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May 10 2014

May 12, 2014



Drone Analyst Research Unveils Impact of FAA Regulations on Small UAS Businesses

by Patrick Egan • 5 May 2014


Research finds unfavorable rules will disintegrate an already fragile market for small unmanned aerial systems in the U.S., but significant market growth awaits once FAA regulations allow

REDWOOD CITY, CA, May 5, 2014 — Drone Analyst ( today released a report detailing the findings of its newest research called “Impact of FAA Rules on sUAS Business.” The research examines the economic impact of current FAA policies for small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS) operating in Class G uncontrolled airspace and evaluates how commercial service providers and operators perceive those rules and assess their importance.

Since 2007, the FAA has essentially banned commercial use of sUAS in the U.S. through a series of statements and policies aimed at controlling activity until actual regulations are put in place. The Federal Aviation Administration Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 authorizes the FAA to issue licenses for commercial drone use in the U.S. The FAA modernization law was widely expected to result in tens of thousands of commercial drones being licensed to fly over U.S. airspace. So far, however, it has produced only uncertainty: a combined 71% of participants in the survey say current rules are unclear and indicated confusion around conditions under which it is currently legal to operate sUAS for commercial purposes in the U.S.  In fact, when offered 12 possibilities for conditions conducive to legal sUAS operation, the third most-checked condition was “the FAA does not regulate Class G air space.”

This research investigates the potential economic impact of both favorable and unfavorable future regulations, including revenue growth forecasts and hiring plans. Participants clearly identified five types of FAA regulations that would be unfavorable for their businesses, with 61% indicating they would simply not start or shutter their existing business operations if those unfavorable FAA regulations were in place.

“In light of our findings, we conclude the overall market for sUAS in the U.S. would disintegrate if unfavorable regulations come into being,” said Colin Snow, CEO and Founder of Drone Analyst. “All the positive economic impacts like revenue, job creation, and tax base creation—not to mention the practical benefits of U.S.-based drone business services—would not be realized.”

Research results will be presented at the Small Unmanned Systems Business Exposition May 8th and 9th, 2014, in San Francisco, CA. Drone Analyst, a leading sUAS research and advisory services firm, provides a summary and a complete report of the research and other consulting services based on key findings from the study.

To learn more about the Impact of FAA Rules on sUAS Business study, please visit




China to Lead World in Drone Production

by Gary Mortimer • 4 May 2014

By Zachary Keck


A state-owned Chinese defense company will be the largest unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) manufacturer over the next decade, according to a new industry forecast.

This week Forecast International, a private market researcher, published a forecast of the global UAV market over the next decade. The report predicts that the global drone market will more than double in the next ten years, rising from $942 million in 2014 to an annual $2.3 billion in 2023.

The expansion in the global drone market will be driven by increased costs rather than larger production. Indeed, Forecast International expects annual drone production to taper off by 2017, dropping from 1,000 systems this year to roughly 960 systems each year starting in 2017 and continuing through the rest of the decade.

The report forecasts that the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), a state-owned Chinese defense company, will lead the world in UAV production. According to Forecast International, AVIC will produce about $5.76 billion worth of UAVs through 2023. This is more than half of the UAVs by value that will be produced during this time period. Nearly all these will be sold to Chinese consumers.

AVIC and its subsidiaries already produce a number of UAVs for the Chinese market. As Avionics Intelligence explains, “AVIC manufacturers a wide range of UAVs, including its electrically powered micro air vehicle (MAV), the jet-powered LIEOE, which appears almost identical to the Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk, for reconnaissance, surveillance, and attack missions, the AVIC Sky Eye, an electrically unmanned helicopter designed to be deployed by artillery or rocket round, for reconnaissance and targeting, and the TL-8 Sky Dragon for simulating cruise missiles for Chinese military.”

China has also indicated how it might deploy its growing drone fleet on a couple of occasions. For example, last year state media outlets reported that Beijing had considered conducting a drone strike somewhere in the Golden Triangle to eliminate a Myanmar drug dealer who was wanted in China. It later decided to capture him alive.

Similarly, around the time of the one year anniversary of Japan’s nationalization of the Senkaku Islands in September 2012, Japanese authorities announced they had scrambled aircraft in response to a then-unidentified UAV flying in the vicinity of the islands. China later confirmed that the UAV belonged to it and said it had been on a routine mission. In the weeks following the UAV flight, Japanese media began reporting that the government in Tokyo was studying plans to shoot down foreign UAVs that entered into its airspace. China later said it would consider such a move as an act of war.

In this week’s report, Forecast International said that after AVIC, Northrop Grumman would be the largest UAV producer during the next decade. According to the forecast, Northrop Grumman — which produces the RQ-4B Global Hawk and the U.S. Navy’s MQ-4C Triton — will manufacture $2.58 billion worth of UAVs through 2023.

Altogether, Forecast International analysts say, “some 41,800 land- and sea-based unmanned systems worth about $10.5 billion are forecast for production during the 2014-2023.”


The Internet of Things could encroach on personal privacy

White House report on IoT describes electrical devices with unique signatures that can tell a lot

By Patrick Thibodeau

May 3, 2014 06:45 AM ET

Computerworld – A recent White House report on big data wonders aloud about the capability of sensors and smart meters to turn homes into fish tanks, completely transparent to marketers, police — and criminals.

Smart meters with non-intrusive load monitoring (NILM) technology, which can analyze individual power loads, make it possible to know what you are doing and using in your home.

These systems can “show when you move about your house,” said the White House, in its just released report on the privacy implications of big data. The report explores both the benefits and perils created by these new systems, including ubiquitous deployment of sensors in the Internet of Things.

The White House concern about privacy in the home is based, in part, on research by Stephen Wicker, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Cornell University and a co-author of studies that have looked at some of the implications of “demand-response systems,” or smart meters.

Wicker’s work (download PDF) was cited in the White House’s report.

Electrical devices have unique signatures, and if home metering is sensitive enough it can “distinguish the microwave from refrigerator, or even the light bulb in the bathroom from the light bulb in the dining room,” said Wicker in an interview.

The information these systems can discover can be useful — and invasive. It can alert homeowners to failing appliances, as well as provide marketers with the age and make of appliances, information that can also be used to glean the socioeconomic status of a resident.

“The bottom line is that this kind of data — power consumption data, in particular — reveals a lot about people’s preferences, their behavior, their beliefs, and we need to treat it accordingly; it shouldn’t just be up for sale,” said Wicker.

The White House recommends that Congress look at these privacy issues. But a lot of the report was written in a gee-wiz, isn’t-this-something tone.

The smart meters are intended to help reduce electric costs by shifting some work, such as running a washing machine, to off-peak hours.

After describing how smart metering system might be able to tell you what someone is doing inside their house, the White House report points out that once someone leaves their connected home, “facial recognition technologies can identify you in pictures online and as soon as you step outside. Always-on wearable technologies with voice and video interfaces and the arrival of whole classes of networked devices will only expand information collection still further.

“This sea of ubiquitous sensors, each of which has legitimate uses, make the notion of limiting information collection challenging, if not impossible,” said the government report.

Wicker supports the White House effort to examine privacy in these areas, and believes that individuals need more control over the data that flows out the home. That will involve complete disclosure and an opt-out process.

“No one’s data should be collected unless they voluntarily say yes,” said Wicker.



Open campus concept enables full scale collaboration


The U.S. Army Research Laboratory will leverage in-person interactions for deeper insight into the technological challenges the Army faces into the future by opening spaces on campus to Army partners.

“An open campus will serve as a front door to engage academia, other government agencies, industry and non-traditional innovators,” said ARL Director Dr. Thomas Russell.

Local academic and industry partners conducting research in materials, electronics and intelligent systems may occupy portions of ARL at the Adelphi Laboratory Center as early as this year.

In preparation for Open Campus, the Corporate Information Office is in its first phase of developing a tool kit with Information Technology, or IT, tools that collaborators could use to share information easily, said Dr. John Pellegrino, ARL’s chief information officer and director of the Computational and Information Sciences Directorate.

“We are working behind the scenes to make the state-of-the-art IT infrastructure that is necessary for on-site collaboration between government, academia and industry as seamless as possible,” he said. “We want tools that are easy enough that people can use immediately.”

The concept behind ARL’s IT strategy for Open Campus is the agile methodology, in other words, “we develop a small, solid base of capabilities out of the gate, and then we build upon our IT toolbox as we maintain close communication with end users,” said Rose King, who manages the IT integrated project planning behind Open Campus.

The first IT-enabling components are high definition video teleconferencing; the addition of tablets, applications like Cisco’s Jabber Communications and software like RedMine and SharePoint; and expanded wireless capability, King said.

For instance, employees have the ability to connect to Wi-Fi from the cafeteria now, but the Open Campus feedback dictates visiting researchers need to have Wi-Fi-enabled workspace that allows them to connect to their home organization and other communities in their field. To this end we must find IT solutions that answer questions like, “How do we expand wireless Internet service while maintaining the Army’s cyber security standards?”

The researchers drive the train of deciding what we expand. I hear a consistent story of how we need to share information; and as IT experts it is our goal to take that feedback and figure out how to make it happen within the IT infrastructure and security standards,” King said. “It is an ongoing partnership between the people who use the tools (ARL Workforce) and the people who create the infrastructure (IT Leadership).”

One hurdle the IT team will face in building ARL’s collaboration toolkit is its Department of Defense Information Assurance Certification and Accreditation Process, or DIACAP, which is scheduled for mid-May. It is an accreditation of the laboratory’s information systems that will happen at the same time as we are standing-up some of the Infrastructure changes to enable Open Campus, King said.


“We did well during the last DIACAP inspection; and we intend to keep that level of excellence in information systems security. We know it will be a challenge to meet customer expectations and accreditation requirements simultaneously, but we will know the collaboration enabling tools we have meet the highest standards,” King said.

As the capabilities enhancement goes forward through June 1, King wants ARL’s workforce to understand the changes taking place, what is happening, how to get help and that as a workforce ARL will not get from A-Z without some challenges,” King said. “The process will take time, with hurdles, but also successes along the way.”

Technicians will start by replacing ARL’s 10-year old video teleconferencing equipment with a new system that is most compatible with commercial partners, she said.

Janet Churchwell, who is leading the VTC changes, said after the upcoming testing, VTC users will log in as normal and may notice small changes like the higher quality resolution. The new bridge can handle high-definition, whereas the current system does not.

Users will notice less lag time, screen layout options, and better overall quality user connections. The new bridge handles about 40 multipoint callers at a time, similar to the current capacity. But in anticipation of more use, an expansion is already underway, Churchwell said.

The Jabber point-to-point video conferencing application will not be affected by the new bridge. The two-user connections are not limited.

The next changes to be implemented under Open Campus will be the introduction of tablets, the new applications and software packages unveiled over the next couple months, King said.

As soon as phase one concludes June 1, the team will slow down and take a look at where they are in the process, and what’s next, with their strongest consideration for balancing security guidelines with researcher needs, she said.

“The Open Campus Idea is a culture shock for most of us. We will be introducing new tools and technology into out IT infrastructure. Over the past few years the goals for the IT Infrastructure were to reduce the cost of desktop operations and to limit IT services. So, this will have to bring about a shift in thinking that ARL must invest in new IT capabilities in order support Dr. Russell’s modernization goals. This culture shift will take time to adopt,” she said.

The concept of Open Campus has been identified as a model within the Army to look at its potential to give the science and technology community more partnering synergy, King said.

“We have to get people using the new tools and talking about them as well as ensuring that the tools and technologies are stable and reliable. This will be a partnership between the IT leadership and ARL workforce.”

There will be learning curve, some stops, starts, and quick successes, all of that. But in the end, ARL is committed to creating an IT infrastructure that enables the Open Campus Concept’s success.” she said.


Congress: Cyber Training Ranges Need an Executive Agent

by Mike Hoffman on May 2, 2014


Cyber Command officials define unit’s scopeA powerful U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee wants Defense Department officials to choose an executive agent to oversee the military’s cyber test and training ranges.

The House Intelligence, Emerging Threats and Capabilities subcommittee proposed the Pentagon select the executive agent after the Defense Department’s Test and Evaluation Strategic Plan “identified a number of capability gaps that need to be addressed in order to provide sufficient and adequate cyber test and training.

The subcommittee in its mark on the 2015 defense budget didn’t specify if the agent should be a service or an agency like the Defense Intelligence Agency. If the addition to the defense budget legislation is passed by Congress and a service is selected, it would possibly signal which service would be taking the lead on the cyber mission.

Thus far the service leaders have avoided trying to take the role as the military leader for cyber saying the Pentagon is still trying to figure out how it fits into national security.

The agency or service that is selected stands to take over additional cyber missions and the likely funding boost that comes with it.

Read more:



The best states to retire in are a little surprising

By Melanie Hicken

May 5, 2014


Forget sunny Florida or California, retirees are better off heading to colder climates, according to Bankrate’s latest ranking of best states to retire.

South Dakota topped Bankrate’s list. Its low taxes, lack of crime and easy access to quality healthcare make it the country’s best state for retirees, according to Bankrate’s rankings, which equally weighted weather, cost of living, crime, quality of health care, state and local taxes and general well-being.

Overall, Midwestern and Mountain states dominated the list, with Colorado, Utah, North Dakota and Wyoming rounding out the top five.

All of these states tend to have excellent healthcare and some of the lowest state and local tax rates in the country, which can make a big difference for retirees living on fixed incomes, said Chris Kahn, research and statistics editor at Bankrate.

“Yes you are still going to need a snow shovel… but you’re getting a lot in return for that cold weather,” Kahn said.

And while sunny Florida is popular among many retirees, it ranked near the bottom of the list — in 39th place — in part because of higher crime and living costs and lower quality healthcare. Meanwhile, California ranked 28th, weighed down by high state taxes and living costs.

Here are the 10 states offering the best mix of affordability and lifestyle, according to Bankrate.


1. South Dakota: Yes, the temperatures dip below freezing (a lot), but South Dakota boasts low crime, quality healthcare and no state income tax.

And beyond the Badlands and Black Hills, there is plenty to do. In the small town of Aberdeen, S.D., for example, retirees can enjoy its historical downtown, home to farmers markets and holiday events, and easy access to both local arts and outdoor activities, like cross-country skiing.

2. Colorado: Not only does Colorado offer much milder winters, but its residents also benefit from high quality healthcare and a lower-than-average tax burden. Plus, its residents are among the most content in the country, according to an annual survey by Gallup of general well-being.

One downside: The cost of living is higher than in 28 other states.

Less congested and cheaper than nearby Denver, Colorado Springs, Colo. has access to one of the country’s leading cardiovascular hospitals as well as parks, trails and the Rocky Mountains.

3. Utah: Utah offers up plenty of options for both nature lovers and city dwellers. And, for retirees, its low cost of living and high quality healthcare make it even more attractive, Bankrate said.

Salt Lake City offers a bustling downtown, with arts and cultural events and a light rail that makes getting around town easy. It’s also just a half hour drive away from hiking, skiing and other outdoor activities.

4. North Dakota: Residents here have to deal with some of the coldest weather in the country.

But North Dakota has its advantages: extremely low crime and even better healthcare. Plus, its residents report the highest level of general well-being in the country.

5. Wyoming: For a tax-conscious retiree, there is no state better than Wyoming, Bankrate found. The “Cowboy State” also has low crime and moderate living costs, although the quality of its healthcare is far below that of the top ten states, according to government statistics.

6. Nebraska: It’s not just about wide open spaces. Nebraska is one of the most affordable states in the country, has relatively low crime and residents enjoy a high level of general well-being.

7. Montana: Retirees have plenty of room to roam in Montana. Even though it’s one of the largest states in the nation, the state has one of the smallest populations.

The cost of living isn’t as low here as it is in some of the other Mountain states, but Montana’s lack of a sales tax helps to offset some of the extra cost.

The resort area of Kalispell, Mont., has the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi, as well as a regional medical center that ranks as one of the country’s top hospitals.

8. Idaho: Idaho not only has the lowest crime rate in the country, but it’s also one of the most affordable states. Residents do pay higher taxes here than in other Mountain states, though the tax burden remains below the national average.

In Boise, Idaho, retirees can find access to arts and outdoor activities, and a massive new cultural center is set to open there next year.

9. Iowa: Another cold state to make Bankrate’s list, Iowa boasts low crime and living costs and high-quality healthcare.

In the college town of Iowa City, Iowa, retirees can take up a class at the University of Iowa or enjoy free concerts and outdoor movie nights in the summer.

10. Virginia: One of the warmest spots on the list, Virginia has one of the lowest crime rates in the country.

For seniors looking for a coastal lifestyle, Norfolk, Va. is home to miles of beaches and sailing and kayaking in the Chesapeake Bay. The city is also home to an art museum, theater company and opera house.

Bomber-Plane Budget by U.S. Air Force Projected to Double

By Tony Capaccio

May 6, 2014


The U.S. Air Force projects that its annual spending on long-range bombers will almost double after 2019 as it seeks a new stealth aircraft that may pit Northrop Grumman Corp. (NOC) against a joint bid from Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT) and Boeing Co. (BA)

The service’s total budget for bomber production and upgrades will jump to about $9.5 billion in fiscal 2020 from less than $5 billion for the year beginning Oct. 1, according to a Pentagon document obtained by Bloomberg News. After that, spending would remain greater than $9 billion a year before dropping to $8 billion in fiscal 2024.

“The current goal is to achieve an initial capability in the mid-2020s” for the new Long-Range Strike Bomber while also upgrading the B-2 stealth bomber made by Falls Church, Virginia-based Northrop and the older non-stealth B-1 and B-52, according to the plan that was submitted to Congress last month but had not previously been disclosed.

The new bomber is described by the Air Force as vital to reaching far-flung, heavily defended targets worldwide. The service has said it may buy as many as 100 of the new aircraft in a program that may top $55 billion, generating billions of dollars in revenue for the contractor chosen to build it.

Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed, the biggest U.S. government contractor, and Chicago-based Boeing, which is No. 2, said in October that they planned to bid on the project as a team. Northrop Grumman, which has the advantage of its experience on the B-2, hasn’t announced that it intends to bid.

The report does doesn’t incorporate the constraints of the automatic budget cuts called sequestration, which are scheduled to resume in fiscal 2016.


Transport, Reconnaissance

In addition to funding for bomber programs, the Pentagon report, “Annual Aviation Inventory and Funding Plan” for fiscal years 2015 to 2044, outlines long-range plans for fighters, drones and helicopters.

It anticipates continued purchases of Lockheed’s C-130J transport plane, buying 32 more by 2021 for use by special operations forces as AC-130 gunships.

In addition, the Marine Corps will continue to purchase the aircraft, the first version of which flew in 1955, made at Lockheed’s Marietta, Georgia, facility as an aerial tanker, “expanding its inventory of this aircraft, which has proven its combat effectiveness and reliability.”

Boeing’s P-8 Poseidon reconnaissance aircraft didn’t fare as well. The Pentagon said in the report that the Navy, “compelled by fiscal restraints,” has cut its planned inventory to 109 from 117.

The report also outlines steps the Navy is taking to make up for delaying the purchase of 33 F-35C aircraft from Lockheed beyond fiscal 2019 for budget reasons.


These include extending the service lives of 150 Boeing F/A-18A-D jets and accelerating the conversion of older F/A-18C models into the newer E/F jet.

The Navy also is undertaking a program to extend to 9,000 hours the current 6,000-flight-hour life of the E/F aircraft.


HASC Chair McKeon: Sorry, Mr. Smith, No BRAC

By Sydney J. Freedberg Jr. on May 06, 2014 at 1:47 PM


HERITAGE FOUNDATION, DC: Hours after the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee put out legislative language to permit a Base Reduction and Closure round, the top Republican shot him down.

Rep. Adam Smith has warned his colleagues repeatedly that Congress must make “unimaginable” choices to cope with the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration. In particular, Smith says they must consider closing military bases using a new round of base closures (BRAC), a process that’s always politically painful and which many in Congress argue was discredited by the 2005 round, which they say cost more money than it saved. The administration asked for another BRAC in its 2015 budget submission, but Rep. Buck McKeon left it out of his version of the National Defense Authorization Act. Smith had filled his put-BRAC-back amendment with all sorts of caveats and restrictions, apparently hoping against hope to assuage his colleagues’ concerns, but McKeon isn’t having any of it.

“I understand Mr. Smith’s concern, and I applaud him for his courage but it’s not going to be in the defense bill this year for sure,” said House Armed Services chairman Buck McKeon when I raised the question at the Heritage Foundation today.

McKeon has pointed out all the “painful” choices he did make in his NDAA mark, especially retiring the vaunted A-10 “Warthog” ground attack aircraft — although his proposed legislation offers a compromise. It would require keeping the A-10s in “special storage,” ready to be quickly restored to fighting condition in case of a major crisis, which McKeon argues “could happen easily at a moment’s notice” given increasingly aggressive actions by Russia and China of late. “I want to make sure we can hold onto as many things as we can,” McKeon told me — and “things” includes bases.

In any case, McKeon said, the actual cost savings from a BRAC round are hard to count up and not to be counted on. “We always ask the DoD to give us information on savings from previous BRACs. The [only] information we’ve ever received is sketchy at best,” McKeon said. Closing bases always costs money up front, with the savings materializing years later: “It ends up costing money before your each any potential saving.”

Every accounting I’ve seen argues that the BRACs before the ill-fated 2005 round did save money over time — but the irony of the current budget crunch is we may not be able to afford the up-front investment to get long-term savings. And Congress is even more unlikely in an election year to do something that would cause pain up front.


US Space Defense Funding Drops From Previous Projections

May. 6, 2014 – 06:05PM | By MARCUS WEISGERBER |

WASHINGTON — Pentagon funding for space programs is projected to fall 37 percent over the next four years when compared to last year’s projected spending over the same time period.

The combination of fewer US satellite purchases — and thus fewer spacecraft launches — is the main driver for this shift, according to data provided from the Virginia-based analytical firm VisualDoD.

But the lower dollar amounts do not necessarily mean the US Defense Department is reducing its capabilities, experts say.

“Just the fact that we’re asking for less money doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re getting less than we did,” said Marco Cáceres, senior analyst and director of space studies for the Virginia-based Teal Group consulting firm. “In many cases, we may be getting more than in the past decade.”

During that decade, military requirements for immature technologies have contributed to cost overruns and schedule slippage on satellite programs, like the Transformational Satellite Communications System.

While federal budget pressure has contributed to less-than-plan­ned spending across many defense sectors — including space — existing satellite constellations are lasting longer than planned, thus delaying the immediate need for expensive replacements, experts say.

DoD also has been planning changes in the makeup of its satellites, putting more payloads on a single spacecraft, thus returning a bigger bang for the buck since multiple launches are no longer required.

“They’re trying to find ways to develop and build and operate their satellite systems a lot cheaper,” Cáceres said. “My sense is they’re going to save a lot of money there in terms of satellites.”

For fiscal 2014, the Pentagon projected spending $19.2 billion on space programs from fiscal 2015 to 2018. However, DoD’s fiscal 2015 budget proposal, sent to Congress in early March, paints a much different picture.

Now it is projecting spending $14 billion on space projects across that same period, according to the data.

“They just don’t have any huge new-generation satellite systems,” Cáceres said.

The US Air Force’s 2015 budget delays two planned purchases of Lockheed Martin GPS III satellites — one in 2015 and another in 2016 — and extends delivery of Space Based Space Surveillance follow-on spacecraft. In 2015, about two-thirds of DoD’s $3.2 billion space procurement budget request resides in Air Force coffers.

The Air Force also has negotiated savings in the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program, according to service budget documents. And it is looking to leverage savings by contracting private companies for space launches as opposed to using the United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Lockheed and Boeing.

While procurement in this sector is declining, spending on space-related research-and-development projects is up $1.5 billion, or 21 percent above levels projected a year ago, between 2015 and 2018, according to the VisualDoD data.

Other Trends

DoD projected spending on rotary aircraft programs is actually expecting a slight uptick between fiscal 2015 and 2016 before declining between 2016 and 2018. That decline, however, is less steep than projected one year ago.

In 2014, the Pentagon projected spending $25.3 billion on rotary-lift programs from 2015 to 2018. The 2015 projection jumps nearly $7 billion to $32.2 billion.


And those figures could jump even higher if Congress adds money for additional helicopters that DoD requested in the Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative, a White House-backed spending bill separate from the Pentagon’s budget request.

The initiative includes a $1.2 billion request for Boeing AH-64 Apache and H-47 Chinook and Sikorsky H-60 Black Hawk helicopters. The Navy also must decide whether to purchase 29 additional Sikorsky-Lockheed MH-60R submarine-hunting helicopters in 2016, which could add even more to planned helicopter spending.

In the short term, Apache procurement is expected to increase and is about $350 million greater than projections in 2014, according to VisualDoD data. Black Hawk production for the Army also climbs and the Air Force Combat Rescue Helicopter program is supposed to ramp up in the coming years.

Toward the end of the decade, the Navy is looking at replacing its Bell training helicopters with a new aircraft.

DoD’s planned spending on unmanned aircraft also is down more than 30 percent, or $1.2 billion from planned levels, as buys of current systems — such as the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper — are expected to shrink. Still, unmanned system procurement is expected to start growing again in 2017 and 2018.

The big wild card is that DoD’s five-year base budget projections in its fiscal 2015 spending proposal are $115 billion over federal spending caps, meaning procurement profiles could be significantly altered if caps remain.

In an April 24 note to investors, analyst Byron Callan of Capital Alpha Partners said speakers at a Bloomberg event were not optimistic that US defense spending would rise in the coming years.

Speakers said that after the mid-term elections, “the key ‘signal’ to watch indicating whether budget caps can be avoided in FY16 and beyond is how much pain is felt from cuts to non-defense discretionary programs,” Callan wrote.

The projections should be taken with a grain of salt, said Gordon Adams, a Stimson Center analyst who ran defense budgeting during the Clinton administration.

“This is budgeting, this is not planning,” Adams said. “What actually is going to happen to the market in the out years is probably better suggested at the top line [budget] level than at the programmatic level because they don’t know.”



USAF General: Partnerships, Proper Training Key for ISR Future

May. 6, 2014 – 11:57AM | By AARON MEHTA | Comments


WASHINGTON — The future of ISR operations will increasingly rely on international participation, according to the head of the Air Force’s ISR Agency.

“How can we not be multinational in the future? We’re not going to fight alone again. I’m convinced of that,” Maj. Gen. Jack Shanahan said. “The momentum is building.”


Shanahan spoke Tuesday at the C4ISR and Networks Conference outside Washington, D.C. He spoke on how the international community could create a modern-day version of the “thousand-ship Navy” concept from the mid-2000s, which relied on the idea of drawing a number of international partners together and pooling resources.

“I haven’t heard that phrase in a long time, but if you think about a 1,000-RPA [remotely piloted aircraft] ISR environment, it’s how we put this all together and train together so we’re prepared to operate together,” Shanahan said.

“Most of these other countries have not invested the amount they would all, as militaries, have liked to invest in ISR. They see the importance of it,” he added, citing the UK, Australia, Japan, South Korea and Italy as partners all working with US forces on ISR issues. “And every place I have gone, there’s an excitement about how we work together on ISR.”

It’s not simply an issue of sharing hardware. As head of the service’s ISR Agency, Shanahan has put a priority on increasing the human intelligence capabilities of the Air Force, which he worries has atrophied due to the daily intelligence grind in Afghanistan and Iraq. Working with coalition partners would help bring another level of human intelligence to the scene, particularly as the US continues to shift its focus toward the Pacific.

“Who knows more about the [Pacific] theater than some of the partners we work with every single day?” Shanahan asked. “The culture, the capabilities of some of the other threats they’re facing — they have access we don’t have and probably vice versa.”

He acknowledged the challenge of sharing potentially classified information with partners, but indicated that the service is finding ways to work through that.

In order to make those partnerships work, the service needs to maintain its commitment to large-scale training exercises such as Red Flag.

“If we don’t train in the environment with our coalition and international partners, we’re not going to get it right on Day 1, Day 2 or Day 10. We have to train that way,” Shanahan said.

However, those exercises are often the first to fall when budgets tighten. The sequestration budget crunch of 2013 saw large-scale exercises around the globe severely curtailed or outright cut. Shanahan acknowledged that was a concern, and insisted it is an investment that has to be made to prepare for the ISR fight of the future.

“Sometimes those are the first to go. I think many times they should be the last to go. You fight like you train so you have to train like you plan to fight. If you don’t do that, you’re not going to succeed,” Shanahan said.

“What I hear from the leadership across our Air Force today is that’s not where they’re looking to make those cuts,” he added. “In the grand scheme of things, they’re expensive but they’re not enormously expensive. The return on investment, to me, makes up for whatever you pay to put those exercises together.”



How Putin Is Reinventing Warfare

Though some deride Russia for backward thinking, Putin’s strategy in Ukraine betrays a nuanced understanding of 21st century geopolitics.

BY Peter Pomerantsev

MAY 5, 2014


The Kremlin, according to Barack Obama, is stuck in the “old ways,” trapped in Cold War or even 19th century mindsets. But look closer at the Kremlin’s actions during the crisis in Ukraine and you begin to see a very 21st century mentality, manipulating transnational financial interconnections, spinning global media, and reconfiguring geo-political alliances. Could it be that the West is the one caught up in the “old ways,” while the Kremlin is the geopolitical avant-garde, informed by a dark, subversive reading of globalization?

The Kremlin’s approach might be called “non-linear war,” a term used in a short story written by one of Putin’s closest political advisors, Vladislav Surkov, which was published under his pseudonym, Nathan Dubovitsky, just a few days before the annexation of Crimea. Surkov is credited with inventing the system of “managed democracy” that has dominated Russia in the 21st century, and his new portfolio focuses on foreign policy. This time, he sets his new story in a dystopian future, after the “fifth world war.”

Surkov writes: “It was the first non-linear war. In the primitive wars of the 19th and 20th centuries it was common for just two sides to fight. Two countries, two blocks of allies. Now four coalitions collided. Not two against two, or three against one. All against all.”

This is a world where the old geo-political paradigms no longer hold. As the Kremlin faces down the West, it is indeed gambling that old alliances like the EU and NATO mean less in the 21st century than the new commercial ties it has established with nominally “Western” companies, such as BP, Exxon, Mercedes, and BASF. Meanwhile, many Western countries welcome corrupt financial flows from the post-Soviet space; it is part of their economic models, and not one many want disturbed. So far, the Kremlin’s gamble seems to be paying off, with financial considerations helping to curb sanctions. Part of the rationale for fast-tracking Russia’s inclusion into the global economy was that interconnection would be a check on aggression. But the Kremlin has figured out that this can be flipped:

Interconnection also means that Russia can get away with aggression.

“A few provinces would join one side,” Surkov continues, “a few others a different one. One town or generation or gender would join yet another. Then they could switch sides, sometimes mid-battle. Their aims were quite different. Most understood the war to be part of a process. Not necessarily its most important part.”

We can see a similar thinking informing the Kremlin as it toys with Eastern Ukraine, using indirect intervention through local gangs, with a thorough understanding of the interests of such local power brokers such as Donetsk billionaire Rinat Akhmetov (Ukraine’s richest man) or Mikhail Dobkin, the former head of the Kharkiv Regional Administration and now presidential candidate. Though these local magnates make occasional public pronouncements supporting Ukraine’s territorial integrity, their previous support of Yanukovych makes them wary of the new government in Kiev. Just the right degree of separatism could help guarantee their security while ensuring that their vast financial global interests are not harmed. “Think global, act local” is a favorite cliché of corporations — it could almost be the Kremlin’s motto in the Donbass.

And the Kremlin’s “non-linear” sensibility is evident as it manipulates Western media and policy discourse. If in the 20th century the Kremlin could only lobby through Soviet sympathizers on the left, it now uses a contradictory kaleidoscope of messages to build alliances with quite different groups. European right-nationalists such as Hungary’s Jobbik or France’s Front National are seduced by the anti-EU message; the far-left are brought in by tales of fighting U.S. hegemony; U.S. religious conservatives are convinced by the Kremlin’s stance against homosexuality. The result is an array of voices, all working away at Western audiences from different angles, producing a cumulative echo chamber of Kremlin support. Influencers often appear in Western media and policy circles without reference to their Kremlin connections: whether it’s PR company Ketchum placing pro-Kremlin op-eds in the Huffington Post; anti-Maidan articles by British historian John Laughland in the Spectator that make no mention of how the think tank he was director of was set up in association with Kremlin-allied figures; or media appearances by influential German political consultant Alexander Rahr that fail to note his paid position as an advisor for the German energy company Wintershall, a partner of Gazprom, Moscow’s massive natural gas company (Rahr denies a conflict of interest).

Combatting non-linear war requires non-linear measures. International networks of anti-corruption NGOs could help squeeze corrupt flows from Russia. At the moment, this sector is underdeveloped, underfunded, and poorly internationally coordinated: In the U.K., for example, NGOs such as Global Witness or Tax Justice rarely engage with Russian counterparts. Anti-corruption NGOs need to have the backing to put painful pressure on corrupt networks on a daily basis, naming and shaming corrupt networks and pressuring western governments to shut them down and enact their own money laundering laws. This would squeeze the Kremlin’s model even in the absence of further sanctions, ultimately playing a role as important as human rights organizations did in the 70s and 80s, when groups like Amnesty and the Helsinki Committee helped change the Cold War by supporting dissidents in the Communist block and shaming their governments.

Meanwhile capacity building is needed for both Ukraine and the West to deal with Kremlin disinformation and to formally track the role of Kremlin-connected influencers. So far, this work is happening ad-hoc as intrepid journalists reveal Kremlin lobbyists and triple-check leaks. To be effective, this work needs to be institutionalized, whether in think tanks or via public broadcasters such as Radio Free Europe, so every sound bite from a Kremlin-funded “expert” is properly contextualized, every Kremlin meme deconstructed, and every British peer on Russian state company boards held accountable for their connections. And this needs to happen in both Western countries and Russia’s “near abroad,” where the Kremlin projects its non-linear influence through a variety of institutions, from the Orthodox Church, to entertainment television and business groups. Georgia, Moldova, and Latvia are particularly vulnerable, and their security services need to be prepared for the sort of indirect intervention we are seeing in eastern Ukraine.

But aside from such concrete measures, it’s also important to appreciate that the Kremlin is throwing down the gauntlet to the Western-inspired vision of globalization, to the kitsch “global village” vision on the covers of World Bank annual reports and in Microsoft advertisements. It is better to understand the Kremlin’s view of globalization as “corporate reiding” (with an “e”), the ultra-violent, post-Soviet cousin of western corporate “raiders,” and the way many in Russia made and make their money. “Reiding” involves buying a minority share in a company, and then using any means at your disposal (false arrests, mafia threats, kidnapping, disinformation, blackmail) to acquire control. Russian elites sometimes refer to the country as a “minority shareholder in globalization,” which, given Russia’s experience with capitalism, implies it is the world’s great “corporate raider.” Non-linear war is the means through which a geo-political raider can leverage his relative weakness. And this vision appeals to a very broad constituency across the world, to those full of resentment for the West and infused by the sense that the “global village” model is a priori rigged. For all the talk of Russia’s isolation, the BRIC economies have actually been subdued in their criticism of the annexation of Crimea, with the Kremlin thanking both China and India for being understanding.

Perhaps, despite what Obama says, there is a battle of ideas going on. Not between communism and capitalism, or even conservatives and progressives, but between competing visions of globalization, between the “global village” — which feels at once nice, naff, and unreal — and “non-linear war.”

It is naïve to assume the West will win with this new battle with the same formula it used in the Cold War.

It is naïve to assume the West will win with this new battle with the same formula it used in the Cold War. Back then, the West united free market economics, popular culture, and democratic politics into one package: Parliaments, investment banks, and pop music fused to defeat the politburo, planned economics, and social realism. But the new Russia (and the new China) has torn that formula apart: Russian popular culture is Westernised, and people drive BMWs, play the stock market, and listen to Taylor Swift all while cheering anti-Western rhetoric and celebrating American downfall.

“The only things that interest me in the U.S. are Tupac Shakur, Allen Ginsberg, and Jackson Pollock,” said Surkov when he was one of the first Russian officials to be put on the U.S. sanctions list as “punishment” for Russia’s actions in Crimea. “I don’t need a visa to access their work. I lose nothing.”

We live in a truly non-linear age. And the future might just belong to the reiders.



China’s Underwater A2/AD Strategy

New research suggests China is deploying a fixed ocean-floor acoustic arrays system for anti-submarine warfare.

By Harry Kazianis for The Diplomat

May 06, 2014


It makes obvious sense that when studying any nation’s defensive doctrines or strategies you have to go to the source–to the native writings coming from leading scholars and researchers of that country. In the case of the People’s Republic of China, I would argue it is the only way to do it if you are looking to craft completely original research. Case in point: two prominent China scholars have uncovered a new twist in Beijing’s anti-access/area-denial strategy (A2/AD) that if fully deployed could have tremendous ramifications for U.S. defensive doctrine in the Asia-Pacific, the Air-Sea Battle concept, and beyond.

In last month’s issue of the United States Naval Institute’s Proceedings magazine, Lyle Goldstein and Shannon Knight explore recent Chinese writings that suggest Beijing “has deployed fixed ocean-floor acoustic arrays off its coasts, presumably with the intent to monitor foreign submarine activities in the near seas.” Citing works in Chinese journals such as Shandong Science, China Science Daily, Naval and Merchant Ships, two articles in Ship Electronic Engineering, and the widely respected Modern Ships seem to all but confirm China’s foray into this important area of military technology. As the authors note: “The sources presented here show beyond any reasonable doubt that China is hard at work deploying ocean-floor surveillance systems in its proximate waters.”

Goldstein and Knight should be praised for such a find–showing once again that mining native open-source texts can uncover a treasure trove of important scholarly and technical research. In these pages and in many others, it has been widely cited that China suffers from a lack of investment and know how in the important area of anti-submarine warfare and the technologies that power it. An investment in fixed acoustic arrays seems to be a big down payment on reversing such a glaring military weakness. The authors also point out such technology could help protect China’s budding efforts to deploy SSBNs.

I would highly encourage Flashpoints readers to analyze the full text as it is well researched and provides an important new piece of information regarding the ongoing development and evolution of Chinese A2/AD strategy and technology.

What matters, at least to me, is how this will impact American efforts to maintain access to strategically important areas along China’s coasts. If Beijing were to perfect such technology it could largely negate the military capabilities of America’s submarine forces, which in many respects are the foundation of the budding Air-Sea Battle operational concept. If China were able to field such a network–which according to the piece is setting up undersea-sensor test sites in the Yellow, East and South China Seas–then American subs could be pushed back beyond the range of such networks. This would impact the ability of American forces in a conflict to deliver kinetic strikes on the Chinese coast by way of Tomahawk Land Attack Missile (TLAMs). Considering the investment Washington is making in new versions of nuclear attack submarines, specifically a new version of the Virginia Class that includes a new payload module to carry more TLAMs, Washington would be wise to consider how to respond to Beijing’s latest move. Considering that in the next few years China could also field Russia’s SU-35 fighter aircraft, S-400 air-defense system, possible 5th generation fighters, and other advanced military platforms, American strategists seem to have their hands full. It appears that China’s armed forces will continue their push towards a much more modern and robust military—as well as an ever-advancing A2/AD strategy.


Can NASA help keep the lights on?

Posted by Patrick Marshall on May 06, 2014

It’s one of those instances where the interests of science, business and the public all meet.  Researchers at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center have been given access to Dominion Virginia Power transmission power lines in order to measure fluctuations in geomagnetically induced currents, or GICs.

Why is the power company interested?  Because GICs – which are generated when solar events send waves of charged particles toward Earth – can cause circuit overloads and, if the surge is enough, power outages. 

“That is pretty much the interest that the power-grid people have and obviously the public in general; we don’t like to have our power go out,” said NASA’s Todd Bonalsky, an engineer working on the project.  And what’s in it for NASA?  “For space weather scientists here, the power grid can offer us a very large antenna so we can indirectly measure space weather events in the upper atmosphere,” Bonalsky said.

And for the economy and the general public, the stakes are not small.  After a huge magnetic storm struck in Canada in March 1989, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated that if the storm had hit the northeastern United States, the economic cost would have been more than $10 billion, not counting the impact on emergency services and public safety. 

Since GICs reach the Earth one to three days after a coronal mass ejection on the sun, there is, in principle, time for power companies to take measures to protect against the coming power surges.  The problem, however, is predicting the location on Earth of strongest impact of an approaching GIC. 

“It’s a very complicated process where charged particles get trapped in our magnetosphere and are funneled around,” Bonalsky said.

“Magnetic field lines can stretch around either side of the planet and reconnect on the other side, and when they do they give off an extreme amount of energy as the lines reconnect and snap back to the poles of the earth.  Depending on the angle that they come in at, there are so many different variations of what can happen,” he said.

The goal of the Goddard GIC project is to better understand how those processes work.  The project, headed by heliophysicist Antti Pulkkinen,  is funded by NASA’s Center Innovation Fund and Goddard’s Internal Research and Development (IRAD) program. 

Pulkkinen’s team is creating three monitoring stations equipped with commercially available magnetometers.  Two of the magnetometers are buried four feet directly beneath power lines to measure the effect of GICs on the current.  The third magnetometer is being placed away from power lines and other conductors to serve as a reference control. 

According to Bonalsky, the data from the magnetometer is relayed to an iPad station, equipped with a solar panel for power, about 25 feet away.  “We do that for magnetic cleanliness reasons,” he explained.  “We’re looking at fields down to a few parts per million.”  Since there isn’t reliable wireless connectivity in the remote locations, data is transmitted via text messages over the cellular network.

The initial funding of the project is only for one year, and the impromptu antenna it is creating only covers a few kilometers.  But the team has hopes of expanding after the results from measurements made this summer prove their worth.

According to Bonalsky, a larger network of monitors will deliver better data. “The better the coverage, the more area we can see, the higher the resolution that we can get about what’s going on in the upper atmosphere,” he said. 

“The idea is to put as many of the stations all over as we can so that we can utilize essentially the entire grid.”



Pentagon Smartphone Plan Is Off to a Slow Start

By William Matthews

May 6, 2014


Three months after the Defense Department declared as operational its system for managing commercial off-the-shelf smartphones and tablets handling unclassified data, only about 2,000 devices are actually using the capability, the program’s manager said May 5. That’s a far cry from the 100,000 devices the Pentagon wants to have by the end of September.

“The world is passing us by,” said Gary Winkler, a former military technology chief. “Mobility is so critical and we just don’t seem to be going fast enough.” Winkler is a former program executive officer for Army Enterprise Information Systems.

The 2,000 devices now in use include many that have been transferred from an 18-month pilot of the mobility program, said John Hickey, mobility program manager at the Defense Information Systems Agency.

“Demand is not lacking,” Hickey said in an interview. But it is up to the military services and the combatant commands to set the pace for adopting mobile technology. “DISA’s role is to stand up the infrastructure and publish the security standards,” he said, noting that DISA has done that.

At the heart of the capability is a “mobile device management system” designed to keep Defense Department networks and information safe. The system sets and enforces policies for device use. For example, it can block the use of smartphone cameras in areas where photography is forbidden, Hickey said. And it can track devices through global positioning satellites and remotely turn them off if they enter places where they are forbidden for security reasons.

“That’s an advantage over laptops. Most laptops don’t have GPS,” Hickey said.

The management system also provides security functions such as malware detection, the ability to remotely delete data from misplaced or stolen phones and tablets, and the ability for managers to remotely reconfigure them.


With that infrastructure now in place, “the next phase is how do you move that forward into the tactical environment and the operational environment,” Hickey said during a conference sponsored by C4ISR & Networks in Alexandria, Va. “Partnering with the services and the combatant commands in that area, there’s still a lot of work to be done,” he said.

Tom Suder, president and founder of Mobilegov, a company that provides mobility solutions to government agencies, said DISA has done a good job. “We wish it was faster, but it’s a complex solution. They put it together and it works.”

The Defense Department contends that mobile devices are a “disruptive technology” that can provide U.S. military personnel with a significant advantage over adversaries by providing them with the information they need whenever and wherever they are and on whatever device they are using. But many critics have argued that U.S. adversaries, such as insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq, have relied on cellphones and other mobile gadgets to disrupt U.S. military operations for years.

The information military leaders want to be able to convey through its mobility program ranges from weapons repair instructions beamed to a deployed mechanic’s tablet to fresh battlefield intelligence sent to smartphone-wielding soldiers on patrol.

But the process of approving devices that the military is allowed to use and vetting applications to assure they are secure has proved enormously time consuming.

DISA has established an app store to provide approved software applications for mobile device users, but so far it offers only 16 apps, including the venerable Adobe Reader and Adobe’s 2008 Defense Connect Online, which enables Web conferences, virtual meetings and chat services.

“You will see in the future a lot more apps,” Hickey said. Indeed, thought is being given to turning “some of our Web services into mobile applications” so that they could “move forward to support tactical operations,” he said. That could make mobile devices much more useful “at the tactical edge.”

While the unclassified mobility capability is officially operational, problems remain to be solved. One is identification. Cumbersome common access cards have been ruled out as impractical for mobile devices in tactical settings, but workable alternatives are elusive. DISA and others are working to develop “derived credentials” that provide CAC-like authentication, but are stored inside the mobile device, Hickey said. But ensuring that they are foolproof is a problem.

Meanwhile, mobile device users have encountered more mundane challenges. Marines who tested mobile devices during exercises discovered that when devices were ruggedized to withstand battlefield abuse, they also became heavier and burdensome. Carrying batteries to last 96 hours or more also created weight problems, said Col. Matthew Seiber, director of command and control integration at the Marine Corps Combat Development Command.

The range of wireless routers “were much reduced in the tactical environment,” he said. And “moving seamlessly from one network to another was quite challenging.”

Here’s an unexpected glitch troops encountered operating at night: “If you’re in the dark — complete darkness — and you turn a tablet on, even at its lowest illumination, it’s pretty dang bright,” Seiber said. “These things are easy to fix, but until you experiment with them, you don’t realize” what the problems are going.



America’s Draconian Lightbulb Laws Are Fueling the Search for Bright New Ideas

By Nick Stockton


Back in 2012, the U.S. government started phasing out incandescent light bulbs, in an attempt to turn Americans on to energy-efficient alternatives. The reaction has mostly been underwhelming—incandescents still outsell more efficient alternatives like LEDs and compact fluorescents, and make up 65% of light bulb shipments, due to leftover inventory from before the bans, along with regulation-compliant halogens.

However, the New York Times reports that two companies are debuting new bulb technologies, hoping to cash in on the desire for the same warm glow as Edison’s big idea in a more environmentally palatable package—if not the relatively low price.

The first entrant is called Finally, as in: Finally, here’s an eco-friendly, somewhat cheap (8$) bulb that won’t make your room glow like a chain-store pharmacy. These bulbs pump a magnetic field through a tiny piece of solid mercury, which creates ultraviolet light. The ultraviolet light agitates a phosphor coating on the inside of the glass, emitting visible light.

Another technology called Vu1 creates light using technology similar to the cathode rays that used to power old TVs. It was supposed to debut three years ago, but has had some manufacturing issues. Vu1 has only designed flood-style bulbs for recessed fixtures so far. Each bulb costs $15, is mercury-free, and is supposed to have a warm light that’s similar to incandescent bulbs.

In the meantime, if you are an environmental scofflaw, you can get incandescent bulbs on the internet for a little more than a dollar apiece.



The Father of Wearable Computers Thinks Their Data Should Frighten You

By Rachel Feltman


May 6, 2014


We may not understand the full impact that wearable computers—fitness trackers like the Fitbit, and augmented-reality devices like Google Glass, for example—have on our privacy. In fact, one of the first computer scientists to work on wearable tech says we should be more wary.

Alex “Sandy” Pentland, director of the MIT Human Dynamics Lab, is an expert on the intersection of society and big data. Thanks to the revelations last year by Edward Snowden, many people now realize that their metadata (e.g., not the contents of your email, but the time and place you sent it from) is often up for grabs, regardless of how many privacy barriers they’ve put in place. But Pentland doesn’t think we’re scared enough.

“The thing is, I can read most of your life from your metadata,” Pentland told The Verge. “And what’s worse, I can read your metadata from the people you interact with. I don’t have to see you at all. People are upset about privacy, but in one sense they are insufficiently upset because they don’t really understand what’s at risk. They are only looking at the short term.” The possible scenarios, he said, are “downright scary.”

Indeed, data on where you are at specific times can be quite telling. A recent study led by Stanford University Ph.D candidate Jonathan Mayer found that even phone call metadata could establish that people were most likely buying guns, growing marijuana, suffering from certain health problems, or terminating pregnancies. It’s not difficult to imagine that real-time location data could do so as well.

But Pentland wants us to be afraid of data collection, not of wearables themselves. Wearables, he told The Verge, will also allow us to be more social and productive, and supplement our memories with easily accessible information. We need them—but we also need data privacy laws to evolve before the technology becomes ubiquitous. The solution, Pentland said, is to make individuals the masters of their own data. “That’s the most important thing,” he said. “Control of the data.” How to achieve it? He didn’t specify.


As Debate Goes On, the Military Prepares for Climate Change

Patrick Tucker \

May 7, 2014


The White House released its National Climate Assessment this week, a 1,100 page document by more than 300 experts examining the effects of man-made climate change on various aspects of American life. While 97 percent of climate scientists agree that climate change is occurring and that human factors are largely the cause, public debate persists around climate change, humanity’s role in it, and whether or not its effects will be as severe as the Obama administration and the scientific community are projecting.

But there’s little debate over climate change at the Pentagon, where the realities of temperature increases are now a part of everyday planning.

“We have to be concerned about all of the global impacts [of climate change], including here at home, where the Defense Department does have a mission in supporting civil authorities in the event of natural disasters. We have to be concerned about all of it,” Sharon Burke, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy Plans and Programs told Defense One.

“We have to be pragmatic about it,” Burke said. “The question is, how is this changing facts on the ground? If we’re seeing salt water intrusion at an aquifer at a base in North Carolina, we have to deal with it.”

The report’s broadest points mirror those of the 2013 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: There will be a rise in global temperature that varies significantly depending on how much more CO2 is released into the atmosphere in the coming decades. Projections vary from a few degrees’ rise to more than 10 degrees by the year 2100. The hottest days of the year would be as much as 15 degrees hotter on average. Sea levels could rise by as much as four feet.








Not everyone agrees with the dire assessment. Paul Knappenberger and Patrick Michael of the CATO Institute were quick to dismiss the report as “biased towards pessimism.” “The report overly focuses on the supposed negative impacts from climate change while largely dismissing or ignoring the positives from climate change,” they said.

“I’m not seeing intransigence [on the issue] in the Pentagon,” retired Army Brig. Gen. John Adams told Defense One. Adams is an advisor to the Center for Climate Security, which looks at the intersection of climate change and national security. ‘The Pentagon is seeing this as a problem. Instability is accelerating. Climate change is an accelerator of instability. The Pentagon understands that. They’re looking at what sorts of force structures and equipment they’re going to need to have available to deal with increasing instability that will be most effected by climate change.”

Adams, who lives in Pensacola, Fla., spoke specifically about how climate change is influencing military decision-making near him. “We have major installations in this area. We predict the sea level will rise here. That means that Navy ship berths will have to change, because they’re not floating docks, they’re built into the land. And when the sea level rises above the point where it’s safe to berth a Navy ship, then you have to change the berthing structure … so climate change will have an effect on our basing structures.”

Climate change will also alter the way the military acquires equipment, Adams said. “If we’re going to find ourselves operating in littoral areas that are affected by climate change, where the instability will be most accelerated by climate change, we have to have the force structure to be able to operate.”

The White House report makes note of the changing arctic as a future destination for increased U.S. naval activity. “With sea ice receding in the Arctic as a result of rising temperatures, global shipping patterns are already changing and will continue to considerably in the decades to come.”

It’s also a concern that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel reiterated in a major speech in Chicago on Tuesday. “The melting of gigantic ice caps presents possibilities for the opening of new sea lanes and the exploration for natural resources, energy, and commerce. The Defense Department is bolstering its engagement in the Arctic and looking at what capabilities we need to operate there in the future,” he said at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

Adams says “there will be new competitors for that route. The United States has a big role to play in any of the sea lanes.”

Climate change is already influencing the military mission, Burke said, as the U.S. builds up its military-to-military relationships around the world. “We had 14,000 people who deployed to support [relief] efforts for Hurricane Sandy. We also had a lot of people who deployed to support relief efforts for the typhoon in the Philippines. We’re already seeing increased demands on our time,” she said.

While the military faces the effects of climate change head on, it also contributes to the problem. In 2013, the Defense Department burned more than 12 million gallons of oil a day. But the department has also offered some potential solutions to military dependence on fossil fuels. The Office of Naval Research recently announced the successful creation of a synthetic fuel from seawater. But much of the innovation taking place to green the military is far more subtle. DOD plans to invest $1.7 billion in fiscal year 2015 on initiatives to improve energy efficiency and energy performance, Burke said.

Climate and weather has been part of the military conversation since the dawn of armies, but the current conversation between the Obama administration and the military is rooted in the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review, which observed: “DOD will need to adjust to the impacts of climate change on our facilities and military capabilities….While climate change alone does not cause conflict, it may act as an accelerant of instability or conflict, placing a burden to respond on civilian institutions and militaries around the world. In addition, extreme weather events may lead to increased demands for defense support to civil authorities for humanitarian assistance or disaster response both within the United States and overseas.”

The next National Climate Assessment is due within four years and will look squarely at the national security implications of climate change. “Right now everyone is looking at health, environment, and economy and how those things fit together and those are really important. But we also feel it’s a good time to look specifically at security,” Burke said. “I do think there’s a dialogue between the scientists, engineers, and policymakers to have actionable information. That’s a conversation that needs to deepen.


Is America’s Air Force Dying?

Today’s U.S. Air Force is the smallest and oldest since its inception. Of its roughly 5,000 aircraft, the average age is 25.

Mackenzie Eaglen

May 7, 2014


America’s Air Force is quickly shrinking before the nation’s eyes. Optimistic aircraft-purchase quantities are unlikely to materialize in the near-term, and the service’s upcoming “bow wave” of aircraft buys will come at the worst possible time, in the early 2020’s, when all other federal spending will squeeze defense budgets further and faster.

All this in a period when the Air Force is the smallest and oldest since its inception in 1947. Of its roughly 5,000 aircraft, the average age is twenty-five years old.

Today’s Air Force is already struggling, and tomorrow’s is entirely at risk.

In light of the latest budget proposal, Congress must step back and look at the collective impact of recent capacity and capability cuts on purchases of aircraft in particular. They will find that not only is there virtually no slack left in America’s current Air Force to meet global peacetime and war plan demands, the historically most innovative service is now left to incrementally upgrade existing capabilities while abandoning transformational and leap-ahead investments.

Additionally, Congress must understand several trends underway in recent years that have it buying fewer and fewer planes, both in absolute and relative terms, while at the same time proposing hundreds for retirement.

Of the three military departments, the U.S. Air Force is buying the fewest total amount of new aircraft, purchasing the fewest types of aircraft, and retiring the most airplanes

Since defense budgets peaked in 2010, and continuing through the 2015 budget request, the U.S. Navy is on a path to have acquired 1,133 new aircraft while the Air Force will have bought 824. Of these planes, the Navy will acquire 264 fighters (including the EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft) to the Air Force’s 117.

Excluding Remotely Piloted Vehicles (RPVs)—or drones—the Navy is on a path to have purchased 1,039 new aircraft, and the Air Force just 400 airplanes between 2010 and 2015.

This shows just how much the Air Force aircraft replacement rate is slowing, which means the already smaller force is getting older, faster.

Granted, numerical comparisons alone only tell part of the story. The Air Force is all-in on the newest fifth-generation Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program, which costs more than any other platform, particularly in its early stages. And even when the JSF is in full production, the Air Force will not replace legacy fighters on a one-to-one basis given the extra capability that will come with investment in the F-35.

But policymakers cannot assume continued U.S. dominance of the skies—even with this investment in JSF. Air power allows leaders the ability to wage mobile and adaptive campaigns that maximize economy of force in wars based on attrition and occupation. But the Air Force has too many recent investments in limited “silver bullet” fleets that try to perform too many missions with only a few select aircraft. The bottom line is that numbers are down at the precise time when qualitative and quantitative advantages are critical for U.S. military forces as traditional margins of superiority erode or are at risk.

The Air Force’s investment in fifth-generation fighters is what, in part, allows the Navy to continue to buy new fourth-generation F/A-18E/F Super Hornets for its fleet. Purchases of more advanced fighters by the Air Force—complete with their stealthy signature and sophisticated sensors, which contribute technological and material prowess to the fight, especially in a conflict’s opening stages—fulfills a necessary role that allows other branches to carry out their missions in a lower-threat environment later.

Still, Congress has taken disproportionate care of the Navy’s investment in the Super Hornet purchases, including adding jets above budget requests and granting generous, multi-year procurement authorities, while showing far less support of the Air Force’s need for new bomber and fighter fleets that help the entire military gain global access and accomplish its objectives.

Navy investment in new fourth-generation fighters has also allowed that service to make plans much earlier than the U.S. Air Force for a so-called “sixth-generation” fighter or family of systems. The Navy’s thirty-year aviation plan in 2012 called for work to begin on a Next Generation Air Dominance Aircraft after 2019. The Air Force had no similar plans at the time. While there is a very small sum of money for capability beyond the F-22 in the President’s latest defense budget, this work should have begun much sooner and reflects the zero-sum nature of all financing decisions under the Air Force topline.

The lack of robust investment in large quantities of new airframes is even more worrisome when accounting for the proposed retirements of legacy Air Force aircraft. Compared to global demand, the Air Force’s supply is simply outmatched.

Excluding remotely-piloted aircraft, the Air Force has proposed divesting about 634 aircraft from 2010 through 2015—nearly 160 percent more aircraft than it bought over the same period. This harsh reality demonstrates the intense pressure on Air Force modernization accounts as the service struggles to allocate shrinking resources to buy newer and more expensive airframes.

Of those aircraft proposed for divestment, just under 400 were combat aircraft, including F-15s, A-10s, F-16s and B-1s. Even more are on the chopping block to be let go early if Congress cannot compromise with the Pentagon and agree to allow some fleets of aircraft to retire entirely.

But even if full sequestration does not continue throughout the decade, “sequestration-lite” is here to stay. Congressional and Pentagon leaders have a variety of tools at their disposal to help ease the budget crunch, including requests for additional funds, the war budget, reprogramming authorities and acquisition tools like block buys and multi-year contracts. Air Force leaders have done their part, and should be commended for carefully thinking through sequestration along with their robust outreach to the aerospace industry to help bring the costs of systems down while fielding capability much sooner. It’s time for Congress and this administration to do theirs.

All efforts, including more creative ones, will have to be employed to keep America’s Air Force dominant for the next fight. The Air Force needs to begin robust investment now for a new cargo aircraft, a sixth-generation fighter aircraft or family of systems, a new tanker, a trainer jet, a combat search and rescue helicopter, and recapitalization of select intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance fleets.

To maintain the same level of service to the nation as has come to be expected in recent decades, the Air Force needs an unwavering partner in Congress, the White House and, by extension, the American people.



New Sensor System Detects Early Signs Of Concussion In Real Time

May 2, 2014


Fayetteville, AR – Imagine a physician, sitting in a stadium press box, equipped with technology that makes it possible to continuously monitor each player’s physiological signs that indicate concussion.

Engineering researchers at the University of Arkansas have developed a wireless health-monitoring system that does exactly that. The system includes a dry, textile-based nanosensor and accompanying network that detects early signs of traumatic brain injury by continuously monitoring various brain and neural functions.

“Wearable nanosensor systems can detect the severity of head injury by quantifying force of impact, be it light or violent,” said Vijay Varadan, Distinguished Professor of electrical engineering. “In real time, our system continuously monitors neural activity and recognizes the signs and symptoms of traumatic brain injury, such as drowsiness, dizziness, fatigue, sensitivity to light and anxiety.”

The system is a network of flexible sensors woven or printed into a skullcap worn under a helmet. The sensors are built with carbon nanotubes and two- and three-dimensional, textile nanostructures grown at the University of Arkansas. The system uses Zigbee/Bluetooth wireless telemetry to transmit data from the sensors to a receiver, which then transmits the data via a wireless network to a remote server or monitor, such as a computer or a smartphone. A more powerful wide-area wireless network would allow the system to detect large quantities of data taken continuously from each player on the field and transmit the data to multiple locations — a press box, ambulance and hospital, for example.

The sensors have considerable power and capability to monitor sensitive neural and physiological activity, Varadan said. Under stress due to impact, the sensor chips are sturdier than printed circuit-board chips and can withstand high temperatures and moisture.

The system includes a pressure-sensitive textile sensor embedded underneath the helmet’s outer shell. This sensor measures intensity, direction and location of impact force. The other sensors work as an integrated network within the skullcap. These include a printable and flexible gyroscope that measures rotational motion of the head and body balance and a printable and flexible 3-D accelerometer that measures lateral head motion and body balance.

The cap also includes a collection of textile-based, dry sensors that measure electrical activity in the brain, including signs that indicate the onset of mild traumatic brain injury. These sensors detect loss of consciousness, drowsiness, dizziness, fatigue, anxiety and sensitivity to light. Finally, the skullcap includes a sensor to detect pulse rate and blood oxygen level.

A modified sensor can evaluate damage to nerve tissue due to force impact. This sensor records electrical signals that work together to construct a spatiotemporal image of active regions of the brain. Varadan said these low-resolution images can substitute for conventional neuro-imaging technology, such as MRI and computerized tomography (CT scan).

Varadan and researchers in his laboratory have tested the system on a small scale for real-time application. The researchers plan to test the system during an actual game this fall.

Varadan and medical researchers previously developed a related, wireless health-monitoring system that snaps onto a sports bra or T-shirt. This system gathers critical patient information and communicates that information in real time to a physician, hospital or the patient. This technology is being developed commercially.

Varadan holds the College of Engineering’s Twenty-First Century Endowed Chair in Nano- and Bio-Technologies and Medical Technology. He is director of the National Science Foundation-funded Center for Wireless Nano-, Bio- and Info-Tech Sensors and Systems. Varadan is also a professor of neurosurgery in the College of Medicine at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock.


Top-Performing Companies Study Sees Rocky Horizon

Troubling trends point to potential problems for industry players who otherwise appear to be firing on all cylinders

May 7, 2014

Anthony L. Velocci, Jr.

Aviation Week & Space Technology




At first glance, results of the 2013 Top-Performing Companies (TPC) study suggest that the aerospace/defense industry is prospering, and the outlook going forward looks equally auspicious—especially for U.S. companies.

Among the largest systems integrators, the scores on which rankings are based improved to their highest level since the TPC study was introduced in 1996—an indication that prime contractors generally have grown leaner, made huge strides in leveraging economies of scale and have become more disciplined in how they deploy capital. Among the 60 or so publicly traded companies in the global TPC universe, earnings—a key indicator—surged 9.6% last year.

Commercial aircraft manufacturers and their suppliers set new records not just for profits, but also for sales, backlog, production and revenues. Surging commercial aircraft demand more than offset a declining defense market. On the government contracting side, seven of the 10 largest companies with a concentration of defense-related revenues enjoyed flat-to-higher operating margins, reflecting increased operating efficiencies.

Among companies that generate revenues of more than $20 billion, Boeing improved its TPC score to 92, its second-best showing in the last 10 years, and it took top honors for the third consecutive year. Lockheed Martin and Honeywell rounded out the top three. Huntington Ingalls surged from eighth place last year to take the No. 1 position in the medium-size category, largely on the strength of a nearly 50% improvement in operating profit. In the small-size category, Exelis emerged as the top-ranked company on the basis of management’s effective realignment of the organization’s electronics-related businesses following the spin-off from ITT in 2011.

While the TPC results for the most recent fiscal year stir titillating comparisons between individual companies, it is performance-over-time that is the better gauge of operating competitiveness. Based on that measure, Lockheed Martin—the top-ranked large company for four years from 2007-10—came out on top.

To be sure, this is a series of positives for the industry as whole. Upon closer examination, however, this year’s TPC data also portend outsized challenges in the years ahead for both the commercial and defense sectors.

Strategically, the first troubling omen relates to research and development (R&D) spending. This is a cash-generating industry and, despite hefty profits, most large- and medium-size U.S. companies appear to be taking an overly risk-averse approach to how much of their own resources they allocate for R&D, as a percentage of revenue, in favor of more near-term value-creation activities. These include buybacks of shares, paying off pension obligations and reducing debt.

“Defense companies have been very cautious in how they run their businesses, with a sharp focus on cost-control measures, but it is time to start making some strategic decisions and to deploy capital,” says Tom Captain, vice chairman of Deloitte Consulting and a member of the TPC advisory team. “They are not going to grow by continuing down the same path.”

Boeing, which plowed about 3.5% of its revenues into independent R&D in 2013, repurchased at least $1.3 billion stock shares through February of this year—well ahead of 2013’s $700 million quarterly average. General Dynamics, which has nearly zero net debt and completed an accelerated $1.1-billion share buyback in late January, invested a scant 1% in IR&D last year.

United Technologies Corp. (UTC) appears to be the most committed large company when it comes to science and innovation; it funneled 4% of its revenue in 2013 to IR&D—which is consistent with the innovations it has introduced in recent years. In just the past seven years, UTC has risked, annually, nearly $2 billion of its own money on disruptive, potentially game-changing technologies. Out of this high-stakes strategy came the X-2 Technology Demonstrator, a next-generation rotorcraft, as well as the geared turbofan engine, for which Pratt & Whitney has at least 5,300 firm orders and commitments from airline customers.

Then there was UTC’s strategic $18.4 billion acquisition of Goodrich, which transformed the buyer—already a multi-industry company—into an aerospace super-supplier with greater marketing and negotiating clout globally. “With the Goodrich acquisition, UTC bucked the trend among the largest companies in recent years in terms of opting for capital investment, rather than returning the capital to shareholders,” says Thompson.

Airbus Group, formerly EADS, led European companies in IR&D investment, at 5.5%. No less noteworthy was Finmeccanica; although finishing last in the 2013 rankings, it was among the five largest spenders on IR&D.

For months, the Defense Department has been publicly exhorting U.S. companies to boost their investments in certain technologies that are critical to national defense and that also offer the greatest potential for future revenue growth. For its part, the Pentagon has allowed its investment in research, development, test and evaluation to shrink by about 28% since its peak in 2009. While no aerospace/defense company seems to have a firm grasp of what constitutes the right amount of IR&D for future generations of technology, the current unfavorable comparison with European companies could have implications for competitiveness in global markets in years to come.

“Defense contractors have been successful by focusing on the balance sheet and low-risk strategies at the expense of growth,” notes Steven Grundman, a member of the TPC advisory team and George Lund Fellow at the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based organization. “My question is whether they can ever be growth companies again without alienating their investors?”

Defense companies also have been focused on taking costs out of their operations as part of a broader initiative to reduce the price of the equipment they supply to government customers. No contractors dare risk back-sliding in such efforts, cautions TPC adviser Scott Thompson, a partner and U.S. A&D leader for PwC. “More can be done,” he says. “Defense companies thus far have done a good job of responding to [the Defense Department’s] affordability challenge, but expectations continue to rise.”

Another troubling sign is that half of the world’s 10 highest-ranked defense-oriented operating units saw defense-related revenues decline. Profit growth in the face of flat or declining revenue is all but unsustainable, and so the issue for prime contractors is where to find—or how to create—a new or improved engine for revenue growth. For the 10 largest companies in the TPC universe with a concentration of defense revenues, there was a 5.1% decline in operating profits due mainly to weak operating results from BAE and Finmeccanica.

Competition is intense between U.S. and European companies, with Russian and Chinese entities thrown into the mix, to expand revenue streams outside of their domestic markets. In the U.S., defense export authorizations continue to be a bright spot for U.S. companies—quadruple the amount generated a decade ago.

Overall though, Western defense contractors still need to be more than exporters; they must become far more international, says Michael Finley, A&D advisory principal at PwC and a member of the TPC advisory team. “Defense companies need to focus on developing affordable solutions for international customers, not just offer U.S.-made equipment for export that many countries simply cannot afford.”

Of the large pure-play defense contractors, Raytheon may be the best in class in growing its international business. Because of this, the companyhas the strategic advantage of a more diverse set of customers. Nearly 30% of Raytheon’s sales are from outside the U.S. Much of this success comes from “taking 80-percent solutions internationally and addressing lower price points in the marketplace, versus the more exquisite solutions it sells to U.S. government customers,” says Harlan Irvine, principal with Deloitte Consulting and a member of the TPC Council of Advisers.

Another potential source of revenue growth is identifying opportunities in technologically adjacent commercial markets. While the industry has a long history of miserable failure at such initiatives—mostly as a result of trying to build such businesses within government-compliance defense operations—there are success stories. One is Alliant TechSystems, with its ATK Sporting Group, a portfolio-based consumer-branded products company that produces and sells firearms and accessories for hunting, recreational shooting and other outdoor-activity markets. The company last week announced a merger between its Aerospace and Defense Groups and Orbital Sciences Corp., along with the spin-off of its Sporting Group as a stand-alone publicly traded company (see page 30). Alliant TechSystems was one of the most forward-looking defense contractors in terms of exploiting its core technologies to grow a commercial business.

An analysis of TPC results also reveals a disturbing dichotomy in operating profit growth, which was concentrated among the 25 largest companies. Smaller suppliers in aggregate showed a significant decline, but there were exceptions. Four of the industry’s top five “cash machines” were in the small-size category.

TransDigm Group had an industry-leading operating profit margin of 40%, followed by Precision Castparts, amedium-size company, at 27%; and Rockwell Collins and B/E Aerospace tied at 19%. Median TPC scores among smaller companies dropped 13%, and only nine of the 33 (27%) represented in this year’s study showed improvement.

The upshot is that some of the larger OEMs are squeezing suppliers’ profit margins by demanding price concessions, especially in the commercial sector. “They’re pushing a lot of pain down the supply chain, with the expectation that lower-tier players will figure out how to achieve higher operating efficiencies, and there are very few suppliers that can afford to say ‘no’ to large aircraft manufacturers,” says Jim Schwendinger, retired global leader of the A&D practice of Deloitte Consulting and a long-time TPC adviser. On the other hand, Schwendinger adds, “If the OEMs don’t put pressure on the supply chain, there is little incentive for suppliers to get better.”

Some parts of the supply chain already are struggling to keep up with record aircraft production rates. Whether smaller companies will be able to transition to OEMs’ more stringent risk-sharing business model will remain an open question for some time. Both sides will have to work more collaboratively than they are currently doing, says Schwendinger.

If nothing else, OEMs’ price-concession mandates in the pursuit of higher profit margins may increase the risk of program and supply-chain disruptions, says Captain. “It is one thing to demand more, but if the OEMs don’t offer help they could face even bigger problems in the future,” he says. “By squeezing small companies’ profits, OEMs will force them toward consolidation, because they need scale to meet OEMs’ expectations.”

As in nearly all previous annual TPC studies, in 2013 European OEMs tended to land in the bottom one-third of the rankings among large companies. Operating margins provided the most dramatic testimony to the difference in performance between the two groups of companies in 2012-13. U.S. contractors with annual revenues exceeding $5 billion increased to 11.1% from 10.3%, while they declined for European contractors, to 5.9% from 6.3%.

“One of the most striking features of the TPC analysis is where Europe ranks year-after-year,” says long time TPC adviser Antoine Gelain, A&D practice leader of Candesic, a London-based consulting firm. “They consistently underperform their American counterparts. Ten years ago, I said it was about scale. Five years ago, I said it was about political interference and inefficient legacy operations that made them hard to manage. I’ve run out of excuses.”

Airbus Group’s operating margins at the company level, although improving, were roughly half of Boeing’s (7.3% versus 3.9%). The large gap “brings into question the efficiency of the cost and asset base, as well as [new-aircraft] pricing behavior at Airbus [commercial], and the ability of the European A&D industry to rationalize assets and labor while the government tries to protect jobs,” observes Gelain.

The operating performance of Europe’s major defense contractors is much the same: weak and not very competitive, prompting Captain to wonder whether there is enough country-specific defense business to support the industrial base, and whether the defense sector finally is ripe for consolidation.

Gelain notes that Airbus Group announced significant layoffs and streamlining of its business portfolio in its defense and space operations at the end of 2013, but it likely will take two years to complete the process. “There is a pronounced lack of flexibility and maneuverability in how Airbus and other European companies are run, and it has a direct impact on their competitiveness,” he says. “They all are penalized by systemic costs specific to the European environment.”

The irony is that Europe’s large aerospace companies are far more aggressive in investing their own resources in new technology than are their U.S. counterparts. Europe spent $12.6 billion compared to the U.S. companies’ $10.5 billion. As a percentage of revenue, the European industry’s investment was about twice as much (6% versus 3%).

But IR&D does not necessarily translate into more innovative products or revolutionary technologies that will open new markets or displace entrenched competitors, as Finmeccanica’s executives can attest. And therein lies a critical difference. The fact that European companies continue to lag so far behind in overall competitiveness is as much about shortcomings in asset management, labor productivity, duplication of effort across geographies—and management vision—as it is about R&D investment per se.

Perhaps the most glaring outlier across the breadth of TPC results for 2013 is United Technologies Corp., which ranked ninth. As counterintuitive as this may seem, there is an explanation: Key operating and financial metrics used in the TPC methodology were skewed by the company’s

$18.4 billion acquisition of Goodrich in 2012. “UTC gets high marks for making such a strategic investment instead of giving the money back to shareholders,” says TPC project team adviser John Stack, managing director and aerospace leader at The McLean Group.

Were it not for the distortion in metrics caused by the huge goodwill UTC took on with the Goodrich acquisition, the company would have ranked much higher in its category. As it is, UTC increased revenue by 8.5% last year, the second-best in its peer group, and it improved operating profit by more than 14%, the fourth-highest rate of change in its peer group. In addition, UTC generated operating margins of 13%, up 14% in dollar terms over the prior year. “This is an extremely well-managed company,” says Thompson.

Rockwell Collins’s weak showing in the 2013 rankings was affected in much the same way due to its $1.4 billion strategic acquisition of Arinc, which loaded the company’s balance sheet with a large amount of goodwill at the end of the year. Both companies have a lot of unfinished integration tasks, and the cash flows that are being generated are still insufficient to cover all of the additional goodwill that came with the acquisitions.

Rockwell consistently has achieved some of the highest scores across all TPC’s metrics year-after-year, reinforcing the truism that performance over time—not single-year spikes or dips—is the most valid measure of competitiveness.

The industry’s defense and commercial sectors are on a solid financial footing for now. But just as the two are succeeding for different reasons, they also face their own sets of challenges. On the commercial side, creeping complacency, program execution and supply chain management could act as spoilers. On the defense side, “whitewater rafting while the water level is dropping comes to mind,” says Schwendinger.

“It is a time of opportunity, but only for those companies who demonstrate vision and leadership,” he says.

Anthony L. Velocci, Jr., was editor-in-chief of Aviation Week & Space Technology from 2003-12.



The Next Step Toward Autopilot in Combat

Patrick Tucker

April 23, 2014


Flying military combat aircraft requires an exceptional amount of decision making in a very short window with lots of distractions. Now, the Defense Department wants the defense industry to build them much better autopilot.

The Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency, or DARPA, announced a new program to build an automatic pilot kit to install into military planes. The kit, called the Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System, or ALIAS, would be “rapidly adaptable” for a variety of aircraft and would take on many of the tasks normally associated with piloting military jets.

One of the chief objectives of the program, according to a DARPA release, is to “reduce pilot workload,” which refers to the huge number of decisions pilots have to make when operating aircraft. “We have autopilot for standard stuff, the question is how do you extend those technologies for more complicated missions,” said Mary Cummings, Duke University professor and former Navy fighter pilot.

“There’s lots of, ‘How do you change load outs inside of the aircraft in case you’re carrying something and you want to switch which weapons? Even what mode, whether you’re in fight or attack mode,” said Cummings, who flew F/A-18 Hornets. Pilot workload is a specialized name that afflicts everyone, decision fatigue. Every decision that a person has to make has a cost in terms of mental resources. The more decisions that a person must make in a short time period, the more likely that the decision won’t be quite right. It’s part of the reason human self-control is limited after stressful interactions. That’s where the ALIAS program comes in.

Pilot workload is part of the reason that 80 percent of commercial aircraft accidents are caused by human error, as opposed to mechanical glitches, according to Boeing. For a pilot, decision fatigue can influence her ability to focus and fixate on a goal. It can manipulate a pilot’s understanding of where she is (situational awareness), alter perceptions of risk and add to distraction. High workload can even affect physical changes such as pupil diameter, respiration and even heart rate according to one study at Shanghai Jiao Tong University’s School of Aeronautics and Astronautics. In some flight situations, the workload is split among two or more crew members, which can contribute to staff costs.

Neurological limitations are one reason why machines might, at times, be better pilots than humans. “You don’t want to take away the complex decisions so much as the complex maneuvering that goes along with the decisions,” Cummings said. “For example, it would be better if a computer could take over during air combat maneuvering because a computer can probably fly closer to exact limits than a human can. A computer could sense better that a human is about to pass out than a human can.”

Too much automatic pilot technology in the cockpit can also make flying far more dangerous, according to experts. That’s why getting pilots and automatic flight systems to communicate effectively remains so difficult. Barbara Burian, senior research associate at NASA’s Ames Research Center, has shown that “the presence of advanced technology in the cockpit does not necessarily eliminate high workload events during a flight.” When poorly designed, autopilot tools are more likely to add to pilot workload than decrease it, Burian’s research shows.


Autopilots also can create new dangers if the system has the authority to make too many decisions, as evidenced by Air Transat Flight 236 in 2001. That plane’s automatic fuel system relayed a very subtle message to the pilots that it’s diverting fuel, but did not explain why. Fuel continued to be diverted to a leaky engine, causing a total power failure mid-air. The pilot glided the plane to an emergency landing with no fuel.

“The fuel leak that was unrecognized early on was aggravated by the fact that the fuel management system was pulling good, usable fuel from the tanks that weren’t leaking and shoving it into the tank that was,” Ohio State University Aviation researcher Shawn Pruchnicki told Defense One. He calls it a “classic example” of how hard it is to design an automatic system that reduces workload but still communicates effectively without “bugging” the pilot.

“It’s really difficult to establish that balance between more autonomy and less. Where do you put the human in the loop? That’s something that we’re struggling with in terms of the newer [autopilot] designs,” Pruchnicki said. “We’ve created automated systems that are powerful, strong and silent. And they’ve played a role in accidents where the crews have not been aware of what the automated system is doing.”

Is the ALIAS kit just an intermediate step to a fully automated Air Force? Cummings says yes. We may live in the age of high-performance unmanned vehicles, but the military aircraft under the decks of aircraft carriers need pilots. “The kit that they want to build would be adaptable across systems. It’s to fill the gap,” she said.

“What they’re effectively doing is building the kit for the F-35,” which Cummings calls a “ridiculously expensive, very marginally capable” airplane. “What are we going to do with all of those in the future? We might be able to make them more useful by turning them into partially piloted vehicles.


Highway Funding Faces Bumpy Road

Government Warns It May Have to Delay Some Programs This Summer

By Kristina Peterson

May 8, 2014 7:22 p.m. ET


WASHINGTON—There are 1,001,874 miles of roads in the U.S. that receive some federal aid and nearly as many ideas in Congress on how to pay for them.

With money running low in the Highway Trust Fund, the main source of federal cash to build and maintain roads and transit systems, the Transportation Department has indicated it may need to delay reimbursing states for construction costs starting this summer unless Congress moves to replenish the account. While lawmakers almost universally agree the federal government should play a role in keeping the highway system funded, there is no consensus on how to do that.

“That’s the million-dollar question,” said Rep. Blake Farenthold (R., Texas), a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, one of a slew of panels in Congress involved in reauthorizing the highway bill that expires at the end of September. “This is something you can get bipartisan agreement on: that we need infrastructure. The trick is finding the money.”

In the absence of congressional action, the balance in the trust fund’s highway account will fall to $2 billion by Sept. 30, and its mass-transit account to only $1 billion, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. That would force the Transportation Department to start delaying payments to states as soon as August to keep the accounts’ balances above zero, as required by law.

That could prompt states to delay or halt projects already under way, costing up to 700,000 jobs immediately, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx told a Senate panel this week.

Lawmakers face no shortage of suggestions for where to find the $18 billion the CBO estimates is needed to maintain current funding through fiscal year 2015, or the roughly $100 billion needed to fund a traditional six-year bill.

But many of the options face significant resistance, diminishing lawmakers’ chances of passing any long-term legislation before this fall’s elections.

“I think we’re going to kick the can down the road until the next session of Congress,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson (R., Ga.), who said he would prefer a multiyear agreement.

Currently, most of the trust fund’s revenue comes from the 18.4-cents-per- gallon tax on gasoline and the 24.4-cents-per-gallon tax on diesel fuel. While those levels haven’t been raised since 1993, many House Republicans have said they don’t want to increase the taxes.

Some have suggested finding new ways to tax the overseas earnings of U.S. multinational companies as one alternative, but influential Republicans such as Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, say that should be considered only as part of a broader tax overhaul.

In 2012, lawmakers helped pay for the most recent, two-year highway bill through a mechanism known as “pension smoothing,” which raises revenue by allowing employers to postpone contributions to employee pension plans. Since such contributions are tax-deductible, postponing them raises employers’ taxable income and boosts federal tax receipts.


The Senate approved extending that pension provision to pay for restoring emergency jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed in legislation passed last month, but the House has shown little interest in considering the bill.

Other options under discussion include establishing more tolls, imposing mileage-based taxes and issuing different kinds of tax-preferred government bonds. Lawmakers also have mentioned establishing a federal infrastructure bank, encouraging public-private partnerships and replacing the gas tax at the pump with a tax at the wholesale level.

When lawmakers couldn’t agree on a new source of revenue in the past they have tapped the Treasury’s general fund, transferring $54 billion to the highway trust fund since 2008.

Agreeing on the policy components of the highway bill appears to pose fewer challenges than the funding side.

On Thursday, Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.) announced an agreement on a six-year bill funding the highway program at current levels, adjusted for inflation, with three other members of the panel: Sen. Tom Carper (D., Del.) and GOP Sens. David Vitter of Louisiana and John Barrasso of Wyoming.

“States, cities and businesses involved in transportation need the certainty from a long-term bill. A short-term patch is not sufficient,” Ms. Boxer said earlier this week.

Her bill doesn’t address funding, which is the domain of the Finance Committee in the Senate.

Even House Republicans who favor shrinking the size of government agree federal funds should play a role in supporting the nation’s infrastructure.

“I’ve said all along: collect my taxes, defend the borders and help me with infrastructure and then get out of the way,” said Rep. Roger Williams, a conservative Texas Republican and car dealer on the House transportation panel. “So I think there’s a role for the federal government.”

Last week, the Transportation Department proposed a four-year plan that would spend $302 billion on highways and transit, drawing on revenue generated by changes to the business tax code.


Unmanned Vehicle University Receives Approval from the Veterans Administration

by Press • 9 May 2014

Unmanned Vehicle University received approval from the Veterans Administration to educate veterans on the use of UAVs as part of their Educational Benefits.


Unmanned Vehicle University (UVU) is the World’s first school to be licensed to grant Doctorate and Masters Degrees in Unmanned Systems Engineering. UVU also offers a Certificate in UAS Project Management.

The online University’s primary focus is on education and training for Unmanned Air, Ground, Sea and Space Systems. Most of the faculty at the school have PhDs in engineering and combined experience of over 500 years. “This is an excellent path for veterans to transition from the military to a carrer in commercial unmanned systems, says UVU President Dr Jerry LeMieux, who is a Retired Colonel in the Air Force, a Top Gun and former engineering professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This simply means that the government will pay tuition for eligible veterans.”

Unmanned Vehicle University’s UAV instructor pilots have combined experience of over 60,000 hours in Predator, Reaper, Global Hawk, Hermes, Heron, Aerostar and many small UAVs. UVU is located in the heart of downtown Phoenix.

Military Veterans can get the process started by obtaining a certificate of eleigibility at the VA Benefits website: Veterans can also call UVU’s corporate office at 602-759-7372 or visit them online at for more information and available courses.



United Kingdom CAA:- Small Unmanned Aircraft Operations Within London and Other Towns and Cities

by Gary Mortimer • 8 May 2014


The devil as they say is in the detail, UK operators should make themselves familiar with the latest information notice from the CAA.


1 Introduction

1.1 The purpose of this Information Notice is to provide guidance to operators of Small Unmanned Aircraft (SUA) and Small Unmanned Surveillance Aircraft (SUSA) who wish to operate within congested areas in relation to towns and cities. The latest generation of commercially-available SUA have very advanced capabilities in relation to their size and cost; this has led to a surge in their utilisation for a wide range cinematographic and survey tasks and an increasing demand for their employment in urban areas. Operations in urban areas require an additional understanding of the complexities of the environment and of the safety and operational limitations that are suitable for London and other towns and cities.

1.2 In addition to the general guidance on areas of operation in this Information Notice, additional specific airspace guidance for operators wishing to undertake aerial work and surveillance (filming and photographic) operations within London is given in paragraph 5. Most of the principles and procedures described will also apply to other large towns and cities within the UK. London has been featured due to its combined characteristics of population density, commercial air traffic volumes, large blocks of controlled airspace down to the surface, two major airports, a low-level helicopter route system, a central licensed heliport and several specialised restricted areas.

1.3 All reference to SUA and SUSA in this Information Notice should be interpreted to apply to other aircraft of the same category but that may be known by an alternative name such as ‘Drone’, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS), Remotely Piloted Vehicle (RPV), Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) etc.

1.4 This Information Notice covers the use of SUA by civil operators and does not include military systems. Comprehensive guidance on Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) operations in UK airspace can be found in CAP 722.


2 Definitions

2.1 ‘SUA’ means any unmanned aircraft, other than a balloon or a kite, having a mass of not more than 20 kg without its fuel but including any articles or equipment installed in or attached to the aircraft at the commencement of its flight. The majority of such SUA are of the electrically-powered ‘multi-rotor’ type whose typical flight endurance with a payload is in the order of 6-15 minutes.

2.2 ‘SUSA’ means a SUA which is equipped to undertake any form of surveillance or data acquisition.


2.3 A ‘Congested Area’ is defined in Article 255 of the Air Navigation Order (ANO) 2009. The definition states that a ‘Congested Area’ means any area in relation to a city, town or settlement which is substantially used for residential, industrial, commercial or recreational purposes. Operations of SUA within congested areas may be permitted in specific circumstances as described in the remainder of this Information Notice.


4 General Operational Considerations

4.1 Visual Line Of Sight (VLOS)

4.1.1 Unless an exemption has been given by the CAA, SUA may not be operated beyond the direct, unaided VLOS of the operator. The standard CAA permission for aerial work limits the SUA/SUSA VLOS to a height not exceeding 400 feet above ground level and a distance not beyond the visual range of the operator, or a maximum distance of 500 metres.

7 Regulatory Enforcement

7.1 The CAA takes breaches of aviation seriously and will seek to prosecute in cases where dangerous and illegal flying has taken place. The first such prosecution in the UK took place in April 2014 when an individual was convicted of two offences including flying a small unmanned surveillance aircraft within 50 metres of a structure (bridge with traffic) (Article 167 of the Air Navigation Order 2009). The individual was fined £800 at a District Magistrate Court, plus costs of £3,500.

7.2 This conviction followed the case of a photographer accepting a caution for using a SUA for commercial gain without permission. The photographer had sold footage from his quadcopter to media organisations. More information on the regulation of SUA, including a list of operators with permission to fly SUA for commercial use, is available at

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How can the FCC preserve an open Internet while gutting Net neutrality?

Chairman Tom Wheeler thinks fast-lane arrangements are not antithetical to an open Internet, but VCs and Internet giants disagree

By Caroline Craig | InfoWorld

MAY 09, 2014


The FCC’s meeting on proposed Net neutrality rules promises to be a display of contortionism worthy of Cirque du Soleil. Chairman Tom Wheeler apparently sees no contradiction between permitting pay-for-priority agreements while purportedly defending an open Internet, but the country’s venture capitalists — not to mention more than 100 online companies including Google, Amazon, and Facebook — beg to differ.

So does one of Wheeler’s own commissioners, who on Thursday called for a delay of the scheduled May 15 vote. Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said she has “real concerns” about Wheeler’s proposal, which “has unleashed a torrent of public response” and needs time for further input.

The FCC’s expected Net neutrality ruling is already scaring venture capital firms away from media-heavy startups. They fear that if the FCC allows ISPs to charge extra fees to content providers, it will increase operational costs and make it more difficult for startups to operate on small budgets. Brad Burnham, managing partner at venture capital firm Union Square Ventures, told MIT’s Technology Review that it “is absolutely part of our calculus now” that if deep-pocketed companies can pay for a faster, more reliable service, startups face a huge disadvantage.

Absent clear rules, some ISPs are testing the waters and negotiating access fees. Netflix recently agreed to pay Comcast to ensure a high quality of service, but Netflix CEO Reed Hastings then argued in a blog post the need for a strict form of Net neutrality with no such fast lanes.

“Consumers who [already] pay a lot of money for high-speed Internet” shouldn’t have to suffer “high buffering rates, long wait times and poor video quality,” he wrote, adding:

If this kind of leverage is effective against Netflix, which is pretty large, imagine the plight of smaller services today and in the future….Without strong net neutrality, big ISPs can demand potentially escalating fees for the interconnection required to deliver high quality service.

Meanwhile, in a joint letter this week to the FCC, Google, Amazon, and other online giants warned of “grave consequences” if the agency fails to protect the openness of the Internet, and they urged the FCC to protect Internet users against all “blocking, discrimination, and paid prioritization.” Unconvinced by former cable industry lobbyist Wheeler’s assurances that the agency will look at traffic-management practices on a case-by-case basis, they wrote: “This commission should take the necessary steps to ensure that the Internet remains an open platform for speech and commerce so that America continues to lead the world in technology markets.”

The issue of an open Internet resonates deeply; tens of thousands of people have sent comments to the FCC’s open Internet inbox, and Senator Al Franken calls it “the free speech issue of our time.” InfoWorld’s Paul Venezia insists the very fate of a free society rests on enshrining the open Internet.

We have enjoyed an open Internet since its creation, but Comcast, Time Warner, Verizon, and AT&T want a closed Internet…. They want to get paid coming and going, by both content producers and content consumers, funneling all of that traffic through circuits paid for in large part by the very taxpayers who are also their customers. This isn’t business, this is just bald-faced extortion and double-dealing.

InfoWorld’s Andrew C. Oliver points to the regulation of railroads in the last century and argues for similarly designating ISPs as common carriers:

Net neutrality simply means that if you set up a website or online service, a Time Warner or a Comcast can’t charge you extra to deliver that content to consumers or businesses connecting via their service, nor can they favor someone else’s content over yours when it comes to things like delivery speed. This equitable approach has deep roots in U.S. history, going back to the early regulation of the railroads. Back then, legendary mogul John D. Rockefeller negotiated a deal with the railroads to set high rates on shipping barrels of oil but to get “rebates” whenever his own companies shipped it. The feds decided that such arrangements were illegal because the railroads were “common carriers.”

However, big telecom has lobbied hard — and successfully so far — not to be treated as common carriers. So Mozilla this week came out with its own version of Net neutrality rules that proposes the FCC treat only some portions of broadband networks as common-carrier services. In a blog post, Mozilla Senior Policy Engineer Chris Riley suggests the FCC create separate rules for how ISPs manage traffic for end users and websites and for Web-based service providers, such as Dropbox. Mozilla’s proposal, which Riley says is “grounded in a modern understanding of technology and markets,” would keep broadband providers’ relationship with customers as lightly regulated as it is today and might be more politically feasible since it doesn’t require any changing of the current law and precedents that are out there.

The FCC is scheduled to hold an open commission meeting on May 15 to discuss its proposed rules for the Internet. There’s still time to tell the FCC and your representatives in Washington to regulate the Internet service providers as common carriers. As Oliver wrote, “[E]nd the charade that is [the FCC’s] ‘trust us, we’ll monitor for bad behavior’ current proposal.”


Obama to Give Push on Climate


MAY 8, 2014


WASHINGTON — President Obama will announce on Friday a handful of executive actions and private and nonprofit groups’ investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy.

The initiatives will not amount to much in terms of energy policy or their impact on global warming. But they are part of a broader campaign to build public support for an Environmental Protection Agency rule that the White House will unveil in June. The rule, which has already run into objections, will limit carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants and is expected to create a major new market for zero-carbon energy from sources like wind and solar.

Mr. Obama will make his announcement in a speech at a Walmart in Mountain View, Calif., where he will talk up the benefits of solar power and energy efficiency. The speech will come at the end of a presidential fund-raising trip to Silicon Valley.

The president chose Walmart to make a point: The corporation gets about 25 percent of its electricity from solar power. In the United States over all, only about 2 percent of power comes from solar sources.

A sweeping National Climate Assessment report that was released this week lays out the impact of climate change across the United States, like increased flooding in Miami and devastating drought in Arizona.

There is no chance that a major climate change bill will be passed by the deadlocked Congress. But Mr. Obama continues to announce small-scale actions. On Friday, they will include new energy conservation standards for devices like conveyor belts and escalators and one for walk-in coolers and a program to replace outdoor public lighting with energy-efficient alternatives in five cities. He will also set a goal to save $2 billion in three years by increasing energy efficiency in federal buildings, and he will promote an Energy Department program to provide solar industry training at community colleges.

The White House estimates that together, the executive actions will spur private companies to invest an additional $2 billion in energy efficiency, and will cut carbon pollution by more than 380 million metric tons — the equivalent of taking 80 million cars off the road for one year.

The White House will also announce that several housing developments will voluntarily increase their use of solar power.



Every Country Will Have Armed Drones Within Ten Years

Patrick Tucker

May 6, 2014


Virtually every country on Earth will be able to build or acquire drones capable of firing missiles within the next ten years. Armed aerial drones will be used for targeted killings, terrorism and the government suppression of civil unrest. What’s worse, say experts, it’s too late for the United States to do anything about it.

After the past decade’s explosive growth, it may seem that the U.S. is the only country with missile-carrying drones. In fact, the U.S. is losing interest in further developing armed drone technology. The military plans to spend $2.4 billion on unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, in 2015. That’s down considerably from the $5.7 billion that the military requested in the 2013 budget. Other countries, conversely, have shown growing interest in making unmanned robot technology as deadly as possible. Only a handful of countries have armed flying drones today, including the U.S., United Kingdom, Israel, China and (possibly) Iran, Pakistan and Russia. Other countries want them, including South Africa and India. So far, 23 countries have developed or are developing armed drones, according to a recent report from the RAND organization. It’s only a matter of time before the lethal technology spreads, several experts say.

“Once countries like China start exporting these, they’re going to be everywhere really quickly. Within the next 10 years, every country will have these,” Noel Sharkey, a robotics and artificial intelligence professor from the University of Sheffield, told Defense One. “There’s nothing illegal about these unless you use them to attack other countries. Anything you can [legally] do with a fighter jet, you can do with a drone.”

Sam Brannen, who analyzes drones as a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ International Security Program, agreed with the timeline with some caveats. Within five years, he said, every country could have access to the equivalent of an armed UAV, like General Atomics’ Predator, which fires Hellfire missiles. He suggested five to 10 years as a more appropriate date for the global spread of heavier, longer range “hunter-killer” aircraft, like the MQ-9 Reaper. “It’s fair to say that the U.S. is leading now in the state of the art on the high end [UAVs]” such as the RQ-170.

“Any country that has weaponized any aircraft will be able to weaponize a UAV,” said Mary Cummings, Duke University professor and former Navy fighter pilot, in a note of cautious agreement. “While I agree that within 10 years weaponized drones could be part of the inventory of most countries, I think it is premature to say that they will…. Such endeavors are expensive [and] require larger UAVs with the payload and range capable of carrying the additional weight, which means they require substantial sophistication in terms of the ground control station.”

Not every country needs to develop an armed UAV program to acquire weaponized drones within a decade. China recently announced that it would be exporting to Saudi Arabia its Wing Loong, a Predator knock-off, a development that heralds the further roboticization of conflict in the Middle East, according to Peter Singer, Brookings fellow and author of Wired For War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century. “You could soon have U.S. and Chinese made drones striking in the same region,” he noted.


Singer cautions that while the U.S. may be trying to wean itself off of armed UAV technology, many more countries are quickly becoming hooked. “What was once viewed as science fiction, and abnormal, is now normal… Nations in NATO that said they would never buy drones, and then said they would never use armed drones, are now saying, ‘Actually, we’re going to buy them.’ We’ve seen the U.K., France, and Italy go down that pathway. The other NATO states are right behind,” Singer told Defense One.

Virtually any country, organization or individual could employ low-tech tactics to “weaponize” drones right now. “Not everything is going to be Predator class,” said Singer. “You’ve got a fuzzy line between cruise missiles and drones moving forward. There will be high-end expensive ones and low-end cheaper ones.” The recent use of drone surveillance and even the reported deployment of booby-trapped drones by Hezbollah, Singer said, are examples of do-it-yourself killer UAVs that will permeate the skies in the decade ahead – though more likely in the skies local to their host nation and not over American cities. “Not every nation is going to be able to carry out global strikes,” he said.


Weaponized Drones Are Inevitable: Embrace it

So, what option does that leave U.S. policy makers wanting to govern the spread of this technology? Virtually none, say experts. “You’re too late,” said Sharkey, matter-of-factly.

Other experts suggest that its time the U.S. embrace the inevitable and put weaponized drone technology into the hands of additional allies. The U.S. has been relatively constrained in its willingness to sell armed drones, exporting weaponized UAV technology only to the United Kingdom, according to a recent white paper, by Brannen for CSIS. In July 2013, Congress approved the sale of up to 16 MQ-9 Reaper UAVs to France, but these would be unarmed.

“If France had possessed and used armed UAVs…when it intervened in Mali to fight the jihadist insurgency Ansar Dine – or if the United States had operated them in support or otherwise passed on its capabilities – France would have been helped considerably. Ansar Dine has no air defenses to counter such a UAV threat,” note the authors of the RAND report.

In his paper, Brennan makes the same point more forcefully. “In the midst of this growing global interest, the United States has chosen to indefinitely put on hold sales of its most capable [unmanned aerial system] to many of its allies and partners, which has led these countries to seek other suppliers or to begin efforts to indigenously produce the systems,” he writes. “Continued indecision by the United States regarding export of this technology will not prevent the spread of these systems.”

The Missile Technology Control Regime, or MTCR, is probably the most important piece of international policy that limits the exchange of drones and is a big reason why more countries don’t have weaponized drone technology. But China never signed onto it. The best way to insure that U.S. armed drones and those of our allies can operate together is to reconsider the way MTCR should apply to drones, Brannen writes.

“U.S. export is unlikely to undermine the MTCR, which faces a larger set of challenges in preventing the proliferation of ballistic and cruise missiles, as well as addressing more problematic [unmanned]-cruise missile hybrids such as so-called loitering munitions (e.g., the Israeli-made Harop),” he writes.


Weaponized, Yes. Weaponized And Autonomous? Maybe.

The biggest technology challenge in drone development also promises the biggest reward in terms cost savings and functionally: full autonomy. The military is interested in drones that can do more taking off, landing and shooting on their own. UAVs have limited ability to guide themselves and the development of fully autonomous drones is years away. But some recent breakthroughs are beginning to bear fruit. The experimental X-47B, a sizable drone that can fly off of aircraft carriers, “demonstrated that some discrete tasks that are considered extremely difficult when performed by humans can be mastered by machines with relative ease,” Brannen notes.

Less impressed, Sharkey said the U.S. still has time to rethink its drone future. “Don’t go to the next step. Don’t make them fully autonomous. That will proliferate just as quickly and then you are really going to be sunk.”

Others, including Singer, disagreed. “As you talk about this moving forward, the drones that are sold and used are remotely piloted to be more and more autonomous. As the technology becomes more advanced it becomes easier for people to use. To fly a Predator, you used to need to be a pilot,” he said.

“The field of autonomy is going to continue to advance regardless of what happens in the military side.


Poll: More Than Half of Russians Want the Soviet Union Back

Gideon Lichfield


May 8, 2014


The US polling company Pew Research Center has just released a survey of Russian and Ukrainian attitudes to what’s going on in eastern Ukraine, and one fact caught our eye: 55% of Russian adults think it’s a “great misfortune” that the Soviet Union no longer exists:

Pew has asked Russians this question twice before, and got roughly the same result: 58% in 2009 and 50% in 2011. (There’s a 3.6-percentage-point margin of error.) What makes this rather striking is that, in 2009, none of the people Pew surveyed (aged 18 and older) would have been born after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. Today, roughly 6 million fully post-Soviet Russians have reached adulthood, judging by Russian official data.

Of Russians under 30—who would have been at most seven years old in 1991—some 40% lamented the USSR’s demise, Pew found. Again, looking at the population data, which show some 27 million people born between 1984 and 1996, that means about 10 million Russian adults long for the restoration of a country and political system of which they have no meaningful personal memory.


Rasmussen Reports


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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, May 10, 2014

“Put your money where your mouth is,” as the old saying goes. But Americans seem reluctant to open their wallets to fund some of the big projects they profess to believe in.

Voters tend to agree with President Obama, for example, that global warming is causing extreme weather problems in the United States, and by a 49% to 40% margin they say it needs to be dealt with right away. But more voters than ever (50%) are not willing to pay one cent more in taxes and higher utility costs to generate clean energy and fight global warming. Another 22% are only willing to spend $100 more a year.

Fifty-three percent (53%) favor new environmental regulations the Obama administration is pushing ahead with that limit carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired fuel plants which it says contribute to global warming.

But only 28% are willing to pay higher utility costs to reduce America’s use of coal to generate electricity.  Interestingly, nearly half (48%) of voters still have a favorable opinion of the U.S. coal industry, compared to 39% who felt that way about the federal Environmental Protection Agency last fall.

Also, consider that 57% of Americans don’t think the United States spends enough money on roads, bridges and tunnels.  A plurality (48%) in February favored the president’s proposed new $302 billion program to help rebuild and repair this infrastructure.

Unable to get Congress to fund the new program, however, the president this week proposed lifting the ban on tolls on Interstate highways to let states generate revenue for road repairs. But guess what? Despite their concern about highway spending, 65% of Americans oppose that idea. As is often the case with government programs though, this opposition may be due in part to the fact that only a small percentage – 27% in this case – think the money will be properly used.

Fifty-one percent (51%) of voters worry more that the government will not do enough to help the troubled economy rather than that it will do too much. But that doesn’t translate into more government programs: 63% think cutting spending rather than increasing it is the best thing the government can do to help the economy.

Sixty-one percent (61%) still prefer a smaller government with fewer services and lower taxes over a more active one with more services and higher taxes. Just 27% favor a more active government instead.

But again some of the opposition taxpayers express is undoubtedly due to skepticism about how their money is being spent. Fifty-one percent (51%) of voters, for example, now think the average government employee earns more annually than the average private sector worker even though 67% believe those employed by a private company work harder.

Just 12% of Americans think the government should hire the long-term unemployed. Only 36% believe it would be good for the economy if the government hires more people.

Yet this is at a time when 69% still know someone who is out of work and looking for a job, and 42% know someone who, out of frustration with the difficult job market, has given up looking for work.

Despite the drop in the national unemployment rate announced by the government a week ago, consumer and investor confidence have both fallen slightly since then.

Voters still trust Republicans more than Democrats on most of the major issues regularly tracked by Rasmussen Reports, including the number one concern, the economy.  But 
Democrats hold a four-point lead over the GOP on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot.

The North Carolina Senate race is now almost dead even. Among Likely North Carolina Voters, State House Speaker Thom Tillis, the winner of Tuesday’s Republican primary, earns 45% support to incumbent Democratic Senator Kay Hagan’s 44%. The race at this point turns on Hagan’s support of the new national health care law, and she is widely regarded as one of the most vulnerable Democratic senators in this election cycle because of that law.

Nationally, most voters (53%) still view Obamacare unfavorably. Fifty-six percent (56%) think it will drive up the cost of health care.

This coming Tuesday, primary voters in Nebraska and West Virginia will choose the Senate candidates for their respective parties.

The president’s overall daily job approval remains in the high 40s as it has been for much of the time he’s been in office.

In other surveys this week:

— For the second week in a row, 27% of voters think the country is heading in the right direction. That’s the lowest level of optimism since early December

— Most voters suspect the Obama administration hasn’t been completely forthcoming about how it reacted to the murder of the U.S. ambassador and several other Americans in Benghazi, Libya. Fifty-one percent (51%) think the Benghazi matter deserves further investigation, while 34% say the case should be closed.

— As the devastating civil war in Syria drags on into its fourth year, U.S. voters remain just as reluctant about American involvement. Only 18% believe the United States should do more to bring about a change in the government in Syria.

Most Americans (56%) still support the death penalty despite the recent botched lethal injection given to the convicted murderer of a 19-year-old woman in Oklahoma.

— Thanks to Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, Americans are talking about racism in professional sports. We decided to find out what America thinks about the current state of race relations in the world of sports.

— A plurality (45%) believes the penalties levied against Sterling by the National Basketball Association for racist comments he made are generally fair, but only 38% think he should be forced to sell the Clippers.

— Fifty-six percent (56%) of voters still are not confident that the Medicare system will pay them all their promised benefits.

— New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio will renew efforts proposed by his predecessor Michael Bloomberg to ban the sale of so-called “super-size” sugary drinks. But just 19% of Americans favor a law where they live that bans the sale of any cup or bottle of a sugary drink over 16 ounces.


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