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July 26 2014

July 28, 2014



Texas Equusearch says it will resume drone operations after Federal Court Ruling

by Press • 21 July 2014


HOUSTON –Texas EquuSearch, a Houston-based group involved in searches for missing persons around the nation, said it will resume using drones in its work after a federal appeals court ruled on Friday that a warning the group received to stop using them didn’t have any legal consequences.

Texas EquuSearch had sued the Federal Aviation Administration, seeking to overturn what the group described as an order it had been sent in February by email prohibiting the nonprofit organization from using drones.

While a three-judge panel for a federal appeals court Washington, D.C., dismissed the lawsuit, Brendan Schulman, an attorney for Texas EquuSearch, said that was good for the group.

In its ruling, the appeals court said it can’t review the case because the email Texas EquuSearch had received didn’t represent the FAA’s final conclusion on the use of drones. Final rules on drone use are expected next year.

“The challenged email communication from a Federal Aviation Administration employee did not represent the consummation of the agency’s decision-making process, nor did it give rise to any legal consequences,” the panel with the U.S. Court of Appeals for District of Columbia Circuit wrote in its two-page order.

Schulman said while the ruling doesn’t resolve the legal issues related to drone use, it clarified there was no valid order from the FAA prohibiting Texas EquuSearch from using drones.

“Texas EquuSearch is free to resume its humanitarian use of drones,” he said.

The volunteer group is financed through private donations and has participated in such high-profile cases as the search for Natalee Holloway, the U.S. teenager who disappeared in 2005 in Aruba, and the search for 2-year-old Caylee Anthony in Florida.

“The court’s decision in favor of the FAA regarding the Texas EquuSearch matter has no bearing on the FAA’s authority to regulate” drones, the FAA said in a statement. “The FAA remains legally responsible for the safety of the national airspace system. This authority is designed to protect users of the airspace as well as people and property on the ground.”

The FAA said it may take enforcement action against anyone who operates a drone “in a way that endangers the safety of the national airspace system.”

Tim Miller, Texas EquuSearch’s founder, said he was pleased with the appeals court’s decision.

“I’m thrilled we can go and fly again,” Miller said by phone from Lake Travis in Central Texas, where his group was searching for a missing swimmer.

But Miller said he was also upset his group has had to turn down several requests for help because his group wasn’t able to use drones.

The organization is credited with returning 300 missing people alive to their loved ones. Miller has said they’ve also recovered the remains of nearly 180 people who had been reported missing. He credited 11 of those recoveries to drone use beginning in 2005.



FAA to ATC report model aircraft and drones

by Gary Mortimer • 21 July 2014







FAA Statement on Texas Equusearch UAS Court Decision

by Press • 20 July 2014


The court’s decision in favor of the FAA regarding the Texas Equusearch matter has no bearing on the FAA’s authority to regulate UAS. The FAA remains legally responsible for the safety of the national airspace system. This authority is designed to protect users of the airspace as well as people and property on the ground.

The agency approves emergency Certificates of Authorization (COAs) for natural disaster relief, search and rescue operations and other urgent circumstances, sometimes in a matter of hours. We are not aware that any government entity with an existing COA has applied for an emergency naming Texas EquuSearch as its contractor.


Background on UAS Regulation

The FAA authorizes UAS operations that are not for hobby or recreation on a case-by-case basis. While flying model aircraft for a hobby or recreation does not necessarily require FAA approval, all model aircraft operators must operate according to the law. The FAA promotes voluntary compliance by educating individual UAS operators about how they can operate safely under current regulations and laws.

The FAA also has a number of enforcement tools available to address unauthorized use of UAS, including warning notices, letters of correction, and civil penalties. The FAA may take enforcement action against anyone who operates a UAS in a way that endangers the safety of the national airspace system. This authority is designed to protect users of the airspace as well as people and property on the ground.

On June 23, the FAA issued a notice to provide clear guidance to model aircraft/UAS operators on the “do’s and don’ts” of flying safely in accordance with the 2012 FAA Reform and Modernization Act. In the notice, the FAA restates the law’s definition of “model aircraft,” including requirements that they not interfere with manned aircraft, be flown within sight of the operator and be operated only for hobby or recreational purposes. The agency also explains that model aircraft operators flying within five miles of an airport must notify the airport operator and air traffic control tower. > See News Release

A flight that is not for hobby or recreation requires a certified aircraft, a licensed pilot and operating approval. To date, two operations have met these criteria, and authorization was limited to the Arctic. The FAA is continuing to review applications from UAS operators as they are received.


Background on the case

The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit granted the FAA’s motion to dismiss Texas Equusearch’s case against the FAA. Texas Equusearch had filed a petition for review with the Court asserting that an FAA inspector had wrongly ordered it in an email correspondence for it to cease and desist search and rescue operations using its UASs. The Court found that the FAA’s inspector’s email to Texas Equusearch was “not a formal cease-and-desist letter representing the agency’s final conclusion … sufficient to constitute final agency action” for purposes of review in the courts of appeals. The Court found that “given the absence of any identified legal consequences flowing from the challenged email, this case falls within the usual rule that this court lacks authority to review a claim where an agency merely expresses its view of what the law requires of a party, even if that view is adverse to the party.”

Texas Eqqusearch and all UAS operators need to be aware that the FAA’s safety mandate under 49 U.S.C. § 40103 requires it to regulate aircraft operations conducted in the National Airspace System (NAS) to protect persons and property on the ground and to prevent collisions between aircraft and other aircraft or objects.

A UAS is an “aircraft” as defined in the FAA’s authorizing statutes and is therefore subject to regulation by the FAA. 49 U.S.C. § 40102(a)(6) defines an “aircraft” as “any contrivance invented, used, or designed to navigate or fly in the air.” The FAA’s regulations (14 C.F.R. § 1.1) similarly define an “aircraft” as “a device that is used or intended to be used for flight in the air.” Because an unmanned aircraft is a contrivance/device that is invented, used, and designed to fly in the air, it meets the definition of “aircraft.” The FAA has promulgated regulations that apply to the operation of all aircraft, whether manned or unmanned, and irrespective of the altitude at which the aircraft is operating. For example, 14 C.F.R. § 91.13 prohibits any person from operating an aircraft in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another.

An important distinction for UAS operators to be aware of is whether the UAS is being operated for hobby or recreational purposes or for some other purpose. This distinction is important because there are specific requirements in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, Public Law 112-95, (the Act) that pertain to “Model Aircraft” operations, which are conducted solely for hobby or recreational purposes.


Model Aircraft Operations

Section 336(c) of the law defines “Model Aircraft” as “… an unmanned aircraft that is –

(1) capable of sustained flight in the atmosphere;

(2) flown within visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft; and

(3) flown for hobby or recreational purposes.


Each element of this definition must be met for a UAS to be considered a Model Aircraft under the Act. Under Section 336(a) of the Act the FAA is restricted from conducting further rulemaking specific to Model Aircraft as defined in section 336(c) so long as the Model Aircraft operations are conducted in accordance with the requirement of section 336(a). Section 336(a) requires that—

(1) the aircraft is flown strictly for hobby or recreational use;

(2) the aircraft is operated in accordance with a community based set of safety guidelines and within the programming of a nationwide community-based organization;

(3) the aircraft is limited to not more than 55 pounds unless otherwise certified through a design, construction, inspection, flight test, and operational safety program administered by a community-based organization;

(4) the aircraft is operated in a manner that does not interfere with and gives way to any manned aircraft; and

(5) when flown within 5 miles of an airport, the operator of the aircraft provides the airport operator and the airport air traffic control tower (when an air traffic facility is located at the airport) with prior notice of the operation (model aircraft operators flying from a permanent location within 5 miles of an airport should establish a mutually-agreed upon operating procedure with the airport operator and the airport air traffic control tower (when an air traffic facility is located at the airport)).


Section 336(b) of the law, however, makes clear that the FAA has the authority under its existing regulations to pursue legal enforcement action against persons operating Model Aircraft in accordance with section 336(a) and 336(c) when the operations endanger the safety of the NAS. Nothing in section 336 otherwise alters or restricts the FAA’s statutory authority to pursue enforcement action against any UAS operator, even those whose operations are conducted in accordance with sections 336(a) and (c) that endanger the safety of the NAS. So, for example, a Model Aircraft operation conducted in accordance with section 336(a) and (c) may be subject to an enforcement action for violation of 14 C.F.R. § 91.13 if the operation is conducted in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another.


UAS Operations that are not Model Aircraft Operations

Operations of UASs that are not Model Aircraft operations as defined in section 336(c) of the law and conducted in accordance with section 336(a) of the law may only be operated with specific authorization from the FAA. The FAA currently authorizes UAS operations that are not for hobby or recreational purposes through one of two avenues: (1) the issuance of Certificates of Waiver or Authorization; and (2) the issuance of special airworthiness certificates. The FAA also has a third avenue with which to potentially authorize UAS operations through its exemption process when it determines that such operations are in the public interest.


1. Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA). In accordance with 14 C.F.R. § 91.903 the FAA grants Certificates of Waiver or Authorization to applicants waiving compliance with certain regulatory requirements listed in 14 C.F.R. § 91.905. The applicants must be able to show that they are able to safely conduct operations in the national airspace system. The COA contains terms with which the applicant must comply in order to conduct operations. The FAA generally has restricted the issuance of these certificates to government entities that operate UASs as it is implements the provisions in its “Integration of Civil Unmanned Aircraft Systems in the National Airspace System Roadmap.” The entireRoadmap is available on our website. The FAA also issues COAs on an emergency basis when: 1) a situation exists in which there is distress or urgency and there is an extreme possibility of a loss of life; 2) the proponent has determined that manned flight operations cannot be conducted efficiently; and 3) the proposed UAS is operating under a current approved COA for a different purpose or location. The FAA is also using the COA process to expand the use of civil UASs in the arctic region as required under section 332 of the law.


2. Airworthiness Certification. For civil operators, you can apply for a special airworthiness certificate under 14 C.F.R. Part 21. See FAA Order 8130.34B–Airworthiness Certification of Unmanned Aircraft Systems and Optionally Piloted Aircraft. The full civil type certification process allows for production and commercial operation of UAS and is a lengthy process typically undertaken by aircraft manufacturers. UASs holding an airworthiness certificate will still need a COA in order to operate in the NAS.


3. Issuance of Exemptions. In accordance with 14 C.F.R. §§ 11.15 and 11.61-11.103 and the FAA’s authority in 49 U.S.C. § 44701(f), the FAA may grant exemptions from regulatory requirements. The exemption process allows for the submission of a petition to the FAA outlining why the granting of an exemption would be in the public interest, the need for the exemption, and the reasons why granting the petition would not adversely affect safety or would provide a level of safety equal to the rules from which the exemption is sought. The FAA has indicated its willingness to review petitions for exemption by civil UAS operators that want to operate for other than hobby or recreational purposes. Under section 333 of the Act, operators in appropriate circumstances can be exempted from airworthiness certification and other related regulatory provisions.


Finally, UAS operators must understand that all UAS operations that are not operated as Model Aircraft under section 336 of the Act are subject to current and future FAA regulation. At a minimum, any such flights are currently required under the FAA’s regulations to be operated with a certificated aircraft, with a certificated pilot, and with specific FAA authorization.



Ireland: Aviation body has issued 22 drone permits

by Press • 24 July 2014

Aine McMahon


The Irish Aviation Authority has issued permits to 22 operators to use drones or remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) in the Republic.

The RPAS sanctioned by the authority are used mainly for aerial survey, filming and photography.

The rapid advance in technology means the cost of civilian drones had dropped to a few hundred euro and can be purchased online. There are now 22 licensed here compared to 14 this time last year.

Aviation regulations governing drones in Ireland mean that operators are restricted to flying no higher than 150m and no farther than 500m from the control station.

A spokesman for the authority said it was reviewing its policy on making public the names of those with permissions to operate the aircraft systems.

“Each permission granted by the IAA contains the stated purpose(s) for which the operator is authorised to use the RPAS.

“At the present time we are unable to make these details public due to data protection legislation,” said the spokesman.

Last month a remote controlled helicopter carrying drugs crashed in Wheatfield Prison in Dublin. The small craft was not registered with the authority.

The European Aviation Safety Agency is in the process of introducing pan-European legislation to cover the operation of systems with a mass of 150kg or more. Drones below this weight are subject to national legislation.

The widespread use of drones in Europe is likely within the next few years if EU and US plans to create a new aerospace market come to pass.

A European Commission working paper published in September 2012 urges member states to develop an EU-wide plan to ensure drones are safely integrated into common aviation traffic by 2016. The paper, entitled Towards a European Strategy for the Development of Civil Applications of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems, predicts many more applications and uses will emerge once the technology is widely disseminated. This is expected to support substantial economic growth, generating thousands of jobs.


Congress Eyes 5-Week Vacation While Urgent Issues Fester

By Eric Pianin,

The Fiscal Times

July 25, 2014


Only recently, lawmakers were outraged that dozens of veterans had died waiting for care at a VA health center in Phoenix, that thousands of unaccompanied children from Central America were pouring across our border, and that local governments were preparing to cancel highway and bridge construction projects because the highway trust fund was nearly bankrupt.

The notorious “do-nothing Congress” was for a time, anyway, fired up to shorten the VA waiting lists and beef up medical staffing, to address the humanitarian crisis posed by refugee children, and to heed warnings from the Department of Transportation that 700,000 construction industry jobs would be lost if the trust fund went belly up.

Yet with only a week to go before their five-week summer break, the GOP-controlled House and Democratic-controlled Senate seem deadlocked over VA funding and fixes for the immigration crisis along the U.S-Mexico border. They’re in slightly better shape for negotiating a temporary fix to avert a highway and infrastructure construction crisis.


Senate Agrees On $11B Highway Funding Measure


The Senate is moving toward passage of an $11 billion measure to temporarily fix a multibillion-dollar shortfall in federal highway and transit programs. The chamber reached…

Bill Hoagland, vice president of the Bipartisan Policy Center and former Senate Republican budget expert, recalled the high hopes after last December’s bipartisan budget deal that Congress would pass its annual spending bills. There were also pledges to swiftly reform the VA and address the border crisis.

“We had such good vibes we were going to actually get something done,” Hoagland said in an interview. “The disappointment just piles on when they’re leaving here with very little accomplished – in fact, things seem even more divided. It further lowers everybody’s respect for Congress and hope for getting anything done on really big issues like tax reform [and] immigration reform.

“It’s just a big letdown,” Hoagland added.

Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), a senior House leader, also said in an interview, “I have very little expectation that anything of any real consequence will get done.”

Michael Steel, meanwhile, a spokesperson for House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), said that regardless of the outcome of last-minute negotiations, House Republicans have moved swiftly to pass nearly half of the annual spending bills and to offer legislative solutions to the VA scandal and the immigration crisis.

“We continue to work on all of those issues . . . but the ball is pretty much in [the Democrats’] court on most of those issues,” Steel told The Fiscal Times.

The highway bill probably has the best chance of winning approval shortly. Without it, practically every congressional district will feel the pain of lost federal revenue this summer. The last thing lawmakers want to do during vacation is field complaints from state and local officials, the construction industry and labor groups about construction disruptions.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has scheduled a vote next week on a $10.8 billion bill approved by the House to keep federal dollars flowing to the states for at least another year. The money is vital to financing new highway, bridge and mass transit programs and repair operations. Whether a final agreement can be reached next week is uncertain.

Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Bob Corker (R-TN) and others favor a multi-year solution and insist Congress give no more than $8.1 billion in short-term funding through Dec. 19, according to The Wall Street Journal. Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) will also offer proposals for altering the funding mechanisms. If those Senate Democrats succeed in amending the House bill, it could force a showdown with Ways and Means Committee Chair Dave Camp (R-MI), who crafted the short-term solution approved by the House last week.


But those problems pale in comparison to differences between the two chambers and the two parties over overhauling the VA and immigration policies.

Tensions ran so high yesterday that Senate Veterans’ Affairs chairman Bernard Sanders (I-VT) boycotted a House-Senate conference committee meeting called by House VA Chair Jeff Miller (R-FL). The meeting was to consider Miller’s proposal for reforming the VA and hire more medical staff.

Congress had vowed strong action after the disclosure that dozens of veterans had died while waiting months to see doctors and that some VA officials had hidden the long waiting lists to protect their bonuses and promotions. VA Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned on May 30 at the height of the scandal.

On June 11, the Senate voted 93 to 3 to pass a measure to expand VA services and staffing at a cost of some $35 billion over the coming years. A key provision would allow veterans to see a private physician if they encountered lengthy waits for appointments at VA facilities. The House then passed a $44 billion version, leading some to complain about the overall cost.

Sanders later offered a counter proposal, which would cost less than $25 billion. Miller, in turn, presented a revised plan yesterday during a hastily called conference committee meeting that attracted House and Senate Republicans, but no Democrats.

Miller’s approach would require only about $10 billion of emergency spending, but with a pledge of future funding as part of the normal budgeting process, according to CQ Roll Call. His bill would keep most key provisions of the Senate-passed bill, including allowing some veterans to see private physicians.

Sanders told reporters he skipped the meeting after learning Miller intended to push through his latest plan on a “take it or leave it” basis. “This is a sad indication that the House leadership is not serious about negotiations,” Sanders said in a statement. “We don’t need more speeches and posturing. We need serious negotiations – 24/7, if necessary – to resolve our differences to pass critical legislation.”

Miller said he’s “never shut the door” to compromise with Sanders. Meanwhile, House Speaker John Boehner issued a blistering statement attacking Democrats, according to the CQ Roll Call report.

“In the wake of the shocking scandal at the Veterans Administration, the House passed a bipartisan VA reform and accountability bill, and we’re ready to complete work on an agreement the president can sign,” Boehner said. “Unfortunately, Senate Democrats refused to even show up and discuss bipartisan solutions, preferring instead to talk behind closed doors. That is shameful. If President Obama cares about America’s veterans, he needs to pick up his phone out in California and tell Senate Democrats to get to work.”

Meanwhile, House Republicans have begun to rally around new proposals for counteracting the flood of illegal immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. It includes deploying National Guard troops and requiring the Obama administration “to more quickly process and deport young children and families who have entered the country in recent months,” The Washington Post reported.


It was unclear how soon the House would take up the issue and “whether House Republicans [can] reach agreement with Senate Democrats on a final plan before Congress adjourns Aug. 1 for a five-week recess,” The Post reported. The $1.5 billion proposal House Republicans unveiled on Wednesday would spend far less than Obama’s $3.7 billion proposal to beef up security and deportation operations

China Ascendent?

by Stephen D. Krasner

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

When it comes to the international system, realists believe that changing distributions of power are dangerous. The territorial boundaries, spheres of influence, and international regimes of the old order may no longer be stable. A rising power may use its newfound military capability to change existing territorial boundaries or even to completely conquer and annex all of the territory of a neighboring state. Extant spheres of influence within which a dominant power is able to influence or dictate the important foreign policy choices of subordinate states, including their security alliances and trade policies, may crumble, if they are challenged by a rising power that can make credible threats with regard to military action and trade sanctions, or offer promises of greater security or prosperity. International regimes, whose rules, norms, principles, and decision-making procedures have been taken for granted or at least not actively challenged, may not be sustainable if a rising power refuses to adhere to them or offers some alternative principles and rules that might be more attractive for weaker states.

The classic example of the dangers presented by power transitions is the rise of Germany in Europe in the late nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries. The following table shows the percentage of world capabilities for major countries from 1870 to 2007. These scores are based on the composite index of national capabilities (CINC), which is derived from six indicators (energy consumption, iron and steel production, military expenditure, military personnel, total population, and urban population). The table clearly shows the rise of German power from 1870 to 1939. Germany’s share of world power increased from 11 percent in 1870 when its still trailed Britain and France, to 16 percent on the eve of the first world war when it was the most powerful state in Europe but still trailed the United States, to 18 percent in 1939 when it was tied with the United States at the top.




















































































After uniting Germany in 1870 Bismarck attempted to assuage the anxiety of France by eschewing colonial expansion in Africa and to enhance Germany’s security by forming an alliance (the Dreikaiserbund) with the other two powers in Europe that were governed by conservative monarchical regimes, Austria-Hungary and Russia. This alliance collapsed after Wilhelm II dismissed Bismarck in 1890. France and Russia grew closer together. German naval construction threatened Britain. In 1914, balance of power logic drove alliance structures with France, Britain, Russia (and then the United States), opposing Germany and Austria-Hungary.

The Versailles agreement at the end of the first world war led to major territorial changes: Germany lost Alsace-Lorraine to France, the Austro-Hungarian Empire disappeared and was replaced by several smaller states (Austria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and an enlarged Yugoslavia), and Poland reemerged as a state after disappearing from the map of Europe in the 1790s. Germany’s colonies in Africa were parceled out to other European states as mandates of the League of Nations. New international organizations, most notably the League of Nations and the International Labour Organization, were created. Large war reparations were imposed on Germany.

The Versailles settlement, however, strengthened rather than weakened Germany. Germany’s eastern and southern neighbors were now a set of weaker states including Poland, Austria, and Czechoslovakia. German resistance to the payment of wartime reparations led to a ruinous inflation in the early 1920s. The depression further weakened conventional political parties. After Hitler came to power he systematically dismantled the restrictions of Versailles, but always in the name of Versailles’s principles. The Rhineland was re-militarized. Limitations on German armaments were circumvented. Czechoslovakia was dismembered on the grounds that the Sudeten Germans should be allowed to be part of their German homeland. Austria was annexed, again justified by self-determination. Hitler signed a non-aggression pact with Stalin and invaded Poland and then, abrogating his agreement with Stalin, invaded the Soviet Union.

The two world wars in Europe killed tens of millions of people, destroyed domestic political orders across the continent, contributed to the Bolshevik seizure of power in Russia and Nazi control of Germany which led to the greatest humanitarian atrocity in the history of the modern world, the Holocaust. The systematic engagement of the United States in Europe and the dismembering of Germany finally contained German power in 1945. If the consequence of Germany’s rise in Europe is a model for what might happen as a result of China’s rising power, there is a very great deal to worry about.

There are, however, reasons to be guardedly optimistic. First, nuclear weapons have removed any ambiguity about the costs of war. In 1914 or 1939, Germany could imagine that it would conquer all of Europe and in the Second World War it almost did. In 2014, an all out war between nuclear states, such as the United States and China, would be catastrophically destructive. Nuclear weapons have made leaders much more cautious as evidenced by the fact that there has not been a direct war between major powers since 1945, the longest period of major power peace in the last several hundred years.

Second, territorial conquest has been much less attractive since 1945 for several reasons. Since 1945, South Vietnam is the only widely recognized sovereign entity that has disappeared from the map as the result of conquest, although other countries have broken up such as the USSR and Yugoslavia. In an era of globalization and open trade the benefits of conquest are less than they have been in the past. There are now many weak states, especially, but not only, in Africa, that could not defend their borders. Their political leaders would be very wary of any state that engaged in territorial conquest, and thereby eroded the international norm that has at least protected them from external conquest if not internal violence.

Nevertheless it is already obvious that the United States and China will not agree on spheres of influence or international regimes, and China has had border conflicts with many of its neighbors. China would like to push the United States out of the western Pacific. China’s prospects for success in this endeavor are not easy to calculate. China’s ambitious claims to an expansive Exclusive Economic Zone have already brought it into conflict with several neighboring states. Japan, the third or fourth most powerful country in the world, will balance against China so long as it is confident of its alliance with the United, and would probably balance even without such an alliance by developing nuclear weapons and a more formidable military.

South Korea, also an American ally and a significant economic actor, will be more conflicted. A pure balance of power logic would dictate maintaining the American alliance and balancing against China absent a much more asymmetric economic relationship than exists now. South Korea, however, faces an existential threat from the DPRK. An attack from North Korea, even one short of all out war, would be extremely costly for the South. The uncontrolled collapse of the North Korean regime would also pose huge challenges for the South. The country that is most able to help South Korea manage the North is China. How South Korea will balance the competing pressures to balance (with the US) or bandwagon (with China) will not be dictated by some pristine balance of power calculation.

The United States and China will contest each other for control over the western Pacific. The outcome of this contest is not foreordained. The most important thing that the United States could do would be to maintain a robust military presence in the region, one that would give China pause with regard to its expansive territorial claims in the South and East China Seas. The American response to date with regard to China’s probes has been anemic.

China and the United States will also disagree about the nature of international regimes. China’s peaceful rise was facilitated by American support for its entry into the international trading regime, especially its membership in the WTO. This does not, however, mean that China will necessarily support the regime’s basic principles and norms in the future. As a developing country China would, for instance, prefer weaker intellectual property rights protection; the United States would prefer stronger protections. The existing trade and investment regimes more or less assume that corporations are independent of the state; this assumption is comfortable for the United States. It is not so comfortable for China: a more powerful China might press for principles, norms, and rules that were more accepting of state direction of the economy. China’ internal divisions make it one of the strongest proponents of the sanctity of sovereigntist principles that totally reject external interference in the internal affairs of other states. The United States as a proponent of human rights, and as target for transnational terrorist, has a much weaker commitment to non-intervention.

While American military capability in the Pacific will be one important determinant of how China’s rise affects borders and spheres of influence the most important determinant of relations between the United States and China will be internal developments in China. There are at least three possible scenarios.

First, China might transition to a fully democratic market oriented regime. This is the path that modernization theory would predict. In the long term tensions between the United States and China would abate if not disappear. Domestic values would converge. Economic interests would be intertwined. National identities might weaken. The path, however, to this most optimistic outcome would not be smooth. China will not instantaneously be transformed into a larger version of Denmark. Uneven growth, growing income disparities, disaffected minorities would continue to present challenges to even a political elite that was committed to a democratic transition.

Second, the Communist Party of China could remain in power. Economic growth could falter or stall out. China might become an upper middle-income country but never a rich country. Nationalism would assume even more prominence as a legitimating ideology within China. Tensions with the United States would continue, but China’s influence in the region and its ability to challenge the United States militarily and ideologically would not increase.

The most perilous situation, although the least likely, would be continued rapid economic growth in China under an autocratic regime. If this were to happen, there would be a Chinese model that would challenge liberal democracy and a market economy; Taiwan’s future would be dictated by Beijing; China would push the United States out of the western Pacific; internal developments in South Korea, Japan, and the smaller states East Asian states would conform more closely to the Chinese than to the American model; and international regimes would be transformed. Stable nuclear deterrence would prevent all out war. But the world would be a very different place than it is now if an autocratic China became the indispensable nation.



Air Force launching satellites to spy on other satellites

By Jon Harper

Stars and Stripes

Published: July 22, 2014


WASHINGTON — The Air Force is about to put a new advanced satellite into space to spy on other countries’ satellites.

On Wednesday, a Delta IV rocket will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Station, Fla., and place two Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program satellites into orbit. They will be the first GSSAP satellites ever launched.

“This neighborhood watch twosome … will be on the lookout for nefarious capability other nations might try to place in that critical orbital regime,” Gen. William Shelton, the head of Air Force Space Command, told reporters at the Pentagon.

Because of its enhanced maneuvering capabilities, the GSSAP satellite can get the best possible vantage point for collecting images of other satellites, according to Shelton.

He said the imagery capabilities on the new satellites are “a big leap forward” compared with the ones the U.S. has been using to monitor objects circling the earth.


“Today the way we track threats in geosynchronous orbit is by basically points of light, and as we take a picture of the sky and dwell on that part of the sky, [we know] things that are moving are satellites, things that are stationary are stars … Through our points of light and various other means, we make inferences on what a particular [foreign] satellite can do,” Shelton explained.

But the GSSAP “gives us an ability … to look at literal images of objects in geosynchronous orbit … A picture is worth a thousand inferences because we can see literally what that [foreign] satellite looks like, and you can effectively reverse-engineer and understand what the capabilities are … to a much greater extent than you can today,” Shelton said.

The launch comes at a time when China is rapidly improving its space and anti-satellite capabilities. Pentagon planners worry that in a future conflict, Beijing might shoot down or disable American military satellites that are critical for communications, intelligence-gathering, and targeting.

“There are myriad counter-space threats that we are seeing on the near horizon,” Shelton said. “We’re going to have to adjust our spacecraft constellations to survive in a very different environment from what we’ve had in the past,” and we need “much better situational awareness of what’s going on; hence GSSAP.”

Shelton was asked specifically whether he was worried about space-based weapons or electromagnetic pulse weapons being used against U.S. military satellites.

“All of the above,” he replied.

Shelton declined to go into detail about what capabilities the Pentagon is developing to thwart enemy anti-satellite weapons.


Special Report: The top 5 best bases for airmen

Recreation, low-cost housing make these stations stand out

Jul. 21, 2014 – 06:00AM |


Methodology for ranking bases

To compile our ranking of 68 Air Force bases, we collected and analyzed hundreds of pieces of information.

Air Force Times evaluated statistics in a dozen categories: school quality, cost of living, housing costs, commissary size, base exchange size, size of on-base health care facilities, crime rates, commute times, pollution levels, climate, unemployment rates and sales taxes. We then assigned each category a score on a 10-point scale.

■ To come up with a school quality score, we used the website, a respected resource for ranking and comparing schools used by real estate agents and real estate websites such as Zillow and GreatSchools evaluates schools on a 10-point scale based on a combination of their standardized test scores, whether students are improving from year to year, and college readiness, defined as how well students take and score on SAT and ACT tests, and their graduation rates. We searched for all rated schools within a 10-mile radius of each base and averaged their scores to come up with an overall school score.

■ We pulled information on cost of living, housing, crime rates, commute times, pollution levels, climate, unemployment rates and sales taxes from the website Sperling’s Best Places, which compiles demographic and other data on communities around the country. We used formulas to convert the raw data from each category into a 10-point scale.’s crime statistics had low numbers for low crime rates and high numbers for high crime rates. We converted the statistics so lower crime rates would result in higher scores for bases.

■ Sperling’s Best Places also provided data it collected on the size and type of on-base commissaries, exchanges and health care facilities, and rankings on a 10-point scale.

Of course, not all categories are equally important to service members. We’d wager school quality, for example, is a greater concern than the sales tax rate. So we weighted each category. Scores for the most important categories — schools, cost of living, housing and commissaries — were tripled. The next most important categories — crime, health care facilities, commute times and exchanges — were doubled in value. And the last four categories — pollution levels, climate, unemployment rates and sales taxes — got no additional weighting.

Finally, we added up the scores and stacked the bases.

No matter the service, no matter the era, one of the favorite pastimes of troops has always been comparing duty stations — griping about the lousy ones and singing the praises of the good ones.

Air Force Times is weighing in on this argument with the best tool at our disposal: cold, hard stats. We’ve looked at 68 stateside Air Force bases and their surrounding communities, and pulled together data on a dozen factors — everything from school quality to the local economy, crime rates to traffic, and climate to on-base amenities, such as commissaries.

And when we tallied up the results, some surprising bases rose to the top of our list. Our top five bases may not get a lot of attention or be as glamorous a posting as, say, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii. But they are diamonds in the rough and provide good places for airmen to raise families and entertain themselves, as they serve their country.


Here, based on Air Force Times research, are the Air Force’s best bases in the United States:

1. (tied) Scott Air Force Base, Illinois

One might not imagine that one of the two best bases in the Air Force can be found near the small town of Belleville, Illinois, a bucolic community of 44,000 in a St. Louis metro area of 2.8 million. But that’s exactly what Scott Air Force Base is.

“It’s kind of a hidden gem out there,” said Col. Kyle Kremer, commander of Scott’s 375th Air Mobility Wing. “You can pick and choose what works for you and your family. It’s unlike any other place I’ve been stationed.”

Airmen stationed at Scott, no matter whether they prefer city life or country life, can find a niche to make themselves at home, Kremer said.

“Depending on what lifestyle you prefer, you have the full spectrum,” Kremer said. “You can live to the east of the base, in the middle of corn fields. A number of people who work on base live in downtown St. Louis, particularly young couples without kids, [and] can go see the Cardinals, the Rams, Fox Theater [a performing arts center], all St. Louis has to offer. And then there’s the typical outstanding suburban life in the Fairview Heights area.”

Scott rose to the top of Air Force Times’ bases list due to several factors. Home prices there are some of the lowest in the country. Immediately surrounding Scott, the median home cost is $57,400, about one-third of the nationwide median home cost of $170,100, according to Sperling’s Best Places. In nearby Belleville, the median home cost is $76,300.

The monthly Basic Allowance for Housing at Scott runs from $855 for an airman basic without dependents, to $2,064 for a colonel with dependents. The monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment in the St. Louis area will set you back $756, on average, according to


And boasting a 70-bed hospital, a large commissary, and a large exchange with a mini-mall and a shoppette, on-base amenities at Scott are among the best in the Air Force.

Crime rates also are low, with score of 7 out of 10 — derived by averaging its violent crime rate and property crime rate, with a higher score indicating less crime in each area. Nationwide, the average crime score for Air Force bases is 6, meaning Scott is above-average. Schools within a 10-mile radius of Scott are decent, if not outstanding, with an average ranking of 7 out of 10 possible points.

Scott also gets some special visitors from time to time. The St. Louis Rams came to scrimmage on Scott’s parade field in 2012 and 2013, and Kremer said they’re working on another scrimmage this year. Military members get in free to watch those scrimmages, Kremer said.

Kremer said Scott has typical on-base amenities — pools, a youth center, a golf course, restaurants and outdoor recreation facilities where airmen can rent campers, boats and bouncy castles for the kids. Belleville also sponsors military appreciation days.

“I really believe the people in the Midwest are fantastic,” Kremer said.

Capt. Angel Vargas, a group practice manager for the 375th Medical Group at Scott, agrees. Vargas, who is originally from the Chicago area and was previously stationed at Los Angeles Air Force Base, said his first time living in a relatively rural community near Scott was “culture shock” — in a good way.

“It’s a tight-knit community,” Vargas said. “I could trust my daughter with whoever I meet. You can’t do that in the city. There’s literally cornfields right across the street from my housing. I’m not used to that. I’m used to concrete traps.”

Vargas lives in off-base military housing, and said his paycheck stretches a lot further than it did in L.A. Airmen who live close to Scott can easily find affordable housing, he said, and some even get a few acres of land out in the country for their horses.

“I know a lot of people who have farms,” Vargas said. “One is PCSing and is packing up their horses. I don’t hear that in L.A.”

Want to check out St. Louis’ nightlife, but live on base and don’t have a car? Just catch St. Louis’ MetroLink rail at the Shiloh-Scott station, which borders the base. That’s what Airman 1st Class Sarah Haynes, an intelligence analyst at Scott’s 375th Operations Support Squadron who lives in an on-base dorm, does.

“I went to the Yankees-Cards game” one night recently, Haynes said. “It’s two bucks for train tickets, I saw the Yankees play, the MetroLink drops you off right outside the base. As a single female airman, it’s the safest way, I feel, for a night in the city. Once you get out there, there’s a ton to do. You don’t really have to go look for them, you just find them.”

Scott has a program called the Single Airmen’s Initiative, which provides free trips and events for airmen up to E-4. Haynes said she visited Memphis with this program; other trips have taken airmen to Chicago, hiking in the Ozark Mountains, and up in hot air balloons. Haynes, who is on her first assignment, said that the activities sponsored by Scott have a tremendous impact on young airmen like herself.

“I’ve got single friends at other bases that don’t have that [program], and they pretty much just sit in their dorm rooms and play video games all day,” Haynes said. “At the end of the day, knowing people want you to have high morale makes a big difference in doing your job.”

Airmen can go skiing at the Hidden Valley Ski Area in Wildwood, Missouri, about an hour’s drive from Scott. Indianapolis and Nashville are also a few hours’ drive from Scott, close enough to spend a long weekend in the city.


Vargas said he enjoys taking his daughter to the St. Louis Zoo — which is not only free, but was recently named the second-best zoo in the country by USA Today. He enjoys museums and watching sports downtown and motorcycling in the country.

Haynes grew up with a strong interest in art in her hometown in Cincinnati. When she moved to Scott, she was pleased to find not only a large number of museums, theaters and a science center in St. Louis, but a thriving arts community in nearby Belleville, which has an annual festival called Art on the Square.

“I think it’s really unique for Smalltown USA,” Haynes said. “I didn’t expect to find that at Scott. I thought it would be the middle of nowhere, but it’s not. It’s flourishing.”


1. (tied) Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio

Similarly to Scott, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio enjoys low housing costs, a large commissary, a huge 300-bed medical center, and a large exchange with a mall and a shoppette. An above-average crime score of 7 out of 10, and decent commute times — an average one-way trip of 14 minutes, much less than the nationwide average commute of more than 25 minutes — combined to help land Wright-Pat at the top of the list, tied with Scott.

Capt. Matthew Hawkins, an engineer with the AC 130J program office there, said he and his wife, Capt. Caroline Hawkins, have grown to love Wright-Pat during their three years there.

“Coming to Wright-Pat, you’re in the middle of everywhere,” Hawkins said. “We are so close to major, larger cities that offer so much more. We can go to Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, Louisville — the list goes on and on of places accessible with a tank of gas.”

But Hawkins speaks most glowingly of nearby Dayton, and the close relationship its 143,000 residents have with the airmen stationed at Wright-Pat.

The Dayton Dragons minor league baseball team, for example, offer discounted tickets for service members, as does Dayton’s Schuster Performing Arts Center. The Hawkinses are associate board members at the local children’s science museum, the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery, which partners with Wright-Pat to get service members’ input.

“Several people, while we’re out and about, recognize us as military and shake our hands,” Hawkins said. “They love us.”

The Hawkinses enjoy spending time in the Greene Town Center in Dayton, which offers shopping and mid- to high-end restaurants, as well as free concerts on the weekends.

“Being kind of young, we do frequent brewpubs,” said Hawkins. Both he and his wife are 30. “Brewing beers is becoming a big local thing in the Miami Valley. There’s a lot of new gastropub restaurants popping up in Dayton — a lot of new places to try and eat out at.”

Capt. Drew Chaney, who was stationed at Wright-Pat from 2004 to 2009, said the base’s gym facilities, exchange and commissary are as good as or better than other bases he has visited or been assigned to. And he spoke highly of the base’s medical center, which he said had reasonable wait times and even fit him in for laser eye surgery, though he was a low priority.

Chaney said several of his former co-workers finished their master’s degrees while at Wright-Pat, attending the nearby University of Dayton or Wright State University.

Even the base library is pretty well-stocked, Chaney said.

The average monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Dayton is $641, according to An airman basic without dependents would receive $864 in BAH each month, and a colonel with dependents would receive $1,950 a month.


Airmen who are interested in their service’s history can visit the National Museum of the United States Air Force for free. The museum in June broke ground on an expansion that will eventually house the former Air Force One aircraft aboard which President Johnson was sworn in after President Kennedy’s assassination, as well as a Titan IV space booster rocket, the Lockheed C-130E Hercules, and other aircraft.

Thousands of runners — both military and civilian — run the annual Air Force Marathon at Wright-Patterson each September. The start and finish lines of that race are located at the museum.

Hawkins is likely to spend at most another two years at Wright-Pat before his next assignment. But he expects his work in acquisition will eventually draw him and his wife back to Dayton — and they’ll eagerly anticipate their possible return.

“When we leave here, we’ll look forward to coming back,” Hawkins said.


3. Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland

The Texas heat may be brutal in the summer, but Joint Base San Antonio and the surrounding area have plenty else that landed the base in the top five.

Lackland’s medical facilities are among the best in the military — and are about to get better. A new 681,000- square-foot medical treatment facility, to be called the Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center, is under construction and projected to be finished next year. The four-wing, three-story facility will serve more than 55,000 patients and house more than 25 outpatient clinics, and the old Wilford Hall will be demolished. Lackland is home to the 59th Medical Wing.

The base’s large commissary and large exchange — with a mall and shoppette — provide great shopping opportunities for airmen on base. And average commute times of about 12 minutes are some of the lowest nationwide.


Housing prices in parts of the San Antonio area are favorable at around $69,400, making it one of the most affordable places to live in the country.Monthly BAH for airmen there starts at $1,038 for airmen basic without dependents, to $2,091 for colonels with dependents. The monthly rent for two-bedroom apartments in San Antonio averages $828, according to

“When speaking to my NCOs, I’ve not heard anybody complaining that it’s so doggone expensive that they can’t find a place, or need to spend extra money beyond what they’re comfortable with,” Col. Bill Eger, former commander of the 502nd Installation Support Group, said in a July 10 interview. His final day at the 502nd before being transferred to the Defense Information Systems Agency was July 11.

Are you a fan of live music? One of the best music scenes in the country can be found in Austin, less than a two-hour drive from Lackland. A wide variety of artists — ranging from bluesmen Stevie Ray Vaughan and Gary Clark Jr. to indie rockers such as the band Spoon to country legends like Willie Nelson — have hung their hats there. And Austin’s annual South by Southwest festival and Austin City Limits Music Festival bring even more national acts to Lackland’s neck of the woods.

History buffs can visit the legendary Alamo and other Spanish missions. Sports fans can watch the San Antonio Spurs play— although scoring tickets may be tough now that they are the reigning National Basketball Association champions — as well as check out the minor league baseball team the San Antonio Missions. And multiple water parks can be found just a few miles away from Lackland, Eger said.


Airmen who want to enjoy the outdoors can bike or hike along the Howard W. Peak Greenway Trails System, which currently consists of 45 miles of trails winding along San Antonio’s creeks. Eger said San Antonio is opening up more sections of the San Antonio River to kayaking and canoeing.

“The city’s trying to become like Austin, and create a more healthy living lifestyle,” Eger said.


4. Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska

One of the northernmost bases in the military is also in one of the most beautiful and unique parts of the country.

“Life in Alaska is a little different,” said Col. Brian Duffy, former commander of the 673rd Air Base Wing and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson near Anchorage. “You’re living amongst wildlife. You’ve got moose, bear, fox, lynx, coyote, eagles, ravens. It’s a lot different than the lower 48.”

Former Capt. Louise Fode, a meteorologist who was stationed at Elmendorf from 2000 to 2004, said many airmen see the base as a plum assignment.

“Elmendorf is definitely one of the most competitive places to get stationed,” said Fode, who still lives there. “A lot of military members are interested in the outdoor life that Anchorage and Alaska has to offer. [And] for a winter location, it’s really not that bad in terms of temperatures. We are much more moderate in temps than Fairbanks, or North Dakota, and we get a lot of snow to play in.”

Fairbanks, which is 26 miles northwest of Eielson Air Force Base, hits an average January low of 13 below zero, and Minot, North Dakota, hits 4.3 below in January. Elmendorf’s average January low of 5.7 degrees is also cold, but at least stays north of zero.

Elmendorf’s large commissary and exchange with a mall and shoppette provide plenty of affordable shopping opportunities for service members there, helping land it among the best bases in the Air Force.

And in a relatively remote place like Anchorage, those base shopping opportunities are crucial to offset Alaska’s higher cost of living.

“Having the commissary is a huge help because the food costs go down, and [service members] have greater access to food,” Duffy said. “Everything that comes into the state comes by water or air, driving the cost up. The road system isn’t like the [East Coast’s Interstate] 95 corridor. The Port of Anchorage is where most things come in.”

Alaska has no state income tax, and the Anchorage area has no sales tax, which helps airmen make ends meet.

Airmen who have lived in Alaska for a full calendar year and intend to put down roots can apply for the Permanent Fund Dividend. Eligible Alaskan residents each received $900 last year — their share of the revenues raised from oil drilling and other use of natural resources in the state.

But Duffy cautions that the Permanent Fund Dividend comes with strings. If an airman receiving the dividend is transferred away and does not return to Alaska after leaving the service, Alaska could recoup the payments made to him.

Fode said bars, clubs, restaurants, museums and other activities can be found in Anchorage, not far off base.

“It’s the cultural hub for Alaska — for what that’s worth,” Fode said.

Elmendorf also has an unusual on-base amenity: the Hillberg Ski Area. Duffy said it’s not a huge slope — perhaps a quarter-mile run with a drop of between 200 and 300 feet — but it’s a safe place for newly arrived airmen to strap on their first set of skis and learn.


“A lot of people who come from the lower 48 don’t know what snow looks like,” Duffy said.

The last two years, Duffy said, Elmendorf opened Hillberg to the entire base as the annual holiday party. And more advanced skiers can find faster slopes nearby.

Elmendorf rents fishing boats, which Duffy said is a popular activity.

“A lot of people are chewing their arms off to get out of the office and go fishing,” Duffy said.


5. Luke Air Force Base, Arizona

Rounding out the top five is Luke Air Force Base near Glendale, Arizona, which also enjoys low housing costs of about $71,900, as well as short 11-minute commute times and a solid commissary and exchange.

“From what I can tell, we’re in a buyer’s market,” said Chief Master Sgt. John Mazza, the 56th Fighter Wing Command Chief at Luke. “It’s not just one area — the whole community is pretty desirable. Peoria, Buckeye, Glendale, Goodyear — these are some of the best I’ve seen.”

Mazza said besides offering special deals to military service members, the local communities often ask what they can do for airmen, and how they can spend time with them and learn their stories.

“I’ve never seen such military support [from the community] in a long time,” Mazza said.

Airmen at Luke are within a few hours’ drive of the Grand Canyon, the Coconino National Forest near Sedona, Arizona, and Joshua Tree National Park in California.

And two hours from this desert environment, skiing enthusiasts can find slopes in the mountains of Flagstaff, Arizona.

“If you’re an outdoors person, you’re gonna love Luke Air Force Base,” Mazza said. “The landscapes change [as one drives throughout the state]. The cactus disappear, it turns into green, rolling hills. Most folks go up to [Flagstaff] to stay in a hotel and camp and beat the heat and play golf.”

Even a weekend getaway in Las Vegas is about four or five hours away, depending on the traffic.

Mazza said one of Luke’s biggest attractions is the proximity to every major professional sport. The Arizona Cardinals football team, Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team, Phoenix Suns men’s basketball team, Phoenix Mercury women’s basketball team and Arizona Coyotes hockey team are a quick drive from the gates of Luke.

Like Scott, Luke has a Single Airman Program that offers discounted activities. Senior Airman Jenna Sarvinski, who is on her first assignment at Luke, said she went skydiving through the program, which has also offered go-karting and trips to the Grand Canyon.

“It’s a chance for people who don’t have a significant other or a spouse to get to know other airmen,” Sarvinski said. “You get off base and relax and get away from work for a while, but you’re still meeting other airmen and enjoying yourselves.”


The full list:

Air Force Times’ ranking of the best bases in the Air Force:

1. (tied) Scott AFB, Illinois

1. (tied) Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio

3. Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas

4. Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska

5. Luke AFB, Arizona

6. (tied) MacDill AFB, Florida

6. (tied) Grand Forks AFB, North Dakota

8. (tied) Eglin AFB, Florida

8. (tied) Offut AFB, Nebraska

10. Cannon AFB, New Mexico

11. (tied) Holloman AFB, New Mexico

11. (tied) Schriever AFB, Colorado

11. (tied) McGuire AFB, New Jersey

14. (tied) Patrick AFB, Florida

14. (tied) Nellis AFB, Nevada

14. (tied) Dover AFB, Delaware

17. (tied) Eielson AFB, Alaska

17. (tied) Tinker AFB, Oklahoma

17. (tied) Langley AFB, Virginia

17. (tied) Minot AFB, North Dakota

21. Beale AFB, California

22. (tied) Keesler AFB, Mississippi

22. (tied) Sheppard AFB, Texas

24. U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado

25. (tied) Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona

25. (tied) Robins AFB, Georgia

25. (tied) Mountain Home AFB, Idaho

28. (tied) Peterson AFB, Colorado

28. (tied) Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station

30. (tied) Edwards AFB, California

30. (tied) Randolph AFB, Texas

32. (tied) Vandenburg Vandenberg AFB, California

32. (tied) Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Georgia

34. Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota

35. (tied) Kirtland AFB, New Mexico

35. (tied) Fairchild AFB, Washington

35. (tied) Hill AFB, Utah

35. (tied) Whiteman AFB, Missouri

39. (tied) Little Rock AFB, Arkansas

39. (tied) Hurlburt Field, Florida

39. (tied) Joint Base Lewis-McChord

42. (tied) Altus AFB, Oklahoma

42. (tied) Charleston AFB, South Carolina

42. (tied) Maxwell-Gunter AFB, Alabama

45. (tied) Barksdale AFB, Louisiana

45. (tied) Goodfellow AFB, Texas

47. (tied) Vance AFB, Oklahoma

47. (tied) Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii

49. (tied) FE Warren AFB, Wyoming

49. (tied) Joint Base Andrews, Maryland

49. (tied) Dyess AFB, Texas

52. Pope AFB, North Carolina

53. (tied) Seymour Johnson AFB, North Carolina

53. (tied) Malmstrom AFB, Montana

55. (tied) Tyndall AFB, Florida

55. (tied) Moody AFB, Georgia

55. (tied) Arnold AFB, Tennessee

55. (tied) Shaw AFB, South Carolina

59. (tied) March Air Reserve Base, California

59. (tied) Laughlin AFB, Texas

61. (tied) Buckley AFB, Colorado

61. (tied) Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Michigan

63. Travis AFB, California

64. (tied) Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, DC

64. (tied) Hanscom AFB, Massachusetts

66. (tied) McConnell AFB, Kansas

66. (tied) Columbus AFB, Mississippi

68. Los Angeles Air Force Base


Air Force Times research




New Insight on the Nation’s Earthquake Hazards

2014 USGS National Seismic Hazard Map, displaying intensity of potential ground shaking from an earthquake in 50 years (which is the typical lifetime of a building).

To help make the best decisions to protect communities from earthquakes, new USGS maps display how intense ground shaking could be across the nation.

The USGS recently updated their U.S. National Seismic Hazard Maps, which reflect the best and most current understanding of where future earthquakes will occur, how often they will occur, and how hard the ground will likely shake as a result.

42 States at Risk; 16 States at High Risk

While all states have some potential for earthquakes, 42 of the 50 states have a reasonable chance of experiencing damaging ground shaking from an earthquake in 50 years (the typical lifetime of a building). Scientists also conclude that 16 states have a relatively high likelihood of experiencing damaging ground shaking. These states have historically experienced earthquakes with a magnitude 6 or greater.

The hazard is especially high along the west coast, intermountain west, and in several active regions of the central and eastern U.S., such as near New Madrid, MO, and near Charleston, SC. The 16 states at highest risk are Alaska, Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

While these overarching conclusions of the national-level hazard are similar to those of the previous maps released in 2008, details and estimates differ for many cities and states. Several areas have been identified as being capable of having the potential for larger and more powerful earthquakes than previously thought due to more data and updated earthquake models. The most prominent changes are discussed below.

Informed Decisions Based on the Maps

With an understanding of potential ground shaking levels, various risk analyses can be calculated by considering factors like population levels, building exposure, and building construction practices. This is used for establishing building codes, and in the analysis of seismic risk for key structures. This can also help in determining insurance rates, emergency preparedness plans, and private property decisions such as re-evaluating one’s home and making it more resilient.

These maps are part of USGS contributions to the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP), which is a congressionally-established partnership of four federal agencies with the purpose of reducing risks to life and property in the U.S. that result from earthquakes. The contributing agencies are the USGS, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), National Institute of Standards and Technology, and National Science Foundation (NSF). As an example of the collaboration, the hazards identified in the USGS maps underlie FEMA-sponsored seismic design provisions that are incorporated into building codes adopted by states and localities. The maps also reflect investments in research by academic and other scientists supported by grants from the USGS and the NSF.

“The standards for seismic safety in building codes are directly based upon USGS assessments of potential ground shaking from earthquakes, and have been for years,” said Jim Harris, a member and former chair of the Provisions Update Committee of the Building Seismic Safety Council.

“The committees preparing those standards welcome this updated USGS information as a basis for making decisions and continuing to ensure the most stable and secure construction.”

Key Updates

East Coast

The eastern U.S. has the potential for larger and more damaging earthquakes than considered in previous maps and assessments. As one example, scientists learned a lot following the magnitude 5.8 earthquake that struck Virginia in 2011. It was among the largest earthquakes to occur along the east coast in the last century, and helped determine that even larger events are possible. Estimates of earthquake hazards near Charleston, SC, have also gone up due to the assessment of earthquakes in the state.

In New York City, the maps indicate a slightly lower hazard for tall buildings than previously thought (but still a hazard nonetheless). Scientists estimated a lower likelihood for slow shaking from an earthquake near the city. Slow shaking is likely to cause more damage to tall structures in contrast, compared to fast shaking which is more likely to impact shorter structures.

Central U.S.

The New Madrid Seismic Zone has been identified to have a larger range of potential earthquake magnitudes and locations than previously identified. This is a result of a range of new research, part of which was recently compiled by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

West Coast

In California, earthquake hazard extends over a wider area than previously thought. Most notably, faults were recently discovered, raising earthquake hazard estimates for San Jose, Vallejo and San Diego. On the other hand, new insights on faults and rupture processes reduced earthquake hazard estimates for Irvine, Santa Barbara and Oakland. Hazard increased in some parts of the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles region and decreased in other parts. These updates were from the new Uniform California Earthquake Rupture Forecast Model, which incorporates many more potential fault ruptures than did previous assessments. Recent earthquakes in Alaska, Mexico and New Zealand taught scientists more about complex ruptures and how faults can link together. This insight was applied to California for which approximately 250,000 potential complex ruptures were modeled.

New research on the Cascadia Subduction Zone resulted in increased estimates of earthquake magnitude up to magnitude 9.3. Deep-sea cores were collected that show evidence within the sea-floor sediments of large earthquake-generated mudflows. Earthquake shaking estimates were also increased following abundant data gathered from the magnitude 9.0 earthquake in Tohoku, Japan in 2011 and the magnitude 8.2 earthquake offshore of Chile in 2014, as those events ruptured along subduction zones similar to the Pacific Northwest zone.

In Washington, scientists incorporated new knowledge of the Tacoma Fault into the maps and identified changes to the geometry of the Whidbey Island fault in the northern Puget Sound. Earthquake hazard also increased for Las Vegas because of new science. In Utah, scientists dug trenches to study prehistoric earthquakes along the Wasatch Fault. While the overall seismic hazard didn’t change significantly, detailed changes were made to the fault models in this region and robust data were acquired to hone the assessments. This is valuable since approximately 75% of Utah’s population, including the residents of Salt Lake City, lives near this fault.

The magnitude 7.9 earthquake in Wenchuan, China in 2008 provided many new records of shaking that are very similar to anticipated future earthquakes in the western U.S., as the fault structures are similar. Previously, scientists did not have nearly as many shaking records from earthquakes of this size.

Induced Earthquakes … Research Underway

Some states have experienced increased seismicity in the past few years that may be associated with human activities such as the disposal of wastewater in deep wells.

One specific focus for the future is including an additional layer to these earthquake hazard maps to account for recent potentially triggered earthquakes that occur near some wastewater disposal wells. Injection-induced earthquakes are challenging to incorporate into hazard models because they may not behave like natural earthquakes and their rates change based on man-made activities.

You Can’t Plan If …

“USGS earthquake science is vital because you can’t plan for earthquakes if you don’t know what you are planning for,” said Mark Petersen, Chief of the USGS National Seismic Hazard Mapping Project. “Our nation’s population and exposure to large earthquakes has grown tremendously in recent years. The cost of inaction in planning for future earthquakes and other natural disasters can be very high, as demonstrated by several recent damaging events across the globe. It is important to understand the threat you face from earthquakes at home and the hazards for the places you might visit. The USGS is dedicated to applying the best available science in developing reliable products useful for reducing the earthquake risk across the U.S.”

Start with USGS Science

The USGS is the only federal agency with responsibility for recording and reporting earthquake activity nationwide and providing a seismic hazard assessment. The USGS regularly updates the national seismic hazard models and maps, typically every 6 years, in sync with the building code updates. The 2014 update focuses on the conterminous U.S. Maps are also available for Alaska (last updated in 2007); Hawaii (1998); Puerto Rico (2003); Guam and Marianna Islands (2012); and American Samoa (2012).

View the maps online at: here

Rasmussen Reports


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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Some of America’s attention has shifted overseas in recent days, but major problems persist on the homefront.

Sixty-seven percent (67%) of voters now think the United States is a more divided nation than it was four years ago, and Republicans are the most eager to do something about it at the ballot box.

Voters continue to trust the GOP more than Democrats on the majority of issues regularly tracked by Rasmussen Reports including the economy, government spending and immigration.

Voters still expect Republicans to repeal Obamacare if they take control of Congress in November. As new allegations of fraud surround the troubled rollout process for the law, nearly half of voters have a negative opinion of President Obama’s handling of health care issues.

Democrats have led Republicans for most weeks this year, but the two are tied on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot.

Businessman David Perdue, coming off his Republican runoff win on Tuesday, holds a six-point lead over Democrat Michelle Nunn in Georgia’s closely-watched U.S. Senate race.

Longtime Republican Senator Jim Inhofe appears to be cruising comfortably toward reelection in Oklahoma.

But our first numbers out of the New Mexico governor’s race are quite a surprise.

Is this the new normal? Americans continue to hold a gloomy assessment of the economy’s chances for improvement in both the short- and long-term. Just 25% believe the U.S. economy will be stronger a year from now.

Consumer and investor confidence are down from this year’s highs but remain ahead of where they’ve been for much of the last five years.

Yet even as thousands of new illegal immigrants flood over the border, more Americans than ever say it’s no longer possible for just about anyone in this country to work their way out of poverty.

Voters still give the president mediocre reviews for his handling of both the economy and national security issues. His daily job approval rating remains in the high negative teens.

U.S. voters are overwhelmingly convinced that Russia had a hand in the recent shootdown of a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet over Ukraine, but they also strongly believe any punishment should be a multinational one and not come from just the United States.

Were the unsuspecting passengers and crew on board accidental casualties of war or deliberate targets? What does America think about the airline shootdown?
One thing’s for sure, Americans say the tragedy in Ukraine won’t discourage them from flying in the future.

Even though the president is reportedly sending U.S. military advisers to Ukraine, most voters don’t want the United States to provide military assistance to the government there to help fight pro-Russian rebels. Perhaps in part that’s because they feel more strongly than ever that the U.S.-Soviet Cold War is beginning to repeat itself.

Most voters also oppose more direct U.S. involvement to end the fighting between Israelis and Palestinians in Gaza and favor instead cutting some or all U.S. funding to the two sides to force a peace settlement.

In other surveys last week:

— Twenty-six percent (26%) of voters think the country is heading in the right direction.

— Most Americans continue to believe crime is a serious problem in this country, and half think there aren’t enough police officers to stop it.

— Baltimore is just about to institute one of the strictest youth nighttime curfew laws in the country. Most Americans think the curfew is likely to help reduce youth crime and favor such a measure in their community.

— Most Americans don’t want the federal government in their grocery shopping carts.

On a list of some of the world’s best-known conspiracy theories, Americans are most likely to believe the one about JFK’s assassination. But President George W. Bush and President Obama don’t escape suspicion.


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