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May 31 2014

June 2, 2014




Doing Less With Less

Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, talked about how best to use the military in the modern world.

By Michael P. Noonan

May 26, 2014


Last week Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, delivered a speech at The Atlantic Council and Defense One released an interview that he had conducted with James Kitfield. Both items further articulated the general’s views on the current strategic picture confronting the United States and his ideas about the use of force and the military profession – I have covered some of the general’s views on these topics here before (see here and here).

On the current strategic picture, he stated both to Kitfield and at the Atlantic Council that he sees the current strategic environment in terms of a “2+2+2+1” construct. Under this construct there are two strategic heavyweights competitors (China and Russia), two middleweight threats (Iran and North Korea), two networks that must be dealt with (al-Qaida and affiliates and transnational organized crime), and the “1” representing the cyber domain. He argued that the transnational organized criminal network deserves more attention because “it’s extraordinarily capable. It’s extraordinarily wealthy. And it can move anything. It’ll go to the highest bidder.”

In the cyber- domain the chief concerns for him are about a lack of preparedness for a cyberattack and the corruption of data. The latter concern is particularly critical to the military because it “is actually more alarming than the denial of data, because denial of data, you work around, but corruption of data causes you to lose confidence in your systems.”

(Even from a broader perspective the threat of corruption of data is troubling; I was at an event in Washington last week where one speaker noted that in the year 2000 75 percent of the information in the United States was recorded on paper while 25 percent was stored digitally. In 2014, however, the digital storage of records number had reached 98 percent.)

When the chairman was asked at the Atlantic Council about whether the construct should rather be the “2+2+2+1+25” model due to the number of things competing for our attention in the world he responded that,

I’m not suggesting that we should be content that we don’t know everything. But I will suggest to you quite clearly that when we do know everything, we immediately feel some obligation to do something about it. And so I’m not asking you to do less; here’s what I’m – let me put it this way. I’m not asking you to do more with less. I think you’ll have to do less with less, but not less well, and that’s going to take some serious thinking about where to prioritize.

He also noted that this made things difficult because it is hard to articulate eroding readiness and risk because, “it’s a little different in each service, and it’s very different depending on whether you’re talking about a heavyweight, a middleweight, a network or a domain.”

On the use of force and the military instrument of power he told Kitfield that,

…when you look at what the military instrument of power can accomplish, it is actually more effective in dealing with strength-on-strength situations than it is in dealing with strength-on-weakness scenarios. And we’re finding that a weakening of structures and central authority is pervasive in today’s world. The Middle East is a poster child for that dynamic. But if you look at almost any sector of civilization– from international organizations, to big corporations to places of worship – their authority has diminished over the past decade. That has to do with the spread of technology that has made information so ubiquitous in today’s world. But the result has been a weakened international order. And frankly, it’s harder to articulate the proper use of military power in that environment as opposed to a world with stronger centers of authority.


He noted that there were three ways the United States can influence the global security environment militarily. These are through “direct military action, building partnership capacity and enabling other actors.” The first option is “the most costly, disruptive and controversial use of American power.” He was more sanguine about the other two options stating he would like to double or triple our efforts to “build credible partners around the globe” and that he is an advocated for “enabling others who have the will, but perhaps not the capability to act.” But he also stated during Q&A that it was more difficult to practice deterrence against the middleweight actors and that he wasn’t sure if networks could be deterred at all.

Dempsey’s views are quite understandable. The U.S. faces a difficult strategic picture today where a declining defense budget is further hamstrung by the nonallowance of cuts to unneeded systems, infrastructure and ballooning personnel costs, where the military profession must come to grips with the limitations of what military power can reasonably accomplish after a decade-plus of war amongst the people in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the world teems with state and nonstate actors who both wish serious revisions to regional distributions of power. Still, we can expect to receive no breaks from either competitors or threats. We can’t be everywhere, but we must stay engaged. We should be cautious about the use of our military power, but we also must pick our shots to know when too much caution will be counterproductive. This is a delicate balance.



Tech Giants Spend Billions More Than Defense Firms on R&D

May. 26, 2014 – 02:55PM | By MARCUS WEISGERBER | Comments


WASHINGTON — Tech giants Microsoft, Google and Apple invested more than five times the amount spent by five of the largest US defense companies on research-and-development (R&D) projects in 2013, according to data compiled by a noted defense analyst.

But the five defense companies — Boeing Defense, L-3 Communications, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon, all of which were in the top 10 of the 2013 Defense News Top 100 defense companies list — collectively spent about $800 million more on internal R&D in 2013 than they did in 2012, according to the data.

In all, the three big tech companies spent $18.8 billion more than the defense companies on these R&D projects in 2013, according to data compiled by Byron Callan, an analyst with Capital Alpha Partners. Over the same time frame the five defense companies spent a total of $4.1 billion on R&D projects, while Google spent $8 billion, Apple $4.5 billion and Microsoft $10.4 billion.

“Those numbers kind of just stagger me that some of the tech giants are spending more than the five major primes combined,” Callan said.


“I just find it very intriguing that there’s such a misalignment between what these big guys are spending in absolute terms and what the US sector is spending,” he said.

One reason for the disparity in R&D investment could be that the Defense Department has relatively few cutting-edge, major programs starting in the coming years, Callan said.

In some cases, the Pentagon has opted to slow or cancel new programs, due to shrinking defense spending. Congress has also signaled it will not allow DoD to cancel certain programs, thus preventing the Pentagon from freeing up funds that could have been invested in R&D projects, Callan said.

“If you keep money in these older, legacy programs or you haven’t freed up money for some of these newer things that would see a promise of a payoff if someone takes some risk, then this a dog chasing its tail,” Callan said.

Company R&D spending has been closely monitored by DoD in recent years, particularly as the Pentagon sees its own development coffers come under pressure as defense budgets tighten.

Last year, Frank Kendall, DoD undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, challenged the defense industry to spend more money on R&D projects. The reaction from primes has been mixed.

For smaller companies, the reaction to the R&D challenge has also been mixed. Some medium-sized companies argue that having less cash on hand than larger companies could limit the pace at which they conduct R&D.

Callan said the size of the company does not necessarily determine how much the firm will invest in R&D.

“I don’t think it’s necessarily a small-to-mid-sized company phenomena,” he said. “It’s kind of a sector phenomena.”

William Lynn, the CEO of Finmeccanica North America and DRS Technologies, said his company saw its revenue fall as the US decreased its war spending. Still, it has protected its R&D spending.

“You can’t spend too much, but we try to balance protecting our margins and protecting our future, and we try not to stray too far in one direction or the other,” he said. “We’re willing to take some short-term decline in margins, modest, to protect our longer-term competitiveness.”

For a company like DRS, which builds sensors and other types of high-tech electronic equipment used by the larger prime contractors, being on the cutting edge is key, Lynn said.

“If we don’t stay up with the technology, the government or the primes won’t come to us,” he said. “It’s a death spiral for us and so we do have to protect that [but] you can’t go to zero margins either; you’ve got to balance it.”

Callan argues there is a misalignment between DoD and what it wants industry to do. “There is a need for a better path of programs or prototypes where we could recover some of the money invested,” he said.

“They’re not creating the lanes to encourage firms to take more risk and put more of their own skin in the game,” he said. “I think it’s fruitless in some ways to ask for industry to spend more money without at the same time pushing much harder to make sure that there’s some competitive programs that that investment might have some promise of return.”

One way to help the small companies could be for DoD to align more toward DARPA R&D programs or prototyping projects, Callan said. DARPA’s 2015 budget request of $2.9 billion is $136 million, or roughly 5 percent higher than fiscal 2014 enacted levels.



White House staff, Obama’s top military adviser disagree on cyber strategy

Thursday, May 29, 2014



White House officials and President Obama’s top military adviser disagree about whether the United States has a coherent national strategy to address cyber threats.

The rift surfaced when Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently voiced concerns at the Atlantic Council about the nation’s lack of preparedness for a cyber attack, cited strategic shortcomings and assigned blame to Congress.

“We have sectors within our nation that are more ready than others, but we don’t have a coherent cyber strategy as a nation,” Dempsey said. “And I understand why. . . . There are some big issues involved with achieving that kind of coherence — issues related to privacy and cost, information sharing and all of the liabilities that come in the absence of legislation to incentivize information sharing.”

Dempsey has previously defined strategy not merely as the issuance of high-profile guidance but as the process of balancing ends, ways and means.

Laura Lucas Magnuson, a spokeswoman for White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Michael Daniel, disputed Dempsey’s critique.

“Current U.S. cyber strategy is coherent and consistent with U.S. values that support an open, interoperable, secure and reliable Internet,” she told Inside Cybersecurity. “Given that cyberspace permeates every aspect of the economy and national security, no single document can meaningfully capture our strategic direction. Instead, our efforts are informed by specific strategy and policy documents.”

She said the Obama administration has produced a series of “targeted, coordinated strategies and policies to address specific cybersecurity topics,” including the International Strategy for Cybersecurity; the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace; the National Strategy for Information Sharing and Safeguarding; Executive Order 13286 “Assignment of National Security and Emergency Preparedness Communications Functions”; Executive Order 13587 “Structural Reforms to Improve the Security of Classified Networks and the Responsible Sharing and Safeguarding of Classified Information”; the Strategic Plan for the Federal Cybersecurity Research and Development Program; and the Cross Agency Priority Goal for Cybersecurity.

“Rather than developing yet another strategy on top of existing strategies, we need to remain flexible and focus on achieving measurable improvements in our cybersecurity,” Magnuson said. “The administration’s current approach fits the rapidly changing environment of cyberspace and the swiftly evolving government capabilities and understanding in cybersecurity.”

But Dempsey is standing by his remarks and pointing the finger at Congress. He “remains extremely concerned at how vulnerable our nation’s critical infrastructure is to a debilitating cyber attack,” his spokesman, Air Force Col. Ed Thomas, told Inside Cybersecurity.

“To close this national vulnerability, which constitutes a grave threat to our security, he continues to urge the passage of legislation that improves information sharing, encourages companies to adopt voluntary cybersecurity best practices and standards, and supports the establishment of international norms in cyberspace,” Thomas said.

The Defense Department has pushed for a more comprehensive national strategy to address cyber threats for years, said a former defense official, who concurred with Dempsey that more must be done — particularly by lawmakers — to address cyber threats.

In a broad sense, the source continued, Pentagon officials remain concerned that the U.S. government is in a tail chase when it comes to cyber threats, mainly due to Congress’ failure to pass legislation that identifies critical infrastructure and enables information sharing. Officials have also been frustrated that the administration has taken so long to publicly address policy questions about offensive cyber operations, the source said.

Echoing the White House’s emphasis on encouraging industry to voluntarily boost cybersecurity, the former official said incentives are preferable to a regulatory regime. For instance, Congress could pass legislation mandating active red-teaming of critical infrastructure, the source said, noting that private sector experts or potentially the National Security Agency could play the role of attackers during the tests and the infrastructure companies would be accountable for the results. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission could oversee such testing for nuclear power plants, the source said.


Groundhog Day?

Daniel’s predecessor, Howard Schmidt, said in an interview he was a bit surprised by Dempsey’s remarks. Schmidt, now teamed with former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge in the Ridge-Schmidt cybersecurity consultancy, said the general’s comments reflect a tendency in Washington to forget accomplishments and needlessly reinvent things. Schmidt said in his opinion the 2003 National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace — which he helped develop for former President George W. Bush — still stands.

But the White House spokeswoman said the 2003 strategy does not represent the policy of the Obama administration. The former defense official said the 2003 strategy featured good words, but the Bush administration did too little to implement it. And Mark Weatherford, a former DHS deputy under secretary for cybersecurity, said that although the 2003 strategy was “very comprehensive,” it would now need refreshing.

“I can’t help but agree with Gen. Dempsey, though,” said Weatherford, a principal with The Chertoff Group, a consultancy formed by former DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff. Noting that cybersecurity is a dynamic discipline, Weatherford said DHS has struggled with the questions about the role of government in cybersecurity — and how the government ought to respond when someone attacks one of the United States’ 16 critical infrastructure sectors.

Weatherford also said it must be determined what role industry has in protecting itself. The federal framework of cybersecurity standards, which the White House released earlier this year in a bid to voluntarily encourage better cybersecurity in industry, has raised the level of conversation on the subject in an astonishingly good way, he said.

Weatherford also praised the recent indictment of five Chinese military hackers for economic espionage against U.S. companies. Industry has been waiting for the U.S. government to step up in this way, he said.


Assessments vary

Jason Healey of the Atlantic Council said he agrees completely with Dempsey about the lack of a coherent national cyber strategy. Most of the current crop of strategy documents, he said, are either overly focused on military issues, too old, or too limited to only one area of cyber. The lack of deadlines for completing actions is also problematic, he said.

“None of these ‘strategies’ actually give much advice on how to balance between competing priorities, such as where additional [signals intelligence] collection might trample on American companies to the ultimate detriment of American security (such as happened with Microsoft and Flame),” he said via email. Citing the Cold War, he said, “The best strategy ever was ‘containment’ which summed up the entire idea in just a single word.”

James Lewis of the Center for Strategic and International Studies said via email the United States has “done pretty well in assembling a set of strategies,” which collectively “add up to a coherent strategy (with a lot of extraneous pieces).” But Lewis also sees room for improvement.

“If you were going to look for two areas for work, it would be in critical infrastructure protection and in responding to cyber attack — that’s why Dempsey is saying we are unprepared,” he said.

Ben FitzGerald of the Center for a New American Security questioned whether a coherent strategy is attainable. “The U.S. does not and likely cannot have a singular, coherent cyber strategy,” he said. “There are too many stakeholders with competing perspectives and interests to fit under one umbrella approach. The most that can be hoped for is a minimum acceptable standard of security and particular strategies for vital networks and assets.”

Healey, Lewis and FitzGerald doubted the administration’s upcoming National Security Strategy would say much on cybersecurity.

And Jane Holl Lute, the president and chief executive officer of the Council on Cybersecurity, urged a greater focus on promoting cybersecurity hygiene. The federal framework of cybersecurity standards is the foundation of the Obama administration’s legacy on cybersecurity, she said. Lute questioned the utility of writing cybersecurity strategies.

“I don’t think it’s a particularly important issue,” said Lute, a former DHS deputy secretary. “We won’t achieve cybersecurity simply by writing such a strategy, and the lack of one is not preventing us from making meaningful progress. Moreover, a strategy without practical means of implementation offers no benefit. We know what to do as a nation; we are just not yet doing it.” – Christopher J. Castelli (

By Sandra I. Erwin

May 28, 2014

Aerospace and defense firms have cheered the Obama administration’s five-year effort to overhaul the U.S. export licensing system at a time when American manufacturers seek international growth.

But industry groups of late are voicing displeasure with the pace and substance of the reforms. They also fear that the administration is weighing new export controls over increasingly sought-after technologies such as cloud computing, cyber security and encryption.

Over the past 18 months, the administration has acted to remove civilian, or “dual use” technologies like aircraft components and communications satellites from the U.S. munitions list — managed by the State Department — to the less restrictive controls of the Commerce Department.

While these changes have been welcome by the private sector, they do not go far enough, a coalition of 18 industry groups argued in an April letter sent to President Obama.

Exporters are frustrated by the heavy administrative burden and by a lack of transparency in the export licensing process, said The Coalition for Security and Competitiveness. Defense and aerospace firms contend the latest round of reforms has done nothing to ease the sale of U.S. technology to allied militaries. Information technology suppliers also worry that their products could soon come under stricter export controls as the administration shifts into the final phase of the reforms. “Many of the other issues your officials have indicated they plan to examine in the future, such as cloud computing, record keeping, cyber security, and possibly encryption, are subjects that industry fears will lead to more controls and more complex compliance requirements,” the letter said.

The coalition also asked for greater transparency in the licensing process. This has been a long-standing gripe of defense contractors because they deal with multiple decision makers within the government who do no always agree on the exportability of a product. The coalition asked for the Defense Department to consolidate its “technology review boards and revise their mission for clarity, consistency, transparency and timeliness.”

Export control reforms have overlooked the defense sector, said Remy Nathan, vice president of international affairs at the Aerospace Industries Association, one of the coalition members. “There is a need for a more coherent approach to defense exports,” he said during a recent meeting with reporters. “It’s going to be helpful for industry to have an understanding of where the government will allow us to fish.”

After U.S. companies eye potential deals, they have run the “‘Mother, may I’ gauntlet,” said Nathan. “You run the gauntlet sometimes with uncoordinated offices and departments saying different things. Anybody can say ‘no,'” he said. “We have to get away from that.”

Different agencies might have conflicting views of what technologies fall under the control of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations. “Review boards are not transparent or predictable,” he said. Under the Obama reform, the Pentagon agreed to consolidate a portion of its 13 boards. Oversight is important, said Nathan, but the industry needs “more rational results out of these review boards to help planning.” Exporters want to be able to know where they can pursue business, he said. In high-stakes fighter aircraft competitions, licensing issues create undue chaos, said Nathan. “What capabilities are acceptable? The amount of resources and confusion is significant. It impedes our ability to compete.”

Nathan insisted that the industry is mindful of national security concerns in selling technology to foreign buyers. “We should have technologies on the U.S. munitions list, but we should be able to transfer more easily to friends and allies.” Industry groups have sought an exemption from licenses for the export of spare parts that are used by allied forces. When the U.S. military or a foreign ally send parts back to United States for repairs, they are subject to export licensing before they go back to the customer. “The administration understands that it doesn’t make sense,” said Nathan. “The bad news is that they have not acted to implement that exemption.”

Prime contractors also should be able to obtain a single export license per program, rather than individual ones for each component, he said. Program licenses are offered today, but they require the prime contractor to assume liability for every transaction underneath it. That is not acceptable to most exporters, he said. “No company on the planet is going to absorb the liability of noncompliance by other companies. The program licensing that exists on paper is not functional.”

The international arms market looms larger than ever for U.S. companies, said Nathan. “We cannot afford to have the status quo approach to defense exports. We need more and better coordination in the interagency, evaluating opportunities. Once decisions are made, we need to make sure transactions happen in a timely manner.”

Pentagon acquisitions chief Frank Kendall has been a proponent of designing U.S. weapon systems with “exportability” in mind. A cautionary tale in this case is the Air Force F-22 fighter, which contains top-secret technology and was designed to never be exported. As the production line was winding down in recent years, some countries expressed interest in buying it, but that was out of the question because it would have had to be torn apart and rebuilt with less sensitive components, Nathan noted. “Even if the government had allowed the export of F-22, it became cost prohibitive because of the amount of reengineering work that it would take to make an exportable version.”

Designing systems that can be more easily exported is a “great concept,” said Nathan. But the industry has little confidence that what is exportable today will be exportable tomorrow under a different administration. “If we commit to working with this system and following the parameters upfront, what’s going to happen five or 15 years from now if the decisions shift?” he asked. “The only way this works is if you have a process to harness cooperation at a high level to look at defense exports writ large … and you have coordination within and between departments.”

Companies in the information-technology sector, meanwhile, are fretting over comments made earlier this year by Caroline Atkinson, Obama’s deputy national security adviser for international economics. She suggested that as part of the third and final phase of the administration’s export control reforms, officials will be “working on the definitions of what is and not in the scope of export controls.” As part of that effort, they would study the exportability of cyber security, encryption and cloud computing technologies.

Atkinson’s remarks rippled through the industry, said Nathan. “There is a danger of over-control,” he said. “We’ve seen that with satellites. It’s of concern to us that they’re exploring some difficult new areas. We see that as export controls, not as reforms.”

Bill Reinsch, president of the National Foreign Trade Council, said he was “struck” by Atkinson’s comments. After further inquiries with the White House, the industry became alarmed by the possibility of new restrictions. “What concerned us was that while we support what they are doing, the initiative on new areas implies new controls, more controls. That wasn’t what we thought was the right direction.”

An area like cloud computing is unchartered territory for export regulators, said Reinsch. “Where is the cloud? Who controls the cloud? The cloud moves around, it’s in multiple locations. Does it matter where it is? When is something exported? If you put your data into the cloud, is that an export? Does it depend on where the cloud is physically?” he asked. “Today your data might be stored in Texas but tomorrow the information might move to Singapore. Who has access?”

Reinsch predicts an uphill battle for industry. The tired argument that if U.S. companies don’t sell something, other countries will, usually falls on deaf ears, he said. “It’s not politically salable. We’ve learned over 30 years that making that argument does not move the needle on Capitol Hill or in the Executive Branch.”

Nathan agreed. “Business is not going to win against the national security argument,” he said. Administration officials have acknowledged that, too.

On the heels of record-high U.S. arms sales, defense industry pleading a case for less controls is unlikely to draw sympathy. “Current controls haven’t prevented the U.S. from dominating arms exports,” observed Pro Publica, an investigative news organization. In 2011, the United States scored $66 billion in arms sales agreements, or nearly 80 percent of the global market, Pro Publica reported. It noted that Obama’s reforms “could increase the flow of American-made military parts to the world’s conflicts and make it harder to enforce arms sanctions.”

Since the administration launched its export control review in 2009, experts have cautioned that the reforms were never intended to liberalize the arms trade. Brandt Pasco, an attorney at Kaye Scholer, in Washington, D.C., who specializes in export controls, said military exports will remain tightly controlled. The intent of the administration, Pasco told National Defense last year, is to ensure that commercially available goods and services do not have to undergo the same licensing process as sensitive military technology.

Some exporters insist, however, that the problem is that there is no clear definition of what is “commercially available” versus what is “military sensitive.” That leaves a huge grey area of technologies whose exportability is a matter of subjective judgment.

One industry executive from a large high-tech firm said there is no objective standard to decide what products fall under ITAR. “I know ITAR when I see it,” is the response he has received from government officials, said the executive, who asked that his name and company not be mentioned because of fear of retribution. “How can you work with that?” he asked. “It’s cavalier the way the government handles ITAR. I have no faith in what they call reforms, because I don’t think it will reform the core problem.”

Manufacturers of advanced technology expect to continue to face these hurdles, he said. Export controls have actually deterred companies from participating in Pentagon-funded research programs. “We don’t do government R&D unless it’s to keep some of our people employed and it is something that has no commercial value,” said the executive. “It’s not worth our time. It’s sad that we’ve come to this.” Any program that receives government R&D dollars automatically becomes ITAR-controlled, he said. For a diversified company, “that could contaminate a whole line of products.” Many technologies for which the U.S. government denies export licenses, he added, are commercially sold in other countries. “They still turn it down,” he said of the export license. “They are not interested in hearing about the product being available from other countries.”

Photo Credit: Thinkstock


Civilian pilots still straying into restricted airspace

Jim Michaels, USA TODAY 8:37 p.m. EDT May 28, 2014


WASHINGTON — Thirteen years after the 9/11 attacks, military aircraft are scrambling more than once a week, on average, to intercept civilian planes that stray into restricted airspace, military statistics show.

The cost to taxpayers for protecting restricted airspace and the 75 annual diversions runs into the million of dollars.

The number of incidents has decreased in recent years as the military has spread the word to recreational pilots about restricted airspace, according to the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), the military agency responsible for protecting American airspace.

The agency anticipates that the frequency of intercepts will remain at this level in the future because no amount of outreach will prevent all pilots from straying.

Many recreational pilots fly from small airstrips without a control tower and aren’t required to file flight plans. Often they are not aware when a temporary restriction is established.


“They just take off and do what they want,” said Steven Armstrong, a NORAD official.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the military boosted its alert facilities around the country, where fighter pilots maintained a round-the-clock state of readiness.

The government has restricted airspace around Washington, D.C., and other sensitive areas, such as some military bases and critical infrastructure. It also frequently sets up temporary restrictions on airspace to protect the president when he flies domestically or during special events, such as the Superbowl.

At its post 9/11 peak, NORAD maintained some 26 alert facilities around the country. The number has shrunk since then, but the agency declined to release the precise number for security reasons.

“We think we’re at the minimum to be able to protect the major metropolitan areas and the critical infrastructure,” Armstrong said.

It’s an expensive enterprise. It costs from $10,000 to $20,000 per flight hour to operate fighters. Alert facilities cost about $7 million a year to operate. The intercept missions in the continental United States are performed by the Air National Guard.

The military uses fighter planes, and, in some locations, helicopters to intercept an aircraft straying into restricted areas.

The pilots have a protocol for engaging with civilian pilots, who are often flying small, propeller-driven aircraft, to divert them out of restricted space.

If NORAD notices an aircraft flying toward restricted space, it will try to contact the pilot by radio before launching an aircraft. NORAD said it follows about 1,800 “tracks of interest” per year. Most of the recreational pilots are diverted before jets have to be scrambled.

If officials are unable to contact a pilot whose plane is heading toward restricted space, NORAD will launch military aircraft that will fly alongside the plane and rock its wings, a signal for the civilian pilot to follow the fighter.

If that doesn’t work, fighter planes will often pull in front of the aircraft in a maneuver known as a “head butt” and drop flares to get their attention.

That doesn’t always work either. “Sometimes they say that they don’t see us,” Armstrong said. “Other times, they are just so scared to have a fighter aircraft in that close proximity to them that they kind of panic.”

Once they land, pilots are usually met by local law enforcement officials and Secret Service agents, said Craig Spence, an official with the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.

“Unfortunately, there is very little sympathy on the part of the local law enforcement and the federal (officials),” Spence said.

The pilots rarely face criminal charges, but the Federal Aviation Administration often suspends a pilot’s license for such infractions.

“None of incidents have been threats,” Spence said. “The majority of the folks who violate do so not knowing a (temporary restricted area) has been put in place.”



Agricultural uses for drones is endless

By Linda Geist, University of Missouri Extension

For centuries, farmers have braved the elements to walk their land to check for problems ranging from wind damage and calving cows to pests and predators.

Unmanned aerial vehicles may save farmers time and money with bird’s-eye views of farmland, says Bill Wiebold, University of Missouri Extension agronomy specialist. It opens up endless possibilities for precision agriculture, he said.

Wiebold’s recent talks on drones during MU Extension crop conferences have drawn attention from producers anxious to learn how to use them.

Wiebold and other MU researchers have been studying how farmers can use the new technology.

Drones suited for farm applications vary widely in cost and size.

Entry-level aircraft cost $500-$1,500 and can fly for 10-20 minutes without recharging batteries. Most weigh less than 5 pounds, have a wingspan of less than 3 feet and travel under 30 mph. For about $300, farmers can install cameras in drones that can send clear still or video images to a smartphone.

Drones can provide information to answer questions like “How bad was last night’s hail storm? Are all of my cows on the north 40? Does my corn need more nitrogen?”

Entry-level systems can be guided by a handheld remote control. More sophisticated vehicles can be programmed to fly designated routes using GPS and GIS technology, but only skilled flyers should try this type of aircraft, Wiebold said.

The uses are as varied as Missouri farmland, Wiebold said.

Entomologists may find the devices especially helpful for directed scouting of pests. Drones can collect information on plants that have grown to heights that make it difficult to walk through narrow rows.

Additionally, farmers can use the unmanned devices to document conditions when applying for government programs such as crop insurance.

While much of the recent media attention has centered on unmanned aircraft as a way to deliver packages, commercial agriculture likely will be the largest beneficiary of drone technology, Wiebold said.

Drone technology has raised concerns about privacy issues, but drones used in agriculture likely are less controversial than those used for commercial applications. Currently, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) does not allow drone use for commercial purposes. Farmers must follow FAA guidelines for hobbyists.

Unmanned aircraft are restricted to airspace no higher than 400 feet. If flights occur within 3 miles of an airport, airport officials must be notified. Recent information suggests that producers are permitted to fly over areas they farm, Wiebold said. However, regulations may be updated, so farmers should follow FAA announcements.

Flying near spectators is not recommended until operators become skilled. Populated areas should be avoided. Wiebold suggests that until a farmer gains confidence and skill, drones should be kept within line of sight. Winds of 20 mph or greater may present problems with stability and image quality, he said.

Farmers in Japan and Brazil have used drone technology for decades. As much as 30 percent of Japan’s rice fields were sprayed by unmanned vehicles in 2010, according to the nonprofit Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI).

In 2012, Congress directed the FAA to grant unmanned aircraft access to U.S. skies by 2015. The FAA has released a “road map” for potential drone use and six federally designated test sites have been approved.

A study by the AUVSI estimates that drone use could create 70,000 new jobs in the U.S. in five years after FAA approval. The group also estimates that 90 percent of the economic activity will come from precision agriculture and public safety applications.


Future of Soil Sensing Technology

Sensors that measure a variety of essential soil properties on the go are being developed.

By Viacheslav I. Adamchuk, Precision Agriculture Engineer, and Paul J. Jasa, Extension Engineer University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Sensors that measure a variety of essential soil properties on the go are being developed. These sensors can be used either to control variable rate application equipment in real-time or in conjunction with a Global Positioning System (GPS) to generate field maps of particular soil properties. Depending on the spacing between passes, travel speed, and sampling and/or measurement frequency, the number of measurement points per acre varies; however, in most cases, it is much greater than the density of manual grid sampling. The cost of mapping usually is reduced as well.


Measuring Soil Properties

When thinking about an ideal precision agriculture system, producers visualize a sensor located in direct contact with, or close to, the ground and connected to a “black box” which analyzes sensor response, processes the data, and changes the application rate instantaneously. They also hope that the real-time information detected by the sensor and used to prescribe the application rate would optimize the overall economic or agronomic effect of the production input. This approach, however, does not take into account several difficulties met in the “real world”:

1. Most sensors and applicator controllers need a certain time for measurement, integration, and/or adjustment, which decreases the allowable operation speed or measurement density.

2. Variable rate fertilizer and pesticide applicators may need additional information (like yield potential) to develop prescription algorithms (sets of equations).

3. Currently, there is no site-specific management prescription algorithm proven to be the most favorable for all variables involved in crop production.


Rather than using real-time, on-the-go sensors with controllers, a map-based approach may be more desirable because of the ability to collect and analyze data, make the prescription, and conduct the variable rate application in two or more steps. In this case, multiple layers of information including yield maps, a digital elevation model (DEM), and various types of imagery could be pooled together using a geographic information system (GIS) software package designed to manage and process spatial data. Prescription maps can be developed using algorithms that involve several data sources as well as personal experience.


Sensors for Automated Measurements

Scientists and equipment manufacturers are trying to modify existing laboratory methods or develop indirect measurement techniques that could allow on-the-go soil mapping. To date, only a few types of sensors have been investigated, including:








Electromagnetic sensors use electric circuits to measure the capability for soil particles to conduct or accumulate electrical charge. When using these sensors, the soil becomes part of an electromagnetic circuit, and changing local conditions immediately affect the signal recorded by a data logger. Several such sensors are commercially available:

•Mapping electrical conductivity (Veris® 3100, Veris Technologies, Salina, Kansas)

•Mapping transient electromagnetic response (EM-38,Geonics Limited, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada)

•Using electrical response to adjust variable rate application in real-time (Soil Doctor® System, Crop Technology, Inc., Bandera, Texas)


Electromagnetic soil properties, for the most part, are influenced by soil texture, salinity, organic matter, and moisture content. In some cases, other soil properties such as residual nitrates or soil pH can be predicted using these sensors. Several approaches for applying electromagnetic sensors have been observed in recent years.

Optical sensors use light reflectance to characterize soil. These sensors can simulate the human eye when looking at soil as well as measure near-infrared, mid-infrared, or polarized light reflectance. Vehicle-based optical sensors use the same principle technique as remote sensing. To date, various commercial vendors provide remote sensing services that allow measurement of bare soil reflectance using a satellite or airplane platform. Cost, timing, clouds, and heavy plant residue cover are major issues limiting the use of bare soil imagery from these platforms.

Close-range, subsurface, vehicle-based optical sensors have the potential to be used on the go, in a way similar to electromagnetic sensors, and can provide more information about single data points since reflectance can be easily measured in more than one portion of the spectrum at a time. Several researchers have developed optical sensors to predict clay, organic matter, and moisture content.

Mechanical sensors can be used to estimate soil mechanical resistance (often related to compaction).These sensors use a mechanism that penetrates or cuts through the soil and records the force measured by strain gauges or load cells. Several researchers have developed prototypes that show the feasibility of continuous mapping of soil resistance; however, none of these devices is commercially available. The draft sensors or “traction control” system on tractors uses a similar technology to control the three-point hitch on the go.

Electrochemical sensors could provide the most important type of information needed for precision agriculture — soil nutrient levels and pH. When soil samples are sent to a soil-testing laboratory, a set of standardized laboratory procedures is performed. These procedures involve sample preparation and measurement. Some measurements (especially determination of pH) are performed using an ion-selective electrode (with glass or polymer membrane or ion sensitive field effect transistor). These electrodes detect the activity of specific ions (nitrate, potassium, or hydrogen in case of pH). Several researchers are trying to adapt existing soil preparation and measurement procedures to essentially conduct a laboratory test on the go. The values obtained may not be as accurate as a laboratory test, but the high sampling density may increase the overall accuracy of the resulting soil nutrient or pH maps.

Airflow sensors were used to measure soil air permeability on the go. The pressure required to squeeze a given volume of air into the soil at fixed depth was compared to several soil properties. Experiments showed potential for distinguishing between various soil types, moisture levels, and soil structure/compaction.

Acoustic sensors have been investigated to determine soil texture by measuring the change in noise level due to the interaction of a tool with soil particles. A low signal-to-noise ratio did not allow this technology to develop.


Sensor Data Usage

Although various vehicle-based soil sensors are under development, only electromagnetic sensors are commercially available and widely used. Ideally, producers would like to operate sensors that provide inputs for existing prescription algorithms. Instead, commercially available sensors provide measurements such as electrical conductivity (EC) that cannot be used directly since the absolute value depends on a number of physical and chemical soil properties such as: texture, organic matter, salinity, moisture content, etc. Alternatively, electromagnetic sensors give valuable information about soil differences and similarities, which makes it possible to divide the field into smaller and relatively consistent areas referred to as management zones.

For example, such zones could be defined according to various soil types in a field. In fact, electrical conductivity maps usually can better reveal boundaries of certain soil types than soil survey maps (used for rural property tax assessment). Different anomalies such as eroded hillsides or ponding also can be easily identified on an electrical conductivity map. The following figure compares a soil survey and an electrical conductivity map for the same field showing some differences in boundaries.


Soil Survey vs. Electrical Conductivity

Yield maps also frequently correlate to electrical conductivity maps, as shown below. In many instances, such similarities can be explained through differences in soil. In general, the electrical conductivity maps may indicate areas where further exploration is needed to explain yield differences. Both yield potential and nutrient availability maps may have a similar pattern as soil texture and/or organic matter content maps. Often these patterns also can be revealed through an electrical conductivity map.

Therefore, it seems reasonable to use on-the-go mapping of electromagnetic soil properties as one layer of data to discover the heterogeneity (differences) of soil within a field (similar to using bare soil imagery). Zones with similar electrical conductivity and a relatively stable yield may receive a uniform treatment that can be prescribed based on fewer soil samples in the zones on the electrical conductivity map.

As new on-the-go soil sensors are developed, different real-time and map-based variable rate soil treatments may be economically applied to much smaller field areas, reducing the effect of soil variability within each management zone.



More accurate soil property maps are needed to successfully implement site-specific management decisions. Inadequate sampling density and the high cost of conventional soil sampling and analysis have been limiting factors. On-the-go, vehicle-based soil sensors represent an alternative that could both improve the quality and reduce the cost of soil maps. When further developed, on-the-go soil sensors may be used for either real-time or map-based control of agricultural inputs. To date, only systems that map electromagnetic soil properties are available commercially. These maps can be used to define management zones reflecting obvious trends in soil properties. Each zone can be sampled and treated independently. Smaller management zones will be feasible when new on-the-go soil sensors are developed and commercialized.

Researchers at the University of Nebraska continue work on vehicle-based soil sensors, which could be used for research and commercial applications. The sensors can improve the quality and decrease the cost of soil maps and will facilitate the decision-making process.



Many businesses are working to develop solutions to help farmers

make better decisions based on the mountains of data they’ve aggregated. Here are some of those businesses.

by Top Producer Editors


Bayer CropScience

Bayer CropScience has launched its new e3 sustainable cotton program, which for farmers who grow Certified FiberMax or authentic Stoneville cotton, makes it possible for buyers to identify where their cotton was grown using a certification database maintained by the company. Bayer says the e3 program also helps farmers make a commitment to continuous improvement in productivity, environmental quality, and personal well-being, Bayer says. Farm performance is self-evaluated though the Fieldprint Calculator, an online tool designed by Field to Market, the Keystone Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, and verified with in-season and post-harvest third-party audits.

Launched by the Climate Corporation, provides up-to-the-minute data for field-level monitoring, yield forecasting, crop insights and decision support for daily and seasonal production decisions. With growers can get snapshot views of recent and forecasted precipitation and other weather conditions on their fields to manage their daily work. Simply select fields through an interactive map, save those fields, and check them at any time from a computer, tablet or smartphone.


Field Connect

John Deere is unlocking environmental data for farmers to better understand real-time field conditions. Expanding on the John Deere Field Connect soil moisture monitoring system introduced in 2012, John Deere has added environmental sensors and features that allow farmers to document more information directly from the tractor.

Detailed site-specific information allows producers to more efficiently use water resources, as well as schedule and perform other agronomic practices dependent on soil and environmental conditions. From the sensors, field-specific soil moisture and environmental data is transmitted to a secure website for viewing, and John Deere Field Connect customers can program the system to receive alerts based on set parameters. Field Connect then charts the data from the readings over time, allowing producers to identify trends. The system can be customized to each field depending on the objectives of each customer.


Pioneer Field360

DuPont Pioneer, has expanded its support for a wide variety of farming decisions, including seed selection, in-season crop management and water and fertility. The first wave of services, branded as Pioneer Field360, can help farmers use data to increase productivity with timely and actionable information. The suite of apps and digital management tools includes:

•Pioneer Field360 Notes app, which streamlines and organizes field-by-field agronomic information that can be shared among DuPont Pioneer agronomists, sales professionals and farmers.

•Pioneer Field 360 Plantability app, which allows farmers to scan a seed tag and indicate their planter type to improve planter performance and seed-drop accuracy.

•Pioneer Field360 Select, which is a mobile subscription service that runs on any computer or tablet with Internet access. The web-based software allows farmers to monitor their fields by “management layers” in real-time for precipitation, growing degree units and corn growth stage development.



Some farm data ventures, such as the Monsanto Integrated Farming Systems program, are developing highly farm-specific field prescriptions that help deliver localized hybrid and planting rate recommendations. The initial offering, called FieldScripts, will double its testing efforts through Monsanto’s Ground Breakers research program with DeKalb corn hybrids this year and will be commercially available in 2014. With FieldScripts, the prescription is delivered as a complete product to the farmer.



Why Innovation Should Drive Farmers’ 40 Chances

Indiana farmer Kip Tom challenges farmers to do more with less.

By Boyce Thompson


Building on the theme of Howard G. Buffett’s book, “40 Chances”, Kip Tom told a Farm Journal Forum 2013 audience that the typical farmer doesn’t take full advantage of the 40 growing seasons he may experience in a lifetime to improve productivity.

“We have a real problem in agriculture—we fail to innovate,” said Tom, managing partner of Tom Farms, based in Leesburg, Ind. “We’ve heard discussions today about some innovations, but we aren’t doing it at the pace we need to. We need to dig deeper, reach further and all participate together to try to find the means to innovate further on our farms.”


“I actually concluded my 40th crop at the end of Thanksgiving,” Tom added, “and at the end of the day my kids came up to me and said, ‘Is this it, are you gone now?'” Although the comment drew a big laugh, it’s clear that Tom isn’t done farming and innovating.

Farmers, he said, have their work cut out for them. Agricultural productivity grows by 1.4% a year, based on yield improvements, while global demand for food increases by 1.75%. “That’s a gap that’s going to continue to grow unless we bring innovation to the farm gate and produce value to the consumer,” Tom said.

Tom took the audience through some tactics his farm employed to achieve a corn yield of 228 bu. per acre this season. He attributed an additional 2 bu. to 18 bu. per acre to applying advanced algorithms to seed and fertilizer rates.

“We’re grabbing soil samples to figure out how much fertilizer to apply, on every one hectare of land,” he said. “We can vary the population of corn per row” based on soil conditions. “Soon we’ll be able to vary by type of seed.”

To assist in conservation, Tom’s irrigation system monitors how much water it pumps per minute and how many kilowatts of electricity it uses. The farm adjusts how much water is applied to each field, based on how much water the soil can hold, soil type and organic content. The data is used to improve productivity and reduce runoff.

Tom employed drones for the first time this summer to provide real-time analysis. The small aircraft used infra-red technology to shoot biomass maps and stream the information back to the farm office, where it was used to build a prescription for improving productivity.

During harvest season, he said, combines went through the fields, transmitted data into the data cloud, “and we knew instantly when a field was completed, how many bushels came off it, and what the productivity was. We can run hundreds of tests across an 80-acre field to find the best means to increase productivity.”

Tom is pleased with the productivity tools—better seeds, precision farming equipment—that he receives from suppliers. “I can tell you it’s working,” he said. The missing piece is an industry-wide, back-office Enterprise Resource Planning computer system to aggregate and analyze data from various sources, he said. In the meantime, farmers have so much data at their disposal that some might need to invest in someone to manage and analyze it.

Innovation, Tom said, is the key to feeding the world’s growing population. As farmers improve their yields, the country will need to invest in its infrastructure to move more goods around. In the meantime, farmers will need to step out of their comfort zone.

“We’ve been fearful to take that risk because we knew we only have 40 chances to get it right,” Tom said. “We hope now with the profitability that’s been in the ag sector, and with our knowledge of the tools available to us, that we can invest back in and innovate in agriculture.”


House Appropriations Committee Releases Fiscal Year 2015 Defense Bill

Legislation will fund military operations, national security efforts, and programs for the health and safety of U.S. troops

Washington, May 29 –


The House Appropriations Committee today released the subcommittee draft of the fiscal year 2015 Defense Appropriations bill, which will be considered in subcommittee tomorrow. The legislation funds critical national security needs, military operations abroad, and health and quality-of-life programs for the men and women of the Armed Forces and their families.

In total, the bill provides $491 billion in discretionary funding, an increase of $4.1 billion above the fiscal year 2014 enacted level and $200 million above the President’s request. In addition, the bill includes $79.4 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) for the ongoing war efforts abroad, the same level assumed in the President’s budget request and in the House-passed National Defense Authorization Act.

“Our first priority as a nation must be our national security and the protection of American interests at home and abroad. This bill provides critical funding for the security of all Americans, the success of our military missions and the fight against terrorism around the globe, and the safety and well-being of our troops who are bravely serving this country,” House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers said. “At the same time, we must remain mindful of our very real budgetary constraints. The bill reflects this reality, and helps to ensure that each and every defense dollar is responsibly spent to further our national security goals.”

“This Subcommittee has worked in a bipartisan fashion to provide the Department and intelligence community with the resources needed to maintain and modernize the best equipped and most capable military in the world today and in the future,” said Defense Subcommittee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen. “In addition, we have established priorities that will enhance readiness for our military so they remain prepared to protect America in an increasingly dangerous world. I am proud that we have kept faith with the brave men and women, and their families, who selflessly serve our country.”


Bill Highlights:

Military Personnel and Pay – The legislation includes $128.1 billion to provide for 1,308,600 active-duty troops and 820,800 Guard and reserve troops. This funding level is $669 million below the fiscal year 2014 enacted level, but is sufficient to meet all needs due to reductions in force structure and large unexpended balances. The bill fully funds the authorized 1.8% pay raise for the military, instead of 1% as requested by the President, and provides funding to maintain 100% of troop housing costs through the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH).

Operation and Maintenance – Included in the legislation is $165 billion for operation and maintenance – $1.4 billion below the request and $4.8 billion above the fiscal year 2014 enacted level. This will support key readiness programs to prepare our troops for combat and peacetime missions, flight time and battle training, equipment and facility maintenance, and base operations.

Within this funding, the bill includes an additional $1.2 billion to fill readiness shortfalls, $721 million to restore unrealistic reductions in the President’s request to facility sustainment and modernization, and full funding for the Tuition Assistance program at $475 million. Additionally, the bill fully funds Sexual Assault Prevention and Response programs at $275 million, an increase of $50 million above the fiscal year 2014 enacted level.

Research and Development – The bill contains $63.4 billion – $368 million above the fiscal year 2014 enacted level and $171 million below the President’s request – for research, development, testing, and evaluation of new defense technologies. These activities will help to advance the safety and success of current and future military operations, and will help prepare our nation to meet a broad range of future security threats.

Specifically, this funding will support research and development of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the KC-46A tanker program, the P8-A Poseidon, the new Air Force bomber program, a next generation JSTARS aircraft, the RQ-4 Triton Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, the Navy’s Future Unmanned Carrier-based Strike System, the Ohio-class submarine replacement, the Army and Marine Corps Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, the Army Ground Combat Vehicle, the Israeli Cooperative Programs, and other important development programs.


Equipment Procurement – The legislation provides a total of $91.2 billion – $1.6 billion below the fiscal year 2014 enacted level and $1.6 billion above the President’s request – for equipment and upgrades. This funding will help ensure our nation’s military readiness by providing the necessary platforms, weapons, and other equipment our forces need to train, maintain our force, and conduct successful operations.

For example, the bill includes $14.3 billion to procure six Navy ships, including $789 million for the USS George Washington carrier refueling project; $5.8 billion for 38 F-35 aircraft; $1.6 billion for 7 KC-46A tankers; $975 million for 12 EA-18G Growlers; $2.4 billion for 87 UH-60 Blackhawk and 37 MH-60S/R helicopters; and $351 million for the Israeli Cooperative Program – Iron Dome.

Defense Health and Military Family Programs – The bill contains $31.6 billion – $1.1 billion below the fiscal year 2014 enacted level and $360 million below the request – for the Defense Health Program to provide care for our troops, military families, and retirees. This level is sufficient to meet all estimated needs and requirements in the next fiscal year.

In addition, within the total $246 million is provided for cancer research, $150 million for medical facility upgrades, $125 million for traumatic brain injury and psychological health research, and an additional $39 million above the request for suicide prevention outreach programs. All of these funding levels represent increases above the President’s request for these programs. The bill also restores $100 million to the Defense Commissary Agency to provide reduced-price food and household goods for service-members and their families.

Ongoing Military Operations – The bill contains $79.4 billion for ongoing military operations in Afghanistan. Despite a recent announcement from the Administration regarding plans for an enduring U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, no Overseas Contingency Operations budget has been submitted to Congress, therefore this level is subject to change.

This funding will provide the needed resources for our troops in the field, including funding for personnel requirements, operational needs, the purchase of new aircraft to replace combat losses, combat vehicle safety modifications, and maintenance of facilities and equipment.

Guantanamo Bay – The legislation prohibits funding for transfers of Guantanamo detainees to the U.S. or its territories and denies funding to modify any facility in the U.S. to house detainees. These provisions are identical to language contained in the House-passed fiscal year 2015 Defense Authorization legislation.

Savings and Reductions to President’s Request – The bill reflects common-sense decisions to save taxpayer dollars where possible in areas that will not affect the safety or success of our troops and missions. Some of these savings include: $547 million for favorable foreign currency fluctuations, $592 million for overestimation of civilian personnel costs, and $965 million in savings from rescissions of unused prior-year funding.

For text of the legislation, please visit:



The Gap Between Supply and Demand for Spy Planes Just Got Bigger

Sam Brannen

May 29, 2014


President Barack Obama’s West Point speech created a nearly impossible problem for the Pentagon’s intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) planners by asking them to do much more with dwindling resources. The president correctly argued that the al-Qaeda-linked terrorist threat has reached a new phase and spread globally, necessitating a new U.S. approach of assistance to partners to take the initiative in fighting it locally across an expansive geography from South Asia to the Sahel.

Decisions already made in the president’s fiscal year 2015 budget request will cut available ISR. In particular, the Air Force justified decisions to reduce its medium-altitude long-endurance ISR (MQ-1 Predators and MQ-9 Reapers) in order to prepare for future wars (namely, the growing threat of anti-access environments). Should budget pressures continue, the Air Force has threatened deeper cuts in these systems, along with reductions in high-altitude long-endurance RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 40—the very aircraft that is supposed to fill the shoes of the U-2, which the Air Force also decided to retire in this budget.

The Air Force argued it was overinvested in capabilities for “uncontested” environments—precisely the environments Obama just ordered the United States to surge ISR into — in which the U.S. and its partners will have air dominance but will need all the help they can get from the skies to understand what’s happening on the ground. But under budget pressures of the past several years, something had to give, and the Air Force decided it would have to be the kind of ISR that worked well in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Former Secretary of Defense Bob Gates trumpeted the growth in ISR under his leadership as one of his signature accomplishments and warned that “overall, the kinds of capabilities we will most likely need in the years ahead will often resemble the kinds of capabilities we need today.” Even before the president’s announcement this week of a shift in strategy to combat al-Qaeda, justifying a reduction in current ISR force structure was a questionable proposition. A huge gap between ISR supply and demand was apparent around the globe. Take Gen. David Rodriguez at U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), who in March told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he had only 11 percent of his ISR needs met. Whether Mali, Somalia, the regional hunt for Joseph Kony, or missing schoolgirls in Nigeria, the need for ISR to find “needles in the haystack” is significant on the continent. In AFRICOM’s area of responsibility, ISR has been a key part of U.S. counterterrorism support efforts Obama cited as models in this next phase of the war, such as support to French-led efforts in the trans-Sahel. When the president announced in his West Point speech the need to combat “decentralized al-Qaeda affiliates and extremists, many with agendas focused in the countries where they operate,” he was indeed talking about the exact challenges AFRICOM faces.

Other geographic combatant commanders from U.S. Pacific Command to U.S. Southern Command will similarly be clamoring for more of the ISR that they have claimed critical shortfalls in for years. These commanders have been all-in on supporting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and they have waited patiently to have their requirements met; but now they want their fair share of ISR for the many security challenges in their areas of responsibility. They will grow increasingly frustrated as they find that the windfall they may have fantasized about simply will not materialize. In fact, fewer troops in Afghanistan could mean even more requirements for ISR to keep an eye on things.

The ISR deficit extends far beyond the core issue of fighting al-Qaeda or even the Pentagon’s needs. The list of commitments in which ISR has become a symbol of U.S. global reach and influence is long and growing every day. ISR is increasingly used to “show the flag” for high-priority pop-up crises, like the Fukushima nuclear disaster or the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Moreover, unmanned ISR uniquely fits the mood of a United States that does not want to give up global responsibility, but also does not want to put its men and women in uniform in harm’s way except for the most vital of U.S. interests.

Other countries simply expect that the United States will show up with these capabilities when they need them. The U.S. has chosen to greatly restrict its sales of the most capable ISR aircraft, and that has reduced its ability to share this burden. (It also has led allies and partners to seek third-party sellers of the equipment or develop their own, at the cost of interoperability.) And to be clear, ISR does not necessarily mean “drone strikes.” While Predators and Reapers can be armed, the role that they are used in most is simply ISR—battlefield situational awareness. These aircraft have flown millions of hours doing just that. Intelligence sharing—of which ISR is a critical part—can be the glue in U.S. relations with other countries.

This is where Congress comes in. The president’s West Point speech laid out a necessary evolution in the long-term U.S. strategy to fight terrorism and keep it from American shores by increasing training and assistance to partners. With defense authorizations coming out of committee over the past two weeks, and appropriations being developed now, this is the time for Congress to enable our military to support the president’s vision by realistically resourcing priority requirements. The $5 billion “Counterterrorism Partnership Fund” that Obama wants could be a good start, but it won’t cover defense budget shortfalls, including in ISR.

The House Armed Services Committee markup of the FY15 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) included a new requirement for an annual report on satisfaction of combatant command ISR requirements and strategy to meet shortfalls. The Pentagon should embrace this review to address the growing gap between ISR supply and demand, and Congress should find a way to fund those shortfalls.

Unfortunately, this year’s NDAA also includes a number of provisions that directly impact the Pentagon’s ISR plans, and add back in requirements for which there is no budget. With ISR still sitting square on the chopping block, the gap between strategy and budget constitutes a dangerous situation that could grow worse, not only for the president’s counterterrorism plan, but for our nation’s overall security.



OPM promises phased retirement to start this year

May. 29, 2014 – 03:14PM |



The Office of Personnel Management is pushing to issue a final set of regulations for phased retirement by the end of September, but for federal employees and advocacy groups it has already taken too long.

The agency is working hard on the final rule, according to an OPM spokeswoman.

Under OPM’s draft plan released in 2013, employees who are eligible for retirement and meet other requirements could work half-time while getting half of their pension. As they continue to work, phased retirees also will keep accruing additional service credit toward their final pensions.

While on the job, they will have to spend 20 percent of their time in “mentoring activities,” ideally with the employees who will take over for them when they leave for good.

For Gwendolyn Ross, phased retirement could not come soon enough. If she doesn’t hear of any progress in finalizing the rules and implementing it at the agency level by the end of the year, she said, she will fully retire.

Ross, a manager at the Coast Guard, said phased retirement would have given her the flexibility to continue working while taking care of medical issues and gradually transitioning out of the federal workforce.

She said the mentoring time would allow agencies across the government to capture the knowledge and information of long-serving federal employees instead of losing it all at once.

“The federal government is doing itself a disservice by not implementing phased retirement, because you are going to have a whole bunch of people leaving, and there are no plans to replace them or learn what they know,” Ross said.

Within her office, Ross said, perhaps half of the civilian employees are eligible to retire or will be soon. Phased retirement would be a win-win way for the agency to smoothly transition to a younger workforce and for federal workers to keep contributing to their final pension in uncertain financial times, she said.

Jessica Klement, the legislative director for the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, said the association receives frequent calls from federal employees inquiring about the status of a final rule.

“There are people who say they are really excited about it, but they keep telling me [that] if it’s not done by a certain time [they are] going,” Klement said.

Congress approved the law for phased retirement on June 29, 2012, which means federal employees and agencies have been waiting almost two years for a rule. Klement said NARFE hopes the final rule contains greater details on phased retirement and encourages agencies to use it.

“We hope that the final regulations are stronger, but overall I think this can be an excellent tool for agencies particular in this time of austerity and hiring freezes to retain top talent,” Klement said.

Carl Gerhold, a NASA researcher said phased retirement would allow him to continue working on two projects while training others to take over when he leaves the agency.

But if he doesn’t hear anything about phased retirement he will choose to fully retire within the next few months even though he would rather work part time to make sure everything is set to go without him.

“If I thought that it was going to happen by the end of this calendar year I would stay on. When I talk to people about the possibility of phased retirement they say that sounds great,” Gerhold said.

Carol Bonosaro, president of the Senior Executives Association, said the group is encouraging OPM to finalize its regulations on phased retirement so employees can start using it.

“As agencies continue to struggle with budget pressures and are not backfilling positions, agencies need flexibilities such as phased retirement to ensure a qualified workforce is in place to perform mission-critical duties,” Bonosaro said.


Hagel Says ‘Indispensable’ U.S. Still Not the World’s Police

Kevin Baron 2:25 AM ET


Hours after President Barack Obama’s major global security speech at West Point outlining his vision for restrained but near constant worldwide United States military intervention in a “new world” of terrorism, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel embarked on a 12-day tour where he will assure key Asian and European allies that the administration will sustain America’s “indispensable” role in protecting its interests and theirs.

The new security question that Obama and his senior military leaders are asking themselves is: When should the U.S. use military power? The president’s answer seems to be: It depends.

“I think, and I know the president believes this and said it, and anyone who’s been in this business understands – we are going to be living with terrorism for many years,” said Hagel, speaking to reporters hours after Obama’s speech on Wednesday.

“You don’t lead with your military in foreign policy. The military is an instrument of power; it’s an important instrument of power. But our foreign policy is based on our interests around the world. It’s based on who we are, international law. It’s based on our standards, our values.”

Obama said in his West Point speech that “the United States is and remains the one indispensable nation. That has been true for the century passed and it will be true for the century to come.”

Defense One asked Hagel, who has advised Obama’s foreign policy thinking since the president was a junior senator a decade ago, if that indispensability — backed by more special operations units being deployed than ever – is the same as being the world’s police?

“No, I don’t think it’s the same and let me explain why,” Hagel said on Thursday en route to Singapore for the Shangri-La Dialogue. “In the president’s reference to an indispensable nation, an indispensable nation means a world leader. It means a leader of alliances that bring people together for and with common interests that deal with common challenges. It means what we are continuing to do: capacity building with partners, using all our instruments of power with our partners, building alliances, strengthening alliances – no other nation in the world can do it or has done it.

“I think the president’s reference to the United States as the hub of global alliances like no nation ever in history is exactly the point. The United States of America is the hub of more alliances than any nation on earth. And no other nation can do that, can play that role. I think that’s a lot different than being the sheriff or policeman of the world.”

Leaving aside how one can focus on every corner of the world, Hagel’s trip exemplifies the enormity of what an administration accused of being gun-shy is promising: global vigilance, with a heavy dose of pragmatism. But pragmatism is a hard sell in Washington national security circles, where the deluge of post-West Point punditry has insisted this American president must show himself to be more hawk, less dove. It is an easy sell to many top brass who came up through Iraq, like Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, who as Obama’s senior military advisor has shown himself to be a military-as-last-resort general with no eagerness to charge a hill without damn good reason. And it’s long been a mantra of Hagel’s as he seeks military partners that can share the burdens of blood and budget from Australia to Afghanistan.

Hagel’s stops show the complexity of what U.S. military forces already do. In Alaska on Wednesday, while U.S. troops continue tracking stolen schoolchildren via drones in Nigeria, Hagel was briefed on Americans patrolling the northern skies with the F-22 Raptor, the world’s most advanced fighter, where Russian jets remain engaged in cat-and-mouse play over the Bering Strait. He visited troops that watch for Russian nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles and are waiting for the day North Korea has them, too.

On Thursday, Hagel departed to Singapore to facilitate old continental alliances against Russia and foster new 21st Century multilateral ones facing China. There he will meet one of his Chinese counterparts in the People’s Liberation Army, six Asian defense ministers, and at least two prime ministers gathered for the Shangri-La Dialogue, a forum where Obama’s three previous defense secretaries have tried to coalesce Asian militaries into something resembling more of an Asian version of NATO and less of the 20th-century hub-and-spoke network of bilateral relationships that Washington manages.

Next week, Hagel will attend a NATO defense minister’s meeting in Brussels, hat in hand, hoping allies commit troops to Obama’s 2-year extension of the Afghanistan war as a limited counterterrorism fight, and re-evaluate NATO’s existence as a counterweight to Russia. Hagel later will make a deliberately calculated visit to a U.S. warship in a Romanian Black Sea port. Finally, he will play classic state-against-state geopolitics in Paris and join Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin at Normandy for the 70th anniversary of D-Day, as France and the U.S. argue whether the best way to influence Putin is to keep him in isolation or bring him to breast.

Along the way, Hagel will stop in Afghanistan, which once commanded U.S. security attention but has long been in the rearview mirror for those looking ahead to the “new world” Obama described this week.

In American politics, it is a tired but effective campaign smear to pound a podium and say that the United States will not be the world’s global police. It’s an empty attack phrase that attempts to paint a political opponent – usually the incumbent leader of the free world – as being too distracted with overseas events and not attentive enough to problems in America.

As Obama said in his West Point speech, there is little threat of another nation directly attacking the U.S., but terrorism knows no borders, shows no retreat and is not going away. The U.S. could send troops wherever the commander-in-chief deems America and her security interests are threatened. For Obama, that does not include Syria, yet. It does include chasing al-Qaeda out of Afghanistan and into Africa, patrolling the skies with billion-dollar fighter jets, asking Japan and South Korea to hold hands for their own good, cajoling Europeans to pay up for their own defense, keeping the seas open from China to the Arctic Ocean, and sending elite American troops across oceans to search for kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls. Indispensable, to the farthest corners of the earth.


Rasmussen Reports

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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, May 31, 2014

President Obama this week spoke of the diminished role of the military in his foreign policy and at week’s end dumped the former general in charge of veterans’ retirement benefits.

The president in a graduation speech Wednesday at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point outlined his belief in a foreign policy that relies more on diplomacy and less on military force. Given voter unhappiness with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s no surprise that 60% continue to believe America’s political leaders send U.S. soldiers into harm’s way too often

Americans consistently express high regards for the nation’s military, but as more and more stories emerge about health care problems at the federal Department of Veterans Affairs, just 21% give the federal government good or excellent marks for its administration of benefits to military veterans.  

Forty-two percent (42%) of voters said early this week that Eric Shinseki, the secretary of Veterans Affairs, should resign from Obama’s Cabinet because of the problems that have been exposed in his department. On Friday, he did resign after a closed-door meeting with the president.

Obama’s daily job approval ratings appear to be unaffected by the growing VA scandal and remain as they have been for most of his presidency in the negative mid- to high teens.

Democrats can expect to hear about the VA’s failures on the campaign trail, though. To gain full control of Congress, Republicans need a net gain of six Senate seats this November, but Democrats are hoping to take one in Kentucky from the GOP column to blunt this takeover effort. However, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell now has a seven-point lead over Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky’s U.S. Senate race following the state’s May 20 party primaries. 

Republican Congressman Tom Cotton still holds a narrow lead over incumbent Democrat Mark Pryor in Arkansas’ U.S. Senate race.

Pediatric neurosurgeon Monica Wehby was the winner of Oregon’s May 20 GOP primary. She trails Democratic incumbent Jeff Merkley by 10 points in our first look at the Senate race in Oregon.

Obamacare is expected to be a major debating point in all three of these races, as it will be in most Senate and House contests nationwide. Most voters continue to view the new health care law unfavorably, but they are slightly more supportive of its required levels of health insurance coverage.

Voters overwhelmingly believe wealthy donors and special interest groups pull the strings in Washington, but a plurality (48%) still thinks media bias is a bigger problem than big campaign contributions in politics today. Nearly as many (44%) say big campaign contributions are the bigger problem.

Congress routinely earns low job approval ratings, and yet most incumbents get reelected. What does America think about this perpetual Congress?

Democrats continue to lead Republicans by four points on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot

Incumbent Republican Nathan Deal trails Democratic challenger Jason Carter by seven points in Rasmussen Reports’ first look at the Georgia gubernatorial race

In a gubernatorial race between two former U.S. congressmen, Republican Asa Hutchinson has pulled ahead of Democrat Mike Ross in Arkansas

Of more immediate importance to many Americans is the coming close of the school year. Americans overwhelmingly believe in the importance of young people having a summer job, but 75% believe it will be difficult for them to find one in the current economy. 

As high school graduation nears for many, fewer voters than ever (19%) think most high schoolers have the skills necessary to get a job, and they’re no more confident in their readiness for college. 

Consumer and investor confidence in the overall economy, though, remains higher than it was at the first of the year and than it has been for most of the time since the Wall Street meltdown in 2008. 

Still, just over half (52%) of all Americans remain confident in the stability of the U.S. banking system. By comparison, 68% were confident in the banking system in July 2008, prior to the meltdown.

Most continue to be concerned about inflation and lack confidence in the Federal Reserve to keep inflation under control and interest rates down. This helps explain why 73% expect grocery prices to keep going up. More Americans (31%) say they owe more money this month, but most (58%) say their interest rates haven’t changed. 

In other surveys this week:

— Twenty-nine percent (29%) of Likely U.S. Voters think the country is heading in the right direction, consistent with surveys since mid-December.

— Voters are more optimistic than ever that the United States can completely end its dependence on oil imports, but just 25% think this country does enough to develop its own gas and oil resources.

Most voters still oppose closing the Guantanamo terrorist prison camp. Nearly half (47%) think the United States is safer because suspected terrorists have been imprisoned there. 

— Fifty-five percent (55%) of Americans say they have read a book or poem by author and activist Maya Angelou, who died this week. 

More Americans now rank Memorial Day among the nation’s most important holidays, and 45% planned to do something special last Monday to celebrate and honor those who have given their life for our country.

Reality TV star Kim Kardashian and hip-hop superstar Kanye West were married last weekend in Paris. The news of their wedding was nearly inescapable, but that doesn’t mean most Americans like the newlyweds very much. 


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