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May 17 2014

May 19, 2014




FAA, Drones Clash on Rules for Unmanned Aircraft

Near-Collision With Commercial Jet Adds Urgency, but Industry, Regulators at Odds Over Enforcement

By Jack Nicas and Andy Pasztor

May 11, 2014 8:43 p.m. ET


The near-collision between a drone and a commercial jet over Florida has added urgency to efforts by regulators to impose new rules on the proliferation of unmanned aircraft.

Across the U.S., drones monitor crops, snap real-estate photographs, inspect roofs, shoot commercials and perform other tasks, according to people in the unmanned aircraft industry.

Pilots of those drones are defying seven-year-old restrictions on commercial unmanned aircraft by the Federal Aviation Administration, which has said the curbs are needed for public safety. But limited resources and legal complications have led to scattershot enforcement by the agency, emboldening even more drone operators.

The risks caused by the increase in unmanned flights were underscored by the agency’s revelation last week that a pilot of an American Airlines Group Inc.

regional jet told officials in March that he nearly hit a drone about 2,300 feet above the ground while approaching a Tallahassee, Fla., airport.

The drone’s flying altitude was unusually high, since the FAA requires small types of unmanned aircraft to remain below 400 feet. Based on the description, the drone appeared to be a small model aircraft, but a senior FAA official warned that the drone could have done serious damage, such as if it were sucked into a jet engine.

Some proponents of unmanned aircraft worry that the near-collision could spark a public backlash and perhaps spur U.S. and state regulators to impose tougher restrictions than drone users claim are necessary.

The FAA plans to propose in November, several years later than initially projected, new rules on how small drones could be used legally for commercial purposes. It could take several more years for the rules to become final.

Jim Williams, head of the FAA’s unmanned-aircraft office, said last week that those rules will “ensure that risks are managed appropriately.” The issue “can’t get any more important to the FAA than it is today,” he said. “But unfortunately, the regulatory process is very slow and deliberative.”

An FAA spokeswoman said that to protect “people in the air and on the ground,” introducing drones into U.S. airspace “must take place incrementally and with the interest of safety first.”

Matt Waite, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor who runs a drone-journalism program that got a cease-and-desist letter from the FAA last year, said he is concerned that the “longer it takes to have the rules of the road in place, the more the technology advances and the cheaper it gets, the closer we get to some knucklehead doing something dumb and hurting someone.”

The FAA requires every non-recreational drone user in the U.S. to seek its approval. So far, the FAA has authorized only two commercial drones, both in Alaska.

Separately, the agency has fined two drone pilots, both for alleged reckless flying. In March, an administrative law judge overturned the first fine—a $10,000 penalty—ruling that the drone policy was a safety guideline and the agency had no legal authority to enforce it. The FAA is appealing.

“Fewer and fewer people seem deterred by threats,” said one federal official. “Nobody is asking the FAA how to proceed, so it’s turned into a modern version of the Wild West, where some people think anything is OK.”

The agency estimates there could be as many as 7,500 drones in U.S. skies within five years of the new rules. People in the unmanned aircraft industry say that estimate is far too low.

For example, Chris Anderson, chief executive of California drone maker 3D Robotics Inc. and the former editor of Wired magazine, sells about 2,000 autopilot systems a month to customers around the world who want to build their own drones.

DJI Innovations, a Chinese maker of recreational and commercial drones, sells as least 10 times as many drones, Mr. Anderson estimates. DJI declined to provide figures but said its sales have at least tripled each year since 2009.

The FAA’s unmanned-aircraft office is run by several dozen people, whose tasks include drafting rules and vetting permits for public entities such as police departments to fly drones in designated airspace. Inspectors check into reports of reckless flying or commercial use.

Some drone operators aren’t shy about flouting the current rules. Mike Fortin, president of an Orlando, Fla., drone company that films concerts and TV commercials, received an email from an FAA official in January telling him that his business was violating FAA policy.

“My response to the FAA was to piss off,” he said. The FAA hasn’t followed up. If the agency sends a formal cease-and-desist letter, “I’d probably frame it, hang it up on the wall and keep going about my everyday business,” Mr. Fortin said. The FAA declined to comment on the incident.

In some cases, the FAA seems to be looking the other way. Mr. Williams, head of the FAA’s unmanned-aircraft office, said officials generally consider farmers who use drones to monitor crops as hobbyists. Hobbyists are traditionally allowed to use drones.

Companies might soon be allowed to apply for FAA certification for drones to be used in farming, filmmaking and inspections of power lines and certain parts of oil and gas plants, Mr. Williams said. Those uses aren’t allowed under the current restrictions.

Drone Dudes, of Los Angeles, has used drones for months to film commercials for companies such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Kia Motor Corp.

“We haven’t heard a peep” from the FAA, said Eric Maloney, head of production at Drone Dudes.

Brian Emfinger, a photojournalist for TV station KATV in Little Rock, Ark., got a mixed response from the FAA after using a 2.2-pound drone last month to film the aftermath of tornadoes. The video has racked up about 2.4 million views on YouTube.

KATV news director Nick Genty said an FAA spokesman notified him that the station’s drone use was an FAA violation. Still, “they definitely didn’t tell us to stop,” Mr. Genty said, adding that KATV will continue to use drones for reporting.

The FAA said it regulates the use of drones, not how news organizations use footage.



High-Ho, The Derry-O, The Farmer And The Drone

by Press • 11 May 2014



There was a near-miss in the skies above Tallahassee recently. According to a Federal Aviation Administration official, an American Airlines regional jet nearly collided with a “small, remotely piloted aircraft” — a drone — cruising 2,300-feet above sea level.

Exactly who was flying the unmanned aircraft remains unknown, but drones are becoming increasingly common in U.S. skies. This week in North Dakota, the FAA began allowing tests of drones for agricultural purposes.

Congress has ordered the FAA to create new rules to safely integrate drones into U.S. airspace by 2015, but many of North Dakota’s farmers aren’t waiting for the FAA to act.

Jim Reimers’ family has been farming on the North Dakota prairie for five generations. Driving out to his family’s land northwest of Jamestown, the empty, vast spaces are striking. The sky and the field stretch as far as you can see.

“In the early 1890s is when my great grandfather came out and started farming in this area,” Reimers says. Today, the Reimers’ family farm stretches out over 30,000 acres.

That’s more than twice the size of Manhattan, and each growing season the Reimers walk a lot of it, looking for pests and checking the health of the crops.

“You don’t cover the whole field. You can’t,” Reimers says.

But knowing exactly what is going on inside each field is essential, and that’s where the drones come in.


It’s All About The Data

Catching a fungus early, documenting damage when cattle break into your fields, knowing which fields aren’t flourishing so you can write them off; all these decisions can make or break a growing season. Unmanned, semi-autonomous little airplanes promise to be able to do all of that.

So this year, Reimers and his brother invested about $20,000 in a couple of small drones to begin scanning their fields. These little drones weigh less than 10 pounds each. The Reimers can fly them remotely, or the drones can be programmed to fly themselves on a grid to map and image an entire field.

The drones collect huge amounts of data, and modern farming is a data-driven business. “[That’s] my role on the farm; that is all I do,” Reimers says.

Like a software programmer or Web developer, Reimers runs an endless series of tests on his land, altering things like crop density, fertilizer and planting width. Modern, GPS-enabled farm equipment not only can drive itself, it’s accurate within inches and can adjust precisely how much fertilizer or pesticide to spray.

If farmers know exactly how each field is faring, they may spray less. For the Reimers family that could mean hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings each year. It could increase their yield and margins while reducing stress on the land.


Regulation Red Tape

Like the Reimers, hundreds — and perhaps thousands — of farmers are already buying little drones. Many of them don’t have formal training to fly drones, though, and that makes some regulators nervous.

This week saw the first-ever FAA-sanctioned test flight for agriculture. In attendance was John Nowatzki, an agricultural machine systems specialist at North Dakota State University. He says getting regulatory approval for the test took months.

“It’s been very frustrating,” he says. “I have not been involved in any kind of research that has taken this amount of administrative time.”

The FAA has tried to ban the commercial use of drones while it tests and writes new rules, but lots of farmers aren’t waiting, Nowatzki says.

“I don’t think they are following all the rules,” he says. “But on the other hand, they are certainly being conscious of any issues that might be dangerous.”


License To Drone

Bob Becklund runs the Northern Plains Unmanned Aerial Systems test site. It’s one of six facilities around the country selected by the FAA to test commercial uses of unmanned aircraft.

“Our mission is to help the FAA figure out the complicated technical procedural rules, requirements, whatever it may be, to help integrate unmanned aircraft safely,” he says.

Becklund worries that as more untrained farmers take to the air with small drones, they could endanger other pilots like crop dusters. He’d like to see the FAA require licenses for anyone flying a drone, even little ones. Some day, he’d like the Northern Plains test site to get into the business of certifying these pilots and unmanned aircraft safety.

Many farmers say those rules are unnecessary, and Notwazki worries regulation could ground the industry.

“You could stand from dawn to dusk in one of these North Dakota fields and you are not going to see any airplanes flying,” he says. “If you do, it will be just one and chances are it will be flying at 30,000 feet.”


Accidents Happen

A recent federal court case has thrown into doubt whether the FAA has the authority to stop anyone from flying small drones, and even small farmers here have taken notice.

Don Larson farms about 300 acres near Grand Forks. The farm is not his full-time gig, but he’s passionate about it.

“This year will be my 47th consecutive year of putting in a crop,” Larson says, but it’s his first year flying a drone.

A couple of weeks ago, his little drone flew away on him. He lost control and it took off. Larson spent the next six hours searching before finding it crashed in front of a neighbor’s house.

As more and more hobbyists, consultants and landowners take to the sky, more little accidents seem inevitable. For now, Larson has decided to put his drone on a leash. Until he gets more experience and works out the bugs, he’s only flying his little craft if it’s firmly tethered to the ground.



Jim Williams of the FAA, “There is potentially good news for certain operators.”

by Gary Mortimer • 11 May 2014


Speaking at the sUSB Expo our show in San Francisco last Thursday Jim Williams of the FAA revealed the first glimpse of a common sense approach beginning to arrive at the FAA to UAS integration.

Those of us that have been following this process since 2007 were surprised at what we heard. Those new to the scene, not so much. Thousands of column inches have been written without much fact checking on what has been and what might be. Expectations of a 2015 start have been raised and the FAA have clearly said that’s not going to happen. Media outlets seem to forget to report that bit.

Jim was a brave man facing the pent up expectation in the audience and we were honored to have him speak at our show.

We were tickled pink when he opened by saying

“This is a key portion of the industry and the FAA has to be responsible to the entire industry and are very much glad to be here”.

Silicon Valleys brightest and best spoke at the show and along with our international speakers a key group that will help drive civilian drone tasks at speed and for less. Hosting silicon valleys vision of an unmanned future is an exciting business. It’s not a surprise that main stream media has picked up on an airprox incident mention in Jims speech.

You dear reader might be more interested in this part of the speech. You heard it at sUSBExpo first!

There is potentially good news for certain operators.

Work is under way to implement the provisions of Sec 333 of the FAA re-authorization and reform act of 2012. this allows us to move forward with incremental UAS integration this section of teh act can only be applied to specific limited low risk uses in advance of the small UAS rule I stress the word may as we are still evaluating this option and developing our internal processes If we are able to leverage section 333 for low risk operations there will be economic benefits as we begin to address the pent up demand for commercial UAS operations.

Companies from four industries have approached the FAA and are considering filing an exemption request that will begin the process.

These industries include, precision agriculture, film making, power line and pipeline inspections and oil and gas flare stack inspections.

Precision agriculture falls into two categories, application of fertilizer and pesticides and crop monitoring. In Japan farmers have successfully used unmanned aircraft for precision agriculture for decades. Currently more acres of Japanese farmland are being applicated by unmanned helicopters than manned aircraft on an acre by acre basis. Through using unmanned aircraft can lower costs and enabling the Japanese farmers to apply exactly the right fertilizer or pesticides. In addition the small helicopters used for this purpose create the right amount of rotor wash to enable the pesticides to be applied to both the top and the underside of the leaves.

The US large farms use manned aircraft for aerial application of chemicals historically this was one of the highest risk forms of manned aviation so using unmanned aircraft for precision agriculture may actually reduce the risk in US airspace.

The film industry has a tremendous interest in using unmanned aircraft. Historically filmakers have hired helicopters and airplanes for overhead shots. This can get expensive and it is dangerous. It can create extra noise and wind on the set. But these issues could become irrelevant with the use of unmanned aircraft on closed sets. Did any one here see the James Bond movie Skyfall? Well if you remember the motorcycle chase scene that took place on top of the roof top of the grand bazaar, in Istanbul Turkey. They were all shot using sophisticated unmanned aircraft. If you have seen the movie then you have already seen just how spectacular video captured by unmanned aircraft can be.

The potential use is not all about economic benefits or getting the perfect shot for a film. There can be real safety benefits for using UAS for certain applications. Specifically for operations that we call the 3D’s Dangerous Dull Dirty.

Oil gas flare stack inspection falls into the dangerous category. I don’t know if any of you have been driving along the highway at night near a refinery and seen these giant walls of flame coming out. Use of unmanned aircraft in these situations can actually help reduce the risk to workers.

Currently they have to shut down the entire production line of either the oil processing facility or oil collection facility in order to inspect these. So if they use an unmanned aircraft they can save time and money and keep the poor guys that have to climb those things and inspect them visually safe.

So workers can be more thorough in their work while remaining out of harms way.

For example when lightening hits power-lines and big transmission lines that you see running around everywhere the lightening hits one of them they have to go out and inspect them to make sure that they weren’t damaged the catch is the damage is on top of the wire. So the only way they can do it is to get up a bucket or a ladder truck and get up there and take a look.

But by using a UAS they can see that power-line from multiple angles they don’t have to use ladders, they don’t have to use bucket trucks and they don’t have to fear electric shock the operator could be a safe distance away from the wire. They can see the line in its entirety and analyze it using HD video.

So we hope by using section 333 to authorize some of these types of operations will help us move the ball forward.

I want to be sure that its clear that the operations we are talking are specific limited low risk to people and property on the ground. This isn’t going to be a open season on a new way of doing business



(a) In General.–Notwithstanding any other requirement of this subtitle, and not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Transportation shall determine if certain unmanned aircraft systems may operate safely in the national airspace system before completion of the plan and rulemaking required by section 332 of this Act or the guidance required by section 334 of this Act.

(b) Assessment of Unmanned Aircraft Systems.–In making the determination under subsection (a), the Secretary shall determine, at a minimum–

(1) which types of unmanned aircraft systems, if any, as result of their size, weight, speed, operational capability, proximity to airports and populated areas, and operation within visual line of sight do not create a hazard to users of the national airspace system or the public or pose a threat to national security; and

(2) whether a certificate of waiver, certificate of authorization, or airworthiness certification under section 44704 of title 49, United States Code, is required for the operation of unmanned aircraft systems identified under paragraph (1).

(c) Requirements for Safe Operation.–If the Secretary determines under this section that certain unmanned aircraft systems may operate safely in the national airspace system, the Secretary shall establish requirements for the safe operation of such aircraft systems in the national airspace system.

All the presentation slides for sUSB Expo 2014 are hosted at Slideshare

All the presenters will have their presentations in their own video once we have finished processing them.


USAF Faces More Tough Choices in 2016

May. 11, 2014 – 02:32PM | By AARON MEHTA | Comments


WASHINGTON — When the US Air Force unveiled its budget in early March, it presented an unusual two-tier projection. The first was the normal five-year defense program. The second was a list of items that would be endangered if sequestration funding levels were not raised for 2016.

The hope for the service was that members of Congress would see future cuts coming and act to raise funding levels to prevent them. But two months later, Air Force officials seem to be coming to grips that a congressional rescue isn’t coming.

At an April 30 event, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said, “I am not seeing any indication” that Congress plans to change the 2016 budget plan.

Days later, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James echoed his comments.

“The conversations that I have had in Congress, with both congressmen, senators and staff members, overwhelmingly suggests that it’s less than a 50-50 chance,” James said. “But I also hear great appreciation for the situation that we’re facing, and I hear the willingness of key senators and congressmen and staff to continue to push. I’m an optimist, so I’m going to continue to push. I’m not going to give up. But realistically we have to think through that if we return to sequestration, how do we manage it?”

How the service will manage sequestration has been a specter hanging over the fiscal 2015 budget discussions. In late April, the Office of the Secretary of Defense issued a memo listing what, exactly, those cuts would look like.

The KC-10 tanker fleet would face retirement in its entirety, continuing the service’s theme that only the removal of whole platforms can achieve the major savings required under sequestration. The much ballyhooed adaptive engine program to help develop a next-gen engine for the service, worth over $1 billion over the next five years, also would be cut.

Procurement on the KC-46A tanker replacement program would be cut by three in fiscal 2017 and two in fiscal 2018, while planned procurement of 39 MQ-9 Reaper unmanned systems would be cut between fiscal 2018 and 2019. Ten MC-130J special operations platforms would also not be procured over the length of the Future Years Defense Program.

Another notable impact would come on the F-35A joint strike fighter. The Air Force would reduce fiscal 2016 procurement by 16 and 2017 procurement by one. Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, the head of the F-35 joint program office, has talked repeatedly in recent months about how increasing quantity is the only real way to drive costs down on the program.


It’s a painful list of cuts, but one Russell Rumbaugh of the Stimson Center views as the outcome of a serious, in-depth look at how the service performs its mission.

“I’m sure the Air Force would prefer to keep all these things, but if that’s not tenable, this looks like things they really could do without and still project airpower globally,” Rumbaugh said. “The Air Force is continuing its quality over quantity idea. This is as corporate a decision as you can get.

“This really detailed planning,” he added. “This is a serious alternative, and the priorities don’t actually change at different levels, it’s just how it’s executed. This looks plausible. It’s certainly not the preferred outcome but if push comes to shove they can still operate.”

Whether the service can retire anything is up in the air. The House Armed Services Committee included language in its 2015 National Defense Authorization Act that prevents the Air Force from spending any funds to retire, or begin to retire, the A-10 close-air support platform, the U-2 spy plane, and, pre-emptively, the KC-10.

That KC-10 language has little-to-no real world impact on the Air Force’s 2015 plans, according to Mackenzie Eaglen of the American Enterprise Institute. Instead, she believes it’s a signal that the House may put up a fight for the tanker come 2016.

“It’s good signaling of where the committee intends to go next year, and that’s something the Air Force leadership will have to consider when they build [plans for fiscal 2016],” Eaglen said. “It’s signaling at this point, but it’s an important signal. Of course, the Air Force may choose to roll the dice anyway with a new chairman” following the retirement of Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif.

One attention-grabbing notice in the Pentagon’s announcement of planned 2016 cuts was that the start of the Combat Rescue Helicopter program would be pushed out until fiscal 2019. The CRH program has been a popular one on the Hill, to the point where it was not included in the 2015 budget request until members of Congress directed Pentagon leadership to include it.

Asked about setting that 2019 date, James called it “illustrative” of the fiscal choices the service would have to make.

“There are many things that would have to be relooked, including the combat rescue helicopter, “James said. “The 2019 date, I think, is not a solid date.”


Iran Says It Has Copied US Drone

May. 12, 2014 – 01:49PM | By AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE |


TEHRAN — Iran said Sunday it has succeeded in copying a US drone it captured in December 2011, with state television broadcasting images apparently showing the replicated aircraft.

Tehran captured the US RQ-170 Sentinel in 2011 while it was in its airspace, apparently on a mission to spy on the country’s nuclear sites, media in the United States reported.

“Our engineers succeeded in breaking the drone’s secrets and copying them. It will soon take a test flight,” an officer said in the footage.

The broadcast showed supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s visit to an exhibition organized by the powerful Revolutionary Guard’s air wing about Iran’s military advances, particularly regarding ballistic missiles and drones.

Footage showed two nearly identical drones.

“This drone is very important for reconnaissance missions,” Khamenei said, standing in front of the Iranian copy of the American unmanned aircraft.

Iran said it had taken control of the ultra hi-tech drone and forced it down in the desert where it was recovered nearly intact.

Washington said it had lost control of the aircraft.

At the time, US military officials tried to play the incident down, saying Iran did not have the technology to decipher its secrets, and President Barack Obama asked the Islamic republic to return the Sentinel.

Iran has been working to develop a significant drone program of its own, and some of its unmanned aircraft have a range of hundreds of kilometers (miles) and are armed with missiles.

The state broadcaster also showed images that the commentary said had been recorded by an Iranian drone above a US aircraft carrier in the Gulf.

In the pictures, which were relatively clear, it was possible to see American personnel working on planes and helicopters aboard the vessel.



Air Force plan to strip generals of authority

New proposed Base Installation Center under AFMC

Maggie Ybarra

The Washington Times

Monday, May 12, 2014


Senior Air Force leaders have drafted a budget-driven plan that would strip the three- and four-star generals who oversee major commands of their authority to manage their bases.

A draft of the plan obtained by The Washington Times shows that the Air Force is aiming to consolidate support operations under the umbrella of a single center, known as the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center.

The tricky endeavor would shuffle day-to-day base management issues — such as construction, maintenance and procurement of equipment and supplies — from under the authority of the senior generals who command the bases to the leadership of a two-star general who would run the support center, according to the draft proposal.

The plan was born out of a directive from Air Force leadership last year to reduce headquarters operations costs at least 20 percent by 2019. It cites reductions contained in the Budget Control Act that were implemented by the Obama administration in 2011.

The consolidation would affect the service’s 10 major commands, each of which specializes in areas such as technical training, management of non-nuclear combat air power and global air mobility.

The generals who oversee those commands function as senior executives, ensuring that core programs and missions run efficiently and effectively, said Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman. Base management has included a measure of autonomy.

The proposal is similar to the way the Army and Navy are organized, but the Air Force has long resisted consolidation of support services, noting that bases are more integral parts of their operations than they are to other military branches.

Douglas Birkey, executive director of the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, said budget pressure is so extreme that Air Force officials have had “to come down very quickly on certain ramps to attain certain goals.” That pressure, he said, drives “some pretty aggressive moves” that achieve short-term objectives but “can undermine things in the long haul.”

“Today’s leaders have no other choice,” he said.


General vs. general

Senior Air Force officials say the plan will save money by eliminating redundancies in areas such as personnel. They say in the document that the shuffle will provide the Air Force with “a once in a lifetime opportunity to more effectively and efficiently manage installation resources.”

But one Pentagon official with knowledge of the plan and its potential implementation said it could cause rifts between generals who command the bases and the two-star generals who would be charged with overseeing the assigned resources.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear of retaliation, speculated that such a move could create communications issues capable of obstructing day-to-day operations such as base repairs, training and finance decisions.

Space planning, engineering programs, cyberforce training management and readiness training are just a few of the dozens of the capabilities that will be ripped from the control of the major commanders and realigned under support center management, according to the draft plan.

“I personally don’t think it’s going to work,” the official said.

Air Force top brass are reviewing the draft plan. If all goes well, they should approve it within the next several days, the official said. At the end of the month, Air Force officials will regroup and decide how to move forward.

It remains to be seen how the plan will be received. The official said the three- and four-star generals who run the major commands were not receptive to an earlier version in which they would have been required to cede a greater measure of authority to the support center‘s control.

The “concept of operations” document — or initial draft — shows that the support center would have control of services such as fuel distribution, vehicle and support equipment, material management, small-arms training and ammunition allocation. Although the official said some of that framework was altered after the generals reviewed and rebuked the proposal, it is unclear how much of the framework was carried forward to the revised plan.

Retired Gen. Charles F. Wald, former deputy commander of U.S. European Command, said the Air Force has to implement structural changes because it cannot afford to chew through its budget at the current rate. Gen. Wald, who is now vice chairman and federal practice advisory partner for Deloitte, said the plan to consolidate base operations authority under the umbrella of a single support center on the surface “makes perfect business sense.”

“I think we should have done this 20 years ago,” he said. “Here’s the problem: I would have done it if I had known how to do it. I didn’t.”

Gen. Wald said Air Force generals who have resisted the plan probably are concerned that the support center will cost them power and prestige.

“The majority of people, when they think they’re losing oversight or authority or the size of their command or whatever, they don’t want to do that because — to a lot of people — how big you are what your footprint is, is indicative of how important you are,” he said.

Role of Congress

The Pentagon official said the Air Force has experienced difficulty nailing down an expected amount of savings, but that might not hinder the progress the Air Force is making toward getting lawmakers to embrace the plan, Gen. Wald said.

Gen. Wald said Air Force officials likely have informed House and Senate staffers of their intentions, paving the way for a receptive conversation.

A Senate Armed Services committee staffer said Monday that the Air Force draft document has not made its way to the top echelon of congressional staff.

Air Force officials originally wanted to begin implementing the plan in October and staff the support center with 350 people. The draft document shows that although some personnel would be allowed to continue work for the major commands, they could function only as liaisons or specialists.

Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said the service is determining whether that 350 number will stick and how much personnel will be reduced out of each major command. The numbers, she said, are still fluid.

If all goes according to plan, however, the support center will be fully operational by the end of 2016, per the document.

Nation’s Biggest Unmanned Systems Conference Kicks Off Amid Changing Market

By Valerie Insinna

May 13, 2014


ORLANDO — For those who keep tabs on the drone industry, it should be no surprise why the Association for Unmanned Vehicles Systems International chose to move its annual unmanned systems conference and trade show out of the Pentagon’s shadow in Washington, D.C., and into commercial hubs such as Orlando, Atlanta and New Orleans.

Unmanned aerial systems manufacturers are at a crossroads. Industry is eager to sell the aircraft and associated services both globally and to the civil sector, but experts predict UAS integration into the national airspace is still years away. And just as companies are facing more competition worldwide, U.S. military procurement is dropping off.

“Largely most of the unmanned systems improvements and innovations have come through the military sector, but that’s changing,” John Lademan, AUVSI’s chairman of the board, said in the opening ceremony May 13. “New markets are opening up in agriculture, automated vehicles, oil and gas and … new sectors.” In the realm of agriculture alone, AUVSI projects that there will be more than $13 billion of new economic activity as a result of unmanned systems.

Because the U.S. military has already bought enough drones to fill out its fleet and meet its requirements, there could be a reduction in procurement, said Larry Dickerson, Forecast International’s unmanned vehicles analyst. The Defense Department has only begun to consider what it will need in its next fleet of UAS, including the ability to engage in combat environments where adversaries have anti-aircraft capabilities.

Unmanned aerial system production will stagnate during the next decade, but manufacturers will be bolstered by the higher price of new drones, Dickerson said in his 2014 report on the industry. He predicts that roughly 1,000 UAS will be produced worldwide in both 2014 and 2015, and production will average 960 units from 2016 to 2023. Civil sales, which he defines as non-government purchases, will only be a small part of that — about $100 million over the next 10 years, he said.

“It’s not good news” for U.S. manufacturers, he told National Defense. “But there are slow downs in every market. Markets are cyclical.”

The shift from Defense Department customers to a civilian market is evident in the conference’s list of keynote speakers, which includes only one military representative: Lt. Gen. Kevin Mangum, the deputy commanding general of the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command. Others include Alaska Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, business executives and members of Congress.

The rebranding of the conference even trickled down to the WiFi passwords distributed to exhibitors, attendees and journalists covering the event. Last year, the conference’s WiFi password garnered media attention for imploring attendees to “DONTSAYDRONES.” This year, the message is different. Drones are “savingtimemoneylives.”

While U.S. military sales may be waning, UAS companies made a robust showing at this year’s conference, which will host more than 600 exhibitors and 8,000 attendees, according to AUVSI.

Part of the reason the conference moved from August to May was to improve international participation and boost overall attendance, Lademan said.

The Federal Aviation Administration is unlikely to make its 2015 deadline to start integrating drones in civil airspace, but that might not be such a bad thing, Dickerson said. “Why are you in such a hurry? Everyone thinks is going to be golden, with UAVs flying in all these states, providing a lot of jobs” but there is still much work that needs to be done in establishing how unmanned systems can safely share airspace with manned aircraft and each other.

Industry executives obviously think differently. During a May 13 panel, they hammered Jim Williams, the FAA’s manager of the UAS integration office, with questions about when unmanned aircraft would finally be able to fly in the NAS.

“In Australia our aviation authority legalized commercial drone activities in 2002,” said Matt Sweeny, co-founder of Flirtey, an Australian start-up that will use UAS to deliver packages. “Do you think the United States is at risk of losing this industry to companies with more forward thinking regulatory environments?” he asked, as the crowd broke into applause.

Williams said: “Commercial aircraft operations for unmanned aircraft could be happening today if a manufacturer were to get their aircraft certified and come up with a means of operation over populated areas. There are companies who are in discussions with the FAA to do just that.”

The FAA’s airworthiness certification rules were created for manned aircraft, but ultimately it’s a matter of a company coming to the administration with a plan for safe operations, he said. “It’s a two way street. The FAA can’t pull the industry up. … We’re actually working with multiple companies now to get to that point where there are certificated aircraft that can operate.”

UAS manufacturers are not the only ones concerned about the current state of affairs. A February 2014 study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies contended that the United States is at risk of losing its edge in the field of unmanned systems.

In the next decade, China’s AVIC will become the world’s top-selling manufacturer, Dickerson said. However, Chinese UAS are unproven and will unlikely match the capabilities of the largest, most sophisticated U.S. drones such as the Reaper or Global Hawk.

Chinese drones will be less expensive, making them palatable to less wealthy nation-states or to nefarious countries with whom the United States refuses to deal arms to, he said. Chinese UAVs don’t “have that combat-tested seal of approval,” that U.S. unmanned systems do, but U.S. companies may see their technological lead against China narrowing over time.


AUVSI Reporter: AFRL targets seamless human-machine interaction

May 13, 2014 |

Written by



The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) has no intention of completely replacing humans with unmanned autonomous systems, says Jim Overholt, a senior scientist at the lab’s Human Effectiveness Directorate. However, AFRL does want to see people interact more effectively with machines so that both can work in “complex and contested environments.”

Speaking at this week’s Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) conference in Orlando, Florida, Overholt illustrated the drawbacks of current human-machine operations by noting how many people it takes to support one MQ-1 Predator: 73, including maintenance crew and analysts.

“When we start to get into something like a combat air patrol, we have as many as 250 individuals involved in order to operate four unmanned vehicles,” Overholt said. “It’s really startling. We can’t keep on … throwing more humans at the problems.”

Likewise, he pointed out that when a drone loses its command and control link with its operator – due to enemy jamming, for example – it does not proceed with the mission on its own, nor does it update its controller when the link is re-established. Instead, an unmanned aircraft with lost comms simply returns back to base.

“We don’t want that to happen,” he says.

In an effort to address these challenges, AFRL aims to improve human-machine teaming and machine intelligence – in fact, the “heaviest dollars” in research, across the services, are going to those two areas, he said. In addition, the lab is trying to create teams of heterogeneous unmanned platforms that can work together.

Overholt acknowledges that, in trying to make people more efficient and unmanned systems more autonomous, human-machine teaming faces its own set of challenges. For example, how does one create a shared sense of perception? Or form a truly two-way flow of information?

Right now, information mostly goes from platform to person, rather than the other way around. A rare counter-example of a human providing data to a platform is the case of the sensor in an F-22 pilot’s helmet that monitors his oxygen intake to avoid a case of hypoxia.

Moving forward, platforms will need to better identity and interpret the operator’s physical status, intentions or state of mind in order to then augment him – a process that Overholt compares to the observe-orient-decide-act loop made famous by Air Force Col. John Boyd.

“The human is the most vital piece of the equation,” he says.



Ukraine Crisis Speeds E. European UAV Efforts

May. 13, 2014 – 03:00PM | By JAROSLAW ADAMOWSKI |


WARSAW — Some Eastern European countries aim to boost their UAV fleets following Russian intervention in Crimea, local analysts say, as Moscow also increases its UAV capabilities.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu has announced an ambitious 320 billion ruble (US $8.9 billion) drone program designed to boost the country’s UAV fleet by 2020. The focus will be on aerial strike and reconnaissance capabilities.

The program has political backing at the highest level. Last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin called drones a vital area of development in modern aviation.


Poland Accelerates Acquisitions

Russia’s military procurement plans and its intervention in Ukraine helped spur the Polish Defense Ministry to accelerate its drone procurement program, reported local news agency PAP. Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said on March 5 that the Ukrainian crisis will force the government to reassess the priorities of its plan to modernize the armed forces by 2022 under a 130 billion zloty ($42.7 billion) program.

“We have to be prepared for long-term instability across Poland’s eastern border. This is why we will be developing a range of means to strengthen our fast-response capacity in critical situations,” Tusk said.

This year, Poland was one of the first countries to officially recognize the Ukrainian government formed by Arseniy Yatsenuk in opposition to ousted pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych.

Following Tusk’s announcement, senior Defense Ministry officials said in late April that Poland would acquire its first new UAVs in 2016. The armed forces aim to acquire several hundred drones in multiple variants under a 3 billion zloty program.

“The acceleration in the launch of the medium-altitude, long-endurance drone procurement procedure is one of the elements which were changed in the technical modernization program of the Polish military,” said Czeslaw Mroczek, the deputy defense minister responsible for acquisitions of arms and military equipment.

Under the plan, the first batch of medium-altitude, long-endurance drones will consist of 12 UAVs designed for reconnaissance missions, but also fitted with strike capabilities. Originally, the Defense Ministry planned to use the new UAVs to replace Poland’s outdated Sukhoi Su-22 fighter jets in a ground attack role, but the project has reportedly been scrapped.

Mroczek said the armed forces have already drafted the tactical-technical specifications for the drones.

“The Ukrainian crisis is shifting defense priorities of many countries in the region,” said Marek Jablonowski, a political scientist at the University of Warsaw. “Many of them reduced their defense expenditures … over the past years. But with security concerns growing in the region, this trend is likely to be reversed.”

Speaking April 29, Mroczek said the ministry will launch the procurement in several weeks, and securing the participation of local companies in UAV production will be one of the program’s cornerstones, according to the deputy minister.

Poland’s Navy also is developing an unmanned fleet. In November, the service acquired two Gavia autonomous underwater vehicles from Iceland’s Teledyne Gavia. These will mainly perform minesweeping missions in the Baltic Sea, according to the Defense Ministry’s Armament Directorate.


Estonia Eyes Global Hawks

Among the three Baltic states, which have been highly critical of Russia’s intervention in Crimea, Estonia has intensified efforts to create a military drone fleet since the Ukrainian crisis broke out.

Local analysts said the Estonian armed forces view upgrading their reconnaissance capability as a top military priority. The military aims to buy RQ-4 Global Hawk UAVs from Northrop Grumman as part of a joint procurement by a group of NATO nations, local broadcaster ERR reported. These countries include Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.

Estonia has earmarked €6 million (US $8.3 million) for its share of the acquisition, reportedly set for 2015 or 2016.


These Aren’t the Defense Job Cuts You’re Looking For

Thomas Lynch    

May 13, 2014 · in Analysis


As calls to shrink the size of the Department of Defense (DoD) become louder, defense commentators and some lawmakers look hungrily at the department’s civilian workforce. Among this group, Mackenzie Eaglen of the American Enterprise Institute recently called for Congress to take an axe to DOD civilians (repeating an argument she made exactly a year earlier, twice). Other defense analysts have piled on, asserting that Defense Department civilians have proliferated disproportionately during the past decade while having been largely immune from the ongoing Pentagon scale-back in weapons procurement, military personnel accounts, and readiness activities. Republican Congressman Ken Calvert (R-CA) took up the sword by introducing a bill that calls for a 15% cull of the Defense civilian workforce over the coming five years.

But the claims made by Ms. Eaglen, Congressman Calvert and others misrepresent reality. Their assertions misunderstand the growth of defense civilian employees from 2001-2012. They wrongly assert that the Pentagon has been failing to proportionally and responsibly downsize those civilian employees that they can. Most importantly, they dodge the dead skunk in the road: the fact that more expansive cuts in Defense Department civilian personnel can occur only after Congress authorizes another round of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) in the United States – something our legislators are generally loathe to do.

Arguments by the “cut defense-civilians” pundits rely upon trope – a trope that Defense Department civilian positions increased over the past decade mainly in reaction to the demands of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, and must therefore be dramatically scaled back. The trope contends that defense civilian employee numbers rose from 650,000 in 2000 to around 800,000 in 2012 and that, therefore, a return to 650,000 is the proper outcome of a paring of this defense manpower account.

This accounting is wrong on many levels. First, the actual, full time defense civilian workforce grew by 115,000 positions between 2001 and 2012 to a level of 765,000 (not the 800,000 critics often claim). This increase amounted to about 1/3 of the 350,000 civilian workforce positions eliminated during the post-Cold War drawdown from 1990-2001.

The critics mis-assess defense civilian workforce numbers as peaking at 800,000 because many wrongly focus their complaints upon the number of Full Time Equivalent (FTE) defense civilian work hours – a number only reported on publicly by the Pentagon since 2012. This tricky number has been estimated in successive annual Pentagon Comptroller personnel reports for Fiscal Year 2012 to be 790,000, 807,000 and 800,000. But FTEs are not a measure of full time defense workers. They do not even measure just the sum of work hours performed by full time and part time defense workers. FTE hours are actually a measure of comparable workloads performed by full time defense civilian, non-full time defense civilian and an indeterminate number of short-term contract civilian workers on long-term contractor service instruments. Thus, FTEs are not a measure of equivalent compensation or personnel status. A May 2013 GAO report deemed the Pentagon failure to establish a clear measure of FTEs across its enterprise to be a seriously accounting deficiency. Thus, the critics’ use of FTEs to generate an 800,000 top end number for civilian defense employees that unhelpfully skews the conversation toward a trope of disproportionate bloat that does not exist.

So what about the real issue of full time civilian defense personnel? Most of the decade-long 115,000 full time civilian personnel increase came in response to pulses that were largely independent of the cost of doing business in Afghanistan and Iraq. Here are the major categories contributing to the expansion of the full time defense civilian workforce from its post-World War II low of 650,000 in 2001 to 765,000 in 2010:

(1) Nearly 50,000 military-in-uniform positions in administration, management and bureaucratic routine were identified very early in the Bush 43 administration as not uniquely military in nature, and better performed by a civilian workforce – comprised of defense civilians and contractors. This conversion of military billets to civilian jobs – on bases, in factories, in shipyards and static headquarters – began in the early 2000s and concluded by 2008. Of this conversion, the Pentagon subsequently estimated that 30,000 of these became defense civilian jobs while some 20,000 went to civilian contractors. Much of this conversion was not understood by the public and lawmakers and was attributed to the wartime footing of the military services.

(2) Citing an unacceptable decline in defense intelligence community capabilities during the post-Cold War drawdown, Congress authorized additional defense civilian intelligence leaders and employees beginning in 2000. This expansion continued over the following five years, adding capability in underserved areas like counter-terrorism intelligence, South Asian intelligence, East Asian intelligence and cyberspace intelligence. Eventually, these authorizations added 8,000 civilian intelligence positions into the Defense Department.

(3) To reverse a trend of outsourcing too much military medical infrastructure to civilian contracts, and later in response to growing home front wartime support needs, the Defense Department expanded its medical professional civilian staff by 7,000 positions during the 2000s.

(4) Another 17,500 defense civilians were brought on to improve DoD’s ability to manage contractors. This expansion followed investigative report after investigative report from 2006-2010 identifying a badly sized defense acquisition workforce as a major factor explaining why U.S. taxpayers were continuously overpaying for work by contractors during the surge of money and work flowing to civilian firms following 9/11. While some of the troublesome high profile contracts were in Iraq and Afghanistan, many more were in weapons procurement and systems services performed by contractors doing routine Defense Department work. GAO observed that prior to the hiring of these additional DoD acquisition civilians, DoD had been relying on the highly questionable practice of turning to contractors to oversee other contractors.

(5) Finally, in 2009 and 2010, DoD undertook a process of “insourcing” for 17, 500 civilian positions that had been turned over to commercial contractors in the post-Cold War drawdown. These positions were demonstrated to have been inherently governmental – and thus inappropriately outsourced, or found to be costing more to do by contract than by the whole-life costs of a DoD civilian. This phase of “insourcing” was completed just as national frustration with the costs of federal workers became a celebrated cause during the 2010 Congressional mid-term elections.


Thus, of the 115,000 full time defense civilian positions added over the past decade, a conservative estimate of 80,000 (70%) of this increase came from conversions and adjustments in military and civilian contractor job profiles that were not directly linked to wartime exigencies. It stands to reason, therefore, that anything more than a 30% pare-back of these added full time civilian positions will require a foundational change in some aspect of America’s defense posture that went unaddressed during the 1990s-2000s.

It is equally misleading to contend that the Defense Department is failing to reduce its full time civilian workforce in proportion to the changes mandated by fiscal constraints since 2010. From its peak at 765,000 in 2010 (just after the conclusion of a round of 17,500 insourcing actions), the Pentagon civilian workforce has been reduced by almost 10,000 to 755,400 in mid-2014, with more to come. This reduction has been managed through several initiatives undertaken by individual military services and the Defense Department as a whole. Among these:

◦On November 2, 2011, the US Air Force announced that it would eliminate 9,000 civilian positions in management and staff support areas over the coming five years.

◦On January 17, 2013, then-Deputy Secretary Ashton Carter directed an immediate civilian hiring freeze. This freeze remains mostly in effect for all but the most critical hiring position. And, the limited hiring being done by DoD is heavily skewed toward hiring only those already serving as government civilian employees, thereby preventing new entries into the DoD civilian personnel system.

◦On July 17, 2013, Secretary of Defense Hagel announced a 20% cut in DoD and Joint Staff headquarters personnel, to be implemented in the 2015-19 timeframe.

◦On March 6, 2014, Defense Department Comptroller Robert Hale briefed that DoD will reduce its civilian work force by 5% over the period from 2015-2019.

◦On March 7, 2014, the US Army released a budget calling for the elimination of 4,400 civilian positions in 2015.

◦On April 16, 2014, the US Air Force announced that it planned to eliminate 2,700 positions in Fiscal Year 2015.


Department-wide, the DoD full time civilian workforce will drop from 755,400 in 2014 to 749,100 in 2015 (a 1% decline) and continue on that trajectory throughout the decade. At this pace, the DoD civilian full time account will taper to about 726,000 by the beginning of 2020 – a reduction in 39,000 from its peak in 2010. Put another way, this kind of responsible DoD-managed drawdown of its civilian personnel will eliminate 34% of the full time positions added from 2001-2010. This is 4,000 more than the 35,000 unaccounted for in the growth of full time DoD civilians performing jobs in intelligence, medical, contractor oversight and logistics that were independently identified and mandated for growth prior to 9/11/2001 and by management and accountability challenges inappropriately performed by uniformed military or civilian contractors.

So, where do the advocates of a far greater defense civilian workforce drawdown find more juice from this shriveled lemon?

The path to reduced defense civilian overhead is clear, even if the direct linkage is omitted by far too often by pundits when they write of the need for dramatic defense civilian workforce reduction. A vast majority of full time DoD civilians are tethered to administrative, logistics and bureaucratic functions at the more than 440 military bases and activities across the United States. Pentagon leaders have made this clear over and over again:

◦On February 5, 2013, former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy testified that “The inability to shed or realign [DoD] facilities hangs like an albatross around the Department’s neck, consuming billions of dollars that could otherwise go to readiness and modernization. Congress should grant DoD’s request for another BRAC this year.”

◦In March 2013, DoD Comptroller Robert Hale testified that military service contractors generally cost two to three times what in-house performance costs, particularly for long-term functions; thus, outsourcing of positions at bases and installations is not a substitute for consolidating or eliminating bases in an effort to pare defense civilian personnel costs.

◦On February 26, 2014, then-Acting Deputy Secretary Christine Fox said,”…. much of the DoD civilian workforce is employed outside Washington at installations, depots and shipyards … Until we get to a BRAC, our ability to significantly do more on our civilian workforce…will remain constrained.”

◦On March 4, 2014, Secretary of Defense Hagel submitted an FY15 DoD budget requesting another round of BRAC for 2017, noting that this authority had been denied by Congress in the prior two budgets but that it was essential for DoD efficiencies.


But a BRAC is where the US Congress dares not go. BRAC requests were denied by Congress in the Fiscal Year 2013 and Fiscal Year 2014 Defense bill submissions. Congressional committee leaders pronounced the Fiscal Year 2015 Defense BRAC request dead on arrival. Worse yet, language in the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act specifically prohibits another round of BRAC until the Defense Department submits an onerous set of reviews justifying all overseas military infrastructure and its strategic choices related to these.

This more detailed analysis of the full time defense civilian workforce shows that op-eds and press releases calling for a dramatic slashing of this DoD personnel account are misleading. The realities are that, despite growth in the medical, military intelligence, acquisition management and insourcing categories during the decade of two major wars and a couple of other incursions (Libya & Yemen for example), and despite growth in the early 2000s mandated by the transfer of inherently government function jobs from uniformed military to DoD civilians, the full time civilian DoD workforce never got close to 800,000. Even now, it is being adapted responsibly to an ongoing military-wide drawdown from a 2010 peak of 765,000 to a 2014 number of 755,400. The work force also is on path to go down another 1% per year to a stasis of 726,000 by the end of the decade.

A more dramatic drawdown is not feasible without another round (or several rounds) of BRAC to strip the administrative infrastructure that tethers a very large number of permanent DoD civilian positions. Sadly, that seems an unlikely outcome in a Congress that vigorously protects the local civilian jobs paid for by the DoD in the states of all 100 Senators and in at least 400 of the 535 congressional districts. Defense analysts and activist lawmakers will do the public a service by more accurately accounting for mathematical truths and the political realities that explicitly link the requirement for BRAC to defense civilian worker numbers. These realities make any more dramatic reductions in the real defense civilian workforce a facile cry that remains devilishly challenging to enact.




Climate Change Deemed Growing Security Threat by Military Researchers

NY Times


MAY 13, 2014


WASHINGTON — The accelerating rate of climate change poses a severe risk to national security and acts as a catalyst for global political conflict, a report published Tuesday by a leading government-funded military research organization concluded.

The Center for Naval Analyses Military Advisory Board found that climate change-induced drought in the Middle East and Africa is leading to conflicts over food and water and escalating longstanding regional and ethnic tensions into violent clashes. The report also found that rising sea levels are putting people and food supplies in vulnerable coastal regions like eastern India, Bangladesh and the Mekong Delta in Vietnam at risk and could lead to a new wave of refugees.

In addition, the report predicted that an increase in catastrophic weather events around the world will create more demand for American troops, even as flooding and extreme weather events at home could damage naval ports and military bases.

In an interview, Secretary of State John Kerry signaled that the report’s findings would influence American foreign policy.

“Tribes are killing each other over water today,” Mr. Kerry said. “Think of what happens if you have massive dislocation, or the drying up of the waters of the Nile, of the major rivers in China and India. The intelligence community takes it seriously, and it’s translated into action.”

Mr. Kerry, who plans to deliver a major speech this summer on the links between climate change and national security, said his remarks would also be aimed at building political support for President Obama’s climate change agenda, including a new regulation to cut pollution from coal-fired power plants that the administration will introduce in June.

“We’re going to try to lay out to people legitimate options for action that are not bank-breaking or negative,” Mr. Kerry said.

Pentagon officials said the report would affect military policy. “The department certainly agrees that climate change is having an impact on national security, whether by increasing global instability, by opening the Arctic or by increasing sea level and storm surge near our coastal installations,” John Conger, the Pentagon’s deputy under secretary of defense for installations and environment, said in a statement. “We are actively integrating climate considerations across the full spectrum of our activities to ensure a ready and resilient force.”

The report on Tuesday follows a recent string of scientific studies that warn that the effects of climate change are already occurring and that flooding, droughts, extreme storms, food and water shortages and damage to infrastructure will occur in the near future.

In March, the Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defense Review, the agency’s main public document describing the current doctrine of the United States military, drew a direct link between the effects of global warming — like rising sea levels and extreme weather patterns — and terrorism.

“These effects are threat multipliers that will aggravate stressors abroad, such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability and social tensions — conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence,” the review said.

Tuesday’s report is an update of a report by the center’s Military Advisory Board in 2007, the first major study to draw the link between climate change and national security. The report’s authors said the biggest change in the seven years between the two studies was the increase in scientific certainty about global warming, and of the link between global warming and security disruptions.

The 2007 report also described climate change as a “threat multiplier” or a problem that could enhance or contribute to already existing causes of global disruption. The 2014 report updates that language, calling climate change a “catalyst for conflict” — a phrase intentionally chosen, the report’s authors said, to signal that climate change is an active, driving force in starting conflict.

“In the past, the thinking was that climate change multiplied the significance of a situation,” said Gen. Charles F. Wald, who contributed to both reports and is retired from the Air Force. “Now we’re saying it’s going to be a direct cause of instability.”

The most recent scientific reports on climate change warn that increasing drought in Africa is now turning arable land to desert. The national security report’s authors conclude that the slow but steady expansion of the Sahara through Mali, which is killing crops and leaving farmers starving, may have been a contributing force in the jihadist uprising in that African country in 2012. Since then, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has seized control of northern Mali and remains in conflict with the Malian government.

The report warns that rising sea levels in the United States imperil many of the Navy’s coastal installations. Last week, the White House released a National Climate Assessment report citing Norfolk, Va., as one of the cities most vulnerable to damage by rising sea levels. Norfolk is home to the world’s largest naval base as well as a nuclear submarine construction yard — all of which are vulnerable to destruction by rising sea levels, found in Tuesday’s report.

“Norfolk is so big, it’s so important to the Navy, it’s important to Virginia for jobs, and it would go,” General Wald said.

A scientific report released this week found that global warming has contributed to the melting of a large section of a West Antarctica ice sheet, which could lead to a rise in sea level of 10 feet or more.

Senator James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee and a vocal skeptic of the established science that greenhouse gas emissions contribute to global warming, scoffed at the idea that climate change is linked to national security threats.

“There is no one in more pursuit of publicity than a retired military officer,” he said of the report’s authors. “I look back wistfully at the days of the Cold War. Now you have people who are mentally imbalanced, with the ability to deploy a nuclear weapon. For anyone to say that any type of global warming is anywhere close to the threat that we have with crazy people running around with nuclear weapons, it shows how desperate they are to get the public to buy this.”

Adm. David Titley, a co-author of the report and a meteorologist who is retired from the Navy, said political opposition would not extinguish what he called the indisputable data in the report.

“The ice doesn’t care about politics or who’s caucusing with whom, or Democrats or Republicans,” said Admiral Titley, who now directs the Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk at Pennsylvania State University.




Internet of Things security may be a losing battle

Brandan Blevins, News Writer

Published: 08 May 2014

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — According to a number of security luminaries, the Internet of Things has the potential to disrupt and transform society in the same way the printing press did centuries ago. But much like the Internet’s creators came to regret ignoring security in its early days, when it comes to securing the millions of emerging Internet-connected devices and machines, the information security industry may already be falling behind.

That was the overarching theme of Wednesday’s inaugural Security of Things Forum, uniting security professionals to discuss the most pressing Internet of Things security issues. According to a recent report from Gartner Inc. — which estimated 26 billion devices will be connected to the Internet by 2020 – Internet of Things (IoT) security problems will force enterprises to rethink their IT security strategies much in the same way bring your own device and cloud computing have shattered the idea of the traditional network perimeter.

“Every time we have a major infection point, we seem to make the same mistakes,” said Earl Perkins, research vice president with Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner. “We allow it to get away from us and end up playing catch up for the next five to 10 years.”

Josh Corman, chief technology officer for Fulton, Md.-based application security vendor Sonatype Inc., warned attendees that the battle to secure IoT may already be slipping away from the industry — and that’s before billions of home appliances, motor vehicles and medical devices join the fray.


IoT devices at risk

For example, last year researchers Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek showed how cars could be hacked remotely, said Corman, with the duo demonstrating the ability to disable a car’s brakes, accelerate its speed and even take full control of the steering wheel. Corman admitted that even he had not understood the extent to which cars are controlled by software.

“We’re driving a computer on wheels,” Corman said. “For the next 24 hours, every time you see the word ‘software,’ replace it with the word ‘vulnerable.'”

Corman also pointed to research by the late Barnaby Jack to hammer home just how insecure IoT devices are today. Starting in 2011, Jack demonstrated on multiple occasions how hackers could control the dosages delivered by insulin pumps to diabetics via a Bluetooth connection, potentially exposing victims to lethal amounts.

Ultimately, he said, the general public and the manufacturers of such devices are unlikely to take security concerns seriously until real-life, catastrophic events take place — much in the same way environmental regulations in the U.S. weren’t embraced until the Cuyahoga River in Ohio caught fire in the 1960s, sparking a wave of concern.

“Why the heck is there Bluetooth on an insulin pump?” said Corman, who questioned whether the benefits of Internet-connected devices actually outweigh the risks. “[It goes] back to that cost benefit. We’re taking the benefits, but we’re not assessing the risks.”

Dan Geer, chief information security officer for Arlington, Va.-based In-Q-Tel, a government-funded investment firm that helps incubate technology for the CIA, said the benefits of IoT are driving society to be increasingly dependent on machines that communicate with each other. In terms of how IoT already affects the U.S. food supply, Geer said tractors on farms are connected to GPS, vegetables and fruits are sorted by robots, and even livestock are tagged with RFID chips; the efficiencies derived from that interconnectedness means there is never more than a week’s supply of food in the chain.

Whereas those embedded systems have in the past remained unconnected from the Internet, Geer warned attendees that as manufacturers seek to control such systems remotely, the risk posed by that new connectivity may not be easily contained.

Considering that embedded systems manufacturers to date haven’t often provided firmware updates, Geer questioned whether such “immortal” IoT devices — always connected but lacking security support — would be angelic or demonic.

“The longer-lived these devices [become], the surer it will be that they will be hijacked within their lifetime,” Geer said. “Their manufacturers may die before they do; a kind of unwanted legacy much akin to superfund sites and space junk. The Internet of Things … should raise hackles on every neck given our current posture.”


How to secure IoT devices

While the security industry is just beginning to come to grips with IoT, Geer said the industry also needs new technologies to secure IoT. Unfortunately, Geer indicated such investments are unlikely in the short term because nobody wants to fund them.

Hypothetically, he said, a company could offer technology that would lock down, say, a processor once it leaves a fabrication factory — potentially preventing attackers from inserting backdoors at the hardware level — but it’s unclear to him which stakeholder in the supply chain would be willing to buy such a product.

For attendee Mark T., a long-time investor in sensor-related startups, the impetus for better IoT security measures needs to come from the businesses utilizing IoT devices. In a previous venture, Mark said his company had created sensors for the restaurant industry that measured waste runoff from grease traps and the like — a product for which he did not implement any security controls because he assumed restaurants would not care. Surprisingly, he was forced to reassess that assumption when restaurants requested certain security features based on industry regulations.

“I put in a PIN and that made them happy enough,” said Mark T., who noted that the fear of regulatory fines was the driving factor for his customers, not security concerns.

Corman said manufacturers of IoT devices are unlikely to consider implementing better security measures unless customers are willing to press for change. In the case of Jack’s insulin pump hack, for example, Corman implored attendees to question their own personal doctors about the incident and the general security of other medical devices, with the hopes that doctors and hospitals, the largest purchasers of medical equipment, would take those concerns to the manufacturers.

Corman said — given that defending IoT devices is much more difficult than attacking them — consumer pressure is needed sooner rather than later.

“Are we too early or too late? In some ways, I think we’re too late,” Corman said. “Our best and brightest are spending billions of dollars on security controls — and even in areas that don’t matter that much [like securing easily replaceable credit cards] — and we’re still having breaches on a regular basis. This has pretty big implications for the Internet of Things.”



NASA Tries to Cash In on Russia Tensions

By Alex Brown

National Journal

April 11, 2014


NASA is trying to turn U.S. tensions with Russia into a proxy war with Congress over the agency’s budget.

Last week, NASA announced it was cutting off most communication with Russia’s Roscosmos agency because of President Vladimir Putin’s incursion into Crimea. But after a cursory mention of the crisis in Ukraine, the space agency spent nearly a dozen lines blaming Congress for NASA’s inability to put its own astronauts into orbit.

“NASA is laser-focused on a plan to return human spaceflight launches to American soil, and end our reliance on Russia to get into space,” the release said. “This has been a top priority of the Obama administration’s for the past five years, and, had our plan been fully funded, we would have returned American human spaceflight launches … back to the United States next year.”

On Tuesday, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden told the House Appropriations Committee that securing some $850 million for commercial spaceflight partnerships is his “No. 1 objective” for the upcoming budget. And last month, he told another House panel: “The choice here is between fully funding the request to bring space launches back to American soil or continuing to send millions to the Russians. It’s that simple. The Obama administration chooses to invest in America—and we are hopeful that Congress will do the same.”

The United States has lacked the ability to launch its own astronauts since the space-shuttle program shut down in 2011. Currently, NASA pays Russia about $70 million for each astronaut it ferries to the International Space Station.

Despite NASA’s announcement, that agreement will continue for at least three more years, as the agency tries to get commercial partners in the U.S. ready to take on the space-taxi role. The original goal was to launch astronauts from the U.S. by 2015, but Bolden blamed budget cuts for pushing back that timeline. Future cuts, he warned, could add years of additional delays. The latest contract is expected to award Russia nearly half a billion dollars to launch six astronauts in 2016 and 2017.

While NASA asserts that underfunding has left it vulnerable to Moscow’s whims, some experts say the agency’s rhetoric overstates Russia’s ability to harm the U.S. space program—and that the argument will fail to loosen congressional purse strings.

The issue, experts say, is that Russia can’t punish NASA without crippling its own space program. For that same reason, they say, NASA’s cessation of communications with Roscosmos isn’t a serious sanction.

Jim Oberg, a former NASA official who studied Russian space programs for the agency, says it’s misguided to suggest the U.S. is at Russia’s mercy until NASA can launch its own astronauts. Russia’s lagging industry, he says, relies on spacecraft components from overseas.

Bolden, NASA’s chief, admitted as much Tuesday when pressed on what NASA plans to do if the relationship with Russia breaks down completely. The plan, he said, is to make sure it doesn’t. He expressed confidence that Russia knows that its space industry is too intertwined with ours to do anything drastic. “If they want to continue to operate in low-Earth orbit, they’ve got to stay in the partnership,” he said. “They know that as much as we do.”

Underscoring the gap between rhetoric and reality, the earthbound war of words between NASA and Roscosmos—and the decision to cut off some areas of communication—has done exactly nothing to change the two countries’ joint operations at the International Space Station.

Regardless of the Russian reality, Republicans don’t share NASA’s sense of budgetary urgency. Rep. Frank Wolf, who chairs the House Appropriations Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee, told Bolden in a heated exchange Tuesday that spaceflight funding has been more than adequate. “We have protected this program,” he said, citing other instances where NASA has overrun its budget.

“Our numbers don’t jibe,” Bolden responded. “Congress has provided about $2 billion for commercial crew. We have requested $3 billion over that period of time.”

Those House Republicans who agreed that the situation in Russia could present a threat to NASA blamed the administration’s sanctions—saying they could lead the Russians to retaliate—rather than their own budget decisions.


Bolden’s budget request is not without congressional supporters, including Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat who is a former astronaut and a strong NASA ally. “This is why the development of American commercial spaceflight is so vital,” he said. “We’ve got to properly fund and support commercial spaceflight so we can keep our space program alive and well, no matter what happens with Russia.”

This article appears in the April 12, 2014 edition of National Journal Magazine as NASA’s Russia Gambit.


It’s Hard to Ban GPS Stations in Russia That Don’t Exist

By Bob Brewin

May 13, 2014


News websites spanning a wide readership from Gizmodo to the Wall Street Journal and Russian site RT reported Tuesday that Russia’s deputy prime minister, Dmitry Rogozin, who is in charge of space and defense industries, plans to ban operation of U.S. GPS monitoring sites in Russia.

This evidently is a reaction to language in the 2014 Defense Department authorization bill that barred Russia from setting up monitoring sites for its Global Navigation Satellite System, or GLONASS, in the United States.

The only problem with these media reports is the United States operates 12 GPS master control stations and 16 monitoring sites globally, and none are located in Russia, according to the official U.S. website about the Global Positioning System.

Evidently Rogozin (and the news reports) confused data rich GPS monitoring sites with the worldwide network of Continuously Operating Reference Stations used to monitor earthquake activity, which pass only a limited amount of geodesic data.


3D-printed rapid disaster response robots

3D-printed robots are easily adapted to specific tasks and payloads and can be quickly dispatched in emergency situations.


By Alberto Lacaze, Karl Murphy, Edward Mottern and Katrina Corley

25 April 2014, SPIE Newsroom. DOI: 10.1117/2.1201404.005459


The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is increasingly using robots in military operations and in response to domestic emergencies. However, selecting and prepositioning the appropriate robotic assets can be difficult, because of the prohibitive cost. Furthermore, there are specific requirements for task-appropriate attachments, the correct track or wheels for the terrain, the size or weight of the platform, and the sensor-carrying capability.

Additive manufacturing and 3D printing enable quick, efficient, and cost-effective production of critical items for immediate use in emergency situations. Robotic Research, sponsored by DHS Science and Technology, is developing an affordable and adaptable system1 that uses 3D printing to produce robots and other specialized devices during disaster response. The system contains a library of robots: a storefront for designs, interactive elements, a database, and a complete workflow for keeping track of the information needed, from model design to operation of the printed equipment. There are currently multiple robots and device designs, with more being developed, and we are building compatible libraries for commercial and government use. These would allow third-party developers to maintain their intellectual property and receive payment if their devices are realized.

Not all robot components can be 3D printed: motors and sensors being examples that cannot. DHS specifies a common set of these non-printed parts that all the robot designs use. If a hundred robots require a small motor, they all use the same model, rather than a hundred different motors. This approach reduces the required inventory of non-printed parts.

We designed an initial set of platforms for DHS for proof of concept. The Throwable Orientation Switching Robot (TOSR) is a small, throwable, two-wheeled remote-controlled robot (see Figure 1). TOSR’s body is 3D printed in acrylonitrile butadiene styrene and its wheels are a combination of stiff and flexible materials to help the robot survive being thrown. TOSR currently carries a camera payload with LED lighting and transmits the video wirelessly to an operator control unit. The camera is positioned to see in front of the robot when driving, but can tilt upward to inspect objects above. The system is particularly useful in situations where recovery of the platform may not be possible (e.g., chemical or biological survey, or a building collapse). Because we print TOSR from scratch, we can easily adapt it to carry additional payloads as required, and thus it provides an easy-to-use, adaptable, low-cost robotic platform. We tested the robot at the Naval Postgraduate School’s field program in February 2014, where we threw and drove it in a variety of terrains.

Another platform, the Remote Aerial Payload Transport Robot (RAPTR), is a 3D-printed aerial hexarotor platform (see Figure 2). RAPTR is capable of carrying a small hemorrhage/trauma kit and incorporates a camera to provide remote feedback to the operator. Using the operator control unit, it is possible to have RAPTR autonomously fly a specified set of waypoints (markers). Like TOSR, its 3D-printed fabrication means the model can be easily adapted to new mission needs, such as additional payloads.

In the future, rapid manufacturing will solve a variety of complex problems by offering customization, low cost, just-in-time availability, and rapid modification for individual tasks. Therefore, the problem now is not a lack of models but how to sort, share, and find these models and match them to specific needs.

We are working with the Army Rapid Equipping Force to develop the interface for a library of 3D-printable systems, the Expeditionary Additive Module, which would allow operators to search the collection of robots to be built. The system would provide instructions to print and assemble the selected robot, and tutorials for training and use. Our work currently focuses on disaster response, but we plan to extend it to a range of customers, including domestic law enforcement, armed services, universities, and research facilities.


Alberto Lacaze, Karl Murphy, Edward Mottern, Katrina Corley

Robotic Research, LLC

Gaithersburg, MD

Alberto Lacaze is president and cofounder of Robotic Research, LLC, and has extensive experience with software, sensors, and techniques to support unmanned autonomous mobility for ground vehicles. He holds an MS in electrical engineering from Drexel University and a BS in electrical engineering and in computer engineering, from Florida Institute of Technology.

Karl Murphy is vice president and cofounder of Robotic Research, LLC, and has extensive experience developing navigation and control systems for autonomous vehicles, terrain perception using lidar and other sensors, and maritime unmanned systems applications. He holds an MS in mechanical engineering from Carnegie Mellon University and a BS in mechanical engineering from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

Edward Mottern has more than 12 years of program management, robotic vehicle development, integration, and testing experience with major Department of Defense unmanned systems programs. He holds an MS in systems engineering from John Hopkins University (2010) and a BS in electrical engineering/BS in computer engineering from West Virginia University (2002).

Katrina Corley has extensive experience in computer-aided design, robotic systems testing and integration, and additive manufacturing processes. She holds an MS in mechanical engineering with a robotics focus from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach (2011) and a BS in mechanical engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta (2009).



1. A. Lacaze, K. Murphy, E. Mottern, K. Corley, 3D printed rapid disaster response, Proc. SPIE 9118, 2014. Paper accepted at SPIE Indep. Component Analyses, Compressive Sampling, Wavelets, Neural Net, Biosyst., Nanoeng. XII Conf. in Baltimore, MD, 7–9 May 2014.



Air Force: More than 20 percent HQ staff cuts in one year

May 14, 2014 – 05:26PM |



Cuts to Air Force headquarters staff will affect active-duty, civilian and contractor personnel, and the bulk will occur in fiscal 2015, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said.

The Air Force intends to cut more than 20 percent of its headquarters staffs within a year as part of an overall downsizing effort, according to Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James.

James said the move responds to a directive issued last summer by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel that all military services trim their headquarters staffs by 20 percent over five years by 2019.

“You’re going to see the Air Force do a bit better than 20 percent, a little bit more than 20 percent, and we’re going to try to do it in one year, not five years,” James told an editorial board meeting at Gannett Government Media Corp., which publishes Federal Times, C4ISR&Networks, Defense News and the Military Times publications.

Those headquarters staff reductions will affect active-duty, civilian and contractor personnel, and the bulk of those cuts will occur in fiscal 2015, she said.

“So this is, again, in the theme of — to the extent that we can — get this done more quickly rather than slowly,” James said “I think it is better for people, number one. And number two, it allows us to harvest the savings more early on so we can plow it back into readiness and some of the key modernizations.”

The headquarters downsizing occurs alongside a broader force restructuring within the Air Force that will trim the active-duty ranks by 16,700 in fiscal 2015 and another 2,000 or so in fiscal 2016.

“By next summer, we are looking to be done with this whole, all these different voluntary, involuntary measures because we’ll basically be shaped at about the right size,” she said.

“We’re going to be coming down in our overall numbers mostly in the active [duty], but somewhat in the Guard and Reserve as well. … We will also be coming down somewhat in our civilian [side],” James said.

The service plans to cut 2,700 civilian positions in 2014 and 2015 and a total of 6,300 positions over the next five years, according to Air Force spokesman Maj. Matt Hasson.

“As for [reductions in force] and things of that nature, with our civilian force, we’re going to take a similar approach: Meaning there are voluntary measures that we’ll be utilizing and [we’ll] go to the involuntary only as necessary, so a little of that remains to be seen,” James said.

She added that the service expects to avoid the use of furloughs unless it is hit with additional sequester budget cuts, as it was last year.

“What really has been very damaging to us over the last year has been the situation with furloughs in our civilian workforce. I really, really don’t want to see us return to that and we do not project that we will unless we will get somehow boxed in with another sequestration, both in level of funding and the mechanism of sequestration,” she said.

In cutting headquarters staffs, James said the Air Force will look to make consolidations among major command policy staffs who oversee and manage base support services, such as security, chaplain services, civil engineering, personnel and the like.

“One of the key areas that we’re looking at is how do we currently manage some of our installation support policies, I’ll say.”

“We’re looking at sharing services and more consolidating of the policy-oriented people at the major command level. We’re looking at: Can we put that together in a different fashion to share those services of policy, but leaving the execution people on the scene. And that we believe will create some savings for us.”

James said details of how this would work are being worked out and will be ready for her review “sometime this summer.”

“I do think this is the way of the future. Other organizations make it work. My lean-forward belief is we can make this work too,” James said. “It might mean a little loss of control for some commanders and whatnot, I think it’s a very valuable thing to look at.”



Report: U.S. Military Needs More Drones, Not Better Ones

In a new paper, the think tank Rand Corporation outlines the future of military drones.

By Kelsey D. Atherton

Posted 05.13.2014 at 5:32 pm


American military involvement in Afghanistan is winding down. The production run of the MQ-1 Predator, an unmanned surveillance aircraft adapted to carry missiles and strike targets from above, is over. This poses a question for military planners: What kind of drone will the U.S. Air Force need next? A new report, published last Friday by the think tank Rand Corporation, says the answer is more of the same.


Rand researchers used a computer simulation to test three drone concepts of varying size, plus the existing MQ-9 Reaper. The tests focused on the drones’ ability to destroy a moving target. The Reaper, it’s worth noting, is an evolution of the MQ-1 Predator, and has already fulfilled this role in both Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as in other countries where the U.S. operates drones.

Here are the lessons learned, in handy bullet point format.

•No one drone is best at everything

•More drones are better than one drone

•Overall, the MQ-9 Reaper currently in service does its job the best

•Improving Reaper sensors is probably an easier and fix than designing a new drone for the job

Rather than calculate whether or not a drone concept carried sufficient weapons to destroy a target, the test rated the ability of a drone to track a target until a weapon was available—a distinction that gave the smaller drones, which have a harder time carrying weapons, a fair shot. The logic behind this is that if a smaller drone can follow a vehicle for long enough, another vehicle, such as a bomber or a tank, could step in to destroy it.

Here’s the description of the role, in pitch-perfect, sterile bureaucratese:

The hunter-killer mission is understood best not as a specific mission but as a class of missions in which aircraft hunt for and ultimately kill a specific individual target on the ground. One or more aircraft may participate in the search; the search area may be large or small; the target may be mobile or stationary or may exhibit more-complex behaviors; the [Rules of Engagement] may be loose or restrictive; and the environmental conditions can vary greatly.

The sensor systems used in the simulation varied by the size of the drone, and that had a major impact on the results. Smaller drones, with lighter and fewer sensors, had to fly below cloud cover, or else risk losing targets, but larger drones could fly above clouds and still track vehicles just fine. The heart of the report analyzes specific sensors, weather combinations, and tracking patterns, but the real meat of it comes at the end, when the authors discuss how many drones it takes to successfully complete a mission.

Reapers, and most other large drones, are capable of tracking and destroying targets on their own, and get even better at it when used in pairs. Smaller drones are sometimes successful when flying alone, but their effectiveness improves greatly when used in twos and threes. And yet, even the improved abilities of three small drones working together usually isn’t enough to match a single Reaper. This is especially true in difficult, foggy or cloudy weather, and at night, which is when the Air Force prefers to launch drone strikes.

There’s one huge caveat on all this:

We assumed that the pilot would not divert to follow a target unless the sensor operator could confirm to a high degree of certainty (i.e., by identifying the target) that it was the right one…

If that assumption is wrong, it doesn’t matter how many Reapers are used; getting accurate information to identify a target remains the most important and challenging part of America’s targeted killing campaign.



FCC approves plan to consider paid priority on Internet

By Cecilia Kang

May 15 at 11:16 am


The FCC’s controversial net neutrality plan has drawn protesters and letters from some of the country’s most powerful companies. (Brian Fung / The Washington Post)

The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday voted in favor of advancing a proposal that could dramatically reshape the way consumers experience the Internet, opening the possibility of Internet service providers charging Web sites for higher-quality delivery of their content to American consumers.

The plan, approved in a three-to-two vote along party lines, could unleash a new economy on the Web where an Internet service provider such as Verizon would charge a Web site such as Netflix for the guarantee of flawless video streaming.

Smaller companies that can’t afford to pay for faster delivery would likely face additional obstacles against bigger rivals. And consumers could see a trickle-down effect of higher prices as Web sites try to pass along new costs of doing business with Internet service providers.

The proposal is not a final rule, but the three-to-two vote on Thursday is a significant step forward on a controversial idea that has invited fierce opposition from consumer advocates, Silicon Valley heavyweights, and Democratic lawmakers.

Even one of the Democratic commissioners who voted yes on Thursday expressed some misgivings about how the proposal had been handled.

“I would have done this differently. I would have taken the time to consider the future,” said Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who said the proposal can’t allow for clear fast lanes for the most privileged companies. She said she supported a proposal allowing the agency to consider questions on how it could prevent certain Web sites from being blocked, in addition to figuring out the overall oversight of broadband Internet providers.

“I believe the process that got us to rulemaking today was flawed,” she said. “I would have preferred a delay.”

Wheeler’s proposal is part of a larger “net neutrality” plan that forbids Internet service providers from outright blocking Web sites. And he promised a series of measures to ensure the new paid prioritization practices are done fairly and don’t harm consumers. The agency said it had developed a “multifaceted dispute resolution process” on enforcement.

But consumer advocates doubt the FCC can effectively enforce anti-competitive practices or ensure consumers aren’t stuck with fewer choices or poorer service. They note that the FCC will only investigate complaints brought to them, and many small companies and consumers don’t have resources to alert the agency.

One proposal that consumer groups applauded was on the open question of whether the government should redefine broadband Internet as a public utility, like phone service, which would come with much more oversight from the FCC.

“Agencies almost always change their rules from the initial proposal — that is why we have a whole notice and comment period, so that the agency can hear from the public and be educated into making the right decision (or at least the least bad decision),” said Harold Feld, a vice president at Public Knowledge, a media and technology policy public interest group. “Do not freak about the tentative conclusion and proposed rules.”

The next phase will be four months of public comments, after which the commissioners will vote again on redrafted rules that are meant to take into account public opinion. But the enactment of final rules faces significant challenges.

The proposal has sparked a massive fight between two of the most powerful industries in the country — on one side, Silicon Valley, and on the other, companies such as Verizon and AT&T that built the pipes delivering Web content to consumers’ homes. The telecom companies argue that without being able to charge tech firms for higher-speed connections, they will be unable to invest in faster connections for consumers.


Here’s Why Robots Could Humanize War

By David Francis,

The Fiscal Times

May 15, 2014


As the Pentagon expands its use of robots on the battlefield and its investments in developing robot technology, a movement to ban the use of autonomous robots on the battlefield is growing. Those who decry the use of robots argue that removing the human element from warfare would remove all moral judgment; robot soldiers would be unfeeling killing machines.

One researcher, however, believes just the opposite. He argues that robot soldiers would make warfare more ethical, not less.

Ronald Arkin, an artificial intelligence expert from Georgia Tech and author of the book, Governing Lethal Behavior in Autonomous Robots, argues in a series of papers that robots can be taught to act morally. He’s presenting his ideas at a United Nations meeting in Geneva this week and sent a 2013 paper, “Lethal Autonomous Systems and the Plight of the Non-combatant,” to outline his views.

Arkin says, “It may be possible to ultimately create intelligent autonomous robotic military systems that are capable of reducing civilian casualties and property damage when compared to the performance of human warfighters.”

In the paper, Arkin argues that it’s the very inhumanity of robots that allow them to make more humane decisions than their human counterparts. For instance, robots could reduce friendly fire incidents and lower civilian casualties. They could also be programmed to act in what humans would consider a moral way in situations where a human soldier might be tempted to violate the laws of war or ethical and moral codes. He argues that history proves that it’s impossible to prevent soldiers from violating these laws and codes.

“While I have the utmost respect for our young men and women warfighters, they are placed into conditions in modern warfare under which no human being was ever designed to function,” he writes. “In such a context, expecting a strict adherence to the Laws of War … seems unreasonable and unattainable by a significant number of soldiers.”


Advantages Over Humans

Arkin claims that robots provide an advantage over humans for a host of reasons, including:

•They do not have to worry about self-preservation, and therefore would not have to fire upon targets they simply suspect pose a threat. “There is no need for a ‘shoot first, ask-questions later’ approach, but rather a ‘first-do-no-harm’ strategy can be utilized instead. They can truly assume risk on behalf of the noncombatant,” he writes.

•They have sensors that are better equipped than a human being to survey the battlefield that allow them to see through the so-called fog of war.

•They could be designed in a way that prevents them from acting out of anger or frustration.

•Physical and mental damage from actions of the battlefield would have no impact on a robot.

•They can process more information than a human before having to use deadly force.

•They could independently monitor the ethical behavior of humans that fight along side it. “This presence alone might possibly lead to a reduction in human ethical infractions,” Arkin argues.


Arkin’s thesis comes at a time when the military is expanding its use of robots on all fronts. They are already used on the battlefield to detect roadside bombs. Private companies and laboratories are also developing robots that can fight fires, haul gear and drag soldiers to safety. It’s only a matter of time before one is weaponized.

And it appears as if the military is buying into Arkin’s argument. The Office of Naval Research will give a $7.5 million grant to Tufts, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Yale, Georgetown and Brown researchers to develop a robotic system that can determine right and wrong.

In his research, Arkin deals only with the moral questions surrounding the use of robots. He does not address the financial issues connected to the job losses that would follow the use of robot soldiers. In theory, they could make human infantry redundant, eliminating hundreds of thousands of jobs for traditional soldiers.


Obligation to Use Them?

Arkin argues that if science can create weaponized robots that are programmed to always do the right thing under rules of war and recognized moral code, there is an obligation for war planners to use them.

“If achievable, this would result in a reduction in collateral damage, i.e., noncombatant casualties and damage to civilian property, which translates into saving innocent lives. If achievable this could result in a moral requirement necessitating the use of these systems,” he writes.


Can the Pentagon Save Earth from Space Junk?

Lockheed, Raytheon Compete for Contract to Build Radar System That Would Track More Space Debris

By Doug Cameron

May 15, 2014 7:45 p.m. ET


Two of the biggest U.S. defense companies are battling for a big contract that doesn’t involve foreign armies or terrorists but a less earthly threat.


The Pentagon later this month plans to award a contract for the first phase of its $6 billion project dubbed the Space Fence, a radar system that would track more of the fast-growing field of debris in space that threatens to disable or destroy satellites and manned spacecraft.

Lockheed Martin Corp. and Raytheon Co. are competing for a contract to build a powerful radar system intended to quintuple the amount of space junk the U.S. can monitor, and enable officials to warn satellite operators to move their spacecraft before possible collisions.

The initial $1 billion Space Fence contract to build a radar station on an atoll in the Marshall Islands is highly prized as Pentagon budget pressures have reduced the number of new military projects to a trickle, with the winner able to stake a better claim for follow-on business, such as a second station in Australia.

There are an estimated half million bits of man-made junk whizzing around the Earth that could disable or destroy a satellite, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. From spent rocket parts to paint flecks—and for a short time even a glove—they range in size from a few centimeters across to a deactivated, 30-foot satellite weighing nine tons.

All pose a threat to the 1,200 operational satellites in orbit from various nations that are essential for cellphone service, Internet access, Global Positioning System mapping and bank machines, among other functions.

Orbiting debris collides at a combined speed of 22,000 miles an hour—six times that of a high-velocity bullet. At that rate, the damage of impact would be amplified by a huge shock wave, said Felix Hoots, a distinguished engineer at the Aerospace Corp., a federally funded space research group.

“It literally shakes the satellite apart,” said Mr. Hoots. “The [fence] is going to give us a lot more data and see a lot more objects than we’ve seen before.”

The problem is hardly science fiction, but it has become Hollywood fare. Gen. William Shelton, commander of the U.S. Air Force Space Command, kicked off a speech last November about space debris with a clip from the Oscar-winning movie “Gravity,” where a cloud of debris destroys the space shuttle and strands an astronaut played by actress Sandra Bullock adrift in space, with only her colleague, played by George Clooney, for company.

Gen. Shelton, at another event in February, said the U.S. Air Force currently alerts satellite operators on average about twice a month of potential collisions with the debris that it tracks.

That could mean predictions of debris passing within a few miles or a few hundred miles. The international space station has twice this year had to move out of the way of space debris.

“If maybe a two-to-three-centimeter sized object can be lethal to fragile satellites, we’ve got a lot of traffic in space that we need to be worried about and we just can’t track it right now,” he said.


There have been only a handful of collisions between satellites and debris currently monitored by the Air Force, though technical problems with some spacecraft have been blamed on impacts with small, untracked pieces. But not everyone is convinced that the threat is significant.

“Currently, insurers are not overly concerned about collisions with in-orbit debris,” said William Lloyd, chief executive of Willis Inspace, a unit of broker Willis Group Holdings PLC that insures more than a quarter of the satellite market. “The insurance purchased today covers these types of collisions, and to my knowledge there has never been a claim for this type of exposure.”

But the amount of debris is growing. When China deliberately destroyed one of its own satellites with a ground-launched rocket in 2007, 2,500 fragments were released that now pose a threat to spacecraft. The 2009 crash of an Iridium Communications Inc. satellite with a Russian Cosmos satellite shed another 2,200 large pieces.

While France, Germany and other nations have debris monitoring systems, the Air Force has become a global repository for analyzing data on space junk, sharing predictions of possible collisions with partner governments, agencies and commercial operators.

The amount of space debris cataloged by the existing array of radars, sensors and telescopes doubled over the past decade to around 17,000 pieces last year, according to NASA. The Space Fence radar is intended to allow the Air Force to identify and track more than 100,000 pieces of orbiting debris. It will be able to see bits the size of a baseball, which is half the diameter the current sensors can track.

“Once you figure out what’s there, you can task other systems to take a closer look,” said Steve Bruce, vice president for space surveillance systems at Lockheed Martin.

Both the Air Force and Raytheon declined to comment.

Processing the information correctly is as important as collecting it, and extra data will allow satellite operators to make better decisions about whether to use onboard fuel to move space craft to avoid collisions.

Satellites are placed in fixed orbits, and operators are wary of false alarms as they carry only a small amount of fuel, so any moves will reduce their lives, said Ron Busch, vice president of network engineering at Intelsat SA which operates 50 satellites.

The U.S. shuttered an earlier monitoring system in part because of defense budget cuts, and the Space Fence contract was delayed a year by sequestration cuts—moving its planned operational start to 2018.

The project appears to have solid political support. “Collisions in orbit could prove detrimental to U.S. military capabilities and disrupt systems we all depend on day-to-day—everything from GPS to banking transactions,” said Rep. Steven Palazzo (R., Miss.), chairman of the House Space Subcommittee.


Lockheed and Raytheon are vying for the initial contract at a time when relations between the companies—partners in the successful Patriot missile-defense system—have become edgier. Raytheon has successfully moved onto Lockheed’s turf, last year winning a coveted Navy radar deal, and finds itself sparring with its rival over the future of U.S. cruise missiles.

“Lockheed and Raytheon are locked in a fierce rivalry for much of the military electronics market,” said Loren Thompson at the Lexington Institute, a think tank that receives financial backing from both companies. “One company’s gain is often the other’s loss.”


Dayton ranks No. 3 for college grads

May 14, 2014, 6:30am EDT

Dayton ranks as the third-best city in the country to move to after college to begin a career, by

Olivia Barrow

Senior Reporter- Dayton Business Journal


Cities like New York and San Francisco draw college graduates like magnets, but a new study shows that new grads should look to smaller, more affordable cities to start their careers.

Dayton is one of those, ranked as the third-best city in the country to move to after college to begin a career, by The study evaluated cities based on unemployment rates, rent commute times and the number of bars per 10,000 people.

Toledo ranked second and Buffalo ranked first.

Dayton is working hard to revamp its image to be more appealing to college grads in order to attract and retain a well-educated, younger workforce. Studies showing the perks of smaller, more affordable cities like Dayton, could help draw in more young professionals. is a credit card comparison and financial education website for young adults.

Click here to see the full study.


Rasmussen Reports

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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Going to college is leaving a lot of Americans deep in a financial hole these days, and they don’t seem very confident that spending all that money is getting them anywhere.

Fifty-six percent (56%) of Americans think the primary purpose of attending college is to learn the skills needed to get a better job, but just 28% believe most college graduates have the skills to enter the workforce.

When you consider that nearly as many (25%) think most high school graduates have the skills for a job, Americans clearly don’t feel that four or more years in college train many more people for the workforce.

No wonder than amidst this year’s graduation season that an overwhelming majority (86%) of adults believes it will be difficult for these graduates to find jobs in the current economy. This includes 37% who say it will be Very Difficult.

Looking at the current jobs situation, 38% of Employed Americans now say they work more than 40 hours a week, up from 33% a year ago. Last May, 73% said they generally looked forward to going to work. Just 62% feel that way now.

But 68% rate their boss or supervisor as good or excellent. Eighty-seven percent (87%) say they have a good or excellent relationship with their coworkers.

More American workers than ever (61%) plan on using all of their vacation time this year, and fewer (54%) are connecting with work while they are away. 

Support for raising the minimum wage remains unchanged, with 51% of Americans continuing to favor President Obama’s proposal to push it up from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour.

For the first time, more voters think reducing the income gap between rich and poor is more important than encouraging free market competition – by a 45% to 42% margin. But when asked about each separately, voters still place higher importance on a free market.

Fifty-nine percent (59%) favor strict government sanctions on employers who hire illegal immigrants. Support for these sanctions have run in the high 50s to low 60s for years, and last year Americans said employer sanctions are the most effective way to stop illegal immigration.

The Rasmussen Consumer and Investor Indexes which measure daily confidence in both groups remain near their highest levels this year following the recent drop in the national unemployment rate and the continuing growth in the stock market.

The president’s daily job approval rating has improved slightly in recent days but appears headed back to the negative high teens where it has been for most of his time in office.

Democrats lead Republicans again on the Generic Congressional Ballot as they have for much of this year.

Primary voters have spoken in several states over the past couple weeks, and we took a look at a couple of the resulting match ups this past week.

Republican primary winner Ben Sasse still holds a 17-point lead over Democratic opponent David Domina in Nebraska’s U.S. Senate race

GOP Governor John Kasich has 45% to 38% lead over Democratic challenger Ed FitzGerald in Ohio’s 2014 gubernatorial contest

The new national health care law is central to many races around the country. Thirty-six percent (36%) of voters now expect the health care system to get better under Obamacare, but 48% disagree.  Still, that’s the highest level of optimism in regular surveying since late 2012.

Fifty-seven percent (57%) agree with House Republicans that the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of Tea Party and other conservative groups merits further investigation.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments on whether police must obtain a warrant to search data on the cell phone of a person under arrest. Sixty-seven percent (67%) of Americans oppose warrantless searches of mobile phones, and those who use their phone for financial transactions are even more firmly opposed. 

However, even 68% of those who use a smart phone or tablet for financial transactions still think losing their wallet is worse than losing their phone

In other surveys this week:

— Twenty-nine percent (29%) of voters say the United States is headed in the right direction

— Despite increasing tensions with Russia, 36% still think the United States should remove its troops from Western Europe and let the Europeans defend themselves. But that’s down from 55% in October 2011.

Forty percent (40%) believe the U.S. government should do more to help rescue the schoolgirls kidnapped by the Islamic terror group Boko Haram in Nigeria. Voters are much more supportive of helping rescue the girls than they are of further U.S. involvement in Ukraine or Syria.

— Following a near-collision between a drone and a commercial jetliner near Tallahassee, Florida in March, 41% say the increasing commercial use of unmanned drone aircraft in this country is making flying less safe

— Americans generally favor laws like those recently passed in California and Maryland that ban discrimination against men and women who claim to be the opposite sex, but opposition increases dramatically when they are told these laws may allow biological men to freely use women’s public bathrooms and vice versa.

— Ninety-three percent (93%) of Americans whose mothers are still alive planned to visit or call them last Sunday on Mother’s Day




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