitor myself against it.”

Dave Burg, global and U.S. advisory cybersecurity leader for New York-based PricewaterhouseCoopers, and who participated in the development process of the NIST framework, said such criticisms possibly miss NIST’s intentions with the framework.

Burg said the ultimate goal of the document is to provide a security baseline against which all critical infrastructure organizations can measure themselves, not to “start from scratch” and throw out existing standards. Organizations aren’t intended to use the framework as the only assessment mechanism, according to Burg, but more as a reference point for objective evaluations of security programs and identifying potential gaps in security programs.

In PwC’s 2014 Global State of Information Security survey, for example, Burg noted that 26% of respondents hadn’t performed an initial security assessment to determine which cyber-assets need to be secured, skipping one of the basic building blocks of effective enterprise cybersecurity.

“Any time an organization is willing to criticize itself, to assess itself, and to use a baseline to measure itself, I think it’s quite important,” Burg said. “And will mature, highly capable security programs find gaps that were heretofore unknown? Maybe not, but I think the objective here is to simplify the assessment landscape.”


Sticks and carrots

Perhaps surprisingly, none of the experts SearchSecurity spoke with were concerned about the entirely voluntary nature of the current framework, which was one of the most cited criticisms levied during the run-up to its publication. As it stands, adoption of the framework provides no real incentives, while critical infrastructure organizations that choose not to adopt receive no form of punishment.

Burg commented that the NIST process in creating the framework would have been “slowed down” if it had been mandatory and that organizations are better off guiding their own activity in this area.

Assante said the very nature of a Presidential Executive Order took away the “stick” to potentially punish organizations that don’t adopt the framework, leaving NIST and other government officials to provide a “carrot” to incentivize implementation. He has heard discussions around insurance rates being lowered based on which tier an organization may be deemed under the framework, but said that “eye-catching guidance” that involves real measurement metrics is required before such proposals would have a chance of succeeding.

Coleman, meanwhile, worried that making such standards mandatory tends to create a “culture of checkbox security,” and that the framework as it currently exists isn’t ready for the spotlight.

“I don’t think it’s near mature enough to be able to incentivize anybody to adopt it,” Coleman said. “If Lookingglass tried to adopt this today, I’m not sure really what I’m adopting.”


Future of the NIST cybersecurity framework

Alongside the release of version 1.0 of the framework, NIST also issued a roadmap that provides some indication as to areas it would like to expand what the agency has described as a “living document” in the coming months and years. Among the areas for which NIST hopes to develop guidance are diversified forms of authentication, automated indicator sharing and supply chain risk management.

Burg found the mention of increased threat information sharing, originally called for in EO 13636, promising based on his discussions with PwC’s clients, many of which are intrigued by the idea.

Coleman concurred that more organizations are beginning to find the need for more information sharing, but cautioned that such initiatives face natural barriers to implementation and adoption.

“The challenge with sharing as a whole is that people only share if they believe there is value in the information they can get in return,” Coleman said. “And maybe that’s just human nature, but that fact is a very difficult cultural challenge.”

Assante called for NIST to supplement the standard with more security metrics and to offer the technical advice organizations need to mitigate targeted attacks. Due to his experience going through a “very NIST-organized approach” when working on smart grid standards though, Assante fully understands just how difficult it can be to involve the sort of “busy” experts that could provide that needed input in a “process-driven” endeavor.

“Does NIST have a process that will allow it to deal with the dynamic nature of cyber and to move toward a better state other than just a starting point?” Assante asked. “I’m worried that NIST has to do a consensus process, and that’s probably going to shape the future of this framework more than anything.”


Pentagon, Congress Begin Rewriting DoD Acquisition Laws

Feb. 16, 2014 – 03:45AM | By MARCUS WEISGERBER | Comments


WASHINGTON — The Pentagon and the US Congress have begun the tedious effort of reviewing decades of antiquated, cumbersome defense acquisition policies to speed up the defense procurement process and get more bang for the buck.

Unlike previous acquisition improvement projects, which in some cases made the process more complicated, those leading this effort are optimistic because lawmakers and Defense Department officials are tackling this review together. These officials also believe that the decline in US defense spending provides incentives to make the project successful.


“The idea is not to really change any of the intent behind the existing laws, but just to simplify that body of law, make it more comprehensible, make it easier to implement and make it something that is much more focused on results and not as confusing and complex for everybody,” Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, said during an interview in December.

The House Armed Services Committee’s vice chairman, Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, is leading the project on the congressional side. Thornberry is a strong candidate to succeed committee Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., who is not seeking re-election this year.

“What I would like to see is more efficient use of taxpayer dollars to get more defense out of the money we spend, but also a simpler system that gives actually more authority, but also more accountability to the people who are making the decision,” Thornberry said during a Feb. 12 taping of Defense News’ TV show.

The group plans to comb over federal statutes and regulations to “thin out and simplify what we have,” Thornberry said.

Over the years, many acquisition regulations have been put in place, sometimes in response to a specific issue. Some of these regulations have constrained and taken agility away from the acquisition system, Thornberry said.

One approach might be to incorporate sunset provisions, “so that it force[s] us to look at the laws that we pass and the regulations that stem from them,” the congressman said.

“I think more often, what happens is if there is a problem, then some new regulation, some new law, some new oversight office comes into play, which often is an overreaction and then over time, those build up and … constrain the system,” Thornberry said.

Some of these regulations constrain program managers and could even drive up program costs, he said.

“One of the key parts of our effort is to make sure we understand the incentives for the program managers — what are they rewarded for, what are they punished for — because that’s really more important than any new law or regulation that is imposed on them from the top,” he said.

Andrew Hunter, head of the Pentagon’s Joint Rapid Acquisition Office, is leading the Pentagon effort for Kendall.

“Hopefully, this will be a collaborative effort and we’ll come up with something that will be very acceptable to everybody,” Kendall said.

“I think one element that gives us a chance is the fact that Mr. Kendall and other folks at the Pentagon — as well as people on both sides of the Capitol and both sides of the aisle — agree that we must make this effort,” Thornberry said. “It really is a joint effort, or more than joint by the time you add the House and the Senate and the Pentagon together.”

Even though the project does not have a name yet, the goal is to produce a set of legislative proposals over the next year or so


Pentagon Budget Stuck in Last Century as Warfare Changes

By Gopal Ratnam Feb 19, 2013 12:01 AM ET 82 Comments Email




The Obama administration foresees 21st century wars fought with fewer boots on the ground and more drones in the air, while the Pentagon continues buying weapons from the last century.

In his Feb. 12 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama said America no longer needs to deploy tens of thousands of troops to occupy nations or meet the evolving threat from new extremist groups. Cyber-attacks are the “rapidly growing threat,” he said.

Nevertheless, the defense budget contains hundreds of billions of dollars for new generations of aircraft carriers and stealth fighters, tanks that even the Army says it doesn’t need and combat vehicles too heavy to maneuver in desert sands or cross most bridges in Asia, Africa or the Middle East.

“There’s a fundamental need to have a conversation about what kind of military we need to have and what we should expect it to do,” Andrew Bacevich, a West Point graduate and former Army colonel who now teaches at Boston University, said in an interview.

In the absence of such a conversation, the Pentagon faces the prospect of $500 billion in automatic cuts over the next decade, beginning March 1, with no consensus on what to trim. Instead, the budget is driven largely by champions of existing programs in Congress, the defense industry and the uniformed services. As a result, predicts Bacevich: “The behemoth of an entity called the Pentagon is not going to shrink.”


Contracts Plunge

Uncertainty has proven painful for defense contractors, especially smaller companies that don’t have deals locked in for months or years to come. Pentagon contracts plunged to $12.1 billion in January, a 67 percent decrease from December, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, as the military reined in spending in anticipation of the cuts that may be coming.

The Standard & Poor’s Aerospace and Defense Index gained 7.5 percent in the past 12 months, trailing the 13 percent gain for the broader Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

Pentagon spending cuts, should they remain in force over a decade, would mean “changes in the portfolios of Lockheed, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics and Boeing,” the biggest U.S. defense contractors, Byron Callan, a defense analyst in Washington at Capital Alpha Partners LLC, said in an interview. “Five years from now they’ll look different.”

Information technology units may be spun off and then consolidated, while slow-growing operations such as shipbuilding and armored-vehicle manufacturing may end up in the hands of private equity investors, Callan said.


Major Weapons

The U.S. spent $689 billion on defense in 2011, more than 40 percent of all such spending globally in 2011, according to data compiled by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the Pentagon had $1.58 trillion of major weapons projects on its books. Those include the F-35 jet fighter, which is seven years behind schedule and costing 70 percent more than planned; the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship, plagued by cracks, flaws and a price that’s doubled to $440 million each; and M1 tanks the Army doesn’t want.

Even if the budget cuts happen, U.S. defense spending is projected to grow about 2.4 percent annually through 2021, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The military, the defense industry and their allies in Congress have gone to war over the automatic cuts, called sequestration, with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Army General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and other leaders saying they would devastate the military.


Deployments Canceled

If their budgets are cut, they argue, ship deployments will be canceled, training will be curtailed, maintenance will be delayed, weapons contracts will be withheld and the military will be unable to respond to contingencies.

“We’ve gone past cutting the meat — we’re into the bone,” Representative Howard “Buck” McKeon, the California Republican who heads the House Armed Services Committee, told a Feb. 6 news conference. He’s proposed reducing the number of federal employees and freezing congressional pay to preserve military spending.

Lost in the political melee over defense spending, said Bacevich, is the need for a 21st Century military strategy to keep pace with the changing nature of warfare and guide the drawdown of military forces and spending after more than a decade of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A year ago, Obama and the Defense Department issued a blueprint for a “smaller and leaner” military that would be “agile, flexible, and ready for the full range of contingencies.”


Every Possibility

Instead, the military’s effort to prepare for every possibility has encouraged the Pentagon and defense contractors such as the three largest — Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT), Chicago- based Boeing Co. (BA), and Northrop Grumman Corp. (NOC) based in Falls Church, Virginia — to keep developing ever more complex and costly weapons.

While the increased military spending of the last decade helped the Pentagon advance several battlefield capabilities, the Defense Department still has “too many programs that are not appropriate and do not provide the next-generation capabilities” needed, said Barry Blechman, co-founder of the Stimson Center, a Washington policy research institute.

Blechman cited the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter as an example of a weapons program that “provides some marginal improvement over existing F-16s, but nothing compared with the amount the Pentagon is planning to invest in it.” The program, which includes variants for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, could be cut or scaled back, Blechman said.


Increased 70%

The Pentagon estimates the cost for development and production of 2,443 F-35s at $395.7 billion, a 70 percent increase since the initial contract with Bethesda, Maryland- based Lockheed Martin (LMT) was signed in 2001. The jet is designed to replace the F-16 fighter, the A-10 “Warthog” ground attack plane, F-18C/D Hornet fighter and the Marine Corps’ AV-8B Harrier jump-jet.

Although the Army’s strength is set to decline by 72,000 by 2017, General Raymond Odierno, the Army Chief of Staff, has said the service must be able to send units large or small to any part of the globe. While the service should reorient itself toward engaging with allies and partners to prevent conflicts, it should be ready to “win wars on land,” Odierno wrote Feb. 4 in Foreign Policy magazine.

Nevertheless, the Army’s plan to spend as much as $32 billion to buy 1,904 new Ground Combat Vehicles, tank-like replacements for its Bradley Fighting Vehicle, “would be a mistake,” Blechman said. Instead, the Army needs improved capabilities for small forces that can move quickly to trouble spots, Blechman said. “I don’t know that the slightly improved version of the current ground vehicles is necessary.”


Vehicle’s 70 Tons

The new 70-ton vehicle may not be easily transportable by air or sea, and is likely to raise questions about “how quickly it could be deployed in the event of a conflict,” according to a January report by the Congressional Research Service.

While even the Army brass have said they don’t need an an updated version of the M1, the combat vehicle that was developed to go track-to-track with the Soviet Union’s tanks on the North German Plain, Congress wants to keep paying Falls Church, Virginia-based General Dynamics Corp. (GD) to gut and rebuild older tanks.

The Navy is building two versions of the Littoral Combat Ship instead of one as it had planned. Once billed as a low- cost, versatile ship for coastal patrols, the LCS’s price has doubled to $440 million a ship, and Pentagon testers have found that the ship’s guns are ineffective and the vessels may not survive combat.


Pacific Focus

One attraction of the LCS is that buying it will help the Navy reach its target of 300 ships, making it easier to fulfill the Pentagon’s plan to position 60 percent of its ships in the Pacific by 2020, an increase from the current equal division between the Pacific and Atlantic fleets.

That increased focus on Asia needs to be better spelled out, according to former Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, a retired Navy admiral who also once headed the U.S. Pacific Command, based in Honolulu.

“There’s no there there beyond a general appreciation of East Asia’s importance,” Blair said of the Obama administration’s emphasis on Asia. “It’s not a basis for how we solve a very difficult problem of ensuring we have a hedge against Chinese military aggression without launching ourselves into a spiraling arms race based on mutual suspicion and worst- case analysis.”


Not ‘Sacrosanct’

While they warn that further budget cuts would cripple the military, Panetta and Dempsey, as well as former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, have said the Pentagon can cut costs by eliminating jobs and waste.

“Not every defense dollar is sacrosanct,” Gates said in September at an event organized by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “One need only spend 10 minutes walking around the Pentagon or any major military headquarters to see excess and redundancy.”

As defense chief in 2009, Gates managed to cull 20 weapons systems he considered unnecessary or that had become too expensive. He stopped production of the F-22 fighter, canceled the VH-1 presidential helicopter and reduced the scope of Boeing’s Future Combat Systems.


Health-Care System

Weapons aren’t the only part of the Pentagon budget that has proven difficult to rein in. Rising operations and maintenance costs as well as “significant increases” in the military’s health-care system, which has been politically sacrosanct in the past, will be the primary causes of defense budget growth through 2030, the Congressional Budget Office said in a July report.

Promised savings mostly have eluded presidents and defense secretaries going back to the 1980s, said retired Marine Corps Major General Arnold Punaro, who’s been advising former Nebraska Republican senator Chuck Hagel, Obama’s nominee to succeed the retiring Panetta.

While military officials protest cuts to their forces, operations, maintenance and training, they’ve allowed their own staffs to grow, said Punaro, who’s now a consultant and last year headed a Defense Business Board panel to identify such excess.


Chiefs’ Staff

The size of the Joint Chiefs of Staff office has more than tripled to 4,244 in 2012 from 1,313 in 2010, according to the Pentagon’s annual manpower report.

“The Pentagon’s leadership should set an example” by reducing their staffs, Punaro said in an interview. “If senior people in the Pentagon can’t cut the size of the staff and the size of office of the secretary of defense, then how can they expect the rest of the department to tighten its belt?”

The increase stemmed mostly from the joint staff absorbing many employees of the Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Virginia, which was shuttered by Gates in 2011, Dempsey said in an e-mail. The additions were necessary because the joint staff “assumed responsibility for core missions” previously done by the Joint Forces Command, which was created in 1999 to lead the post-Cold War transformation of the U.S. military, Dempsey said.

Still, while the Pentagon is cutting combat forces, “We are not cutting the overhead proportionately,” Punaro said. “People have been trying to get at this issue in the Pentagon for 50 years. And frankly we haven’t really put a dent in the overhead costs. It’s not for the lack of trying.”


Following SAIC split, John Jumper to depart



By Marjorie Censer, Published: February 18 | Updated: Wednesday, February 19, 7:50 AM


The chief executive who shepherded McLean-based Science Applications International Corp. through the most significant restructuring in its nearly 45-year history plans to announce his retirement today.

John P. Jumper became chief executive of SAIC in early 2012, taking over a storied contractor that was facing a host of problems, from declining sales to a scandal surrounding a New York City contract that resulted in the removal of three company executives.

Almost immediately, Jumper took dramatic steps to reposition SAIC. Within months of his arrival, the contractor announced it would split into two pieces: a government services business that would retain the SAIC name and a technology company renamed Leidos that is focused on national security, engineering and health.

Following the split, which took more than a year and was completed in the fall, Jumper became chief executive of Reston-based Leidos. A retired four-star general, he previously served as Air Force chief of staff.

Jumper said in an interview Tuesday that he found overseeing SAIC’s split the most rewarding accomplishment of his tenure.

“I brought to the company the skills that I have at the right time [and] at the right place,” he said. “Now it’s time to really transition to someone who can drive the financial results and brings that career full of business experience.”

The Leidos board has begun searching for a new chief executive, looking at both internal and external candidates. Jumper has committed to stay on until a successor is named.

He said he would advise the new CEO to have “the mindset that there’s nothing broken that needs to be fixed,” he said. “We just need to execute the strategy that’s in place.”

Still, he recognized that contractors have had tougher times in recent years, given automatic spending cuts and uncertain budgets.

“The impacts of sequestration and some of the headwinds that we had that were unanticipated, I think, have stood in the way of being all that we can be,” he said.


Battle Over Wireless Spectrum Pits Military Needs Against Economic Interests

By Sandra I. Erwin



The U.S. military has spent decades and billions of dollars modernizing its information systems in preparation for a “network centric” age of warfare. But the Pentagon now faces an acute shortage of wireless spectrum, and will either have to curtail its appetite for data or will have to increasingly share portions of the electromagnetic spectrum with civilian users.

The Pentagon for years has been under pressure to relinquish prime spectrum “real estate,” and it has in the past agreed to do so. But officials caution that the military can no longer afford to give up spectrum and, instead, would be open to greater sharing of the airwaves with other users. The Obama administration has asked for an additional 500 megahertz so it can boost the capacity of commercial wireless carriers and extend Internet access to rural areas of the United States.

The allocation of wireless, or radio-frequency, spectrum is overseen by the Federal Communications Commission for commercial use and by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration for federal government use.

The Pentagon unveiled a new electromagnetic spectrum strategy Feb. 20 that suggests it will resist giving up more spectrum. The strategy calls for more efficient use of the airwaves and for greater collaboration with civilian agencies and the private sector. The Pentagon began to draft the strategy in 2010 after President Obama asked for 500 MHz of spectrum to be made available for commercial use by 2020. He mandated that federal agencies free up a significant portion of wireless spectrum so that it can be used by individuals and businesses to spur domestic economic growth.

For the military, the implications are significant. “Electromagnetic spectrum access is a prerequisite for modern military operations,” the DoD strategy says. The Defense Department sees rising demand for spectrum just as the global wireless broadband industry faces soaring consumer demand for global mobility and data access. “These competing requirements for finite spectrum resources have changed the spectrum landscape, nationally and internationally, for the foreseeable future,” says the strategy.” In the future, “our national leaders will be challenged to make decisions that balance national security with economic interests.”

Teri Takai, the Defense Department’s chief information officer and the architect of the strategy, says regulatory agencies, the Pentagon and the telecom industry should work together on this issue. “We must identify ways to make more spectrum available for commercial use, and find technologies that enhance spectrum sharing, all while improving how DoD accesses spectrum,” she tells reporters Feb. 20 at a Pentagon news conference.

Takai pushes back on the idea that the Pentagon will have to get by with less spectrum. “We are not making the assumption that DoD will have to make do with less spectrum,” she says. The question is how the military’s needs can be met along with commercial needs, she says. “There are ways to do that. It’s not all or nothing,” says Takai. “We all need to be more efficient in how we use spectrum. … We all have the same challenges.”

An immediate course of action, she says, will be to regulate the procurement of data-hungry equipment so it does not exacerbate the spectrum shortage. The Pentagon will provide guidelines to program managers, she says, to “make spectrum management a more critical part of our future acquisition programs.” A system that targets a specific spectrum band is not desirable, she says. Systems should be “flexible and agile” in how they use spectrum.

A stark illustration of how spectrum affects military procurements is the Army’s limitations in what wireless systems it can buy, such as 4G networks. When the military is at war, it can grab spectrum for emergency use. To deploy 4G networks for routine peacetime operations, the Army needs licensed spectrum. Increased deployments of unmanned air vehicles across all branches of the military also aggravate the spectrum crunch.

The military agreed to share the frequencies from 1755 to 1780 megahertz with commercial companies and to vacate the 1710 to 1755 bands. Takai’s deputy, Air Force Maj. Gen. Robert E. Wheeler, says he fears that the encroachment on military spectrum will only increase, and insists that the Pentagon should take preemptive measures.

“Spectrum is the thread that ties all of DoD together,” Wheeler says Feb. 18 in a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Data traffic across the military grows consistently by 20 percent each year, he says. “It is clear that more spectrum is going to be required — or more efficient use of spectrum.”

Shifting spectrum allocations can be a risky and costly business, he warns. “You have to be extremely careful of where it touches.” Interference can be a life or death proposition in military operations such as missile defense, he says.

Modern technologies such as dynamic spectrum might be one way to cope with the shortage, he says. Taking military satellites off certain bands can cost billions of dollars. There are Defense Department satellites today in bands that the telecom industry needs. These are satellites that were put in orbit in the industrial age when the Pentagon had ample access to spectrum.

Wheeler says he worries that the military’s airwaves will continue to be targeted in the information age. “It is a never-ending move.” Possible solutions might be compression technologies and spectrum sharing, he adds. “We are going to have to think through how we do business in the future if we’re going to use every single piece of that spectrum correctly,” Wheeler says. “We’re going to have to do more sharing in the future. We understand that. That’s going to require a technology and regulatory piece, and policy, and we’re working hard to make that happen.”


Wage hike’s impact on DoD far from clear

Feb. 20, 2014 – 07:53PM |

By Karen Jowers

Staff writer


A 39 percent increase in the minimum wage for federal contract workers will be good news for the many military spouses and veterans who work for these contractors when it takes effect next January.

But defense and service officials are still far from sorting out other possible effects on military installations — to include prices of products in on-base retail activities and funding for morale, welfare and recreation programs.

Military officials and industry representatives will know more in the coming months about how the Feb. 12 executive order signed by President Obama will affect installations, troops and families.

The minimum wage will increase from the current $7.25 per hour to $10.10 for employees of companies with new federal contracts beginning Jan. 1, and will also apply to replacements for expiring contracts. And it calls for a wage hike each year after, based on inflation.

People serving food to troops and individuals with disabilities maintaining the grounds on military bases were two examples the White House offered of workers who will see their wages increase.

For the Defense Department, the biggest impact may be seen at the installation level, said DoD spokeswoman Maureen Schumann.

DoD contracts touch a large swath of programs for goods and services on military installations, but because those contracts are largely decentralized, many decisions will be made at the base leadership level, Schumann said.

For example, if a contract for janitorial services calls for office cleanings at a specific frequency and bids for a new contract come in higher than expected because of the wage hike, leadership will have to determine how to restructure the contract — possibly by reducing the frequency of the cleaning.

The two largest groups likely to be affected are employees working for companies with janitorial services and food concessions contracts, such as fast food outlets operating as concessions through the military exchanges, said Paco Fabian, a spokesman for Good Jobs Nation, which has advocated for higher wages for federal contract workers.

A February report from the Congressional Budget Office noted that according to conventional economic analysis, increasing the minimum wage improves the lives of low-wage workers by increasing family income.

But it also reduces employment. When employers have to pay their workers more to produce goods and services, they pass some of those increased costs on to consumers in the form of higher prices, which in turn, leads to consumers purchasing fewer goods and services. Then those companies produce fewer goods and services, so they hire fewer workers.

A higher minimum wage also may lead employers to shift to other less expensive options, such as machines and technology.

About 58,000 people work for companies that supply goods and services to DoD retail activities, according to a report from the Coalition to Save Our Military Shopping Benefits. It is not known how many are military spouses and veterans.

However, 25,375 veterans and military spouses have been hired by member companies and associations as a result of the American Logistics Association’s participation int he White House’s Joining Forces hiring initiative, said ALA spokesman Candace Wheeler.

ALA members supply goods and services for sale in commissaries, exchanges and MWR activities.


One industry representative said the wage hike may lead to price increases on hamburgers, subs and other food sold through concessions on military bases, and for other products and services at concessions operated by the exchanges and MWR activities.

It also could lead some concessionaires to decide they just don’t want to do business on bases. One service official said there is concern about a number of concession contracts coming up for negotiations this year.

The industry representative said commissaries also will be affected. For example, delicatessens operate as concessions, and industry employees stock shelves. It’s unclear if the wage hike will affect companies that supply products to commissaries and exchanges.

He said current estimates indicate the higher minimum wage will lower annual earnings of the military exchanges by about $80 million, and of morale, welfare and recreation programs by another $30 to $40 million.

That could mean less money going to military community programs and to build and renovate exchanges. “This compounds a series of events negatively impacting exchanges, including increasing pressure on dividends, decreasing appropriations to military community programs, and decreasing sales because of the troop drawdown,” he said.

“There are emerging severe unintended consequences that will affect these services for troops and families,” he said. “This is uncharted territory.”

“Without the Secretary of Labor’s implementation guidance, we cannot yet fully assess” the impact of the wage hike, said Kristine Sturkie, spokeswoman for the Navy Exchange Service Command.

Officials from the other military exchanges referred questions to defense officials, who did not provide a comment by press time.

A commissary official said it is premature to discuss the potential impact until the executive order is “fully implemented and any new wage determinations are incorporated into DeCA contracts.”


USAF Defends Need for New Long-Range Bomber

Feb. 20, 2014 – 03:45AM | By AARON MEHTA | Comments


ORLANDO, FLA. — The Air Force needs its new long-range strike bomber, even if it can’t give details.

That was the message of a panel held Thursday at the annual Air Force Association Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Fla.

The panel featured a full-throated defense of the long-range strike bomber as a key asset for the future of the Air Force. It was a slightly puzzling attitude, given that the bomber has been identified as one of the big three key modernization programs for the service and has secured what Lt. Gen. Burton Field, deputy chief of staff for operations, plans and requirements, called “great support” from Pentagon and congressional leadership.

“Bombers can send messages. They can influence or initiate action, and they are credible because of what they have done in the past,” Field said, specifically citing events last year when a B-2 bomber flew near North Korea and a B-52 was flown through China’s new air defense zone. “Bombers can send messages fast, and they send messages with credibility.”

Just how those messages would be sent is still unclear. Information on the bomber remains sparse, although Field offered some general hints.


The new platform will be fielded in the mid-2020s, with penetrating capability in mind. The service will procure between 80 and 100 of the bombers, which will mostly be made with existing technologies. Those platforms will also have both stand-off and direct-attack munitions and room for a “significant” payload.

Field clarified after the panel that the 80- to 100 range is more about uncertainty over the price — the service wants to keep the cost for the program under $550 million per plane — rather than a figure representing the minimum number of bombers needed to mitigate risk (Note: An earlier version of this story did not specify that the $550 million price tag was per plane).

Asked whether there would be a ramp in funding in the FY 2015 budget, Field replied: “No, I don’t think so.”

He also indicated that the bomber would be manned in early production, but the service will look at whether to add unmanned capabilities down the road.

While the new bomber will be based on existing technology, both Field and his co-panelist, analyst Rebecca Grant, talked about the need for the platform to move technologies forward.

“It will be through this bomber program that we have our best chance right now of bringing in the exotic new technologies of the future into new development,” Grant said, citing developments such as directed energy weaponry, hypersonics and alternative fuels as options that could be looked at.


Welsh Lays Out Air Staff Reorganization

Feb. 20, 2014 – 07:16PM | By AARON MEHTA | Comments


ORLANDO, FLA. — The Air Force is reorganizing how the Air Staff handles operations, the service’s top officer announced Thursday.

The reorganization splits both Operations, Plans and Requirements (A3/5) and Strategic Plans and Programs (A8). The new Operations (A3) directorate will stand alone, while the planning staffs will form a new A5/8 directorate.

Additionally, the current budget responsibilities from A8 will be merged with the service’s financial management arm.

The move was unveiled by Gen. Mark Welsh, USAF Chief of Staff, at the Air Force Association’s annual Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Fla. Welsh said the change was part of an overall look at how the service plans strategy and operations.

“As part of that reorganization, we’re looking at taking our A3/5 that exists today, and our A8, and we’re taking the operations and plans function of A3/5 and we’re going to make the A3 an operator again,” Welsh said. “We’re going to move the strategic planning strategy, and then long-range resource planning into the A5/8. And we’re going to take the sausage-making part of the A8 out and put it into the FM.”

“So all the people who do the grinding on entering stuff into the databases and keeping the numbers right and doing the accounting are now all going to be working for the same boss,” he continued. “This allows the A5/8 to think about the strategy side of the house. Maybe we can actually get to a place where we build a strategy and a plan that can inform the resource work that we’re doing. That’s the goal.”

The reorganization brings the service more in line with the directorates on the Joint Chiefs. It may also be a first step towards reducing headquarters staff, something that Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has made a priority across the Pentagon.



The End of the New ICBM

Stephen Young February 18, 2014


Last week, at a conference full of advocates for modernizing the United States’ nuclear triad, something big happened: the idea of developing a new, nuclear-armed, ground-based long-range missile fell off the table.

The nuclear triad — missiles, bombers and submarines that can deliver nuclear weapons — is under fire from all sides, as that force needs upgrading right when there is little budget or public appetite to do so. The Air Force is considering options for replacing or extending the life of the Minuteman III missile, or what it calls the ground-based strategic deterrent. Currently 450 of these weapons, most armed with a single nuclear warhead, are located in underground silos at three bases spread across North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska. Programs are in place to ensure that the Minuteman can stay in service at least until 2030. Last January, the Air Force announced it was considering several options to replace Minuteman, including new, silo-based and mobile missiles on trucks or in an underground rail-based approach similar to a subway system.

But a major blow to developing a new missile came on February 4, with the publication of an Air Force-funded RAND study. That detailed analysis found that an “all-new ICBM system will likely cost almost twice (and perhaps even three times) as much as incremental modernization and sustainment of the MM III system.” Specifically, RAND estimated that the lifecycle costs for incrementally modernizing the Minuteman III would be $60 to $90 billion, while a new silo-based ICBM would cost between $84 billion and $125 billion. Rail- and road-mobile versions would cost significantly more, from $124 billion to $219 billion.

The impact of that study was felt at last week’s three-day Nuclear Deterrence Summit, organized by Nuclear Weapons & Materials Monitor. The conference is a veritable who’s who of triad aficionados and the message was clear: maintain the triad, but at an affordable cost. Maj. Gen. Garrett Harencak, assistant chief of staff for strategic deterrence and nuclear integration, who is responsible for the Air Force’s nuclear deterrence operations, argued that it was long past time for the U.S. to make the significant investments that will be required to recapitalize the strategic triad of delivery vehicles and the nuclear devices they carry. He appealed to the audience for a “glide path” — military speak for a sensible and gradual plan — that would maintain U.S. nuclear forces without breaking the bank. Harencak acknowledged that alternative ICBM proposals like the rail-mobile approach had come under ridicule, arguing that the analysis was simply a study of possible options, nothing more. He also recognized that in the current budget environment it would not be possible for the U.S. to replace every system developed during the Cold War.

Later, Amb. Linton Brooks, who negotiated the first START arms control agreement for President George H.W. Bush and later headed the National Nuclear Security Administration, said that there was no reason to consider a new ICBM at this time. Further extending the life of the Minuteman beyond 2030 was not only feasible but eminently sensible. And Peter Huessy, who for decades has organized an Air Force Association lecture series for Congressional members and staff, argued that simply extending the life of the Minuteman III would save some $30 billion over a new ICBM.

With that, the case was closed. In the current budget environment, the outcome is inevitable. The Air Force will not build a new ICBM. The new question: When it becomes necessary to extend the life of the Minuteman, will the missile still be required?



Wright-Patterson Air Force Base to lease 6 sites to cut costs

Posted: 5:49 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014

By Barrie Barber – Staff Writer



Wright-Patterson Air Force Base will lease up to six spots on and off the sprawling 8,145 acre military installation in a push to build public and private partnerships and cut costs with defense budgets shrinking.

Potential stakeholders toured the locations Thursday and brainstormed ways to make use of the land and create or extend partnerships between the base and outside organizations in academia, industry and government.

At least 130 people filled the Holiday Inn in Fairborn with ideas on how to partner in the medical, education, research, test and development fields, infrastructure services and life cycle and supply chain management — areas where Wright-Patterson has a significant presence with the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Air Force Institute of Technology, Air Force Research Laboratory and Wright-Patterson Medical Center.

“This effort represents a dramatic change from the traditional approach of military bases to be entirely self-contained and to provide all of its own services,” said Michael Gessel, Dayton Development Coalition vice president of federal programs, said in a telephone interview.

Organizers say the partnerships could cover everything from sharing the cost of some municipal services like buying road salt or patching potholes to constructing new buildings in areas along the fence line with a dual military and civilian use.

“We live in unprecedented times and it’s time to do things in an unprecedented way,” said Col. Cassie B. Barlow, commander of the 88th Air Base Wing at Wright-Patterson.”… This whole process is about getting through the walls that used to be there.”

Riverside Mayor Bill Flaute hoped his neighboring city and the base could find common ground to partner on shared issues such as finding a place for senior citizens to meet and patching potholes.

“We know it’s being done around the country, so why not here?” he asked.

The Air Force will sign enhanced-use lease for up to 50-years, said Alex Colby, chief of the enhanced use lease business development branch at the Air Force Civil Engineer Center in San Antonio, Texas. The military could be reimbursed through cash or an in-kind contribution, such as new construction, depending on terms of the specific deal, he said. The process, now in its initial stages, could take 12 months, until the first leases are signed. Wright-Patterson leaders would consider land outside of the designated sites to suit a specific user, officials said.


The on and off base locations next to the fence line would open more land near the high demand “beltway” along Colonel Glenn Highway and Pentagon Boulevard, said Peter J. Williams, an official with the Greene County Department of Development.

“The real estate there is still very, very high demand and I think it’s because people want to be close to the base,” Williams said. “The idea that we can have parcels that offer proximity that may not have been on the market before (is) really creating something where we know there is a demand.”

Jeff Weissman, a real estate and energy consultant based in Huntsville, Ala., said the potential is high for leased parcels, noting a similar initiative at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., proved successful. But it’s too early to speculate on results at Wright-Patterson, he said.

“It’s hard to say at this early stage how big it could be or how small it could be,” he said.

The Defense Department started similar initiatives on 16 military bases last year and will expand to 30 bases this year.

The Air Force has brokered deals reaching $1 billion on enhanced use leases at other bases with a goal of $5 billion, Air Force figures show.

The Wright-Patterson parcels include: 5.8 acres bordered on the east by National Road and Kauffman Avenue on the north, and eight acres on the opposite side of National Road. The base counts both pieces of land as one parcel.

An 18.9-acre parcel outside the base fence line at Mission Point and bounded to the north by Colonel Glenn Highway and Interstate 675 exit ramps.

A 17.7-acre plot in the area of Twin Base Golf Course and Gate 16A, a truck inspection entryway. The area is bounded by Ohio 444 to the south, Communications Boulevard to the north and northwest, Hebble Creek to the east and the golf course to the west. If developed, the base would need to relocate the truck inspection gate, officials said.

A 20.9-acre plot that includes an excess parking lot outside Air Force Material Command headquarters. The area is bounded by Kuglics Boulevard to the northwest, Warner Robbins and Ogden Avenue to the north and northeast, Ohio 844 and Gate 15A to the west, and an Ohio 844 exit ramp to Ohio 444 to the south.

A 40.9-acre parcel near the main runway and bounded by Loop Road to the west and Ohio 235 to the north and east. The parcel can only be used to offset development if the existing truck inspection point at Gate 16A needs to be relocated, officials said.

A 31.7-acre parcel, formerly military housing, bounded by Ohio 444/Spruce Way to the east, and Redbud Lane to the west and in the area of the Hope Hotel and Conference Center and the Wright-Patterson Medical Center.


Why Facebook Just Spent $19 Billion on a Messaging App

By Robinson Meyer

February 20, 2014


Late Wednesday, Facebook announced its purchase of WhatsApp for $16 billion. $4 billion in cash and $12 billion in Facebook stock were granted to the company, with an additional $3 billion worth of Facebook stock to come.

WhatsApp makes a glorified texting app. It lets you send text and pictures to another WhatsApp user’s phone. Free to use for the first year, it costs $1 annually after that.

Why, you may be wondering, would Facebook spend $19 billion on it?

To answer, it helps to tell a story about two of my friends. They’re dating. Last year, one of them—we’ll call him Nick—lived in the small African nation of Lesotho. The other—we’ll call her Julie—lived in Chicago. This year, they switched. Nick lives in New York City. Julie lives in Mumbai.

On the home screen of Nick’s iPhone (at right), there aren’t many apps. There’s Google Maps, Gmail, a camera. There are three social networks—Twitter, Facebook, Instagram—of which Facebook owns two.

And there’s WhatsApp. WhatsApp lets Nick and Julie text and send pictures across international borders, skirting international SMS fees and only paying for the cost of data. They both use it daily.

They aren’t the only ones. In December, WhatsApp announced it had reached 400 million active monthly users, with 100 million of them having joined since just September. It’s now up to 450 million monthly active users. According to Facebook’s Wednesday filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, 70 percent of those people are active on a single day, and 1 million people download WhatsApp every day.

That’s 315 million people using WhatsApp every day. In the same filing, Facebook claims that the amount of data that passes through WhatsApp rivals “the entire global telecom SMS volume.”

(For reference, by the way, Facebook said it had 945 million monthly active users for its own, non-WhatsApp services in January.)

But is it worth $19 billion? No one’s really sure. But as John Herrman writes at Buzzfeed, WhatsApp was “one of the only services that could plausibly claim to be cannibalizing Facebook on a large scale, and one of a small few that pose it an existential threat.”

What’s more, buying WhatsApp fits into a pattern that’s emerged from Facebook. For me, there are three clear reasons why Facebook spent crazy money on the new messaging giant.

1. Facebook wants to dominate among mobile apps. Facebook has a history of simply up and buying mobile apps when they start to dominate. It bought Instagram in April 2012 for $1 billion. It tried to buy Snapchat for $3 billion. And—as Herrman has reported—it spent $100 million last fall to buy the best mobile app analytics usage firm. If an app has tons of mobile users, Facebook knows, perhaps before almost anyone else.

It’s this same, mobile app-focused strategy that led it to release Paper early this month. Paper is a newsreading app, but it’s also simply a better mobile version of Facebook. It’s Facebook content through a new, designified lens—and it heralds a new “multi-app strategy,” wherein Facebook lets many different kinds of apps spring from its walled garden.

Facebook has a history of buying successful mobile apps, especially those with a social component. WhatsApp is a bananas successful mobile app. Ergo…

2. Facebook wants to dominate in messaging apps. It’s not yet a sure thing that Facebook users will keep wanting to, er, Facebook: to engage in the daily exchange of pictures, status updates, and wall posts that keep the social network feeling fertile. (That might be part of the reason why the service hasstarted to display more links to news stories on its News Feed: Web publishers are already making a product, on a daily basis, that’s meant to engage users.)

But messaging: People always have to chat with each other. And while messaging apps rise and fall quickly (when was the last time you AIM’d someone?), they also offer an enduring source of engagement. And if you can lock in users—lock in enough of people’s real-life social networks that there’s little reason to stray from the app—it doesn’t matter if other, better apps come along.


Messaging apps are also one of the few parts of the social web that grew over the past two years. It’s in response to WhatsApp, Snapchat, and the Chinese-centric WeChat that Twitter improved its direct messaging feature in December, after years of neglect. It’s in response to the same that Instagramcreated a direct photo messaging feature. Both Twitter and Facebook responded to WhatsApp and Snapchat by making it easier to send privately photos to other users.

Is anyone using their services? We don’t know. But we do know that, as of October, people sent 400 million photos every day over WhatsApp.

3. Facebook wants to dominate in the developing world.

Facebook, like many of the major social networks, may have maxed out its membership among U.S. users. There simply aren’t many people who have yet to join who will ever join. The only place Facebook has left to grow is the developing world.

It’s already trying to grab users there. As Christopher Mims at our sister publication Quartz has detailed, Facebook makes many of its basic features free on non-smartphones using an old web protocol. This version of the service, called Facebook Zero, won it fast growth in 2012 in places like Nigeria, Ghana, and Kenya. The social network tried other strategies, like partnering with mobile phone companies and creating Facebook-specific apps, to gain users in Mexico.

Since then, WhatsApp has won users in those places. In May 2013, Forrester research analyst Charles Golvin told Buzzfeed’s Charlie Warzel the following: “In places like Brazil, Mexico, Spain, and a number of other markets you see extraordinary numbers. Twenty-five percent of the time people spend on smartphones, they’re spending in WhatsApp.”

WhatsApp, in those countries, has often replaced SMS. (SMS charges everywhere can be exorbitant.) WhatsApp—with text and photo-sharing—is the rising social network Facebook wanted to be.

What’s more, WhatsApp often connects Western users with their friends in the developing world. Think of Nick and Julie above: WhatsApp is the link between two American Facebook users, each with a social network in India and Lesotho, respectively. If you’re trying to find users to whom you can show expensive ads, following the connections—from the U.S., out—isn’t a bad strategy.

That said, $16 billion—and maybe $19 billion, eventually—is a huge, insane amount of money.

So: Will WhatsApp keep growing? Will it give Zuckerberg better footing in in the developing world? And will it let Facebook make money from phones the same way it used to make money from desktops, and lock in the 10 year-old giant as not only the winner of the great social era (2004–2012), but the great mobile era (2012–?), too?

What’s more: Is a texting app, with security problems, that routes cheaply around a service which Internet providers charge for, really worth more than a company that transports people across the country, in gigantic, metal, flying ships?

Now we find out.


Coming Soon: Free Internet From Space

By Alex Brown

February 20, 2014


If all goes according to plan, North Koreans will soon have free, uncensored Internet provided by satellites the size of toaster ovens.

That’s part of a project called Outernet, which hopes to launch hundreds of tiny satellites—known as CubeSats—to provide Internet to every person on Earth. Forty percent of the world’s people currently don’t have access to the Web. In a little more than a year, Outernet plans to have a fleet of 24 satellites operational and testing to pave the way for a globe-spanning network.

The satellites won’t be providing conventional Internet right away. They’ll initially be used for one-way communication to provide services like emergency updates, news, crop prices, and educational programs. Users will help determine what content is offered.

Outernet, according to its website, “is able to bypass censorship, ensure privacy and offer a universally accessible information service at no cost to global citizens.” The project’s backers say knowledge is a human right—one they intend to provide even in countries where dictators have thus far limited access. For now, they want to make “a basic level of news, information, education, and entertainment … available to all of humanity.”

It will be at least five years before Outernet can offer the more interactive Web as we know it, which allows users to both access information and upload it, said Syed Karim, director of innovation for the Media Development Investment Fund, Outernet’s backer.

Worldwide Internet could be available sooner, Karim said, if telecom giants invested in a few mega-capacity satellites like North America’s ViaSat-1. Three years and $12 billion is all it would take to get the job done, he estimated. “We don’t have $12 billion, so we’ll do as much as we can with CubeSats and broadcast data,” Karim said.

How much will it cost? Putting a 10x10x10-centimeter payload into orbit runs more than $100,000. A 34x10x10 satellite—the biggest unit Outernet is considering—costs more than $300,000 to launch. Now, multiply that by hundreds of satellites. “We want to stay as small as possible, because size and weight are directly related to dollars,” Karim said. “Much of the size is dictated by power requirements and the solar panels needed satisfy those requirements.”

To determine the range and size of its global fleet, Outernet will have to determine the gain on its signal. A higher gain would lower the satellite’s reach but provide faster speeds. The first fleet’s testing will help determine the right balance.

While Outernet’s engineers test and prepare for launch, they’re seeking support from those who believe in their cause. In addition to traditional donation sources like Paypal, they’re also accepting online currencies like bitcoin and Dogecoin (bitcoin blockchains are among the initial services the one-way signals will offer). They’re also asking NASA to let them test their technology on the International Space Station.




Rasmussen Reports

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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Let’s party – or maybe not. That’s the big decision facing Republicans this election cycle.

Seventy-seven percent (77%) of Likely Republican Voters think it’s important for Republicans in Congress to work with the Tea Party, but just 38% of these voters believe the Tea Party will help the GOP in elections this November.

After all, only 31% of all voters nationwide now view the Tea Party movement favorably. Forty-seven percent (47%) do not.

At the same time, voters share many of the sentiments that prompted the creation of the Tea Party. Voters by a two-to-one margin, for example, favor a smaller government with fewer services and lower taxes over a larger one with more services and higher taxes.

Voters continue to give Congress rock-bottom ratings, and only eight percent (8%) think most members of Congress get reelected because they do a good job representing their constituents.

But right now Democrats lead Republicans by four points on the Generic Congressional Ballot.

President Obama is faring slightly better when it comes to his daily job approval ratings. Yet while  his ratings in some key issue areas are also improving, they still have a ways to go.

Consider that the president made income inequality the central issue of last month’s State of the Union address, but only 39% of voters think he is doing a good or excellent job handling issues related to economic fairness. That compares to 42% a year ago.

Forty-one percent (41%) give the president good or excellent marks for his handling of issues related to health care, up from a recent low of 30% in November. But slightly more (46%) still give Obama poor marks in this area.

Seventy-seven percent (77%) think employers and individuals should be allowed to buy insurance plans across state lines, something that is now prohibited by the president’s new national health care law. That’s the highest level of support measured for this type of choice in regular Rasmussen Reports tracking.

Just 31% of voters agree with Secretary of State John Kerry that global warming is now “perhaps the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.”  Despite Kerry’s dismissal of those who question global warming as belonging to the Flat Earth Society, voters are almost evenly divided when asked if global warming is proven scientific fact.

However, global warming advocates seem to be winning the public relations battle with fewer voters than ever (35%) who now think the problem is due to long-term planetary trends. Voters still aren’t overly enthusiastic about paying more to deal with the climate issue, though.

Despite U.S. protests, Afghan authorities last week released 65 prisoners, some involved in attacks on Americans, so it’s not surprising that voters remain pessimistic about a war now in its thirteenth year.

Fifty-two percent (52%) favor an immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

Consumer and investor confidence were up at week’s end. 

Still, just 51% of Americans are now at least somewhat confident in the stability of the U.S. banking industry, with only 15% who are Very Confident.

Twenty-two percent (22%) say the interest rates they are paying now are higher than last year at this time, while 13% say they are lower. 
Fifty percent (50%) lack confidence in the Federal Reserve Board’s ability to keep interest rates and inflation down, including 17% who are Not At All Confident.

Florida’s “stand your ground” self-defense law made headlines again this month after a jury there found Michael Dunn not guilty of first-degree murder for shooting a teenager after an argument over loud music. Forty-one percent (41%) of Americans now believe “stand your ground” laws improve public safety, up seven points from 34% in July.

Fifty-eight percent (58%) trust a jury more than a judge to determine the guilt or innocence of someone accused of criminal behavior. Just 22% trust a judge more, while nearly as many (20%) are not sure.

When it comes to gun-related issues, not surprisingly, our surveys have found that there’s often a world of difference between those with a gun in their household and those who don’t have a gun around.  So what do these two Americas think about these hot-button issues? 

In other surveys this week:

— Thirty percent (30%) of voters believe the United States is heading in the right direction.

— Sixty-eight percent (68%) of Americans with school-age children think parents should have a choice between sending their children to a school where disciplinary spanking is allowed and a school where spanking is not allowed.

— Forty-nine percent (49%) think buying a home is the best investment most families can make, consistent with findings for the last couple years. An all-time high of 67% felt that way in May 2009.

George Washington and Abraham Lincoln remain Americans’ favorite presidents, although few consider the holiday last Monday that honored them to be one of the nation’s most important.


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