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September 6 2014

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A Call for a Low-Carb Diet


People who avoid carbohydrates and eat more fat, even saturated fat, lose more body fat and have fewer cardiovascular risks than people who follow the low-fat diet that health authorities have favored for decades, a major new study shows.

The findings are unlikely to be the final salvo in what has been a long and often contentious debate about what foods are best to eat for weight loss and overall health. The notion that dietary fat is harmful, particularly saturated fat, arose decades ago from comparisons of disease rates among large national populations.

But more recent clinical studies in which individuals and their diets were assessed over time have produced a more complex picture. Some have provided strong evidence that people can sharply reduce their heart disease risk by eating fewer carbohydrates and more dietary fat, with the exception of trans fats. The new findings suggest that this strategy more effectively reduces body fat and also lowers overall weight.

The new study was financed by the National Institutes of Health and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. It included a racially diverse group of 150 men and women — a rarity in clinical nutrition studies — who were assigned to follow diets for one year that limited either the amount of carbs or fat that they could eat, but not overall calories.

“To my knowledge, this is one of the first long-term trials that’s given these diets without calorie restrictions,” said Dariush Mozaffarian, the dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, who was not involved in the new study. “It shows that in a free-living setting, cutting your carbs helps you lose weight without focusing on calories. And that’s really important because someone can change what they eat more easily than trying to cut down on their calories.”

Diets low in carbohydrates and higher in fat and protein have been commonly used for weight loss since Dr. Robert Atkins popularized the approach in the 1970s. Among the longstanding criticisms is that these diets cause people to lose weight in the form of water instead of body fat, and that cholesterol and other heart disease risk factors climb because dieters invariably raise their intake of saturated fat by eating more meat and dairy.

Many nutritionists and health authorities have “actively advised against” low-carbohydrate diets, said the lead author of the new study, Dr. Lydia A. Bazzano of the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. “It’s been thought that your saturated fat is, of course, going to increase, and then your cholesterol is going to go up,” she said. “And then bad things will happen in general.”

The new study showed that was not the case.

By the end of the yearlong trial, people in the low-carbohydrate group had lost about eight pounds more on average than those in the low-fat group. They had significantly greater reductions in body fat than the low-fat group, and improvements in lean muscle mass — even though neither group changed their levels of physical activity.

While the low-fat group did lose weight, they appeared to lose more muscle than fat.

“They actually lost lean muscle mass, which is a bad thing,” Dr. Mozaffarian said. “Your balance of lean mass versus fat mass is much more important than weight. And that’s a very important finding that shows why the low-carb, high-fat group did so metabolically well.”

The high-fat group followed something of a modified Atkins diet. They were told to eat mostly protein and fat, and to choose foods with primarily unsaturated fats, like fish, olive oil and nuts. But they were allowed to eat foods higher in saturated fat as well, including cheese and red meat.

A typical day’s diet was not onerous: It might consist of eggs for breakfast, tuna salad for lunch, and some kind of protein for dinner — like red meat, chicken, fish, pork or tofu — along with vegetables. Low-carb participants were encouraged to cook with olive and canola oils, but butter was allowed, too.

Over all, they took in a little more than 13 percent of their daily calories from saturated fat, more than double the 5 to 6 percent limit recommended by the American Heart Association. The majority of their fat intake, however, was unsaturated fats.

The low-fat group included more grains, cereals and starches in their diet. They reduced their total fat intake to less than 30 percent of their daily calories, which is in line with the federal government’s dietary guidelines. The other group increased their total fat intake to more than 40 percent of daily calories.

Both groups were encouraged to eat vegetables, and the low-carbohydrate group was told that eating some beans and fresh fruit was fine as well.

In the end, people in the low-carbohydrate group saw markers of inflammation and triglycerides — a type of fat that circulates in the blood — plunge. Their HDL, the so-called good cholesterol, rose more sharply than it did for people in the low-fat group.

Blood pressure, total cholesterol and LDL, the so-called bad cholesterol, stayed about the same for people in each group.

Nonetheless, those on the low-carbohydrate diet ultimately did so well that they managed to lower their Framingham risk scores, which calculate the likelihood of a heart attack within the next 10 years. The low-fat group on average had no improvement in their scores.

The decrease in risk on the low-carbohydrate diet “should translate into a substantial benefit,” said Dr. Allan Sniderman, a professor of cardiology at McGill University in Montreal.

One important predictor of heart disease that the study did not assess, Dr. Sniderman said, was the relative size and number of LDL particles in the bloodstream. Two people can have the same overall LDL concentration, but very different levels of risk depending on whether they have a lot of small, dense LDL particles or a small number of large and fluffy particles.

Eating refined carbohydrates tends to raise the overall number of LDL particles and shift them toward the small, dense variety, which contributes to atherosclerosis. Saturated fat tends to make LDL particles larger, more buoyant and less likely to clog arteries, at least when carbohydrate intake is not high, said Dr. Ronald M. Krauss, the former chairman of the American Heart Association’s dietary guidelines committee.

Small, dense LDL is the kind typically found in heart patients and in people who have high triglycerides, central obesity and other aspects of the so-called metabolic syndrome, said Dr. Krauss, who is also the director of atherosclerosis research at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute.

“I’ve been a strong advocate of moving saturated fat down the list of priorities in dietary recommendations for one reason: because of the increasing importance of metabolic syndrome and the role that carbohydrates play,” Dr. Krauss said.

Dr. Mozaffarian said the research suggested that health authorities should pivot away from fat restrictions and encourage people to eat fewer processed foods, particularly those with refined carbohydrates.

The average person may not pay much attention to the federal dietary guidelines, but their influence can be seen, for example, in school lunch programs, which is why many schools forbid whole milk but serve their students fat-free chocolate milk loaded with sugar, Dr. Mozaffarian said.

A version of this article appears in print on September 2, 2014, on page D1 of the New York edition with the headline: A Call for a Low-Carb Diet. Order Reprints|Today’s Paper|Subscribe


FAA Deploys New Air Traffic Control System Despite Flaws    

By: Amanda Vicinanzo, Contributing Editor

08/28/2014 ( 8:30am)


Numerous red flags regarding the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) new air traffic control system — the Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System (STARS) – were raised in a recent Department of Transportation (DOT) Office of Inspector General (OIG) memo.

Designed to modernize the automation systems that controllers rely on to manage traffic, FAA began implementing STARS to support the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen), a 20-year initiative developed to usher in a new generation of aviation by switching to technologies and procedures that enhance the FAA’s ability to track aircraft safely, securely and efficiently.

The OIG expressed concerns that the failure of STARS could affect the success of NextGen, stating that, “Because STARS is on the critical path to introducing NextGen capabilities, these risks also impact the long-term viability of NextGen.”

After receiving a “hotline complaint” about STARS deployment at the Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) facility, the OIG took a deeper look into the agency’s progress in implementing the system.

The Inspector General’s office discovered that the FAA continued its inaugural deployment of STARS at DFW/ TRACON despite warnings that the software suffers from unstable requirements. FAA is also currently working to install STARS at ten other large terminal facilities, which will each require their own unique software requirements and modifications.

According to the memo, the OIG conducted a review of STARS in May 2013 and discovered a number of significant problems, concluding “that the system could ultimately fall short of providing promised capabilities for controlling takeoffs and landings — the most critical phases of flight.”

Despite recommendations the OIG made in the 2013 report, the FAA has yet to stabilize STARS software requirements. The memo stated that, “Specifically, FAA’s risk mitigation tests of STARS software indicates that as of February 2014, 114 requirements are now needed — including the 46 that FAA identified during initial deployment.”

Consequently, the OIG concluded that “The STARS deployment incorporates fewer capabilities than the system it aims to replace.” Although the FAA planned to stabilize software requirements at all eleven sites by June 2014, the deadline has now been extended to September 2014.

The OIG also questioned the adequacy of FAA’s training and certification of technical operations specialists. While the FAA asserted that site familiarization training is not a required part of the STARS training program, the OIG noted that “site familiarization training is important because DFW TRACON and the other remaining sites have unique characteristics that impact the use of the STARS system to help controllers manage air traffic.”

The memo notes that the uncertainty at DFW TRACON will have “a cascading effect” on the other ten sites, which could put STARS at significant risk for cost overruns and schedule delays.

“Through fiscal year 2013, FAA spent nearly $338 million of the $438 million approved baseline to implement STARS deployments at all 11 TRACONs. However, if FAA receives its budget request for fiscal year 2015 for STARS deployments at the 11 TRACONs, it will exceed its baseline by $19 million,” the memo said.

The OIG’s memo arrived on the heels of a mounting debate over the potential merits of privatizing air traffic control. Earlier this year, Transportation Secretary Anthony Fox said the government may be open to privatization of air traffic control if industry stakeholders agree.

“I’ve heard from a variety of stakeholders and so I know there’s a lot of frustration that the political underpinning for our aviation system may be frayed and folks are looking for some alternatives. My feeling is that we should engage with all of the stakeholders and keep our ears and minds open to new and different ways of doing things,” Fox said after delivering the keynote speech at an Aero Club of Washington luncheon in February.

The FAA’s failure to modernize the US air traffic control system, coupled with budget restraints and system inefficiencies, may become the catalyst for further consideration of privatization. Fox stressed, however, the importance of industry stakeholders and government leaders working together to continue to modernize and improve efficiency of the FAA.

“I’m not here to ‘spike the football’ on NextGen,” Fox said. “There’s a lot of work that still needs to be done. We have to continue working to develop tangible outcomes that we can measure in the short term, the medium term and the long term.”


Drone Developers Consider Obstacles That Cannot Be Flown Around


SEPT. 1, 2014


SAN FRANCISCO — The tech industry’s enthusiasm for building small delivery drones may be getting ahead of figuring out what to do with them.

On Thursday, with much fanfare, Google revealed Project Wing, an experimental program out of the company’s long-term projects division, called Google X. In a video, Google showed a buzzing aircraft — half plane, half helicopter — using a 200-foot fishing line to drop dog treats to a farmer in Queensland, Australia.

But for all the Tomorrowland wonder of a potential delivery-by-drone service, plenty of issues will be tricky to solve. Drone technology has not been thoroughly tested in populated areas, and commercial use of drones is not allowed in the United States. Even if it were, it is not clear that companies could make a profit using advanced, helicopterlike vehicles to deliver dog food, toothpaste or whatever else a modern family might need.

One of Google’s delivery drones carrying a package during a test run in Queensland, Australia.

Still, dozens of companies have experimented with using drones for tasks like crop dusting and monitoring breaks in railroad tracks and oil pipelines. Late last year, Amazon revealed its own experimental delivery service, Prime Air, which it says could one day deliver packages to customers within a half-hour.

An experimental Google delivery drone in Queensland, Australia. Legal, social and financial hurdles for drone use remain. Credit Google

And researchers at NASA Ames are working on ways to manage that menagerie of low-flying aircraft. At NASA’s Moffett Field, about four miles from Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., the agency has been developing a drone traffic management program that would in effect be a separate air traffic control system for things that fly low to the ground — around 400 to 500 feet for most drones.

Much like the air traffic control system for conventional aircraft, the program would monitor the skies for weather and traffic. Wind is a particular hazard, because drones weigh so little compared with regular planes.

The system would also make sure the drones do not run into buildings, news helicopters or other lower-flying objects — a more challenging task than for an airplane flying at 30,000 feet. There would also be no-fly zones, such as anywhere near a major airport.

“One at a time you can make them work and keep them safe,” said Parimal H. Kopardekar, a NASA principal investigator who is developing and managing that program. “But when you have a number of them in operation in the same airspace, there is no infrastructure to support it.”

Unlike the typical image of an air traffic control center — a dark room full of people wearing headphones and staring at radar screens — NASA’s system, like the drones themselves, would dispense with the people and use computers and algorithms to figure out where they can and cannot fly.

The commercial viability of delivery drones would depend heavily on two things: how many people live in the area and how much people are willing to pay for the service.

Dr. Kopardekar said he expected the first commercial applications to be in agriculture and “asset monitoring,” like keeping an eye on crops or remote oil pipelines.

“In agriculture, I’m hoping we will see some action inside of the next year,” he said.

Over time — perhaps within five years — Dr. Kopardekar said he expected drones to make deliveries to sparsely populated areas, like rural Australia, where Google spent part of August delivering things like cattle vaccines and candy bars to a farmer.

Of course, the Federal Aviation Administration controls the skies in the United States, and it would have to sign off on any kind of drone management system. An F.A.A. spokesman said the agency expected to publish a proposed rule for small unmanned aircraft (less than 55 pounds) this year.

The F.A.A. prohibition on commercial drone use has not stopped photographers. Indeed, a video of the damage created by the recent earthquake in Napa, Calif., shot by a camera attached to a drone, was widely circulated over the Internet last week. And hobbyists do not need F.A.A. permission, so long as they don’t endanger other “aircraft or people or property.”

Google plans to spend the next year improving its drone’s ability to navigate between two points, as well as its “detect and avoid” system, the network of sensors that keeps it from running into things, according to a spokeswoman. The company expects it to be “a few years but less than a decade” before people can realistically use it.

But for drones to make it into cities, the technology of delivery could end up taking a back seat to everything else.

“There is the technology piece and then there is the public acceptance piece, and both have to evolve,” Dr. Kopardekar said. “If they are taken over by some rogue elements, how do you manage them? How do you have them safely land and take off in the presence of a grandma doing landscaping and kids playing soccer?”

This may explain why Domino’s Pizza, based in Ann Arbor, Mich., sees a long future for human delivery drivers. Last year, after one of the pizza chain’s British franchisees published a heavily shared video that showed a drone delivering pizza, there was much excitement about the prospect of pizza by drone. Sadly, that was a one-time publicity stunt.

“We did not and are not testing drone delivery,” a Domino’s spokesman, Tim McIntyre, wrote in an email. “Given the fact that these things have spinning blades, could be stolen, shot at or batted like piñatas, we didn’t think the idea would ‘fly’ here in the U.S.”


Pentagon Says Website Improves Communication Between DoD, Industry

Sep. 2, 2014 – 03:45AM | By MARCUS WEISGERBER |

WASHINGTON — A US Defense Department website has helped DoD gain better insight into industry’s research-and-development projects and improved face-to-face meetings between contractors and their military counterparts, Pentagon officials say.

Called the Defense Innovation Marketplace, the website allows the Pentagon to post what types of technology it is seeking and companies can post the types of research they’re conducting. The information is stored securely, so only certain people within DoD can access it. The information is not shared between companies.

Each of the military services is using the website, but the Air Force has used it to replace industry days. The services still hold industry days, just fewer.

“It’s all about increasing the dialog, but being smart dialog in making it more efficient,” said Jack Blackhurst, director of plans and programs at the Air Force Research Laboratory.

For instance, the Pentagon is currently seeking more information through the website about autonomy research being conducted in industry.

“We’re trying to take a basic system that was designed to communicate between a couple of different entities and we’re bringing a lot of other different technologies to the table because we think the value of it is really tremendous in terms of the ability of many people to get access to information as well as many people to receive information,” Blackhurst said.

In the future, Blackhurst said he sees DoD relying more on the website leading to even more productive meetings in government


Clean CR, Sequestration Hopes: Fall Hill Predictions

By Colin Clark

on September 02, 2014 at 7:01 PM


WASHINGTON: Summer is done. Elections loom. Senators and representatives spent August wining and dining donors and kissing babies in pursuit of a job.

In the next few days most of Capitol Hill’s workforce will return from the summer recess and most efforts will be focused on winning reelection and ensuring the primacy of whichever tribe one favors.

I spent a few hours last week chatting with lobbyists and the few Hill staff I could reach to get some read on what is the likely course of events through Christmas. (Remember, there are those elections coming in November.) The basics: a clean Continuing Resolution is probable (meaning that the government will be funded through at least the elections and no partisan policy riders will be attached by either side); hope appears to be rising among both defense Democrats and Republicans that some fix can be found to avert sequestration, which returns in force in fiscal 2016; the National Defense Authorization Act (the defense policy bill) probably isn’t going to get done in September, even though Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in late July that he thinks he can get it to the floor this month.

“We’ve heard that from the Senate before,” a skeptical House Republican said of Reid’s suggestion — which is all it can be in the proud Senate, where everyone has a veto. “I think the chairman (Rep. Buck McKeon) would welcome the Senate addressing it in September and then have a conference with passage later in the fall. But he’s prepared to look at other paths to passage… like we did last year.” Those who dig through every utterance and printed page related to the NDAA will remember that the bill was rushed out through a pretty unique process last year, where the chairmen and ranking members of the two committees sat down, negotiated a compromise bill and pretty much handed it to members, saying: it’s good, please pass it. And they did.

With an election facing them, neither Democrats nor Republicans want to be blamed for failing to pass a defense policy bill for the first time in 54 years while the world seems to get hotter with each passing week, so the bill will probably pass.

A GOP lobbyist is optimistic the Senate can start work on the bill in September, “…but I’m not sure they can get the NDAA done by then.” Given that Congress has about two weeks in which to do their work before scampering home to get reelected (or reminded of their essential fungibility) getting anything done will be tough — especially with the crises in Ukraine and the Middle East raising their very ugly heads at the same time.

The GOP lobbyist believes passing the CR and reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank will be the top goals of Congress, so that increases pressure on the NDAA even more.

As to the hope for a fix of sequestration, the GOP aide points to a “shift” in conservative media and some lawmakers over the last two months in favor of scrapping sequestration instead of their heedless rush to mangle any pretense at rational budgetary planning.

Sen. Carl Levin, outgoing chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, spoke of rising hopes for a deal of some sort. “I’m hoping it will happen during September or during the lame-duck” session in November and December, he told CongressWatch. Levin, wise and wily man that he is, has long been optimistic about some sort of a deal because, in part, that’s how you pressure the other side. But it’s also because he is an optimist who believes his colleagues usually do the right thing — in the end.

The GOP lobbyist, echoing several others who wouldn’t speak for quotation, was skeptical of any break in the logjam. It certainly seems the GOP is less mad than it has been the last few years — the lobbyist said “it would be madness for us to try and shut down the government again” — but the press of business on the Hill and the pressures of the election mean “it’s not going to be addressed before the election.”

Then we must endure the post-electoral show. If the GOP wins the Senate — unlikely, but possible — there may actually be a better chance to fix sequestration, I think. Remember Nixon and China. Political cover is always helpful when trying to do something controversial.


An Air Force Strategy Stuck in the Future

USAF Misses Daunting Problems of the Present (Like the F-35)

September 2, 2014

By Robert Farley


Alex Ward of the Atlantic Council thinks the world of the Air Force’s new strategic white paper, A Call to the Future, suggesting that the document is the best of its kind. Contra Ward, I think that the white paper concentrates so much on the future that it ignores the present problems that will inevitably structure how the organization moves forward.

Addressed to “Airmen and Airpower Advocates,” America’s Air Force: A Call to the Future sounds a lot of familiar notes. It hypes the concept of “strategic agility,” a worthy contribution, but ends up defining the service’s contribution in reactive terms. A Call to the Future tackles procurement failures and speaks to the need for partnerships, but fails to contribute seriously to the most gripping procurement problem the Air Force currently faces – the F-35 – or to provide a framework for thinking about the failure of airpower partnerships in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Service strategic papers often amount to boring “bumper sticker” accounts of what an organization does, intended to sell the current leadership line to the members and to the wider public. But the process writing these bumper stickers can be brutal, upending careers and setting the terms for how an organization’s leadership views the future.

A Call to the Future sees technological change and instability as the drivers of changes in the Air Force’s mission in the future. Strategic agility (defined as flexibility, adaptability, and responsiveness) provides an answer to the problem of rapid, unexpected change, which has become the hallmark of the post-War on Terror world. Technological innovation and the geopolitical instability drive this change. According to the document, air power makes a unique, irreplaceable contribution to strategic agility.

Fundamentally, however, the document indicates an organization focused on response and reaction, rather than on shaping. There’s an unusual humility to this, in that it grants limitations to the ability of the United States to structure the international environment, but it does suggest a limitation to the Air Force’s vision, especially with respect to the management of the commons.

By contrast, the Navy’s 2007 Cooperative Strategy saw much more of a “shaping” role, arguing that certain approaches to the commons (sea, air, space, and cyberspace) could help shift national attitudes, interests, and motivations. The Air Force has long struggled with the idea of the “commons” as a special international space, rather than as an avenue for commerce and force projection.

The white paper talks about a few new technologies, including hypersonics, unmanned aircraft, autonomous systems, and directed energy weapons. It also works through some of the problems with the existing procurement process, calling on the Air Force to increase the number of “pivot points” at which it can dispose of expensive or unworkable tech.

Many (perhaps most) readers will see that as an implicit indictment of the F-35 program. What we don’t see is an effort to deal with the damage that the F-35 has already done. Given that A Call to the Future identifies procurement policy as a problem, it makes sense to think that this problem has had negative effects. We’re left to guess at what these effects are, and how the Air Force plans to solve them, which is a problem given that the service is struggling with what amounts to its biggest ever fighter acquisition.

A Call to the Future also has a partnership problem. The document talks a lot about partnerships, including those with industry and Congress (although it’s not really appropriate to describe this relationship as a “partnership”), and with foreign organizations. The Air Force has come under criticism, some deserved and some not, for its work with the Afghan and Iraqi air forces. Many of the problems with those partnerships lay outside of the Air Force’s control, but the complete failure of the Iraqi Air Force to accomplish anything useful in the war against ISIS has weighed against the USAF’s partnership potential.

In this context, you might expect A Call to the Future to have a more complete vision of how to handle partnerships. You’d be wrong. A Call to the Future briefly discusses relationships with foreign air forces, but doesn’t talk much about how to develop partner capabilities. The Air Force’s vision of partnership with foreign orgs seems highly transactional, rather than permanent or constitutive on either side. This again stands in contrast with the Navy’s 2007 white paper, which focuses strongly on developing cooperative relationships with foreign organizations.

Like a lot of government documents, the language of A Call to the Future can evoke groans (“our current capability development paradigm is inadequate”). Also, no document can answer every criticism, or provide a pathway to solving every problem. However, A Call to the Future seems so defiantly focused on the future that it doesn’t pay enough attention to the problems we’ve identified today with how the Air Force does business. This document is worth reading, but it suggests an organization that’s still struggling to figure out the way from present to future.

This article is a response to the following from August 13: “Air Force Has the Strategic Edge.”

Robert Farley is an assistant professor at the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce. He is the author of Grounded: The Case for Abolishing the United States Air Force. Follow him on Twitter at @drfarls.



DoD To Expand Use of Prototyping as Acquisition Budgets Tighten

Sep. 3, 2014 – 03:42PM | By MARCUS WEISGERBER | Comments|nextstory


NEWPORT, R.I. — The Pentagon will expand its use of prototyping as the US Defense Department’s budget tightens, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Wednesday.

The use of increased prototyping is directed in Better Buying Power 3.0, the Pentagon’s latest update to its acquisition improvement initiatives designed to get DoD more bang for its buck.

“In times of reduced budgets, prototyping furthers technical advances in [research and development], it helps keep us ahead of the threat and reduces risk by lowering lead times in the event we go forward with production,” Hagel said Wednesday at a conference sponsored by the Southeastern New England Defense Industry Alliance.

“Importantly, [prototyping] also allows us to preserve design teams during any long periods between new product development programs,” he said. “This will be vital to preserving a robust, capable defense industrial base.”

Better Buying Power 3.0 will focus on “innovation and accelerating the flow of technology to our people,” Hagel said.

New acquisition improvement initiatives also include:


■ More use of modular and open systems architectures.


■ Providing industry with draft requirements earlier.


■ Removing obstacles to procuring commercial items.


■ Improving our technology search and outreach in global markets.


“We must be innovative not only in developing the technologies we buy, but also how we buy them, and how we use them in order to achieve our operational and strategic objectives,” Hagel said.

In addition, Frank Kendall, the Pentagon acquisition chief, will convene a Long-Range Research & Development Planning Program “aimed at assuring our technological edge through the next several decades,” Hagel said.

At the same time, Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work is leading an effort to determine what types of new technologies could help the US military outperform adversaries of the future.

“Given the current budget environment, innovation will be critical,” Hagel said.

Hagel also touted “groundbreaking technological change” in the commercial sector, in the areas of robotics, advanced computing, miniaturization and 3D printing.

“DoD must be able to assess which commercial innovations have military potential, rapidly adopt them, adapt them, and then test and refine them, including through war-gaming and demonstrations,” he said.

Throughout his speech, Hagel challenged companies to innovate by developing new technologies, operational concepts and procurement methods. It was the most extensive speech given by Hagel on the subject since becoming defense secretary in February 2013.

“We must take this challenge seriously, and do everything necessary to sustain and renew our military superiority,” Hagel said. “This will not only require active investment by both government and industry, it will require us to once again embrace a spirit of innovation and adaptability across our defense enterprise.”

US dominance in the air, sea, space and cyberspace can no longer be taken for granted, Hagel said.

“[W]hile the United States continues to maintain a decisive military and technological edge over any other potential adversary, our continued superiority is not a given,” he said.

Much of Hagel’s language echoes that of Frank Kendall, undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics. For nearly a year, Kendall has been sounding the alarm that US technological superiority is at risk.

Hagel has been supportive of Kendall’s comments privately inside the Pentagon, sources say.

The secretary stopped in Newport on his way Wales where he will attend the much-anticipated NATO summit. ■


‘Not Much Drama’: McConnell Predicts Passage of Bill To Avert Govt. Shutdown

Sep. 3, 2014 – 07:42PM | By JOHN T. BENNETT | Comments


WASHINGTON — The US Senate’s embattled top Republican is predicting Congress will pass a funding measure that the president would not veto.

The government will run out of operational funding on Sept. 30. The House and Senate could be long gone by then for another lengthy break, this one to campaign for November’s midterm elections.

Since they are not due back in session until the second week of November, both chambers this month need to pass something Obama will sign to avoid another government shutdown.

Analyst say neither Republicans nor Democrats are eager to head home and face voters amid a closed federal government, especially with the Senate hanging in the balance. That’s especially true of McConnell, who is locked in a tight re-election fight in the Bluegrass State.

Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., signaled Wednesday that lawmakers almost surely will this month pass a shutdown-averting bill that Obama will sign.

“The only people talking about a government shutdown are the Democrats and nobody has any interest in doing that. So I think we’ll pass a clean CR [continuing resolution] that would operate the government probably into December,” McConnell said during a Fox Business Channel interview. “And that will be the height of the drama. Not much drama on that issue.”

A CR would merely fund all department and agencies at past-year levels, and prevent the Pentagon and other entities from actions such as starting new acquisition programs, firing up new production lines and negotiating multiyear contracts.


US Has Lost ‘Dominance In Electromagnetic Spectrum’: Shaffer

By Sydney J. Freedberg Jr.
on September 03, 2014 at 3:49 PM


NATIONAL PRESS CLUB: “We have lost the electromagnetic spectrum,” said Alan Shaffer, the Pentagon’s research and engineering chief, this morning. “That’s a huge deal when you think about fielding advanced systems that can be [countered] by a very, very cheap digital jammer.”

We’ve heard senior Pentagon officials fret about electronic warfare before, most prominently the Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Jonathan Greenert, but this is the bluntest and most alarming statement yet.

“We have got to, in my opinion, regain some dominance in the electromagnetic spectrum, or at least parity, so things that we buy continue to operate as we intended them to,” Shaffer said. For example, the Pentagon’s biggest program ever, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, has much-touted information technology built-in, but, he told reporters cryptically after his public remarks, “if we don’t really pay attention to the EM spectrum, it is not a good news story for the F-35.”

So what the hell happened? “There is no single answer,” Shaffer said when I asked him at the annual Common Defense (ComDef) conference here. Part of the problem is that the US government has sold off many of radio frequencies it used to own, “for good economic reasons,” he told the audience.

But by far the bigger factor is the global shift from analog to digital technologies, with a proliferation of high-powered, low-cost, commercially available equipment driven by Moore’s Law. The kind of electronic eavesdropping and jamming that used to require a nation-state’s resources are now available to small countries and even guerrillas (as well as to innovators inside the Defense Department). “People are able to create very agile, capable systems for very little money, and those agile, capable systems — if we don’t develop counters — can impact the performance of some of our high-end platforms,” Shaffer said.

What Shaffer didn’t say is that the US military neglected electronic warfare for at least the decade after the Soviet Union fell. After 9/11, radio-detonated roadside bombs triggered a rush to get EW gear to ground troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, but outside that narrow area, investments still lagged. While the Air Force has high hopes for the F-35, it has only a handful of dedication electronic warfare aircraft left, the EC-130H Compass Calls. The Navy has spent heavily to replace the geriatric EA-6B Prowler with the sleek EA-18G Growler — but to date it’s putting a lot of old electronics in that new airplane: A new Next-Generation Jammer (NGJ) to go on the Growler is still in development.

Nor has the military take full advantage of new sensor and communications technology. “We have stayed largely in our standard radar and communication bands,” such as X-band radar, Shaffer said, “while the rest of the world has moved to higher and lower frequency….They’ve gone to broader bandwidth and more agile systems.”

As a result, we have cases where Iraqi insurgents could watch video feeds from Predator drones because no one bothered to encrypt the signal. While the guerrillas seem not to have made much of the jittery, out-of-context images, a more sophisticated opponent could have mined them for intelligence, jammed the link between the drones and their human operators, or even hacked into the US network.

A leading independent expert on future warfare agreed with this grim picture.

“Shaffer is absolutely correct,” said Ben Fitzgerald of the Center for a New American Security when I showed him a transcript of the remarks. “Many of the technologies the U.S. uses, GPS for example, don’t use especially strong signals and are susceptible to denial from other systems that are increasingly affordable.”

GPS is arguably the most glaring single vulnerability. While civilians worldwide have come to take the Global Positioning System for granted as part of daily life, the US Air Force still runs GPS, and all branches of the military depend on it for everything from foot patrols in Afghanistan to smart-bomb strikes in Iraq. But GPS jammers are getting cheaper.

“I’d love to give GPS to the Department of Transportation and do precision navigation and timing [PNT] terrestrially,” i.e. without using satellites. “I can’t do that yet,” Shaffer told reporters after his formal remarks, “[but] we’re getting pretty close.” DARPA is leading research on using atomic clocks and other technologies to let military units know exactly where and when they are without having to depend on a satellite signal.

DARPA is doing “good work,” said CNAS’s Fitzgerald, but the technology is not yet mature, let alone ready to affordably retrofit to a host of existing systems.

So, as the civilian world relies ever more on networks and mobile devices, the military is now wrestling with how to keep fighting if the enemy pulls the plug.


FBI Probes Possible Russian Cyberattack on Major US Banks    

By: Amanda Vicinanzo, Contributing Editor

09/03/2014 ( 9:21am)


The FBI and US Secret Service are investigating a significant breach of corporate computer security at J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., the largest bank by assets in the United States, and several other unnamed financial institutions. The attack possibly was carried out by hackers with ties to Russia.

“We are working with the United States Secret Service to determine the scope of recently reported cyber-attacks against several American financial institutions,” FBI spokesman Joshua Campbell said in a statement.

Although the extent of the attack remains unknown, highly skilled hackers allegedly infiltrated the bank and compromised gigabytes of data after slowly siphoning customer data from the company’s corporate network over the course of a three month period. The hackers used layer upon layer of malware custom-built for J.P. Morgan’s website.

One source indicated the hackers appear to have originally breached J.P. Morgan’s network via an employee’s personal computer, which used virtual private network software to work remotely.

“Companies of our size unfortunately experience cyberattacks nearly every day,” said Trish Wexler, a J.P. Morgan spokeswoman and senior vice president of corporate communications. “We have multiple layers of defense to counteract any threats and constantly monitor fraud levels.”

IT security company KnowBe4 indicated that news of this data breach came just days after J.P. Morgan customers were targeted by a large wave of phishing emails trying to get their banking username and password. Cybersecurity firm Proofpoint who discovered the campaign — dubbed “Smash and Grab” — said that victims were lead to a fake login portal, which delivered banking malware made to look like a Java update after their username and password are entered into the form.

“It looks like they sent it out to lots of people in hopes that some of them might be JPMorgan Chase customers,” Wexler said.

As Bloomberg News first reported, cybersecurity experts believe the timing, style and sophistication of the attack points to possible Russian retaliation for Western-imposed sanctions on the country over its involvement in the Ukraine military conflict.

Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence who had been briefed on the attacks, described them to USA Today as very sophisticated.

“Clearly, either they were aided by or conducted by a state sponsor,” Rogers said.

The cyberattack on J.P. Morgan is one in a long string of recent data breaches connected to Russia. Earlier this month, a Russian cybercrime ring dubbed “CyberVor” stole 1.2 billion internet user names and passwords, amassing what is now the largest known collection of stolen credentials in history.

Homeland Security Today reported last month that Department of Homeland Security (DHS) also recently alerted critical infrastructure operators to the Russian hacking group known as “Energetic Bear,” or “Dragonfly,” behind an ongoing malware campaign primarily targeting the energy sector in the United States and Europe with the capability to sabotage the power supply of attacked countries.

After the attack on Target last year, which compromised the personal information of millions of consumers, companies and government agencies need to consider new ways to up their cybersecurity game. The attack on J.P. Morgan calls into question the financial sector’s preparedness in meeting the grave threat of sophisticated nation-state cyberattacks.

Jamie Dimon, chairman and chief executive of J.P. Morgan, acknowledged the rising threat of sophisticated cyberattacks in his annual shareholder’s letter in April, saying, “Cyberattacks are growing every day in strength and velocity across the globe,” he wrote. “It is going to be a continual and likely never-ending battle to stay ahead of it — and, unfortunately, not every battle will be won.”

He wrote that the bank will spend more than $250 million annually and have about 1,000 people focused on cybersecurity by the end of 2014. J.P. Morgan also plans to create three state-of-the-art Cybersecurity Operations Centers in its regional headquarters to coordinate incoming information, identify threats, create response procedures and coordinate security of its buildings world-wide.

Despite these precautions, Dimon acknowledged that “Unfortunately, not every battle will be won.” As the latest victim of a major cyberattack, however, J.P. Morgan lost an important battle. KnowBe4 indicates that this particular battle was lost by ignoring the weakest link in IT security: the human.

According to Stu Sjouwerman, CEO of KnowBe4, “The weak link in this case is an employee, as their personal computer got infected with malware, and we can guess how that happened. They clicked on a link or were social engineered to open up an attachment that carried a malicious payload. The human is the weak link in IT security, and this latest data breach again shows how true this is. The employee probably fell for a spear-phishing attack and clicked on something they should not have.”

Although J.P. Morgan spends more than $250 million a year and has about 1,000 people focused on cybersecurity, those resources are wasted if the company does not also consider the human factor. According to Sjouwerman, when hackers broke into Target last year, they originally infiltrated the retailer by stealing a ventilation contractor’s password.

“All that time and money is wasted unless you also pay attention to the ‘human firewall’ something companies need to create first and foremost. That can be accomplished with effective security awareness training for all employees that have a PC and have access to the Internet,” Sjouwerman said.


What Does Alleged iCloud Hack Mean For Federal Agencies?

By Aliya Sternstein

September 2, 2014 2 Comments


Most federal agency employees with iPhones probably don’t have to worry about hackers ogling naked photos of them saved in Apple’s iCloud backup system.

But they might have cause for concern about attackers targeting the cloud service to peer at sensitive government information, cybersecurity experts warn.

The problem, experts say, is a lack of awareness. iCloud, by default, automatically backs up a user’s device over Wi-Fi every day, according to Apple’s website.

Federal employees could be uploading sensitive information when they work on their personally owned iPhones — unless agencies take action. And it is not clear that they are.

“Most people have no concept that the data goes out to different places,” said Kevin Johnson, CEO of Secure Ideas, a company that tests federal systems for security holes.

The concerns, however, appear to be largely limited to employees’ personal devices. The federal agencies contacted by Nextgov said they blocked access to iCloud on government-owned devices — and even some personal devices — as a matter of agency policy.


Concerns Not Limited to Apple

Over the weekend, cybercrooks allegedly snatched explicit photos from the iCloud accounts of dozens of female celebrities, including Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence, and dumped some of them online. Whether this was done through a bug in Apple’s infrastructure, surveillance software, cracking each celeb’s password or a combination of the above is unclear.

But if federal employees don’t know to disable the service, iCloud could potentially save the GPS coordinates of undisclosed federal facilities, wireless device configurations, work documents an employee wants to work on at home and office photos, among other things.

Those worries aren’t limited to Apple.

“Some Android phones automatically sync to [cloud storage site] Dropbox, which is even more of a concern because Dropbox is designed to be used for any file type, whereas iCloud is for specific types,” Johnson said.

Jerry Irvine, a member of the National Cyber Security Partnership, a public-private organization, said personal devices synced to iCloud or any other uncontrolled third-party cloud certainly present a threat to the government.

The “phone itself is connected to the agency’s network and the iCloud,” he said. “If a federal employee or a consultant is allowed to bring their personal iPhone into the work environment, that is a potential risk.”

Irvine, who consults for state and local agencies, added: “They could send emails. They could see emails. All of that could be saved to the cloud without knowledge of the federal government.”

It’s unclear what role, if any, the Department of Homeland Security, which supervises federalwide cybersecurity, plays in regulating agencies bring-your-own device, or BYOD, policies. DHS declined to comment.

The most recent BYOD guidance from the White House is two years old and does not address cloud access.


Agency-Owned Devices More Likely to be Protected

Unlike individually purchased smartphones, government-owned iPhones are more likely to be protected, security professionals and agencies say.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement, for example, deactivates iCloud on each iPhone the agency issues to employees, ICE officials told Nextgov.

“Restrictions are enforced using device policy settings installed on every iPhone ICE provides employees,” agency spokesman Brandon Montgomery said in an email. iCloud is not sanctioned for storing agency data, ICE officials said.

At the General Services Administration, software that centrally manages personnel’s smartphone use, called MaaS360, disables iCloud on both BYOD phones and GSA-owned phones, agency officials told Nextgov.

“GSA does not allow document-sync to iCloud,” agency spokeswoman Jackeline Stewart said in an email.

NASA spokesman Allard Beutel told Nextgov “iCloud is not approved” for storing and processing NASA data, regardless of whether it’s used on a NASA-owned or a BYOD device. Space agency officials were unable to immediately comment on how they enforce the ban.

As news of the hack surfaced, security researchers described a method for exploiting an iCloud weakness — nicknamed iBrute, for “brute force” — that allowed infiltrators to test tons of password attempts without locking the account. Apple released a patch for the vulnerability shortly afterward.

On Monday, Apple denied the security of the iCloud system was responsible for the breach. An investigation into the incident is still ongoing.

“We have discovered that certain celebrity accounts were compromised by a very targeted attack on user names, passwords and security questions,” the company said in a statement. “None of the cases we have investigated has resulted from any breach in any of Apple’s systems including iCloud.”


Why One West Virginia Town Has Banned Cell Phones

By Laura Ryan

National Journal

September 2, 2014


Only four hours west of Washington, there is a town where cell phones and wireless Internet are outlawed. Commercial radios are banned, and microwaves aren’t welcome either.

Green Bank might sound like a Luddite’s dreamscape, but the West Virginia hamlet’s self-imposed blackout is being done all in the name of science: Green Bank is home to the world’s largest radio telescope, a 100-meters-in-diameter dish that is the crown jewel of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.

By measuring radio waves emitted from objects in space, the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope can go where optical telescopes can’t. It lets scientists “see” parts of the universe that are invisible to the human eye, giving them the power to study far-off galaxies and the lives of stars and discover new planets.

But to do its job, the telescope needs complete radio silence—a tall order in the digital age, even in a town with only about 150 residents.

And so, within a 10-mile radius of the observatory, Wi-Fi, cell phones, and radios are flat-out banned. And the zone extends further into a 13,000-square-mile area in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Virginia where the use of airwaves is heavily restricted. The restrictions are part of Congress’s 1958 decision to build the National Radio Quiet Zone to protect the NRAO.

A cell phone can throw off the world’s largest telescope because of the latter’s extraordinary sensitivity—a necessity to measure radio frequencies emitted by objects in space. To put this in perspective, a typical cell phone emits two to three watts when it is turned on but not being used. The radio telescope measures 0.00000000000000000000000000000001 watts, or approximately the same amount of energy given off by a single snowflake when it hits the ground. (At that scale, output is measured in a unit called the jansky, named after Karl Jansky, the founder of radio astronomy.)

A ring of mountains gives the area one layer of natural protection from the outside world, but the topography is far from enough to maintain the blackout the telescope needs to operate. And the challenge to keep a radio-free zone radio-free is getting harder, with 90 percent of Americans now owning cell phones and 87 percent of Americans relying on the Internet, according to a recent Pew study.

The task falls on Mike Holstine, whose official title is general manager of the NRAO. But “Defender of the Airwaves” is a more suitable description. Holstine has been at the observatory for 23 years, a span that coincides neatly with the rise of the Internet and cell phones.

In the early days, patrolling the radio blackout was a fairly simple task. Malfunctioning electronics in the community caused most interference, so Holstine could personally knock on the door, explain the problem, and fix it. “We’d try to replace the faulty part or we would fix their appliance or fix their fence,” Holstine said.

But the wireless revolution changed things. Interference has become a daily occurrence, as objects that most Americans take for granted—such as remote controls and microwaves—are airwave mischief-makers. “Most people don’t think about these kinds of things, but we have to think about them all the time,” Holstien said. “Basically anything you have that is electronic is a source of radio-frequency radiation.”

Policing interference requires constant vigilance, cooperation, and creativity.

The NRAO monitors airwave activity 24/7. When Holstine or a member of his crew sees a spike in activity, they hop in a diesel truck equipped with antennas to track down the culprit. If the problem is fixable, they’ll fix it. If not, they’ll ask the owner to stop using it.

This requires close cooperation with the residents of Green Bank and the nearby Snowshoe ski resort. The Federal Communications Commission is the ultimate enforcer of the quiet zone, but Holstine says the observatory rarely turns to the FCC to settle disputes. “We generally have the great support of the community,” Holstine said. “We really wouldn’t be able to do the science we do without their support.”

Instead, Holstine and his team look for engineering solutions that allow the town’s residents and thousands of visitors to enjoy some of the conveniences of the digital age.

As a result, Snowshoe got its first taste of cell reception last year with the help of miniature networks called microcells. But coverage is limited to the the ski village, so resort employees still rely on walkie-talkies to run day-to-day operations of a ski mountain.

George Murphy, chief technology officer for Snowshoe Mountain Resort, says many first-time visitors don’t realize what they are getting themselves into and are “absolutely horrified” when they find themselves without text messaging or Netflix to entertain their kids.


But some problems are impossible to eradicate—such as automobiles. Not only do gasoline engines create interference, but a 2007 federal law requiring new cars to be equipped with a tire pressure monitor essentially puts tiny radio transmitters in every tire.

To fix this, Green Bank lined the roads with evergreen trees. Pine needles are sponges for radio signals, effectively mitigating much of the interference produced by cars.

A few countries, including Australia and Chile, are trying to build radio quiet zones, but Holstine doubts that it would be possible to recreate one in the U.S. today. Technological dependence is so pervasive in American culture, he says, that it would be difficult to “basically tell people what they have they can’t have any longer.”


Rasmussen Reports

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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, September 06, 2014    

Republicans hope they can ride voter unhappiness with Obamacare all the way to control of Congress, but how big a problem is the health care law for Democrats really?

There’s no question that most voters still don’t like the law, as they’ve expressed in regular surveying since its passage by Congress in March 2010. At the same time, the number of Americans who are buying health insurance through the newly established health care exchanges is steadily growing.

Voter sentiment is shifting away from complete repeal. As recently as last December, 50% wanted to repeal the health care law, while 31% thought Congress should review the law piece by piece and improve it. Now those numbers are reversed: Nearly half of voters think Congress should fine tune the law rather than repeal it entirely, although most still feel repeal is likely if Republicans take charge. 

We’ve been asking voters regularly for months whether they are more likely or less likely to vote for a congressman who voted for Obamacare. They remain closely divided. But incredibly, one-in-three don’t know if their representative voted for the health care law or not. [Remember, though, only nine percent (9%) think most Americans are informed voters.]  

As we poll state by state, the potential impact of Obamacare becomes clearer. In Colorado and Louisiana, for example, the law is even more unpopular than it is nationally, so for incumbent Democratic Senators Mark Udall and Mary Landrieu, it’s a problem. 

Obamacare’s unpopularity in Kentucky is good news for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell who’s fighting off a spirited challenge from Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes. 

In safely Republican Oklahoma, the law is highly disliked, and GOP Congressman James Lankford has a two-to-one lead in the special Senate race there.  

In Oregon, on the other hand, the health care law is viewed more favorably. Although the Republican challenger who is a doctor has been pounding away at the law, Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley has taken an even wider lead than the last time we checked. 

Check our latest video election update for these numbers and more.

President Obama isn’t much help in some states either. Just this week, North Carolina Democrat Kay Hagan, one of the Senate’s most endangered incumbents, passed up a chance to be seen publicly with the president in her state.

Democrats running for reelection this year also are asking the president to delay his reported plan to grant amnesty to several million illegal immigrants without the approval of Congress. Most voters oppose that amnesty plan and think Congress should challenge Obama in court if he goes ahead with it.

The president’s daily job approval rating remains in the negative high teens. His monthly job approval rating held steady at 46% in August for the second month in a row and remains his lowest rating this year.

But Congress’ job approval ratings remain at record lows, too.

Republicans have just a one-point lead over Democrats on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot. The two parties have been separated by two points or less for most weeks this year.

The economy continues to send mixed signals, so it’s unclear what impact, if any, it will have on the elections. The Rasmussen Employment Index which measures worker confidence reached a new all-time high in August after falling for two months in a row. But then Friday’s jobs report was a disappointment, signaling a slowdown in growth.

Americans are a bit more optimistic about the current job picture and their future job prospects, but still just 29% think the unemployment rate will be lower in a year’s time.

Coming out of the Labor Day weekend, the Rasmussen Investor Index which measures daily confidence among investors hit its highest level in seven years but then fell back. 

Burger King’s planned merger with a Canadian company that will lower its corporate taxes has the Obama administration and others crying foul and looking for ways to stop it. But  Americans don’t think the feds should be able to stop a company from moving to another country to reduce its tax load.

Nearly half of Americans recognize that the United States has higher corporate taxes than most other industrialized nations and think higher taxes on corporations hurt the economy.

Taking the focus off the upcoming elections, voters regard the radical Islamic terrorist group ISIS as a major threat to the United States and are very worried that the president doesn’t have a strategy for dealing with the problem.

That concern was further heightened this week with the second public beheading of a U.S. journalist by an ISIS terrorist. Nearly half of voters now support sending U.S. combat troops to Iraq to fight ISIS as part of an international coalition, but voters remain less enthusiastic about U.S. troops fighting alone.

Children nationwide are returning to school. Are parents ready?   Taxpayers spend $11,000 per student per year in America, and very few think they’re getting their money’s worth.

Support for the new national Common Core education standards has rebounded among parents of school-age children, but they still question whether it will improve academic performance. Common Core and other government-driven education efforts set universal excellence as their goal, but Americans overwhelmingly agree that no set of standards can ensure that all students reach the top.

In other surveys last week:

— Twenty-five percent (25%) of Likely U.S. Voters think the country is heading in the right direction.

The race to be Arizona’s next governor is a dead heat.

Is the Internet killing public libraries?

— Believe it or not, most Americans take pleasure in mowing their lawns.

— Labor Day was originally established as a federal holiday in 1894 to honor working Americans, especially those in labor unions. But for most Americans, Labor Day means summer’s over instead.


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