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August 23 2014

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DoD working on software bandwidth guidelines

Aug. 14, 2014 – 06:00AM |



The Defense Department’s move to software defined networks will bring with it a set of code-writing guidelines for contractors, acting chief information officer Terry Halvorsen said Aug. 13.

Speaking at the 2014 Federal Forum in Washington, D.C., Halvrosen said that the department was working on standards that includes an emphasis on keeping bandwidth requirements low, especially for operating in environments where it might be scarce.

“We are going to do that—to put some harsher standards that say if you are going to develop software for us you must develop it to require the minimum bandwidth possible to operate,” Halvorsen said.

He said while it wouldn’t be a “hard and fast rule” because low bandwidth use is not possible all the time, but it’s something he wants every developer to start thinking about.

Software using less bandwidth won’t just be a help in areas of the world with limited bandwidth capacity but will do well in the United States, where parts of the DoD network are already saturated with traffic, Halvorsen said.

“Any time I can get software that can reduce bandwidth use that’s a goodness for us,” Halvorsen said.



Federal agencies set job applicant limits,0,6907747.story

By Lorraine Mirabella, The Baltimore Sun

3:10 p.m. EDT, August 17, 2014


Paul Mincarelli has been trying for three years to get into international work for the federal government. He says he knows the odds are stacked against him.

Now the competition is likely to get more intense.

Some agencies have begun to limit the number of applications they accept per vacancy. Instead of setting a deadline for applications, some job announcements stay open only until the limit — in some cases as few as 25 resumes — is reached.

Mincarelli, 26, has a master’s degree in international affairs. He says he has applied for dozens of jobs at several agencies to no avail. He has not yet come across such limits on postings, he said, but expressed concern that his chances could become even more limited under a system that he believes shuts out qualified candidates unfairly.

“I understand they have to deal with a high volume,” he said. But “it makes it more frustrating.”

The Office of Personnel Management says demand is high for federal jobs.

“Overall, agencies are experiencing a significant increase in the number of applications, which may not necessarily produce more qualified candidates,” the agency said in a statement. It said some agencies are limiting the number of applications they will consider “depending on their need for qualified applicants and the number of job openings.”

Kathryn Troutman, president of Catonsville-based The Resume Place Inc., said she began seeing applicant limits this year. Troutman, whose firm offers federal job coaching and resume-writing services, reviewed the federal government’s online job portal and found applicant limits ranging from 15 to 300. Most fell in the 50-to-100 range.

Listings with limits instead of traditional closing dates appeared for jobs as varied as senior manager and student intern. They were posted by employers as diverse as the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Smithsonian Institution, the National Gallery of Art, the Department of Transportation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Treasury, the Department of Defense and the Social Security Administration.

Troutman says she has begun to see online postings disappear before the closing dates. She says one human resources department told her an ad was pulled after the agency received more than 1,700 applications.

“The [applicant] numbers are more and jobs are less, and HR has decided to put their foot down,” Troutman said. “I think we’re going to see it more and more.”

She says veterans and students and others want to work for the federal government.

“They’re just receiving too many resumes. They’re not hiring as many people, and there are still a lot of applicants.”

In June, the National Gallery of Art posted an opening for a staff assistant, set a limit of 100 applications and urged candidates to “apply as soon as possible.” The museum in Washington capped the number of applicants for an air-conditioning mechanic at 25.

The Department of the Interior’s Geological Survey in Baltimore cut off applications for a student trainee in information technology support at 25.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Veterans Affairs said the Office of Personnel Management has encouraged federal agencies to set resume limits for positions that draw a large number of applicants.

In the current climate, Troutman says, applicants for federal jobs need to apply quickly and not wait for closing dates. That means preparing resumes and cover letters ahead of time.

“My advice is to apply as quickly as you see the job announced,” she said, noting that she prepares the bulk of a client’s resume ahead of time, then tailors it to a particular job once an announcement appears. She also tries to steer clients away from jobs for which they likely won’t qualify.

“It’s more competitive now than ever,” she said. “The jobs are very technical, and requirements are specific and clear. It’s really technical writing … not like writing a resume.”

Cortez Elliott, 31, who has a degree in business and is in a graduate public administration program at the University of Baltimore, says he has applied to about 50 federal postings over the past five years, mostly for entry-level administrative jobs.

Elliott, a Baltimore man who runs his own entertainment marketing and consulting firm, says he has never received any feedback. He says he has shifted his focus from federal to state government openings and has been called in for interviews.

Elliott says limiting applications by number is unfair to those who apply by the cutoff date.

“I think it would be unfair to someone who is potentially qualified for a position,” he said. “They have a system in place that’s cutting them off because of quotas.”


Ohio lacking in business meeting destinations

Aug 18, 2014, 7:15am EDT Updated: Aug 18, 2014, 8:22am EDT

Ohio has plenty to offer, but business meeting destinations are not its strong suit. In fact, just one Ohio city ranks among the top 50 top U.S. meeting destinations.


Dayton Business Journal


Cvent Inc. — a McLean, Va.-based online business event management platform — evaluated more than 5,000 cities, basing its ranking on meeting and booking activity in its own supplier network, as well as each city’s number of meeting and event venues.

Columbus was the sole Ohio entry, coming it at No. 43 on the list, having 125 meeting hotels and 15,700 sleeping rooms.

The top-ranked city was Chicago, followed by Orlando and Las Vegas.


CVENT Top Meeting Locations


City Name 


Change Since
Last Year

Total Number of
Meeting Hotels

Total Number of
Sleeping Rooms

Sleeping Rooms
(in largest hotel)

Chicago, IL






Orlando, FL






Las Vegas, NV






Atlanta, GA






San Diego, CA






New York, NY






Dallas, TX






Washington, D.C.






New Orleans, LA






Nashville, TN






Phoenix, AZ






San Francisco, CA






Miami, FL






Denver, CO






San Antonio, TX






Scottsdale, AZ






Boston, MA






Houston, TX






Los Angeles, CA






Austin, TX






Philadelphia, PA






Grapevine, TX






Seattle, WA






Kissimmee, FL






Anaheim, CA






Indianapolis, IN






St. Louis, MO






Baltimore, MD






Fort Worth, TX






Tampa, FL






Minneapolis, MN






Fort Lauderdale, FL






Rosemont, IL






Charlotte, NC






National Harbor, MD






Arlington, VA






Irving, TX






Hollywood, FL






Portland, OR






Kansas City, MO






Coronado, CA






Carlsbad, CA






Columbus, OH






Long Beach, CA






Louisville, KY


New to List 




Alexandria, VA






San Jose, CA






Salt Lake City, UT






Newport Beach, CA






Chandler, AZ


New to List 




Bottom of Form 


The coming disintegration of Iraq

By Joel Rayburn

August 15

Army Col. Joel Rayburn, a senior research fellow at the National Defense University, is a historian who served as an adviser to Gen. David Petraeus in Iraq. He is the author of “Iraq After America: Strongmen, Sectarians, Resistance.” The views he expresses here are his own and do not necessarily represent those of the Department of Defense.


Nouri al-Maliki may have agreed to step down as prime minister of Iraq on Thursday, but the damage he has wrought will define his country for decades to come. The stunning collapse of the Iraqi state in its vast northern and western provinces may be Maliki’s most significant legacy. After nine decades as the capital of a unitary, centralized state, Baghdad no longer rules Kurdistan, nor Fallujah, nor Mosul, and might never rule them again.

To his likely successor, Haider al-Abadi, Maliki will bequeath an Iraqi state that has reverted to the authoritarian muscle memory it developed under Saddam Hussein. But it will be a state that effectively controls not much more than half the territory Hussein did. As Maliki and his loyalists succeeded in consolidating control of the government and pushing rivals out of power, they drove the constituencies of those they excluded — especially Sunni Arabs and Kurds — into political opposition or armed insurrection. Their drive for power alienated Iraqis across all communities from the central state whose wards and clients they had once been, leaving almost no provincial population trustful of the central government. Maliki has held sway in Baghdad, but whole swaths of Iraq have fallen out of his control: The tighter he grasped the state, the more the country slipped through his fingers.

The current crisis in Iraq goes far beyond the question of who will lead the next government in Baghdad. Iraqis have entered into a civil war whose logical conclusion is the breakup of the country. What we are witnessing in Iraq today is the beginning of a process that could become at least as destructive and bloody as the breakup of Yugoslavia. The longer it is allowed to unfold, the less likely it will be stopped, and the more likely it will spill over on a large scale to destabilize the surrounding region.

It is tempting to conclude that the U.S.-led regime change of 2003 inevitably led to sectarian violence and politics in Iraq by opening up the country’s preexisting fractures. But the deep sectarianism of the past decade was neither foreordained to follow Hussein’s fall nor completely natural in Iraqi society. It was instead a calculated objective of the powerful, mainly expatriate parties that arrived in Baghdad after April 2003, bringing with them sectarian agendas that had been decades in the making. These groups, which included Maliki and the Dawa party , as well as almost all of Iraq’s major Islamist and ethnic parties, have had independent but complementary interests in polarizing the country, turning a mixed-sect, multiethnic nation into one of homogeneous ethnic and sectarian political constituencies. The result has been a devastating civil war, and an Iraq more thoroughly sorted by sect and ethnicity than ever before.

As Iraq’s major parties have carved the nation into political empires, they have in many regions allowed the state to recede from the streets, creating power and security vacuums that militant and criminal groups have been quick to fill. The creeping takeover of Sunni neighborhoods by Islamic State fighters and their fellow travelers has been well documented, but in other areas Shiite Islamist militants have roamed freely for years, with the state absent or complicit. Away from the Islamic State’s atrocities in the far north, Shiite militant groups trained by Iran to fight U.S. troops until 2011 now seem poised to insulate Baghdad and the Shiite south from the Islamic State threat. They eventually may evict Sunnis from the region around Baghdad in the name of counterterrorism, with the assistance of the Iranian regime and Lebanese Hezbollah, and with the political blessing of the Shiite Islamist political parties that on Monday nominated Abadi as their premier.

For years now, some outsiders and some Iraqi factions have called for the partition of the country as a matter of policy — a solution to the intractable political disputes. Perhaps the best-known instance was in 2006, when then-Sen. Joe Biden and Leslie Gelb of the Council on Foreign Relations called for the division of the country into three autonomous regions, based on sect, with a central government that would “control border defense, foreign affairs and oil revenues.” Invoking the example of Bosnia, Biden and Gelb offered their plan as a way to keep the country intact and prevent sectarian warfare from escalating.

But as we are likely to find out in the coming years, there is no way for Iraq to be divided into three homelands for Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis without experiencing exactly the massive human misery that Biden, Gelb and others hoped partition might forestall. No clean ethno-sectarian lines already exist in Iraq, meaning that the boundaries of the various statelets would have to be fought over. The populations of northern and central Iraq in particular are so intertwined that separating people into sectarian enclaves would immediately prompt violent sectarian cleansing on a scale sure to exceed that of Yugoslavia. At least a quarter of a million non-Sunnis would probably be forced to leave Sunni-majority territories, while more than half a million Sunnis would probably be expelled from the greater Baghdad region, with those Sunni Baghdadis that remain herded into ghettos in and around the city.

There would also be millions of Iraqis caught in limbo. What would become, for example, of the large minority population that is not Sunni, Shiite or Kurd? And what would become of Iraq’s more than 1 million Turkmen? What would become of the millions of Iraqis in intermarried families of Shiite and Sunni or Arab and Kurd? The fragmenting of the country into sectarian cantons would leave these millions with no clear place to go.

Nor is it likely that the fragmentation of Iraq, once begun, would stop at just three sections. The country would be far more likely to split effectively into four pieces or more. The Sunnis of Anbar and Mosul, who have a long-standing rivalry, would be unlikely to consent to living together in one Sunnistan, where one region might be dominated by the other. They would be more likely to live in competing Tigris and Euphrates regions or statelets. Nor is it clear that, once unmoored from Baghdad, the major Kurdish parties would live together in one region where one party could rule the others. Lastly, the shrunken Shiite-majority section would be a rump Iraq stretching from Samarra to the Persian Gulf, rich in oil but certain to fall into the Iranian regime’s orbit for the foreseeable future.

Nor would the creation of these sections be the end of the matter, as then-Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlak, a Sunni, warned in a 2011 CNN interview: “Dividing the country isn’t going to be smooth, because dividing the country is going to be a war before that and a war after that.” The new states or quasi-states of the former Iraq would surely enter into a long series of wars that none would be strong enough to decisively win, with a death toll unlikely to be less than the roughly quarter-million killed in the Yugoslav wars and a total displacement of perhaps one-quarter of Iraq’s population.

If Iraq fragments in this manner, either formally or de facto, there will be no way to preserve a meaningful central structure in which the different sectarian enclaves together defend the country’s borders and share natural resources. In the north in particular, Sunni Arabs, Turkmen and Kurds are more likely to war over the oil-rich disputed territories, while the governments in Baghdad and Irbil will never share oil revenue with Sunni provinces that are at war with the Shiites and Kurds. And since there are no bodies of water or mountain ranges separating Iraq from its western and southern neighbors, these conflicts will not be physically contained as the Balkan wars were. They are sure to spill over, eventually drawing in every neighbor even more deeply than they are already.

Iraqi leader Nouri al-Maliki announced on Thursday that he is dropping his bid for a third term as prime minister and pledged support for his replacement, Haider al-Abadi. (Reuters)

Iraq’s prospects for political stability are dim, and the country faces fundamental questions that Maliki’s impending departure will do little to solve. Reintegrating the Sunni community and provinces back into the Iraqi state would be the necessary starting point for leaders who wish to preserve their country. But the political environment that Maliki will leave behind is largely devoid of the trust necessary for partnerships and power-sharing. One reason Maliki and his allies have mightily resisted leaving power is that after eight years of rough rule, no member of his group can be fully assured that a successor party will leave them to live in peace. Similarly, what Kurdish leader believes that Sunni Arabs, if ever back in power, would not immediately attempt to push the Kurds back into the mountains and crush Kurdish nationalism? And after a decade of attempting to make Sunnis a permanent minority underclass, what Shiite supremacist does not fear what Sunnis would do if they ever regained control of Baghdad?

The enduring dilemmas that have dogged modern Iraq — the relationship between the people and the state, the relationship between Kurdistan and Arab Iraq, the relationship between Sunnis and Shiites, the relationship between Baghdad and its 18 provinces — remain unsettled. It would take a leader or movement of extraordinary vision to settle them peacefully, and no such visionary is on the horizon. It is Iraq’s strongmen, sectarians and Islamist resistance who control the path to conflict resolution. The longer they hold sway, the smaller the chance that Iraq will hold together.

It is not too late for Iraq. But soon, it will be. The civil war of the past decade has been many things: a struggle between terrorists and the state, between religious extremes, between Maliki loyalists and their rivals, between regional proxies, between sects and ethnicities that have not relearned how to coexist. But it has most essentially been a war on Iraqi society itself, slowly draining the lifeblood of one of the world’s oldest countries, which after five millennia has begun to expire before our eyes.


Can Haider al-Abadi Unite a Divided Iraq?

Aug 18, 2014


General (Ret.) Mohammed Al-Samarae


Iraqi SoldiersDemocracy is still a new process for Iraqis after decades of autocratic rule and life under military occupation. Embracing it as a governing system is accompanied by new difficulties and headaches. After each round of elections, conflicts emerge between the leaders of the multiple political blocs when it comes time to form a new government. The most recent political crisis broke out after the electoral victory of Nuri al-Maliki’s State of Law Party, part of Iraq’s largest political coalition, the National Alliance. According to the constitution and a ruling by the Iraqi Federal Court, Maliki should be asked by the president to form a new government. The heads of several major political blocs, however, were strongly opposed to a third term for Maliki. They warned of a possible civil war and the division of Iraq if he were invited to form a government. Maliki’s government was certainly not worthy of a third term. Now, with the support of the Iranian government a decisive factor, Haider al-Abadi has been asked by the president to form a government as prime minister.

But those who stood up against Maliki also have dirty hands. They claimed they were ready to pay any price to stop his reappointment. Some even assisted the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) now investing spans of northern Iraq and naively colluded with them. ISIS went on to occupy the Iraqi provinces of Nineveh and Salahaddin, declared an Islamic caliphate, and call itself the Islamic State (IS) in the area of its control in northern Iraq and parts of Syria. In the Iraqi city of Mosul, ISIS inaugurated Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as its Caliph. Shortly after, they began to commit unspeakable massacres of religious minorities in the region, the full toll of which is still unknown. Iraq is, once again, a serious issue for America and the world.

Iraq’s problems cannot all be solved by air strikes and aid drops. The current crisis is just one acute aspect of a deeper, systemic problem that will continue to cause trouble in Iraq–and America–for years to come.

Today’s Iraqi society is deeply divided into many factions, many of which are based on the political ideologies and agendas set by returned former-exiles from Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and members of the former Iraqi opposition of the 1990s. The average Iraqi is part of a system in which there is no real engagement with or involvement of the people. It should, in some ways, sound somewhat familiar to many Americans, as our own system has faced and continues to face many of the same challenges.


The Political Class

This group of Iraqi society consists of supporters of political parties, members, and followers whose parents or family members were killed by Saddam Hussein’s regime. Though they only represent one-quarter of society, they make up about 80% of the civil servants in the ministries and have deep political influence in each ministry and department. Many of them do not have skills, experience or education to perform their jobs. Many of them have been known to present fake academic degrees. The chaos, disorder, mismanagement and corruption that seem to characterize Iraqi government are the consequence of these unqualified people being given significant positions through a system of political patronage that would make even Andrew Jackson cringe. Their aim is to perpetuate their own political control, with the effect that they are building an obsolete state with no chance of developing into a modern, well-educated society with freedom of speech and of opinion. This group does not want a divided Iraq of any kind, neither geographically nor administratively, because they would lose political influence and their monopoly on Iraq’s government resources. Nevertheless, they all support political and religious sectarianism in order to maintain their support and their own gains. They benefit from division.


The Moderates

These are the writers, professors, poets, lawyers, and other professionals who make up 10-15% of Iraqi society. Though highly educated, they have very little influence on the political process or ability to make changes to the system and have become disenchanted with the system. Earlier in Iraq’s transition, they participated in demonstrations and forums in an attempt to make politicians pay attention to their demands. The Iraqi political class does not support this group and tries to block their involvement because their voice in government and presence in the ministries would challenge or destroy their system of political patronage. Many of Iraq’s moderates have already fled the country, a professional “brain drain,” because of threats and violence carried out by militias associated with the political parties. This group is generally against political or religious sectarianism and believe a stronger central government with devolved political and economic powers for all Iraqi regions will bring stability. They believe the capital, Baghdad, should remain a modern and secular city.


The Sectarians

According to some American analysts and diplomats, Iraq has to be divided into two main sectarian groups– Sunni and Shia–in order to save it from disintegration and civil war. For now, both sects rule the country side by side. Militant Sunni sectarians still believe Iraq is theirs to rule as an inheritance from Saddam. As the only Arab Shia-majority state, Iraq is viewed with suspicion or as a rival among members the Sunni-majority Arab League. Because of this, Iraq can only achieve peace and stability among its neighbors in the Middle East region by finding a consensus with and providing more autonomy and independence for the Sunni regions—but keeping them a part of Iraq. But after revolts in the Sunni-majority region of Al Anbar and the massacre of Sunni demonstrators at Al Hawija by Maliki’s regime forces, there will not be any solution soon as negotiations have stalled. This is a split amongst Muslims that has existed for centuries and dividing Iraq would not solve the problem and could, in fact, increase tensions between Iraq and its neighbors as they vie for control of pieces of the former-Iraq.


The Tribes

Iraq’s tribes today enjoy more freedom than they have for several decades. Saddam used tribes and tribal leaders to legitimize his regime and forced tribal leaders to sign loyalty oaths to him in their own blood. The consequence of the return of tribalism is a loss for civil society and modernity in many regions. Many rural areas have turned away from what they see as westernized, modern thought, inspirations, and the Western way of life, exhibited in cities such as Baghdad or Basra. The political parties, both Sunni and Shia, claim to support the traditional lifestyle and tribal law in order to win support. If the trend continues, any traces of modernity could disappear from the countryside and the divide between rural areas and cities will increase. This trend also means that increasingly tribal law is coming to dominate the lives of many more Iraqis, as opposed to a uniform judicial system. Such thinking is also fertile ground for the extremist ideology of groups such as ISIS. Since 1958, almost all of Iraq’s leaders came from rural regions in which tribal leaders possess all the influence, land, money and weapons. These tribal leaders pick their candidates, and pressure elected officials to introduce legislation that does not serve the public, but only their own demands. The consequence is the subversion of civil and public law and the judiciary. The return of the tribes means less reach for the central government and its laws into rural areas of Iraq.


The Clerics

The disorder following the U.S. invasion has caused many Iraqis to turn back to religious inspiration and the search for God. Clerics have used this return to religion to expand their influence in society and to re-indoctrinate it with fully new views and, sometimes, extremist opinions. While Shias have Al-Sistani as the highest religious authority in Najaf, Sunnis lack any central religious leadership. This lack of a central leader has contributed to the difficulties and revolts seen in Sunni-dominated areas, like al-Anbar. Even with a leader, Shia have also had difficulty. While Al-Sistani always tries to scale the political situation in order to provide all Iraqis the same rights in self-determination, his initiatives are often rejected in Baghdad and, ironically, mainly from the Shia parties because his plan does not match their aims.

Modern clerics always seek to be close to the Iraqi people, in and outside Iraq, by consulting and supporting the youth and families. They try to influence the politicians on social issues such as poverty, illiteracy and demographic changes. Fanatic clerics also find many supporters in Iraqi society and they and their political followers try to convert civil society into a pure Islamic state; some of them want to copy the ‘Wilayat Al Faqih’ of Iran, some others have tried hard to eliminate civil law by introducing a so-called ‘Al Jaafari’ law. Fortunately, this law was not passed by the Iraqi parliament.


Iraqi Minorities

Throughout all the disputes and chaos, Iraq’s sectarian minorities are rarely able to live in peace and in freedom side by side with other sects and groups. In Iraqi history, there has never been any law or effective security or political system that could protect their lives or integrate them as an accepted part of Iraqi society. They will continue to struggle for their rights and seek protection from the international community as long as do not have enough representation in the Iraqi parliament. Minorities such as the Yazidis, Christians, and other ethnic and religious minorities are without a strong voice in parliament, the executive, or any of the ministries. So long as they lack any input into the Iraqi political system, they will continue to be oppressed and will be forced to look outside of Iraq for assistance.


Divide and Conquer Rule

Millions of Iraqis feel the situation is so bad that they have come to believe an American re-occupation of Iraq and the formation of a wholly new government would be a solution. But, as the recent air strikes show, America is very reluctant to return in any form to Iraq. And so Iraq’s problems will continue. The political class will continue to “divide and conquer” and reap the spoils of the government ministries. The sectarians and tribes will also divide the nation and roll back modern thinking and the rule of law. The moderates and professionals will continue to flee Iraq. The moderate clerics will continue to struggle to be heard, while the extremist clerics always have a captive audience. Amid the struggle, minorities will remain unrepresented and scapegoats of extremist violence. Iraq’s ministries and departments continue to be run by under-educated and unqualified patronage appointees with fake diplomas.

Iraq’s problems cannot all be solved by air strikes and aid drops. The current crisis is just one acute aspect of a deeper, systemic problem that will continue to sow mayhem in Iraq–and America–for years to come.

Gen MohammedGeneral (Ret.) Mohammed Al-Samarae was a career Iraqi army officer, serving in various command positions, culminating with command of the 6th Division of the Iraqi Army in 2006. A graduate of the First Military Academy (Baghdad) and the Iraq Joint Air Defense College, he has lectured at the U.S. Air Force War College and provided counterinsurgency training to U.S. military commanders at JRTC and NTC. He is a decorated veteran of the Iran-Iraq War, Gulf War, and Iraq War. He is now an American citizen living in Virginia where he runs his own consultancy, General’s Experience.


The ISIS cyber threat-a great unknown

Aug. 18, 2014   

Written by




Back in 2009, during his detention at Camp Bucca in Iraq, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the ISIS leader said, “I’ll see you guys in New York.”

This is extremely concerning given Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been called the most dangerous man in the world. ISIS has clearly demonstrated their ability to achieve their objectives in the physical world, but what about cyber? The cyber capabilities of ISIS are not really well understood due to lack of actual attacks that have been traced back to ISIS. However, one interesting indicator of their cyber interest and or capabilities can be found in their use of a custom Arabic language social networking app called The Dawn of Glad Tidings.

The app is said to be an official ISIS product. It is well promoted and used by hundreds, if not thousands, of followers. It is described as the best mechanism for their followers to stay informed with the group’s latest news and Jihad activities. Clearly ISIS is leveraging social media to publicize their successes and to recruit. One has to wonder if there are hidden messages embedded within these social networking posts. While the group’s overall cyber capabilities are a big unknown, ISIS is believed to be well financed and their financial status further improved after multiple reports surfaced about the group seizing $429 million from City’s Central Bank in Mosul. They are now very well financed and can buy the capabilities they want or need.

With their proven capabilities in the physical sense with extremely troubling level of ruthlessness and brutality, ISIS could launch cyber attacks (alone or in combination with physical attacks) in retaliation for the recent U.S. bombings in Iraq. The group has already talked about a cyber jihad. The concerns appear to be well-founded, given that an individual who had pledged his allegiance to ISIS was arrested at JFK on August 2. Clearly extra vigilance is required and a physical terrorist attack coupled with a cyber attack by this group is a distinct possibility.

INTEL: There are multiple public reports that Anonymous has initiated a cyber attack campaign they refer to as “Operation NO2ISIS.” That effort is said to use cyber attacks that target countries that Anonymous accuses of arming and assisting ISIS.



Are unmanned systems the next cyber target?

Aug. 4, 2014


Written by



By most accounts the use of unmanned systems within the United States is about to explode. If you examine the market projections, they tend to support that notion. Over the next decade between 10 percent and 15 percent of global spending on drones will be for non-military/government use. These systems are relatively inexpensive (a few hundred to a few thousand USD) and there are even reports that a fairly capable drone was created with the non-engine components being printed on a 3D printer. In another interesting development drone start-up Airware that is building a cloud based drone network recently received $25 million in funding. Some very well-known venture capitalists have also funded deals in the commercial drone space. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) projected that by 2020 there will be an estimated 30,000 drones in the US sky, or as one individual put it, targets of opportunity.

Securing these systems from cyber attacks has been given a minimal amount of attention. Could a cyber attacker take over control of the drone or jam the control communications? That is highly likely. Could a hacker penetrate the system and steal the information the drone is collecting, or worse, alter it? That is a distinct possibility. Don’t think this is that far off. Security researchers have already demonstrated a software application that was specifically designed to take control of a drone while it’s flying.

INTEL: DARPA has developed and even deployed their version of secure software that was “mathematically armored,” thus defending it against cyber attacks.

The proliferation of drones has security professionals concerned and they have expressed concerns to regulators. The word around the beltway is that regulators are planning a phased approach for commercial drone, and that is expected to begin next year. When was the last time anything in Washington moved that fast?



Boeing UAV prototype gets FAA approval

Aug. 19, 2014 |

Boeing’s Beechcraft King Air-based UAV has earned FAA approval.



A prototype Boeing surveillance aircraft has received FAA approval.

The Enhanced Medium Altitude Reconnaissance and Surveillance System Risk Reduction Prototype was awarded a Supplemental Type Certification.

The aircraft, a modified Beechcraft King Air, is now cleared for global sales.

“ERRP’s FAA certification gives us another approved modification in Boeing’s growing family of ISR airplanes,” said John Rader, a Boeing vice president of electronic and sensor solutions. “ERRP is a high-end signals intelligence aircraft that delivers near-real-time SIGINT to the warfighter, a capability in high demand from militaries around the globe.”



Analyst: Best Congress Will Do Is Two Government-Wide Spending Bills

Aug. 19, 2014 – 06:10PM |



WASHINGTON — A prominent federal budget analyst is predicting the best Congress will do this year on spending bills is pass two massive government-wide measures.

With the Senate unable to move 2015 appropriations bills — and with only a dozen legislative days left before November’s midterm elections followed by a lame duck session — political and defense observers are trying to determine how lawmakers will handle a government shutdown threat.

Make that two government shutdown threats. And maybe three in the next seven months.

Senate Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., told CongressWatch in July that he is betting both chambers will pass a continuing resolution (CR) in September to keep the Defense Department and other federal agencies operating while lawmakers campaign in October and early November.

That measure, Shelby and others predict, likely will fund the government “until the middle of November, when we come back,” he said.

What happens then — with the prospect of Democrats being in their final weeks of controlling the chamber — is anyone’s guess.

Some lawmakers and analysts predict the post-midterm session will yield an omnibus spending measure, possibly with a full-year DoD spending bill and maybe several others attached to another CR.

Others, like longtime federal budget watcher Stan Collender, said a second CR is the most the political environment will be able to produce. And he believes it won’t pass until December.

“Congress will return to Washington after Labor Day with little-to-no chance of enacting more than 1 or 2 (and even that’s a stretch) of the 12 regular 2015 appropriations by the time the fiscal year begins on October 1,” Collender writes in his latest column.

“That means it’s not just an overwhelming likelihood that a continuing resolution will be needed to keep federal agencies operating and prevent the government from shutting down, it’s a virtual certainty,” he writes.

Collender’s should be a familiar name for defense sector readers. For years, he has been one of the briefers at the annual Pentagon budget preview session of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), a defense think tank.

His column likely won’t give the defense sector much hope for a full-year Pentagon appropriations bill, which Pentagon brass and industry executives say is necessary for programmatic stability.

That’s because “with the possible exception of three appropriations,” including the DoD bill, the national political environment incentivizes lawmakers to oppose yearly agency spending bills.

“It is still better politics to vote for a CR before the election and make promises during the campaign about what you’re going do in a lame duck session afterwards than to make final decisions in September on which you may be judged,” Collender writes.

Other reasons he sees that only two CRs may pass this year:


■ “Even if congressional Republicans and Democrats and the White House were working together — and they clearly won’t be doing that this fall — there won’t be enough time to get much done on appropriations after Congress gets back to Washington after Labor Day.”

■ “It’s not in the GOP’s political interest to make final appropriations decisions for fiscal 2015 before the election.”

Collender predicts the first CR taking effect on Oct. 1, the first day of fiscal 2015, and running into mid-December. The second, he says, likely would be passed in December; it would “last through about the middle of March if Republicans win control the Senate or possibly through the full year if they don’t.”

If that scenario plays out, it would test a thin Republican majority’s ability to pass another massive spending bill in the spring, or another short-term measure that would tee up a fourth shutdown threat. ■


After Months on Back Burner, Sequester Fears Return

Aug. 19, 2014 – 06:10PM |



HUNTSVILLE, ALA. — For the past three years, US military officials have frequently voiced opposition to defense budget caps that went into effect in 2013.

But for the past eight months, US defense officials have spoken less about sequestration and more about immediate plans for this year and next. After all, Congress agreed on a budget plan for 2014 and 2015 that boosted Defense Department spending by more than $30 billion above the levels mandated under the Budget Control Act.

But now as crunch time begins inside the Pentagon as the services’ craft their 2016 budget plans, sequestration fears have returned. And at the annual Space and Missile Defense Symposium here last week, numerous officials used speeches to warn of the looming defense budget caps.

“[20]16 scares the heck out of me,” Air Force Lt. Gen. John Hyten, then-vice commander of Air Force Space Command, told a small group of reporters after an Aug. 12 speech. Hyten pinned on his fourth star and became the head of Space Command on Aug. 15.

“Our [operations and maintenance funding] is very different in our command. It’s bad on the aviation side, but they can ground squadrons. We can’t.”

The problem, the general said, is that the entire military relies on satellites. The command’s GPS satellites are used by the military, commercial industry and civilians globally.

Many cuts offered up by the command when sequestration hit in 2013 were rejected because of the negative operational impact, Hyten said.

“Everything we put forth is critical to some military mission,” he said.

Army Gen. Charles Jacoby, head of US Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, said during an Aug. 13 speech that it is “virtually impossible right now to make a strategic decision” due to funding unpredictability.


“When you go to the Hill … old friends are not friendly on this subject and old enemies are still enemies,” he said. “It’s really a different world approaching Congress about the budget.”

While the military has been raising concerns about sequestration for years, Jacoby said others need to speak up.

“What we really need is other voices to join that because the voices in uniform are not carrying the day in [congressional] committees that they used to carry the day,” he said.

The general said Pentagon programs “won’t survive if sequestration returns.”

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, voiced his sequestration concerns, too.

“We’ve been looking at the numbers and wrestling with these numbers for some time. The thing that worries me the most … is the defense budget,” he said Aug. 13. “There are a lot of places that we can save money. We are already saving a lot of money in the Defense Department. But meeting our national security challenges does require money. It requires a significant investment and a substance, money, that we have too little of.”

Sessions said he is looking for places to save money and invest in defense. The senator said he will meet with Defense Department officials in the coming weeks about the issue.

“I’ll be spending more time in Washington in August than I ever have,” he said. Both the House and Senate are in recess throughout the month.

Giving DoD more time to prepare for the spending cuts might soften the blow, Sessions said, noting high global security threats could advise against defense spending cuts.

“It simply may be that the Defense Department cannot, under the current global environment we find ourselves in, meet these targets and we’re going to have to have more money,” he said. “That is a very distinct possibility.”



IT outages are an ongoing problem for the U.S government

The inability to access data 24/7 hurts federal workforce, survey shows

By Patrick Thibodeau

August 19, 2014 04:46 PM ET


Computerworld – When was launched last October, it gave millions of Americans direct experience with a government IT failure on a massive scale. But the overall reliability of federal IT operations is being called into question by a survey that finds outages aren’t uncommon in government.

Specifically, the survey found that 70% of federal agencies have experienced downtime of 30 minutes or more in a recent one-month period. Of that number, 42% of the outages were blamed on network or server problems and 29% on Internet connectivity loss.

This rate of outage isn’t anywhere near as severe or dramatic as what faced until it was fixed. But the report by MeriTalk, which provides a network for government IT professionals, suggest that downtime is a systemic issue. The research was sponsored by Symantec.


The report is interesting because it surveys two distinct government groups, 152 federal “field workers,” or people who work outside the office, and 150 IT professionals.

Because the field workers are outside the office, some of the outages may be result of local connectivity problems at either a hotel, home or other remote site. But, overall, the main reason for loss of access to data was a government outage.

When outages occur, 48% of the workers said they do what they can via telephone, while 33% use personal devices and another 24% try to find a workaround, such a Google Apps.

When asked to grade their IT department, only 15% of the field workers gave it an “A”; 49% gave it a “B”; and 27% gave it a “C.”

When asked what caused the most recent outages, the IT professionals said 45% were due to a network or server outage; 20% cited Internet connectivity loss; 13% blamed natural disaster; 7% said a specific application stopped working, and 6% pointed to human error.

Restoring service took more than 30 minutes for 53%, of respondents, the survey reported.


Hagel: Iraq Crisis May Require DoD To Rethink 2015 Budget

Aug. 21, 2014 – 03:45AM |



WASHINGTON — The Pentagon might have to retool its $555 billion 2015 budget proposal to account for the threats posed by and actions taken against the Islamic State, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Thursday.

“[Y]ou’re constantly shaping a budget to assure that resources match the mission and the mission and the resources match the threat,” Hagel said during a briefing at the Pentagon.

“[Y]ou’re shifting [money] all the time on what you think is going to be required,” Hagel said. “We’ve had to move assets over the last couple of months…to accomplish what we accomplished in Iraq. That costs money, that takes certain monies out of certain funds. So it’s a constant, fluid process as you plan for these.”

Since Aug. 8, US forces have conducted 89 airstrikes against Islamic State militants, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at the briefing.

Dempsey said US forces have delivered 636 bundles of food, water and medical supplies to Iraqis. As well, manned and unmanned military aircraft are flying more than 60 intelligence missions each day.

“I think we’re fine for fiscal year ’14 and we’ll have to continue to gather the data and see what it does in ’15,” Dempsey said.

In March, the Defense Department asked Congress for $496 billion for 2015. Called the “base budget,” it covers normal operations, acquisition, personnel costs, etc. In late June, the Pentagon asked lawmakers for an additional $58.6 billion to cover overseas contingency operations (OCO).

The overall budget proposal includes a request for $5 billion — $4 billion in DoD’s OCO request and $1 billion in the State Department’s war budget — for a counterterrorism account that could be used for operations, such as the campaign against militants in Iraq, experts say.

“In the future, I would think this is exactly the kind of operation that should be funded out of the Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund included in the FY15 OCO request,” Todd Harrison, an analyst with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said this month.

The fiscal year ends on Sept. 30. If Congress does not pass a 2015 spending plan by then, the government would likely be funded through a continuing resolution, which would limit funding at 2014 levels. ■



Essay: The Legal and Moral Problems of Autonomous Strike Aircraft

By: Dave Majumdar

Published: August 21, 2014 4:55 PM


The U.S. Navy’s move toward developing a carried-based unmanned combat aircraft might eventually afford the service the ability to strike targets at long-range, but there are ethical and legal questions that linger should the Pentagon develop a fully autonomous system.

As currently envisioned, the Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) will be autonomous, but it will have a “man-on-the-loop” according to Rear Adm. Mat Winter, the Naval Air Systems Command’s Program Executive Officer for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons. But the UCLASS is not going to be a penetrating strike aircraft such as many senior defense officials, academics and analysts had hoped. In fact, serious legal and ethical dilemmas might arise if the Pentagon were to pursue an unmanned penetrating strike aircraft.

There are many senior Pentagon officials—including Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work—who argue for a deep penetrating unmanned strike aircraft that would launch from a carrier if the United States were serious about its “pivot” to the Pacific. But potential adversaries, such as Russia and China, are not stupid, and are certain to attack the vulnerable data-links that control such an unmanned bomber via electronic and cyber attacks.

One recently retired Navy official acknowledged that giving such a warplane full autonomy—to include launching weapons without prior human consent—might be the only effective way for a long-range unmanned strike aircraft to operate in a theater where the United States faces off against a near-peer potential adversary, but the prospect of such a system raises legal and moral questions.


Anti-Access Area Denial

In the Western Pacific, China is building up its anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) capabilities—including communications jamming, cyber-warfare and anti-satellite weapons. In the event of a conflict, Chinese forces are likely to attack those vital communications links than enable U.S. forces to operate cohesively. In those communications degraded/communications denied environments, unless a system is manned, autonomy might be the only way to go.

For the Navy there is an added dimension, as was postulated by Jan van Tol, Mark Gunzinger, Andrew Krepinevich and Jim Thomas at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments: the service’s aircraft carriers no longer have a haven in coastal waters 200 nautical miles offshore. With the rising threats to the aircraft carrier in the form of antiship cruise and ballistic missiles, those ships may be forced to stand off a significant distance—more than 1,000 nautical miles—from the enemy shoreline.


Additionally, with the proliferation of advanced integrated air-defense networks and low-frequency radars that can detect and track low-observable targets, existing stealth aircraft may not have the range or the survivability to operate in those theaters.

In that case, the best option for the Navy might be to develop a long-range unmanned strike aircraft with wide-band all-aspect stealth technology that would be able to persist inside even the densest of enemy air defenses. By necessity, given that such an advanced adversary would be able to deny or degrade communications significantly, such an aircraft would have to be fully autonomous. In other words, the unmanned aircraft would have to be able to operate independently of prolonged communications with its human masters and it would also need to be able to make the decision to release weapons without phoning home for a human operator’s consent.

Moreover, the U.S. Air Force also faces basing challenges in the Western Pacific, as existing air bases such as Kadena and Misawa in Japan and Andersen Air Force Base in Guam are vulnerable to concerted air and missile attacks. A very stealthy long-range autonomous unmanned strike aircraft could be used to complement the service’s prospective Long Range Strike Bomber—going into places that are far too dangerous for a manned aircraft or to perform missions like stand-in jamming from inside hostile territory.


The Autonomous Cost Equation

While the initial cost of developing such an autonomous unmanned aircraft might be high, there might be significant savings longer-term. An autonomous unmanned aircraft only needs to be flown occasionally during peacetime to keep-up the proficiency of maintainers. Further, an autonomous aircraft has no need to fly training sorties or to practice—a computer can simply be programmed to do what needs to be done.

Additionally, such an autonomous unmanned aircraft would not need downtime between deployments—just the occasional depot-level maintenance overhaul. That means that the Navy—or the Air Force, if it bought some—would need only as many aircraft as required to fill the number of deployed carriers and account for attrition reserves and planes laid up in depot maintenance. There could also be significant personnel cost savings because a fully autonomous aircraft would not require pilots and the smaller fleet would require fewer maintainers.

The technology to develop and build such an aircraft mostly already exists. Most current unmanned aircraft like the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper are remotely controlled by a human operator. Others—like the Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton or RQ-4B Global Hawk—have far more autonomy but are not armed. Nonetheless, there are already a number of autonomous weapon systems that are either in service or that have reached the prototype stage that can engage hostile targets without human intervention.

Perhaps the two most obvious examples are cruise missiles and intercontinental ballistic missiles. Once those weapons are launched, they proceed autonomously to their preprogrammed targets without any human intervention.

If one were to imagine a U.S. Navy destroyer launching a Tomahawk cruise missile at a fixed target somewhere in the Western Pacific, there is a sequence of events that would be followed. The crew of the destroyer would receive orders to attack a particular target. The crew would then program that information into the missile. Once launched, the Tomahawk navigates its way to the target in a manner similar to a manned aircraft, but completely without human intervention.

Against a fixed target, for example a bunker or factory, a fully autonomous unmanned air vehicle would be very similar to a cruise missile. Like a Tomahawk cruise missile, the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) would receive a particular target location and instructions for how to engage that target with the correct weapons. Like the Tomahawk, the UAV would be able to navigate to that target completely autonomously. If the UAV were then to engage that fixed-target with a Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) or some other weapon, in practical terms, there is no real difference between an unmanned aircraft and a cruise missile. The effect would be identical. The only change would be that the UAV could make a second pass, fly onto another target, or fly home to be rearmed. And it could be argued with its jet engine and wings, a Tomahawk is really just a small UAV on a one-way trip.


Expecting the Unexpected

The more challenging scenario comes when there is an unexpected “pop-up” threat such an S-400 surface-to-air missile battery that might be encountered by an autonomous unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) during a wartime sortie. Human pilots are assumed to inherently have the judgment to decide whether or not to engage such a threat. But those human pilots are making their decisions based on sensor information that is being processed by the aircraft’s computer. In fact, the pilot is often entirely dependent upon the aircraft’s sensors and the avionics to perform a combat identification of a contact.

The Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter epitomize this concept—especially in the realm of beyond visual range air-to-air combat. Both the Raptor and the F-35 fuse data correlated from the aircraft’s radar, electronic support measures and other sensors into a track file that the computer identifies as hostile, friendly or an unknown. The pilot is entirely reliant upon the computer to determine a proper combat identification; it would be a very small technological step for the system to engage targets autonomously without human intervention.

The air-to-ground arena is somewhat more challenging due to target location errors that are inherent in sensors and navigation systems (and also environmental effects and enemy camouflage). But with a combination of electro-optical/infrared cameras, synthetic aperture radar, ground moving target indication radar or even hyperspectral sensors, a computer can ascertain a positive combat identification of ground targets—assuming that the data being gathered is geo-registered. Once the computer can determine a positive identification—either a manned or unmanned aircraft—can engage a target. But at the end of the day, the computer is still making the determination that a contact is hostile.

In fact autonomous systems capable of identifying and attacking targets at their own discretion have existed in the past. One example is the Northrop AGM-136 Tacit Rainbow anti-radiation cruise missile, which was canceled in 1991. It was designed to be pre-programmed for a designated target area, over which it would loiter. It would remain in that designated box until it detected emissions from hostile radar. Once the Tacit Rainbow detected and identified an enemy emitter, the missile would zero in for the kill—all without any human intervention.

A later example is the Lockheed Martin Low-Cost Autonomous Attack System. The now-defunct miniature loitering cruise missile demonstrator was guided by GPS/INS to a target box. It would then use laser radar to illuminate targets and match them with pre-loaded signatures. The weapon would then go after the highest priority target while at the same time selecting the appropriate mode for the warhead to best engage the target autonomously without human intervention.

Other prominent examples include the Aegis combat system, which in its full automatic mode can engage multiple aircraft or missiles simultaneously without human intervention. Similarly, the shipboard Close-in Weapons System or Phalanx has an autonomous engagement capability.


Moral And Legal Questions

What all of that means is that fully autonomous combat identification and engagement is technically feasible for unmanned aircraft—given sophisticated avionics and smart precision guided weapons. But while technically fully autonomous unmanned combat aircraft are feasible, what of the moral and legal implications?


The Pentagon has already preemptively issued policy guidance on the development and operational use of autonomous and semi-autonomous weapons in November 2012. DOD directive 3000.09 states: “Autonomous and semi-autonomous weapon systems shall be designed to allow commanders and operators to exercise appropriate levels of human judgment over the use of force.” But the policy does not expressly forbid the development of a fully autonomous lethal weapon systems, it merely states that senior Pentagon leadership would closely supervise any such development.

In order to prevent what the Defense Department calls an “unintended engagement”, those who authorize or direct the operation of autonomous and semi-autonomous weapon systems are required use “appropriate care and in accordance with the law of war, applicable treaties, weapon system safety rules and applicable rules of engagement,” the policy states.

Thus it would seem that the U.S. government views the use of autonomous weapon systems as legal under the laws of war–provided certain conditions are met. Indeed, a number of lawyers specializing in national security law have suggested that fully autonomous weapons are lawful. The responsibility for the use of such weapon would ultimately fall to the person who authorized its employment—which is similar to any other manned weapon.

But there are those who are adamantly opposed to any fully autonomous weapon systems—organizations such as Human Rights Watch (HRW). In a November 2012 report titled “Losing Humanity: The Case against Killer Robots,” HRW called for an international treaty that would preemptively ban all autonomous weapons. In fact it is likely that the DOD policy guidance on the development of autonomous weapons stems from the conclusions of the HRW report.

The HRW report makes three recommendations. The first: “Prohibit the development, production and use of fully autonomous weapons through an international legally binding instrument. The second: “Adopt national laws and policies to prohibit the development, production and use of fully autonomous weapons.” The third: “Commence reviews of technologies and components that could lead to fully autonomous weapons. These reviews should take place at the very beginning of the development process and continue throughout the development and testing phases.”


HRW asserts that autonomous systems are unable to meet the standards set forth under international humanitarian law. “The rules of distinction, proportionality and military necessity are especially important tools for protecting civilians from the effects of war, and fully autonomous weapons would not be able to abide by those rules,” the report states.

But critics, such as legal scholar Benjamin Wittes at the Brookings Institution. have challenged such statements. Wittes has written that there are situations where machines can “distinguish military targets far better and more accurately than humans can.” Indeed, those familiar with unmanned technology, sensor hardware and software can attest that is indeed the case.

If a computer is given a certain set of parameters—for example a series of rules of engagement—it will follow those instructions precisely. If the autonomous weapon is designed and built to operate within the laws of war, then there should be no objection to their use. Under Article 36 of the 1977 Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions, weapons cannot be inherently indiscriminate and are prohibited from causing unnecessary suffering or superfluous injury. “The fact that an autonomous weapon system selects the target or undertakes the attack does not violate the rule,” Hoover Institution legal scholars Kenneth Anderson and Matthew Waxman wrote in a their paper “Law and Ethics For Autonomous Weapon Systems.”

Technology is continuously moving forward and while autonomous systems may not be able to operate under all circumstances, it may only be a matter of time before engineers find a technical solution. While under many circumstances—with the right sensors and algorithms—autonomous systems would have the ability to distinguish lawful targets from unlawful targets, but that is not currently the case under all circumstances. Thus there are some limitations inherent to autonomous weapon systems for the time being.

However, those limitations will not always be there as technology continues its march forward and engineers continue to make progress. As Wittes correctly points out, “To call for a per se ban on autonomous weapons is to insist as a matter of IHL [international humanitarian law] on preserving a minimum level of human error in targeting.” Machines are generally far more precise than human beings.


Proportional Actions

Along with being able to distinguish between targets, the law requires that combatants weigh the proportionality of their actions. “Any use of a weapon must also involve evaluation that sets the anticipated military advantage to be gained against the anticipated civilian harm,” Anderson and Waxman write. “The harm to civilians must not be excessive relative to the expected military gain.”

Though technically challenging, a completely autonomous weapon system would have to be required to address proportionality as well as distinction. But the difficulty is entirely dependent upon the specific operational scenario. For example, while an unmanned aircraft could identify and attack a hostile surface-to-air missile system deep behind enemy lines or an enemy warship at sea—where there is little chance of encountering civilians—targets inside a highly populated area are more difficult to prosecute.

Some of the most difficult scenarios—which would not necessarily be a factor in a high-end campaign against an A2/AD threats–would be challenging for a human pilot, let alone a machine. For example during counter-insurgency campaign, if there were two school buses driving side-by-side in a built-up area, but one of the vehicles was carrying nuns and the other carrying heavily-armed terrorists, it would be very difficult for a human pilot to determine which bus is the proper target until one of them commits a hostile act. The same would be true for an autonomous system—but in the near-term, it could be a technological challenge.

The human pilot would also have to determine what kind of weapon to use—judging the proportionality. Does he or she select a 2.000-pound JDAM or a smaller 250-pound small diameter bomb, or 20mm cannon, or do nothing since the risk of civilian casualties is too high? Likewise, an autonomous weapon system would need to be programmed to select an appropriate low collateral damage munition or to disengage if the danger of civilian casualties were too great once the target has been positively identified. But it would take time and investment before such an autonomous system could become a reality.


Baby Steps

Thus, for the near future, autonomous weapons would have to be developed incrementally starting with systems that could engage fixed targets and “obviously” military targets like surface-to-air missile sites or tank columns on the open battlefield during a conventional war. Likewise, in the maritime environment, where there are few civilians to speak of, autonomous systems could offer huge advantages with little in the way of any drawbacks.

Additionally, for the time being, autonomous weapons should not be utilized in complex scenarios—such as counter-insurgency–where there is significant possibility that it could cause inadvertent civilian casualties or unintended collateral damage. It may also be unwise to use a fully autonomous UCAV for missions like close air support—particularly during “danger close” type situations where friendly troops are in close contact with the enemy—until the technology has been proven operationally in other roles. Human pilots have a hard enough time with those types of missions.


While at present there are some technological limitations that do exist, those are not likely to remain to roadblocks forever. Autonomous technology is advancing rapidly and could one day be precise and reliable enough to not only distinguish correct targets but could also make proportionality judgments in complex scenarios based on parameters programmed into the machine. Those parameters would not be unlike rules of engagement given to human operators. Already, cameras and software exist that can identify individual human faces for example. Once a target is precisely identified, it would not be a huge leap then for an autonomous system to use a low-collateral damage weapons to eliminate hostile targets while minimizing any harm to civilians.

Much of the objection to fully autonomous weapons seems to stem from a sense of “fair play” rather than any real legal issues—most of which are likely to be overcome. But any time new weapons technology emerges, there is opposition from those who believe that the technology fundamentally unbalances war. Objections have been raised throughout history to new technologies—ranging from crossbows and longbows, to machine-guns and submarines—because the use of such weapons was considered to the “unfair” or “unsporting.” But ultimately, the use of such weapons became a fact of life. War is not a game, and as U.S. Air Force Col. Lawrence Spinetta, commander of the 69th Reconnaissance Group said: “Isn’t there a moral imperative on the part of a nation to minimize danger for its soldiers and airmen?”

Indeed there is no legal requirement for war to be fair—in fact throughout history war has been anything but. “The law, to be sure, makes no requirement that sides limit themselves to the weapons available to the other side; weapons superiority is perfectly lawful and indeed assumed as part of military necessity,” write Anderson and Waxman.

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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Is America becoming an even more divided nation?

We ask voters last month if America is a more divided nation now than it was four years ago, and 67% said yes.

That was before racial tensions exploded following a police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri. Blacks and whites have sharply different views on what happened in Ferguson and what should happen next. Most black Americans (57%) are already convinced that the police officer who shot a black teenager should be found guilty of murder, a view shared by just 17% of whites and 24% of other minority adults.

While many blacks consider the police a threat, most other Americans think they are a blessing instead.

Most also reject the idea that most policemen are racist and think the media would be less interested in the incident in Ferguson if a white teenager had been shot by a black police officer. But then, only 20% consider the media Very Trustworthy anyway. 

Then there’s the division between voters and the federal government. Case in point: A growing majority of voters believes gaining control of the border is the most important immigration reform needed, but most think the federal government is still encouraging illegal immigration instead.

Local school districts around the country are discovering that the Obama administration has secretly moved some of the latest illegal immigrants into their areas. But most voters don’t think those illegals should be allowed to attend their schools.

Voters also still strongly favor laws requiring all voters to prove their identity before being allowed to vote and don’t believe such laws are discriminatory. But the U.S. Justice Department continues to challenge them in court on discrimination grounds, even though 64% of blacks support voter ID laws.

After billions in federal bailouts for the U.S. financial industry, just over half of Americans express confidence in the nation’s banks. It’s been that way since the Wall Street meltdown. Just before that, in July 2008, 68% were confident in the banks.

Just 38% of voters now think the U.S. economy is fair.

No wonder only 24% think the country is headed in the right direction. That number has seldom risen above 30% in over a year of weekly tracking.

Meanwhile, President Obama’s job approval rating continues to hover in the high negative teens, while views of Congress remain at record lows.

Even though most voters disagree with much of what the government is doing, they have so little confidence that Congress is listening that not many are planning to tell their legislators what they really think at town hall meetings this month.

Voters have suspected for years that neither major political party truly represents them, and Democrats and Republicans are tied on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot with just 39% support each. A year ago, they were tied at 38% each.  There are a lot of voters who don’t like either one.

But it’s a critical election year. Are things going to change? More importantly, is the balance of power going to change? Republicans need to pick up six new seats to take over the Senate, and West Virginia and Montana look like their likeliest gains.

GOP Senator Mike Enzi appears to be cruising to an easy reelection in Wyoming, while Democratic Senator Al Franken has an eight-point lead in Minnesota.

Check our latest video election update.

Most voters still don’t like the new national health care law, but an increasing number of Americans are buying insurance through the exchanges established under the law. That could pose a serious problem for Republican efforts to repeal or dramatically change Obamacare.

The housing market has been a rare bright spot in the economy in recent months. But homeowners are less confident this month than they’ve been in over a year that their home’s value will increase in the short-term. Confidence in their home’s current value has fallen back as well.

Confidence that now is a good time to sell a house is also down from the more optimistic levels seen earlier this year.

Most homeowners, however, have not been late on a mortgage payment recently and don’t expect to be anytime soon. For those who are struggling to make their payments, most Americans still don’t think the government should help. 

At week’s end, 23% of consumers had a positive view of the economy, while 35% rated it as poor. Similarly, 27% of investors rated the economy as good or excellent, while 30% considered it poor.

In other surveys last week:

— As tensions remain high with Russia and much of the Middle East, more voters than ever believe the United States is not putting enough money into national security.

— Americans favor the use of international courts for crimes against humanity but have more confidence in a verdict reached by courts in this country. The Palestinians hope to have Israel tried for such crimes at the International Criminal Court, but Americans tend to think that’s a bad idea.

The first numbers from the Connecticut governor’s race may come as a surprise.

— Incumbent Republican Terry Branstad has widened his lead over Democratic challenger Jack Hatch in Iowa’s gubernatorial race.

— Former U.S. Senator Mark Dayton has an eight-point advantage in his bid for a second term as governor of Minnesota.

— Matt Mead turned back two challengers in this week’s Republican primary and looks well on his way to reelection as governor of Wyoming.

— The shocking suicide of comedian-actor Robin Williams has highlighted the dangers of clinical depression, and Americans strongly agree more needs to be done to identify and treat it.


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