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Grow lights and drones: How California’s drought is driving farmers into high-tech

By Brian Fung

October 10


California’s grappling with one of its worst droughts in history. The water shortage is so dire, it risks affecting the entire country’s food supply. As Mother Jones reported in February, California provides 99 percent of the United States’ almonds, 95 percent of its broccoli, 91 percent of its grapes and 90 percent of its tomatoes. Now those and other crops are in danger: Economists say that already, the drought has taken half a million acres of farmland out of action.

Growers have responded by — what else? — pumping more water out of the ground. But that’s just a temporary fix, not much better than borrowing against the future. So some in the agricultural industry are beginning to explore technology that may help them adapt to the new, arid reality. Increasingly, farmers are interested in a type of technology that’s typically more associated with surreptitious marijuana growers than massive agricultural operations.

Yes, we’re talking about grow lights.

Grow lights act as a supplement to sunshine in indoor environments. The basic idea has been around for decades. But recent developments have made grow lights far more energy-efficient, enabling them to be fielded on a much larger scale. And just as scientists learned to optimize crop development using chemicals and genetic modification in the last century, engineers today are discovering the same thing about sunshine. Carefully calibrate your artificial sunlight to a basil plant’s precise needs and the leaves will produce different tastes. You can boost the vitamin C content of a tomato by 50 percent. You can get flowers to market more quickly by making them grow faster.

Grow lights are ideal for northern latitudes where water is abundant but sunlight is not. What does this have to do with California? As the drought continues and farmland goes fallow, some crops are going to shift north. There’s some evidence this is already happening to wine grapes, said Dave Runsten, policy director for the California-based Community Alliance for Family Farmers.

“There’s a lot of investment going into Washington, and areas up in that direction,” said Runsten. “Some of the predictions show places like northern Idaho and Canada being good for wine production, but they’re covered in forest. … The models show that a lot of places in California won’t be able to grow high-value wine” for much longer.

Vineyards aren’t the only ones shifting their gaze northward. So are corn and soybean growers in other parts of the United States (USA Today has a handy interactive that depicts the shift over just the last half-century).

In California, farmers are expected to lose $2.2 billion and more than 17,000 jobs to this year’s water crisis alone, according to a study by the University of California – Davis. Those numbers will only worsen if the drought continues, as expected, into 2015 and perhaps 2016. Research has already linked the drought to climate change; a Stanford University team said last month that high levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere would likely keep triggering the high-pressure barriers that forced rainstorms away from California’s farmland this year.

This trio of images obtained October 6, 2014 from NASA/JPL-Caltech depicts satellite observations of declining water storage in California as seen by NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment(GRACE) satellites in June 2002 (L), June 2008 (C) and June 2014. Colors progressing from green to orange to red represent greater accumulated water loss between April 2002 and June 2014. California’s Sacramento and San Joaquin River basins, including the Central Valley, have suffered the greatest losses, in part due to increased groundwater pumping to support agricultural production. Between 2011 and 2014, the combined river basins have lost 4 trillion gallons (15 cubic kilometers, or 12 million acre-feet) of water each year, an amount far greater than California’s 38 million residents use in cities and homes annually. AFP PHOTO / HANDOUT / NASA / JPL-CaltechHO/AFP/Getty Images

Moving agriculture to higher latitudes may improve access to water. But the further up you go, the less light you get. Hence the grow lights.

“That’s how you get tomatoes grown in Canada in the wintertime, because there’s not enough light there,” said Kevin Wells, chief executive of the grow light manufacturer Lumigrow.

A basic Lumigrow lamp starts at $600. More advanced models sell for $1,000 or more. Commercial greenhouses may use hundreds of thousands of these LED lights, said Wells. The company recently supplied the U.S. Department of Agriculture with a number of grow lights in a bid to reduce carbon emissions and cut energy costs. Its other clients include the likes of Bayer, which has a sizable agriculture division. Next year, the company anticipates doing $20 million in sales.

Even as farmers look to move some crops indoors to extend the growing season and adapt to a changing climate, others hope to coax more water from unconventional sources, such as clouds. Cloud seeding — the firing of silver iodide into the cloud layer to stimulate precipitation — typically relies on ground-based launchers or manned aircraft to distribute the chemical. But with the rise of unmanned aerial systems, researchers dream doing cloud seeding cheaply and easily — with drones.

Scientists in Nevada are currently evaluating such systems in the state’s federally approved testing site. It’s not clear when they might start flying; the Federal Aviation Administration only recently began offering exemptions to its commercial drone ban on a case-by-case basis. But the agricultural industry isn’t sitting still; already, a handful of drone operators have petitioned the government for agricultural exemptions. And large agricultural associations, such as the American Farm Bureau and the National Agricultural Aviation Association, have also lobbied Congress on the matter of unmanned systems.

As much as drones and grow lights might help the industry adapt to a changing climate, the technology’s also a reminder of climate change’s unequal effects. For American growers, the decision to start seeding clouds with a drone may be easy — and cheap. For farmers in other parts of the world, it’s probably a different story.





Why colleges should stop splurging on buildings and start investing in software

By Donn Davis October 13 at 7:00 AM


For decades, America’s colleges and universities have been on a massive spending spree, building new dorms, student centers, sports complexes, and academic buildings. Despite all these expenditures, the key metrics are not much better. Graduation rates haven’t increased at the pace of much of Europe and Japan. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the percentage of young Americans who are less educated than their parents exceeds other leading nations.

What if the leaders of our colleges and universities had channeled just a fraction of this edifice-complex capital into technology improvements instead?

In technology terms, higher-education has spent massive amounts in “hardware” while dramatically under-investing in “software.” Software is the technology, tools and systems that make any business or organization more effective and efficient. Ask any of the tens of millions of students back on campus this fall at any of the thousands of universities and colleges: “How has technology been used to improve the classroom or enhance the learning experience” and you will get a blank expression. Technology has infused and changed every part of this generation’s life – except for education.

Despite an increase in edtech spending, up 11 percent from 2012 to $13 billion, 62 percent of that is still spent on laptops, tablets, and netbooks, which can only service one student at a time and quickly become outdated. With more and more students in the position to provide their own devices it is important to not overspend on hardware and allocate money to software programs that can run on multiple devices and be used by thousands of students at once. Schools will still need to provide a small pool of school-owned devices to be borrowed but this mentality will reduce costs.

Software has improved most every other segment of the economy. How we shop, how we are entertained, how we get around town, and how we connect with friends. And in almost all cases it does things better and cheaper. So what could software do for education?

Software today lets students to re-watch the lecture that they might have missed or did not understand, thereby increasing learning. It can allow peer tutoring by connecting students to other students to ask questions or build virtual study groups. Professors can upload a short video clarifying something from class, eliminating the need for students to wait for office hours or teachers to inefficiently answer same question over and over again. Software today can allow teachers to ask questions to 500 students in a large lecture hall format and have all of them engaged real-time and provide analytics so we know who is learning and who is not before it is too late, thereby increasing retention and graduation. None of this technology is science fiction.

What about the claim by some that “there is no money to invest in technology?” During the most recent economic crisis, the market-research firm McGraw-Hill Construction reported that colleges and universities spent more than $11 billion on new facilities per year in 2010 and 2011, an astounding number that was more than a 100 percent increase over their capital spending in 2000. While some of this facilities expenditures represent critical upgrades to school infrastructure, certainly some of it went to luxury or ego projects that do not have the impact for students that investing in technology innovations could have.


The building craze is a major contributor to annual tuition increases. With student loan debt now greater than credit card debt, and jobs post-graduation harder to come by to pay back the high cost of the diploma, we are at the point universities and colleges must hold the line on further increases.

Great entrepreneurs and supportive venture capital firms are creating and funding education innovation. CB Insights recently published a positive report that in the first quarter of 2014, venture capital investment in education technology had the largest funding quarter since 2009 with $435 million being invested across 95 education technology companies.

We need to get this innovation into the classroom. We need real leadership in higher-education to shift dollars from hardware to software, to invest in technology not just buildings. The most promising leadership could come from a new group of 11 of the largest public research universities that joined together last month to form the University Innovation Alliance (UIA) with the goal to use technology and drive innovation in order to serve more students at a more affordable cost.

Together these universities serve 380,000 students in the United States or 20 percent of the population that attends four-year large research universities. This alliance is led by forward-looking and bold presidents that understand the opportunity to use technology to improve student outcomes and experiences while also making the university more effective and efficient.

Higher-education is the last major segment of our economy that is largely all-analog. It is ironic that the population that is most digital savvy does not have access to technology that can help them learn. What can we do to support increased focus on technology in higher-education? The next time your alma mater asks for a reunion donation, send in the check marked “for use in technology to improve teaching or learning.” The needed shift from hardware to software can start with each of us.


Linux Foundation and Leading Technology Companies Launch Open Source Dronecode Project

by Press • 13 October 2014



October 13, 2014 – The Linux Foundation, the nonprofit organization dedicated to accelerating the growth of Linux and collaborative development, today announced the founding of the Dronecode Project. The Project will bring together existing open source drone projects and assets under a nonprofit structure governed by The Linux Foundation. The result will be a common, shared open source platform for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).

Founding members include 3D Robotics, Baidu, Box, DroneDeploy, Intel, jDrones, Laser Navigation, Qualcomm, SkyWard, Squadrone System, Walkera and Yuneec. Dronecode includes the APM UAV software platform and associated code, which until now has been hosted by 3D Robotics, a world leader in advanced UAV autopilot and autonomous vehicle control. The company was co-founded by Chris Anderson, formerly editor-in-chief of Wired and the author of the bestselling books “The Long Tail,” “Free” and “Makers: The New Industrial Revolution.” The Dronecode project will also incorporate the partner PX4 project, led by Lorenz Meier from ETH, the Technical University of Zurich

More than 1,200 developers are working on Dronecode with more than 150 code commits a day on some alt_slide_dev_pageprojects. Examples of projects include APM, Mission Planner, MAVLink and DroidPlanner. The platform has been adopted by many of the organizations on the forefront of drone technology, including Skycatch, DroneDeploy, HobbyKing, Horizon Ag, PrecisionHawk, Agribotics, and Walkera, among others.

Andrew Tridgell (“Tridge”) will become the chair of the Dronecode Project’s Technical Steering Committee (TSC) and have a seat on the board. He is a lead maintainer in the development of APM and is well recognized for his contributions to the open source software community, including his work as the author of the Samba file server.

“Open source software and collaborative development are advancing technologies in the hottest, most cutting-edge areas. The Dronecode Project is a perfect example of this,” said Jim Zemlin, executive director at The Linux Foundation. “By becoming a Linux Foundation Collaborative Project, the Dronecode community will receive the support required of a massive project right at its moment of breakthrough. The result will be even greater innovation and a common platform for drone and robotics open source projects.”

The Dronecode Project will help meet the needs of the growing community with a neutral governance structure and coordination of funding for resources and tools the community needs. The governance structure will allow other parties and developers to influence and participate in the development and direction of the software. The Dronecode board will be comprised of members and technical community members. The Technical Steering committee will be composed of project leads and maintainers from top-level projects. Committers can be elected to participate on the TSC.

The development of drones has drastically increased over just the last couple of years due to the vibrant maker community and the use of drones in a variety of new applications. The Teal Group, an aerospace market research firm, recently estimated that within a decade the total amount spent worldwide on research, development, testing and evaluation of drone technology will reach $91 billion. From environmental research to wildlife conservation and search and rescue, drones are becoming recognized for a wide variety of uses beyond commercial and defense applications. Furthermore, the opportunities drones provide for data analysis, storage and display open up a world of possibilities for application in business. Hundreds of thousands of developers and makers around the world today are contributing to drone technology and this future. The Dronecode Project will help advance these technologies and accelerate adoption of better, more affordable and more reliable open source software for UAVs.

The Dronecode Project is a Linux Foundation Collaborative Project. Collaborative Projects are independently funded software projects that harness the power of collaborative development to fuel innovation across industries and ecosystems.

By spreading the collaborative DNA of the largest collaborative software development project in history, The Linux Foundation provides the essential collaborative and organizational framework so project hosts can focus on innovation and results. Linux Foundation Collaborative Projects span the enterprise, mobile, embedded and life sciences markets and are backed by many of the largest names in technology. For more information about Linux Foundation Collaborative Projects, please visit: To learn more about Dronecode Project and to start contributing today, please visit:


Comments from Members

3D Robotics

“The Linux Foundation is well-recognized for its ability to rally support and advance the work of important open source projects,” said Chris Anderson, CEO and founder, 3D Robotics. “The Dronecode Project will benefit from this expertise and bring to bear important resources for developers working on drone technology.”



“Dronecode Project will significantly speed up the work being done today to make drones available for more and more applications, from commercial uses to sustainability applications,” said Kai Yu, Head of Baidu IDL (Institute of Deep Learning). “We’re very excited to join this effort and contribute our knowledge to this important work.”


“Across construction, agriculture, and energy, drones are generating massive increases in digital data and content that needs to be stored, shared, processed in the cloud securely,” said Aaron Levie, co-founder and CEO of Box. “Box is thrilled to support the Dronecode Project to power an open platform that will transform how individuals and businesses leverage drones across a number of industries.”


“DroneDeploy is enabling businesses to deploy fleets of drones to capture and analyze aerial data in real-time,” said Mike Winn, CEO, DroneDeploy. “It’s through the work of the open source community that projects like ours are possible. The Dronecode Project will accelerate this technology innovation, and we are thrilled to be a part of it.”


“The industry is just beginning to realize the potential of drone technology as this space continues to attract attention,” said Imad Sousou, vice president and general manager, Open Source Technology Center, Intel Corporation. “For any new technology to become mainstream, it’s important for the industry players to collaborate. Open source contributions to the Dronecode Project can help accelerate innovation in a new market such as this.”


“As one the original ArduCopter/APM developers, DroneCode Project is a great way to boost UAV development even further,” said Jani Hirvinen, CEO, jDrones, “We are excited to be a member of this open source community and look forward to continue contributing to the project we love.”

Laser Navigation, owner of VirtualRobotix brand

“The Dronecode project will allow VirtualRobotix and its peers to make core technology advancements much more quickly,” said Roberto Navoni, CEO, VirtualRobotix. “As an early founder of APM Copter project, our company developed the first porting code to 32-bit hardware platform. We’re proud to be a

participant in this work, as we know it will the foundation for the future of drone innovation.”

Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.

“The scale and pace of mobile technology development is having a growing impact on many technology areas, drones are no exception,” said Matt Grob, CTO, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. “The possibilities around drone technology are exciting and Qualcomm has found success in and supports community driven platforms as a way to accelerate innovation in pioneering areas such as drones, robotics IOT, robotics.”


“Commercial drone operators need reliable, effective technologies and infrastructure to support their work,” said Jonathan Evans, CEO, SkyWard. “Open source projects serve to cultivate an ecosystem of collaborative intelligence at a global scale and are the foundation for enabling the Aerial Robotics Network.”


Squadrone System

“The applications for drones are endless. We see customers using drones to capture extreme footage and Hollywood-style aerial video using complete autonomous system,” said Antoine LEVEL, CEO and co-founder Squadrone System.


“Bringing together the technologies, individuals and companies that are driving innovation in drones is an important step towards the future,” said Robert Luo, managing director, Walkera iUAS. “The Linux Foundation is a natural organization to do this, and we are confident Dronecode Project will lead to more advancements and applications for drones.”


“Software is what makes drones intelligent. We want to contribute to that intelligence and the advancement of drone technologies, and the Dronecode Project gives us that opportunity,” said Tian Yu, President and founder of Yuneec.


About The Linux Foundation

The Linux Foundation is a nonprofit consortium dedicated to fostering the growth of Linux and collaborative software development. Founded in 2000, the organization sponsors the work of Linux creator Linus Torvalds and promotes, protects and advances the Linux operating system and collaborative software development by marshaling the resources of its members and the open source community. The Linux Foundation provides a neutral forum for collaboration and education by hosting Collaborative Projects, Linux conferences, including LinuxCon and generating original research and content that advances the understanding of Linux and collaborative software development. More information can be found at







No. NR-517-14
October 13, 2014




DoD Releases 2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap


Today, the Department of Defense (DoD) released its 2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap, which focuses on various actions and planning the DoD is taking to increase its resilience to the impacts of climate change.

“Among the future trends that will impact our national security is climate change,” said Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. “Rising global temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, climbing sea levels, and more extreme weather events will intensify the challenges of global instability, hunger, poverty, and conflict. By taking a proactive, flexible approach to assessment, analysis, and adaptation, the Defense Department will keep pace with a changing climate, minimize its impacts on our missions, and continue to protect our national security.”

The 2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap is available publicly at

The full text of Secretary Hagel’s remarks announcing the roadmap at the Conference of the Defense Ministers of the Americas is available at



New Weapons Spell Death For Drones; The Countermeasure Dance

By Colin Clark

October 13, 2014 at 4:42 PM


AUSA: For years, Predator drones have been able to fly unopposed through most of their missions. If we can do that, you can be sure other countries are working hard to deploy drones to do to us as we have done to them.

Taking the classic dance of measure and countermeasure, strike and counterstrike, the Army and other services have been quietly working on weapons to shoot drones down or disable them.

One of the more interesting efforts is led by SRC, a not-for-profit company formerly affiliated with Syracuse University. SRC has written software tying together their AN/TPQ-50 counter-fire radar, the CREW Duke counter-IED system (an electronic warfare system, really) — both carried on Humvees — and a very small armed drone called Switchblade, built by Aerovironment. I spotted a poster they had at their AUSA booth depicting the Counter-UAS effort and was intrigued.

The system, begun three years ago, underwent testing this August at Black Dart, the military’s little known exercises for counter-drone systems held at the Navy’s Mugu Point, near China Lake. The premise behind SRC’s system is pretty simple. Growlers, F-35s and other aircraft provide the first ring of defense against drones. But if any penetrate through that first ring or if an enemy deploys smaller tactical drones as our military does, then troops need defense against that threat.

The radar picks up the threat. First, the EW suite targets it to break its control or data links and perhaps force it down that way. David Bessey, who leads the program at SRC, says the EW strikes are “most effective.” If that doesn’t work, then a Switchblade is launched to shoot it down. There’s a video demonstrating this at Black Dart, but it hasn’t been approved for public release yet.

“We were able to detect UAVs at a significant distant and basically take them off course, jam ’em, or take control,” the Army’s deputy program manager for electronic warfare, Michael Ryan, told my colleague Sydney Freedberg at last week’s Association of Old Crows EW conference. “We’re actually taking ’em out.”

One of the things that impressed me about this effort, aside from the fact that the services are doing the Black Dart exercises and apparently trying to keep ahead of the threat, is that SRC has pulled together a range of existing great, written new code to tie it all together and effectively created a new system of systems at a nominal cost. I bet the folks at ATL would love to call this one a fine example of Better Buying Power 3.0.



SecArmy: Budget cuts put Army in danger of ‘wasting away’

Oct. 13, 2014 – 03:13PM |

By Kathleen Curthoys

Staff writer


The Army will be gutted and in danger of “wasting away” if the sequestration stranglehold on its budget continues, the service’s secretary said Monday at the opening of the Army’s largest annual gathering.

A crowd of soldiers, veterans, civilians and industry reps jammed the opening ceremony of the annual meeting of the Association of the Army at the convention center in Washington, D.C.

In his keynote address, Army Secretary John McHugh lost no time in voicing the Army leadership’s primary concern. Soldiers are on missions from Ukraine to the Philippines to Liberia, across six continents and 150 countries, McHugh said, helping allies and “winning the peace.”

“They don’t call Beijing, they don’t call Moscow. They call us. To answer the calls, and answer we must, we must remain a robust, reliable and ready force, not some hollowed-out shadow of our formal self,” McHugh said. “Airplanes and ships alone cannot win our wars or protect the peace.”

“Sequestration would require the Army to slash our end strength far below the 450,000 currently reflected in our fiscal 2015 budget, McHugh said. That would Impose unacceptable risk, and executing even one long multiphase contingency operation would be in question, he said.

Crucial decisions are being made now on modernization and equipping the force, he said.

“This is a time for predictability, not a time for politics. We must have predictable long term funding to keep America and her allies free from fear, intimidation and tyranny,” he said. “If sequestration returns in fiscal ’16 … Another round of indiscriminate cuts will gut the force to the point that we will be unable to meet the president’s defense strategic guidance. We will be at risk of wasting away.”

There are two nonnegotiables: “readiness and the well-being of our people'” he said. “We have to provide soldiers and their families everything they need to successfully win the fight … as well as transition to garrison and even to civilian life. We must offer care and suuport to our wounded warriors, harvesting and retaining the experience, judgment and talents of our battle tested soldiers. We must regain expertise as trainers” after a long period at war.

The Army is focused on new ways of managing smaller budgets, and must embrace the work ahead “we will let others decide for us.”

Gen. Gordon Sullivan, president of the AUSA, announced the theme of the gathering: “Trusted professionals — today and tomorrow,” and called the Army “America’s greatest servant.”

Soldiers who stand as examples of the Army profession were featured in a series of videos, including one Maj. Christina Cook, the Army’s first Bradley commander, who emphasized the importance of preparing soldiers and investing time in them. The gunner today will be the sergeant major of the future, Cook said, and the Army standards he learns now will make all the difference.

Sullivan struck an emotional note, asking the audience to thank the soldiers.

“Thank them for themselves, and for the soldiers in godforsaken places doing what is right for America,” Sullivan said, prompting a standing ovation.

“I’m glad to be in a place where ‘boots on the ground’ is not an insult,” McHugh said. “By God, for us, the more boots the merrier.”




Returning cyber fire

Oct. 13, 2014 |

Written by



The topic of returning cyber fire has been discussed for years and continues to come up at a much more frequent pace. With all the high visibility cyber attacks that have occurred over the past several months, no one could blame people for being upset. The question on many peoples’ mind is whether or not it is time we begin to retaliate (hack back) when our systems come under cyber fire? However, this time the conversation is quite different. This time there is even talk of forming a cyber militia being formed and that further complicates this issue, especially if their efforts are not coordinated with government and military actions.

Not that long ago a private sector organization was the target of a cyber attack. The IT department made the decision to return fire. They targeted attack servers located in a country that was not on the best of terms with the United States. It was all but assured that the attack servers were compromised and used by a third party – not likely to be associated with the country where they were located. Federal authorities were immediately notified so they could take action to halt the retaliatory attack and get prepared in the event the foreign power discovered the retaliatory attack traffic coming from the organization in the United States.

These are just a few of the differences that come to mind. Clearly tolerance is wearing thin and a notable retaliatory strike from the private sector is all but a sure thing. One poll was taken a few years ago at a hacker conference and over 30 percent admitted to “hacking back.” Organizations have stated they have the right to cyber self-defense. Some officials have become concerned that such actions could cause an escalation within the cyber domain and some fear that could spread to include physical attacks. According to Federal Times, Rep. Mike Rogers (Chairman of the House select Committee on Intelligence) stated, “The private sector is not prepared for the ramifications of a government-led cyber offensive against America’s enemies.” I think an equally important question is if the government is prepared for the ramifications of a private sector led cyber offensive against America’s enemies who are already targeting us?


COTS devices gain a tactical edge

Oct. 14, 2014 |



Commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) technologies, once viewed with skepticism by the Defense Department and military services, are rapidly becoming mainstream tactical communication devices as well as trailblazing new form factors, functionalities and procurement processes.

COTS devices are increasingly influencing tactical radio design, according to Maj. Gen. Dennis Moran (ret.), vice president of government business development for Harris Corp. in Rochester, New York.

“There’s always going to be a uniquely designed tactical radio designed for the warfighter, but that doesn’t mean that the capabilities that you get in consumer products doesn’t migrate into those devices,” Moran said.

“The military has a unique mission with unique requirements and commercial off the shelf products can provide a cost-effective starting point for continuous improvement in tactical radio performance,” said Chris Marzilli, president of General Dynamics C4 Systems in Scottsdale, Ariz. “The key is to leverage COTS capabilities that enable both the radios and the network, while providing more survivable performance in a tactical environment.

“COTS devices continue to drive the objective design and functionality of tactical radios,” said Tom Kirkland, senior director of DoD programs and pursuits for Thales Defense and Securities in Clarksburg, Maryland.

Military services are now looking for tactical radios that have the same capabilities and extended services found in consumer smartphones and high-speed Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks, he said, an objective that has driven Thales to leverage the use of COTS components in the radios.

“It has allowed the significant investment from the commercial sector in the development of reduced size weight and power devices to be leveraged for use in tactical radios, providing greater features and functionality for our soldiers,” Kirkland said.

COTS devices are also creating new and more efficient types of tactical communication services. “COTS networked devices … have been used successfully for tactical networking infrastructure,” said David Cooper, technical director for BAE Systems in Alexandria Virginia. “COTS cellular systems are finding their way into tactical systems.”

Radios using open COTS standards, particularly Google’s Android platform, are generally more attractive for tactical communication applications than radios based on closed systems, such as Apple iOS. Tactical radios “mimic or take advantage of the Android environment, and it gives the warfighter an app to interact with,” Moran said. “You allow the soldier, sailor, airman, marine or special operators to essentially use a commercial device that has been hardened to the appropriate level to not only interact with the data that is coming to him but also to control the device.”

The COTS concept of competitively developed and marketed devices is also influencing the way that tactical radios in general are designed, acquired and deployed. For example, to quickly field radios to troops in Afghanistan, the Army purchased ANC/PRC-117G software-defined combat-net radios though a rapid acquisition process. By procuring the radios as a COTS-type product, soldiers were able to receive the devices much sooner than if the systems had been acquired through a traditional bidding process.

“It’s not so much COTS,” Moran said. “The word you’re looking for is non-developmental item.” He noted that the best way of bringing tactical radio capabilities to troops is through competition and allowing non-developmental commercial-type producers, such as Harris Corp., to bring their products to the market and compete in a marketplace. “Create an environment where innovation and cost savings are rewarded,” he said.


Race against time: More people, money needed to keep aging fleets flying

Oct. 13, 2014 – 06:00AM |

By Brian Everstine

Staff writer


More than a decade of constant combat and the oldest airframes in the history of the service has degraded the Air Force’s mission capability to the lowest in recent memory, meaning more work for airmen who must keep them safe to fly and less flying time for planes in need of constant work.

Add to that the devastating effects of sequestration on readiness and flight hours and it’s no wonder Air Force leaders are sounding the alarm to Congress and just about anyone who will listen.

The fleet is old. One in four planes is out of service at any given time. And new planes can’t come soon enough, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said.

“Airplanes are falling apart. I don’t care if it’s B-1 oil flanges that are breaking and starting fires, or F-16 canopies cracking. There are just too many things [that] are happening because our fleets are too old,” Welsh said Sept. 16 during a speech at the Air Force Association’s Air and Space Conference outside of Washington, D.C. “They’re just flat too old. We have to recapitalize.”

The wear and tear of these aircraft show in the mission capable rates of each aircraft. At the beginning of September, one in four aircraft was unavailable for missions due to depot work, a supply shortage or other maintenance issue.

The average age of the fleet, 27.2 years this year, is the oldest in the history of the force.

This has prompted the Air Force to get creative in how it works on its aircraft, and which missions certain aircraft fly.

Some aircraft are taken offline for planned maintenance, which forces planners to balance out the rest of the fleet to keep enough iron available for war, all under the constant threat of sequestration and a Congress unlikely to let the Air Force trim its aircraft.

The age of the fleet and need for upgrades has been felt across the service, from wrench-turners on the flightlines to top officials trying to explain to Congress that maintenance funding is a top priority to keep the Air Force ready to respond to the demands of combatant commanders.

“If I had to say, you know, my number one concern, it would be what will Congress do with our readiness accounts in FY15,” Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said in a Sept. 8 interview. “What we try to do is try to continue to drive home the message of why readiness is so important. It’s not always obvious to all members [of Congress], because some members feel that, well you fly all the time and you’ve been in these continuous operations, of course you’re ready. What do you mean you’re not ready? And then we have to explain there are different levels of readiness for different types of fights. We’ve been very focused on one form of readiness, but that means other forms have not been able to have as much attention as we would like.”

One problem facing Air Combat Command is that it doesn’t have enough airmenfor all of the work the aging fleet requires. The service does not have enough maintainers, and many of the maintainers it has are young and inexperienced, outgoing ACC commander Gen. Mike Hostage said.

Most of the airmen working the flightline are apprentices, or skill-level threes, the second of six levels within a specialty. Hostage said there are not enough journeymen and craftsmen — five and seven levels — with the experience needed to tackle the challenges these aircraft present.

Because of the high operations tempo over the past 10 years, the Air Force hasn’t had the capacity at home to adequately train airmen in these specialties.The first priority needs to be producing and training airmen to work on the fleet, Hostage said.

“It takes time to grow them,” he said.

The challenges are reflected in the aircraft mission capable rates, compiled each year to show the average rate each aircraft type is available.

Through the first half of 2014, the average mission capable rate had dropped from 74.8 percent to 73.3 percent. By September, that rate was back up to nearly 75 percent. But individual aircraft are showing their wear, the data show.


Busy bomber

The least ready aircraft in the Air Force’s fleet in fiscal 2014 is also one of its busiest — the B-1B Lancer. The long-range strike bomber saw a mission capable rate of 47.7 percent in fiscal 2014, down from 57.7 percent the year before. The aircraft saw a 23.2 percent break rate in 2014, with 38.4 percent of those fixed within 12 hours.

While these numbers might be be staggering at first glance, there’s a lot more to the B-1’s operations and how the Air Force handles its Lancer fleet, said Lt. Col. Shane Henderson, the chief of Air Combat Command’s B-1 Weapons Sustainment Team.

“Just to give you an idea of the B-1, the average age of the fleet is 27 years old,” Henderson said. “It’s over its designed life span. Each aircraft has 8,700 hours on them. Over the past 10 years, there’s 23,000 hours per year on the fleet. They’re doing a lot of flying, and doing a lot of flying in combat environments. … We’ve done a good job adapting.”

The service flies 62 B-1Bs, stationed at either Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, or Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota. The aircraft has flown extensively in combat in every conflict the Air Force has seen, including recent operations in Iraq. These are largely close air support missions, a type of combat the aircraft was never expected to be involved in when it was originally designed.

“The airplane’s a little bit tired,” Henderson said. “It’s been flying a long time, past its designed life.”

Because of this, B-1s are finding “new and inventive ways” of breaking, he said. To combat this, Air Combat Command has several upgrade, maintenance and testing plans for the fleet. These plans take multiple B-1s out of service at a time, contributing to its low mission capable rate.

The upgrades include: a new wheel brake systems improvement program, which will make the aircraft’s wheel and brake system 500 percent more reliable. Crews are inspecting and repairing the B-1’s wings after discovering cracks on the structure of the wings, along with pre-emptively fixing the skin on the aircraft’s wings. These changes are taking place while the Air Force is upgrading the B-1’s integrative battle station, which is the largest modification ever done to the aircraft’s weapons systems.

The service is also doing full-scale fatigue testing on the B-1s — shaking the aircraft to try to “get in front of structural breaks” and plan around what problems can arise, Henderson said.

“[B-1s] are flying hard, and we have diminishing sources of repair,” Henderson said. “They are breaking in ways we haven’t seen in the past. … Because of those mods, over the next couple years you’ll see a decrease in mission capable rates by design.”

Currently, there are 11 B-1s in depot maintenance at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, with an average stay of between 180 and 200 days.

Officials work to coordinate the modifications to coincide with each other to try to decrease the length of time an aircraft is in maintenance, said Chief Master Sgt. Thomas Jenkins, the superintendent of the ACC B-1 Weapons Sustainment Team.

“The wing modifications are done together to maximize the amount of work we’re doing while the aircraft is down,” Jenkins said. “… We absolutely look for every effort we can to consolidate maintenance.”

The idea is to have “short-term pain for long-term gain” by having B-1s stand down for maintenance so they can keep flying at a high operations tempo, Henderson said.

The service’s newest bomber, the 20-year-old B-2A Spirit, flew at a mission capable rate of 56.9 percent in 2014, up more than 10 percent from 2013. The oldest, the 52.6-year-old B-52 Stratofortress, is also the most ready, with a rate of 73.6 percent.


Ready Raptor

While the Air Force’s bomber fleet is seeing a relatively low mission capable rate for 2014, its fighters have been steady around 70 percent. The service’s newest operational fighter, the 6.8-year-old F-22, is at its highest capable rate: 72.7 percent, up from 69.1 percent last year and a low of 60.9 percent in fiscal 2010.

The aircraft’s successes stem from a low in its readiness: the full fleet stand down in 2011. The Defense Department ordered the Air Force to ground its entire F-22 fleet for seven months after pilots reported hypoxia-like symptoms during flight. An investigation discovered the root cause of the issue was a faulty valve in the pilot’s life support system and the fleet was returned to flight. The silver lining in the grounding was that it gave maintainers time to look at issues they had with the aircraft and find new ways to address them.

Specifically, maintainers addressed a large problem with the F-22: its low-observable technology, or what enables its trademark stealth capability.

“The standdown in 2011 gave us six months to work through LO, to work through that system and apply many, many modifications,” said Chief Master Sgt. Richard W. Bailey, the superintendent of ACC’s F-22 Weapons Sustainment Team. “… Now, you see a steady climb as the airframe matures and fixes come in.”

The passage of time has proven another benefit for the F-22: the maintainers themselves. While the aircraft was just getting started, the maintainers that worked on it were cross-trained from other jets and were relatively new on the job. Now, with the aircraft at an average age of almost seven years, the maintainer workforce has grown up in the program and has developed its own expertise, said Capt. Jason Moehle, the chief of the F-22 Weapons Sustainment Team at ACC.

The fleet has also seen an uptick in its total flying hours as it matures. Officials project Raptors will fly about 29,000 hours in fiscal 2014, up from 26,000 in fiscal 2013.

Other fighters also see their mission capable rates at about the same rate as the Raptor. The Air Force’s Eagles, F-15Cs and Ds, are at a capable rate of 73.2 percent and 72.9 percent, respectively. This comes as the F-15s are getting system upgrades to their radars and other avionics, along with structural testing to identify other possible maintenance issues. F-16Cs are flying at a rate of 74.4 percent, which is about the same as they have been for the past several years. The service had planned to upgrade the F-16’s radars, cockpit displays and other communications interfaces with the goal to add up to 10 years to each airframe. The upgrade, called the combat avionics programmed extension suite, or CAPES, was dropped from the Air Force’s fiscal 2015 budget proposal, while the service instead planned to use money for general live extension programs.

The service’s two-seat F-16Ds will see a drop in its mission capable rate, which sat at 71.8 percent before more than half of the aircraft were grounded in mid-August after cracks were discovered in 82 of the 157 jets.

Air Force A-10s, which have been targeted for retirement in the most recent Air Force budget request, flew at a mission capable rate of 75.1 percent in fiscal 2014, with low break rate of 9.3 percent, with 70.4 percent of those fixed within 12 hours.



The mission capable rates for the CV-22 Osprey are “not where we want them yet,” a problem caused by how the aircraft are flown in training, said Lt. Gen. Bradley Heithold, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command. For fiscal 2014, CV-22s had a capable rate of 59.3 percent, down from 61 percent the year before.

The command has identified an issue on the aircraft’s blades. Osprey crews need to fly like they do in combat, which means extended training in “dirty” areas with dirt and other debris damaging the rotors, he said.

“The issue purely is we are flying them different than we thought we would fly them,” he said. “It’s a vicious cycle. We gotta train them like you are going to use them in combat. Every mission we fly is a pretty demanding sortie.”

The Air Force has 39 CV-22s in its inventory, with 50 total expected. All of the Ospreys will see heavy use, so there will not be any extra for “attrition reserve.” If the service can find the funding, it would be helpful to produce three or four more to esnure it has enough able to fly.

“We are going to dent a few of them, so we should be thinking about that before the line shuts down,” he said.


Air lifters and tankers

The service’s newer air lifters are flying at a high mission capable rate, which will be key as the Air Force looks to drawdown and remove equipment from Afghanistan. The 10.9-year-old C-17 Globemaster III flew at a mission capable rate of 85.6 percent in fiscal 2014, with the 222 jets seeing a break rate of just 2.4 percent. New, 6.3-year-old C-130Js have a capable rate of 80.9 percent, with the older 26.7-year-old C-130Hs at 72.7 percent.

The service’s biggest air lifter, the C-5 Galaxy, has seen an increase in its availability, though it is still below its smaller, younger counterparts. The 42.7-year-old C-5A flew at a mission capable rate of 66.9 percent in fiscal 2014, with the upgraded, 27.6-year-old C-5M Super Galaxy flying at 66.4 percent while it receives new avionics and engines.

The service’s tanker fleet has kept a steady rate despite constant operations, especially in southwest Asia. The 52.8-year-old KC-135 R, of which the service has 344, kept a mission capable rate of 75.7 percent. The younger, 29.6-year-old KC-10 Extender had a rate of 84.1 percent.


Aging trainers

The Air Force’s trainer fleet has continued to see a drop in its mission capability rate, as the service begins its T-X trainer program to try to find a replacement.

The T-38C Talon fleet, which is primarily used for undergraduate pilot training, saw a drop in mission capable rates from 66.2 percent in fiscal 2013 to 59.6 percent in fiscal 2014. The service has 446 of the planes. While the capability rate is low, the fleet saw a break rate of just 6.6 percent, with a 54.1 percent 12 hour fix rate.

The Air Force expects to issue its request for proposals for the new trainer to replace the T-38 in fiscal 2016, with entrants expected to come from several contractors including General Dynamics and Alenia Aermacchi, BAE Systems and Northrop Grumman, and Textron AirLand.

The service needs to balance how it is spending money to modernize and recapitalize the fleet, while keeping its legacy aircraft flying to meet current missions. Under sequestration, all of the service’s forced cuts come from operations and maintenance and force structure, Welsh said.

Within the Air Force’s high-level planning, the goal is to keep the “must have” recapitalization programs on track — the KC-46A tanker, F-35 fighter and long-range strike bomber. The service’s second tier programs should be prioritized as well, including the combat rescue helicopter, joint STARS and T-X trainer.

“We have to stay ready,” Welsh said. “And if we go back to sequestered funding levels, the only way we can do that is impact one of those [top programs]. It has to come out of force structure and modernization.”



Existing drone tech poses lethal risk: EASA

by Press • 13 October 2014

Aimee Turner


Europe would see a huge 400-fold increase in potentially lethal air crashes if today’s accident prone drone technology was allowed to operate freely in its airspace.

A study by the European Aviation Safety Agency warns that if the current accident rate suffered by remotely piloted aerial systems (RPAS) – or drones – remained unchanged the spike in collision rates between drones and manned aircraft would be ‘unacceptable.’

Commercial use of drones is banned in the United States by the Federal Aviation Administration although, in Europe, eight countries have taken first steps to allow commercial drone activities.

The safety analysis notes that fatal accidents are more likely to occur during the take-off and landing phase and that there is more likelihood therefore of people being killed at airports where the risk to the public is higher than normal.

“It may only take one high-profile accident – fatal or not – before the public questions their safety,” warned EASA. “A cautious approach is therefore necessary to avoid any potential public backlash to the introduction of civil RPAS, and robust arguments need to be put in place in order to defend the position taken.”

“The ability to safely separate and avoid mid-air collisions are essential RPAS capabilities before being granted access into non-segregated airspace,” added EASA. “A mid-air collision is generally considered as having catastrophic consequences for all aircraft types, irrespective of size or weight. Even impacts with small, low weight, RPAS can result in damage that can compromise the safety of both aircraft.”

European pilots’ organisation ECA said regulators and the aviation community must find a way to integrate drones safely into airspace.

“Today, anyone can buy a remote controlled aircraft and use it in civil airspace,” it said. “From movie directors, journalists and hobbyists to farmers and disaster relief teams, popularity of the RPAS technology is growing by the day. But as any new technology, RPAS poses a number of challenges.”

The organisation is preparing its own action plan on how to address the many challenges related to drone use across the world and how to ensure this safe integration into airspace.

At the UAS 2014 conference held in London recently, European regulators admitted to increasing concerns over the safety of integrating unmanned systems into civilian airspace, and especially the risks posed by smaller unmanned aircraft operating alongside commercial airliners.

“It’s similar to the mobile phone or the Internet coming in,” said Matthew Baldwin, who was the then director of aviation at the European Commission (EC). “The question for me is how you promote these activities but with a regulatory framework that addresses the safety and privacy concerns.”

“We believe that EASA is best placed to develop rules, and we envisage an EC proposal early next year to cover safety, liability and insurance, security privacy and so on.” He added that SESAR JU – the Single European Sky’s public private effort to implement advanced ATM technology – has been charged with integrating unmanned operations within a European Master Plan and will work to develop a programme to develop and validate new policies.



Pentagon backlash: Why are top military leaders attacking Obama’s foreign policy? (+video)

By Husna Haq, Correspondent October 14, 2014    


On Tuesday, Gen. Ray Odierno, the US Army Chief of Staff, publicly questioned President Obama’s plan to reduce the size of America’s ground-combat forces, joining a growing chorus of current and former administration officials speaking out against Obama’s foreign policy.

Speaking at a news conference during the annual meeting of the Association of the U.S. Army, Odierno cited new threats in the world that forestall the shrinking of the Army, as Obama has repeatedly called for.

“The world is changing in front of us. We have seen Russian aggression in Europe, we have seen ISIS, we have seen increased stability in other places,” General Odierno told the gathered crowd. “So I now have concern whether even going below 490,000 [troops] is the right thing to do or not, because of what I see potentially on the horizon.”

The active-duty Army now has 510,000 members, which military leaders are working to reduce. The Army agreed to cut size of its force to 490,000 due to budget cuts approved in 2011. Further spending battles and cuts means the Army may have to shrink further, to 450,000 or 420,000 members, according to the Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire.

Is Odierno’s public criticism unusual?

In fact, not at all: Odierno is the latest official to speak out against Obama’s pledge to keep soldiers out of Iraq as the US works to fight ISIS.

Speaking with CBS This Morning, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said, “there will be boots on the ground if there’s to be any hope of success in this strategy. And I think that by continuing to repeat that [the US won’t put boots on the ground], the president, in effect, traps himself.”

“…You just don’t take anything off the table up front, which it appears the administration has tried to do,” Retired Gen. James Mattis told the House Intelligence Committee Thursday, adding, “Specifically, if this threat to our nation is determined to be as significant as I believe it is, we may not wish to reassure our enemies in advance that they will not see American ‘boots on the ground.'”

And as CBS News reported, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, told the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday that he may recommend to the president deploying combat forces in Iraq.

The growing chorus of officials questioning the president’s policy has some wondering about a “concerted pushback developing in the Pentagon.”

And it turns out it’s not just the Pentagon. A growing number of former top cabinet officials have recently publicly criticized the president’s foreign policy, creating an opportunity for Republicans in the 2014 midterm elections, and potentially creating a credibility crisis for the White House.

A week ago, former CIA director and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta published a book, “Worthy Fights,” in which he said Obama “lost his way” on foreign policy, including the president’s failure to enforce a “red line” on chemical weapon use in Syria, rejecting advice to arm Syrian rebels, and approving a full withdrawal of troops from Iraq in 2011, thereby creating a power vacuum that led to the rise of ISIS.

Prior to Panetta’s criticism, former Defense Secretary Gates also criticized Obama’s handling of Afghanistan in his memoir, “Duty.” Regarding the Afghanistan war, the president was “skeptical if not outright convinced it would fail,” Gates writes in his book.

And former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton blamed the president for rejecting advice on arming Syrian rebels, saying that decision ultimately allowed ISIS to flourish.

Is it OK to openly criticize a sitting president?

Some, like the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank, have criticized the outspoken officials, writing “this level of disloyalty is stunning.”

But the Post’s Ed Rogers has a different take. None of these individuals are amateurs, lightweights, or greedy for attention, he writes. “They are all distinguished leaders who don’t shoot from the hip or have anything to prove. So when they agree on something, whatever they are telling us should be treated seriously. The world should take notice.”



Pentagon Needs to Build Cybersecurity into the Acquisition Process

By Michael Papay , Frank J. Cilluffo and Sharon Cardash

October 14, 2014


If you were asked to name one of the most pressing issues facing the Pentagon in the next five years, chances are you wouldn’t specify the intersection of cybersecurity, acquisition and the sometimes small but always vital electronic components that make up battlefield systems.

At the confluence of these three, however, lies a serious vulnerability.

Granted, talk of acquisition and components — not to mention cybersecurity — may be enough to make most people’s eyes glaze over. But don’t let the nomenclature fool you: This issue warrants our attention and, more important, action.

While the devil is in the details, and they are admittedly complex, the gist of the issue is simple: Our weapons platforms and systems are subject to potential compromise if we fail to secure them.

And unless and until we embed cybersecurity into system architecture and design, we are handing our adversaries — who are many and varied — an advantage that they have not earned.

From nation-states to terrorists and criminals, the list of actors who may wish to do us harm is long. The methods and means at their disposal for that purpose include remote exploitation of supply chain and manufacturing in order to gain control of U.S. systems.

The motivation is to stymie us by stealing and studying our designs for next-generation aircraft, satellites and so on, in order to determine the most effective way to attack them, cyberwise.


Makes sense from their perspective. Gaining access to U.S. plans through economic espionage also helps our opponents identify vulnerabilities that can be exploited by conventional means, saves our adversaries money and effort that would otherwise be spent on developing their own weapons and countermeasures and hurts the U.S. economy.

The Defense Department has built up a wealth of cybersecurity expertise when it comes to protecting computer networks. The department now needs to turn its focus to the protection of battlefield systems.


DOD Already Taking Steps to Secure Supply Chain

While there is no getting around the fact that we are reliant upon hundreds of suppliers for our software-intensive and networked systems, it is crucial to maintain confidence in U.S. defense systems — which means minimizing remote-exploit opportunities that may reside in manufacturing and supply chains.

In terms of getting us to that goal, various departmental instructions for securing components already exist.

DOD’s broad strategy for Trusted Systems and Networks includes instructions for ensuring the cybersecurity of acquired electronic components. This includes vulnerability analysis, intelligence to inform the risk management process and countermeasures such as secure design patterns. A recent Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement rule on the detection and avoidance of counterfeit electronic parts is also a solid step in the right direction.

But as always, the rubber will meet the road primarily in the implementation phase of these and other measures. Our systems — taken collectively — must be architected to prevent and detect cyberattacks more broadly.


3 Steps DOD Needs to Take

The power to meet these cybersecurity challenges lies in the acquisition community, particularly by partnering with industry to build the necessary protections for mission-critical elements. While there is no silver-bullet solution, three steps could move us forward significantly.

1.Educate. Raise the level of awareness about the urgency of this challenge through workforce training. Reach back into colleges as well to build a foundation for the future by emphasizing topics like secure architecture and secure coding.

2.Evangelize. To create a culture of cybersecurity that truly permeates, sustained leadership is required. Silicon Valley pioneered the concept of the “chief evangelist,” and we would do well as a nation to take a page from that playbook.

3.Engineer. Analysis of security requirements and building the architecture to meet them must become an integral part of the design process. Intrusion detection systems, for instance, should be incorporated at the front end. More broadly, the act of engineering should be conceived and undertaken as (among other things) an exercise in creativity and design, with security top of mind rather than an afterthought.

When it comes to the possibility of a cyber incident, even for the Pentagon, it is question of when — not if. The most prudent course, therefore, is to commit to building resilience and maintaining functionality even if attacked.

In part, this means bettering our understanding of coming threats, so we can figure out how best to manage and mitigate risk. For the Defense Department, this should include an internal review of critical weapons systems and their cybersecurity effectiveness.


Analyze Trade-offs Between Security and Capability

Another valuable exercise for DOD would be an analysis of the trade-offs between security and capability. This could be designed and conducted by the Defense Science Board with the goal of mapping out how to measure the balance between the two.

Done right, such a study would enable the integration of cybersecurity policy into the acquisition process, in a scientific manner that eliminates guesswork.

The voluntary standards and best practices contained in the National Institute of Standards and Technology cybersecurity framework also represent a good step forward, and adopting them would communicate to the acquisition community the criticality of security controls.

The bottom line, however, is that education and culture change take time.

With dedicated effort, however, engineering secure technologies and systems and acquiring and adopting them in a manner that reflects a careful appreciation of risk-based cyber considerations, may come to be seen as a “cool” thing to do.

The faster we get to that stage, the better for the country.

Michael L. Papay is Northrop Grumman’s vice president and chief information security officer. Frank J. Cilluffo is director of the George Washington University Cybersecurity Initiative and the Homeland Security Policy Institute. Sharon L. Cardash is associate director of HSPI and a founding member of GW’s Cyber Center for National & Economic Security.


AC 91-57 Cancelled in Error

by Press • 14 October 2014


Last Friday, Aug 10th, it was announced that FAA Advisory Circular 91-57, “Model Aircraft Operating Standards”, published in 1981 was cancelled.  This obviously caught the aeromodeling and sUAS community by surprise and left a lot of unanswered questions.

In a communication earlier today with Jim Williams, Executive Manager of the FAA UAS Integration Office, it was learned that the announcement was premature and the cancellation notice on the FAA webpage was posted in error.

FAA does plan to cancel AC 91-57 in order to reconcile the outdated AC with current sUAS policy and the “Special Rule for Model Aircraft” provided by Congress as part of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. However, this will occur at a later date and will be accompanied by additional information and an explanation as to the reason for the cancellation.

AMA members are encouraged to become familiar with the provisions of the Special Rule and continue to operate their model aircraft safely and responsibly in accordance with the National Model Aircraft Safety Code and the AMA Safety Program.

Special Rule for Model Aircraft

AC 91-57 – Model Aircraft Operating Standards

Rich Hanson
AMA Government and Regulatory Affairs

Chris Anderson: Commercial drone market will overshadow personal and military use

by Press • 14 October 2014



Once the Federal Aviation Administration makes its rules about how drones can be used by businesses, the growing drone market is going to see a massive expansion, according to 3D Robotics CEO Chris Anderson.

“The military market is about $18 billion, and the consumer market is now about $1 billion,” he said during an interview at the GeekWire Summit in Seattle today. “And then we’re about to see the launch of the commercial market, which I think will be bigger than both of them combined.”

Anderson is a true believer in the power of drones. He left his post as the Editor-in-Chief of Wired to work full time building the future of robotic flight at the helm of company, which makes small drones for personal use. In the future, he said that businesses will use the flying machines for scanning capabilities, including surveying crops, and taking three dimensional scans of large objects like buildings.


3D Robotics’ Iris drone

All of that is driven by hardware innovation from the mobile phone industry. Anderson said that the creation of hardware components for smartphones helped create components like GPS sensors that could be re-purposed into drone parts.

“Moore’s law is moving faster in our pockets than it has moved anywhere else in any other area of technology in our history,” he said.

3D Robotics plans to take advantage of that hardware availability to create consumer items that will allow people to “take the ultimate selfie,” and provide software for flying the drones through the DIY Drones open source community.

“We give away the bits, we give away all the intellectual property,” he said. “How do we make money? We give away the bits, and we sell the atoms.”



McKenna Pursues Federal Regulatory Preemption in Unmanned Aircraft Systems (“UAS”) Arena

by Press • 15 October 2014


McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP (McKenna), on behalf of members of its UAS Advisory Group, has petitioned the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requesting that any Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued by the FAA addressing small unmanned aircraft systems (“sUAS”) include a regulation that expressly preempts state and local regulation of sUAS including design, sale, distribution, use, or operation. Small UAS are defined as those that weigh less than 55 lbs. and typically fly no more than 400 ft. above ground level.


The preemption petition was signed by Mark Dombroff, a McKenna partner who formerly headed the U.S. Department of Justice’s aviation litigation group, andLarry Ebner, a nationally recognized authority on federal preemption. The petition was prepared in conjunction with McKenna attorneys who have deep experience litigating federal preemption issues in cases involving conflicts between federal and state laws. The petition explains that a sUAS preemption regulation would be in the public interest and preserve and promote aviation safety. It would also facilitate safe and rapid integration of sUAS into the national airspace system.

Ebner explains “the FAA has the know-how, experience, and personnel for regulating UAS on a nationally uniform basis. Allowing each state to adopt its own UAS regulations would jeopardize aviation and public safety by undermining national uniformity.”

As the law struggles to stay in front of the surge in popularity of UAS, McKenna’sUAS Advisory Group, which includes UAS designers, manufacturers, users, operators, trainers, former FAA officials and experienced aviation attorneys, is forging ahead on the pressing issues related to UAS such as federal preemption. This also includes the creation of an open regulatory process that ensures safe, reliable, and timely operation of sUAS.

“At McKenna, our UAS Advisory Group is focused on policy-making during this critical period of federal rulemaking that will shape the regulatory world in which the UAS industry will live,” stated Lisa Ellman, co-chair of McKenna’s UAS practice.

McKenna’s UAS practice group is uniquely qualified to respond to and anticipate the needs of companies who have entered or wish to enter this dynamic emerging marketplace. Our team is comprised of attorneys and professionals with deep aviation, public policy, and litigation experience—including government UAS policy experience in particular. Our work focuses on policy-making at every level of government as well as the multitude of potential legal and other challenges that may arise, such as design and operator certification; operations in U.S. civil airspace; limiting tort liability; insurance and risk management; commercial/contracts; emergency response; privacy; intellectual property; export control; regulatory and enforcement issues; hazardous materials; cybersecurity; and others.



Man Is Treated in First Case of Google Glass Addiction

By Lauren Walker

Filed: 10/15/14 at 2:07 PM | Updated: 10/15/14 at 2:09 PM


Doctors have treated the first reported case of “Internet addiction disorder” brought on by excessive use of Google Glass.

In September 2013, a 31-year-old man was checked into the U.S. Navy’s Substance Abuse program for alcohol addiction treatment. The program requires patients to abstain from alcohol, drugs and cigarettes for 35 days and takes away electronic devices at the door. In this case, they confiscated his Google Glass. Doctors quickly noticed that the man would frequently and involuntarily lift his right hand and tap his temple area, a motion usually necessary to activate the display of Google Glass.

He was “going through withdrawal from his Google Glass,” Dr. Andrew Doan, head of addictions and resilience research at the Navy’s Substance Abuse and Recovery Program and co-author of the recently released paper on the patient, told The Guardian. “[The patient] said the Google Glass withdrawal was greater than the alcohol withdrawal he was experiencing.”

After checking into the program, he exhibited classic symptoms of withdrawal: frustration, irritability, aggression and cravings. His addiction also left him with short-term memory problems.

The Navy serviceman wore the device 18 hours a day and took it off only to sleep and bathe. He originally purchased Google Glass in order to improve his performance at work, which is making inventories of convoy vehicles for the Navy. But after owning the glasses for two months, the device crept into his sleeping hours as well: He experienced dreams as if viewed through the Google Glass display.

Internet addiction is commonly linked with cellphones, laptops and personal computers. This is the first reported case involving Google Glass.

Though it is a growing problem, Internet addiction does not appear in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a book of standard criteria for the classification of mental disorders. Instead, it is included in the appendix as a disorder that requires further study. While some psychiatrists believe it can be a primary problem, others maintain that it is merely a symptom of other psychological problems.

After 35 days, the patient reported an improvement in the serviceman’s mood and his short-term memory, and he was no longer making involuntary movements. Upon his release, the patient was referred to a 12-step alcohol abuse program.


Army Industrial Base Said to Be in ‘Death Spiral’

By Stew Magnuson


There was plenty of doom and gloom on the final day of the Association of the United States Army annual conference where a panel of officials, industry leaders and academics spelled out all the problems with the service’s research, development and acquisition enterprise.

At what point will Army readiness be compromised by sharp reductions in research, development and acquisition spending, a moderator on a panel asked Heidi Shyu, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology.

“We are already at that point,” she answered. Later, she said that the Army-owned manufacturing facilities were in a “death spiral.” R&D and acquisition accounts have dropped twice as fast as the Army top line budget over the past three years, she said. Parsing out the design and development accounts, the Army’s is now has the smallest budget of all the armed services.

“That is very disconcerting for our future,” she said Oct 15.

Overall budget reductions, last year’s government shutdown and furloughs of the civilian workforce, have all taken their tolls, she said.


Budget cuts do not equate to less work. They equate to more work as programs are strung out, Shyu said. That means more contracts have to be issued. Meanwhile, the vital contracting workforce is being “slashed and burned,” she said. One-third the budget does not mean the Army needs one-third the number of personnel to carry out the acquisition duties, she added.

With the possible return of sequestration in 2016, the Army might be writing two budgets. “It creates an enormous amount of additional work and churn on all the folks that we have in the acquisition workforce,” she said.

The furloughs had an “incredible impact on the civilian workforce’s morale,” she said. The attrition rate is increasing. “We are starting to lose people we don’t want to lose.”

As acquisition programs are stretched out, it causes more inefficiencies, Shyu noted. Purchasing items in smaller quantities equates to higher costs as opposed to buying in bulk. “It’s not better buying power. It’s much worse,” she said, referring to the Defense Department’s Better Buying Power 3.0 initiative.

The Army acquisition enterprise is being asked to deliver systems the Army needs but can’t currently do so in a timely manner, she said.

Because workloads are going down substantially in the organic industrial base — manufacturing carried out by government-owned plants — the rates the Army must pay are going up, she said. That results in fewer items that can be purchased.

“This is a death spiral that we’re in,” she said.

Congress won’t allow a Base Realignment and Closure process to reduce capacity, so there are few knobs the Army can turn, she added.

Lt. Gen. Patricia McQuistion, deputy commanding general and chief of staff of the Army Materiel Command, said the impact of budget cuts on AMC’s personnel “cannot be overstated.”

“It is having a significant impact on our people and their ability to do their work,” she said.

The budget slowdown means AMC is being given tasks to perform incrementally, which actually requires more work on the part of contracting specialists, McQuistion said. That creates headaches for industry as well, she noted.

“It really is the most inefficient way to do our operations,” she added.


Small Drones: The IEDs of the Next War

Non-state actors could soon have air forces

By Daniel Goure

October 15, 2014


They are cheap, readily constructed from items lying around the garage and gardening shed, come in every imaginable shape and size and can be triggered in a myriad of ways. I am referring to improvised explosive devices or IEDs. This was the one tactical threat the U.S. didn’t plan for when it went into Iraq and Afghanistan, and it nearly lost us the war. It cost the military and local civilians dearly in terms of lives, lost and individuals injured, often horribly. Responding to the IED threat also cost this country tens of billions of dollars to design and acquire fleets of specially-armored and protected vehicles, electronic jamming systems, advanced sensors and robots. The Pentagon stood up an entirely new command, the Joint IED Defeat Organization, just to combat this threat.


In the next insurgency, U.S. and coalition forces could find themselves facing a new equally dangerous and disruptive threat: unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), often called drones. I am not referring to the large, high-flying, long-range and sophisticated unpiloted aerial vehicles such as the U.S. Reaper or Global Hawk or the Israeli Heron. Rather, I am speaking of relatively small and very simple drones that would fly low, have limited range and carry a payload measured in pounds.

In its recent conflicts, the U.S. military deployed several highly effective small UAVs that were built out of plastic parts, employed commercially available sensor systems and avionics and whose launch and recovery systems were constructed from parts available at Home Depot.

To date, there have been relatively few cases of other countries and, more importantly, non-state actors, employing drones. But they are coming. All the relevant technologies are proliferated around the world. The airframe can be made from cheap materials. They can be powered by battery-driven electric motors found in gardening implements. They need no better guidance system than the GPS that can be found in the average cell phone. But if you want command guidance you can get a small video camera almost anywhere and route the feed through that same cell phone connected to the local communications network. They can be built in a garage and launched from the driveway.

The proliferation of drones could radically alter the tactical battle space. For the first time, non-state adversaries would have an air force. Obviously, if they were equipped with cameras, drones could provide terrorists and insurgents with critical intelligence and targeting information. Loaded with even a few pounds of explosives, drones are precision-guided weapons able to be used against fixed and even mobile targets, something our adversaries lack in their current inventories of rockets and missiles. Deployed on ships, drones would provide our adversaries with a low-cost “aircraft carrier.”

Small drones pose three distinct challenges to advanced militaries different than either manned aircraft or missiles. The first is the engagement envelope. Because these drones are small, fly low and are very quiet, they would be difficult to detect and engage with existing air defense systems. There might be no warning of an attack. Missile defenses would be equally ineffective.

The second challenge drones pose is to the defenses’ magazines. Simply put, the defense is more likely to run out of interceptors before the insurgents run out of drones. If drones were employed in swarming attacks, the defense might not be able to shoot fast them down enough, even if it has the right number of interceptors, to stop the attack.

The third challenge, possibly the most difficult, is the cost-exchange ratio between cheap drones and relatively expensive defensive weapons. We have known for a long time that it was prohibitively expensive to buy enough conventional interceptor missiles to shoot down all incoming rockets and ballistic missiles. The key to the very successful Israeli Iron Dome defense is that it only engages those weapons that are heading for populated areas or infrastructure targets. An attack by drones employing advanced guidance systems would require the defense to intercept all the inbound UAVs. The cost-exchange ratio would be prohibitively expensive.

The U.S. military, in general, but the Army in particular, needs to accept the reality that this threat is coming and get in front of it. This means dealing with all three of the challenges posed by small, low flying drones.

First, new sensors, probably airborne or on aerostats, are needed in order to allow existing systems such as the Navy’s Close in Weapons System or machine guns to be effective.

Second, new weapons are needed in order to increase ammunition stocks and reverse the cost exchange ratio. This means tactical lasers or microwave weapons. The Army has a tactical laser demonstrator program that has demonstrated real effectiveness against drones.

Finally, a combination of electronic warfare and passive defenses will be required to defeat the drones’ sensors and guidance systems.

Make no mistake, this threat is coming. The recent conflict in Gaza taught the world’s terrorists and insurgents about the limited utility of even massive arsenals of unguided rockets and missiles. They will be looking for an alternative weapon. All the components needed to build a small, precision-guided, weaponized drone are available at ISIS’s equivalent of Radio Shack.

Dr. Daniel Goure, is a Vice President at the Lexington Institute.


FEMA Preparing for Possible Shortages of Bio-Hazard Gear as Ebola Fears Rise

By Stew Magnuson


The Obama administration is looking into evoking the Defense Production Act to stem possible shortages of bio-hazard protective gear as fears of an Ebola outbreak grow, a Federal Emergency Management Agency official said Oct. 15.

Jim Kish, deputy assistant administrator for response at FEMA, said that there is currently no shortage of gear that would protect personnel from the deadly Ebola virus, but the administration is looking into the possibility that there could be a run on such items if the contagion spreads.

“As the situation matures inside the United States … private sector organizations, local jurisdictions, federal agencies are all going to recognize the need to procure and field and expend personnel protective equipment,” Kish said at the Association of the United States Army annual conference in Washington, D.C.

“I’m not stating that there is a shortage today, but the notion about how we are going to address any potential [shortage] in that area, in terms of planning activity, we’d be negligent if we weren’t thinking about it right now,” he added.

The Obama administration may evoke the Defense Production Act, Kish said. That authorizes the president to require businesses to give federal contracts priority over previously existing contracts “to promote the national defense,” according to the law.

Kish criticized the collective Ebola response so far: “Things are maybe not set quite right in the public health arena,” he said.

Over the weekend, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson tasked FEMA to be the integrator of information and operational coordination for DHS’ response to the Ebola cases.

The lead federal agency remains Health and Human Services, through its agency the Centers for Disease Control, Kish said. But DHS has a widening role.

“As of this morning, we found out that there might be a growing need for that kind of thing as well,” he said, referring to the case of the Dallas-area nurse who flew on a commercial flight after treating an Ebola victim.


In light of that case, the Transportation Security Administration may be called in to carry out some kind of measures, he said. Customs and Border Protection, which screens inbound passengers, already has a role in the response, he said.

Along with the nurse who was allowed to fly, another who treated the patient has come down with the virus. The patient, Thomas Eric Duncan, had flown from Liberia, and had a high fever, but was sent home from the Dallas-area Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. He has since succumbed to the disease.

In terms of integrating DHS’ Ebola information, Kish said, “We have a fairly good template and a good battle rhythm going.”

“We feel like we are probably looking at something we haven’t seen the edge of yet because we are learning as a nation, and seeing more every day,” he added.

HHS’ office of refuge resettlement would be responsible for screening any large number of immigrants coming over from Ebola-stricken countries, he noted.

Meanwhile, Republican leaders on the House Homeland Security Committee Oct. 15 called on DHS’ Johnson and Secretary of State John Kerry to suspend visas from Ebola-stricken countries such as Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

“While we remain confident in CBP’s ability to adequately screen individuals with overt signs of disease, given the virus’ long incubation period of up to 21 days, individuals carrying the virus may not show symptoms when they leave West Africa or upon entry in the United States,” the letter said.

“Taking such action to temporarily suspend some of the 13,500 visas would improve the American public’s confidence of public health officials to limit the spread of Ebola to the United States, while simultaneously permitting a robust effort by the U.S. government and global health agencies to combat this vicious disease in West Africa,” read the letter signed by the chairman of the committee Rep. Michael McCaul, Texas, and the chairs of the five subcommittees.



Army Electronic Warfare ‘Is A Weapon’ – But Cyber Is Sexier

By Sydney J. Freedberg Jr.

on October 16, 2014 at 2:15 PM


WASHINGTON: “Electronic warfare is a weapon,” fumed Col. Joe Dupont. But as the Army’s project manager for EW programs — and its recently declassified offensive cyber division — Dupont faces an uphill battle against tight budgets and Army culture to make that case.

Whoever rules the airwaves will be able to keep their networks and sensors working while shutting down the enemy’s — or subverting them. As the world goes wireless, both phones and computers depend increasingly on radio links rather than physical cables: an iPhone is, at its core, a radio. That means jamming and hacking, traditional electronic warfare and the brave new world of cyber, are beginning to blur together.

I ran into Dupont at last week’s Association of Old Crows conference, where the tribe of experts in jamming, spoofing, radio, and radar gather — among other reasons — to be barraged by abstruse PowerPoint slides. “One of the bullets I saw up there [said] ‘EW enables weapons systems,'” Dupont said. “Completely false statement. EW is a weapon system.”

“There’s nothing sexy about the enablers. We’ve got to stop talking about it as an enabler. It’s a weapon system,” Dupont said. “It is fires!”

Equating radar and radio jamming to artillery fire, missiles, and airstrikes (collectively, “fires”) has top-level endorsement in the Navy, where Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert wants the fleet to practice “electromagnetic maneuver warfare.” In the Army, however, the concept is just starting to take root.

The largest service essentially got out of the electronic warfare business in the 1990s after the Soviet threat collapsed, and then had to scramble to rebuild it when Iraqi insurgents started killing soldiers with radio-detonated roadside bombs. Today, the Army boasts a massive inventory of vehicle-mounted Counter-Radio-Controlled IED (CREW) jammers (“32,608,” Dupont said, “but who’s counting?”), “a couple thousand” portable versions, “ten or so” fixed EW installations, and a handful of aircraft using modified Navy jamming gear.

While the overwhelming focus so far has been defense against improvised explosive devices (IEDs), electronic warfare can be used much more aggressively. In a recent Army experiment called Black Dart, for example, a jury-rigged jammer shut down an “enemy” drone. Navy and Air Force jammers routinely blind radars and disrupt communications at long range, capabilities the Army currently lacks. Meanwhile, potential adversaries from terrorists to the Russian Army are investing in electronic warfare gear designed to target the US military’s dependence on digital data, such as drone control links and GPS signals: The US will need a way to jam them before they can jam us.

Many electronic warriors fear they’ll be left behind as money, talent, and top-level attention pour into the sexier field of cyber war. The new Army Operating Concept (AOC) mentions “cyber” and “cyberspace” roughly 50 times; “electronic warfare” or “EW,” only once.

Never fear, the head of the Army’s new Cyber Center assured me when I asked him this question yesterday at the annual Association of the US Army conference. “The road ahead is full integration, not [EW] tagging along as an afterthought,” said Maj. Gen. Stephen Fogarty. He heads what was formerly the Army signal corps headquarters at Fort Gordon, Ga., which now oversees both cyber and electronic warfare as well. Unlike joint doctrine on the subject, Fogarty said pointedly, the Army’s Cyber/Electromagnetic Activities (CEMA) field manual issued in February explicitly joins cyber and electronic warfare. On the acquisition side, meanwhile Dupont’s office oversees not only traditional EW programs but also a division developing offensive cyber, although he provided no details because until recently everything it’s been doing — even its existence — has been classified.

This convergence of cyber and EW is already happening in the real world. Way back in 2007, the Israelis reportedly used US wireless hacking technology to blind Syrian air defenses during their “Operation Orchard” raid on Syria’s secret nuclear plant. Electronic warfare transmitters can be “the gun that fires the bullet” of a computer virus into an enemy network, said Dupont’s civilian deputy, Mike Ryan: “We’ve already demonstrated it, about a year ago. Some real neat stuff.”

That was using the existing short-range systems, however. For the future, if budgets hold, the Army will develop a family of long-range offensive jammers, starting with one mounted on a Shadow drone. The contract for this Multi-Functional Electronic Warfare (MFEW) system is to be awarded in 2018. The Army will also need to develop a new defensive jammer for when the current CREW Dukes start reaching “end of useful life” around 2021-2022.


EW’s Stock ‘Will Go Through The Roof’

What Dupont’s office has in the works right now seems much more modest: not a new piece of hardware, just a software package. After a year of contract disputes, the Army recently awarded Raytheon a contract for an Electronic Warfare Planning and Management Tool (EWPMT), a deceptively bland name for what Ryan calls “the backbone and future for all future Army EW.”

Despite the year’s delay, EWPMT is on track to meet all its procurement milestones, the product manager, Lt. Col. Joyce Stewart, assured me: “We have already begun doing our design reviews” with Raytheon in preparation for the official Critical Design Review. The first, bare-bones version of EWPMT is supposed to enter service in 2016, with five successive upgrades following at 12 to 15 month intervals. Funding over five years is a modest (by Pentagon standards) $98.7 million.

Why does a “planning and management tool” come first? Because in an era when Army commanders can track and talk to every vehicle and, soon, every squad of foot troops — capabilities entirely dependent on uninterrupted radio communications — the electronic warriors who would actually fight for those frequencies must make do with Microsoft PowerPoint and acetate overlays.

“They’re doing things on the back of the napkin right now,” said Ryan. “They work with spreadsheets and PowerPoint, and they know what the CREW devices do, but they have nothing to do that asset management, that modeling and simulation pre-mission to estimate effects on targets….EWPMT’s going to take care of that.”

EWPMT will give its users rapid access to a range of Army databases, from intelligence (such as DCGS-A) to electromagnetic spectrum management (Spectrum-21). The planning and management software itself will runs on the service’s existing command-and-control equipment. That means electronic warfare officers will finally get full access to the system that their peers from infantry to artillery to logistics use to exchange data, issue orders, and draw up plans. Most dramatically, EWOs will be able to display the effects of their weapons — adjusted for intervening terrain and other real-world factors — overlaid on the same computer maps commanders use to direct physical operations.

“Their stock in the maneuver commander’s eyes… will go through the roof,” Army Col. Jim Ekvall told reporters at the AUSA conference, because the commander will finally be able to see exactly what electronic warfare can do for him. “What we’ve put into the field is a bunch of electronic warfare professionals,” he said, “but we haven’t provided them any tool that allows them to visualize this capability or what the environment looks like.”

“That’s why it’s critically important” to field EWPMT “as quickly as we can,” said Ekvall, an EW expert on the Army headquarters staff, “if we want to convince a maneuver commander of the value of electronic warfare.”

Besides automating the collection and presentation of data for planning operations, EWPMT will eventually grow into a way to control electronic warfare systems during operations, such as the future drone-mounted jammer. “EWPMT is going to orchestrate the EW battle,” Ryan said. To do that in near-real time, however, he said, “depends on having sensors in our network” — and right now they’re not. “Our CREW jammers, they’re fantastic sensors,” he said, but they can’t talk to each other or anyone else: Each CREW-equipped vehicle or soldier exists in an isolated bubble, unable to share data on what they’re detecting and what they’re doing.

The Army is upgrading some CREW systems, and the latest version can communicate over a network. With troop levels in Afghanistan and the military budget both coming down, however, “there’s no plan to field it, not until needed,” Dupont said. “We’re only equipping one BCT with the latest and greatest” — a brigade combat team of the 82nd Airborne, the Army’s quick reaction Global Response Force — “and some additional boxes will be available for the Army Contingency Force” — the most ready brigades in separate-and-unequal tiered readiness system imposed by tightening budgets.

“EW is a critical capability that we have to protect,” Lt. Gen. Ed Cardon, chief of Army Cyber Command, told me at the AUSA conference. What its role and relationship to cyber will be, however, are open questions. “The best way to work this is with experimentation,” Cardon told me, ideally in real-world training centers like White Sands Missile Range but at a minimum in the lab.

“Get something and start experimenting with it,” Cardon urged. Given the small budget and long timeline for introducing new Army electronic warfare gear, however, “getting something” may be a challenge in itself.



The Only Things That Can Stop the U.S. Air Force

Aging Air Force poses problems in the fight against the Islamic State group

By Mackenzie Eaglen

Oct. 16, 2014 | 12:45 p.m. EDT


President Obama has been busy preparing the American people for a potentially years-long campaign against the Islamic State in recent weeks. It is increasingly likely this is a challenge he will hand off to the next administration in 2017, but it is unclear whether America’s aging air assets, particularly those in the U.S. Air Force, are up for another mission with no clear end state in sight.

It is not the Air Force’s fault. After all, its aircraft and pilots have been flying above the deserts of Iraq for nearly two and a half decades now. This latest air campaign against the Islamic State is just one in a long series dating back over 24 years in the Middle East alone.

Since Operation Inherent Resolve began, nearly three quarters of all sorties over Iraq and Syria have been performed by the Air Force. This is the same branch that currently has one in four aircraft out of service at any given time due to old age.

If Delta, United, Southwest or any of America’s top performing passenger airlines had these shoddy availability rates, they would be out of business in short order. Instead, policymakers keep asking more of our military’s aviators while also asking them to assume more risk due to older equipment, reduced training time and the military’s eroding technological edge.

When you look across the Air Force, the story is the same: old airframes getting older with newer fleets of replacement aircraft coming online in much smaller numbers. This means the already over-stretched force is getting older, faster. Not only is it shrinking and aging before the nation’s eyes, it is doing so at a time when the service is already the smallest and oldest since its birth in 1947.

Portions of the Air Force F-16D fighter fleet have been grounded for over a month now due to cracks in the canopies. The same thing happened to older models of Air Force F-15 fighters at the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2007.

The busy B-1B Lancer bomber fleet is quickly approaching 30 years old and well past its design life span. Because of their geriatric age, B-1 bombers are finding “new and inventive ways” of breaking, according to an Air Force official.

While no enemy has posed any real threat to America’s dominance of the skies in recent times, this does not mean air superiority is assured in perpetuity. Investment is down at the precise time when traditional margins of superiority are eroding or at risk, so U.S. military forces need qualitative and quantitative advantages. To maintain the same level of service to the nation, the Air Force needs an unwavering partner in policymakers and the American people. This means sustained funding for the force of the future, not just those fighting and winning today.


Rasmussen Reports

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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Just over two weeks to go, and Republicans appear on course to make some of the key pickups they need to take charge of the Senate. But a lot can still happen, and Ebola’s a powerful distraction.

Does America think it’s ready for Ebola? 

It’s certainly a target rich environment for the GOP. The number of voters who think the country is heading in the right direction remains below 30% where it’s been for most weeks over the past year.

Just 34% think America’s best days are still to come.

Consumer and investor confidence remain down.

Thirty-five percent (35%) think their home will be worth more in a year’s time, but that level of confidence hasn’t changed since the beginning of last year.

Republicans have focused much of their campaign strategy on the new national health care law which remains just as unpopular as it’s been since its passage by Democrats in Congress in 2010. Meanwhile, the number of voters who say their health insurance coverage has changed because of Obamacare continues to increase, and the vast majority of those voters say the change has been for the worse

President Obama is no help to struggling Democrats in most states, with his job approval continuing to hover near the -20 mark

Still, voters are skeptical of the electoral process, with 62% who think most incumbents in Congress are reelected because election rules are rigged in their favor.

Democrats and Republicans are tied on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot.

Our surveys this past week of several states that remain Toss-Ups in the Rasmussen Reports 2014 Senate Balance of Power rankings show Republicans holding a slight lead in Alaska, Arkansas and Iowa. All three of these Senate seats are now held by Democrats.

Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu remains well short of the critical 50% plus one mark she needs in Louisiana to avoid a runoff. She’s slightly ahead of Republican Congressman Bill Cassidy in a race with multiple candidates in it, but Cassidy holds a wide advantage if the contest goes to a two-candidate runoff as expected.

Democrats’ hopes of knocking off Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell appear to be fading fast. McConnell has now crossed the 50% mark in his bid for reelection in Kentucky.

Our latest numbers out of the Bluegrass State follow the only debate between McConnell and his Democratic challenger, Alison Lundergan Grimes. It’s debate season nationwide as candidates for Senate and governor take to the podium in an effort to further define themselves to the electorate.

Most voters consider debates important to their vote and good indicators of where the candidates stand. But most also say a debate has never changed the way they ultimately decided to vote.

Political labels can make a difference, though, and voters in general think linking a candidate to the Tea Party is the most toxic label.
Republicans disagree and say it’s worse to call a candidate a liberal or a progressive.

Voters don’t rely too much on the news media, however. Regardless of its source, TV, radio or Internet, voters don’t trust the political news they are getting.

The gap has widened in the governor’s race in Alaska. Arkansas remains a Toss-Up, as does Massachusetts despite its traditionally strong Democratic leanings.

See our latest election update video.

America’s increasing military action against the radical Islamic group ISIS is figuring in several Senate races, too.
Few voters believe the United States and its allies are winning that war in Iraq, but a strong majority remains confident that ultimate victory is likely.

In other surveys last week:

— The decision of a 29-year-old California woman with terminal cancer to end her life has cast the spotlight again on states that allow voluntary assisted suicide. Americans by a near two-to-one margin support the practice known as voluntary euthanasia, but most also believe there is life after death.

Most Americans agree that the minimum wage was not intended to be a wage that someone could live on but favor raising it from its current level of $7.25 an hour. They’re more closely divided, however, when asked if raising the minimum wage will help the economy.

— Fast-food restaurants have been in the news lately because of protests to raise the minimum wage, but Americans who regularly eat at those restaurants aren’t willing to pay more for their food to raise the pay of their workers.

— Americans continue to say that buying a house is a family’s best investment. They also still believe the government should not help those who are struggling with their mortgage.

— “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” Most Americans know that, but they’re not as sure we should still be celebrating his journey as a national holiday.


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