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September 27 2014

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Obama’s top military adviser urges new federal cybersecurity rules

Posted: September 18, 2014


The federal government needs to impose carefully calibrated cybersecurity standards on the private sector but it might not happen until there is a crisis, according to Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The United States is still working to understand how to reconcile values like the freedom of information, privacy and security in the context of cyberspace, Dempsey said in a recent speech on national security challenges at the University of Notre Dame, IN.

“Frankly, we’ve made modest progress but not nearly enough progress,” Dempsey said in the Sept. 6 speech. “I mean, it comes down to two things, frankly. One is security standards. There’s no standards, really.” The White House has pushed for critical infrastructure owners and operators to voluntarily adopt the federal framework of cybersecurity standards. But Dempsey argued officials must do more.

“Now there’s a huge debate about whether the central government should impose standards on cyber and if they do, won’t it in some way undermine the very nature of the – the wonder of the Internet, which is openness?” he said. “Yeah, probably, but we’ve got to figure out where that sweet spot is. You can’t leave it entirely exposed.”

Penetrations of defense industry networks can enable countries like China to steal secrets about major weapons, Dempsey said. “So I can protect my information and my technology until I go to a defense contractor and say, build me an F-22 fighter, and then his network is actually subject to attack, and he moves all that technology, and the next thing you know, the Chinese have an aircraft that, wow, looks just like the F-22,” he said.

Further, U.S. military bases depend on the nation’s electric grid for power, as Catherine Allen, a board member for El Paso Electric Company, noted earlier this year at a cybersecurity conference at the New York Stock Exchange. She said that small utilities are facing cyber threats from Iran and China and what keeps her up at night is the prospect of the grid going down due to cyber attacks.

“So we’ve got a problem in that . . . frankly, we’ve been debating it for a long time,” Dempsey said of the federal government’s cybersecurity role. “I fear it might take a crisis for us to be serious about it, and if that’s what happens, we’ll deal with it.”

Dempsey also bemoaned the need for better sharing of cyber threat data among the public and private sectors. Corporations have “no incentive” to participate in information sharing, he said.

“In fact, you’re disincentivized from sharing cyber attack information with us,” Dempsey said. He noted DOD is responsible for protecting military networks, not industry’s systems. “There are others protecting dot-gov and others protecting dot-org and others protecting, you know, dot-com,” he added. “But frankly, the collaboration among those security agencies is good. It is. But it’s also voluntary and episodic, and it needs to be standardized and mandatory – if they’re going to be protected.”

Earlier this week, White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Michael Daniel again touted the administration’s voluntary approach. “We continue to believe the framework should be implemented on a voluntary basis,” he said on Tuesday. Daniel, speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the 5th Annual Billington Cybersecurity Summit, said the administration’s goal is to “streamline” rather than expand regulations. He noted that President Obama has “invited independent regulatory agencies to align with the framework.” – Christopher J. Castelli (



Pentagon’s Weapons Push Faces Skeptics

Agency Encourages Industry to Boost Research Spending, but Firms Are Wary of Contract Procedures

By Doug Cameron

Sept. 22, 2014 6:38 p.m. ET


The Pentagon is trying to boost research spending by private firms. The agency also wants firms to develop more prototypes of weapons and systems.

The Pentagon is proposing significant changes to how it develops and buys new weapons, but some in the industry say the biggest hurdle to success could lie in the agency’s own staff.

Pentagon procurement chief Frank Kendall last week published a set of proposals aimed at encouraging military contractors to invest more of their own funds to develop new weapons to counter the more advanced arms being deployed by China, Russia and others.

Mr. Kendall wants to use more fixed-price contracts with a range of profit incentives to boost research spending by private companies and remove some of the complexity in the acquisition process that has discouraged firms from bidding on Pentagon work.

But industry executives have questioned how quickly the Pentagon’s 29,000 acquisition staffers can master the ability to choose the right kind of contract for each deal—rather than relying on what has been used before—which both industry and the Pentagon view as crucial to make the plan succeed.

“We are lock step in terms of his intentions, [but] the implementation [by Pentagon staff] is where the rubber hits the road,” said Chris Chadwick, president of the Defense, Space & Security arm of Boeing Co. , the Pentagon’s second-largest supplier after Lockheed Martin Corp.

Industry executives point to misfires in a previous overhaul, the push to spread the use of lowest-price contracts launched in 2010. The fixed-price deals—nicknamed “good enough” within the industry—involved setting requirements and choosing the cheapest bid.

Pentagon leaders including Mr. Kendall, the under secretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, acknowledged that acquisition staff used this type of contract too widely. Costs crept up in some complex projects as winners found they had underbid, or potential competitors simply opted not to bid at all.

Mr. Kendall’s proposals last week also included plans to save money by buying more equipment and services—such as cloud-computing systems—off the shelf from commercial suppliers, rather customized items from contractors.

The proposals are the third version of the Better Buying Power initiative launched in 2010, which aims to improve affordability and boost the Pentagon work force’s ability to identify how much weapons systems and related services should cost, rather than just relying on contractors’ bids.

John Powers, head of the federal defense practice at consultant Deloitte LLP, said the initiative has made some headway.

“It has improved their tradecraft [and] enabled DoD to get a bigger bang for its buck,” he said. For example, the number of contracts that breach federal cost and performance caps has fallen since 2010.

However, he said the biggest challenge to Mr. Kendall’s latest push will be whether it is applied consistently by the Pentagon’s acquisition staff.

Mr. Kendall, a former defense-industry executive, said in an interview this year that the U.S. doesn’t need to follow the U.K. in privatizing some of its buying activity to secure access to more commercially-minded staff. But he has emphasized the need for more training for Pentagon staff in contracting procedures to build those skills internally.

Last week’s proposals, dubbed Better Buying Power 3.0, focus on encouraging contractors to boost investment in innovation as part of the Pentagon’s effort to counter what it views as the U.S.’s diminishing military advantage.

U.S. defense stocks have prospered despite the drop in military spending, up 19% so far this year after climbing more than 50% in 2013, buoyed by cost cuts that have propped up margins and expanding buybacks and dividends.

However, company-funded research and development in the sector has dropped to an average of 1.5% to 2% of sales from 3% to 4% in 2000, according to Wolfe Research LLC. The Pentagon’s R&D budget fell to $63 billion in fiscal 2015 from $80 billion in 2010.

“We’re trying to stimulate industry to innovate, and I’m trying to give them [more] business reasons to innovate,” Mr. Kendall said last week, acknowledging the Pentagon has to improve its system of incentives.

He wants companies to develop more prototypes of weapons and systems that could challenge potential adversaries rather than just wait for the military to outline their needs. One recent example is a suite of U.S. Army radios that Harris Corp. HRS +0.16% developed and sold to the Army before Pentagon-funded equipment was ready for service.

Boeing’s Mr. Chadwick said he is wary of the balance tipping too far toward speculative projects.

“Industry can’t survive on prototypes alone,” he said. “There has to be new production programs.”


New Army vice chief expects worse manpower conditions

Sep. 22, 2014 – 06:51PM |

By Michelle Tan

Staff writer


The Army’s new vice chief expects in 2016 that sequestration will once again rear its ugly head, and that means thousands more force-cuts in the service.

“The world is still a very dangerous place. It’s more complex and uncertain as ever,” said Gen. Daniel Allyn in a forum this month. “Yet our budget has declined and will get worse if sequestration returns in 2016 as planned. Unfortunately, I’m not optimistic that sequestration is going away, so we must brace ourselves once again for extreme fiscal constraint.”

Allyn made these comments while speaking at the Association of the United States Army’s Medical Hot Topic professional development forum, held just outside Washington, D.C.

His foreboding comments are some of his first public remarks since taking the Army vice chief ­job on Aug. 15.

The Army is already in the middle of cutting 10 brigade combat teams and 80,000 soldiers over two years. The Army drawdown is on schedule to reach 510,000 soldiers by the end of fiscal 2014 on Sept. 30, and it should reach an end-strength of 490,000 by the end of fiscal 2015. It’s set to drop to 450,000 in the years to follow.

If Congress triggers another round of across-the-board cuts, known as sequestration, again in 2016 it will mean the Army will have to drop to 420,000.

Senior Army leaders, including Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno and Allyn’s predecessor, Gen. John Campbell, have said an end-strength of 420,000 presents “unacceptable risk.”

For soldiers, it could mean more use of the Army’s involuntary separation policies that have thus far targeted officers, senior enlisted soldiers and over-strength military occupational specialties.

Amid these cuts, the Army also must look ahead, as “this is not about the past, but the Army’s future and preparing for Force 2025 and beyond,” he said.

Force 2025 is the Army’s push to determine what the Army will become by 2025, and it will establish an “enduring set of measures to guide senior leader decisions and long-term efforts,” Allyn said.

“We’re building a holistic modernization strategy to change the Army and deliver global land power capabilities to the joint force,” he said. “Force 2025 is not the end-state. It’s a waypoint for the future.”



China Hacks Expose Communications Flaw

Military, Contractors Construe Breach Reporting Rules Differently

By Eric Chabrow, September 24, 2014.Follow Eric @GovInfoSecurity


What’s as disturbing as the news of the Chinese hacking U.S. defense contractors’ systems, revealed in a new Senate report, is that the contractors failed to notify the military of most of those intrusions. Why so? The military and contractors don’t interpret contract provisions dealing with breaches the same way.

Most of the publicity arising from the release of the Senate Armed Services Committee report focused on the Chinese hacking critical systems – so, what else is new? But a big takeaway from the study, Inquiry Into Cyber Intrusions Affecting U.S. Transportation Command Contractors, is the failure of military contractors to share cyberthreat information with the Transportation Command, known as Transcom, a unified combatant command that provides transportation and logistics services to the U.S. military.

Information sharing is a hot topic these days, but what good is information sharing if parties can’t agree on what information is to be shared?

Information sharing is a hot topic these days, but what good is information sharing if parties can’t agree on what information is to be shared? Sometimes, it seems that the contractors and government don’t speak the same language, interpreting specific provisions in contracts differently.

“The contract language is ambiguous and none of the contractors with whom the committee discussed the clause interpreted their reporting obligation in a manner consistent with Transcom’s intent,” the report says.


Source of Confusion

Here’s how Senate investigators determined the confusion occurred:

Transcom required its contractors to report intrusions that “affect DoD information.” To Transcom, that means contractors must report any intrusion that allows access to a system on which DoD information resides or is in transit. But none of the contractors the committee investigators interviewed interpreted the clause that way.

One contractor, a civilian airline that ferries troops and equipment during a crisis, told investigators that it interpreted the clause to require reporting of intrusions of their systems only if those attacks affected DoD data, for example, through data exfiltration or corruption. Another civilian airline said it interpreted the clause to mean intrusions that only affected nonpublic DoD information.

“Setting aside the lack of common understanding between the command and its contractors about the cyber-incident reporting clause, Transcom’s own view that reportable intrusions are limited to those that affect systems on which DoD information resides or transit leaves a critical gap,” the report says.


More Protection Needed

Senate Armed Service Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., says military divisions must improve the way they communicate cyber-vulnerabilities with other government agencies, including the FBI, as well as with their contractors. “Our findings are a warning that we must do much more to protect strategically significant systems from attack and to share information about intrusions when they do occur,” he says.

The panel blamed the lack of contractor cyber-incident reporting on common misunderstandings between contractors and Transcom about the scope of cyber-intrusions that must be reported. Transcom’s obliviousness to some intrusions was due to confusion about the rules governing how cyber-related information may be shared and a lack of common understanding between the command and other DoD components about what cyber-information Transcom needs to know.

“It is essential that we put into place a central clearinghouse that makes it easy for critical contractors, particular those that are small businesses, to report suspicious cyber activity without adding a burden to their mission support operations,” says Sen. Inhofe, R-Okla., the committee’s ranking member.

Committee investigators spent a year, ending in March, investigating the breaches and discovered that in a 12-month period beginning June 1, 2012, there were about 50 intrusions or other cyber-events into the computer networks of Transcom contractors. Investigators attributed at least 20 of those successful intrusions to an advanced persistent threat.


Assaults Originated in China

Investigators attributed the 20 APT intrusions to China. Among the investigation’s findings was evidence of:

• A Chinese military intrusion into a Transcom contractor between 2008 and 2010 that compromised e-mails, documents, user passwords and computer code.

• A 2010 intrusion by the Chinese military into the network of a air-carrier contractor in which documents, flight details, credentials and passwords for encrypted e-mail were stolen.

• A 2012 Chinese military intrusion into multiple systems onboard a commercial ship contracted by Transcom.

Investigators found significant gaps in sharing cyber-intrusion information, according to the committee report. For example, while the the FBI or DoD were aware of at least nine successful intrusions by China into Transcom contractors, Transcom was made aware of only two of them.


The senators inserted a provision in the bill that funds Defense Department operations, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015, that directs the DoD to improve the way the department disseminates information about cyber-intrusions into the computer network of operationally critical contractors. Committee leaders hope that the proviso in the measure now before the full Senate will help resolve the communications gap that exists between agencies such as Transcom and military contractors.

As Inhofe says, “We must ensure that cyber-intrusions cannot disrupt our mission readiness.” Indeed.



Microsoft’s Kinect aids in ‘augmented reality sand’ mapping tool for Marines, Army

Sep. 23, 2014 – 09:02PM |

By Hope Hodge Seck

Staff Writer


Video game technology has aided researchers in creating realistic 3-D battlespace maps using a simple sand box.

Called the Augmented Reality Sand Table, the concept is under development by the Army Research Laboratory and on display at this year’s Modern Day Marine on Marine Corps Base Quantico. The set-up is simple: a small sand box is rigged with a Microsoft Kinect video game motion sensor and an off-the-shelf projector. Using existing software, the sensor can detect features in the sand and project a realistic topographical map that corresponds to the layout — one that can change at a moment’s notice when observers move the sand around in the box.

And that’s just a start.

The set-up can also project real maps from Google Earth or similar technologies, enabling units to visualize the exact terrain they’ll be covering for exercises or operations. While the capability isn’t yet built in, the lab is working on developing visual cues, like arrows, that would appear to help troops shape the sandbox to match the topography of specified map.

All of these things save the warfighter time, said Charles Amburn, senior instructional systems specialist for the lab’s Simulation and Training Technology Center.

“With a traditional sand table, you’ve got to create the grid and then somebody’s got to go take that map and say, ‘in this grid, there’s a hole here,'” Amburn said. “By the time it’s done, you’ve spent an hour setting up for an exercise or a scenario.”

Down the road, the concept could allow troops from distant bases or even international partners to conduct joint training and operations via 3-D maps they can upload and project. And maps can be easily reset and scenarios “rewound” in a way that just isn’t possible on traditional static sand tables, Amburn said.

Amburn said the lab has also begun studying whether interacting with the 3-D sand table map improves cognition compared to typical 2-D maps.

Already, he said, it appears that the 3-D projections could help assist with language and communication barriers when Marines and soldiers train third-party nationals in their home countries.

“If you project the plan with the real map, everyone gets it,” Amburn said. “You look at a map of their village and you show it to them and they get it.”

Future possibilities include large-scale models that could project over a gymnasium floor for a battalion briefing, and a smartphone version that could use a pocket-sized projector to turn any patch of dirt into an operational 3-D map. The concept can be developed to allow users to move structures or map features in the projection with just a hand gesture, said Amburn. And the platform and map technology can also be customized to serve the spectrum of requirements, from tide tables for the Navy to firefighting models for the Army Corps of Engineers.

Amburn said West Point has asked for the system, and officials at The Basic School are evaluating the system to determine usefulness and pinpoint future requirements that the Office of Naval Research will then develop. Research on the system will continue for at least the next nine months, Amburn said, with new features rolled out every month or so.


FAA Issues Requirement for All UAS to Show Aircraft Registration Number

September 25, 2014


The FAA UAS Integration Office issued an email to the industry outlining the requirement for all commercial UAS to bear an aircraft registration number when applying for a COA:

UAS, other than those owned by the Armed Forces, intended to operate under a new COA must be registered and marked prior to COA application. The aircraft registration number (N-number) must be entered into the “Aircraft Registration” field, of the System Description section in COA on-line.

Additionally, UAS, other than those owned by the Armed Forces, currently operating under an existing COA must be registered and marked within 90 days of the date of this email. COA holders will confirm their aircraft have been registered by entering the registration number, (N-number) in the Monthly Operational Report, in the block labeled, “Describe any other Operational / Coordination Issued”. Failure to comply with the registration requirements within the prescribed timeframe may result in a suspension of the COA.

UAS must be marked with their U.S. nationality and registration marks (N-Number) in accordance with 14 CFR Part 45. The marks must be painted on the aircraft or affixed by any other means ensuring a similar degree of permanence (§45.21(c) (1), General).

Most full scale UAS are able to comply with the marking requirements, including size and location of the N-Number on the aircraft. Sub-scale or small UAS, or UAS of an un-conventional shape such as a multi-rotor (quad-copter, octo-copter, etc.) or ducted fan may not be able to comply with Part 45 or the guidance in AC 45-2D because of size or space limitations on the aircraft. In these cases, 14 CFR, §45.22(d) allows the UAS owner or operator to propose an alternative marking procedure to the FAA. Alternate marking approvals may be issued to public aircraft by FAA UAS Integration Office (AFS-80). If alternative markings were required, a copy of the Alternative Marking approval letter should be attached to application in the “Aircraft Registration” field.

Complete details for registering your UAS and reserving an N-number are provided online at

A formal letter from the FAA UAS Integration further outlining this requirement will follow this email correspondence.

– See more at:



US officials concerned ‘tidal wave’ of drones will overwhelm air traffic system

by Press • 25 September 2014

Associated Press in Washington


Designers of the ambitious US air traffic control system of the future neglected to take drones into account, raising questions about whether it can handle the escalating demand for the unmanned aircraft and predicted congestion in the sky.

“We didn’t understand the magnitude to which [drones] would be an oncoming tidal wave, something that must be dealt with, and quickly,” said Ed Bolton, the Federal Aviation Administration’s assistant administrator for NextGen, as the program is called.

Congress passed legislation creating NextGen in 2003, and directed the agency to accommodate all types of aircraft, including drones.

The program, which is not expected to be completed for at least another decade, is replacing radar and radio communications, technologies rooted in the early 20th century, with satellite-based navigation and digital communications.

The FAA has spent more than $5bn on the complex program and is nearly finished installing hardware and software for several key systems. But the further it progresses, the more difficult it becomes to make changes.

Government and industry officials have long maintained that drones must meet the same rules that apply to manned aircraft if they are to share the sky. That is changing, however, said Chris Stephenson, who represents the National Air Traffic Controllers Association on several US and international unmanned aircraft committees.

“It’s becoming painfully apparent that in order to get [drones] in there, there is going to have to be a fair amount of accommodation, at least in the beginning,” he said.

Michael Whitaker, the FAA’s deputy administrator, acknowledged that drones “weren’t really part of the equation when you go back to the origin of NextGen”.

The NextGen plans for the next five years do not address how drones will fit into a system designed for planes with pilots on board, but the agency will have consider whether to do that, Whitaker told a recent meeting of the NextGen Institute, a nonprofit association sponsored by the FAA so that industry can assist with research.

Most of the initial demand to fly unmanned aircraft came from the departments of Defense and Homeland Security, which wanted to test military drones or use them to monitor US borders.

Later, interest began to build around potential uses for smaller drones, especially by police departments, but also for those wanting to spray crops, monitor pipelines and inspect offshore oil platforms. These drones can weigh anywhere from a few pounds to several hundred.

More recently, commercial demand has soared – from wedding videographers and real estate agents to Amazon and Google, eyeing potential package deliveries.

The FAA bans commercial drone operations with a few, limited exceptions. That ban, however, is undermined almost daily by frustrated small drone operators.

Bolton, also addressing the institute, said the NextGen office recently assembled a drone research team, he said.

FAA officials are under pressure from Congress and industry to loosen restrictions on smaller drones. The agency is expected to propose safety rules in November for businesses that want to operate them.

Smaller drones are less an issue for NextGen because the FAA is expected to limit their altitudes to less than 400ft. Air traffic controllers generally don’t separate aircraft at such low altitudes, except near airports.

But there is also concern about potential traffic and collisions with low-flying smaller drones. NASA researchers are working with the FAA and industry to develop an air traffic control system for aircraft flying at 500ft or lower. There is no such system today except around airports.

Medium to large drones that are eventually expected fly in “Class A” airspace – over 18,000ft, where they must be able to avoid collisions with other aircraft – are more of a problem for NextGen.

They will be controlled by a ground pilot, who will be able to see where the drone is on a computer screen and can communicate with controllers. But there won’t be a pilot on board who can look out and adjust course to avoid a collision.

There are other differences as well.

Pilots who fly in Class A airspace file flight plans identifying their routes. But some larger drones are expected to stay aloft at high altitudes for days or weeks at a time, and their flight plans will be much more complex.

ERAM, a NextGen computer system that controllers use to guide high-altitude air traffic, won’t be able to handle such voluminous flight plans and will have to be adjusted, aviation experts said. ERAM is already over budget and years overdue.

A greater concern is that drones fly much slower than other planes in Class A airspace, Stephenson said.

Planes at high altitudes are supposed follow designated highways in the sky to avoid collisions. A typical airliner on that highway might fly at over 500mph, while a drone at the same altitude might fly at only 175mph, he said. The more drones, the worse the traffic jam.

“Some people think you won’t be able to see the sun anymore because of all the (drones) that are going to be up there,” Stephenson said. “Other people say, ‘No, it’s just going to be a few. It’s no big deal.’ ”


Six Companies Can Now Fly Small UAS Following FAA-approved Safety Procedures

by Press • 25 September 2014


WASHINGTON – U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx today announced that the Federal Aviation Administration has granted regulatory exemptions to six aerial photo and video production companies, the first step to allowing the film and television industry the use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in the National Airspace System. Secretary Foxx made the announcement on a conference call with FAA Administrator Michael Huerta and Chris Dodd, chairman and chief executive officer of the Motion Picture Association of America, Inc.

Secretary Anthony Foxx also determined that the UAS to be used in the proposed operations do not need an FAA-issued certificate of airworthiness based on a finding they do not pose a threat to national airspace users or national security. Those findings are permitted under Section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012.

“Today’s announcement is a significant milestone in broadening commercial UAS use while ensuring we maintain our world-class safety record in all forms of flight,” said Secretary Foxx. “These companies are blazing a trail that others are already following, offering the promise of new advances in agriculture and utility safety and maintenance.”

The firms asked the agency to grant exemptions from regulations that address general flight rules, pilot certificate requirements, manuals, maintenance and equipment mandates. To receive the exemptions, the firms had to show their UAS operations would not adversely affect safety, or would provide at least an equal level of safety to the rules from which they seek the exemptions.

In their applications, the firms said the operators will hold private pilot certificates, keep the UAS within line of sight at all times and restrict flights to the “sterile area” on the set. In granting the exemption, FAA accepted these safety conditions, adding an inspection of the aircraft before each flight, and prohibiting operations at night. The agency also will issue Certificates of Waiver or Authorization (COAs) that mandate flight rules and timely reports of any accident or incidents.

“The applicants submitted UAS flight manuals with detailed safety procedures that were a key factor in our approval of their requests,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “We are thoroughly satisfied these operations will not pose a hazard to other aircraft or to people and property on the ground.”

The Motion Picture Association of America facilitated the exemption requests on behalf of these six members: Astraeus Aerial, Aerial MOB, LLC, HeliVideo Productions, LLC, Pictorvision Inc, RC Pro Productions Consulting, LLC dba Vortex Aerial, and Snaproll Media, LLC. The FAA has asked for additional information from Flying-Cam, Inc., a seventh aerial video company that filed for exemptions with this group in June. The agency is working closely with the company to obtain the required information.

The FAA encourages other industry associations to work with interested parties to develop safety manuals and standard operating procedures that will help facilitate similar petitions.

As of today, the agency is considering 40 requests for exemptions from other commercial entities.

You can view the FAA’s exemption grants at

For more information on the FAA and UAS, go to


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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, September 27, 2014

What if they gave an election and nobody came? Voters are pretty fed up with the cast of characters now on the national political stage. 

Just 22% consider Barack Obama’s presidency a success. Even Democrats don’t think a campaign visit by the president to their state this fall is a good idea for their party’s candidates.

Not that that voters are convinced his 2012 Republican challenger would be doing much better. Forty-two percent (42%) think Mitt Romney would be doing a better job as president.  But 37% say he’d be doing a worse one, while 12% feel he would be doing about the same.

The president’s daily job approval rating continues to hover around the -20 mark.

Interestingly, Hillary Clinton is seen by many to be a shoo-in as the next occupant of the White House, but most voters see her presidency as shaping up much like Obama’s: 52% think the two see eye-to-eye on most major issues.

Then there’s Congress: Most Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated voters agree that it would be better for the country if most congressional incumbents were defeated.  Only 53% of Democrats believe Democrats in Congress have done a good job representing their party’s values, but that’s a lot better than the 28% of Republicans who feel that way about GOP members of Congress.

Democrats and Republicans are tied on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot. The two parties have been separated by two points or less for most weeks this year, with a sizable number undecided.

After all, voters still don’t like the health care law that Congress and the president came up with and expect it to drive up costs and hurt the quality of health care in this country.

Most voters for years have supported across-the-board cuts in federal government spending and think such cuts would be a boost to the economy. But Congress and the president never deliver.

Meanwhile, the president was at a UN-sponsored global warming summit meeting this week, calling for an international agreement that only 25% of Americans think would help the U.S. economy.

But 35% of Americans believe the world is headed toward an irreversible catastrophe if the members of the UN fail to deal with global warming. Just as many (36%) disagree, however. Twenty-nine percent (29%) are not sure.

So how is the U.S. economy these days? Well, for one thing, 56% of Americans think the economy is unfair to those who are willing to work hard, the most negative assessment this year. 

For the past two weeks, consumer confidence has tracked at some of its lowest levels this year.

Confidence in the U.S. banking system remains at the 50% level.  In July 2008, prior to the Wall Street crisis and the subsequent federal bailouts of the financial system, 68% were confident in the banks. 

Americans remain concerned about inflation and the vast majority feel they’ll be paying more for groceries a year from now.  Twenty-nine percent (29%) say they owe more money than they did a year ago.

Will the upcoming elections change the dynamic? Republicans hope so if they can make a net gain of six seats in the Senate on Election Day. 

Two of the Senate seats they are hoping to take away from Democrats are in Alaska and Arkansas, and both those races look better for the GOP this week.

Michigan is more of a long shot for Republicans, but the Senate contest there is back to a two-point race.

Republican Governor Rick Snyder now has a slightly wider lead over Democratic challenger Mark Schauer in his reelection bid in Michigan. Incumbent Republican Susana Martinez is back on track to be reelected governor of New Mexico.

The gubernatorial races in Iowa and Kansas are tighter than they’ve been all year. The race to be the next governor of Massachusetts is tied.

Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo appears well on his way to reelection in New York.

In other surveys last week:

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

— Americans continue to question whether colleges and universities do enough to protect their students, particularly when it comes to underage drinking.

— Voters remain concerned about the safety of nuclear power plants in the country but still don’t think the United States should phase them out.

— Only eight percent (8%) of Americans say they rarely or never watch TV.

— Sixty-eight percent (68%) think Americans watch too much television.


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